Justia U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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Petitioner a Guantanamo prisoner awaiting trial as a terrorist, petitioned the DC Circuit for a writ of mandamus, forbidding the government from using statements obtained by torture in prosecution against him and the Military Commission from receiving such evidence.   The DC Circuit dismissed the petition holding that the court has no jurisdiction to hear this petition. The court explained that there is simply no remaining case or controversy with respect to the identified statements obtained by Petitioner’s torture. Second, Petitioner’s other request—to vacate all ex parte orders using statements obtained by torture—is similarly unripe for adjudication. Petitioner has not identified any non-withdrawn submissions that rely upon torture statements, preventing this issue from becoming “crystallized” into a “concrete legal dispute.Further, at this point in time, Petitioner has alleged no injury that has been caused him by the possible (albeit remote) use of the torture-obtained statements. The court wrote, obviously, if he has not alleged injury, he has not alleged redressability. Under no theory of law does he have standing to bring this action at this time. View "Abd Al-Rahim Hussein Al-Nashiri" on Justia Law

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The United States sued Honeywell International Inc. for providing the material in allegedly defective bulletproof vests sold to or paid for by the government. Among other relief, the government sought treble damages for the cost of the vests. It has already settled with the other companies involved, and Honeywell seeks a pro tanto, dollar for dollar, credit against its common damages liability equal to those settlements. For its part, the government argues Honeywell should still have to pay its proportionate share of damages regardless of the amount of the settlements with other companies. The district court adopted the proportionate share rule but certified the question for interlocutory review under 28 U.S.C. Section 1292(b).   The DC Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling and held the pro tanto rule is the appropriate approach to calculating settlement credits under the False Claims Act. The court explained that in the False Claims Act, Congress created a vital mechanism for the federal government to protect itself against fraudulent claims. The FCA, however, provides no rule for allocating settlement credits among joint fraudsters. Because the FCA guards the federal government’s vital pecuniary interests, and because state courts widely diverge over the correct rule for settlement offsets, the court found it appropriate to establish a federal common law rule. The pro tanto rule best fits with the FCA and the joint and several liability applied to FCA claims. Thus, Honeywell is entitled to offset its common damages in the amount of the government’s settlements from the other parties. View "USA v. Honeywell International, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Department of the Interior sells offshore leases to oil and gas companies for development. This case concerns the adequacy of an environmental impact statement prepared in connection with two lease sales held in 2018. Three environmental groups asserted that the supplemental environmental impact statements (EIS) did not comply with NEPA. They sued Interior and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the component agency within Interior that had prepared the EIS. They argued that BOEM failed to assess a true “no action” alternative because it had assumed that energy development would occur sooner or later, even if Lease Sales 250 or 251 did not. The district court granted summary judgment to Interior. In upholding BOEM’s “no action” analysis, it found the Bureau had reasonably assumed that development was inevitable.   The DC Circuit reversed the summary judgment in part and remand the case to the district court with instructions to remand it to the agency for further consideration of the GAO report. In so doing, the court declined to vacate any of the administrative orders under review. The court further affirmed the summary judgment in all other respects. The court held that the Interior adequately considered the option of not leasing, reasonably refused to consider potential future regulatory changes, and unreasonably refused to consider possible deficiencies in environmental enforcement. View "Gulf Restoration Network v. Debra Haaland" on Justia Law

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In June 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) promulgated an emergency temporary standard to mitigate the risk of COVID19 transmission in healthcare settings (“Healthcare ETS”). In December 2021, OSHA announced its intent to withdraw the Healthcare ETS while continuing to work on the permanent standard. National Nurses United and its co-petitioners (“the Unions”) seek a writ of mandamus compelling OSHA (1) to issue a permanent standard superseding the Healthcare ETS within 30 days of the writ’s issuance; (2) to retain the Healthcare ETS until a permanent standard supersedes it; and (3) to enforce the Healthcare ETS.The D.C. Circuit found that it lacked jurisdiction to compel OSHA to maintain the emergency standard put in place to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 in the healthcare setting. The decision rests squarely with OSHA. View "In re: National Nurses United" on Justia Law

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In 2016, the Department of Housing and Urban Development promulgated a rule prohibiting the use of lit tobacco products in HUD-subsidized public housing units and their immediate surroundings. Appellants, led by New York City Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment (C.L.A.S.H.), brought an action raising a number of statutory and constitutional challenges to the Rule. The district court rejected all of C.L.A.S.H.’s claims.The D.C. Circuit affirmed, finding that the Department did not exceed its authority in passing the rule and was not arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion. The Court similarly rejected C.L.A.S.H.’s constitutional claims under the Spending Clause and the Fourth, Fifth, and Tenth Amendments. View "NYC C.L.A.S.H., Inc. v. Marcia L. Fudge" on Justia Law

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The Federal Communications Commission approved a request by Space Exploration Holdings, LLC to fly its satellites at a lower altitude.The D.C. Circuit rejected the merits of a competitor's claim that the FCC did not adequately consider the risk of signal interference. The D.C. Circuit also declined to review a claim brought by another competitor and an environmental group because the competitor's asserted injury did not fall within the zone of interests protected by the NEPA and the environmental group lacked standing. View "Viasat, Inc. v. FCC" on Justia Law

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In 1997, EPA adopted stricter NAAQS for ozone. National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone. The agency later adopted an implementation rule that, among other things, construed the Act’s anti-backsliding provision to apply not only when EPA relaxes a NAAQS but also when it strengthens one. The EPA reasoned that if Congress desired to maintain existing controls when a NAAQS is relaxed, Congress also must have intended to maintain such controls when a NAAQS is strengthened. The D.C. Circuit previously sustained the EPA’s interpretation.The Sierra Club challenged the EPA’s decisions to lift antibacksliding requirements in Houston and Dallas. The EPA responded that the proper and exclusive venue for the Sierra Club’s challenge is the Fifth Circuit. Thus, the D.C. Circuit transferred the case to the Fifth Circuit. View "Sierra Club v. EPA" on Justia Law

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The issue in this case revolves around which union—the International Association of Machinists (“IAM”) or the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (“ILWU”)—is entitled to represent the mechanic workforce at the Ben Nutter Terminal in Oakland, California.For many years, the Terminal’s mechanics were represented by the IAM. In 2015, Everport Terminal Services, Inc., took over the Terminal’s operation and decided to hire a new workforce. As a member of the multi-employer Pacific Maritime Association (“PMA”), Everport was party to a collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the PMA and the ILWU. As Everport read that agreement, it required Everport to prioritize ILWU applicants in hiring its new mechanics and to recognize the ILWU as their representative. Everport therefore gave qualified ILWU applicants first choice of the available mechanic positions, filling the remaining vacancies with applicants from the Terminal’s existing, IAM-represented workforce.The NLRB found that Everport had unlawfully discriminated against the Terminal’s incumbent mechanics on the basis of their IAM affiliation; that it had violated its statutory obligation to recognize and bargain with the incumbent mechanics’ chosen union, the IAM; and that it had prematurely recognized the ILWU as the representative of the Terminal’s mechanics. The NLRB also found the ILWU had unlawfully demanded and accepted recognition from Everport. In its order, the Board did not dispute—or even engage with— Everport’s reading of the PMA-ILWU agreement, instead dismissing it as a “red herring.”The D.C. Circuit held that the NLRB's action was arbitrary, granted Everport's petition for review, and vacated the NLRB's order. View "Everport Terminal Services Inc v. NLRB" on Justia Law

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Appellee, an independent filmmaker, filmed parts of a feature film on land administered by the National Park Service (NPS) without having obtained the requisite permit and having paid the requisite fee. The Government charged him with a misdemeanor but later dismissed the charge. Appellee then sued for declaratory and injunctive relief, arguing the permit-and-fee requirements are facially unconstitutional under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The district court agreed with Appellee, holding the permit-and-fee requirements do not satisfy the heightened scrutiny applicable to restrictions on speech in a public forum.   The DC Circuit reversed the district court’s order. The court held that regulation of filmmaking on government-controlled property is subject only to a “reasonableness” standard, even when the filmmaking is conducted in a public forum. Here, the court found, that the permit-and-fee requirements are reasonable. The court explained that although filmmaking is protected by the First Amendment, the specific speech-protective rules of a public forum apply only to communicative activity. Consequently, regulations governing filmmaking on government-controlled property need only be “reasonable,” which the permit-and-fee requirements for commercial filmmaking on NPS land surely are. View "Gordon Price v. Merrick Garland" on Justia Law

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Constellation Mystic Power, LLC (Mystic)—a subsidiary of Exelon Generation Company, LLC (ExGen), which itself is a subsidiary of Exelon Corporation (Exelon)—announced its intention to retire the Mystic Generating Station (Mystic Station). ISO New England entered into a cost-of-service agreement with Mystic and ExGen to keep two of Mystic Station’s generating units, referred to as Mystic 8 and 9, in service between June 2022 and May 2024. The parties filed the proposed agreement (Mystic Agreement) with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Commission or FERC). The Commission ultimately approved the terms of the Mystic Agreement.   At issue are Commission orders related to its approval of the Mystic Agreement. Two groups of petitioners sought review: Mystic and a group of New England state regulators (State Petitioners). The DC Circuit dismissed Mystic’s petition for review in part and denied it in part; the court granted the State Petitioners’ petitions. The court held that the Commission’s application of the original cost test to determine Mystic 8 and 9’s rate base was not arbitrary and capricious. The court dismissed Mystic’s objection to the Commission’s selection of capital structure as moot in light of the Commission’s May 2022 Order. The court further concluded that the Commission properly included historical rate base components in the true-up mechanism but also find that the Commission failed to respond to the State Petitioners’ request for clarification. View "Constellation Mystic Power v. FERC" on Justia Law