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

by
The DC Circuit affirmed appellant's conviction for violating 21 U.S.C. 960a, which prohibits using the proceeds of drug trafficking to support foreign terrorist groups. The court held that Congress had the authority to criminalize appellant's conduct even though his actions occurred outside of the United States. In this case, appellant was a key leader of an extensive criminal enterprise that produced and transported drugs in a controlled territory. The court also held that appellant's plea agreement precludes his other arguments on appeal. View "In re: Sealed Case" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of class certification in a putative class action of over 16,000 shippers allegedly harmed by a price-fixing conspiracy among the nation's largest freight railroads. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by determining that plaintiffs' regression analysis—their evidence for proving causation, injury, and damages on a class-wide basis—measured negative damages for over 2,000 members of the proposed class. Therefore, common issues did not predominate where at least 2,037 individual determinations of injury and causation were needed. Furthermore, the district court did not abuse its discretion by holding that this analysis was essential to plaintiffs' case for certification. View "In re: Rail Freight Fuel Surcharge Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action
by
The DC Circuit denied Alon Petitioners' petition for review of EPA's decision not to revise its 2010 point of obligation regulation requiring refineries and importers, but not blenders, to bear the direct compliance obligation of ensuring that transportation fuels sold or introduced into the U.S. market include the requisite percentages of renewables. The court also denied Coffeyville Petitioners' petition challenging EPA's refusal to reassess the appropriateness of the point of obligation in the context of its 2017 annual volumetric rule, which set the 2017 applicable percentages for all four categories of renewable fuel and the 2018 applicable volume for one subset of such fuel, biomass-based diesel. Furthermore, the court rejected Coffeyville Petitioners' claim that EPA arbitrarily set the 2017 percentage standards too high. Finally, the court rejected NBB's separate claim that EPA set the 2018 applicable volume for biomass-based diesel too low. View "Alon Refining Krotz Springs, Inc. v. EPA" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that the government unlawfully has permitted funds for promoting the pork industry to be used instead for lobbying on the industry's behalf. The DC Circuit held that plaintiffs offered no evidence that the Board's alleged misuse of checkoff funds caused them to suffer an injury in fact, and therefore the court vacated the district court's order and remanded with instructions to dismiss the case for lack of standing. In this case, a pork farmer's declaration failed to assert a diminish return on investment, a reduced bottom line, or any similar economic injury; nor did it provide evidence that the Board's alleged misadventures have reduced the price of pork. View "Humane Society of the United States v. Perdue" on Justia Law

by
The DC Circuit denied petitions for review of the EPA's 2015 revisions to the primary and secondary national ambient air quality standards for ozone, except with respect to the secondary ozone standard. The court held that petitioners' arguments, that the primary ozone standard is too lenient because it occasionally permits ozone levels to exceed 0.07 ppm and will allegedly tolerate adverse health effects, lacked merit. However, in regard to the secondary ozone standard, the court held that the EPA has not explained its decision to set a target level of protection against tree growth loss based on a three year average of cumulative, single-year ozone exposures, nor has it justified its decision not to specify any level of air quality requisite to protect against visible leaf injury. Furthermore, the EPA also impermissibly allowed sources that had completed applications for preconstruction permits before the 2015 Rule was adopted to demonstrate compliance with the previous national ambient air quality standards rather than the new, more stringent primary and secondary standards. Accordingly, the court granted those portions of the petition, vacated the grandfathering provision, and remanded for reconsideration. View "Murray Energy Corp. v. EPA" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law
by
Defendant and his export business, Wing-On LLC, appealed their convictions of conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), unlawful export in violation of the AECA, and conspiracy to launder money. The DC Circuit held that the district court erred in admitting the deposition testimony of a key witness because the government failed to make reasonable efforts before it deported the witness to procure his presence at trial; the jury instruction defining the "willfulness" element of unlawful exportation of defense articles was correct, but the court suggested clarification of the willfulness instruction to more squarely require a finding that defendants were aware of and knowingly violated their legal obligation not to commit the charged actus reus; and the district court did not err by admitting defendant's non-Mirandized statements because he was not in custody where, even assuming language proficiency is relevant to the custody inquiry, a reasonable officer would not have thought defendant's imperfect English meant a reasonable person in his position would have believed himself detained during the interview. Accordingly, the court vacated the judgment in light of the error in admitting the key witness's deposition testimony, because the error was not harmless. View "United States v. Burden" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
Petitioners challenged the Wehrum Memo, which declares that the plain language of section 112 of the Clean Air Act compels the conclusion that a source of toxic emissions classified as "major" can reclassify to an "area source," and thereby ease its regulatory burden, at any time after it limits its potential to emit to below the major source threshold. The DC Circuit held that the Wehrum Memo was not final agency action and therefore dismissed the petitions for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Act. The court emphasized that, when assessing the nature of an agency action (including whether it is final), courts should resist the temptation to define the action by comparing it to superficially similar actions in the caselaw. The court held, instead, that courts should take as their NorthStar the unique constellation of statutes and regulations that govern the action at issue. The court also emphasized that, although all legislative rules are final, not all final rules are legislative, and the finality analysis is therefore distinct from the test for whether an agency action is a legislative rule. View "California Communities Against Toxics v. EPA" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law
by
The Association challenged the NCUA's promulgation of a final rule that makes it easier for community credit unions to expand their geographical coverage and thus to reach more potential members. The DC Circuit considered the Federal Credit Union Act's text, purpose, and legislative history, and held that the agency's policy choices were entirely appropriate for the most part. With respect to the qualification of certain Combined Statistical Areas as local communities and the increased population cap for rural districts, the court directed the district court to issue summary judgment in favor of the NCUA. With respect to the elimination of the urban-core requirement for local communities based on Core Based Statistical Areas, the court directed the district court to issue summary judgment in favor of the Association and to remand, without vacating, the relevant portion of the 2016 rule for further explanation. View "American Bankers Assoc. v. National Credit Union Administration" on Justia Law

by
The DC Circuit denied a petition for review challenging the Commission's 2018 rule allowing investment companies to post shareholder reports online and mail paper copies to shareholders upon request. Petitioners argued that the SEC did not adequately consider the interests of shareholders who prefer reports in paper form. The court held, however, that the consumer organization lacked Article III standing. In this case, the organization could not reasonably have believed that its barebones affidavit, vaguely describing the preferences and burdens of unnamed members and others, sufficed to prove its representational standing; nor could it reasonably have believed that its standing was self-evident from the rulemaking record. The court also held that the paper-industry representatives asserted interests beyond those protected or regulated by the securities laws. Applying Hazardous Waste Treatment Council v. Thomas, 885 F.2d 918, 921–22 (D.C. Cir. 1989), the court held that the conflict between the interests of paper sellers and those of shareholders is likely to increase over time, and this suggests a systematic misalignment with shareholder preferences, which makes paper companies distinctly unqualified to advance the interests of shareholders. View "Twin Rivers Paper Co., LLC v. SEC" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs won the 2017 diversity visa lottery but were denied visas pursuant to the State Department's Guidance Memo. The Guidance Memo instructed consular officers reviewing diversity visa applications about how President Trump's Executive Order temporarily prohibiting nationals of specific countries from entering the United States (EO2) affected visa eligibility. In this case, plaintiffs were denied visas because they were from Iran and Yemen—countries subject to the entry ban—and could not qualify for exemptions or waivers or satisfy the bona fide relationship requirement in Trump v. Int'l Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP I), 137 S. Ct. 2080, 2088 (2017). After EO-2 expired, it was replaced by President Trump's third iteration of the travel ban, the Proclamation. After the Supreme Court explained that challenges to the expired EO-2 were moot, and the government then filed a motion to dismiss this case as moot. The DC Circuit reversed the district court's determination that this case was moot, and held that plaintiffs' claims -- seeking a court order instructing the government to stop implementing the Guidance Memo, process their visa applications, and issue them diversity visas -- were not moot because whether the district court retains the authority to award plaintiffs relief is a merits question. The court held that neither plaintiffs' claim that such relief was legally available nor their claim that they were entitled to that relief was so implausible as to deprive the district court of jurisdiction. Furthermore, there was some chance that this relief would be effective at securing their immigration to the United States. View "Almaqrami v. Pompeo" on Justia Law