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

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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

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LSP Transmission Holdings II, LLC, Cardinal Point Electric, LLC, and LS Power Midcontinent, LLC are transmission development companies. They petition for review of a set of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) orders that approve modifications to the criteria used by the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. (MISO), a regional transmission grid operator, to determine whether opportunities to develop proposed transmission upgrades to the interstate power grid are open to competitive bids from companies like petitioners. Petitioners challenge two aspects of the orders: (1) FERC’s decision to accept MISO’s proposal to use 230 kilovolts (kV) as the minimum voltage threshold for a project to qualify as a Market Efficiency Project (a category of projects subject to competitive bidding) rather than requiring a lower 100 kV threshold; and (2) FERC’s approval of an exception from competitive bidding for certain reliability projects needed soon. FERC defends its orders on their merits, but it first contests Petitioners’ standing to challenge the orders and whether the petitions are ripe for review.   The DC Circuit denied the petitions for review. The court explained that at least one petitioner—LS Power Midcontinent—has standing to raise these claims and that the petitions are ripe. But the petitions fail on their merits: FERC’s decision to accept 230 kV as the new voltage threshold was not arbitrary and capricious, and FERC reasonably approved MISO’s Immediate Need Reliability Exception. View "LSP Transmission Holdings II, LLC v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The Comprehensive Merit Personnel Act (CMPA) governs collective bargaining by employees of the District of Columbia government. It allows officers of the Metropolitan Police Department, like other D.C. government employees, to unionize and engage in collective bargaining. They have done so and are represented by the plaintiff in this case, the Fraternal Order of Police, Metropolitan Police Department Labor Committee, D.C. Police Union (FOP). The police union contends that the statute violates equal protection principles, the Bill of Attainder Clause, the Contract Clause, and the Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause.   The DC Circuit rejected all the challenges concluding that the district court correctly concluded that the FOP’s constitutional claims lack merit. The FOP disputes that police accountability motivated the Council. The court explained that the legislature’s actual motive is “entirely irrelevant”; all that matters is whether there are “plausible reasons” to conclude that the statutory classification furthers a legitimate government interest.   The FOP next contends that section 116 violates the Bill of Attainder Clause. However, the court found that the union makes no serious effort to show that the Council acted beyond its discretion. And the court could discern no express or hidden intent to punish. Further, FOP contends that section 116 violates the Contract Clause. The court explained that retrospective laws violate the Contract Clause only if they “substantially” impair existing contract rights. Here, the union could not have reasonably expected to insulate itself from legal changes after the 2017 Agreement had expired by its terms. View "Fraternal Order of Police, Metropolitan Police Department Labor Committee, D.C. Police Union v. DC" on Justia Law

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Upon completing his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Special Counsel Robert Mueller delivered a two-volume, 448-page report documenting his findings to Attorney General William Barr. Attorney General Barr sent a letter to Congress providing his overview of it. Plaintiff Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act seeking disclosure of the memorandum and related records. The Department sought to withhold nearly all of the memorandum based on the deliberative-process privilege, which protects records documenting an agency’s internal deliberations en route to a governmental decision. The district court rejected the Department’s reliance on the deliberative-process privilege and ordered the Department to disclose the memorandum in full.   The DC Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the Department’s submissions in the district court gave no indication that the memorandum related to Attorney General Barr’s decision about making a public statement on the Mueller Report. Because the Department did not tie the memorandum to deliberations about the relevant decision, the Department failed to justify its reliance on the deliberative-process privilege. The court reiterated that its decision is narrow. The court held only that, in the unique circumstances of this case, in which a charging decision concededly was off the table and the agency failed to invoke an alternative rationale that might well have justified its invocation of the privilege, the district court did not err in granting judgment against the agency. View "CREW v. DOJ" on Justia Law

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These consolidated cases, on appeal from a judgment of the district court, present competing claims to a blocked electronic funds transfer. The parties are the United States, which blocked the transaction because terrorists initiated it. On the other side are victims of Iran-sponsored terrorism who have obtained multimillion-dollar judgments against the Iranian government.   After learning of the government’s forfeiture action, attorneys for two groups of victims of Iranian terrorism and their relatives, holding judgments against Iran, filed separate writs of attachment. Plaintiffs sought to attach the funds at Wells Fargo pursuant to two federal statutes. The first, 28 U.S.C. Section 1610(g) of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”). The second is Section 201(a) of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002 (“TRIA”).   The district court ruled that Iran lacked any property interest in the blocked funds held by Wells Fargo. The court, therefore, quashed Plaintiffs’ writs of attachment. The DC Circuit court reversed and remanded. The court explained that tracing resolves this case in Plaintiffs’ favor. The government admits that the $9.98 million blocked funds at Wells Fargo “are traceable to Taif” and thus to Iran. The premise of the government’s forfeiture action is that the funds are traceable to Iran. The district court, therefore, erred in concluding that Plaintiffs had failed to show that the blocked funds were, under Section 201(a) of the TRIA, the blocked assets of [a] terrorist party. View "Estate of Jeremy I. Levin v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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Petitioner Bloomberg L.P. (“Bloomberg”) seeks review of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (the “Commission” or “SEC”) decision to approve new reporting requirements proposed by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (“FINRA”), Intervenorfor-Respondent, affecting underwriter members in the corporate bond market. The Commission ultimately concluded that FINRA’s proposal would impose a limited burden on competition and enable market participants to obtain broad, uniform access to corporate bond reference data before the first transaction in a new-issue bond. Accordingly, the Commission approved FINRA’s proposal.   The DC Circuit granted Bloomberg’s petition for review in part and denied in part. The court held that the Commission’s approval of FINRA’s proposed reference data service was arbitrary and capricious in one respect: the Commission failed to respond adequately to Bloomberg’s concerns about the cost of building and maintaining the program and the extent to which those costs—which could conceivably amount to millions, or tens of millions, of dollars—will be borne by market participants. As such, the Commission violated the Administrative Procedure Act and failed to engage in reasoned decision-making. However, the court wrote, that Bloomberg’s remaining arguments lack merit. Therefore, Bloomberg’s petition for review is otherwise denied. View "Bloomberg L.P. v. SEC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Securities Law
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The government seeks the forfeiture of a trust established by Pavel Lazarenko, a former Prime Minister of Ukraine, located abroad on the island of Guernsey. Since 2004, a Guernsey court order has prohibited Lazarenko from accessing the trust, and a federal district court order has prohibited him from challenging the Guernsey order abroad. Lazarenko contends that the district court lacked statutory authority to issue the latter order and that, in any event, the order violated principles of international comity.   The DC Circuit rejected both challenges on procedural grounds. The daughters claim an interest in being able to litigate in Guernsey themselves, which might be impaired by a decision in favor of the government in this appeal. But Lazarenko himself adequately represents that interest. A would-be intervenor is adequately represented when she “offer[s] no argument not also pressed by” an existing party. Here, the daughters seek to raise precisely the same arguments as their father. Moreover, the daughters have revealed by their conduct that they find his representation adequate. In their cross-motion below, they adopted his arguments wholesale. And in this appeal, they declined the court’s invitation to appear at oral argument. The court, therefore, denied the daughters’ motion to intervene.   Further, the court wrote that Lazarenko could have pressed his current objections more than a decade and a half ago, and excusing his delay would risk wasting the considerable time and resources that the parties have invested in the district court proceedings. Under these circumstances, the district court reasonably denied his motion to modify the restraining order. View "USA v. All Assets Held at Credit Suisse" on Justia Law

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Appellees work at the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. When they are away from work, they want to express support for their preferred candidates in partisan elections. AO employees could do that for the first 79 years of the agency’s history. But since 2018, the AO has forbidden it. That prohibition violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Appellees but limited its injunction against the first seven restrictions to apply only to Appellees. The court reversed its grant of summary judgment to the AO on the other two restrictions, and the court remanded for it to enjoin their application to Appellees as well. The court explained that absent the belief that precedent directs it, there is no reason to treat driving voters to the polls and organizing political events differently from the other seven prohibited modes of political expression. They all implicate core First Amendment rights. And the AO has failed to show that they present any non-speculative threat to its operations.Further, the court wrote, that the AO is a government entity with an independent duty to uphold the Constitution. The court explained that it trusted that upon receipt of our judgment, it will reconsider the contested restrictions for employees whose work is comparable to (or less sensitive than) the work Appellees do. View "Lisa Guffey v. Roslynn Mauskopf" on Justia Law