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

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The EPA issued a regulation known as the Pathways II Rule, allowing renewable-fuel producers to use a measurement method "certified by a voluntary consensus standards body" (VCSB), or a method "that would produce reasonably accurate results as demonstrated through peer reviewed references." EPA then issued the Cellulosic Guidance to explain its interpretation of the applicable regulatory requirements and clarify the types of analyses and demonstrations that might meet them.The DC Circuit dismissed in part and denied in part POET's petition for review of the Cellulosic Guidance. The court held that POET's challenge to the Guidance's treatment of VCSB-certified methods is unripe because no such method yet exists and POET's registration efforts rely on the peer-reviewed alternative. In regard to POET's challenge to the Guidance's discussion of peer-reviewed methods, the court held that the Guidance announces a final, interpretive rule that lawfully construes the underlying regulation. View "POET Biorefining, LLC v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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Petitioners, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary Clinton's former Chief of Staff, Cheryl Mills, sought mandamus relief preventing the district court's order granting Judicial Watch's request to depose each petitioner on a limited set of topics. The petition for writ of mandamus arose from a Freedom of Information Act case brought by Judicial Watch against the U.S. Department of State.The DC Circuit held that, although Secretary Clinton meets all three requirements for mandamus relief, Ms. Mills does not. In this case, Ms. Mills could appeal either a civil or a criminal contempt adjudication and thus, unlike Secretary Clinton, she does have available an "adequate means to attain the relief" and as such her petition fails at prong one. In regard to the second prong, the court held that petitioners have demonstrated a "clear and indisputable" right to issuance of the writ where the district court clearly abused its discretion by failing to meet its obligations under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26, by improperly engaging in a Federal Records Act-like inquiry in this FOIA case, and by ordering further discovery without addressing this court's recent precedent potentially foreclosing any rationale for said discovery. Finally, in regard to the third prong, the court held that the totality of circumstances merits granting the writ. Accordingly, the court granted the petition for mandamus as to Secretary Clinton, denied it as to Ms. Mills and dismissed Ms. Mills' petition for lack of jurisdiction, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "In re: Hillary Clinton" on Justia Law

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This appeal involves conditions that the FCC imposed on a merger of three cable companies into a new merged entity, New Charter. Among other things, the conditions (1) prohibit New Charter from charging programming suppliers for access to its broadband subscribers, (2) prohibit New Charter from charging broadband subscribers based on how much data they use, (3) require New Charter to provide steeply discounted broadband service to needy subscribers, and (4) require New Charter to substantially expand its cable infrastructure for broadband service. The appellants include three of New Charter's customers, whose bills for cable broadband Internet service increased shortly after the merger. These appellants contend that the conditions caused this injury, which would likely be redressed by an order setting the conditions aside.The DC Circuit held that these three individual appellants have standing to challenge the interconnection and discounted-services conditions, but not the usage-based pricing and buildout conditions. Furthermore, although the lawfulness of the interconnection and discounted-services conditions are properly before the court, the FCC declined to defend them on the merits. Accordingly, the court vacated the first and third conditions based on the FCC's refusal to defend on the merits. Finally, the court dismissed the remaining aspects of the appeal for lack of an appellant with Article III standing. View "Competitive Enterprise Institute v. Federal Communications Commission" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated appeals, appellants challenge the royalty rates and terms established by the Board for the period of January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2022. Appellants challenged numerous aspects of the Board's final determination: the Streaming Services argue that the Board's decision impermissibly applies retroactively; the Streaming Services challenge the Board's rate structure and the specific rates applicable under that structure; the Streaming Services and the Copyright Owners each object to the Board's definition of certain terms; and songwriter George Johnson challenges the Board's acceptance of the Subpart A settlement, as well as its adoption of the final rate structure.The DC Circuit rejected the Streaming Services' retroactivity objection and the challenges brought by the Copyright Owners and George Johnson. However, the court agreed with the Streaming Services that the Board failed to provide adequate notice of the final rate structure, failed to reasonably explain its rejection of the Phonorecords II settlement as a benchmark, and failed to identify under what authority it substantively redefined a term after publishing its initial determination. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, and vacated and remanded to the Board in part because it failed to give adequate notice or to sufficiently explain critical aspects of its decisionmaking. View "Johnson v. Copyright Royalty Board" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against CareFirst after hackers allegedly stole sensitive customer information from the health insurer's data system, alleging tort, contract, and statutory claims. The district court dismissed all claims of five plaintiffs and most claims of two plaintiffs. At issue was whether the district court permissibly certified the dismissed claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), so as to make the dismissal order final and immediately appealable.The DC Circuit held that it lacked appellate jurisdiction over the certified claims of the Tringlers and of the other plaintiffs. Under basic principles of claim preclusion, the court explained that the Tringlers could not have litigated to judgment one action involving the claims still pending before the district court and another involving the claims already dismissed. Under Tolson v. United States, 732 F.2d 998, 1001–03 (D.C. Cir. 1984), they likewise cannot sever the latter claims for an immediate appeal under Rule 54(b). In regard to the non-Tringler claims, the court stated that it is unclear whether the district court would have certified these claims for immediate appeal had it properly declined to certify the claims of the Tringlers. Therefore, the court cannot determine whether the district court would have certified only the non-Tringler claims, much less whether it could have come up with a permissible justification for doing so. View "Attias v. CareFirst, Inc." on Justia Law

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Congress enacted an appropriations rider in 2009 prohibiting the District of Columbia from paying more than $4,000 in attorneys' fees for any past proceeding under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). At issue in these 11 consolidated cases was whether the District must pay interest on amounts that exceed the payment cap.After determining that the District did not forfeit the interest issue, the court held that the District cannot be compelled to pay interest on the portion of fee awards that it has been legally prohibited from paying off. The court explained that this case implicates a well-established common-law principle: If the law makes a debt unpayable, then interest on the debt is also unpayable. Furthermore, the court had no basis to conclude that 28 U.S.C. 1961(a) abrogated this background rule. The court reversed the district court's judgment requiring payment of interest on above-cap fees, affirmed the district court's judgment in all other respects, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Allen v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from NSC's three lawsuits raising 45 claims against six federal agencies arising out of numerous Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests initiated by NSC. Through a series of decisions, the district court ruled in favor of the government on all the claims.In this opinion, the DC Circuit individually addressed three of NSC's claims: two claims concerning distinct FOIA requests made to the CIA and a third claim concerning the DOJ's assertion of attorney-client privilege in response to a FOIA request. The court held that the CIA and the district court correctly concluded that, as drafted, the request for all CIA records pertaining to the IBM supercomputer named Watson called for an unreasonably burdensome search. In regard to the request seeking OLC opinions pertaining to various statutes including FOIA itself, the Privacy Act, and the Federal Records Act, the court held that there was no waiver of the attorney-client privilege with regard to the two OLC opinions at issue. The court did not separately discuss NSC's remaining claims, but found that they lacked merit. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's judgment in all respects. View "National Security Counselors v. Central Intelligence Agency" on Justia Law

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On petition for rehearing en banc, the en banc court held that the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives has standing under Article III of the Constitution to seek judicial enforcement of its duly issued subpoena. This case arose when the Committee began an investigation into alleged misconduct by President Trump and his close advisors. The Committee requested that Donald F. McGahn, II turn over documents related to the President's alleged obstruction of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller's investigation. When McGahn, then no longer White House Counsel, declined these requests, the Committee issued a subpoena ordering McGahn to appear at a hearing to testify and to produce the requested documents.The en banc court held that the Committee, acting on behalf of the full House of Representatives, has shown that it suffers a concrete and particularized injury when denied the opportunity to obtain information necessary to the legislative, oversight, and impeachment functions of the House, and that its injury would be redressed by the order it seeks from the court. The court explained that the ordinary and effective functioning of the Legislative Branch critically depends on the legislative prerogative to obtain information, and constitutional structure and historical practice support judicial enforcement of congressional subpoenas when necessary. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court in part. View "Committee on the Judiciary of the United States House of Representatives v. McGahn" on Justia Law

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Pacific is the multi-employer bargaining representative in collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) for its employer members. One member, Long Beach, employs watchmen, represented by Local 26, and marine clerks, represented by another union, under separate agreements. Pleas, a watchman, had a work-related argument with a marine clerk, who filed a grievance against Pleas under the clerks' CBA. Local 26 wrote Pacific that it was not bound by that agreement and requested that Pacific not take action against Local 26 members based on the proceedings. Neither Pleas nor a Local 26 representative attended the arbitration hearing. The Arbitrator found that Pleas had violated the clerks' CBA and should be suspended from working at all Pacific employer member terminals for 28 days. Pacific notified its employer members of Pleas’ suspension. Local 26 filed unfair labor practice charges, alleging that those actions impermissibly modified the Watchmen’s Agreement and unilaterally imposed a new term and condition of employment without bargaining.The NLRB and D.C. Circuit found a violation of the NLRA, 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(1), (5), 158(d). Under the Watchmen’s Agreement, there was no “sound arguable basis” for Pacific and Long Beach to apply the clerks' CBA procedures and enforce the Arbitrator’s order against Pleas, who was covered under the Watchmen’s Agreement. Doing so unlawfully unilaterally changed the terms and conditions of Pleas’ employment. View "Pacific Maritime Association v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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The Communications Act of 1934 restricts the rates that telecommunications carriers may charge for transmitting calls across their networks, 47 U.S.C. 201(b). Iowa-based Aureon is a joint venture through which local carriers connect to long-distance carriers such as AT&T and has “subtending” agreements with participating local carriers. AT&T alleged that Aureon imposed interstate and intrastate access charges that violated the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) transitional pricing rules; improperly engaged in access stimulation (enticing high call volumes to generate increased access charges); committed an unreasonable practice by agreeing with subtending carriers to connect calls involving access stimulation; and billed for service not covered by its 2013 interstate tariff. The FCC found that Aureon violated the transitional rule.The D.C. Circuit reversed in part. The transitional rule applies to all “competitive local exchange carriers,” and Aureon falls into that category but the rule applies to intrastate rates so Aureon’s 2013 increase of its interstate rate was not covered. The court remanded the question of whether Aureon’s subtending agreements qualify as access revenue sharing agreements. The court affirmed the FCC’s determination that Aureon’s interstate tariffs apply to traffic involving any local carriers engaged in access stimulation. The FCC erred in refusing to adjudicate AT&T’s unreasonable-practices claim. View "AT&T Corp. v. Federal Communications Commission" on Justia Law