Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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This case concerns a petition for a writ of mandamus filed by various users of the PredictIt platform against the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas. The petitioners challenged the district court's decision to transfer their lawsuit against the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (D.D.C.).PredictIt is an online platform that allows users to trade on the predicted outcomes of political events. In 2022, the CFTC Division of Market Oversight rescinded a “no-action” letter it issued to PredictIt's operator, Victoria University, in 2014. The petitioners, claiming injury from the CFTC's decision, filed a lawsuit against the CFTC alleging that the agency acted arbitrarily and capriciously in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act and withdrew a license without following necessary procedural steps.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that the district court abused its discretion by transferring the case to D.D.C. based primarily on court congestion. The appellate court noted that none of the factors used to evaluate whether a case should be transferred under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) favored the CFTC's chosen venue of D.D.C. The court also pointed out that the district court's decision had implications beyond the immediate case due to the supervisory nature of writs of mandamus. Consequently, the petition for a writ of mandamus was granted, and the district court was directed to request the return of the case from D.D.C. View "In Re: Kevin Clarke" on Justia Law

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The case involves the California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) and TRC Operating Company, an oil operator. CalGEM, tasked with overseeing the state's drilling operations, enacted new regulations requiring oil operators to cease operations when a "surface expression" exists, or when there is reason to believe a specific operation is causing a surface expression. The operations must remain dormant until CalGEM authorizes their resumption in writing.TRC, having been issued a regulatory notice to cease operations, complied but never received authorization to resume. TRC sought an administrative appeal, which went unheard. Consequently, TRC sought judicial review, arguing that the regulations were invalid and CalGEM's actions were arbitrary and capricious.The trial court agreed with TRC, ruling the regulations were invalid, and granted declaratory relief. CalGEM appealed, arguing the regulations were valid and did not abuse its discretion in issuing the notice to TRC. The court concluded that the regulations were valid as they were consistent with the overall statutory scheme and were supported by substantial evidence. The court vacated the trial court's writ, and remanded the matter to the trial court to consider in the first instance whether CalGEM's actions in this case were arbitrary or capricious. View "TRC Operating Co. v. Shabazian" on Justia Law

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The case involves Suzy Martin, the owner and president of Smart Elevators Co., a certified minority- and woman-owned elevator service and repair company. The company, which historically did most of its business with the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago, saw its customer base change after a whistleblower complaint alleged that Martin and her company engaged in a bribery and kickback scheme with a University of Illinois Chicago employee. This led to an investigation by the Office of the Executive Inspector General for the Agencies of the Illinois Governor (OEIG), which concluded that Martin, Smart Elevators, and the University employee had engaged in a kickback scheme that violated Illinois ethics law and University policy and recommended that the University sever ties with Martin and her company.As a result of the report, the State and City ceased doing business with Martin and Smart Elevators, causing the company to lose millions in preexisting and potential contracts. Martin sued several State and City entities and officials under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, bringing “stigma-plus” procedural due process claims under the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court dismissed her amended complaint with prejudice.Upon appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court concluded that Martin's occupation was operating an elevator service and repair business, not just providing those services specifically to the State or City. The court also found that despite the loss of State and City contracts, Martin had not been denied her liberty to pursue her occupation as she remained the owner and operator of Smart Elevators, which continued to operate and even managed to secure a contract with the Department of Justice in 2021. As such, the court found no violation of Martin's occupational liberty rights. View "Martin v. Haling" on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit examined a dispute over Final Amendment 53 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico. Commercial fishers challenged the amendment, which modified the allocation of red grouper between commercial and recreational sectors, for relying on inconsistent economic analyses and failing to comply with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.The commercial fishers argued that the Final Amendment 53 arbitrarily relied on an economic analysis that the Fisheries Service had previously rejected and that it lacked the required catch limits and accountability measures. They also claimed that the amendment violated National Standards 4 and 9 of the Act.The court agreed with the commercial fishers in part, affirming that the Fisheries Service had failed to adequately explain its reliance on the disputed economic analysis and that further analysis was needed to determine how this influenced the application of National Standards 4 and 9. However, it also affirmed that Final Amendment 53 complied with the Act's requirement to establish a mechanism for specifying annual catch limits.As a result, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part the grant of summary judgment to the Secretary of Commerce. It remanded the case, without vacating the Final Rule implementing Final Amendment 53, so the Fisheries Service could further explain its economic methodology and the implications for National Standards 4 and 9. View "A.P. Bell Fish Company, Inc. v. Raimondo" on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was asked to consider an appeal brought by BuzzFeed, Inc. and one of its journalists, Jason Leopold, against a decision of the District Court granting summary judgment to the Department of Justice (DOJ). The appellants sought the release of a partially redacted report on HSBC Bank's conduct under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The District Court had ruled that the report was entirely exempt from disclosure under FOIA Exemption 8 which protects reports related to the regulation or supervision of financial institutions.The Court of Appeals held that the case must be remanded to the District Court to determine whether the DOJ can demonstrate that the release of any part of the report could foreseeably harm an interest protected by Exemption 8. The Court stressed the requirement for a sequential inquiry: first, whether an exemption applies to a document; and second, whether releasing the information would foreseeably harm an interest protected by the exemption. The Court found that the District Court had not sufficiently conducted this sequential inquiry, and the DOJ had not adequately demonstrated how the release of the report would cause foreseeable harm to an interest protected by Exemption 8.The Court noted that the FOIA requires agencies to release any reasonably segregable portion of a record, even if an exemption covers an entire agency record. The Court determined that the DOJ had not satisfactorily explained why the release of a redacted version of the report would cause foreseeable harm to an interest protected by Exemption 8. Therefore, the Court vacated the District Court's grant of summary judgment to the DOJ and remanded the case for further consideration. View "Leopold v. DOJ" on Justia Law

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The case pertains to J.G. Kern Enterprises, Inc. ("Company") and the National Labor Relations Board ("Board" or "NLRB"). After the Board certified a union to represent the Company's employees, the Company failed to engage in good faith bargaining for almost three months. When negotiations commenced, the Company refused to provide requested information about employee benefit plans. Two months after the certification year ended, the Company withdrew recognition from the Union, alleging the Union had lost its majority status.The Union filed unfair labor practice charges against the Company. The Board found that the Company had violated Sections 8(a)(1) and (5) of the National Labor Relations Act by delaying bargaining, refusing to consider a Union-administered benefit plan, refusing to provide requested information, and withdrawing recognition from the Union during the extended certification year.The Company petitioned for review, arguing that the Board erred in finding an unlawful withdrawal of Union recognition based on a retroactive extension of the original certification year, and that the Board had no legal basis to order the Company to bargain with the Union for an additional six months.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that substantial evidence supported the Board's findings that the Company committed the alleged unfair labor practices. The court concluded that the Board was free to choose which legal theory to rely on in addressing the unfair labor practice charges and that the Board acted within its discretion when it ordered an extension of the certification year and required the parties to bargain to remedy the Company’s unfair labor practices. The court, therefore, denied the Company’s petition for review and granted the Board’s cross-petition for enforcement of its order. View "J.G. Kern Enterprises, Inc. v. NLRB" on Justia Law

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The case involves the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) decision to call for revisions to State Implementation Plans (SIPs) under the Clean Air Act because of the SIPs' inclusion of certain provisions related to emissions during startup, shutdown, and malfunction (SSM) periods. Two sets of petitioners, a group of states and a set of companies, challenged the EPA's decision. The court granted their petitions in part and denied them in part.The court ruled that EPA could not call the SIPs for including automatic exemptions and director’s discretion provisions without finding that it was necessary or appropriate for these restrictions to qualify as emission limitations under the Clean Air Act. The EPA had failed to make such a necessary or appropriate finding.As for affirmative defense provisions, the court agreed with petitioners as to certain types of affirmative defense provisions but rejected petitioners’ challenge as to other types.The court upheld EPA's call of overbroad enforcement discretion provisions on the grounds that they could be read to allow state officials to foreclose EPA enforcement actions and citizen suits.The court concluded that when EPA calls a SIP for a substantial legal inadequacy, it need only identify the deficiency and explain why it is substantial. The Act does not categorically require EPA to assess costs and benefits when calling SIPs for failure to comply with the Act’s legal requirements. View "Environ Comm FL Elec Power v. EPA" on Justia Law

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The Nebraska Supreme Court reversed a decision made by the Commission of Industrial Relations (CIR) that included corrections unit case managers within the protective service bargaining unit (PSBU), represented by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #88 (FOP 88). The case arose from a petition filed by FOP 88 to the CIR to clarify or amend the PSBU to include corrections unit case managers. The State of Nebraska appealed the CIR's decision, arguing that corrections unit case managers were supervisors and, hence, should not be in the same bargaining unit as their subordinates. The court deemed the CIR had erred in giving preclusive effect to its 2018 order, which certified FOP 88 as the bargaining representative for the PSBU. The court held that the issue of whether corrections unit case managers were part of the PSBU was not precluded by the 2018 order. The court remanded the matter back to the CIR to again determine whether the PSBU includes corrections unit case managers based on the existing record, with instructions to provide an explanation forming the basis for its ruling. View "Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #88 v. State" on Justia Law

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Between 2010 and 2014, the United States Coast Guard convened Active Duty Enlisted Career Retention Screening Panels (CRSPs) to select enlisted service members for involuntary retirement. This process was carried out without following the procedures and standards of the then-applicable 14 U.S.C. § 357(a)–(h), which addressed involuntary retirement of certain Coast Guard service members with specified seniority. Several former Coast Guard service members, after being involuntarily retired through the CRSP process, brought a case against the United States in the Court of Federal Claims under the Tucker Act, asserting that their retirements were contrary to the law as the Coast Guard had not followed § 357(a)–(h). The government responded by invoking § 357(j), which stated that § 357(a)–(h) did not apply to a “reduction in force.” The issue of the applicability of that exception to the CRSPs was the primary topic of the appeal.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the Claims Court's decision that the involuntary retirements were unlawful because the CRSPs were not part of a “reduction in force.” The court concluded that a “reduction in force” as used in § 357(j) did not include actions to separate current occupants from their positions with the intent to refill those positions. The court rejected the government’s arguments for a different conclusion. Therefore, the court affirmed the Claims Court’s partial final judgment. View "TIPPINS v. US " on Justia Law

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In this case decided by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, Raquan Emahl Gray was convicted of conspiracy to commit a controlled-substances offense, after helping transport a car filled with drugs to a state prison. Gray appealed his conviction, arguing that the government failed to prove that he knowingly possessed a Schedule II controlled substance, namely methamphetamine, rather than a controlled substance generally. The appeals court affirmed Gray's conviction, holding that the government only needed to prove general knowledge to obtain a controlled-substances conviction, which it did. Gray also argued that the district court erred when it denied his renewed motion for judgment of acquittal due to his failure to timely renew the motion at the conclusion of the evidence. The appeals court acknowledged that Gray's renewed motion was timely, but deemed the district court's error as harmless because enough evidence supported Gray's conviction. View "United States v. Gray" on Justia Law