Articles Posted in U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Groups of hospitals in the Cincinnati area and in rural Iowa, challenged the Secretary of Health and Human Services’ calculation of how much to pay those hospitals for inpatient services under Medicare Part A. The hospitals objected to the agency’s decision to include in the calculation the hours associated with a short-term disability program paid from a hospital’s general funds through its payroll system and a program offering a full-time salary for part-time weekend work. The district court entered summary judgment for the Secretary. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, finding the agency’s interpretation was not arbitrary or capricious and referring to “the most completely impenetrable texts within human experience,” statutes and regulations that “one approaches ... at the level of specificity herein demanded with dread.” View "Atrium Medical Ctr. v. U.S. Dep't of Health & Human Servs." on Justia Law

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In 1996, Robinson pleaded guilty to mail fraud and aiding and abetting. The district court sentenced Robinson to 97.5 months of imprisonment and ordered him to pay criminal restitution of $286,875. A year later, Robinson pleaded guilty to a second set of criminal violations, resulting in convictions of wire fraud and aiding and abetting. The district court imposed a 24-month term of imprisonment and again ordered Robinson to pay restitution, this time $100,000. Robinson paid only $7,779.44 of the first judgment and $200 of the second before filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 13. The government, under the criminal restitution judgments, is a lien creditor. Filing for bankruptcy triggered the automatic stay, which suspends all activities related to the collection and enforcement of prepetition debts, 11 U.S.C. 362(a). The bankruptcy court denied the government’s motion to bypass the stay under 18 U.S.C. 3613(a), which provides that the government may enforce a judgment imposing restitution “notwithstanding any other Federal law.” The district court reversed, reasoning that it did not matter whether the debtor or the bankruptcy estate holds nominal title to the property because section 3613(a) allows the government to enforce a restitution order against all property of the person ordered to pay. The Sixth Circuit affirmed; section 3613 supersedes the automatic stay and allows the government to enforce restitution orders against property included in the bankruptcy estate. View "Robinson. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The 1977 Mine Act, 30 U.S.C. 801(c), authorizes the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to promulgate mandatory health or safety standards, conduct regular inspections of mines, and issue citations and orders for violations of the Act or regulations. If an operator has a pattern of violations of mandatory health or safety standards and has been given required notice and an opportunity to comply, the Act authorizes issuance of an order requiring the operator to vacate the mine until the violation has been abated. The MSHA promulgated the first pattern of violations rule in 1990. The final rule issued in 2013, as 30 C.F.R. Part 104. Mining interests challenged the rule. The Sixth Circuit dismissed, concluding that the rule is not within the definition of a mandatory health or safety standard over which the Act grants appeals courts jurisdiction. View "Nat'l Mining Ass'n v. Sec'y of Labor" on Justia Law

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Because of a 2007 car accident, Glenn suffers from degenerative disc disease, a closed head injury and cerebral concussion that cause dizziness and memory loss, left shoulder tendonitis, and post-traumatic headaches. She also suffers major depression, with slow thought processes, mood swings, agitation, poor concentration, anxiousness, feelings of anger and hopelessness, paranoia, auditory hallucinations, and suicidal and homicidal ideation. She has a chronic skin condition that has caused cysts around the vulva that occasionally prevent her from walking and require frequent bathroom breaks. In 2008, Glenn sought social security benefits. Following her hearing, at which Glenn appeared without counsel, the ALJ denied the application at the fifth step of the required analysis: whether, taking into account age, education, and work experience, the claimant can perform other work. The Appeals Council declined review. The district court remanded, based on five errors, but denied attorney’s fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act, finding that the government’s position on appeal was “substantially justified” because the magistrate rejected three of Glenn’s claims of error. The Sixth Circuit reversed the denial of fees. Regardless of what happens on remand, Glenn had to retain counsel to ensure that her claim would be properly adjudicated. View "Glenn v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec." on Justia Law

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Sterling, a former coal miner, received a favorable decision from an administrative law judge (ALJ) declaring him eligible for benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act, 30 U.S.C. 901. The Department of Labor’s Benefits Review Board affirmed. The Sixth Circuit denied a petition by Sterling’s employer that argued that the ALJ wrongly applied the statutory presumption of pneumoconiosis, improperly discredited certain medical opinions disputing Sterling’s pneumoconiosis diagnosis, and failed to explain his resolution of conflicting evidence about the extent of Sterling’s past cigarette smoking. View "Central OH Coal Co. v. Dir.r, Office of Workers' Comp. Programs" on Justia Law

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Two Ohio counties brought a class action on behalf of a class of all Ohio counties against the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac), and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, as bankruptcy conservator for both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The counties sought unpaid real property transfer taxes under Ohio law. The agencies responded that they are exempt, under their federal charters, from such state taxes. The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that the real property transfer taxes at issue are encompassed in the statutory exemptions from all taxation. Real property transfer taxes are excise taxes rather than taxes on real property which are an exception to those tax exemptions. Congress had the power to enact the exemptions under the Commerce Clause, and the enactment does not violate any constitutional provision. View "Bd. of Comm'rs of Montgomery Cnty. v. Fed Hous. Fin. Agency" on Justia Law

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In 2005 Detroit created not-for-profit corporations and issued debt instruments through those corporations, which passed the proceeds from sales of certificates on to the city, to fund pensions. The city covered the principal and interest payments. Some of the certificates had floating interest rates. To hedge that risk, the service corporations executed interest-rate swaps with banks. When interest rates fell below a threshold, the city had to pay the banks, which was offset by low interest rates owed to investors. If interest rates rose, the city would owe debtholders more interest, but received swap payments. Investors were unwilling to buy certificates and banks were unwilling to execute swaps unless an insurer guaranteed the obligations. Syncora insured the city’s obligations ($176 million in certificates; $100 million in swaps). A 2009 credit downgrade gave the banks the right to terminate the swaps and demand payment ($300 million). To avoid that, the city agreed (Syncora consented) to give the banks an optional early termination right, effectively ending the hedge protection, and established a “lockbox” system, under which the city would place excise taxes it receives from casinos into an account to be held until the city deposits its swap obligations (about $4 million per month). The agreement authorized the banks to “trap” the funds in the event of default or termination. In 2013 Syncora served notice that default had occurred. The city obtained a restraining order requiring release of the funds. The city filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 9 one week later. The bankruptcy court held that Syncora had no right to trap tax revenues, which were protected by the automatic stay under 11 U.S.C. 362(a)(3). The district court declined to consider an appeal, pending appeal of a determination that the city was an eligible debtor. The Sixth Circuit granted a petition for mandamus, requiring the court to rule. View "In re: Syncora Guar. Inc." on Justia Law

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Daily Services, owned by Mason, provided short-term temporary employment services. Mason also owned I-Force, which provided longer-term temporary employment services. After losing coverage under the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation group insurance rating plan, I-Force unsuccessfully applied for self-insurance status. I-Force owed $3 million in premiums. Unable to make payments, I-Force closed. Daily acquired some of its customers and began offering longer-term temporary employment services. Ohio law provides the employer with notice and an opportunity to be heard before the Bureau may file a judgment or lien against it and allows the Bureau to deem one company the successor of another for purposes of an experience rating to calculate premiums, and, if an employer “wholly succeeds another in the operation of a business,” to transfer the obligation to pay unpaid premiums. The Bureau decided that Daily wholly succeeded I-Force, but did not provide notice of its assessment or an opportunity to be heard before it filed judgments and liens against Daily for more than $54 million. A state court vacated the judgments. The Bureau tried again and provided prior notice, but filed a lien before hearing an appeal. The court again vacated. The Bureau’s efforts to recover continue. Daily sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of procedural due process. The district court concluded that the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity, recognizing that under the Supreme Court decision Parratt v. Taylor, a state may sometimes satisfy due process without providing notice or an opportunity to be heard pre-deprivation. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that the Parratt doctrine does apply, and Daily did not plead that Ohio provided inadequate post- deprivation remedies . View "Daily Services, LLC v. Valentino" on Justia Law

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Various Community Groups and the Detroit International Bridge Company sued the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), challenging the Record of Decision (ROD) issued in 2009, selecting the Delray neighborhood of Detroit as the preferred location alternative for a new international bridge crossing between the U.S. and Canada. The Bridge Company owns and operates the existing Ambassador Bridge, about two miles from the proposed new crossing. The Bridge Company also owns property in the Delray neighborhood. The complaint alleged that selecting the Delray neighborhood as the preferred alternative violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA); Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act; Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA); and “applicable legal authorities” on environmental justice, essentially because the decision was arbitrary and capricious.” The district court held that the Bridge Company had prudential standing to challenge the ROD and affirmed the ROD. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting extensive study of the project. View "Latin Ams. for Social & Econ. Dev. v. Adm'r of Fed. Highway Admin." on Justia Law

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On January 13, 2009, Jackson was in a car accident with an agent of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Jackson suffered damage to her head and spinal cord. Jackson retained the services of Shaffer, an attorney with the firm “Michigan Autolaw.” On March 5, 2009, Shaffer erroneously submitted Jackson’s administrative claim for Damage, Injury, or Death, to DHS, which forwarded Jackson’s claim to ICE. On June 17, ICE received Jackson’s claim. The cover letter listed Shaffer’s address in Southfield, Michigan. The claim form included Jackson’s mailing address. On July 7, ICE confirmed receipt of Jackson’s claim in correspondence, sent to the Southfield address, stating that ICE would process Jackson’s claim pursuant to the Federal Tort Claim Act, which allows an agency “up to six months to adjudicate a damage claim, beginning from the date the agency receives the claim.” On March 8, 2011, ICE sent to the Southfield address a “final determination” denying Jackson’s claim, stating that Jackson could file suit no later than six months after the date of mailing. On March 23, the Postal Service returned the denial as “Not Deliverable…Unable to Forward.” Autolaw had changed locations in May, 2010. Jackson contends that Autolaw had a one-year forwarding order for its mail. The parties also disagree whether the information about changing locations was conveyed to ICE. Despite receiving the undelivered mail, ICE took no further action. On January 11, 2012, Jackson filed suit. The district court dismissed, finding that the mailing of the denial letter triggered the six-month limitation and declining to apply equitable tolling. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. View "Jackson v. United States" on Justia Law