Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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After Hurricane Katrina, Congress directed the Corps to close the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet (MR-GO) as a federal navigation project and restore the surrounding ecosystem. The Corps sought a cost-sharing arrangement with Louisiana. Louisiana objected and filed suit under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 706(2), contending that the Corps’ decision, expressed in two Corps reports to Congress, was arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion because the relevant statutes require the federal government to bear 100 percent of the costs. The district court agreed with Louisiana and rejected a statute of limitations challenge to the suit and concluded that the relevant statutes unambiguously require the Corps to bear all of the costs of deauthorizing the MR-GO. The court bifurcated the limitations issue and found Louisiana’s APA challenge to the closure portion of the deauthorization project timely filed, but dismissed the challenge to the Corps’ decision concerning the ecosystem restoration project because the agency has not taken final action under the APA. On the merits, the court reversed the district court’s judgment that overturned the required cost-sharing between Louisiana and the Corps, which constitutes a reasonable interpretation of ambiguous statutes. View "Louisiana State v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers" on Justia Law

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JTB Tools challenges the dismissal of its suit against defendants, alleging that the district court erred in granting OSHA’s Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and in transferring the case to this court. The court affirmed the district court's transfer, holding that this court has exclusive jurisdiction to review OSHA’s actions pursuant to 29 U.S.C. 655(f). Because JTB Tools failed to adequately brief its merits arguments before this court, the court held that JTB Tools waived any potential right to relief and the court dismissed the case. View "JTB Tools & Oilfield v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, eight female alien detainees, filed suit alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 2671 et seq., as well as several state law claims, after a male CCA officer, Donald Dunn, sexually assaulted them. The court concluded that the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiffs’ Section 1983 claim against CCA and Evelyn Hernandez, the former CCA facility administrator, or in granting summary judgment for Dunn. The CCA defendants, in housing alien detainees according to ICE specifications, were performing a federal function, rather than operating the detention center under color of state law. Williamson County had almost no involvement in the detention center’s day-to-day operations. The court also concluded that summary judgment for Williamson County was proper where the county is not directly responsible for CCA’s failure to follow policy, and the county did not otherwise act with deliberate indifference in monitoring the detention center. Furthermore, plaintiffs have not plausibly asserted that ICE officials acted with deliberate indifference and the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' FTCA claims against the United States. The court affirmed as to the federal claims, but reversed the dismissal of the remaining state claims and remanded. View "Doe v. United States" on Justia Law

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Texas filed suit seeking a declaration that an Enforcement Guidance document from the EEOC regarding the hiring of persons with criminal backgrounds violates the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 701–06. On appeal, the State challenged the district court’s order dismissing the action under FRCP 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court concluded that Texas has constitutional standing to challenge the Enforcement Guidance under the APA where Texas is an object of the Guidance and, taking the complaint’s allegations as true, has alleged a sufficient injury in fact - the Guidance forces Texas to alter its hiring policies or incur significant costs; the “flexible” and “pragmatic” approach to assessing the finality of agency action, leads to the conclusion that the Guidance is “final agency action” under section 704 of the APA; the EEOC erred in relying on AT&T Co. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to suggest that agency actions are “final” under the APA only when federal courts are later bound to give deference to the agency’s interpretation of the statute at issue; and it is also sufficient that the Enforcement Guidance has the immediate effect of altering the rights and obligations of the “regulated community” by offering them a detailed and conclusive means to avoid an adverse EEOC finding, and, by extension, agency referral and a government-backed enforcement action. The Guidance is an agency determination in its final form and is applicable to all employers nation-wide; it is not an intermediate step in a specific enforcement action that may or may not lead to concrete injury. Because the district court erred in dismissing this action on justiciability and subject matter jurisdiction grounds, the court reversed and remanded. View "State of Texas v. EEOC" on Justia Law

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The Commission may refuse a permit to any applicant who has not been a citizen of Texas for at least one year before filing an application. This case stems from the original plaintiffs' attempt to acquire a night club twenty-five years ago. The district court declared the residency requirement invalid and permanently enjoined the Commission from enforcing it. The district court denied TPSA's motion for relief from the injunction under Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 60(b), concluding that there was no case or controversy because the original plaintiffs had not appeared and seemed to lack an ongoing interest and because TPSA lacked standing. The court concluded that, although the original plaintiffs have not appeared and may no longer possess any direct stake in the outcome of the proceeding, there remains a live case or controversy because of the intervention of Fine Wine and Southern Wine. Their intervention ensures that this proceeding involves an actual dispute between adverse litigants. The court also concluded that TPSA has associational standing to bring its Rule 60(b) motion where the interests of TPSA’s members in the enforcement of the residency requirement are germane to TPSA’s purpose, and neither TPSA’s claim for relief nor the relief it requests requires the participation of its individual members. Addressing the injury in fact prong and the redressability prong, the court concluded that TPSA has standing. On the merits, the court concluded that the Twenty-first Amendment does not authorize states to impose a durational-residency requirement on the owners of alcoholic beverage retailers and wholesalers. Finally, TPSA has failed to address the district court’s holding that Texas’s residency requirement violates the Privileges and Immunities Clause. Accordingly, the court reversed and rendered an order denying the motion on the merits. View "Cooper v. Texas Alcoholic Beverage Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Wal-Mart petitions for review of the decision of the Commission finding that the company failed to comply with 29 C.F.R. 1910.132(d)(1), which requires the company to perform a hazard assessment of its distribution center. The court concluded that the regulation, the preamble, and the non-mandatory appendix fail to resolve the ambiguity as to whether Wal-Mart may use its Searcy hazard assessment as the hazard assessment for the allegedly identical New Braunfels location. In such circumstances, the court gives substantial deference to an agency’s interpretation of its own regulation. While section 1910.132(d)(1) may not require an employer to conduct a full-fledged hazard assessment of all identical workplaces, it is reasonable to interpret section 1910.132(d)(1) to require an employer to confirm that workplaces are indeed identical before a hazard assessment for one workplace can qualify as the hazard assessment for another location. Therefore, the court agreed with the Commission’s conclusion that the Secretary’s interpretation of section 1910.132(d)(1) is reasonable. However, because Wal-Mart lacked adequate notice of that interpretation, the court vacated the citation and the related penalty. View "Wal-Mart Distrib. Center v. OSHC" on Justia Law

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Entergy filed a reverse-Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552, suit against EPA to prevent the disclosure of documents requested by Sierra Club via a FOIA request. Sierra Club appealed the district court's denial of its motion to intervene. The court concluded that adversity of interest exists between Sierra Club and EPA because Sierra Club’s interests diverge from EPA’s interests in manners germane to this case. Because adversity of interest exists, any same-ultimate-objective presumption of adequate representation is overcome, and the requirement that Sierra Club’s interests be inadequately represented by EPA is satisfied. Accordingly, the court concluded that Sierra Club is entitled to intervene of right. The court reversed and remanded. View "Entergy Gulf States LA, LLC v. EPA" on Justia Law

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ATBS and its owner filed a First Amendment retaliation claim against the City of Jackson, alleging that the mayor, acting through city employees, ended support for a development project proposed by ATBS after Hewitt had made public statements claiming corruption in city government. The district court entered judgment as a matter of law (JML) to the city. The court concluded that the city council was the final policymaker with ultimate authority to approve (or reject) project funding. The mayor did not have final authority over individual funding decisions. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Advanced Tech. Bldg. Solutions LLC. v. Jackson, Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Texas merchants filed suit challenging Texas’ Anti-Surcharge Law, Tex. Fin. Code 339.001. The district court dismissed for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) and denied a preliminary injunction. Merchants claim that the law penalizes them for characterizing pricing as a “surcharge”, while at the same time not prohibiting a “discount” for non-credit-card transactions; and is unconstitutionally vague. Reviewing the parties’ claims de novo, and in the light of the States’ broad authority to regulate economic conduct, the court held that Texas’ law regulates conduct, not speech, and, therefore, does not implicate the First Amendment. Instead, the law ensures only that merchants do not impose an additional charge above the regular price for customers paying with credit cards. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Rowell v. Pettijohn" on Justia Law