Articles Posted in U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals

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MPHJ Technology Investments, LLC (MPHJ) owned several patents relating to network scanner systems. Through subsidiary licensees, MPHJ wrote to various business and non-profit organizations operating in Vermont, requesting the recipient to confirm it was not infringing MPHJ’s patents or, alternatively, to purchase a license. If there was no response, a Texas law firm sent follow-up correspondence stating that an infringement suit would be filed. The State of Vermont filed suit against MPHJ in Vermont state court alleging MPHJ engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices under the Vermont Consumer Protection Act, stating that the letters contained threatening, false, and misleading statements. MPHJ removed the case to the United States District Court for the District of Vermont, asserting federal question jurisdiction and diversity jurisdiction. The State moved to remand the case back to state court for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. MPHJ opposed the State’s motion to remand, and filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and a motion for sanctions. Finding that it lacked jurisdiction to grant MPHJ its requested relief, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the petition and appeal. View "Vermont v. MPHJ Technology Investments" on Justia Law

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Johnson served in the U.S. Army, 1970-197171. Years after leaving the service, he filed a claim for increased disability ratings for his service-connected disabilities, including rheumatic heart disease (then rated 10% disabling), and degenerative changes of the right and left knees (each knee rated 10% disabling). A VA regional office (RO) denied the claims, finding that he was not entitled to a rating of total disability based on individual unemployability. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals affirmed and denied his claim for extra-schedular consideration of the combined impact of his service-connected rheumatic heart disease and right knee disability under 38 CFR 3.321(b)(1). The Veterans Court affirmed, finding the CFR language ambiguous and deferring to the VA’s interpretation. The Federal Circuit reversed, citing plain language. Section 3.321(b)(1) entitles a veteran to consideration for referral for extraschedular evaluation based on an individual disability not adequately captured by the schedular evaluations; it also entitles a veteran to consideration for referral for extra-schedular evaluation based on multiple disabilities, the combined effect of which is exceptional and not captured by scheduler evaluations. View "Johnson v. McDonald" on Justia Law

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Erickson was a U.S. Postal Service employee from 1988 to 2000, and also a member of the Army National Guard Reserve. He was absent from the Postal Service for lengthy periods while on active duty with the National Guard. Between 1991 and 1995 he was absent for more than 22 months, and between 1996 and 2000, he worked at the Postal Service for only four days. The Postal Service inquired whether he intended to return. Erickson replied that he would not return until he completed his tour of duty in September 2001. The Postal Service removed him for excessive use of military leave. Erickson re-enlisted with the Guard and remained on active duty through 2005. In 2006, he appealed to the Merit Systems Protection Board alleging violation of his rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). The Board rejected his claim under 38 U.S.C. 4312, holding that he had not made a timely request for reemployment and that military service was not a motivating factor in the termination. The Federal Circuit affirmed with respect to his reemployment claim, but reversed with respect to his discrimination claim. On remand, the Board found that Erickson had waived his USERRA rights by abandoning his civilian career, but on a second remand, ruled in favor of Erickson and granted him reinstatement with back wages and benefits. The Federal Circuit denied his application for recovery of attorney fees and expenses for the two appeals. View "Erickson v. U.S. Postal Serv." on Justia Law

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In a 2011 memorandum, the Secretary of the Navy explained that the Navy would be “challenged to reduce enlisted manning to meet future planned end strength controls due to record high retention in the current economic environment.” To address these concerns and to “optimize the quality” of the Navy, the Secretary initiated an Enlisted Retention Board (ERB) to identify 3,000 sailors for separation. The Navy notified all personnel, outlined a timeline, and identified particular pay grades and occupational classifications or specialties that would be subject to review. Sailors were informed that if their job rating was over-manned and slated for review, they could apply for conversion to an undermanned rating that would not be subject to review. The Navy also published the quotas for each overmanned rating that would be subject to the ERB to give the sailors information about competition among the different ratings and to enable them to make informed decisions about their careers. The ERB selected 2,946 sailors for honorable discharge. A putative class of about 300 of those discharged challenged their dismissal and sought back pay. The Court of Federal Claims dismissed the merit-based claims as nonjusticiable and denied remaining claims on the administrative record. The Federal Circuit affirmed. View "Anderson v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2009, the Securities and Exchange Commission indicted Stanford for operating a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme. The government seized most of his assets rendering him an indigent defendant. Court-appointed counsel obtained authorization for legal services under the Criminal Justice Act (CJA), 18 U.S.C. 3006A(e), and employed Marcum for forensic accounting and litigation support, with an estimated budget of $4.5 million. The district court approved the budget, but Marcum did not obtain the Fifth Circuit's approval, as required by the CJA. Marcum’s work far exceeded the budget. Marcum received payment for work performed in June- August 2011,then submitted vouchers for work performed in September-November totaling $845,588.48. The district court certified only the September and October vouchers. Marcum attempted to resign from the case. Chief Judge Jones of the Fifth Circuit issued a Service Provider Continuity and Payment Order, authorizing payment of $205,000 for the September and October vouchers and ordered Marcum to continue working because “[i]t would be neither feasible nor economical to obtain a replacement.” Under threat of contempt sanctions, Marcum continued to work through the end of trial and claims unpaid fees of $1.2 million. Marcum filed an emergency motion for reconsideration, an emergency application for a stay before the U.S. Supreme Court, an emergency motion for a stay or a petition for writ of mandamus before the Fifth Circuit, and a petition for mandamus to the Supreme Court. All were denied. Marcum sued the Court of Federal Claims, which dismissed the claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Because the CJA provides its own remedial scheme, Marcum cannot collaterally attack the Fifth Circuit’s determination of Marcum’s fee awards under the Tucker Act. View "Marcum LLP v. United States" on Justia Law

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Matthews enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1990. In 2006, while on active duty, he pled guilty to computer pornography and solicitation of a child. He was sentenced to 21 years plus 10 months in prison. In 2007, an administrative separation board imposed an “other than honorable” discharge on Matthews. In 2010, Matthews sought back pay from the date of his arrest and “retainer” pay, based on a total of 20 years of active duty, reached while incarcerated. He claimed he was not properly discharged, citing the Government in the Sunshine Act, 5 U.S.C. 552b; the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 552; the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, 10 U.S.C. 1034; and the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 706. The Claims Court of held that it lacked jurisdiction over claims founded on the four statutes because they are not money-mandating and held that Matthews failed to state claims for back pay under 37 U.S.C. 204(a) and retainer pay under 10 U.S.C. 6330(b). The statute prohibits service members from receiving pay for absences without leave that are not unavoidable; an absence due to civilian incarceration is not unavoidable. When he was arrested Matthews had not reached the 20 years of active duty service required to receive retainer pay. The Federal Circuit affirmed. View "Matthews v. United States" on Justia Law

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Following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, each of the Oil Companies entered into contracts with the government to provide high-octane aviation gas (avgas) to fuel military aircraft. The production of avgas resulted in waste products such as spent alkylation acid and “acid sludge.” The Oil Companies contracted to have McColl, a former Shell engineer, dump the waste at property in Fullerton, California. More than 50 years later, California and the federal government obtained compensation from the Oil Companies under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. 9601, for the cost of cleaning up the McColl site. The Oil Companies sued, arguing the avgas contracts require the government to indemnify them for the CERCLA costs. The Court of Federal Claims granted summary judgment in favor of the government. The Federal Circuit reversed with respect to breach of contract liability and remanded. As a concession to the Oil Companies, the avgas contracts required the government to reimburse the Oil Companies for their “charges.” The court particularly noted the immense regulatory power the government had over natural resources during the war and the low profit margin on the avgas contracts. View "Shell Oil Co. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Cunningham worked for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in 2004-2005. He appealed his termination to the Merit Systems Protection Board, alleging discrimination based on marital status. Cunningham agreed to withdraw his appeal; OPM agreed to pay him $50,000. The agreement designated the OPM’s director of human resources as the contact for reference inquiries and permitted disclosure of dates of service only. The termination letter was to be removed from the personnel file and both parties were prohibited from disclosing the agreement or the grievance. In 2006, Cunningham accepted a position with USIS, a private company that contracts with federal agencies to perform background investigations. A week after Cunningham began training USIS suspended him without pay at the direction of OPM's security office. OPM employees (not the Director of Human Resources) had discussed Cunningham’s termination. An administrative judge found that OPM had breached the agreement, but that MSPB could not award damages. Cunningham was only entitled to rescind the agreement, reinstate his appeal, and return the $50,000 payment. MSPB adopted the findings. Cunningham did not want his appeal reinstated and sought breach-of-contract damages. The Claims Court found that it had subject matter jurisdiction under the Tucker Act, but dismissed based on res judicata. The Federal Circuit vacated, agreeing that the court had jurisdiction, but holding that res judicata did not apply because jurisdictional limits on the MSPB did not permit him to seek damages in the prior matter. View "Cunningham v. United States" on Justia Law

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Former GM and Chrysler dealers, whose franchises were terminated in the 2009 bankruptcies of those companies, sued, alleging that the terminations constituted a taking because the government required them as a condition of its providing financial assistance to the companies. The Bankruptcy Code, 11 U.S.C. 363, 365, authorizes certain sales of a debtor’s assets and provides that a bankruptcy trustee “may assume or reject any executory contract or unexpired lease of the debtor.” Debtors-in-possession in chapter 11 bankruptcies, like GM and Chrysler, generally have a trustee’s powers. The Claims Court denied motions to dismiss. In interlocutory appeals, the Federal Circuit remanded for consideration of the issues of the “regulatory” impact of the government’s “coercion” and of economic impact. While the allegations of economic loss are deficient in not sufficiently alleging that the economic value of the franchises was reduced or eliminated as a result of the government’s actions, the proper remedy is to grant to leave to amend the complaints to include the necessary allegations. View "A&D Auto Sales, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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In the early 2000s, Raytheon underwent a major reorganization, including the sale of several business segments, including AIS, Optical, and Aerospace (segments at issue). As part of each sale, Raytheon retained the assets and liabilities of defined-benefit pension plans associated with the segments. Raytheon also calculated segment closing adjustments as required by CFR Cost Accounting Standards (CAS). Raytheon determined that some of its segments had pension surpluses, but the segments at issue had deficits. Although Raytheon paid the government its share of the surpluses, the government refused to pay its share of the deficits. Raytheon submitted certified claims for recovery of the deficits under the Contract Disputes Act, 41 U.S.C. 7103 (2011). The contracting officer issued final decisions denying these claims, reasoning that the adjustments were subject to the Federal Acquisition Regulation’s timely funding requirement, 48 CFR 31.205-6(j)(2)(i), and the deficits were therefore unallowable because Raytheon failed to fund the full amount of the pension deficits in the same year as the closings and that Raytheon’s segment closing calculations “do[] not comply with CAS 413[.]” The Claims Court awarded Raytheon $59.209,967 and rejected a claim for recovery with respect to one segment, finding that Raytheon applied the wrong asset allocation method in its adjustment calculation. The Federal Circuit affirmed. View "Raytheon Co. v. United States" on Justia Law