Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

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Coal miners filed suit alleging that mine operators interfered with their rights under Section 103(g) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Amendments Act of 1977 to raise anonymous complaints with the MSHA regarding health and safety issues. The Commission imposed various remedies, including a $20,000 penalty per violation and an order requiring Robert Murray, the President and CEO of Murray Energy, to personally hold a meeting at each mine and read a statement regarding the violations. The DC Circuit denied a petition for review and declined to decide whether the Commission applied the correct test of interference under Section 105(c)(1) because petitioners failed to raise and preserve the issue during the administrative proceedings before the ALJ and the Commission. The court also found that, even under the legal standard that petitioners would have the court adopt, substantial evidence in the record clearly supports the Commission's finding that petitioners interfered with miners' Section 103(g) rights. Furthermore, the court found no merit in petitioners' challenge to the assessment of monetary penalties. Finally, the court held that petitioners failed to properly raise and preserve, and thus forfeited, their claims challenging the order requiring Murray to read a statement. View "Marshall County Coal Co. v. Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission" on Justia Law

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The State of Missouri filed suit alleging that the Bureau of Reclamation violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to consider adequately how diverting billions of gallons of Missouri River water pursuant to the Northwest Area Water Supply Project will affect downstream States. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint and held that, under Massachusetts v. Mellon, 262 U.S. 447, 485–86 (1923), a state does not have standing as parens patriae to bring an action against the federal government. In this case, Missouri lacked Article III standing because it forfeited its direct injury theory of standing, and the Mellon bar has no exception that allows lawsuits against Reclamation to proceed. View "Government of the Province of Manitoba v. Bernhardt" on Justia Law

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CREW seeks to compel the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel to make available all of its formal written opinions, as well as indices of those opinions, under the so-called "reading-room" provision of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of CREW's complaint for failure to state a claim in light of the court's decision in Electronic Frontier Foundation v. United States Department of Justice (EFF), 739 F.3d 1 (D.C. Cir. 2014). In this case, there was no dispute that the formal written opinions the OLC has declined to publish were "withheld" "agency records." The court held that CREW has not plausibly alleged that the OLC's formal written notices have all been adopted by the agencies to which they were addressed, subjecting the opinions to disclosure under FOIA's reading room provision as the"working law" of those agencies. View "Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. DOJ" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged the EPA's 2017 rule establishing a process for updating the inventory of chemicals manufactured or processed in the United States under the Toxic Substances Control Act, alleging that the rule unlawfully shields information from public disclosure. The DC Circuit affirmed the petition for review in part and held that petitioner correctly determined that the EPA's elimination of questions pertaining to reverse engineering was arbitrary and capricious. Accordingly, the court ordered a limited remand, without vacatur, for the EPA to address its arbitrary elimination of substantiation questions regarding reverse engineering. The court otherwise denied the petition. View "Environmental Defense Fund v. EPA" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied the States' petition for review of the EPA's decision to refuse to expand the Northeast Ozone Transport Region to include the upwind States of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia, and the remaining portions of Virginia. The court held that EPA's denial of the States' petition complied with the Clean Air Act and was a reasonable exercise of the agency's discretion. The court held that many of the States' arguments against EPA's denial derive from a fundamental misunderstanding of the scope of EPA's discretion; even if the States were correct that EPA's other Clean Air Act tools will not on their own completely solve the interstate ozone transport problem, this would not make enlargement of the transport region mandatory; EPA adequately explained the facts and policy concerns it relied on, recounted its historical use of the good-neighbor provision and the ongoing downward trend in ozone pollution, and therefore had a sufficient basis in the record for predicting that improvement would continue under the current regulatory scheme; and, with respect to the Northeast Region, EPA did not find equity irrelevant, as the States contend, but rather determined that any equitable concerns could not alone dictate the disposition of the petition. View "State of New York v. EPA" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied petitions for review of the FAA's decision that payments of the Portland International Airport's utility charges for off-site stormwater drainage and Superfund remediation did not constitute diversion of airport revenues or violate the Anti-Head Tax Act. The court held that Congress expressly authorized the use of airport revenues for "operating costs . . . of the airport" and the FAA has properly determined that the general expenses of a utility are such "operating costs." Therefore, the court rejected petitioner's contention that the FAA's decision was based on erroneous statutory interpretations and that the FAAs findings were not supported by substantial evidence. View "Air Transport Association of America v. FAA" on Justia Law

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This case arose when a member of the House of Representatives asked the House-appointed Chaplain, Father Patrick J. Conroy, to invite Daniel Barker—a former Christian minister turned atheist—to serve as guest chaplain and deliver a secular invocation. After Conroy denied the request, Barker filed suit alleging that Conroy unconstitutionally excluded him from the guest chaplain program because he is an atheist. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Barker's Establishment Clause claim. The court held that, although Barker had Article III standing to challenge his exclusion from the program, he failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The court held that Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783 (1983), and Town of Greece v. Galloway, 572 U.S. 565, 570 (2014), leave no doubt that the Supreme Court understands our nation's longstanding legislative-prayer tradition as one that, because of its "unique history," can be both religious and consistent with the Establishment Clause. The court noted that, although the Supreme Court has warned against discriminating among religions or tolerating a pattern of prayers that proselytize or disparage certain faiths or beliefs, it has never suggested that legislatures must allow secular as well as religious prayer. Therefore, in the sui generis context of legislative prayer, the court held that the House does not violate the Establishment Clause by limiting its opening prayer to religious prayer. View "Barker v. Conroy" on Justia Law

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These petitions concern the conduct of a military judge, Colonel Vance Spath, who presided over a current Guantanamo Bay detainee, Abd Al-Rahim Hussein Muhammed Al-Nashiri, who faces capital charges before a military commission. After receiving a job offer but before retiring from the military, Spath found himself locked in a dispute with Al-Nashiri's defense lawyers, three of whom sought to leave the case. The DC Circuit granted Al-Nashiri's petition for a writ of mandamus and held that Spath's job application to the Justice Department created a disqualifying appearance of partiality. In this case, the average, informed observer would consider Spath to have presided over a case in which his potential employer (the Attorney General) appeared. The court vacated all orders issued by Spath after he applied for the job, and dismissed counsels' petition as moot. View "In re: Abd Al-Rahim Hussein Muhammed Al-Nashiri" on Justia Law

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In this redacted appeal, the DC Circuit affirmed the district court's decision refusing to enjoin the FEC from releasing information identifying a trust and its trustee in connection with a misreported federal campaign contribution. Plaintiffs claim that the Commission's release of documents identifying them would violate the First Amendment to the Constitution, the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The court held that FECA's provisions and the regulations thereunder did not bar the disclosure and authorized the Commission's action; Citizens United v. FEC, 558 U.S. 310 (2010), foreclosed plaintiffs' claim that the First Amendment barred the Commission from publicly identifying them; and FOIA could not be used to prevent the Commission from publicly revealing plaintiffs' identities. View "Doe 1 v. FEC" on Justia Law

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Oceana challenged the Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology adopted in 2015 by the Fisheries Service, claiming that the methodology violated the Magnuson–Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Fisheries Service, holding that the Fisheries Service has met its obligation under the Sustainable Fisheries Act to establish a standardized methodology. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by not requiring that the agency produce or include on a privilege log documents covered by the deliberative-process privilege. View "Oceana, Inc. v. Ross" on Justia Law