Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
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After the University terminated plaintiff, she filed suit under the False Claims Act's (FCA) anti-retaliation provision. The DC Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the action and held that the district court's decision reflected too narrow a view of the Act's protection for whistleblowers. The court held that the complaint sufficiently alleged that plaintiff's actions were undertaken to try to prevent what she reasonably believed would be the presentation of false claims by the University regarding the conditions of laboratory animals. The court held that the district court erred by defining protected activity as requiring plaintiff to have investigated matters that reasonably could lead to a viable FCA case, which only applied to the first prong of Section 3730(h)(1), but not the second prong. Furthermore, the district court wrongly required plaintiff to allege that her efforts were outside the scope of her responsibilities as Attending Veterinarian. The court also held that plaintiff adequately alleged termination of her position, the University's awareness of her protected activity, and facts connecting her termination to that protected activity. View "Singletary v. Howard University" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged the EPA's rule implementing the "Good Neighbor Provision," which requires upwind states to eliminate their significant contributions to air quality problems in downwind States, by promulgating a regulation addressing the interstate transport of ozone, or smog. The DC Circuit held that the rule was inconsistent with the Clean Air Act, because it allows upwind States to continue their significant contributions to downwind air quality problems beyond the statutory deadlines by which downwind States must demonstrate their attainment of air quality standards. The court held that EPA acted lawfully and rationally in all other respects. Accordingly, the petitions for review were granted in part and denied in part. View "Wisconsin v. EPA" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit granted a petition for review challenging the Postal Services' stamp price increase for the "Forever Stamp," which was part of the Postal Regulatory Commission Order 4875. The court held that the price hike did not meet the Administrative Procedure Act's requirements for reasoned decisionmaking, because the Commission failed to provide an adequate explanation of the increase and failed to respond to public comments challenging the increase under relevant statutory factors and objectives included in the Commission's organic statute, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA). Accordingly, the court vacated Order 4875 addressing rate adjustments for the category of first-class mail. View "Carlson v. Postal Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged the Commission's order authorizing Nexus Gas to construct and operate an interstate natural gas pipeline and exercise the right of eminent domain to acquire any necessary rights-of-way. Although the DC Circuit rejected many of petitioners' arguments, the court agreed with petitioners that the Commission failed to adequately justify its determination that it was lawful to credit Nexus Gas's contracts with foreign shippers serving foreign customers as evidence of market demand for the interstate pipeline. Accordingly, the court remanded without vacatur to the Commission for further explanation of this determination. View "City of Oberlin v. FERC" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated cases, petitioners challenged the EPA's final 2018 Rule, which established overall targets for the fuel market and imposed individual compliance obligations on fuel refineries and importers. The DC Circuit held that all these challenges lacked merit, except for one: that the EPA violated its obligations under the Endangered Species Act by failing to determine whether the 2018 Rule may affect endangered species or critical habitat. Therefore, the court granted the petition for review filed by the Gulf Restoration Network and Sierra Club and remanded without vacatur for the EPA to comply with the Act. The court denied all other petitions for review. View "American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers v. EPA" on Justia Law

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The Association challenged the NCUA's promulgation of a final rule that makes it easier for community credit unions to expand their geographical coverage and thus to reach more potential members. The DC Circuit considered the Federal Credit Union Act's text, purpose, and legislative history, and held that the agency's policy choices were entirely appropriate for the most part. With respect to the qualification of certain Combined Statistical Areas as local communities and the increased population cap for rural districts, the court directed the district court to issue summary judgment in favor of the NCUA. With respect to the elimination of the urban-core requirement for local communities based on Core Based Statistical Areas, the court directed the district court to issue summary judgment in favor of the Association and to remand, without vacating, the relevant portion of the 2016 rule for further explanation. View "American Bankers Assoc. v. National Credit Union Administration" on Justia Law

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A group of children's hospitals that receive Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments under the Medicaid Act filed suit challenging the Secretary's promulgation of a regulation defining "costs incurred" in furnishing hospital services to low income patients (the 2017 Rule). The DC Circuit reversed the district court's decision vacating the 2017 Rule and reinstated it, holding that the rule did not exceed the Secretary's statutory authority under the Medicaid Act and rejecting plaintiffs' reasons for why the statute did not grant the Secretary authority to require that payments by Medicare and private insurers be considered in calculating a hospital's "costs incurred;" the 2017 Rule is consistent with the statute's context and purpose, both of which suggest DSH payments are meant to assist those hospitals that need them most by covering only those costs for which DSH hospitals are in fact uncompensated; and the 2017 Rule was not a product of arbitrary and capricious reasoning. View "Children's Hospital Association of Texas v. Azar" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged one of the FCC's orders paring some regulatory requirements for the construction of wireless facilities. The Order exempted most small cell construction from two kinds of previously required review: historic-preservation review under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Furthermore, the Order effectively reduced Tribes' role in reviewing proposed construction of macrocell towers and other wireless facilities that remain subject to cultural and environmental review. The DC Circuit granted the petitions in part because the Order did not justify the Commission's determination that it was not in the public interest to require review of small cell deployments. In this case, the Commission did not adequately address possible harms of deregulation and benefits of environmental and historic-preservation review pursuant to its public interest authority under 47 U.S.C. 319(d). Therefore, the Order's deregulation of small cells was arbitrary and capricious. The court denied the petitions for review on the remaining claims. View "United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma v. FCC" on Justia Law

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The United States government thought that three banks, headquartered in China, held records that might clarify how North Korea finances its nuclear weapons program. After the government subpoenaed those records, the Banks resisted and claimed that the district court lacked personal jurisdiction, that the Patriot Act subpoena exceeded the government's statutory authority, and that compelling production would run afoul of comity principles. The district court overruled the Banks' objections and subsequently held the Banks in civil contempt for failing to produce the requested records. The DC Circuit affirmed the contempt orders, holding that the Banks' jurisdictional challenges were meritless where Banks One and Two consented to jurisdiction when they opened branches in the United States and, although Bank Three has no U.S. branch and executed no such agreement, its choice to maintain correspondent accounts in the United States established an adequate connection to the forum and the enforcement action to sustain jurisdiction. The court also held that records "related to" a U.S. correspondent account, under 31 U.SC. 5318(k)(3)(A)(i), include records of transactions that do not themselves pass through a correspondent account when those transactions are in service of an enterprise entirely dedicated to obtaining access to U.S. currency and markets using a U.S. correspondent account. In this case, Bank Three's subpoena under the Patriot Act did not exceed the Attorney General's statutory authority, because all records pertaining to the Company's Bank Three account and its correspondent banking transactions, no matter where they occurred, are "related to" the Bank's U.S. correspondent accounts. In regard to the Banks' comity concerns, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by enforcing the subpoenas despite the fact that the United States chose not to pursue the process designated in the Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement (MLAA) between the United States and China. Finally, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by issuing the civil contempt orders in light of the circumstances. View "In re: Sealed Case" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied petitions for review challenging the Commission's orders permitting Transcontinental Gas to move forward with a pipeline expansion called the Atlantic Sunrise Project. The court held that the administrative record foreclosed the Homeowners' and Environmental Associations' three arguments under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA); the Commission's market-need determination did not violate the Natural Gas Act; and circuit precedent foreclosed the Environmental Associations' and Homeowners' argument that the Commission's authorization for construction to go forward while their rehearing petitions were still pending—and thus before the Commission's decision was final and judicially reviewable—denied them due process. View "Allegheny Defense Project v. FERC" on Justia Law