Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
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The DC Circuit granted the petition for writ of mandamus in part and ordered the district court to grant the government's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 48 motion to dismiss the charges against Michael Flynn, former National Security Advisor to President Donald J. Trump, who pleaded guilty to making false statements under 18 U.S.C. 1001. The court held that the district court's orders appointing an amicus and scheduling a proposed hearing constitute legal error. The court also held that this is not the unusual case where a more searching inquiry is justified, and there is no adequate remedy for the intrusion on "the Executive's long-settled primacy over charging decisions." The court stated that, although Rule 48 requires "leave of court" before dismissing charges, "decisions to dismiss pending criminal charges—no less than decisions to initiate charges and to identify which charges to bring—lie squarely within the ken of prosecutorial discretion." The court reasoned that, whatever the precise scope of Rule 48's "leave of court" requirement, this is plainly not the rare case where further judicial inquiry is warranted. The court explained that Flynn agrees with the government's motion to dismiss and there has been no allegation that the motion reflects prosecutorial harassment, and the government's motion includes an extensive discussion of newly discovered evidence casting Flynn's guilt into doubt. The court stated that the government specifically points to evidence that the FBI interview at which Flynn allegedly made false statements was "untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI's counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn." In light of this evidence, the government maintains that it cannot "prove either the relevant false statements or their materiality beyond a reasonable doubt." The court also stated that the government's representations about the insufficiency of the evidence are entitled to a "presumption of regularity," and, on the record before the district court, there is no clear evidence contrary to the government’s representations. Therefore, the court held that these clearly established legal principles and the Executive's "long-settled primacy over charging decisions" foreclose the district court's proposed scrutiny of the government's motion. The court also held that the district court's appointment of the amicus and demonstrated intent to scrutinize the reasoning and motives of the Department of Justice constitute irreparable harms that cannot be remedied on appeal. The court stated that the district court's actions will result in specific harms to the exercise of the Executive Branch's exclusive prosecutorial power, and the contemplated proceedings would likely require the Executive to reveal the internal deliberative process behind its exercise of prosecutorial discretion, interfering with the Article II charging authority. Furthermore, circumstances of this case demonstrate that mandamus is appropriate to prevent the judicial usurpation of executive power. The court denied Flynn's petition to the extent that he seeks reassignment of the district judge where the district judge's conduct did not indicate a clear inability to decide this case fairly. The court vacated the district court's order appointing an amicus as moot. View "In re: Michael Flynn" on Justia Law

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Associations filed suit contending that the Secretary's decision to expand the reach of the expedited removal process to its statutory limit, sweeping in all individuals without documentation who have resided in the United States for less than two years, violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, and the Suspension Clause. The district court granted a preliminary injunction against the expansion based only on the APA claims, but did not address the INA and constitutional claims. The DC Circuit held that the district court properly exercised jurisdiction under 8 U.S.C. 1252(e) over the Associations' case. However, because Congress committed the judgment whether to expand expedited removal to the Secretary's "sole and unreviewable discretion," 8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(1)(A)(iii)(I), the Secretary's decision is not subject to review under the APA's standards for agency decisionmaking. Furthermore, the Secretary's decision is not subject to the APA's notice-and-comment rulemaking requirements. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction and remanded for further proceedings. View "Make The Road New York v. Wolf" on Justia Law

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Petitioners filed suit challenging the SEC's adoption of a Pilot Program, Rule 610T, which was designed to gather data so that the Commission might be able to determine in the future whether regulatory action was necessary. The DC Circuit granted the petitions for review, holding that the SEC acted without delegated authority from Congress when it adopted Rule 610T. The court explained that the Pilot Program emanates from an aimless "one-off" regulation, i.e., a rule that imposes significant, costly, and disparate regulatory requirements on affected parties merely to allow the Commission to collect data to determine whether there might be a problem worthy of regulation. In this case, the Commission acted solely to "shock the market" to collect data so that it might ponder the "fundamental disagreements" between parties affected by Commission rules and then consider whether to regulate in the future. The court held that this was an unprecedented action that clearly exceeded the SEC's authority under the Exchange Act. Accordingly, the court vacated the rule and remanded. View "New York Stock Exchange LLC v. Securities and Exchange Commission" on Justia Law

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Appellants, conservative organizations and a safari guide, filed suit challenging the Service's actions governing the import of sport-hunted animal trophies from Africa. Initially, appellants challenged certain findings the Service made, the Service then withdrew some findings following the outcome of a similar case, and then the Service announced that in the future it would proceed by informal adjudication. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's rejection of appellants' claims on appeal, holding that appellants' challenges to the 2017 Zimbabwe findings are moot because the March Memo had already eliminated their legal effects. The court rejected appellants' challenges to the March Memo's withdrawal of more than twenty prior enhancements and on-detriment findings, and held that the district court's approach of evaluating the effect of each withdrawal in the March Memo individually was proper under the circumstances. Finally, the court rejected appellants' argument that it was unlawful for the Service to announce it would proceed in the future to implement the Endangered Species Act through informal adjudication. View "Friends of Animals v. Bernhardt" on Justia Law

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Drug manufacturers challenged the Department's rule that broadly requires drug manufacturers to disclose in their television advertisements the wholesale acquisition cost of many prescription drugs and biological products for which payment is available under Medicare or Medicaid. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of the drug manufacturers, holding that the Department acted unreasonably in construing its regulatory authority to include the imposition of a sweeping disclosure requirement that is largely untethered to the actual administration of the Medicare or Medicaid programs. The court explained that, in the overwhelming majority of cases, the price that the rule compels manufacturers to disclose bears little resemblance to the price beneficiaries actually pay under the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Therefore, the court held that there is no reasoned statutory basis for the Department's far-flung reach and misaligned obligations, and thus the rule is invalid and is hereby set aside. View "Merck & Co., Inc. v. United States Department of Human and Health Services" on Justia Law

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The Great Lakes Pilotage Act requires foreign vessels and American vessels participating in foreign trade to hire an American or Canadian maritime pilot to assist in navigating the difficult waters of the Great Lakes. Shippers challenged the pilot rates for the 2016 commercial shipping season under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Shippers claimed that the 2016 Rule set an artificially inflated pilot rate that caused significant harm to the industry. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's decision upholding parts of the 2016 Rule setting higher compensation targets for the pilots. The court also affirmed the district court's holding that several parts of the rule are unsupported by the administrative record. The court held that, although remand without vacatur is the exception rather than the rule, the district court acted within its discretion here, given the disruption likely to occur from reallocating rates paid several years ago. View "American Great Lakes Ports Ass'n v. Schultz" on Justia Law

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Solenex challenged the Secretary's cancellation of its oil and gas lease in the Badger-Two Medicine Area. The district court ruled in favor of Solenex, concluding that the amount of time that had elapsed between the lease's issuance and its cancellation violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the Secretary failed to consider Solenex's reliance interests before cancelling the lease. The DC Circuit held that delay by itself is not enough to render the lease cancellation arbitrary and capricious. The court also held that the Secretary did consider, and in fact compensated, Solenex's identified reliance interests. Therefore, the district court's determinations were erroneous and the court vacated the judgment. View "Solenex LLC v. Bernhardt" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that the CPD routinely endorses and supports Republican and Democratic nominees at the expense of third-party candidates, and that the CPD uses subjective and biased criteria for selecting debate participants. Specifically, plaintiffs challenged the 15% polling criterion, which the CPD used to determine eligibility for participation in the debates preceding the 2012 Presidential election. Plaintiffs also challenged the Commission's denial of its request to initiate a rulemaking to change its rules to prohibit debate sponsors from using public opinion polls as a criterion for eligibility. Applying de novo review, the DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Commission. The court held that plaintiffs failed to show that the Commission's decisionmaking was arbitrary and capricious where the Commission offered detailed explanations in support of its view that plaintiffs failed to show impermissible bias against independent candidates or in favor of candidates from the two major political parties. The court also held that the Commission acted reasonably in determining that a 15% polling threshold is an objective requirement. Finally, because the court has found that the Commission acted reasonably in reaching its decisions, the court held that the Commission did not err by electing not to initiate a rulemaking. View "Level the Playing Field v. Federal Election Commission" on Justia Law

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Following an incident at President Trump's 2019 Social Media Summit involving Appellee Brian Karem, a journalist with a hard pass, and Sebastian Gorka, a Summit attendee, the Press Secretary suspended Karem's pass for thirty days on the ground that his conduct violated "professional journalistic norms." The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction enjoining the enforcement of the suspension of Karem's hard pass credentials based on Fifth Amendment due process grounds. The court held that Karem is likely to succeed on his due process claim because, on this record, he lacked fair notice that the White House might punish his purportedly unprofessional conduct by suspending his hard pass for a month. The court also held that the remaining preliminary injunction factors counsel in favor of affirmance where Karem stands to suffer immediate irreparable harm absent an injunction, and the balance of the equities and the public interest factors also favor an injunction. The court limited the scope of the injunction to run only to the Press Secretary, rather than the Press Secretary and the President. View "Karem v. Trump" on Justia Law

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The district court remanded the Fiscal Year 2014 Rule to the Secretary of Health and Human Services without vacating the Rule. The district court's decision was made in response to the challenge by a group of hospitals to a 0.2% reduction in Medicare reimbursement rates for inpatient hospital services. The Secretary subsequently increased the Medicare inpatient rates by 0.6% for Fiscal Year 2017 to offset the past effects of the abandoned rate reduction. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Secretary. The court held that the district court was not required to vacate the Rule or order make whole relief as the hospitals sought, and the remedy on remand reasonably addressed the problem. The court also held that the district court did not err in partially granting and denying statutory interest to certain hospitals in accord with this court's precedent. Finally, the court affirmed the partial award and denial of statutory interest. View "Shands Jacksonville Medical Center, Inc. v. Azar" on Justia Law