Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
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On May 16, 2017, Turkish security forces clashed with protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s Washington, D.C. residence. Injured protesters sued the Republic of Turkey, claiming that President Erdogan ordered the attack. They asserted various tort claims, violation of D.C. Code 22-3704, which creates a civil action for injuries that demonstrate an accused’s prejudice based on the victim’s race or national origin, and civil claims under the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act and under the Alien Tort Statute.After reviewing the videotape of the incident, the district court stated: [T]he protesters remained standing on the designated sidewalk. Turkish security forces ... crossed a police line to attack the protesters. The protesters ... either fell to the ground, where Turkish security forces continued to kick and hit them or ran away."The D.C. Circuit affirmed the denial of Turkey's motion to dismiss. Under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1602, a foreign state is “presumptively immune" from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts but a “tortious acts exception,” strips immunity if money damages are sought for personal injury or death, or damage to property, occurring in the U.S. and caused by the tortious act of a foreign state. The court rejected Turkey's argument that the “discretionary function” exception preserved its sovereign immunity. Although the Turkish security detail had a right to protect President Erdogan, Turkey did not have the discretion to commit criminal assaults. The decisions giving rise to the lawsuit were not “‘fraught with’ economic, political, or social judgments.” View "Usoyan v. Republic of Turkey" on Justia Law

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The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act amended the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to establish a comprehensive regulatory scheme for tobacco products, defined as “any product made or derived from tobacco that is intended for human consumption, including any component, part, or accessory of a tobacco product,” 21 U.S.C. 321(rr)(1). The 2016 FDA "Deeming Rule" deemed all products that meet the Act’s definition of “tobacco product,” including any “component” and “part” but excluding any “accessory” of those products, to be subject to the Act. Premarket review by FDA was required before the introduction into interstate commerce of any “new tobacco product.” FDA adopted “staggered compliance periods” for premarket review requirements of newly deemed products that were being marketed as of the Rule’s effective date. FDA also promulgated a separate rule addressing the assessment of user fees for manufacturers and importers of cigars and pipe tobacco.The D.C. Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of FDA on five Administrative Procedure Act challenges to the Deeming Rule concerning its implementation of the premarket review requirements, underlying cost-benefit analysis, and classification of a pipe as a “component or part” of a tobacco product subject to regulation, and an APA challenge to the User Fees Rule. View "Cigar Association of America v. United States Food and Drug Administration" on Justia Law

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In March 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In response, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted House Resolution 965 in May 2020, establishing a process under which House Members can cast their votes and mark their presence by proxy if they cannot personally attend proceedings due to the public-health emergency. On May 20, 2020, Speaker of the House Pelosi authorized proxy voting pursuant to the Resolution for a period of 45 days. There have since been several extensions, the most recent of which expires on August 17, 2021. House Minority Leader McCarthy, other Representatives, and several constituents challenged the constitutionality of the Resolution in a lawsuit, arguing that various constitutional provisions require Members to be physically present on the House floor in order to count towards a quorum and cast votes.The D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The Resolution and its implementation lie within the immunity for legislative acts conferred by the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause. The Resolution establishes internal rules governing the casting of votes by Members; conduct implementing the latter resolution, including the Clerk’s counting and recording of proxy votes, is itself a legislative act, pertaining directly “to the consideration and passage or rejection of proposed legislation.” View "McCarthy v. Pelosi" on Justia Law

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The Clean Air Act’s Renewable Fuel Standard Program (42 U.S.C. 7547(o)(2)(A)(i)) calls for annual increases in the amount of renewable fuel introduced into the U.S. fuel supply and sets annual targets for renewable fuel volumes. Each year, EPA implements those targets but has certain waiver authorities to reduce the annual targets below the statutory levels. Companies that produce renewable fuels argued that EPA’s 2019 volume levels (83 Fed. Reg. 63,704) were too low; fuel refiners and retailers argued that the 2019 volumes were too high. Environmental organizations challenged various aspects of the 2019 Rule relating to environmental considerations.The D.C. Circuit denied their petitions for review except for the environmental organizations’ challenges concerning whether the 2019 Rule would affect listed species, which it remanded without vacatur. The court upheld EPA’s 2019 continuation of its practice of granting exemptions to small refineries after promulgating the annual percentage standards; EPA’s decision to exclude electricity generated from renewable biomass (a form of cellulosic biofuel) from its cellulosic biofuel projection in the 2019 Rule; EPA’s determination that the 2019 volumes would not cause severe economic harm; and EPA’s decision not to obligate ethanol blenders under the RFS Program. EPA adequately explained its refusal to exercise the inadequate domestic supply waiver. EPA did not act arbitrarily in estimating that 100 million gallons of sugarcane ethanol were “reasonably attainable” for 2019. View "Growth Energy v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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In 1994, Farrell, a U.S. citizen, moved to Switzerland. He married a Swiss citizen; they had a child. In 2004, he naturalized as a Swiss citizen, allegedly with the intent of relinquishing his U.S. nationality; 8 U.S.C. 1481(a)(1) refers to “voluntarily … with the intention of relinquishing United States nationality … obtaining naturalization in a foreign state.” He subsequently made no use of his U.S. citizenship and did not enter the U.S. In 2013, Farrell was arrested in Spain and extradited to the U.S. He pled guilty to interstate travel with intent to engage in sex with a minor and possession of child pornography, which he committed 10 years earlier in the U.S., and was sentenced to imprisonment in the U.S.Farrell corresponded with the State Department, requesting a certificate of loss of nationality (CLN). He was told he would have to sign forms in person in front of a consular officer. Farrell argued that he had already committed the expatriating act when he naturalized in Switzerland and was now attesting that he did so voluntarily with the intent to lose his nationality. The Embassy responded that Farrell could not lose his citizenship while he was imprisoned in the U.S. Farrell sued, claiming that the in-person requirement was contrary to statute and arbitrary. The D.C. Circuit reversed the district court. While the Department has statutory authority to impose an in-person requirement, it acted arbitrarily in denying Farrell a CLN by offering conflicting and ever-evolving reasons for denying the CLN. View "Farrell v. Blinken" on Justia Law

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The State Department posted to its website a list of frequently asked questions about international adoptions, stating that “a soft referral is not [an] acceptable practice.” This sentence sparked confusion because many adoption advocates had never heard the phrase “soft referral.” After receiving numerous questions, State updated its website in March 2018 to define “soft referrals” as either informing prospective adoptive parents about a specific child before the country of origin has determined that the child is eligible for intercountry adoption or matching a child to a family before approval of the prospective adoptive parents (“holding the child”). In May 2018, State again updated its website, stating an adoption service provider may sometimes informally match a child to prospective parents before parents complete their home study but cannot “hold” the child’s file in a way that prevents other providers from referring the child to other parents, discourages other parents from adopting the child, or prevents authorities from considering alternative parents. The new webpage claimed to clarify existing policies based on regulations that have been in place since 2006.The district court dismissed, for lack of standing, a suit by members of the National Council For Adoption, which helps prospective parents adopt children. The D.C. Circuit reversed. At least one member of the Council can establish injury, causation, and redressability, so the Council has associational standing. The guidance is a legislative rule and was issued without the required notice-and-comment process. View "National Council for Adoption v. Blinken" on Justia Law

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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regulates the transmission and wholesale of electric energy in interstate commerce, 16 U.S.C. 824(b), and must approve changes to any rate or charge. PJM, a regional transmission organization that manages an electric grid covering 13 Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states and the District of Columbia, meets its obligation to ensure sufficient generating capacity by conducting a yearly auction in which electricity suppliers submit offers to be available to provide capacity during a one-year period, three years in the future. The Variable Resource Requirement Curve (VRR Curve) represents the prices that consumers should pay for varying quantities of capacity. The intersection of the VRR and supply curves dictates the amount of capacity committed and the price suppliers are paid. The VRR Curve is set based on the amount of capacity that must be produced to meet peak demand to allow no more than one power outage every decade and how much revenue a hypothetical new generator (Reference Resource) would need to earn in the capacity market to justify construction.The Commission accepted PJM;s proposed revisions to the capacity market auction mechanism: keeping a combustion turbine plant as its Reference Resource and increasing the value of the Reference Resource’s estimated offer to supply energy by 10% (10% adder). The D.C. Circuit affirmed the approval of the Reference Resource as just and reasonable but vacated the approval of the 10% adder. View "Delaware Division of the Public Advocate v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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Competitive carriers” compete with legacy “incumbent carriers,” descendants of AT&T’s broken-up monopoly that typically own local phone networks. Competitive carriers lease or purchase the use of incumbent networks to deliver services and, therefore, have greater geographic flexibility to pursue profitable markets. Servicing toll conference centers has been a particularly lucrative business; fee structures create an incentive to route calls through rural areas and encourage toll conference centers to operate there. As a result, some sparsely populated rural areas receive a disproportionate number of calls, resulting in overloaded networks, call blocking, and dropped calls. Long-distance carriers complained to the FCC.In a 2011 rule, the FCC designated carriers who exploited this regulatory loophole as “access stimulators” and imposed sanctions. The rule was not entirely successful. In 2018, the Commission issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, targeting harmful access stimulation practices. After the close of the comment period, AT&T and NTCA (a trade association ) met with the FCC, which adopted rules largely following those proposed in its draft order but incorporating differentiated definitions proposed by AT&T and NTCA. The rule was intended to "properly align financial incentives by making the access-stimulating [carrier] responsible for paying for the part of the call path that it dictates.”The D.C. CIrcuit rejected a challenge by competitive carriers and companies that offer conference calls. The rule does not exceed the Commission’s statutory authority and is not arbitrary or unreasonable. View "Great Lakes Communication Corp v. Federal Communications Commission" on Justia Law

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Educational Center treats patients with severe mental disabilities, some of whom suffer from severe self-injurious and aggressive behaviors that are difficult or impossible to treat using conventional behavioral and pharmacological techniques. Some patients have suffered brain trauma, broken and protruding bones, and blindness as a result of their behaviors. Before the ban, the Center treated some self-injurious and aggressive patients with an electrical stimulation device called a graduated electronic decelerator, which briefly shocks patients causing them to reduce or cease their self-injurious behaviors. The Center is the only facility in the country that uses electric shock therapy to treat individuals who severely self-injure or are aggressive. Other health care practitioners administer electrical stimulation devices to treat a wide variety of other conditions, including tobacco, alcohol, and drug addictions, as well as inappropriate sexual behaviors following traumatic brain injuries. The Center manufactures its own devices, which are regulated by the FDA, 21 U.S.C. 360c(a)(1)(B).In 2020, the FDA determined that the devices presented a substantial and unreasonable risk to self-injurious and aggressive patients and banned the devices for that purpose. The D.C. Circuit vacated the rule. Banning a medical device for a particular purpose regulates the practice of medicine in violation of 21 U.S.C. 396. View "The Judge Rotenberg Educational Center, Inc. v. United States Food and Drug Administration" on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs are residents of Gujarat, India, an Indian governmental entity, and a nonprofit focused on fish workers' rights. IFC is an international organization of 185 member countries. The plaintiffs allege that they have been injured by operations of India's coal-fired Tata Mundra Power Plant, owned and operated by CGPL. IFC loaned funds for the project and conditioned disbursement of those funds on CGPL’s compliance with certain environmental standards. The plaintiffs allege that IFC negligently failed to ensure that the Plant’s design and operation complied with these environmental standards but nonetheless disbursed funds to CGPL. These supervisory omissions and disbursement decisions allegedly took place at IFC’s Washington, D.C. headquarters.On remand from the Supreme Court, which held that organizations such as IFC possess more limited immunity equivalent to that enjoyed by foreign governments, the district court again ruled that IFC was immune from the claims. The D.C. Circuit affirmed. United States courts lack subject-matter jurisdiction. The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act provides that foreign states are immune from the jurisdiction of United States’ courts, 28 U.S.C. 1604; the commercial activity exception does not apply because the gravamen of the complaint is injurious activities that occurred in India. View "Jam v. International Finance Corp." on Justia Law