Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
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Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means (“the Chairman”) invoked Section 6103(f)(1) in a writing to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue (“the 2019 Request”). The Chairman requested the federal income tax returns of then-President Donald J. Trump and that of his related companies and organizations (collectively “the Trump Parties”). The Department of the Treasury responded that it did not intend to comply with the 2019 Request because it was not supported by a legitimate legislative purpose. Later the Treasury informed the district court and the Trump Parties that it intended to comply with the 2021 Request and provide the Committee with the requested materials. The Trump Parties alleged that Section 6103(f)(1) is facially unconstitutional and that compliance with the Request would be a violation of the First Amendment.The DC Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the 2021 Request seeks information that may inform the United States House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means as to the efficacy of the Presidential Audit Program, and therefore, was made in furtherance of a subject upon which legislation could be had. Further, the Request did not violate the separation of powers principles under any of the potentially applicable tests primarily because the burden on the Executive Branch and the Trump Parties is relatively minor. Finally, Section 6103(f)(1) is not facially unconstitutional because there are many circumstances under which it can be validly applied, and Treasury’s decision to comply with the Request did not violate the Trump Parties’ First Amendment rights. View "Committee on Ways and Means, United States House of Representatives v. TREA" on Justia Law

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The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF” or the “Bureau”) promulgated a rule classifying “bump stocks” as machine guns. The Bureau’s new rule instructed individuals with bump stocks to either destroy them, abandon them at the nearest ATF facility, or face criminal penalties. Plaintiffs initially moved for a preliminary injunction to stop the rule from taking effect, which the District Court denied, and a panel of this Court affirmed. At the merits stage, the District Court again rejected Plaintiffs’ challenges to the rule under the Chevron framework. See Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984).The central question on appeal was whether the Bureau had the statutory authority to interpret “machine gun” to include bump stocks and the DC Circuit affirmed. In employing the traditional tools of statutory interpretation, the court found that the disputed rule is consistent with the best interpretation of “machine gun” under the governing statutes. The court explained that it joins other circuits in concluding that these devices, which enable such prodigious rapid-fire capability upon a pull of the trigger, fall within the definition of “machine gun” in the National Firearms Act and Gun Control Act. View "Damien Guedes v. ATF" on Justia Law

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The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC or Commission) promulgated a mandatory safety standard governing all previously unregulated infant sleep products, including ones for which there was no voluntary safety standard in effect. Finnbin, LLC sold baby boxes, an infant flat sleep product covered by the final rule. Finnbin’s boxes lack a firm stand and elevation, so Finnbin may no longer sell them as designed. Finnbin sought judicial review of the final rule.   The DC Circuit denied in part and dismissed in part Petitioner’s motion seeking judicial review of the final review. Finnbin made two arguments why, in its view, the final rule exceeds the CPSC’s statutory authority under section 104. The court held that because the extant voluntary standard here covers only inclined sleep products, the Commission could not impose a broader standard extending to previously unregulated flat sleep products.   Finnbin further contended that section 104 permits the CPSC to impose safety standards but not product bans, which it says must be done under 15 U.S.C. Section 2057. Moreover, Finnbin continues, the final rule bans products like baby boxes. The court explained that by its terms, the final rule creates performance requirements for infant sleep products not already covered by a section 104 standard. Finnbin provides no reason to think that the rule effectively bans any discrete product.   Finally, the court explained in contending the CPSC failed to provide an adequate explanation, Finnbin highlights cases faulting the Commission for relying on imprecise injury reports. But these cases involved rules promulgated under the Consumer Product Safety Act—which, unlike section 104, requires a rigorous cost-benefit analysis. View "Finnbin, LLC v. CPSC" on Justia Law

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Out of concern about the increasing use of drones and the effect they have on airspace, the FAA passed the Remote ID rule, which drones in flight to emit publicly readable radio signals reflecting certain identifying information, including their serial number, location, and performance information. Petitioners, a drone user and drone retailer, challenged the FAA Remote ID rule on several grounds, including under the Fourth Amendment.The D.C. Circuit denied petitioners' petition for review, finding that the Remote ID rule does not violate the Fourth Amendment because it does not authorize warrantless searches in violation of a reasonable expectation of privacy. View "Tyler Brennan v. Stephen Dickson" on Justia Law

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In 2005, the SEC promulgated a series of initiatives dubbed “Regulation NMS,” which stands for National Market System. One of those initiatives established the concept of the “[n]ational best bid and national best offer,” which are the best bid and best offer for a security, from the taker’s point of view, across all U.S. securities exchanges. Regulation NMS also classifies some providers’ orders as “protected” bids or offers (collectively “protected quotations”). Protected quotations are “automated,” publicly displayed, and the national best bid or offer.At issue is not whether companies like Petitioner may seek advantages in the market by using advanced technology and ingenious trading strategies, but instead whether the SEC may allow an exchange to innovate, with the D-Limit order, in a way that offers new opportunities to long-term investors.The D.C. Circuit approved the SEC's rule, finding that substantial evidence supported the SEC’s findings and the SEC’s conclusions were reasonable and reasonably explained. View "Citadel Securities LLC v. SEC" on Justia Law

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The  FDA declared that “preventing tobacco use initiation in young people is a central priority for protecting population health.” Congress has called on the FDA to regulate e-cigarette products pursuant to the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.   Prohibition Juice makes flavored liquids containing nicotine derived from tobacco. Prohibition applied in September 2020 for FDA authorization to market several flavors in a range of sizes. The FDA denied those applications a year later. The FDA requires applicants to present reliable evidence of robust public health benefits exceeding known risks. Finding the manufacturers had presented insufficient evidence that their flavored products are more effective than unflavored products in helping adult cigarette smokers decrease or quit harmful tobacco uses, the FDA denied the applications. The manufacturers petitioned for a review of those denials.   The DC Circuit denied the petitions. The court explained that FDA plainly had statutory authority under the Tobacco Control Act to regulate as it did. As to the arbitrary and capricious challenges, the court held that the FDA did not change the evidentiary or substantive standard from its 2019 Guidance. The court further held that any error in the FDA’s failure to consider the marketing plans was harmless because the manufacturers failed to identify how an individualized review of the plans they submitted could have made any difference. Finally, the FDA did not otherwise fail to consider important aspects of the problem. View "Prohibition Juice Co. v. FDA" on Justia Law

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In 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) modified its regulations governing the maximum hours that commercial motor vehicle operators may drive or operate within a certain timeframe. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a labor union representing commercial truck drivers, and three national nonprofit organizations petitioned for review. They argued that the Final Rule was arbitrary and capricious for failing to grapple with the safety and driver health consequences of changes to record-keeping rules for short-haul commercial vehicle drivers and break requirements for long-haul drivers.   The DC Circuit denied the petition for review. The court held that the modifications to the hours-of-service rules were sufficiently explained and grounded in the administrative record. The court explained that the Administration not only directly tackled the issue of driver health but also reasonably explained why the health benefits estimated in the 2011 Rule would continue under the modified 30-minute break rule. That met the APA’s requirements. View "Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety v. FMCSA" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, an Army veteran, arrived at the Tampa International Airport to pick up two of his children who were visiting for the holiday. After a swab of Petitioner’s hands tested positive for traces of explosive material, screening personnel from the Transportation Security Administration attempted to perform a full-body pat-down. Citing medical reasons, Petitioner repeatedly refused to be patted down and was subsequently escorted away from the checkpoint by law enforcement.   The agency assessed Petitioner a civil penalty for “interfer[ing] with screening personnel in the performance of their screening duties[.]” 49 C.F.R. Section 1540.109. Petitioner petitioned the DC Circuit to overturn the penalty on the ground that his refusal to submit to a pat-down, particularly in light of his medical justifications, did not constitute interference under the regulation. The court denied the petition finding that the agency lawfully applied its interference regulation to Petitioner’s conduct.   The court explained that it has recently defined the “ordinary meaning” of interfere as “to interpose in a way that hinders or impedes: comes into collision or be in opposition.” Here, in light of the established meaning, the TSA logically concluded that Petitioner’s conduct interfered with TSA personnel engaged in screening operations. TSA policy requires that whenever an individual triggers a positive explosives alarm, he or she must undergo a full-body pat-down. Petitioner’s repeated resistance to being patted down was “in opposition” to and “r[a]n at cross-purposes” with that policy.   Further, the court found that TSA’s conduct did not approach the level of egregiousness or outrageousness needed to establish a violation of substantive due process. View "Rohan Ramsingh v. TSA" on Justia Law

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The House of Representatives Oversight Committee issued a subpoena to then-President Trump’s personal accounting firm, Mazars USA, LLP. The subpoena sought an array of the President’s personal financial records. President Trump then brought a lawsuit challenging the Committee’s authority to subpoena his financial records.   After the DC Circuit upheld the subpoena, the Supreme Court took up the matter. Trump v. Mazars, 140 S. Ct. 2019 (2020). Since the remand, there have been two developments that potentially affected the shape of the court’s inquiry into the subpoena’s validity. First, President Trump is no longer the sitting President. And second, the Committee’s chairwoman has prepared a detailed explanation of the legislative purposes the subpoena serves and of how the subpoena satisfies the test laid out by the Supreme Court.   The DC Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court. The court agreed with President Trump that the heightened separation-of-powers scrutiny prescribed by the Supreme Court continues to govern in the unique circumstances of this case even though he is no longer the sitting President. However, the court also agreed with the Committee that the court can consider its detailed accounting of the legislative purposes its subpoena serves even though that explanation came after the subpoena’s original issuance.   Thus, the court upheld the Committee’s authority to subpoena certain of President Trump’s financial records in furtherance of the Committee’s enumerated legislative purposes. However, the court wrote it cannot sustain the breadth of the Committee’s subpoena. Rather, in carrying out the Supreme Court’s directive to “insist on a subpoena no broader than reasonably necessary to support Congress’s legislative objective,” the court determined that the Committee’s subpoena must be narrowed in a number of respects. View "Donald Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit granted petitions for review as to two order issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission (Commission) aimed at consolidating existing national market system (NMS) plans governing the dissemination of equity market data into a single, consolidated plan (CT Plan) and modifying the governance structure to increase efficiencies and facilitate greater involvement by non-exchange stakeholders (Governance Plan), holding that Petitioners' petitions were granted as to one challenged provision.Petitioners, a group of national securities exchanges, brought this action challenging the Commission's orders, arguing that several of the provisions were arbitrary and capricious or were contrary to the the text and goals of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. 78a et seq. Specifically, Petitioners challenged a provision of the final Commission-approved CT Plan that included representatives that did not belong to "self-regulatory organizations" (SROs) as voting members of the CT Plan's operating committee. The District of Columbia Circuit granted Petitioners' petitions as to the non-SRO representation provision and denied them in all other respects, holding that the provision including non-SROs on the CT Plan's operating committee as voting members was invalid. View "Nasdaq Stock Market LLC v. Securities & Exchange Comm'n" on Justia Law