Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
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The union represents teachers and other professional employees at schools on U.S. military bases in Puerto Rico. In 2015, the federal agency and the union began negotiating a successor to an expired collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The union sought to continue workday provisions from the 2011 agreement. The agency sought to eliminate the dedicated hour for preparatory and professional tasks and to require teachers to be at school for that hour. The agency argued that these terms implicated its right to assign work (5 U.S.C. 7106(a)(2)(B) and were nonnegotiable. The Federal Service Impasses Panel factfinder concluded that the workday provisions were negotiable and recommended that the successor agreement maintain them; recommended terms to resolve other disputes, including new compensation terms; and recommended that the successor agreement incorporate all provisions on which the parties had already tentatively agreed. The Panel ordered the parties to adopt an entire CBA according to those recommendations.The Federal Labor Relations Authority held that the Panel lacked authority to impose the workday and agreed-to provisions. The Panel is authorized to resolve bargaining impasses but not to resolve antecedent legal questions about whether disputed provisions are negotiable. Those questions turn on the scope of the duty to bargain in good faith, which the Authority must determine. The D.C. Circuit affirmed those rulings but set aside a ruling that the workday provision imposed by the Panel infringed the agency’s statutory right to assign work. View "Antilles Consolidated Education Association v. Federal Labor Relations Authority" on Justia Law

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National Butterfly Center, a 100-acre wildlife sanctuary and botanical garden owned by the nonprofit North American Butterfly Association, lies along the border with Mexico. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) planned to build a segment of the border wall through the Center. The Association sued, citing the Fourth and Fifth Amendments and two environmental statutes. DHS has not analyzed the environmental impact of border wall-related activities at the Center (42 U.S.C. 4332(2)(C)), nor consulted with other federal agencies about how to minimize the impact of those activities on endangered species. An appropriation act subsequently prohibited funding for border fencing at the Center.The district court dismissed all claims, citing the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, 8 U.S.C. 1103, as stripping jurisdiction over the statutory claims because the DHS Secretary waived the application of environmental laws with respect to the construction of roads and physical barriers at the Center.The D.C. Circuit affirmed in part, first holding that the claims were not moot and that jurisdiction over the statutory claims was not stripped by IIRIRA, nor was review channeled directly to the Supreme Court. The court held that DHS’s waiver determination defeats the statutory claims, that the Association failed to state a Fourth Amendment claim of unreasonable seizure of property it acknowledges to be “open fields,” but that the Association stated a procedural due process claim under the Fifth Amendment. View "North American Butterfly Association v. Wolf" on Justia Law

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Under the terms of a 2008 injunction, the Secretary must make various Federal Reserve Notes distinguishable to the visually impaired no later than the next scheduled redesign of each denomination. The Council challenged the district court's most recent denial of the Council's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) motion to impose a firm deadline on the Secretary.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and held that the district court violated neither the letter nor spirit of the court's mandate in American Council of the Blind v. Mnuchin, 878 F.3d 360 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (ACB II). In this case, the district court's security rationale is a management consideration, not a budgetary one. The court explained that ACB II does not require the district court to quantify its security rationale in dollar-denominated terms. The district court's feasibility rationale also comports with ACB II's mandate. The court also held that the district court's rationales for denying the Council's Rule 60(b) motion are sufficiently supported by the record where the district court cited the Secretary's estimate that adding the RTF to the $10 note by the end of 2020 would likely push back the security redesign of each denomination by at least two years—possibly more. The district court's feasibility rationale is also well supported by the record. View "American Council of the Blind v. Mnuchin" on Justia Law

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Title V of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) makes certain funds available to the recognized governing bodies of any "Indian Tribe" as that term is defined in the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDA).The DC Circuit held that Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs), state-chartered corporations established by Congress to receive land and money provided to Alaska Natives in settlement of aboriginal land claims, do not qualify as Indian Tribes under the CARES Act and ISDA. Therefore, ANCs are not eligible for funding under Title V of the CARES Act.The court stated that an ANC cannot qualify as an "Indian tribe" under ISDA unless it has been "recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians;" because no ANC has been federally "recognized" as an Indian tribe, as the recognition clause requires, no ANC satisfies the ISDA definition; although ANCs cannot be recognized as Indian tribes under current regulations, it was highly unsettled in 1975, when ISDA was enacted, whether Native villages or Native corporations would ultimately be recognized; and the Alaska clause does meaningful work by extending ISDA's definition of Indian tribes to whatever Native entities ultimately were recognized—even though, as things later turned out, no ANCs were recognized. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the government and the intervenors, as well as the district court's denial of summary judgment to the plaintiff tribes. View "Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation v. Mnuchin" on Justia Law

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The House filed suit alleging that the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, the Treasury, and the Interior, and the Secretaries of those departments violated the Appropriations Clause of the Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) when transferring funds appropriated for other uses to finance the construction of a physical barrier along the southern border of the United States, contravening congressionally approved appropriations. The district court held that the House lacked standing to challenge defendants' actions because it failed to allege a legally cognizable injury.The DC Circuit vacated the district court's judgment insofar as it dismisses the constitutional claims. In Comm. on Judiciary of U.S. House of Representatives v. McGahn, 968 F.3d 755 (D.C. Cir. 2020), the court clearly held that a single house of Congress could have standing to pursue litigation against the Executive for injury to its legislative rights. In this case, the allegations are that the Executive interfered with the prerogative of a single chamber to limit spending under the two-string theory discussed at the time of the founding era. Therefore, the court concluded that each chamber has a distinct individual right and one chamber has a distinct injury. Accordingly, that chamber has standing to bring this litigation. The court stated that expenditures made without the House's approval—or worse, as alleged here, in the face of its specific disapproval—cause a concrete and particularized constitutional injury that the House experiences, and can seek redress for, independently. The court further stated that failure to recognize that injury in fact would fundamentally alter the separation of powers by allowing the Executive Branch to spend any funds the Senate is on board with, even if the House withheld its authorizations.The court affirmed the district court's judgment insofar as it dismisses the APA claims where those allegations in no way set forth a legislative injury distinct to the House and affording it standing. The court previously explained that Congress does not have standing to litigate a claim that the President has exceeded his statutory authority. View "United States House of Representatives v. Mnuchin" on Justia Law

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Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements to FBI agents, 18 U.S.C. 1001. In May 2020, before sentencing, the government moved to dismiss all charges with prejudice. Flynn consented to that motion and moved to withdraw his pending motions, including a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. The district court appointed an amicus curiae to present arguments in opposition to the government’s motion and to address whether the court should issue an Order to Show Cause why Flynn should not be held in criminal contempt for perjury.Flynn filed an emergency mandamus petition. A panel of the D.C. Circuit issued the writ to compel the district court to immediately grant the government’s motion. On rehearing, en banc, the D.C. Circuit denied Flynn’s requests to compel the immediate grant of the government’s motion and to vacate the district court’s appointment of amicus. Flynn has not established that he has “no other adequate means to attain the relief he desires.” The court also declined to mandate that the case be reassigned to a different district judge; Flynn has not established a clear and indisputable right to reassignment. The court noted the interest in allowing the district court to decide a pending motion in the first instance; that Flynn is not in custody; and that “it is simply not the case that the Executive will be irreparably harmed by the procedures." View "In re: Flynn" on Justia Law

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After the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives ordered former White House Counsel McGahn to testify, the president instructed McGahn to assert absolute testimonial immunity from compelled congressional process. The D.C. Circuit initially ordered the dismissal of the Committee's suit. The en banc court subsequently held that the Committee has Article III standing to seek judicial enforcement of the subpoena.On remand for consideration of the remaining issues, the panel held that the Committee has no cause of action to enforce its subpoena and the case must be dismissed. Implied statutory limitations foreclose suits by the House and suits that implicate a governmental privilege. The Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. 2201(a), does not itself “provide a cause of action,” as the “availability of declaratory relief presupposes the existence of a judicially remediable right.” If Congress (rather than a single committee in a single chamber thereof) determines that its current mechanisms leave it unable to adequately enforce its subpoenas, it remains free to enact a statute that makes the House’s requests for information judicially enforceable. View "Committee on the Judiciary of the United States House of Representatives v. McGahn" on Justia Law

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Two U.S. railroads began allowing engineers and conductors employed by their Mexican affiliates to operate trains on their tracks in the U.S. Railroads certify their own engineers and conductors, in compliance with minimum standards. The Federal Railroad Administration (49 U.S.C. 20135(a)) does not issue formal documentation approving a railroad’s written certification program but has a passive approval system. If the Administration does not notify the railroad that its written certification program fails to meet the minimum regulatory criteria, the program is considered approved. Because Mexican railroads do not meet the Administration standards, trains have traditionally switched crews at the border, a time-consuming practice.Unions representing railroad employees filed suit, arguing that it was unlawful to approve a certification program permitting one railroad to certify employees of a foreign affiliate railroad that it does not control and for a certification program to deploy an abbreviated curriculum and training protocol to engineers with operating experience only in Mexico.The D.C. Circuit vacated and remanded in part. The Administration’s approval of a railway’s revised engineer certification program that allows that railroad to use an abbreviated program to certify Mexican engineers is a final action subject to Hobbs Act jurisdiction. The court rejected a timeliness argument, stating that the Administration had “completely hidden its already obscured passive approval from public view.” The Administration failed to provide a reasoned explanation for its approval of the materially-altered certification program. View "Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen v. Federal Railroad Administration" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed three sets of requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeking information about the denial of his applications for a United States entry visa. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the agencies.The DC Circuit affirmed and held that the State Department and DEA's searches were reasonably calculated to locate all responsive records; OIP properly construed plaintiff's FOIA request to exclude the DEA and FBI documents created before his appeals were filed; OIP permissibly withheld the privileged information at issue; the district court address segregability when it addressed withholding the documents at issue under the deliberative process privilege; if the district court has not adequately addressed segregability, the court did so in the first instance and concluded that OIP appropriately segregated exempt and non-exempt portions of the documents; the DEA and FBI responses were proper determinations under FOIA, which triggered plaintiff's obligation to exhaust his administrative appeals; and the court rejected plaintiff's request to excuse his failure to exhaust on policy grounds. View "Machado Amadis v. United States Department of State" on Justia Law

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After the federal government brought an action against Dynamic Visions and its owner under the False Claims Act (FCA) for submitting false claims for reimbursement, the district court granted summary judgment to the government.The DC Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment in large part but vacated the judgment as to a limited subset of the alleged false claims. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to those claims for which the falsity stems from the absence of any Plan of Care (POC), or from a POC with no signature from a physician, an untimely signature, or an authorization of services more confined in scope than the services for which reimbursement was sought. However, because the government's evidence does not foreclose a genuine dispute as to whether Dynamic Visions forged physician signatures, the court vacated the grant of summary judgment as to the corresponding subset of claims. The court rejected Dynamic Visions' remaining challenges. Finally, the court vacated the district court's order as to both damages and civil penalties, remanding for further proceedings. View "United States v. Dynamic Visions Inc." on Justia Law