Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
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Three Chinese individuals invested in a project to improve Philadelphia’s transit infrastructure as part of an effort to obtain EB-5 visas, which are visas for foreign investors who create jobs in the United States. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approved their visa applications. However, due to the oversubscription of the EB-5 visa program, the investors were waiting in line for visas to become available. In 2022, Congress changed the eligibility requirements for EB-5 visas, creating a new category of “reserved” EB-5 visas for foreigners who invest in “infrastructure projects”. The investors believed that they should be eligible for the new “reserved” visas based on their past investments in infrastructure. They sued the Department of Homeland Security and USCIS, arguing that previous investments in already-approved infrastructure-focused projects should be eligible for reserved EB-5 visas. The district court dismissed the complaint, ruling that the government had taken no final agency action that may be challenged at this time.The case was appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The court agreed with the lower court that the arguments made by the appellants were premature. The court found that the statements made by USCIS in a Q&A and a policy manual merely clarified the existing process for seeking an immigration benefit and did not constitute final agency action. The court also noted that the appellants were not precluded from applying for reserved EB-5 visas. Therefore, the court affirmed the decision of the district court, dismissing the appellants' claims for lack of finality under the Administrative Procedure Act. View "Delaware Valley Regional Center, LLC v. Department of Homeland Security" on Justia Law

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The case involves the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the Campaign Legal Center, and the political action committee Correct the Record. The Campaign Legal Center alleged that Correct the Record coordinated with Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign and spent close to $6 million without disclosing these expenditures as contributions. Correct the Record argued that these expenditures were exempt from disclosure due to the FEC's "internet exemption," which exempts unpaid internet communications from contribution limitations and disclosure requirements.The FEC dismissed the complaint, leading to a lawsuit by the Campaign Legal Center. The district court ruled in favor of the Campaign Legal Center, finding that the FEC's dismissal was contrary to law. The FEC appealed this decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court held that the FEC's interpretation of the "internet exemption" was contrary to the Federal Election Campaign Act's regulation of coordinated expenditures. The court also found that the FEC acted arbitrarily and capriciously in dismissing allegations of coordination between Correct the Record and the Clinton campaign. The case was remanded back to the FEC for further action consistent with the court's decision. View "Campaign Legal Center v. Federal Election Commission" on Justia Law

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This case involves Duke Energy Progress, LLC, a grid operator, and two energy generation companies, American Beech Solar, LLC, and Edgecombe Solar LLC. The dispute centers around two orders by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The first order rejected Duke Energy's agreement with American Beech Solar, which did not require Duke Energy to reimburse the cost of network upgrades. The second order accepted Duke Energy's agreement with Edgecombe Solar, which Duke Energy filed unsigned and under protest, and required Duke Energy to reimburse the cost of network upgrades.In the lower courts, FERC rejected the agreement with American Beech Solar, arguing that it was not just and reasonable because Duke Energy had threatened to delay construction of the upgrades, preventing American Beech from connecting to the grid, unless American Beech agreed to forego reimbursement. FERC also approved the agreement with Edgecombe Solar, despite Duke Energy's protest that it should not be required to pay reimbursements.In the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the court denied Duke Energy's petitions for review. The court held that FERC's orders were not arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law. The court found that FERC's interpretation of its own regulation, Order 2003, was reasonable and entitled to deference. The court also found that FERC reasonably rejected Duke Energy's request for a deviation from the reimbursement requirement. Finally, the court held that FERC's orders did not violate the principle of treating similarly situated utilities differently without a reasonable justification. View "Duke Energy Progress, LLC v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Evergreen Shipping Agency (America) Corp. and its affiliates, who were charged by the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) for imposing "unjust and unreasonable" detention charges on TCW, Inc., a trucking company. The charges were for the late return of a shipping container. The FMC argued that the charges were unreasonable as they were levied for days when the port was closed and could not have accepted a returned container. Evergreen contested this decision, arguing that the FMC's application of the interpretive rule was arbitrary and capricious, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.The FMC had previously ruled in favor of TCW, Inc. in a small claims program. The Commission then reviewed the decision, focusing on the application of the interpretive rule on demurrage and detention. The FMC upheld the initial decision, stating that no amount of detention can incentivize the return of a container when the terminal cannot accept the container. The Commission dismissed Evergreen's arguments that failing to impose detention charges during the port closure would have disincentivized the return of the container before the closure.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reviewed the case and found the FMC's decision to be arbitrary and capricious. The court noted that the FMC failed to consider relevant factors and did not provide a reasoned explanation for several aspects of its decision. The court also found that the FMC's application of the incentive principle was illogical. The court concluded that a detention charge does not necessarily lack any incentivizing effect because it is levied for a day on which a container cannot be returned to a marine terminal. The court granted the petition for review, vacated the Commission’s order, and remanded the matter to the agency for further proceedings. View "Evergreen Shipping Agency (America) Corp. v. Federal Maritime Commission" on Justia Law

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The case involves the Sandpiper Residents Association and other residents of Sandpiper Cove, a privately owned apartment complex in Texas, subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under its Section 8 project-based rental assistance program. The residents sued HUD, alleging that the agency failed to ensure that Sandpiper Cove was maintained in a habitable condition. They sought to compel HUD to issue Tenant Protection Vouchers, which would allow them to receive rental payment assistance for use at other properties.The District Court dismissed the residents' claims for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, reasoning that their claims had been mooted by the sale of Sandpiper Cove to a new owner who had not received a Notice of Default. The residents appealed this decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that the District Court erred in dismissing the residents' claims as moot. The court found that the question of whether the residents were legally entitled to relief after the sale of Sandpiper Cove went to the merits of their case, not mootness. However, the court affirmed the District Court’s dismissal of the residents' complaint because they failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The court held that the residents had not shown that the new owner of Sandpiper Cove had received a Notice of Default, a condition necessary for the issuance of Tenant Protection Vouchers under the relevant statute. View "Sandpiper Residents Association v. Housing and Urban Development" on Justia Law

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The case involves Dr. S. Stanley Young and Dr. Louis Anthony Cox, who were not appointed to the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They sued the EPA, alleging violations of the Federal Advisory Committee Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. The plaintiffs claimed that the EPA's selection process was biased, favoring candidates who supported stricter air quality standards, and that the EPA failed to adequately explain its compliance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act.The case was first heard in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, which awarded summary judgment to the EPA. The plaintiffs then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.The Court of Appeals found that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the suit. The court noted that the plaintiffs had not demonstrated an Article III injury with any of the theories presented. The court found no evidence that the EPA's process was biased against the plaintiffs. The court also noted that the plaintiffs had not raised an Equal Protection claim or any claim based on race or sex discrimination. Furthermore, the court found that the plaintiffs had not demonstrated a loss of benefits enjoyed by committee members, as they conceded that they had no individual right to serve on the committee. The court vacated the district court's order resolving the counts on the merits and remanded with instructions to dismiss both for lack of standing. View "Young v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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In March 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an order to seven chemical manufacturers/processors, managed by the Vinyl Institute, to test the chronic toxicity of 1,1,2-Trichloroethane (1,1,2-TCA) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The Vinyl Institute challenged the order, arguing that the EPA failed to comply with several statutory requirements. The Vinyl Institute also moved to supplement the administrative record with a scientific consultant’s report.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit granted the Vinyl Institute's petition for review. The court found that the EPA's reliance on non-public portions of the administrative record was not part of "the record taken as a whole" subject to review. The court held that the EPA failed to provide substantial evidence that met its statutory mandate. The court vacated the order and remanded the case to the EPA to satisfy that mandate with "substantial evidence in the record taken as a whole." The court also denied the Vinyl Institute's motion to supplement the record with scientific information it could have—and should have—submitted earlier. View "Vinyl Institute, Inc. v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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The case involves an Asian American federal employee, Tommy Ho, who alleged that his employer declined to promote him in retaliation for his previous activity protected by Title VII. Ho had been employed as a criminal investigator in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) since 1999. He filed an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint in 2015 alleging racial discrimination. In 2017 and 2018, he applied for three promotions but was not selected for any of them. Ho filed two more EEO complaints alleging that these non-selections were due to retaliation. The case at hand centers on Ho's application for a program manager position in 2019, for which he was not selected.The district court dismissed Ho's complaint, holding that it failed to sufficiently allege a causal connection between Ho's protected EEO activity and his non-selection for the program manager position. The court concluded that the ten-month gap between Ho's latest protected activity and his non-selection was too long to support an inference of causation.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed the district court's decision. The appellate court found that, when viewed as a whole and in the light most favorable to Ho, his allegations narrowly sufficed to support a plausible inference that his protected activity was a but-for cause of his non-selection. The court noted that Ho had previously complained about the conduct of the very people responsible for filling the opening, and that he was qualified for the position. The court also noted that the alleged reason for Ho's non-selection was entirely subjective. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Ho v. Garland" on Justia Law

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The case involves the owners and operators of several coal-fired power plants who challenged the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) actions regarding the disposal of coal combustion residuals. The petitioners argued that the EPA's actions amended existing legislative rules governing such disposal and that the EPA was required to promulgate those amendments according to the notice-and-comment procedures of the Administrative Procedure Act.The lower courts had previously reviewed the case, and the petitioners had sought extensions of the April 2021 closure deadline for their coal residual disposal sites. The EPA had proposed denials of these extension applications, concluding that the facilities failed to demonstrate compliance with other requirements of the coal residuals regulations.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dismissed the petitions for lack of jurisdiction. The court found that the challenged documents straightforwardly applied existing regulations and did not amount to the kind of agency action “promulgating a[] regulation, or requirement” that the court had jurisdiction to review under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The court also found that the EPA's actions did not amend the existing regulations but simply explained, interpreted, and applied them. View "Electric Energy, Inc. v. EPA" on Justia Law

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The case involves a group of plaintiffs who were selected in the diversity visa lottery for fiscal years 2020 and 2021. The plaintiffs argued that the Department of State unlawfully suspended, deprioritized, and delayed the processing of their visa applications during the COVID-19 pandemic. They contended that these actions prevented them from receiving visas before the fiscal-year-end deadlines.The district courts agreed with the plaintiffs and ordered the Department of State to continue processing applications and issuing visas after the statutory deadlines had passed. The Department of State appealed these decisions, arguing that the courts lacked the authority to order such relief.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that the district courts lacked the authority to order the Department of State to continue processing applications and issuing visas after the statutory deadlines. The court reasoned that the statutory deadline for issuing visas was clear and unambiguous, and neither history nor context provided any basis for departing from it. The court further noted that the plaintiffs did not have a substantive entitlement to the visas, and decisions regarding the prioritization and processing of visa applications implicated weighty concerns of foreign policy and national security. The court reversed the remedial orders of the district courts and remanded the cases with instructions to enter judgment for the government. View "Goodluck v. Biden" on Justia Law