Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
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This appeal involves conditions that the FCC imposed on a merger of three cable companies into a new merged entity, New Charter. Among other things, the conditions (1) prohibit New Charter from charging programming suppliers for access to its broadband subscribers, (2) prohibit New Charter from charging broadband subscribers based on how much data they use, (3) require New Charter to provide steeply discounted broadband service to needy subscribers, and (4) require New Charter to substantially expand its cable infrastructure for broadband service. The appellants include three of New Charter's customers, whose bills for cable broadband Internet service increased shortly after the merger. These appellants contend that the conditions caused this injury, which would likely be redressed by an order setting the conditions aside.The DC Circuit held that these three individual appellants have standing to challenge the interconnection and discounted-services conditions, but not the usage-based pricing and buildout conditions. Furthermore, although the lawfulness of the interconnection and discounted-services conditions are properly before the court, the FCC declined to defend them on the merits. Accordingly, the court vacated the first and third conditions based on the FCC's refusal to defend on the merits. Finally, the court dismissed the remaining aspects of the appeal for lack of an appellant with Article III standing. View "Competitive Enterprise Institute v. Federal Communications Commission" on Justia Law

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Congress enacted an appropriations rider in 2009 prohibiting the District of Columbia from paying more than $4,000 in attorneys' fees for any past proceeding under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). At issue in these 11 consolidated cases was whether the District must pay interest on amounts that exceed the payment cap.After determining that the District did not forfeit the interest issue, the court held that the District cannot be compelled to pay interest on the portion of fee awards that it has been legally prohibited from paying off. The court explained that this case implicates a well-established common-law principle: If the law makes a debt unpayable, then interest on the debt is also unpayable. Furthermore, the court had no basis to conclude that 28 U.S.C. 1961(a) abrogated this background rule. The court reversed the district court's judgment requiring payment of interest on above-cap fees, affirmed the district court's judgment in all other respects, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Allen v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from NSC's three lawsuits raising 45 claims against six federal agencies arising out of numerous Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests initiated by NSC. Through a series of decisions, the district court ruled in favor of the government on all the claims.In this opinion, the DC Circuit individually addressed three of NSC's claims: two claims concerning distinct FOIA requests made to the CIA and a third claim concerning the DOJ's assertion of attorney-client privilege in response to a FOIA request. The court held that the CIA and the district court correctly concluded that, as drafted, the request for all CIA records pertaining to the IBM supercomputer named Watson called for an unreasonably burdensome search. In regard to the request seeking OLC opinions pertaining to various statutes including FOIA itself, the Privacy Act, and the Federal Records Act, the court held that there was no waiver of the attorney-client privilege with regard to the two OLC opinions at issue. The court did not separately discuss NSC's remaining claims, but found that they lacked merit. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's judgment in all respects. View "National Security Counselors v. Central Intelligence Agency" on Justia Law

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On petition for rehearing en banc, the en banc court held that the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives has standing under Article III of the Constitution to seek judicial enforcement of its duly issued subpoena. This case arose when the Committee began an investigation into alleged misconduct by President Trump and his close advisors. The Committee requested that Donald F. McGahn, II turn over documents related to the President's alleged obstruction of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller's investigation. When McGahn, then no longer White House Counsel, declined these requests, the Committee issued a subpoena ordering McGahn to appear at a hearing to testify and to produce the requested documents.The en banc court held that the Committee, acting on behalf of the full House of Representatives, has shown that it suffers a concrete and particularized injury when denied the opportunity to obtain information necessary to the legislative, oversight, and impeachment functions of the House, and that its injury would be redressed by the order it seeks from the court. The court explained that the ordinary and effective functioning of the Legislative Branch critically depends on the legislative prerogative to obtain information, and constitutional structure and historical practice support judicial enforcement of congressional subpoenas when necessary. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court in part. View "Committee on the Judiciary of the United States House of Representatives v. McGahn" on Justia Law

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The Department of Health and Human Services disallowed roughly $30 million in Medicaid reimbursements for payments Virginia made to two state hospitals. HHS determined that Virginia had materially altered its payment methodology without notifying HHS or obtaining approval and that the new methodology resulted in payments that overstepped applicable federal limits. Virginia had allocated disproportionate share hospitals (DSH) payments for the two hospitals to fiscal years other than “the actual year in which [related] DSH costs were incurred” by those hospitals for purposes of complying with the annual statewide DSH allotment and hospital-specific limit. The district court and D.C. affirmed. A comparison between Virginia’s previous operation of its plan—as manifested in the state’s prior representations about the plan’s operation—and its later operation of the same plan shows that there was a “[m]aterial change” in “the State’s operation of the Medicaid program,” so that the state was required to amend its plan and present the amendment for approval, 42 C.F.R. 430.12(c)(1)(ii). View "Department of Medical Assistant Services of the Commonwealth of Virginia v. United States Department of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

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The Communications Act of 1934 restricts the rates that telecommunications carriers may charge for transmitting calls across their networks, 47 U.S.C. 201(b). Iowa-based Aureon is a joint venture through which local carriers connect to long-distance carriers such as AT&T and has “subtending” agreements with participating local carriers. AT&T alleged that Aureon imposed interstate and intrastate access charges that violated the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) transitional pricing rules; improperly engaged in access stimulation (enticing high call volumes to generate increased access charges); committed an unreasonable practice by agreeing with subtending carriers to connect calls involving access stimulation; and billed for service not covered by its 2013 interstate tariff. The FCC found that Aureon violated the transitional rule.The D.C. Circuit reversed in part. The transitional rule applies to all “competitive local exchange carriers,” and Aureon falls into that category but the rule applies to intrastate rates so Aureon’s 2013 increase of its interstate rate was not covered. The court remanded the question of whether Aureon’s subtending agreements qualify as access revenue sharing agreements. The court affirmed the FCC’s determination that Aureon’s interstate tariffs apply to traffic involving any local carriers engaged in access stimulation. The FCC erred in refusing to adjudicate AT&T’s unreasonable-practices claim. View "AT&T Corp. v. Federal Communications Commission" on Justia Law

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Hospitals and hospital associations filed suit challenging HHS's decision to reduce the reimbursement rates for 340B hospitals. The district court held that the rate cute exceeded HHS's statutory authority to adjust specified covered outpatient drugs (SCOD) rates.After determining that it had jurisdiction, the DC Circuit proceeded to the merits and held that HHS had statutory authority to impose its 28.5 percent cut to SCOD reimbursement rates for 340B hospitals. The court held that HHS reasonably interpreted 42 U.S.C. 1395l(t)(14)(A)(iii)(II)'s adjustment authority to enable reducing SCOD payments to 340B hospitals, so as to avoid reimbursing those hospitals at much higher levels than their actual costs to acquire the drugs. Applying Chevron deference, the court held that, at a minimum, the statute does not clearly preclude HHS from adjusting the SCOD rate in a focused manner to address problems with reimbursement rates applicable only to certain types of hospitals. View "American Hospital Ass'n v. Azar" on Justia Law

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The union filed suit challenging the Authority's decision overturning an arbitrator's award in a dispute arising from a termination provision of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA).The DC Circuit granted the petition for review as to the Authority's disposition of the breach claim and denied the petition as to the Authority's disposition of the unfair labor practice claim. The court explained that, in vacating the arbitrator's breach determination, the Authority's thorough, substantive review failed to conform to the proper standard of review. The court explained that the Authority's sole inquiry under the proper standard of review should have been whether the arbitrator was even arguably construing or applying the CBA. However, the Authority engaged in a much more searching review of the arbitrator's decision than permitted by law. The court also held that the Authority's explanation of the unfair labor practice issue, although terse, was not arbitrary and capricious. In this case, the Authority reasonably applied its precedent to determine that the employer did not repudiate the CBA even if it breached it. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "National Weather Service Employees Organization v. Federal Labor Relations Authority" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied petitions for review challenging FERC's orders concerning SFPP's tariffs. SFPP challenges FERC's decisions to deny SFPP an income tax allowance, to decline to reopen the record on that issue, and to deny SFPP's retroactive adjustment to its index rates. Shippers challenge FERC's disposition of SFPP's accumulated deferred income taxes (ADIT) and its temporal allocation of litigation costs.The court held that FERC's denial of an income tax allowance to SFPP was both consistent with the court's precedent and well-reasoned, and that FERC did not abuse its discretion or act arbitrarily in declining to reopen the record on that issue. Furthermore, FERC reasonably rejected retroactive adjustment to SFPP's index rates. The court also held that FERC correctly found that the rule against retroactive ratemaking prohibited it from refunding or continuing to exclude from rate base SFPP's ADIT balance, and that FERC reasonably allocated litigation costs. View "SFPP, LP v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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Meritor filed suit challenging the EPA's listing of the Rockwell facility and surrounding areas to the National Priorities List, alleging that the listing is arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to governing regulations. The National Priorities List identifies hazardous waste sites in most urgent need of cleanup based on the threat that they pose to public and environmental health and to the public welfare.The DC Circuit denied the petition for review, holding that the EPA did not act arbitrarily and capriciously by evaluating the Rockwell Site based on measurements taken before the sub-slab depressurization system was installed; by relying on a residential health benchmark when evaluating the "targets" metrics; and in calculating the "waste characteristics" component of the subsurface intrusion pathway. View "Meritor, Inc. v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law