Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
by
Plaintiff filed suit alleging that Immigration Services violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) in two ways: when it used a beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard rather than a preponderance-of-the-evidence standard to evaluate his I-130 petition for sponsorship of close relatives, and when it did not allow him to offer rebuttal evidence. In this case, plaintiff had been convicted of possession of child pornography, which put him outside the bounds of the visa-sponsorship program unless he could show that he posed no risk to his wife, the person he was trying to sponsor. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action, holding that courts lack jurisdiction to review either the process or the outcome of the no-risk decision. Under the Adam Walsh Act, the USCIS has "sole and unreviewable discretion" to determine if citizens like plaintiff pose "no risk" to their foreign relatives. Therefore, the district court correctly held that the Adam Walsh Act prevented it from exercising jurisdiction over plaintiff's APA claim. View "Bourdon v. United States Department of Homeland Security" on Justia Law

by
Four liver-transplant candidates and more than a dozen transplant hospitals challenged HHS's adoption of a new policy for allocating donated livers. The Eleventh Circuit held that plaintiffs have not shown a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their first claim—their allegation that the Secretary failed to follow legally required procedures under 42 C.F.R. 121.4(b) during the new liver-allocation policy's development. The court held that section 121.4(b) does not require the Secretary to take two procedural steps that all agree he did not: (1) referral of the new liver allocation policy to an entity called the Advisory Committee on Organ Transplantation and (2) publication of the new policy in the Federal Register for public comment. The court remanded for the district court to consider plaintiffs' remaining Administrative Procedure Act and Fifth Amendment claims that it failed to address in the first instance. View "Callahan v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

by
This appeal involved two requests for documents by Broward Bulldog under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeking documents reviewed by the 9/11 Review Commission. The government disclosed hundreds of documents, bur redacted some information. The Eleventh Circuit held that the FBI established that it performed an adequate search; the district court had an adequate factual basis to render a decision; Broward Bulldog has abandoned its challenge of the denial of its request to depose an agent; the district court did not err in most of its rulings on the applicable exemptions, with the exception of its rulings regarding redactions under Exemptions 7(C), 7(D), and 7(E); the district court did not err when it failed to make express findings of segregability; and the district court did not err when it refused to entertain a request for documents that were already the subject of a separate, nearly identical lawsuit. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Broward Bulldog, Inc. v. U.S. Department of Justice" on Justia Law

by
The Department of Justice filed suit against the State of Florida, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and 28 C.F.R. 35.130(d). The Department alleged that Florida was failing to meet its obligations under Title II by unnecessarily institutionalizing hundreds of children with disabilities in nursing facilities. The Department also alleged that Florida's Medicaid policies and practices placed other children who have "medically complex" conditions, or who are "medically fragile," at risk of unnecessary institutionalization. The Eleventh Circuit held that the Attorney General has a cause of action to enforce Title II of the ADA. The court held that when Congress chose to designate the "remedies, procedures, and rights" in section 505 of the Rehabilitation Act, which in turn adopted Title VI, as the enforcement provision for Title II of the ADA, Congress created a system of federal enforcement. The court also held that the express statutory language in Title II adopts federal statutes that use a remedial structure based on investigation of complaints, compliance reviews, negotiation to achieve voluntary compliance, and ultimately enforcement through "any other means authorized by law" in the event of noncompliance. Therefore, courts have routinely concluded that Congress's decision to utilize the same enforcement mechanism for Title II as the Rehabilitation Act, and therefore Title VI, demonstrates that the Attorney General has the authority to act "by any other means authorized by law" to enforce Title II, including initiating a civil action. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment and remanded. View "United States v. State of Florida" on Justia Law

by
The EPA has discretion not to commence withdrawal proceedings under 40 C.F.R. 123.64(b) even if it finds that a state's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program has not always complied with the requirements of the Clean Water Act (CWA). The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the EPA's decision affirming its previous refusal to commence withdrawal proceedings against Alabama. In regard to the four alleged violations, the court held that the EPA reasonably construed the statutory and regulatory text. The court also held that the EPA's decision not to commence withdrawal proceedings in the face of these alleged violations was not arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law. View "Cahaba Riverkeeper v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

by
This case arose from the FDA's seizure from Hi-Tech a substantial quantity of products containing 1,3-dimethylamylamine or DMAA, which is used in fitness products aimed at bodybuilders and other athletes. The district court granted the FDA's motion for summary judgment, holding that the seizure of DMAA was both substantively and procedurally proper. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed and held that DMAA is not an "herb or other botanical" and is not a "constituent" of an herb or other botanical under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994. Furthermore, the court held that DMAA is not generally recognized by qualified experts, as adequately shown through scientific procedures, to be safe under the conditions of its intended use. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it declined to reopen discovery, and Hi-Tech was afforded the full range of procedural due process available in federal court. View "United States v. Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff appealed the denial of his application for Social Security disability benefits, claiming that he had various physical impairments and that he suffered from bipolar disorder. The Eleventh Circuit held that, although plaintiff's claim of bias was forfeited, the ALJ's conclusion contained errors that must be addressed. In this case, the ALJ failed to articulate good cause for discounting two treating physicians' opinions; substantial evidence does not support the finding that plaintiff's bipolar disorder was non-severe; and the ALJ failed to consider plaintiff's mental impairments when assessing his residual functional capacity. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded with instructions. View "Schink v. Commissioner of Social Security" on Justia Law

by
The Eleventh Circuit held that the City of LaGrange did not enjoy state-action immunity when it ties its water-utility service to its natural-gas service for customers in unincorporated Troup County, Georgia. In this case, the Georgia legislature could have foreseen that cities would use their water monopoly to increase their share of an unrelated market and that such an anticompetitive move was not the inherent, logical, or ordinary result of the legislative scheme. Therefore, the district court correctly denied the City's motion to dismiss for state-action immunity and the court affirmed the district court's judgment in this interlocutory appeal. View "Diverse Power, Inc. v. City of LaGrange" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the city's red light ordinance, which permitted the installation and operation of cameras to enforce traffic-control-device violations at certain intersections. The district court dismissed the case based on lack of Article III standing. Although the Eleventh Circuit held that plaintiffs had standing to bring their damages claims, their constitutional claims must nonetheless be dismissed because they failed to sufficiently allege that they suffered a violation of their constitutional rights.The court held that the dismissal of plaintiffs' federal claims was warranted because the complaint failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted. In this case, plaintiffs alleged that the ordinance imposed a criminal penalty without providing constitutionally sufficient procedural safeguards. However, the ordinance imposed a civil penalty, and thus the procedures prescribed by the ordinance were constitutionally sufficient. Because the court held that plaintiffs have not stated any federal claims, it declined to consider the state law claims. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded with instructions. View "Worthy v. Phenix City" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, a group of Secular Humanists and atheists, filed suit challenging the county's practice of opening its meetings with a religious invocation. Plaintiffs alleged that the opening prayers violated the Establishment Clause, and the county wrongfully barred plaintiffs from offering invocations of their own. The Eleventh Circuit held that the county's process of selecting invocation speakers violated the Establishment Clause because it selected invocation speakers in a way that favors certain monotheistic religions and categorically excludes from consideration other religions solely based on their belief systems. In this case, members of the county board of commissioners have plenary authority, on a rotating basis, to invite whomever they want to deliver invocations, with no consistent standards or expectation of inclusiveness. View "Williamson v. Brevard County" on Justia Law