Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
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Percipient.ai, Inc., a company that offers a commercial computer vision (CV) platform, appealed a decision by the United States Court of Federal Claims that dismissed its case against the United States and CACI, Inc.-Federal. The case centered on the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's (NGA) procurement process for its SAFFIRE project, which aimed to improve its processes for obtaining and storing visual intelligence data. Percipient alleged that NGA and its contractor, CACI, violated the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994 (FASA) and other procurement-related statutes by not considering its commercial CV platform, Mirage, for the project.The Court of Federal Claims had dismissed Percipient's case, ruling that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction under the FASA task order bar, which limits protests related to the issuance of task orders. The court also rejected Percipient's arguments related to the Tucker Act, standing, and timeliness.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed the lower court's decision. It held that the FASA task order bar did not apply because Percipient's protest was not connected to the issuance of a task order. The court also found that Percipient's protest fell within the jurisdiction of the Court of Federal Claims under the Tucker Act, as it alleged a violation of procurement-related statutes. The court further held that Percipient had standing to bring the case and that its claims were timely. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "PERCIPIENT.AI, INC. v. US " on Justia Law

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Louis Frantzis, a U.S. Army veteran, appealed a decision by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) that denied his claim for an increased disability rating for his service-connected headaches. The Board's decision was made by a member who did not conduct the hearing, which Frantzis argued was a violation of 38 U.S.C. § 7102. He contended that the same Board member who conducts a hearing should also issue the resulting decision. The United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (Veterans Court) affirmed the Board's decision, concluding that the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (AMA) does not require the Board member conducting the hearing to also decide the appeal.The Veterans Court's decision was based on the removal of pre-AMA language in 38 U.S.C. § 7107(c) that required the same judge conducting the hearing to issue a final determination. The court also rejected the argument that 38 U.S.C. § 7102 supports the same judge requirement because its language did not change with the enactment of the AMA. The court declined to consider the fair process doctrine because Mr. Frantzis did not raise the argument himself.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the Veterans Court's decision. The court agreed with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs that the AMA eliminated the same judge requirement because it removed the language expressly requiring the same judge for the hearing and final determination. The court also disagreed with Mr. Frantzis' argument that 38 U.S.C. § 7102 supplies a same Board member requirement, stating that the unchanged language of § 7102 cannot be the basis for the same member requirement in the AMA system. The court concluded that the statutory scheme and its history are clear—the same judge is not required to both conduct the hearing and author the final determination under the AMA. View "FRANTZIS v. MCDONOUGH " on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a dispute between Ulrich Speck and Bruno Scheller (collectively, “Speck”) and Brian L. Bates, Anthony O. Ragheb, Joseph M. Stewart IV, William J. Bourdeau, Brian D. Choules, James D. Purdy, and Neal E. Fearnot (collectively, “Bates”) over the priority of a patent related to a drug-coated balloon catheter. The Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) Patent Trial and Appeals Board (“Board”) had previously awarded priority to Bates. Speck had argued that the claims of Bates' patent application were time-barred under 35 U.S.C. § 135(b)(1) and invalid for lack of written description. The Board denied these motions.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reviewed the case and concluded that the Board erred in finding that Bates' patent application was not time-barred under 35 U.S.C. § 135(b)(1). The court applied a two-way test to determine if pre-critical date claims and post-critical date claims were materially different. The court found that the post-critical date claims were materially different from the pre-critical date claims, making the patent application time-barred. The court reversed the Board's decision, vacated its order canceling the claims of Speck's patent and entering judgment on priority against Speck, and remanded for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. View "SPECK v. BATES " on Justia Law

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The case involves Mark W. Smith, a U.S. Navy veteran, who appealed a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Smith had initially filed a claim for service connection for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) after his discharge from the Navy in 1991. However, his request was denied by the Regional Office of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in 1992, and this denial was affirmed by the Board of Veterans Appeals in 1996. Smith did not appeal this decision, and it became final.In 2012, Smith filed a new claim for service connection for DVT, which was granted by the VA in 2013. In 2016, Smith filed a motion to revise the 1996 Board Decision, alleging that it was tainted by clear and unmistakable error (CUE). He argued that there was sufficient evidence in 1996 to show he had DVT, and thus his claim should have been allowed to proceed with the VA's duty to assist. However, the Board denied his motion, and this denial was affirmed by the Veterans Court.The case was then brought before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Smith argued that the Veterans Court had erred in its interpretation of the CUE standard in 38 C.F.R. § 20.1403, claiming that the court had incorrectly limited CUE-eligible errors to those that would have led to a grant of service connection. However, the Federal Circuit Court disagreed with Smith's interpretation and affirmed the decision of the Veterans Court. The court held that a revision or reversal based on CUE requires an error that, once corrected, alters the merits outcome of a veteran’s claim with absolute clarity. View "SMITH v. MCDONOUGH " on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a group of Texans who were receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) until the Texas governor informed the Department of Labor that Texas would withdraw from its agreement with the Secretary of Labor to participate in the PUA program. The plaintiffs argued that the Federal Government violated the mandate in PUA that the Secretary of Labor “shall provide . . . assistance” to “any covered individual.”The United States District Court for the Western District of Texas dismissed the case, agreeing with the magistrate judge's recommendation. The judge reasoned that the CARES Act, which established the PUA, required the existence of an agreement with a state for the payment of benefits. The judge also noted that the Act did not provide a mechanism for the Secretary to pay out benefits in the absence of an agreement with the relevant state. The judge concluded that Congress intended for the funds to be administered solely by the states.The plaintiffs appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The court affirmed the lower court's decision, stating that the PUA does not require the Secretary to pay PUA benefits to individual citizens; rather, the Secretary must provide assistance through agreements with the states. The court concluded that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim under the Little Tucker Act. View "CREAGER IRELAND v. US " on Justia Law

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The case involves Daniel D. Barry, a veteran who appealed a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Barry had argued that the Board of Veterans’ Appeals should have considered his entitlement to multiple special monthly compensation (SMC) increases, rather than just one, under 38 C.F.R. § 3.350(f)(3). The Veterans Court disagreed, interpreting § 3.350(f)(3) to permit only one SMC increase, regardless of how many qualifying disabilities Barry could demonstrate.The Veterans Court had previously remanded the case for further explanation and consideration of potential additional SMC entitlement. The Board then concluded that Barry could not show entitlement to an additional SMC increase under 38 C.F.R. § 3.350(f)(4). Barry appealed this decision to the Veterans Court, arguing that the Board erred by not considering whether he would be entitled to an additional SMC increase under 38 C.F.R. § 3.350(f)(3).The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed the decision of the Veterans Court. The court held that § 3.350(f)(3) does not limit how many SMC increases can be provided; instead, it is a mandatory entitlement that can apply multiple times, subject to a statutory cap. The court remanded the case for further proceedings, including the calculation of the number of intermediate-rate SMC increases Barry should receive. View "BARRY v. MCDONOUGH " on Justia Law

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The case involves an appeal by Wheatland Tube Company against a decision by the U.S. Court of International Trade, which affirmed the U.S. Department of Commerce’s remand determination concerning the scope of an antidumping duty order on certain steel pipes imported from Thailand. The dispute centers on whether certain imports of steel pipes, specifically those that are "dual-stenciled" as both standard pipes and line pipes, fall within the scope of the existing antidumping duty order.The U.S. Court of International Trade initially found that the Department of Commerce unlawfully expanded the scope of the antidumping duty order by determining that it covered dual-stenciled pipes. On remand, the Department of Commerce, under protest, concluded that the antidumping duty order did not cover dual-stenciled pipes. The U.S. Court of International Trade sustained this determination.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed the decision of the U.S. Court of International Trade. The Court of Appeals held that the Department of Commerce’s initial determination that dual-stenciled pipes fall within the scope of the antidumping duty order was reasonable and supported by substantial evidence. The Court of Appeals found that the lower court's interpretation lacked support in the record and failed to give sufficient deference to the Department of Commerce under the substantial evidence standard of review. View "SAHA THAI STEEL PIPE PUBLIC COMPANY LIMITED v. US " on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Jay Anthony Dobyns, a former agent with the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), who sued the United States for failing to adequately protect him and his family from threats related to his undercover work. The government counterclaimed, alleging that Dobyns violated his employment contract and several federal regulations by publishing a book based on his experience as an agent and by contracting his story to create a motion picture. The Court of Federal Claims found that the government had not breached the settlement agreement but had breached the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, awarding Dobyns emotional distress damages. The court also found that the government was not entitled to relief on its counterclaim.The government appealed the Claims Court’s judgment to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which reversed the finding that the government breached the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing. Dobyns, having prevailed on the government’s counterclaim, sought attorneys’ fees and costs. However, the Claims Court denied his application for attorneys’ fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) as untimely. Dobyns appealed this decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that the Claims Court had abused its discretion and applied the incorrect legal standard. The Appeals Court held that the filing deadline for fee applications under EAJA is subject to equitable tolling. It found that Dobyns had justifiably relied on the government's representations about the procedure for Claims Court judgments, and thus his motion for attorneys’ fees under EAJA should be accepted as timely. The court reversed the Claims Court's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Dobyns v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2006, veteran Robert Fleming began applying for disability benefits for service-connected injuries. In 2016, he entered into a contingent-fee agreement with James Perciavalle for representation before the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA awarded Fleming past-due benefits in 2017, but ruled that Perciavalle was statutorily barred from receiving fees on the non-SMC portion of the award. The VA found the pre-Act version of 38 U.S.C. § 5904(c)(1) applicable based on the date on which Fleming had filed a particular notice of disagreement with the regional office regarding his PTSD benefits.The Board of Veterans’ Appeals affirmed the fee denial, agreeing with the regional office that the pre-Act version of the fee provision, not the post-Act version, applies here. The United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (Veterans Court) affirmed the Board’s decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed and remanded the decision of the Veterans Court. The Federal Circuit concluded that the Veterans Court relied on an incorrect legal standard in determining which version of § 5904(c)(1) applies. The Federal Circuit also concluded that the post-Act version is the applicable one, based on the material facts that are not in dispute. The Federal Circuit found that as long as a notice of disagreement was filed on or after June 20, 2007, in the same “case” in which counsel is seeking fees, the post-Act version of 38 U.S.C. § 5904(c)(1) applies. View "PERCIAVALLE v. MCDONOUGH " on Justia Law

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Kevin D. Jones, an attorney, held a term position with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) before transferring to the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). At the USDA, Jones primarily provided advice and counsel regarding discrimination complaints filed against the agency and litigated ensuing discrimination claims before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). At the ATF, Jones served as an advisor to the Professional Review Board (PRB) as part of a team of attorneys in the Management Division of the ATF Office of General Counsel (OGC). After three months at the ATF, Jones was asked to resign due to his lack of contract law experience. Jones filed a complaint alleging discrimination and lack of due process in his termination.The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) dismissed Jones's administrative appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The Administrative Judge (AJ) of the MSPB found that Jones was not an "employee" as defined by 5 U.S.C. § 7511(a)(1)(B) because his positions at the USDA and ATF were not the same or similar. The AJ noted several distinctions between the tasks Jones performed at each agency. Jones did not appeal the Initial Decision to the full Board, so the AJ’s Initial Decision became the Final Decision of the Board.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the Board's decision. The court found that the AJ did not err in her determination that Jones's positions at the USDA and ATF were not similar. The court also found that the AJ's decision was supported by substantial evidence. Therefore, the court affirmed the Board's determination that it lacked jurisdiction to hear Jones's appeal. View "Jones v. Merit Systems Protection Board" on Justia Law