Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
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Hekmati, a Marine Corps veteran, completed two tours of service in Iraq from 2001-2005 and worked as a military contractor between 2005-2011, stationed in Afghanistan. On his way back to the U.S., Hekmati went to Iran, purportedly to visit family. In 2011, the Iranian government arrested Hekmati. For four years, the Iranian government detained and tortured Hekmati. In 2016, the U.S. secured Hekmati’s release in a prisoner exchange. Hekmati sued the Iranian government under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and obtained a default judgment ($63.5 million). Hekmati sought compensation from the Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, 34 U.S.C. 20144. The Fund's special master, Feinberg, approved Hekmati’s claim. Months passed. Hekmati received no money. The Fund’s interim special master informed Hekmati that the Department of Justice would seek reconsideration.Hekmati filed suit. Feinberg— whom the Department retained again to review Hekmati’s case—determined that Hekmati was not eligible for compensation because Hekmati’s application and accompanying documents contained material omissions and false statements. Feinberg determined that the primary purpose of Hekmati’s trip to Iran was “to sell classified U.S. national security information.” The Federal Circuit affirmed the Claims Court’s decision that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over Hekmati’s claim; 34 U.S.C. 20144 precludes judicial review of the special master’s reconsideration decision. View "Hekmati v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Indiana Southwestern Railway Company sought to abandon railway easements, in which the owners had reversionary interests. The Surface Transportation Board (49 U.S.C. 10903) issued a Notice of Interim Trail Use and Abandonment (NITU). Negotiations with potential railbanking sponsors failed. Eventually, the NITU expired, Railway abandoned its easements without entering into a trail use agreement, and the landowners’ fee simple interests became unencumbered by any easements.The landowners sought compensation for an alleged taking arising under the National Trails System Act Amendments of 1983, 16 U.S.C. 1247(d), claiming that the government had permanently taken their property in April 2001, when the NITU became effective. The Claims Court found that the government had taken the property but that the taking lasted only from the date the NITU went into effect until it expired. The Federal Circuit affirmed in part. The landowner’s property was temporarily taken under the Trails Act. The NITU delayed the reversion of the owners’ interests. The Railway would have otherwise relinquished its rights to its right-of-way during the NITU period. The court remanded for a determination as to the compensation and interest to which the owners are entitled. View "Memmer v. United States" on Justia Law

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Johnson was a Dyess Air Force Base firefighter from 2017-2019. In 2018, Johnson’s mother came to live with Johnson's family. She took around 13 pills to treat health issues; Johnson was taking “seven or eight” pills. The Air Force subsequently selected Johnson for a mandatory random drug test. He tested positive for oxycodone and oxymorphone. Johnson told his supervisor, Ranard, that he had accidentally taken his mother’s pills instead of his own prescribed medication. Ranard proposed that Johnson be fired. The deciding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Fletcher, fired Johnson, explaining that he could not “risk the possibility of Johnson] coming to work again under the influence of illicit drugs.” At an arbitration hearing, Fletcher testified that he “just [didn’t] believe” that Johnson accidentally took his mother’s pill, having consulted his wife, a registered nurse, and his brother-in-law, a nurse practitioner, who “confirmed that the likelihood of that happening is slim to none.” The arbitrator denied Johnson’s grievance, affirming his termination.The Federal Circuit reversed and remanded. Fletcher’s ex parte communications violated Johnson’s right to due process. When Fletcher’s relatives allegedly “confirmed” that the chances of Johnson taking his mother’s pill were “slim to none,” they were not confirming information in the record; they were providing new opinions on the evidence. View "Johnson v. Department of the Air Force" on Justia Law

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Centripetal filed an infringement complaint against PAN, which then filed an inter partes review (IPR) petition for one patent and a post-grant review (PGR) petition for another. While the petitions were pending, the Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) updated its interim guidance, noting that the agency “does not accept requests for Director review of decisions on institution.” The Patent Trial and Appeal Board denied institution. PAN filed Requests for Director Rehearing. The agency responded that USPTO "does not accept requests for Director review of decisions on institution ... parties may only request Director review of final written decisions" issued in IPR and PGR and that PAN’s “rehearing requests will not revert to the Board panel and there will be no further review of the Board’s decision.”PAN sought mandamus relief. A newly-appointed Director updated the interim guidance to state that “the Office does not accept requests for Director review of institution decisions” but that “the Director has always retained and continues to retain the authority to review such decisions sua sponte.” The Director has since exercised that authority. PAN argues that the Director’s current policy was contrary to the Appointments Clause, as interpreted by the Supreme Court in “Arthrex,” (2021). The Federal Circuit denied the petition. That the Appointments Clause requires that a Presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed officer have review authority does not mean that a principal officer, once bestowed with such authority, cannot delegate it to other agency officers. View "In Re Palo Alto Networks, Inc." on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that the interim relief statute does not preclude a second removal action while a first removal action is still pending when the second action cures a procedural deficiency in the first action.The Department of the Treasury initiated a removal action against Petitioner charging him with misuse of government property. Treasury sustained the charge and removed Petitioner. A Board administrative judge (AJ) reversed based on a due process defect in the action. Treasury and Petitioner both petitioned for review. While that petition was pending, Treasury initiated a second removal action based on the same charge and specifications that cured the procedural deficiency in the first removal action. Treasury then removed Petitioner. An AJ upheld the second removal action, and that decision became the Board's decision. The Federal Circuit affirmed, holding that Treasury was not precluded from initiating the second action while the first action was still pending. View "Coy v. Dep't of Treasury" on Justia Law

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In this appeal from an antidumping investigation of biodiesel from Argentina the Federal Circuit affirmed the judgment of the United States Court of International Trade, holding that two challenged calculations Commerce used to determine antidumping duties were supported by substantial evidence.The two calculations at issue were export price and constructed value of the subject biodiesel, a renewable fuels subject to traceable tax credits. In calculating export price, Commerce subtracted the value of the traceable credits, calling them price adjustments under 19 C.F.R. 351.401(c). Calculating constructed normal value of the biodiesel, Commerce used an international market price for soybeans, the price of which is subsidized in Argentina. Appellant argued that correcting for the soybean subsidy in the export price constituted an improper double remedy. The Federal Circuit affirmed, holding (1) substantial evidence supported the value Commerce used for the traceable "price adjustment" credits; and (2) substantial evidence supported the constructed value calculation, and the calculation did not result in a double remedy. View "Vicentin S.A.I.C. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the Court of International Trade determining that the United States Customs and Border Protection timely liquidated or reliquidated ten out of eleven entries of wooden bedroom furniture from China and that Customs' mislabeling of the notice of reliquidation for the remaining entry was harmless, holding that any error was harmless.Appellants, importers of wooden bedroom furniture from China, challenged the procedure by which Customs liquidated and/or reliquidated certain of its entires of wooden bedroom furniture. The Court of International Trade granted summary judgment in favor of the government. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the Court of International Trade (1) did not err in determining that there was no genuine dispute of material fact as to the date of notice and denying certain discovery; and (2) properly determined that Customs' mislabeling of a notice as "liquidation" as opposed to "reliquidation" was harmless error. View "Aspects Furniture International, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Lanclos was born in 1982 at the Keesler Air Force Base Medical Center. During childbirth, she was seriously injured and as a result, suffers from Athetoid cerebral palsy. The settlement agreement for Lanclos’s medical malpractice suit required the government to make lump sum payments to Lanclos’s parents and their attorney; Lanclos would receive a single lump sum payment followed by specific monthly payments for the longer of 30 years or the remainder of her life. The government would purchase an annuity policy to provide the monthly payments. The government selected Executive Insurance to provide the monthly annuity payments. Executive encountered financial difficulties and, in 2014, reduced the amount of the monthly payments by 42%. Lanclos estimates that the reduction will result in a shortfall of $731,288.81 from the amount described in the settlement agreement.The Court of Federal Claims reasoned that the “guarantee” language in the Lanclos agreement applies to the scheduled monthly structure of the payments but not the actual payment of the listed amounts and that the government was not liable for the shortfall. The Federal Circuit reversed. Under the ordinary meaning of the term “guarantee” and consistent with the agreement as a whole, the government agreed to assure fulfillment of the listed monthly payments; there is no reasonable basis to conclude that the parties sought to define “guarantee” or to give the term an alternative meaning. View "Lanclos v. United States" on Justia Law

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The U.S. military sprayed over 17 million gallons of herbicides over Vietnam during “Operation Ranch Hand,” primarily Agent Orange. Concerns about the health effects of veterans’ exposure to Agent Orange led to the Agent Orange Act of 1991, 105 Stat. 11. For veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during a specified period, the Act presumes exposure to an herbicide agent containing 2,4-D or dioxin, 38 U.S.C. 1116(f), and presumes a service connection for certain diseases associated with herbicide-agent exposure, such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and soft-tissue sarcoma. The VA subsequently issued regulations extending similar presumptions to other groups of veterans. In 2017, the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee expressed concern that additional exposures to Agent Orange may have occurred in Guam.In 2018, MVA petitioned the VA to issue rules presuming herbicide-agent exposure for veterans who served on Guam or Johnston Island during specified periods. The VA denied MVA’s petition. The Federal Circuit rejected MVA’s petitions under 38 U.S.C. 502 to set aside the VA’s denial. MVA has not shown that the VA’s determination that the evidence did not warrant presuming exposure for every single veteran who served in named areas during the relevant period was contrary to law nor that the denial “lacked a rational basis.” View "Military-Veterans Advocacy Inc. v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law

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The Trade Expansion Act authorizes the President to adjust imports if he concurs with a determination by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce “that an article is being imported into the United States in such quantities or under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security” and to “determine the nature and duration” of the corrective action, 19 U.S.C. 1862(c)(1)(A). In a 2018 report, the Secretary determined that excessive steel imports threatened to impair national security. The President concurred and issued proclamations that imposed a 25 percent tariff on steel imports from several countries.The Court of International Trade rejected arguments that the President’s and Secretary’s finding of a threat to national security and the President’s imposition of a tariff for an indefinite duration conflicted with the statute. The Federal Circuit affirmed. While claims that the President’s actions violated the statutory authority delegated by section 1862 are reviewable, the President cannot be sued directly to challenge his threat determination. The Secretary’s threat determination is a reviewable final action, as a predicate to the President’s authority, but is reviewable only for compliance with the statute and not under the arbitrary and capricious standard. The court rejected an argument that the President failed to satisfy 1862(c)(1)(A)'s “nature and duration” requirement." View "USP Holdings, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law