Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
by
In section 901 of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (TCA), Congress authorized the Secretary of Health and Human Services to determine which other products should be governed by the TCA's regulatory scheme. Plaintiffs filed suit against the FDA, its Commissioner, and the Secretary, asserting that Congress's delegation to the Secretary was unconstitutional. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, holding that section 901's delegation to the Secretary does not violate the nondelegation doctrine. The court held that Congress undeniably delineated its general policy in the TCA; Congress plainly limited the authority that it delegated; and the relevant caselaw supports these conclusions. View "Big Time Vapes, Inc. v. FDA" on Justia Law

by
Hidalgo, which is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, alleged that it was denied a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) based on its status as a bankruptcy debtor. The bankruptcy court ruled in favor of Hidalgo and issued a preliminary injunction mandating that the SBA handle Hidalgo's PPP application without consideration of its ongoing bankruptcy. The Fifth Circuit held, under well-established circuit precedent, that the bankruptcy court exceeded its authority when it issued an injunction against the SBA Administrator. The court explained that the issue at hand is not the validity or wisdom of the PPP regulations and related statutes, but the ability of a court to enjoin the Administrator, whether in regard to the PPP or any other circumstance. Accordingly, the court vacated the preliminary injunction. View "Hidalgo County Emergency Service Foundation v. Carranza" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against UTSMC, seeking recovery for UTSMC's alleged discrimination and retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of UTSMC's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss because UTSMC is an arm of the State of Texas and is entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity. The court applied the Clark factors and held that UTSMC is entitled to arm-of-the-state status where statutes and legal authorities favor treating UTSMC as an arm of Texas; Texas law authorizes state treasury funds to be allocated to UTSMC from the permanent health fund for higher education and a judgment against UTSMC would interfere with Texas's fiscal autonomy; UTSMC does not operate with a level of local autonomy to consider it independent from Texas; because of UT System's statewide presence, components of the UT System shall not be confined to specific geographical areas; and the UT System has the power of eminent domain, and the land it acquires becomes property of the state. View "Daniel v. University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center" on Justia Law

by
Original petitioner filed suit under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), challenging FWS's negative 90-day finding regarding the delisting of the Bone Cave harvestman arachnid as arbitrary and capricious. While the case was pending, the district court allowed intervening plaintiffs to separately argue that federal regulation of the purely intrastate species is unconstitutional because it exceeds Congress's power under the Commerce and Necessary and Proper Clauses. The district court subsequently rejected the intervening plaintiffs' arguments, but granted summary judgment to the original plaintiffs. FWS's negative 90-day finding was vacated and the FWS then issued a positive 90-day finding, beginning a 12-month review of whether the Bone Cave harvestman should be delisted. The Fifth Circuit dismissed the intervenor plaintiffs' appeal of the denial of their motion for summary judgment, holding that the appeal is alternatively moot or barred by sovereign immunity. Therefore, the court lacked jurisdiction to resolve the appeal. View "American Stewards of Liberty v. Department of Interior" on Justia Law

by
After ExxonMobil sought a revised Title V permit under the Clean Air Act concerning an expansion of a plant in Baytown, Texas, petitioners asked EPA to object on the grounds that the underlying Title I preconstruction permit allowing the expansion was invalid. EPA rejected petitioners' arguments and declined to object. The Fifth Circuit denied the petition for review, holding that EPA's interpretation that Title V permitting is not the appropriate vehicle for reexamining the substantive validity of underlying Title I preconstruction permits, is independently persuasive. Therefore, EPA's interpretation is entitled to the mild form of deference recognized by Skidmore v. Swift & Co., 323 U.S. 134 (1944). View "Environmental Integrity Project v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that TDCJ's adoption and implementation of measures guided by changing CDC recommendations in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic do not go far enough. Plaintiffs filed a class action alleging violations of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, seeking a preliminary injunction. The Fifth Circuit granted TDCJ's motion to stay the district court's preliminary injunction, which regulates the cleaning intervals for common areas, the types of bleach-based disinfectants the prison must use, the alcohol content of hand sanitizer that inmates must receive, mask requirements for inmates, and inmates' access to tissues (amongst many other things). The court held that TDCJ is likely to prevail on the merits of its appeal because: (1) after accounting for the protective measures TDCJ has taken, plaintiffs have not shown a "substantial risk of serious harm" that amounts to "cruel and unusual punishment"; and (2) the district court committed legal error in its application of Farmer v. Brennan, by treating inadequate measures as dispositive of defendants' mental state. In this case, even assuming that there is a substantial risk of serious harm, plaintiffs lack evidence of defendants' subjective deliberate indifference to that harm. The court also held that TDCJ has shown that it will be irreparably injured absent a stay, and that the balance of the harms and the public interest favor a stay. Finally, the court held that plaintiffs have not exhausted their administrative remedies as required in the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), and the district court's injunction goes well beyond the limits of what the PLRA would allow even if plaintiffs had properly exhausted their claims. View "Valentine v. Collier" on Justia Law

by
In this case, the parties dispute the proper method for calculating the hospital specific limit for annual DSH payments. The Hospitals filed suit challenging the 2017 final rule clarifying that hospitals' "costs incurred" are net of payments from third parties, liked Medicare and private insurers. The Hospitals contend that the Secretary's definition of "costs incurred" conflicted with the Medicaid Act, 5 U.S.C. 706(2)(C). The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Hospitals, and joined three other circuits in holding that the 2017 rule was consistent with the Medicare Act. The court could not agree with the Hospitals that the ordinary meaning and dictionary definitions of "costs" and "payments" rendered the disputed language unambiguous; the court was unpersuaded by the Hospitals' argument that the statute draws a "clear line" between costs and payments; the court rejected the Hospitals' contention that Congress, by expressly excluding payments from Medicaid and the uninsured, meant to exclude only those payments and no others; the court rejected the Hospitals' argument that the express exclusion of third-party payments in a related Medicaid provision indicates that Congress chose not to deduct third-party payments in 42 U.S.C. 1396r-4(g)(1)(A); and the court saw no basis for the Hospitals' argument that the 2017 Rule conflicts with the statutory purpose of the hospital-specific limit. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Baptist Memorial Hospital - Golden Triangle, Inc. v. Azar" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit granted a writ of mandamus directing vacatur of the district court's issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) against executive order GA-09 as applied to abortion procedures. In order to preserve critical medical resources during the escalating COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor of Texas issued GA-09, which postpones non-essential surgeries and procedures until 11:59 p.m. on April 21, 2020. The court held that the drastic and extraordinary remedy of mandamus was warranted in this case because the district court ignored the framework governing emergency public health measures, like GA-09, in Jacobson v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905); the district court wrongly declared GA-09 an "outright ban" on previability abortions and exempted all abortion procedures from its scope, rather than apply the Jacobson framework to decide whether GA-09 lacks a "real or substantial relation" to the public health crisis or whether it is "beyond all question, a plain, palpable invasion" of the right to abortion; the district court failed to apply the undue-burden analysis in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 857 (1992), and thus failed to balance GA-09's temporary burdens on abortion against its benefits in thwarting a public health crisis; and the district court usurped the state's authority to craft emergency health measures, substituting instead its own view of the efficacy of applying GA-09 to abortion. Therefore, the court found that the requirements for a writ of mandamus are satisfied in light of the extraordinary nature of these errors, the escalating spread of COVID-19, and the state's critical interest in protecting the public health. View "In re: Gregg Abbott" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed suit against the United States and others, alleging violations of the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and seeking monetary damages associated with their loss of livestock following the implementation of a temporary fever tick quarantine. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that plaintiffs' claims were barred by the quarantine exception to the FTCA. The quarantine exception states that the statute's sovereign immunity waiver does not apply to any claim for damages caused by the imposition or establishment of a quarantine by the United States. In this case, plaintiffs' damages were caused by the implementation of the quarantine and thus defendants' challenged actions fell within the exception. View "Cascabel Cattle Co., LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit withdrew its prior opinion and substituted the following opinion. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal, based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction, of plaintiff's action under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). Plaintiff, a security guard, was shot in the leg while on duty by a pair of Islamic terrorists. The court held that plaintiff failed to establish that the discretionary function exception does not apply under the FTCA, and thus sovereign immunity has not been waived. Although the district court erred in stating the standard for construing exceptions to the FTCA, the error was harmless because plaintiff's contentions failed either way. The court held that the district court correctly declined jurisdiction under a two-step framework. First, plaintiff failed to identify a nondiscretionary duty violated by an agency or employee of the United States. Furthermore, the government did not violate any directives prohibiting agents from engaging in acts of violence. Second, the court held that the discretion at issue here is precisely the kind that the exception was designed to shield. The court held that plaintiff's remaining arguments were unavailing. The court declined to forge new circuit precedent and adopt the state-created danger doctrine in such uncharted territory; the district court properly dismissed the ATA claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by barring additional discovery. View "Joiner v. United States" on Justia Law