Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Judge Higginson concluded that the restrictions on the President's removal authority under the Consumer Financial Protection Act are valid and constitutional. Judge Higginson found that neither the text of the United States Constitution nor the Supreme Court's previous decisions support appellants' arguments that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is unconstitutionally structured, and thus he affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. All American Check Cashing, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this appeal stemming from the Deepwater Horizon litigation, the Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's order granting discretionary review and affirming a $77 million award against BP. The court held that the district court failed to consider investigating credible evidence of a sole, superseding cause for the claimant's loss. Furthermore, the district court's decision was made without the benefit of this circuit's guidance on causation. In this case, claimant is a global commodities merchandiser that purchases and supplies ammonia and fertilizers around the world. BP argued that claimant passed the V-Shaped Revenue Pattern due solely to a price spike and drop in the price of fertilizer that was unrelated to the oil spill. The court remanded for the district court to examine the issue in the first instance and to determine whether to remand to the Claims Administrator for additional factfinding. View "BP Exploration & Production, Inc. v. Claimant ID 100191715" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Secretary in an action brought by Hendrick challenging Medicare payments it received for the 2015 federal fiscal year. The court held that the district court did not err by dismissing Hendrick's appeal, because the Board's determination that it did not have jurisdiction over Hendrick's appeal for failure to exhaust administrative remedies was correct. In this case, Hendrick received notice via the Federal Register but failed to request correction of its wage data by the published deadline in accordance with the established process under the statute. View "Hendrick Medical Center v. Azar" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff successfully challenged in bankruptcy court a tax penalty assessed against him by the IRS that exceeded $40 million, plaintiff filed suit against the IRS and three IRS agents, in their individual capacities, pleading a claim for damages against the individual defendants under Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), for allegedly violating his Fifth Amendment right to procedural due process. Plaintiff also sought attorney's fees he incurred litigating the penalty issue in his Chapter 11 bankruptcy case under 26 U.S.C. 7430 and the Equal Access to Justice Act. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion and dismissal of the action with prejudice. The court held that the district court properly concluded that this case was a new Bivens context and that special factors existed under Ziglar v. Abbasi, 137 S. Ct. 1843 (2017). The court also held that plaintiff was not entitled to recover attorney's fees because his request was untimely under 28 U.S.C. 2412(d)(1)(B) and he was not a "prevailing party" under 26 U.S.C. 7430(c)(4)(A)(ii). View "Canada, Jr. v. United States (Internal Revenue Service)" on Justia Law

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Clarence Ceasar, Jr. injured his neck and back while working as a longshoreman for Sea-Land Services, Inc. in 1997. Because of those injuries, Ceasar was unable to work and had to undergo several medical procedures. Thirteen years later, Ceasar and Sea-Land reached a settlement, under which Ceasar received a lump sum instead of continuing disability payments. Sea-Land remained on the hook for Ceasar’s ongoing medical expenses. Ceasar was cleared to return to longshoreman duties in 2010 with no restrictions, despite chronic neck and lower back pain. Ceasar started working for Universal Maritime Service Company ("UMS") and was injured again a year later when a coworker lowered a cargo container onto his hands. Sea-Land petitioned the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for review of an order of the Benefits Review Board (“BRB”) which upheld the determination of an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) that Ceasar did not aggravate his 1997 injury at Sea-Land while working for UMS in 2011. After review, the Fifth Circuit determined the BRB did not err, denying Sea-Land's petition. View "Sea-Land Services, Inc. v. DOWCP, et al." on Justia Law