Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
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Coleman challenged the Commission's decision that its 18 working-days-late response to a citation notice that had been misplaced in the company's internal mail system demonstrated inexcusable neglect and barred the company from contesting the citations for nearly $70,000. The Fifth Circuit held that the Commission's decision misapplied Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), which applied under the Commission's own regulations. The court held that the equities weighed in favor of the Company having an opportunity to assert its defenses in OSHA's administrative proceedings. Therefore, the Commission's contrary determination denying relief from the untimely filing was legally in error and an abuse of discretion. Accordingly, the court vacated that decision, remanding for a hearing on the merits of the OSHA violations. View "Coleman Hammons Construction Co. v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged EPA's 2017 Final Rule approving Louisiana's state implementation plan (SIP) for controlling regional haze. Environmental Petitioners contend that Louisiana's SIP does too little to curb regional haze at federally protected areas. Industry Petitioners contend that Louisiana's SIP overestimates the amount of pollution that their power plants produce. The Fifth Circuit denied Industry Petitioners' petition, holding that EPA did not act arbitrarily and capriciously in relying on the CALPUFF model to approve Louisiana's "subject to BART" determinations. The court applied deferential standards of review and held that, although Environmental Petitioners' challenge presented a closer question, the court denied the petition because EPA's approval of Louisiana's SIP was not arbitrary and capricious. Even though the court noted that Louisiana’s explanation of its BART determination for the Nelson power plant omitted two of the five mandatory factors and failed to compare—or even set out—the numbers for the costs and benefits of the control options Louisiana considered. Furthermore, Louisiana failed to explain how its decision accounted for the EPA-submitted analyses that pointed out substantial flaws in other analyses in the administrative record. View "Sierra Club v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Shareholders filed suit against the Agencies after the FHFA placed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in conservatorship. In 2012, FHFA and Treasury adopted a Third Amendment to their financing agreements wherein Fannie and Freddie give Treasury nearly all their net worth each quarter as a dividend. Shareholders contend that the arrangement exceeded FHFA's statutory powers and that FHFA lacked authority to adopt the Third Amendment. The court held that shareholders plausibly alleged that the Third Amendment exceeded FHFA’s conservator powers by transferring Fannie and Freddie’s future value to a single shareholder, Treasury. Therefore, a majority of the en banc court held that this claim survived dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). A majority of the en banc court held that the Director's "for cause" removal protection was unconstitutional and therefore FHFA lacked authority to adopt the Third Amendment. The court explained that FHFA's design, an independent agency with a single Director removable only "for cause," violates the separation of powers. Finally, a different majority of the en banc court held that prospective relief was the proper remedy. Accordingly, the court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Collilns v. Mnuchin" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit dismissed a petition for review of the EPA's issuance of a general permit for various oil and gas operations to discharge pollutants in federal waters in parts of the Gulf of Mexico. The court held that petitioners lacked associational standing to bring their challenges, because the declarations from petitioners' members either inadequately satisfied the geographic-nexus requirement or failed to aver an injury in fact. Furthermore, even if petitioners could show injury, they could not demonstrate traceability. In this case, petitioners failed to show a causal connection between the EPA's allegedly unlawful conduct and their members' asserted injuries. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. EPA" on Justia Law

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This case concerned the EPA's review and decision to revise the earliest compliance dates for new, stringent best available technology economically achievable (BAT) effluent limitations and pretreatment standards for existing source (PSES) concerning two waste streams from steam electric power generating point sources that had previously been promulgated in a 2015 Rule. The Fifth Circuit denied the petition for review challenging the EPA's decision to postpone for two years only the earliest compliance dates mandated by the 2015 Rule for flue gas desulfurization (FGD) wastewater and bottom ash transport water. The court held that the EPA had statutory authority to pass this tailored rule and explained its decision adequately. The court also held that the EPA's decision was reasonable, and was neither arbitrary nor capricious. View "Clean Water Action v. EPA" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint, seeking a declaration of citizenship under 8 U.S.C. 1503(a). The court held that the district court did not clearly err in denying jurisdiction over the section 1503(a) claim in light of the deficient record developed by plaintiff and the court's deferential standard of review. The court also held that section 1503(a) was an adequate alternative remedy for plaintiff's injury, and that the district court was therefore correct that it lacked jurisdiction over his claim under the Administrative Procedure Act. View "Flores v. Pompeo" on Justia Law

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Walmart filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against the TABC, challenging Texas statutes that govern the issuance of permits allowing for the retail sale of liquor in Texas (package store permits). TPSA later intervened as a matter of right in defense of the statutes. The Fifth Circuit held that Tex. Alco. Bev. Code 22.16 is a facially neutral statute that bans all public corporations from obtaining P permits irrespective of domicile. The court held that, although the district court correctly cited the Arlington framework, it committed clear error in finding that section 22.16 was enacted with a purpose to discriminate against interstate commerce. Therefore, the court remanded Walmart's dormant Commerce Clause challenge for reconsideration of whether the ban was enacted with a discriminatory purpose. Furthermore, a remand was necessary to allow the district court to find facts for proper application of the Pike test. The court affirmed the district court's judgment rejecting Walmart's Equal Protection challenge to the public corporation ban, holding that there was a rational basis for Texas' decision to ban all public corporations from obtaining package store permits and its legitimate purpose of reducing the availability and consumption of liquor throughout Texas. Finally, Walmart's challenges to section 22.04 and 22.05 are withdrawn. View "Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission" on Justia Law

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After the Secretary of Labor issued Wynnewood Refining multiple citations alleging safety violations at its Oklahoma refinery, Wynnewood contested the citations. The Commission modified five violations by recharacterizing them as less severe than the Secretary alleged. The Secretary appealed to the Tenth Circuit and Wynnewood appealed to the Fifth Circuit. When, as in this case, none of the petitions was filed within ten days of the challenged agency decision, the Commission shall file the record in the court in which proceedings with respect to the order were first instituted. Once the agency properly files the record where a petition for review was first filed, all courts other than the court in which the record was filed under 28 U.S.C. 2112, shall transfer those proceedings to the court in which the record was so filed. In this case, the Tenth Circuit appeal was filed first and thus the court granted the Secretary's motion to transfer the appeal to the Tenth Circuit. View "Wynnewood Refining Co., LLC v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission" on Justia Law

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Texas filed suit against the EEOC and the Attorney General, challenging the EEOC's guidance on employers' use of criminal records in hiring. On remand, the district court dismissed Texas's claim under the Declaratory Judgment Act (DJA), but enjoined defendants from enforcing EEOC's guidance against Texas until EEOC complied with the notice-and-comment rulemaking requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The Fifth Circuit held that the Guidance was a reviewable final agency action that the court had jurisdiction to review. Furthermore, Texas had standing to sue EEOC and the Attorney General to challenge the legality of the Guidance. On the merits, the court held that the Guidance was a substantive rule subject to the APA's notice-and-comment requirement and that EEOC overstepped its statutory authority in issuing the Guidance. Because the Guidance is a substantive rule, and the text of Title VII and precedent confirmed that EEOC lacked authority to promulgate substantive rules implementing Title VII, the court modified the injunction by striking the clause "until the EEOC has complied with the notice and comment requirements under the APA for promulgating an enforceable substantive rule." The court also modified the injunction to clarify that EEOC and the Attorney General may not treat the Guidance as binding in any respect. Therefore, the court affirmed the injunction as modified and declined to consider the DJA claim. View "Texas v. EEOC" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed in part, affirmed with modification in part, and vacated in part an injunction remedying certain constitutional deficiencies in Texas's foster care system. The court previously found that DFPS's policies violated plaintiffs' substantive due process rights by maintaining overburdened caseworkers who are responsible for the children in the permanent management conservatorship (PMC), and by failing to adequately monitor and oversee the children in the licensed foster care (LFC) subclass. The court affirmed the 24-hour-supervision requirement with the modification that it applied only to LFC placements, not unlicensed placements; vacated the face-to-face provision as being inconsistent with Stukenberg I; affirmed workload study provisions and rejected the State's argument that DFPS should be able to determine on its own how many cases, on average, caseworkers, and RCCL investigators can safely carry; invalidated the integrated computer system requirement and the accompanying access provision; vacated the court's expressed validation of the integrated computer system; vacated the missing medical records provision because there was no longer a justification for the provision; affirmed the remote access provision but modified the injunction to require that any of the Monitors' staff and consultants who have unrestricted, remote access to DFPS's systems be qualified to handle the information, be taught how to use the systems, and be given confidentiality agreements; and vacated the injunctive provision dealing with the previous third party studies. Finally, the court held that the State's objections to the modified injunction's termination provisions were waived, and the court declined to lift the stay in full. View "M.D. v. Abbott" on Justia Law