Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
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Louisiana filed suit against the United States, alleging that the Corps failed to maintain the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in compliance with the River and Harbor Improvements Act. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint and held that Louisiana failed to satisfy the requirements for the waiver of sovereign immunity under section 702 of the Administrative Procedure Act, because the state did not challenge agency action and the state's alleged injury did not fall within the zone of interests of the River and Harbor Improvements Act. The court also held that the state's failure to act claim was not subject to judicial review under the APA because the Corps is not legally required to preserve and/or maintain the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway at a certain width. Therefore, the state's complaint was properly dismissed based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "Louisiana v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed HHS's decision that extrapolating the Medicare underpayment rate to all claims paid over the relevant time period resulted in a repayment demand of more than $12 million. The court held that the district court correctly rejected Palm Valley's due process claim; Palm Valley failed to exhaust its challenge to the "homebound" standard and thus the court could not consider the issue; substantial evidence supported HHS's determination that many beneficiaries were not homebound; and there was no error in the extrapolation methodology. View "Palm Valley Health Care, Inc. v. Azar" on Justia Law

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The General Land Office challenged both the Service's listing of the Golden-Cheeked Warbler as an endangered species in 1990 and, about 26 years later, the Service's denial of a petition seeking to delist the Warbler. The Fifth Circuit held that the General Land Office's challenge to the Service's decision to list was untimely. The court held that the Service did not violate the National Environmental Policy Act or its implementing regulations when it declined to delist the Warbler, and thus the district court correctly granted the Service's motion to dismiss. However, the court agreed with the General Land Office that the Service applied the incorrect heightened standard when reviewing the delisting petition. Therefore, the court held that the Service's decision denying the delisting petition was arbitrary and capricious, and vacated the decision, remanding for further proceedings. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. View "General Land Office of the State of Texas v. United States Department of the Interior" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit 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 satisfy the first prong of the discretionary function analysis, because he failed to point to a specific, nondiscretionary function or duty that prescribes a specific course of action for an agency or employee. The court also held that plaintiff waived his argument that a certain gun sale contravened the FBI's express policy prohibiting the sale of firearms to suspected terrorists, because plaintiff failed to adequately brief the issue. Likewise, plaintiff's argument regarding the law enforcement proviso was waived. The court declined to adopt the state created danger doctrine to overcome the FTCA's discretionary function exception; held that the district court properly dismissed the ATA claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction; and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by barring additional discovery. View "Joiner v. United States" on Justia Law

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ICP filed suit against Treasury and OCC, alleging claims under Section 3608 of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Fifth Amendment. ICP alleged that defendants failed to regulate the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program so as to promote fair housing. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants on three grounds. The court held that ICP lacked standing to sue either OCC or Treasury, because ICP could not establish causation or redressability. In this case, neither defendant regulates ICP. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to ICP's claims against OCC and Section 3608 claims against Treasury. Because the district court reached the merits of ICP's Fifth Amendment claim against Treasury, the court vacated the summary judgment and rendered a judgment of dismissal for want of jurisdiction. View "Inclusive Communities Project v. Department of Treasury" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, two private citizens and eighteen states, filed suit challenging the individual mandate requirement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The individual mandate required individuals to maintain health insurance coverage and, if individuals did not maintain this coverage, they must make a payment to the IRS called a shared responsibility payment. Plaintiffs argued that the individual mandate was no longer constitutional because: (1) Nat'l Fed'n of Indep. Bus. v. Sebelius, 567 U.S. 519, 538 (2012), rested the individual mandate's constitutionality exclusively on reading the provision as a tax; and (2) a 2017 amendment, which changed the amount of the shared responsibility payment to zero dollars, undermined any ability to characterize the individual mandate as a tax because the provision no longer generates revenue, a requirement for a tax. Plaintiffs further argued that the individual mandate was essential to, and inseverable from, the rest of the ACA and thus the entire ACA must be enjoined. The Fifth Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part the district court's judgment, holding that there is a live case or controversy because the intervenor-defendant states have standing to appeal and, even if they did not, there remains a live case or controversy between plaintiffs and the federal defendants; plaintiffs have Article III standing to bring this challenge to the ACA because the individual mandate injures both the individual plaintiffs, by requiring them to buy insurance that they do not want, and the state plaintiffs, by increasing their costs of complying with the reporting requirements that accompany the individual mandate; the individual mandate is unconstitutional because it can no longer be read as a tax, and there is no other constitutional provision that justifies this exercise of congressional power; and, on the severability question, the court remanded to the district court to provide additional analysis of the provisions of the ACA as they currently exist. View "Texas v. United States" on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from plaintiff's action alleging that NASA discriminated against her. The Fifth Circuit held that plaintiff pleaded her way out of federal court by attempting to litigate her claims in several mutually exclusive forums. In this case, plaintiff pleaded her way out of the Federal Circuit by attempting to bifurcate her discrimination and non-discrimination claims. Plaintiff first chose to pursue her mixed case before the MSPB rather than filed an EEO complaint with NASA ODEO. After the MSPB rejected her mixed case, she could have sought review in federal district court, but could not go back and choose to file an EEO complaint. The court explained that plaintiff could have then dropped her mixed case and pursued only the Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA) claim before the Federal Circuit; pursued the mixed case in federal district court; or pursued the mixed case in the EEOC. Although federal law allowed plaintiff to choose one of these options, she tried to choose all three. Consequently, the court held that plaintiff deprived any court of subject-matter jurisdiction over her appeal from the MSPB; she pleaded her way out of the Federal Circuit; and she missed the deadline to file in district court View "Punch v. Bridenstine" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit granted the petition for panel rehearing, withdrew its prior opinion, and substituted the following opinion. 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). Section 22.16 of the Texas Alcohol Beverage Code prohibits public corporations from obtaining package store permits in Texas. TPSA later intervened as a matter of right in defense of the statutes. The Fifth Circuit held that the district court erred in its findings regarding the public corporation ban’s discriminatory purpose. The court held that, although the district court correctly cited the Arlington framework, some of its discriminatory purpose findings were infirm. In this case, the record did not support only one resolution of the factual issue, because there was evidence that could support the district court's finding of a purpose to discriminate. Therefore, the court vacated and remanded in part for a reweighing of the evidence. The court also held that the district court committed clear error in finding that Section 22.16 was enacted with a purpose to discriminate against interstate commerce, and the facially neutral ban did not have a discriminatory effect. The court vacated the district court's judgment that the public corporation ban violated the dormant Commerce Clause, and remanded for reconsideration of whether the ban was enacted with a discriminatory purpose. The court also held that the district court erred in its analysis when it determined that section 22.16 violates the dormant Commerce Clause under the Pike test. Therefore, the court rendered judgment in favor of defendants on the claim that an impermissible burden existed under the Pike test. The court affirmed in part the district court's judgment rejecting Walmart's Equal Protection challenge to the public corporation ban, and held that the ban was rationally related to the state's 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 in light of House Bill 1545. View "Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission" on Justia Law

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The State of Texas enacted a statute that sought to invalidate the City's ordinance prohibiting landlords from refusing tenants who wish to pay their rent with federal housing vouchers, and to allow landlords to continue to refuse federal vouchers. The City filed suit against the State seeking to enjoin the statute, alleging that it was preempted by federal law. The district court denied the State's motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction. In this interlocutory appeal, the Fifth Circuit held that the Attorney General did not possess the requisite "connection to the enforcement" of the Texas statute to satisfy the Ex parte Young doctrine, and the Texas Workforce Commission is a state agency immune to suit. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded, because the district court erred by finding that the City's action against the Attorney General and the Texas Workforce Commission could proceed under the Ex parte Young exception to sovereign immunity. View "City of Austin v. Paxton" on Justia Law

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After an employee of Excel was killed when a scaffold he was constructing collapsed into Galveston Bay, OSHA conducted an investigation into the incident and issued Excel a number of safety citations. Excel contested the issuance of the citation charging the company with a serious violation of a regulation which required Excel to ensure the presence of a "lifesaving skiff" at all jobsites where employees were required to work over water. The ALJ upheld the Commission's decision declining to conduct further review, and Excel petitioned for review. The Fifth Circuit denied Excel's petition for review, holding that Excel repeatedly failed to preserve the affirmative defense of infeasibility, and the ALJ did not abuse its discretion by determining that it would have been prejudicial to the Secretary to allow Excel to pursue its infeasibility defense. Even if Excel had not abandoned its infeasibility defense, Excel had not met its burden of proving that it was entitled to the defense on the merits. Finally, the court held that the ALJ's conclusion that the absence of a skiff exposed Excel's employees to a substantial probability of death or serious injury was amply supported by the record. View "Excel Modular Scaffold & Leasing Co. v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission" on Justia Law