Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
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The Fifth Circuit certified the following questions to the Supreme Court of Texas: 1. If Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code Section 22.16(f) exempts a package store from Section 22.16(a), and if the package store sells any, most, or all of its shares to a corporation that does not itself qualify under Section 22.16(f), will the package store's package store permits remain valid? 2. If yes to (1), can the package store validly accumulate additional package store permits by reason of Section 22.16(f)? View "Gabriel Investment Group, Inc. v. Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission" on Justia Law

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D&G, a Medicare service provider for nursing homes and homebound individuals, filed suit against the H.H.S. Secretary in federal court seeking repayment of recouped funds, which then amounted to $4,136,258.19 in principal and $593,294.54 in accrued interest. The district court dismissed D&G's case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that there was no federal court jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 405(g), as applied to Medicare appeals by 42 U.S.C. 1395ff(b)(1)(A).The Fifth Circuit held that "effectuations" of final agency decisions when sought to liquidate the amount of repayment owed, are reviewable under 42 U.S.C. 405(g) as continuous aspects of the initial, properly exhausted, administrative decision. The court concluded that the district court had jurisdiction under section 405(g) to resolve this dispute because "effectuations" are inextricably intertwined with the initial exhausted agency action. Therefore, the district court committed reversible error when it granted the Secretary' motion to dismiss. Furthermore, the Secretary's attempted reopening of the "effectuation" was untimely and the purported reopening was void ab initio. The court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "D&G Holdings, LLC v. Becerra" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Walmart's action challenging the government's interpretation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) as it applies to pharmacists who dispense prescription opioids. In this case, Walmart points to no rule, guidance, or other public document setting forth the positions it seeks to contest. The court concluded that, because Walmart identifies no agency action, as that term is used in the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the suit is barred by sovereign immunity. Furthermore, even if the action was not barred by sovereign immunity, the court concluded that Walmart's failure to contradict a definite government position means that it has not demonstrated the existence of a ripe case or controversy, as required by Article III. Accordingly, the district court appropriately dismissed based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "Walmart v. Department of Justice" on Justia Law

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After petitioner was injured on the job while employed by Ameri-Force, he successfully obtained a workers' compensation award after filing a claim with the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs of the U.S. Department of Labor. The Fifth Circuit concluded that petitioner is entitled to attorney's fees under the plain text of 33 U.S.C. 928(b) and reversed the decision of the Benefits Review Board, remanding for further proceedings. In this case, all the criteria of an award of attorney's fees under section 928(b) are satisfied as to the claims examiner's August 24, 2016 recommendation. View "Rivera v. Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs" on Justia Law

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The Secretary of DHS and other federal government defendants moved to stay the district court's nationwide, preliminary injunction barring enforcement of one of the federal COVID-19 vaccination mandates related to the staff of many Medicare- and Medicaid-certified providers such as hospitals, long-term care facilities, home-health agencies, and hospices.The Fifth Circuit denied the motion insofar as the order applies to the 14 Plaintiff States, concluding that the Secretary has not made a strong showing of likely success on the merits in light of BST Holdings, L.L.C. v. OSHA, 17 F.4th 604 (5th Cir. 2021). In BST, the Fifth Circuit relied in part on the "major questions doctrine" in staying the COVID-19 vaccination mandate OSHA issued for employers of a certain size. In this case, the Secretary identifies meaningful distinctions between its rule for Medicare and Medicaid-funded facilities and the broader OSHA rule — the statutory authority for the rule is different; Medicare and Medicaid were enacted under the Spending Clause rather than the Commerce Clause; and the targeted health care facilities, especially nursing homes, are where COVID-19 has posed the greatest risk. Nonetheless, the court concluded that the first stay factor requires more than showing a close call. Therefore, the court could not say that the Secretary has made a strong showing of likely success on the merits. Furthermore, the other three factors for a stay — injury to the movant, injury to the opponent, and the public interest — are important but, regardless of the outcome of analyzing them, they will not overcome the court's holding that the merits of the injunction will not likely be disturbed on appeal.Applying principles of judicial restraint, the court granted the stay as to the order's application to any other jurisdiction, concluding that the district court gave little justification for issuing an injunction outside the 14 States that brought this suit. View "Louisiana v. Becerra" on Justia Law

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Following the October 1, 2017 tragedy in Las Vegas where a gunman fired several semiautomatic rifles equipped with bump stocks and killed 58 people and wounding 500 more, the ATF promulgated a rule stating that bump stocks are machineguns for purposes for the National Firearms Act (NFA) and the federal statutory bar on the possession or sale of new machine guns.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's rejection of plaintiff's challenge to the rule, agreeing with the district court that the rule properly classifies a bump stock as a "machinegun" within the statutory definition and that the rule of lenity does not apply. The court need not address plaintiff's contentions that the ATF exceeded its statutory authority by issuing the rule or that the rule violates constitutional principles of separation of powers as resolution of these issues will not affect the outcome of the case. View "Cargill v. Garland" on Justia Law

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The Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) was created by the Secretary of DHS on December 20, 2018. On June 1, 2021, DHS permanently terminated MPP. The district court subsequently vacated the Termination Decision and ordered DHS to implement the Protocols in good faith or to take a new agency action that complied with the law. DHS chose not to take a new agency action, and instead chose to notice an appeal and defended its Termination Decision, seeking a stay of the district court's injunction while the appeal was pending. The Fifth Circuit denied the motion and the Supreme Court affirmed. On October 29, 2021, DHS issued two additional memoranda to explain the Termination Decision, purporting to "re-terminate" MPP. The Government then informed the Fifth Circuit that, in its view, the October 29 Memoranda had mooted this case.Under Supreme Court and Fifth Circuit precedent, the court concluded that this case is nowhere near moot. In any event, the vacatur DHS requests is an equitable remedy, which is unavailable to parties with unclean hands. The court stated that the Government's litigation tactics disqualify it from such equitable relief. The court addressed and rejected each of the Government's reviewability arguments and determined that DHS has come nowhere close to shouldering its heavy burden to show that it can make law in a vacuum.On the merits, the court concluded that the Termination Decision was arbitrary and capricious under the APA. The court also concluded that the Termination Decision is independently unlawful because it violates 8 U.S.C. 1225, which requires DHS to detain aliens, pending removal proceedings, who unlawfully enter the United States and seek permission to stay. Finally, in regard to the Government's contention that section 1182 allows DHS to parole aliens into the United States on a case-by-case basis, the court concluded that deciding to parole aliens en masse is the opposite of case-by-case decisionmaking. The court denied the Government's motion to vacate the judgment and affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Texas v. Biden" on Justia Law

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Med-Cert filed suit against federal officials in charge of administering the Medicare program, alleging that HHS sought to recoup overpaid Medicare funds from Med-Cert before its hearing with an ALJ in violation of Med-Cert's due process rights. The district court enjoined the federal officials from recouping funds until after the hearing. While this case was on appeal, the Fifth Circuit issued Sahara Health Care Inc. v. Azar, 975 F.3d 523 (5th Cir. 2020), which held that a similarly situated health-care provider was not denied due process. Because Sahara is controlling in this case, the court reversed and remanded for the district court to consider Med-Cert's alternative claims. View "Med-Cert Home Care, LLC v. Becerra" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit granted the Texas Attorney General a stay pending appeal of the permanent injunction that bars him from enforcing Texas Governor Greg Abbott's Executive Order GA-38, which prohibits local governmental entities from imposing mask mandates.After determining that plaintiffs have likely failed to demonstrate standing, the court concluded that the Attorney General has demonstrated a strong likelihood of success on the merits as a matter of law. In this case, the district court lacked jurisdiction over plaintiffs' claims where plaintiffs have not exhausted their administrative remedies under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Furthermore, even if a failure to exhaust remedies does not bar plaintiffs' claims, plaintiffs likely failed to make out a prima facie case under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Rehabilitation Act. The court explained that, given the availability of vaccines, voluntary masking, and other possible accommodations, the record before the court likely does not support the conclusion that a mask mandate would be both necessary and obvious under the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act. The court also held that it was likely erroneous for the district court to hold that GA-38 was preempted by either the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act. To the extent that it is even properly before the court, the court did not read the American Rescue Plan Act to preempt GA-38's prohibition of local mask mandates, as the district court did. The court further concluded that, assuming plaintiffs' claims are otherwise viable, at a minimum, the district court's blanket injunction prohibiting the enforcement of GA-38 in all public schools across the State of Texas is overbroad. Finally, the court concluded that the Attorney General has demonstrated the prospect of irreparable injury absent a stay; has shown that maintaining the status quo ante pending appeal will not risk substantial injury to plaintiffs; and that the public interest favors a stay. View "E.T. v. Paxton" on Justia Law

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An Angel Brothers construction crew was installing a drainage pipe alongside a road. For two days, the crew had adequate protection from cave-ins. On day three, the work was too close to the street to continue with “benching” the walls of the excavation. Angel’s safety manager told foreman Vidal to use a trench box, which is placed in the ditch and has walls that guard against cave-ins. Vidal did not follow those instructions. Vidal admitted that he allowed Fonseca to work without the trench box because Fonseca would only need to spend 10-15 minutes inside the excavation; installing the trench box would have blocked the adjoining intersection and taken more time. Vidal and another employee stood by while Fonseca worked in the trench.An OSHA Compliance Officer happened to visit the worksite and issued a citation for violating the requirement that “[e]ach employee in an excavation shall be protected from cave-ins by an adequate protective system,” 29 C.F.R. 1926.652(a)(1). An ALJ assessed a $35,000 penalty. The Commission affirmed, reasoning that Vidal’s knowledge as a supervisor flowed to the company, that the company did not prove that it effectively enforced safety rules or disciplined employees for safety violations, and that the conduct was willful. The Fifth Circuit upheld the findings. Imputing the supervisor’s knowledge of the safety violation to the employer is appropriate in this situation under basic agency principles. View "Angel Brothers Enterprises, Ltd. v. Walsh" on Justia Law