Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Court of Appeals' judgment ruling that FMC must pay an annual use permit fee for storage of hazardous waste on fee lands within the Shoshone-Bannock Fort Hall Reservation pursuant to a consent decree settling a prior suit brought against FMC by the EPA under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The panel held that the judgment of the Tribal Court of Appeals was enforceable pursuant to the two exceptions under Montana v. United States, 450 U.S. 544 (1981). First, a tribe may regulate the activities of nonmembers who enter into consensual relationships with the tribe or its members. Second, a tribe retains inherent power to exercise civil authority over the conduct of non-Indians on fee lands within its reservation when that conduct threatens or has some direct effect on the political integrity, the economic security, or the health or welfare of the tribe. In this case, the panel held that the Tribes had regulatory jurisdiction to impose the permit fees because FMC entered into a consensual relationship when it signed a permit agreement with the Tribes. Furthermore, FMC's storage of millions of tons of hazardous waste on the Reservation fell within the second Montana exception. Finally, the panel held that the Tribal Court of Appeals did not deny FMC due process through a lack of impartiality. View "FMC Corp. v. Shoshone-Bannock Tribes" on Justia Law

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Petitioners sought review of the EPA's Risk Evaluation Rule establishing a process to evaluate the health and environmental risks of chemical substances. The Rule was promulgated by the EPA under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The Ninth Circuit held that it lacked jurisdiction to review petitioners' challenge to provisions of the Rule relating to the process by which EPA will conduct risk determinations. The panel explained that the challenge was not justiciable where petitioners' interpretation of what EPA intended to do and the resulting theory of injury were too speculative. In regard to petitioners' contention that the Rule contravenes TSCA's requirement that EPA consider all of a chemical's conditions of use when conducting a risk evaluation, the panel held that the challenged preambular language was not final agency action and not reviewable under the Administrative Procedure Act. The panel held that challenges to specific provisions of the Rule were justiciable, but they failed on the merits because the provisions that petitioners point to did not in fact assert discretion to exclude conditions of use from evaluation. Finally, the panel held that EPA's exclusion of legacy uses and associated disposals contradicted TSCA's plain language, but that EPA's exclusion of legacy disposals did not. Accordingly, the panel dismissed in part, granted in part, and denied in part. View "Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families v. EPA" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of an action alleging that the FAA wrongfully terminated plaintiff. Plaintiff filed her action in the district court within the 30-day statutory limitations period, but she mistakenly named only the FAA and her former supervisor as defendants. Because plaintiff's action alleged claims of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, she should have named the head of the executive agency to which the FAA belonged, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao. After the statute of limitations had expired, the FAA moved to dismiss and Secretary Chao then filed her own motion to dismiss. The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiff was entitled to relation back under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c)(2). The panel held that the district court adopted an overly technical interpretation of the term "process" as used in Rule 15(c)(2). Rather, the panel held that the notice-giving function of "process" under Rule 15(c)(2) was accomplished whether or not the summons accompanying the complaint was signed by the clerk of court. Furthermore, the requirements for relation back were met here where both the United States Attorney and the Attorney General were sufficiently notified of the action within Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m)'s 90-day period. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Silbaugh v. Chao" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction against DOJ's use of the notice and access conditions imposed on recipients of Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program formula grants. The panel held that DOJ lacked statutory authority to require recipients of the grant to comply with DHS requests for notice of a detained alien's release date and time and to allow DHS agents access to detained aliens upon request. The panel held that DOJ lacked statutory authority to the notice and access conditions -- which were not special conditions nor were they listed among the statutorily recognized purposes of a Byrne JAG award -- under section 10102(a)(6) of the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Act of 2005. The panel rejected DOJ's argument that the notice and access conditions were further supported by provisions in the Byrne JAG statute that authorize the Attorney General to obtain certain information and require coordination with agencies. View "Los Angeles v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction barring enforcement in several states of final federal agency rules that exempt employers with religious and moral objections from the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) requirement that group health plans cover contraceptive care without cost sharing. As a preliminary matter, the panel held that the plaintiff states had Article III standing to sue and that the appeal was not moot. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by concluding that the plaintiff states were likely to succeed on the merits of their Administrative Procedure Act (APA) claim or, at the very least, raised serious questions going to the merits. At the preliminary injunction stage, the panel held that the evidence was sufficient to hold that providing free contraceptive services was a core purpose of the Women's Health Amendment and that nothing in the statute permitted the agencies to determine exemptions from the requirement. Therefore, given the text, purpose, and history of the Women's Health Amendment, the district court did not err in concluding that the agencies likely lacked statutory authority under the ACA to issue the final rules. The panel also held that, regardless of the question of the agencies' authority under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the accommodation process likely did not substantially burden the exercise of religion. Furthermore, because appellants likely failed to demonstrate a substantial burden on religious exercise, there was no need to address whether the government had shown a compelling interest or whether it has adopted the least restrictive means of advancing that interest. Finally, the panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by concluding that the states were likely to suffer irreparable harm absent an injunction, and that the balance of equities tipped sharply in favor of the plaintiff states and that the public interest tipped in favor of granting the preliminary injunction. View "California v. The Little Sisters of the Poor" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Privacy Act of 1974, seeking FAA records related to the Biographical Assessment, a screening tool introduced by the FAA in 2014 as part of the air traffic controller hiring process. The panel affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the FAA based on Exemption 2 of FOIA and Exemption (k)(6) of the Privacy Act, which allowed the FAA to withhold from plaintiff the minimum passing score and plaintiff's own score on the Biographical Assessment. Where FAA employees used personal email addresses to receive information relating to the FAA's change in selecting air traffic controllers, the panel held that plaintiff has carried his burden of showing that the FAA employees' privacy interest in their personal email addresses was outweighed by the robust interest of citizens' right to know what their government was up to in making the changes it did. The court also held that there was no genuine issue of material fact that Exemption 6 does not apply to the personal email addresses of the recipients of the Barrier Analysis document containing FAA information relating to the selection of air traffic controllers. The panel reasoned that the FAA could satisfy its obligation under FOIA by identifying the email recipients by name, instead of revealing the recipients' personal email addresses. In regard to 202 emails withheld by the FAA as agency records, the panel vacated the district court's order and remanded to the district court to apply the second prong of the test set forth in Tax Analysts v. U.S. Dep't of Justice. View "Rojas v. FAA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging both their inclusion on the No Fly List and the sufficiency of the procedures available for contesting their inclusion on the list. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the government and held that the district court properly rejected plaintiffs' as-applied vagueness challenges. The panel held that the No Fly List criteria are not impermissibly vague merely because they require a prediction of future criminal conduct or because they do not delineate what factors are relevant to that determination. Rather, the criteria are reasonably clear in their application to the specific conduct alleged in this case, which includes, for one or more plaintiffs, associating with and financing terrorists, training with militant groups overseas, and advocating terrorist violence. The panel weighed the Mathews v. Eldridge factors and held that the procedures provided to the plaintiffs were constitutionally sufficient and any error was nonprejudicial. Finally, the panel held that the district court properly dismissed plaintiffs' substantive due process claims for lack of jurisdiction under 49 U.S.C. 46110(a), which places review of TSA orders in the courts of appeals rather than the district court. View "Kashem v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order directing the DOE to publish four energy conservation standards in the Federal Register and rejected DOE's challenges to the district court's assertion of jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. 6305(a)(2). The panel held that DOE relinquished whatever discretion it might have had to withhold publication of the rules when it adopted the error-correction rule. Furthermore, the absence of genuine ambiguity in the rule's meaning precluded the panel from deferring to DOE's contrary interpretation. The panel also held that section 6305(a)(2) provides the necessary "clear and unequivocal waiver" of sovereign immunity from citizen suits predicated on a non-discretionary duty imposed either by statute or regulation. Therefore, plaintiffs properly invoked the Energy Policy and Conservation Act's citizen-suit provision to challenge DOE's failure to perform its nondiscretionary duty to submit the four rules at issue. View "Natural Resources Defense Council v. Perry" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants in an action challenging the BIA's decision to approve an industrial-scale wind facility in Southern California. The panel held that the BIA was not required to explain why it did not adopt a mitigation measure that it did in fact follow. Similarly, the panel rejected plaintiffs' related argument that the BIA should have explained why its record of decision (ROD) found no significant impact to eagles where the environmental impact statement (EIS) considered the entire project and its impact on eagles. The panel also held that the BIA's consideration of five action alternatives was sufficient. The panel was not persuaded that additional environmental review was required and rejected plaintiffs' five grounds in support of their contention that the BIA should have prepared a supplemental EIS. The panel rejected plaintiffs' final two challenges to the BIA's decision concerning the agency's decision not to require Tule to obtain a Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act permit from FWS. Therefore, the panel held that, under the total circumstances of this case, the EIS analysis was sufficient to satisfy the National Environmental Policy Act. View "Protect Our Communities Foundation v. LaCounte" on Justia Law

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Petitioner and his attorney filed an ex parte application for discovery pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1782, which permits certain domestic discovery for use in foreign proceedings. The district court quashed the subpoenas after concluding that not all the discovery sought was subject to the state secrets privilege. Although the Ninth Circuit agreed with the district court that certain information requested was not privileged because it was not a state secret that would pose an exceptionally grave risk to national security and that the government's assertion of the state secrets privilege was valid over much of the information requested, the panel held that the district court erred in quashing the subpoenas in toto rather than attempting to disentangle nonprivileged from privileged information. In this case, the underlying proceeding was a limited discovery request that could be managed by the district court. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Husayn v. United States" on Justia Law