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, based on federal preemption, the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's state law claims alleging that Trader Joe's federally regulated retained water labels on poultry products were misleading. The panel explained that the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act regulates the retained water data collection process and label production for covered poultry products.In this case, plaintiff argued that she used a data collection protocol that produced different percentages of retained water than those displayed on Trader Joe's poultry labels, and thus Trader Joe's labels are misleading in violation of state law. The panel concluded that plaintiff's claims are preempted by federal law regulating poultry labeling and retained water measurement protocols under 21 U.S.C. 467e. The panel explained that state law claims seek to impose the requirements of plaintiff's retained water protocol in addition to Trader Joe's required Food Safety and Inspection Service protocol, and plaintiff's counsel confirmed at oral argument that she cannot assert that her data collection protocol is the same as that used by Trader Joe's. Accordingly, the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiff's claims with prejudice. View "Webb v. Trader Joe's Co." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Service in an action challenging the Service's decision reversing its previous decision that the Pacific walrus qualified for listing as an endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The panel found that the Service did not sufficiently explain why it changed its prior position. The panel concluded that the essential flaw in the 2017 Decision is its failure to offer more than a cursory explanation of why the findings underlying its 2011 Decision no longer apply. The panel explained that if, as is the case here, the agency's "new policy rests upon factual findings that contradict those which underlay its prior policy," a sufficiently detailed justification is required. In this case, the panel found insufficient the Service's briefs regarding localized prey depletion, a study showing that female walruses can travel longer distances than expected to forage, stampede-related mortalities, habitat loss generally, and subsistence harvest. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. Haaland" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of the DOI, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, federal officials, and the Spokane Tribe of Indians, in an action brought by the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, challenging the Secretary of DOI's decision determining that the Spokane Tribe of Indians' proposed gaming establishment on newly acquired off-reservation land would not be detrimental to the surrounding community. Kalispel raised challenges pursuant to the the Administrative Procedure Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.The panel held that IGRA requires the Secretary to weigh and consider the various interests of those within the surrounding community when deciding whether additional off-reservation gaming would be detrimental to the surrounding community. A showing that additional gaming may be detrimental to some members of the surrounding community, including an Indian tribe, does not dictate the outcome of the Secretary's two-step determination. The panel agreed with the DC Circuit and rejected Kalispel's argument that any detriment to Kalispel precluded the Secretary from issuing a favorable two-part determination. Rather, the panel concluded that the Secretary had the authority to issue a two-step determination, and the Secretary's decision to issue a favorable decision here was neither arbitrary nor capricious. The panel declined to reach the merits of Kalispel's contention, which was not advanced in the district court, that the Secretary previously announced a policy that additional off-reservation gaming would not be approved if a nearby Indian tribe could show that additional gaming would be detrimental to it. Finally, the panel concluded that Kalispel has not shown that the Secretary failed to consider its claimed harms or to comply with the relevant statutes and regulations, and thus it has not shown that the Secretary violated the federal government's trust duty owed to Kalispel. View "Kalispel Tribe of Indians v. U.S. Department of the Interior" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of OMB in an action brought by plaintiff and AAET, contending that patent applicants should not have to comply with certain U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) rules because the USPTO is violating the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). Plaintiff and AAET argue that patent applicants need not follow the rules because the USPTO is violating the PRA by failing to obtain OMB approval and a control number each time the USPTO makes a request to an applicant during the back-and-forth communications process concerning a particular patent. The OMB rejected this argument and concluded that the rules are not subject to the PRA.The panel held that the challenged rules do not impose "collections of information" subject to the PRA's procedural requirements. Rather, the PRA and the regulations expressly exclude from coverage individualized communications just like those between a patent examiner and a patent applicant. Furthermore, even if they impose "collections," most of the rules are exempted from the PRA under Exemption 6. View "Hyatt v. Office of Management and Budget" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the FWS in an action brought by Friends of Animals, challenging FWS's rule, 50 C.F.R. 424.14(b), which required that affected states receive 30-day notice of an intent to file a petition to list an endangered species. Friends alleges that the FWS used the "pre-file notice rule" to improperly reject Friends' petition to list the Pryor Mountain wild horse as a threatened or endangered distinct population segment, and argues that the rule revision violates the Endangered Species Act's (ESA) requirements for review of petitions and is inconsistent with the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).The panel concluded that the pre-file notice rule is inconsistent with the statutory scheme of the ESA and thus does not survive the second step of the Chevron test. The panel explained that the FWS used the pre-file notice rule to create a procedural hurdle to petitioners that does not comport with the ESA. In this case, the FWS used the pre-file notice rule to consider a petition that was properly submitted, complied with the substantive requirements in all other respects, and was otherwise entitled to a 90-day finding, while relying on an unreasonable justification that does not accord with the aims of the ESA. Therefore, FWS's denial of the petition was arbitrary and in excess of its statutory jurisdiction. Accordingly, the court remanded to the district court to enter summary judgment in favor of Friends. View "Friends of Animals v. Haaland" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit granted a petition for review challenging the EPA's Final 2019 Rule, which was a response to this court's 2017 Writ of Mandamus directing the EPA to respond to the need for updated lead-based paint hazard standards. Petitioners contend that the 2019 Rule violated statutory provisions of the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazardous Reduction Act (PHA) that are codified in Title IV of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), as well as rulings of this court in the Writ.The panel concluded that the current dust-lead hazard standards, lead-based paint definition, and soil-lead hazard standards do not identify all levels of lead that lead to adverse human health effects and therefore violate the TSCA. Furthermore, the EPA has continually refused to update the lead-based paint definition on the ground that it lacks sufficient information. The panel concluded that its failure to explain why such lack of data has persisted for more than a decade, in the face of mounting evidence of lead-based paint dangers, is arbitrary and capricious. The panel explained that the failure to update the soil-lead hazard standards is unjustified in the face of the now undisputed evidence that there is no safe level of lead exposure. Because the dust-lead clearance levels concern the lead content of dust after abatement of dust-lead hazards, the dust-lead hazard standards (DLHS) and the clearance levels are interrelated. Consistent with its holding that the EPA must reconsider the DLHS, the panel directed the EPA to reconsider the dust-lead clearance levels as well in the same proceeding. View "A Community Voice v. United States Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit filed an order (1) amending its December 29, 2020, opinion issued on remand from the United States Supreme Court; and (2) denying on behalf of the court a sua sponte request for rehearing en banc. The panel reaffirmed the district court's order granting the CFPB's petition to enforce Seila Law LLC's compliance with the Bureau's civil investigative demand (CID) requiring the firm to produce documents and answer interrogatories. The amendments reflected that two of the panel's citations were to the plurality portion of the Supreme Court opinion.The panel held that the CID was validly ratified, but that there was no need to decide whether the ratification occurred through the actions of Acting Director Mulvaney. After the Supreme Court's ruling, the CFPB's current Director, Kathleen Kraninger, expressly ratified the agency's earlier decisions. Furthermore, at the time that she ratified these decisions, Director Kraninger knew that the President could remove her with or without cause. Therefore, the ratification remedied any constitutional injury that Seila Law may have suffered due to the manner in which the CFPB was originally structured. Seila Law advances two arguments challenging the validity of Director Kraninger's ratification, neither of which the panel found persuasive. For the reasons given in its earlier decision, the panel rejected Seila Law's arguments challenging the CFPB's statutory authority to issue the CID. View "Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Seila Law LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and his family filed suit against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), alleging causes of action for assault, negligence and gross negligence, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff's claims stemmed from his arrest at the border for drug-related charges that were subsequently dropped.The Ninth Circuit dismissed plaintiff's appeal of the district court's judgment based on lack of jurisdiction under the discretionary function exception of the FTCA. The court concluded that because plaintiff's detention was based on a valid finding of probable cause and no violation of the Constitution has been shown, the district court properly found that the agents' acts were discretionary under the first prong of the discretionary-function exception. Furthermore, the agents' discretionary judgments involved social, economic, or political considerations, and their actions did not violate plaintiff's constitutional rights. Therefore, the panel affirmed the district court's discretionary-function exception determination as it relates to claims arising out of the alleged assault, negligence and gross negligence, and false imprisonment of defendant and his family. Finally, the panel dismissed plaintiff's appeal of the district court's order following the bench trial on the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim because plaintiff did not have a valid constitutional challenge to the interrogation and plaintiff failed to include key trial testimony. View "Nieves Martinez v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, cattle ranchers, filed suit in federal district court, claiming that the Service's decision to apply the 1995 Riparian Mitigation Measures to the Dry Cottonwood Allotment, instead of the allowable use levels in the 2009 Forest Plan, violated the National Forest Management Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of partial summary judgment to plaintiffs and remanded with instructions to grant summary judgment to the Service. The panel concluded that the Service lawfully applied a particular set of standards for protecting stream habitats from the effects of cattle grazing, the 1995 Riparian Mitigation Measures, to plaintiffs' grazing permits. The panel also concluded that plaintiffs were not entitled to attorney's fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act for their administrative appeal. View "2-Bar Ranch Limited Partnership v. United States Forest Service" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for HHS in an action brought by plaintiff, challenging HHS's denial of his claim for reimbursement from the Medicare program for services that he provided covered patients. The Supreme Court recently reaffirmed that a reviewing court should defer to an agency's reasonable interpretation of ambiguous regulations in Kisor v. Wilkie, 139 S. Ct. 2400 (2019).The panel agreed with the district court that the governing regulation, 42 C.F.R. 424.520(d), is genuinely ambiguous and that the agency's interpretation is reasonable. In this case, section 424.520(d) does not specify whether a certification submitted to reactivate billing privileges constitutes a "Medicare enrollment application" that triggers a new effective date. The panel concluded that the Board's interpretation of section 424.520(d) merits Auer deference and controls this case. Therefore, plaintiff's reactivation request was "a Medicare enrollment application," and its filing date of August 31, 2015 is the effective date of his billing privileges. The panel also agreed with the district court that its review was appropriately confined to the administrative record the agency produced and that the agency was not required to supplement the record. View "Goffney v. Becerra" on Justia Law