Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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Bangladesh citizen Atm Magfoor Rahman Sarkar, his wife, and their two children petitioned for review of the Board of Immigration Appeals’s (BIA) order denying their third motion to reopen removal proceedings. Although this case was pending for nearly five years, shortly before oral argument both Sarkar and the Government moved to administratively close this case because the Government deemed Sarkar a low enforcement priority. On the merits, it was undisputed that Sarkar’s third motion to reopen was untimely and numerically barred. Nevertheless, he argued he was entitled to relief because he presented new and material country-condition evidence that established his prima facie eligibility for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). The Ninth Circuit affirmed the BIA, finding Sarkar's attempts to connect generalized evidence of increased Islamic extremism with his contentions that he has become known “as a fierce opponent of religious extremism” and he has “no doubt” that he was known as an enemy “within the Bangladesh Jihadi/Extremist network” failed to establish a nexus between a reasonable fear of future persecution and his proposed protected grounds. "[I]t points to generalized crime and societal shifts that do not target him or those in his proposed social groups." View "Sarkar v. Garland" on Justia Law

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A nonprofit organization called California River Watch claimed that the City of Vacaville, California was violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”). River Watch claimed the City’s water wells were contaminated by a carcinogen called hexavalent chromium. That carcinogen, River Watch says, was in turn transported to the City’s residents through its water-distribution system. River Watch’s argument on appeal was that because the hexavalent chromium originated from the Wickes site, it was “discarded material” under RCRA, and thus the City was liable for its transportation through its water-distribution system. The parties cross-moved for summary judgment. The district court granted the City’s motion and denied River Watch’s motion because, as it explained, River Watch hadn’t demonstrated how the City’s water-processing activities could qualify as discarding “solid waste” under RCRA. Thus, the district court explained, RCRA’s “fundamental requirement that the contaminant be ‘discarded’” was not satisfied. River Watch appealed. The Ninth Circuit was satisfied that hexavalent chromium met RCRA's definition of "solid waste." However, the Court found RCRA’s context makes clear that mere conveyance of hazardous waste cannot constitute “transportation” under the endangerment provision. Under the facts presented, the Court found the City did not move hexavalent chromium in direct connection with its waste disposal process. Under River Watch’s theory of liability, hexavalent chromium seeped through groundwater into the City’s wells and the City incidentally carried the waste through its pipes when it pumps water to its residents. The Court concluded City did not have the necessary connection to the waste disposal process to be held liable for “transportation” under § 6972(a)(1)(B) of the Act. Because the City could not be held liable under RCRA, the district court’s grant of summary judgment for the City was affirmed. View "California River Watch v. City of Vacaville" on Justia Law

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Several public-sector employees filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 seeking to recover any agency fees taken from their paychecks by the Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers Association and Santa Clara County. Specifically, Plaintiffs sought a refund for fees paid before the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Janus v. Am. Fed’n of State, Cnty., & Mun. Emps., Council 31, 138 S. Ct. 2448 (2018) (prohibiting public-sector unions from collecting compulsory agency fees).In the district court, Defendants successfully moved for summary judgment, claiming they were entitled to a good-faith defense because their actions were expressly authorized by then-applicable United States Supreme Court law and state law. Plaintiffs appealed.On appeal, Plaintiffs acknowledge that Danielson v. Inslee, 945 F.3d 1096 (9th Cir. 2019) precludes their claim against the Union. The Ninth Circuit held that the rule announced in Danielson also applies to municipalities because "precedent recognizes that municipalities are generally liable in the same way as private corporations in sec. 1983 actions." Thus, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of Plaintiffs' claim against both the Union and the County. View "SEAN ALLEN V. SANTA CLARA CNTY CORR. POA" on Justia Law

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Respondent, was ordered suspended from practice before this court based on the State Bar of California’s suspension following his federal conviction. He was permitted to file a petition for reinstatement if he were reinstated to practice law in California. Respondent was reinstated to practice law in California, but the Ninth Circuit held that he failed to meet his burden to justify reinstatement before this court because he was still disbarred from practice before the New York State Bar. The court held that an attorney cannot justify reinstatement while he or she is currently suspended or disbarred in another jurisdiction, provided that the other jurisdiction had independent, nonreciprocal reasons for imposing discipline. Here, New York independently determined that Respondent’s federal felony conviction constituted grounds for automatic disbarment under its precedent. View "In re: STEPHEN YAGMAN" on Justia Law

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The FBI issued three national security letters ("NSLs") with indefinite nondisclosure requirements to the appellant communications service provider (“Provider”). Provider complied and took no action until 2018 when it requested that the government initiate judicial review pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 3511(b)(1)(A)–(B). The district court then reviewed in camera confidential declarations pertaining to the three NSLs and found continued nondisclosure statutorily authorized.   On appeal, the Ninth Circuit reviewed whether the nondisclosure requirements in the district court’s order are narrowly tailored to serve the government’s compelling interest in national security. The court affirmed the district court’s order requiring the recipient of three national security letters to comply with the nondisclosure requirements set forth in 18 U.S.C. Section 2709(c) “unless and until the Government informs it otherwise.” The court explained that here, the district court reviewed the three NSLs and related materials in camera and found that, given the important government interests at stake, nondisclosure remained authorized for an indefinite period and court scheduled review was unnecessary to ensure that nondisclosure continued no longer than justified. The communication service provider did not contest the government’s compelling interest or the necessity of continued nondisclosure. The court rejected the provider’s assertion that a district court is constitutionally required on its own accord to schedule future judicial review once it finds a nondisclosure order to be statutorily authorized for the foreseeable future. Finally, the court found no constitutional infirmity in the order of the district court. View "MERRICK GARLAND V. UNDER SEAL" on Justia Law

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Congress passed ARPA, American Rescue Plan Act, to help state, local, and tribal governments mitigate the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The statute contains a provision (the “Offset Provision”) – challenged in this appeal – prohibiting a State from using ARPA funds to subsidize a tax cut or otherwise a reduction in state net tax revenue. Specifically, Arizona contended that it was coerced into accepting the Offset Provision because of the size of the funds offered under ARPA and the financial situation brought on by the pandemic. Arizona sought a preliminary injunction enjoining the federal defendants from recouping funds or otherwise enforcing the Offset Provision, and declaratory relief that the Offset Provision violated the Constitution. The district court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and held that Arizona had standing to challenge ARPA both because there was a realistic danger of ARPA’s enforcement, and because there was a justiciable challenge to the sovereignty of the State, which alleges infringement on its authority to set tax policy and its interest in being free from coercion impacting its tax policy. The court reasoned that standing is measured at the time of the complaint, and when the complaint was filed, there was not a required compliance scheme. The court declined to consider the merits of Arizona’s constitutional claims. The court remanded for the district court to consider the merits of Arizona’s Spending Clause and Tenth Amendment claims. View "STATE OF ARIZONA V. JANET YELLEN" on Justia Law

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The Transgender Law Center (collectively “TLC”), acting on behalf of the family and estate of an asylum-seeker, submitted two FOIA requests. The first FOIA request was directed to the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), and the second was directed to the Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. TLC filed suit in district court seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The district court granted TLC’s request for declaratory judgment holding that the agencies had failed to timely respond to their FOIA requests, but ruled for the agencies in all other respects.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s partial summary judgment; vacated the district court’s mootness determination; and remanded. The court held that the government’s belated disclosure was not “adequate” under FOIA. The court reasoned that the Government failed to carry its burden because the agencies did not appropriately respond to positive indications of overlooked materials provided by TLC and did not hew to their duty to follow obvious leads.The court further held that the agencies’ Vaughn indices were filled with boilerplate or conclusory statements; and this high-level, summary approach resulted in an unacceptable lack of specificity and tailoring that undermined TLC’s ability to contest the agencies’ withholdings. The court also held that the Government failed to come forward with clear, precise, and easily reviewable explanations for why the information was not segregable. View "TRANSGENDER LAW CENTER V. ICE" on Justia Law

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Rosemont Copper Company sought to dig a large open-pit copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains just south of Tucson, Arizona. The United States Forest Service (“the Service”) approved Rosemont’s mining plan of operations (“MPO”) on two separate grounds. The district court held that neither ground supported the Service’s approval of Rosemont’s MPO.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment that the Service acted arbitrarily and capriciously in approving the entirety of Rosemont Copper Company’s MPO. The court agreed with the district court’s holding that Section 612 of the Multiple Use Act granted no rights beyond those granted by the Mining Law. The court also agreed with the district court’s holding that the Service had no basis for assuming that Rosemont’s mining claims were valid under the Mining Law. The court remanded to the Service for further proceedings as it deems important, informed by the Government’s concession that Section 612 grants no rights beyond those granted by the Mining Law, and by the court’s holding that Rosemont’s mining claims on the 2,447 acres were invalid under the Mining Law. The court further noted that it did not know whether the Service would have decided that Part 228A regulations were applicable to Rosemont’s proposal to occupy invalid claims with its waste rock, and, if applicable, whether the Service would have construed those regulations to allow such occupancy. View "CTR. FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY V. USFWS" on Justia Law

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A National Security Letter is an administrative subpoena issued by the FBI to a wire or electronic communication service provider requiring the provider to produce specified subscriber information that is relevant to an authorized national security investigation. 18 U.S.C. Section 2709(a). By statute, a National Security Letter may include a requirement that the recipient not disclose the fact that it has received such a request. Here, recipients of National Security Letters alleged that the nondisclosure requirement violated their First Amendment rights.   The Ninth Circuit amended its opinion affirming the district court’s orders denied a petition for rehearing; denied a petition for rehearing en banc, and ordered that no further petitions would be entertained. The court held that Section 2709(c)’s nondisclosure requirement imposes a content-based restriction subject to strict scrutiny.   The court held that Section 2709(c)’s nondisclosure requirement imposes a content-based restriction that was subject to, and withstood strict scrutiny. The court further held that assuming the nondisclosure requirement was the type of prior restraint for which the procedural safeguards set forth in Freedman v. Maryland, 380 U.S. 51 (1965) were required, the National Security Letters law provided those safeguards. The court concluded that the nondisclosure requirement did not run afoul of the First Amendment. View "UNDER SEAL V. JEFFERSON SESSIONS" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a non-profit group composed of small business owners who fish in the Bay Area, sued various government agencies seeking to prevent the enforcement of a commercial fishing prohibition that applies generally in national parks. Plaintiff claims that the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) does not confer with National Park Service with the ability to regulate offshore waters. The district court granted summary judgment to the government entities.The Ninth Circuit affirmed, finding that the text and structure of the GGNRA Act confirm that Congress has given the Park Service administrative jurisdiction over the waters in question. Nothing in the GGNRA Act supports the Plaintiff's position, that the Park Service must first establish a property interest in the waters from the State of California. View "SAN FRANCISCO HERRING ASSOC. V. USDOI" on Justia Law