Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), maintains an Attorney Discipline Program. Under the Program, Plaintiff filed a complaint against his former attorney. Plaintiff sought to compel the EOIR to complete its investigation of his complaint against his former attorney and to report its investigation results. Plaintiff relief on the Mandamus Act, 28 U.S.C. Section 1361, and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. Section 706(1).   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of an action seeking to compel the Executive Office for Immigration Review to complete its investigation of Plaintiff’s complaint. The court held that the district court erred in treating the requirements for obtaining relief under the APA as jurisdictional and dismissing the complaint on that basis. The court reasoned that because Mandamus relief and relief under the APA are in essence the same, Plaintiff had an adequate remedy under the APA. The court followed precedent and chose to analyze the APA claim only. Here, the EOIR had a clear, mandatory duty to investigate Plaintiff’s complaint within a reasonable time, but it had no duty to report its investigation results to Plaintiff. Thus, Plaintiff would only be entitled to relief if the EOIR unreasonably delayed in carrying out its duty to investigate. The court applied the six-factor balancing test announced in Telecommunications Research & Action Center v. FCC, 750 F.2d 70 (D.C. Cir. 1984), holding that the EOIR’s delay was not unreasonable under the APA. View "PRYMAS VAZ V. DAVID NEAL" on Justia Law

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After nine years of litigation and in their third set of appeals, the parties asked the Ninth Circuit to decide whether California’s sales ban is preempted by the Poultry Products Inspection Act (“PPIA”) or violates the dormant Commerce Clause. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ preemption and Dormant Commerce Clause claims and its summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs on a declaratory judgment claim in an action brought by various foie gras sellers challenging California’s ban on the in-state sale of products that are “the result of force-feeding a bird for the purpose of enlarging the bird’s liver beyond normal size.” Cal. Health & Safety Code Sec. 25982.   The court held that the sales ban was neither preempted nor unconstitutional and that certain out-of-state sales were permitted by California law. that the sales ban was neither preempted nor unconstitutional and that certain out-of-state sales were permitted by California law and the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Plaintiffs leave to amend to add a new express ingredient preemption claim alleging that the sales ban operates as an “ingredient requirement” by prohibiting foie gras as an ingredient in other poultry products.  Further, rejecting Plaintiffs’ Dormant Commerce Clause claim, the court held that California’s sales ban prohibits only instate sales of foie gras, so it was not impermissibly extraterritorial. View "ASSOCIATION DES ELEVEURS V. ROB BONTA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 alleging that Defendants, prison officials, were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs, when despite his numerous complaints over a period of years and a visibly deteriorating condition, they ignored his enlarged prostate. After the district court screened Plaintiff’s complaint, he was left with two claims of deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. The remaining officials claimed that they were entitled to qualified immunity and moved for summary judgment. The district court disagreed and the Ninth Circuit affirmed the order denying qualified immunity to prison officials. The Ninth Circuit determined that only examination of the second prong of the qualified immunity analysis was necessary—whether the right was clearly established at the time of the violation—because doing so would not hamper the development of precedent and both parties expressly acknowledged that this case turned on the second prong. The court reasoned it was clearly established at the time of Plaintiff’s treatment that prison officials violated the constitution when they choose a medically unacceptable course of treatment for the circumstances and a reasonable jury could find that the prison officials did just that. View "LEWIS STEWART V. ROMEO ARANAS" on Justia Law

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The California Department of Transportation (“Caltrans”) coordinates and works with other government services before clearing homeless encampments. When Caltrans planned to clear high-risk encampments along the freeway, Plaintiff campers sought an injunction. The district court required Caltrans to give Plaintiffs six months to relocate and find housing before clearing the encampments.   The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court’s order finding "there is no serious question" that the ADA requires such a lengthy delay. The court also held that the district court abused its discretion when evaluating the harm the injunction caused to Caltrans and the attendant public safety concerns, and thus erred in balancing the equities.   Caltrans argued that clearing the encampments involves no ADA obligation because its properties are not open to the public. The ADA requires “only ‘reasonable modifications' that would not fundamentally alter the nature of the service provided.” Here, the court found that a six-month delay is a fundamental alteration of Caltrans’s programs, which provide for expedient clearing of level 1 encampments and include, when possible, 72 hours’ notice and coordination with local partners.   The court also held that the district court erred by incorrectly mitigating the hardships caused by the injunction. When evaluating the balance of equities, the district court noted that Plaintiffs’ potential injury was “exacerbated by the public health concerns of disbanding homeless encampments during the COVID-19 pandemic.” View "WHERE DO WE GO BERKELEY V. CALTRANS" on Justia Law

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the “Service”) published the Kenai Rule, codifying its ban on baiting Kenai Refuge brown bears and its closing of the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area (“Skilak WRA”) to certain animals.The court held that the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (“ANILCA”) preserved the federal government’s plenary power over public lands in Alaska. The court rejected Plaintiffs’ arguments that the Service exceeded its statutory authority in enacting the Kenai Rule. The court held that while the Alaska Statehood Act transferred the administration of wildlife from Congress to the State, the transfer did not include lands withdrawn or set apart as refuges or reservations for the protection of wildlife, like the Kenai Refuge. Next, the court held that Plaintiff’s assertion that the Service could preempt the State’s hunting regulations on federal lands in Alaska was unsupported by the law.Further, the court rejected Safari Club’s contention that the Skilak WRA aspect of the Kenai Rule violated the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (“Improvement Act”). The court held that The Improvement Act did not require the Service to allow all State-sanctioned hunting throughout the Kenai Refuge. Moreover, the court rejected Plaintiffs’ arguments that the Service violated the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”) by acting arbitrarily and capriciously in issuing the Kenai Rule. Finally, the court rejected Plaintiffs’ two-part National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) argument. The panel concluded that there was no basis for reversal. View "SAFARI CLUB INTERNATIONAL V. DEBRA HAALAND" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s denial of qualified immunity to medical providers at Orange County Jail in 1983 claims alleging that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to the medical needs of Plaintiff, a detainee who died from a ruptured aortic dissection.The court stated to defeat qualified immunity, Plaintiff must show that a reasonable official would have understood that their actions presented an unconstitutional substantial risk of harm to Plaintiff. Defendant, the on-call physician at the time, could not have reasonably believed that he could provide constitutionally adequate care without even examining a patient with Plaintiff’s symptoms. Therefore, the district court was correct in denying summary judgment on qualified immunity to this Defendant.The court further held that the first nurse to see Plaintiff had access to facts from which an inference could be drawn that Plaintiff was at serious risk. The court held that the district court was correct in denying summary judgment on qualified immunity to Defendant.The court also held that the second nurse to see Plaintiff was entitled to summary judgment on qualified immunity. Reasoning that a jury could not reasonably conclude that this Defendant was deliberately indifferent. Finally, the court held that the third nurse to see Plaintiff was not entitled to qualified immunity because a reasonable person in Defendant’s position would have inferred that Plaintiff was at serious risk if not hospitalized. View "PATRICK RUSSELL V. JOCELYN LUMITAP" on Justia Law

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Appellee, Signal Peak Energy, sought to expand its mining operations, resulting in the expected emission of 190 million tons of greenhouse gases (“GHGs”). The Department of the Interior (“Interior”) published an environmental assessment (“EA”) which explained that the amount of GHGs emitted would amount to .44 percent of the total GHGs emitted each year globally. A group of environmental groups challenged the Interior's approval of the proposed expansion.The Ninth Circuit first noted that the parties’ dispute was not moot. The panel further held that Interior violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to provide a convincing statement for why the project’s impacts were insignificant. Moreover, the panel was unpersuaded that Interior was required to use the social cost of carbon metric to quantify the harm. Further, the panel found that it was less clear whether the agency had any other available metric to evaluate the project's impact. The panel remanded to the district court to decide whether an environmental impact statement was required. View "350 MONTANA V. DEBRA HAALAND" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action brought against tobacco companies, alleging that the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (TCA) preempts the County of Los Angeles's ban on the sale of all flavored tobacco products. The panel explained that the TCA's unique tripartite preemption structure governs its analysis of these issues. The TCA's text, framework, and historical context reveal that it carefully balances federal and local power by carving out the federal government's sole authority to establish the standards for tobacco products, while preserving state, local, and tribal authority to regulate or ban altogether sales of some or all tobacco products.The panel held that the TCA does not expressly preempt the County's sales ban. In this case, the preemption clause does not cover the County's sales ban, and in the alternative, the savings clause saves the County's sales ban from preemption. Furthermore, given that Congress explicitly preserved local authority to enact the very type of sales ban at issue here, the panel concluded that the TCA does not impliedly preempt the sales ban. View "R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. County of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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The SmileDirect parties developed an online service model for patients to access certain orthodontic services; they allege the defendants (members and employees of the California Dental Board) conspired to harass them with unfounded investigations and an intimidation campaign, to drive them out of the market. The district court dismissed the suit. The Ninth Circuit reversed with respect to certain Sherman Act antitrust claims. The SmileDirect parties sufficiently pled Article III standing; they alleged an injury in fact that was fairly traceable to defendants’ challenged conduct and was judicially redressable. They sufficiently alleged anticompetitive concerted action, or an agreement to restrain trade. The court rejected an argument that regulatory board members and employees cannot form an anticompetitive conspiracy when acting within their regulatory authority.The court affirmed the dismissal of a claim under the Dormant Commerce Clause, which prohibits states from discriminating against interstate commerce, and of a "disparate treatment" Equal Protection Clause claim. To plead a class-of-one equal protection claim, plaintiffs must allege that they have been intentionally treated differently from others similarly situated and that there is no rational basis for the difference in treatment. A class-of-one plaintiff must be similarly situated to the proposed comparator in all material respects. Rather than claiming that they stood on the same footing as others, the SmileDirect parties argued their uniqueness. View "Sulitzer v. Tippins" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was a Syrian national living in California as a legal permanent resident and is now a U.S. citizen. She is not and has never been a Kuwaiti national. In 2014, Plaintiff entered into a written employment contract with the Consulate to work as a secretary. Plaintiff alleges that the Consulate created a hostile work environment by harassing, discriminating, and retaliating against her on the basis of her gender, religion, and Syrian national origin, violated various wage and hour laws, and breached her employment contract. Claiming that she was constructively terminated from her employment, she filed suit.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of the Consulate’s motion to dismiss. The commercial activity exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(2), applied. The employment of diplomatic, civil service, or military personnel is governmental and the employment of other personnel is commercial unless the foreign state shows that the employee’s duties included “powers peculiar to sovereigns.” The district court properly exercised its discretion in finding that Plaintiff, who was employed as an administrative assistant, was not a civil servant and that her duties did not include “powers peculiar to sovereigns.” View "Mohammad v. General Consulate of the State of Kuwait in Los Angeles" on Justia Law