Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

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President Trump engaged in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination by utilizing Twitter's blocking function to limit certain users' access to his social media account, which is otherwise open to the public at large, because he disagrees with their speech. The First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise‐open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees. In this case, the government concedes that individual plaintiffs were blocked from President Trump's Twitter account after they criticized the President or his policies, and that they were blocked as a result of their criticism. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs and entry of a declaratory judgment that the blocking of the individual plaintiffs from the account because of their expressed political views violates the First Amendment. View "Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University v. Trump" on Justia Law

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Under Exemption 5 of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), an agency "adopts" a previously privileged document where the agency's statements or behavior indicate that the agency treats the document as binding authority, and "incorporates" a previously privileged document "by reference" where a formal agency opinion or decision explicitly relies on that document and its reasoning. The ACLU filed suit under FOIA, seeking disclosure of certain documents concerning the legal authority for certain national security programs from the Government. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Government and held that (1) a document reflects an agency's "working law" when the agency regards that document as functionally binding authority, and "adoption" and "incorporation by reference" are means by which an otherwise privileged document becomes an agency's "working law;" (2) "express adoption" is a basis for disclosure of a previously privileged document where an agency's statements indicate that it now acts (or refrains from acting) pursuant to the document's functionally binding authority; (3) "incorporation by reference" is a basis for disclosure of a previously privileged document where an agency's formal opinion or ruling explicitly relies on that document and its reasoning in reaching a decision; (4) OLC 10 was properly withheld under FOIA Exemption 5; (5) the six intelligence program documents at issue were properly withheld under FOIA Exemptions 1 (classified information) and 3 (material shielded from disclosure by other statutes); and (6) because FOIA decisions must be evaluated as of the time of the agency decision, courts should not order reprocessing simply to reassure themselves that a FOIA decision remains current in light of subsequent disclosures. View "American Civil Liberties Union v. National Security Agency" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs challenged the district court's dismissal of their complaint for failure to exhaust administrative remedies and, in the alternative, failure to state a claim. Although plaintiffs challenged the inclusion of marijuana on Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act, they did not first pursue reclassification through the administrative process defined in the Act. The Second Circuit held that plaintiffs' action was premature, because plaintiffs should attempt to exhaust their administrative remedies before seeking relief from this court. However, the court noted that it was troubled by the DEA's history of dilatory proceedings and thus, rather than dismiss the case, the court held it in abeyance and retained jurisdiction in this panel to take whatever action might become appropriate if the DEA does not act with adequate dispatch. View "Washington v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a nonparty-movant's motion for a declaration that he was entitled to a share of the $25.6 million the United States received in a settlement against defendants under the False Claims Act (FCA). The action was brought after movant's voluntary dismissal of a qui tam action he had filed against two of the defendants. The court held that movant presented no viable basis for claiming coercion and that the district court correctly ruled that he was not entitled to share in the government's recovery in light of his prior voluntary dismissal of his qui tam action. View "United States v. L-3 Communications EOTech, Inc." on Justia Law

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The town appealed the district court's grant of a permanent injunction barring it from enforcing an ordinance regulating hazardous substances and certain zoning bylaws against Vermont Railway in connection with the railway's road salt transloading facility. The Second Circuit affirmed and held that the ordinance did not meet the "police powers" exception to preemption by the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA), because the ordinance imposed on rail activity restrictions that did not meaningfully protect public health and safety. Therefore, the ordinance was preempted by the ICCTA. The court held that, to the extent the town challenged the district court's ruling that the railway's activities did not constitute "transportation by rail carrier," the challenge was dismissed based on lack of jurisdiction. View "Vermont Railway, Inc. v. Town of Shelburne" on Justia Law

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NRP made preliminary arrangements with the City of Buffalo to build affordable housing on city‐owned land and to finance the project in part with public funds. The project never came to fruition, allegedly because NRP refused to hire a political ally of the mayor. NRP sued the city, the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency, the mayor, and other officials The district court resolved all of NRP’s claims in favor of defendants. The Second Circuit affirmed. NRP’s civil RICO claim against the city officials is barred by common‐law legislative immunity because the mayor’s refusal to take the final steps necessary to approve the project was discretionary legislative conduct, and NRP’s prima facie case would require a fact-finder to inquire into the motives behind that protected conduct. NRP’s “class of one” Equal Protection claim was properly dismissed because NRP failed to allege in sufficient detail the similarities between NRP’s proposed development and other projects that previously received the city’s approval. NRP’s claim for breach of contract was properly dismissed because the city’s “commitment letter” did not create a binding preliminary contract in conformity with the Buffalo City Charter’s requirements for municipal contracting. NRP fails to state a claim for promissory estoppel under New York law, which requires proof of “manifest injustice.” View "NRP Holdings LLC v. City of Buffalo" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a permanent injunction enjoining the government from continuing to apply the requirement that government funds assisting plaintiffs' efforts to fight HIV/AIDS abroad could not be used to provide assistance to any group or organization that does not have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking. In Agency for Int'l Dev. v. Alliance for Open Soc. Int'l, Inc., 570 U.S. 205 (2013), the Supreme Court concluded that the requirement compelled speech in violation of the First Amendment. Applying the Supreme Court's reasoning in AOSI to this case, the court held that the speech of a recipient who rejects the government's message was unconstitutionally restricted when it has an affiliate who is forced to speak the government's contrasting message. The court rejected the remaining claims and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion. View "Alliance for Open Society International v. United States Agency for International Development" on Justia Law

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A group of electrical generators and trade groups of electrical generators challenged the constitutionality of New York's Zero Emissions Credit (ZEC) program. The ZEC program subsidizes qualifying nuclear power plants with ZECs: state‐created and state‐issued credits certifying the zero‐emission attributes of electricity produced by a participating nuclear plant. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal and held that the ZEC program was not field preempted because plaintiffs failed to identify an impermissible "tether" under Hughes v. Talen Energy Marketing, LLC, 136 S. Ct. 1288, 1293 (2016), between the ZEC program and wholesale market participation; the ZEC program was not conflict preempted because plaintiffs have failed to identify any clear damage to federal goals; and plaintiffs lacked Article III standing to raise a dormant Commerce Clause claim. View "Coalition for Competitive Electricity v. Zibelman" on Justia Law

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The Army took photographs of detainees at military detention facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq after September 11, 2001. The ACLU sought records related to the treatment of detainees with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request submitted to the Department of Defense (DoD) and filed suit in 2004, after receiving no response. The district court ordered the government to produce or identify all responsive documents and ordered the release of the photographs with redactions, rejecting arguments that the photographs could be withheld under three FOIA exemptions. A third party released the photographs without authorization. During the pendency of an appeal, the government identified additional photographs potentially responsive to the FOIA request and attempted to withhold them under the same three exemptions. The district court again rejected these arguments. The Second Circuit reversed, in favor of DoD. The Protected National Security Documents Act of 2009 (PNSDA), 123 Stat. 2142, permits the government to withhold disclosure of any photograph “taken during the period beginning on September 11, 2001, through January 22, 2009.” Regardless of whether PNSDA is an exemption under FOIA, the Secretary of Defense’s certification, following an extensive, multi-step review process including recommendations of several senior U.S. military commanders, and the information provided by the DoD, satisfied PNSDA. View "American Civil Liberties Union v. United States Department of Defense" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit denied a petition for review of EPA's final rule promulgated under section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act, establishing requirements for cooling water intake structures at existing facilities, as well as a biological opinion jointly issued by the Services at the close of formal Endangered Species Act consultation on the rule. The court held that the final rule and the biological opinion were based on reasonable interpretations of the applicable statutes and sufficiently supported the factual record. The court also held that EPA gave adequate notice of its rulemaking. The court considered petitioners' remaining arguments and held that they were without merit. View "Cooling Water Intake Structure Coal. v. EPA" on Justia Law