Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
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Pakistan International Airlines (“PIA”) failed to transport the body of N.B. to Pakistan for burial due to a miscommunication by employees of Swissport USA, PIA’s cargo loading agent. N.B.’s family members sued PIA and Swissport in New York state court under state law; PIA removed the action to the district court. Following cross-motions for summary judgment and an evidentiary hearing, the district court held that Plaintiffs’ claims are preempted by the Montreal Convention and dismissed the suit. On appeal, Plaintiffs argued that the Montreal Convention, which preempts state-law claims arising from delayed cargo, does not apply because human remains are not “cargo” for purposes of the Montreal Convention and because their particular claims are not for “delay.”   The Second Circuit affirmed. The court explained that human remains are cargo for purposes of the Montreal Convention; and on the facts found by the district court, the claims arise from delay. The claims are therefore preempted by the Montreal Convention. The court further wrote that it was Plaintiffs who cut off PIA’s ability to perform under the terms of the waybill. That decision was understandable given the need to bury N.B. quickly, and it cannot be doubted that Plaintiffs found themselves in a hard situation. But their only recourse against PIA and Swissport was a claim under the Montreal Convention, a claim which they have consistently declined to assert. View "Badar v. Swissport USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought various claims against Rockland County ("Rockland County Defendants") officials including a violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, based on orders which excluded children who were not vaccinated against measles from attending school and an emergency declaration which barred unvaccinated children, other than those with medical exemptions, from places of public assembly. The district court granted summary judgment for Rockland County Defendants.The Second Circuit reversed, finding that Plainitffs' claim raises numerous disputes—including whether there is evidence of religious animus, to whom the emergency declaration applied, and what the County’s purpose was in enacting the declaration—that prevent Defendants from prevailing on summary judgment. View "M.A. v. Rockland County Department of Health" on Justia Law

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The Department of Labor brought a petition seeking review of a final order issued on December 31, 2020 by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The Commission found the phrase “stored in tiers” in the second sentence of 29 C.F.R. Section 1910.176(b) did not apply to pallets of merchandise located in a Walmart Distribution Center in Johnstown, New York.   The Secretary argued that the Commission erred in finding Section 11 1910.176(b) inapplicable to Walmart’s tiered storage system because it unambiguously includes material placed or arranged one above another in tiered storage racks, such as the system used at the Distribution Center. Alternatively, the Secretary also argued that if the Court found the regulation ambiguous, the Court should defer to the Secretary’s reasonable interpretation.   The Second Circuit vacated and remanded finding that the Secretary of Labor’s interpretation was reasonable. The court explained that the Commission’s cramped definition ignores other types of tiers, including seating arrangements at sporting events and music venues with layers of seats that are independently supported and placed one over the other with gaps between them. There is nothing inconsistent in the remaining language of the standard that militates against an interpretation that shelves can be tiers. Here, the pallets stored on the selective racking became unstable and merchandise on the pallets fell. Accordingly, the court concluded that the Secretary’s competing interpretation of the language of the standard is reasonable. View "Martin J. Walsh v. Walmart, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant Donald J. Trump and Movant-Appellant the United States of America appealed from a district court’s judgment denying their motion to substitute the United States in this action pursuant to the Westfall Act of 1988. On appeal, Appellants argued that substitution is warranted because the President of the United States is a covered government employee under the Westfall Act, and because Trump had acted within the scope of his employment when he made the allegedly defamatory statements denying Plaintiff-Appellee’s 2019 sexual assault allegations.   The Second Circuit reversed the district court’s holding that the President of the United States is not an employee of the government under the Westfall Act. And the court vacated the district court’s judgment that Trump did not act within the scope of his employment, and certified that question to the D.C. Court of Appeals.   The court certified the following question: Under the laws of the District, were the allegedly libelous public statements made, during his term in office, by the President of the United States, denying allegations of misconduct, with regards to events prior to that term of office, within the scope of his employment as President of the United States? View "E. Jean Carroll v. Donald J. Trump" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud and ordered to pay restitution. The district court granted the Government’s application for writs of garnishment seeking access to Defendant’s 401(k) retirement accounts. Defendant appealed. 
 The Second Circuit vacated and remanded. The court held that the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act (MVRA) authorizes garnishment of Defendant’s 401(k) retirement funds. The court remanded to the district court, however, to determine whether the ten-percent early withdrawal tax will be imposed upon garnishment, limiting the Government’s access to Defendant’s retirement funds. The court also held that the Consumer Credit Protection Act’s 25-percent cap on garnishments does not apply to limit the Government’s garnishment. View "United States v. Greebel" on Justia Law

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Appellees hold a Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 (FSIA) judgment against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Based on that judgment, Appellees moved for a writ of execution against the assets of Kuwait Finance House (KFH) Malaysia in district court. The district court granted the writ before making any findings as to whether KFH Malaysia is an “agency or instrumentality” of Iran or whether the assets at issue are “blocked.” The primary issue on appeal is whether the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002 (TRIA) permits those assets to be executed prior to such findings.   The Second Circuit denied Appellees’ motion to dismiss the appeal, denied KFH Malaysia’s petition for a writ of mandamus, vacated the order granting the writ of execution, and remanded to the district court for further proceedings. The court explained to be entitled to attachment or execution under the TRIA a plaintiff must first establish defendant’s status as an agency or instrumentality. Here, these procedures were not followed. Article 52 permits parties to commence turnover proceedings to enforce money judgments. Below, that turnover proceeding commenced, but the district court granted the relief sought in that proceeding—a writ of execution—before it considered the antecedent issue of whether KFH Malaysia is an agency or instrumentality of Iran or whether the assets at issue are “blocked.” Without such findings, there has been no showing that KFH Malaysia is in possession of property. Accordingly, Appellees failed to meet the statutory and, and consequently, they failed to establish that they were entitled to a writ of execution. View "Christine Levinson et al. v. Kuwait Finance House (Malaysia) Berhad" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Pfizer, Inc. brought an action in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. Section 706(2), challenging an advisory opinion issued by the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General ("HHS OIG"). Pfizer produces and sells a drug called tafamidis that treats a rare, progressive heart condition known as transthyretin amyloid cardiomyopathy. To make the expensive treatment more affordable, Pfizer proposed a Direct Copay Assistance Program, through which Pfizer would directly cover the cost of a patient's co-pay for tafamidis.    HHS OIG issued an advisory opinion stating that the Direct Copay Assistance Program would violate the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, 42 U.S.C. Section  1320a-7b(b)(2)(B). The district court granted summary judgment to defendants, rejecting Pfizer's argument that liability under the Anti-Kickback Statute requires an element of "corrupt" intent.   The Second Circuit affirmed the decision holding that the agency’s interpretation of the Anti-Kickback Statute is not contrary to law. Specifically, the court explained that it has no doubt that hat at least some kind of quid pro quo, direct or indirect, exists here. However, the court does not think it is the case that every quid pro quo is inherently corrupt. Thus, while Pfizer relies heavily on two cases to argue that the word "induce" implies corruption. Neither supports its position. View "Pfizer, Inc. v. HHS" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a police officer for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (“MTA”), sued the MTA under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (“FELA”), alleging that the MTA negligently failed to provide him with a safe workplace when it sent him on patrol in a vehicle without a prisoner compartment. A jury found the MTA liable and awarded Plaintiff damages. The MTA moved for judgment as a matter of law notwithstanding the verdict, arguing that it is immune from liability pursuant to the governmental function defense and that the evidence was insufficient to support the verdict because it lacked expert testimony. The district court denied that motion, holding that the governmental function defense does not apply in FELA cases.   The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment. The court held that the FELA does not abrogate the governmental function defense, and therefore the defense is available in FELA cases. Though the governmental function defense was available for the MTA to assert, the MTA failed to show that the defense barred liability in this case. Here, the defense did not apply on the merits in this case, however, because the MTA has failed to show that it performed a discretionary governmental function when committing the allegedly negligent acts. Additionally, the court held that expert testimony was not required in this case. Further, the court could not say that the evidence supporting the jury’s verdict for Plaintiff was legally insufficient. View "Ojeda v. MTA" on Justia Law

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Connecticut State Police Union (“CSPU”) brought suit against the Commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (the “Commissioner”), alleging that the FOIA-related portions of the state law violated the Contracts Clause and moved for a preliminary injunction. The law at issue is Public Act 20–1: An Act Concerning Police Accountability (“the Act”). Section 8 of the Act took aim at FOIA exemptions under Connecticut law.   The district court denied the motion primarily on the ground that the CSPU was unlikely to succeed on the merits of its claim since the law was reasonable and necessary to promote transparency and accountability for law enforcement. The Second Circuit affirmed concluding that the law served a legitimate public purpose and that the legislature, in passing it, acted not self-servingly but in the public interest.   The court explained that determine whether a law violates the Contracts Clause, it asks (1) whether the contractual impairment is substantial, (2) whether the law serves “a legitimate public purpose such as remedying a general social or economic problem,” and (3) whether the means chosen to accomplish that purpose are reasonable and necessary.  Here, the Act served two legitimate public purposes: ensuring the transparency and accountability of law enforcement and promoting “FOIA’s strong legislative policy in favor of the open conduct of government and free public access to government records.” Moreover, because the district court did not err in concluding that the CSPU could not succeed on the merits of its claim, the court did not need to address the remaining prongs of the preliminary injunction test. View "Conn. State Police Union v. Rovella" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff A&B Alternative Marketing Inc. (“A&B”) filed a Complaint against Defendants, International Quality Fruit Inc. (“IQF”), H&A International Fruit 14 Corp. (“H&A”), and others alleging violations of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (“PACA”) stemming from Defendants’ failure to pay A&B for produce purchased on credit.   The District Court entered an order denying Defendants’ 12(b)(1) motion and granting A&B’s motion for default judgment. Defendants challenged the District Court’s order only on the grounds that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to adjudicate A&B’s claims. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment. The court reasoned that neither of the two statutory requirements Defendants relies on is jurisdictional.   Defendants asserted that A&B failed to show that Defendants engaged in the business of selling in wholesale or jobbing quantities and that the invoice cost of their purchases of perishable agricultural commodities in any calendar year was in excess of $230,000.  But A&B alleges that both IQF and H&A “purchased perishable agricultural commodities exceeding $230,000.00 annually and/or purchas[ed] at least 2,000.00 lbs. of perishable agricultural commodities on any one day.”  Accordingly, A&B has sufficiently shown that Defendants meet the relevant statutory requirements.   Second Defendants claimed that A&B failed to provide evidence that the alleged transactions were carried out in “interstate or foreign commerce.” However, A&B submitted evidence that it purchased the produce in question from Pennsylvania growers or merchants for resale in New York. View "A&B Alternative Mktg. Inc. v. Int'l Quality Fruit Inc., et al." on Justia Law