Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
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Broidy, an activist businessman, urged the government to oppose Qatar’s alleged funding and harboring of terrorists and to support the efforts of Qatar’s neighbors to isolate it economically. Broidy alleges that Qatar engaged in “a multi-million dollar dark money effort to recruit lobbyists and influencers to polish Qatar’s public image.” Qatar allegedly paid the defendants, U.S.-citizen public relations contractors, millions in hopes of rehabilitating its image with “the Republican, American Jewish community and other conservative supporters of Israel.” They allegedly retained a cybersecurity firm “to coordinate an offensive cyber and information operation against” Broidy and his company.Broidy sued, alleging violations of RICO, Stored Communications Act, Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Defend Trade Secrets Act, and California law. Without acknowledging involvement in the alleged scheme, the defendants claimed immunity based on Broidy’s allegations regarding their relationship to Qatar, a foreign sovereign. The court dismissed certain claims as legally inadequate and rejected the immunity defense.The D.C. Circuit affirmed. The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act by its terms does not apply. Qatar has not said that the challenged conduct was at its behest nor has it urged the United States to recognize the defendants’ immunity. The State Department has never suggested that the defendants are immune as agents of Qatar. Without any such acknowledgment or suggestion, a private party claiming foreign sovereign immunity bears a heavy burden. The defendants here are U.S. citizens sued in their private capacities by U.S. plaintiffs for violations of U.S. and California law within the U.S. View "Broidy Capital Management LLC v. Muzin" on Justia Law

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Eight years ago, several hospitals challenged the Department of Health and Human Services’ methodology for calculating certain Medicare payments. The hospitals had sought expedited judicial review (EJR) from the Provider Reimbursement Review Board, which is available if a hospital’s claim involves a question that the Board “is without authority to decide,” 42 U.S.C. 1395oo(f)(1). While the Board granted most of the EJR requests, it dismissed the claims of certain hospitals (appellants) for failing to comply with agency filing procedures. The Board declined to grant EJR to those hospitals. In 2018, the D.C. Circuit ruled against the hospitals on the merits.The appellants filed suit, arguing that the Board’s dismissal of their claims was a “final decision” subject to judicial review, and urged the court not to remand their cases but to resolve the merits of their challenge to the rules for Medicare outlier payments. The district court held that the Board had lacked authority to resolve their challenges—the triggering condition for the Board’s granting of EJR—and that the court could proceed to consider the merits. The other hospitals (who had been granted EJR) joined with appellants in seeking vacatur of the challenged Medicare outlier rules. The district court rejected that suit on summary judgment.The D.C. Circuit affirmed. For the hospitals to establish that the now-final judgment against them was void because the district court lacked jurisdiction, they would need to show that there was not even an arguable basis for that court’s conclusion—at the urging of the hospitals themselves—that jurisdiction existed. The hospitals fail to make that showing. View "Lee Memorial Hospital v. Becerra" on Justia Law

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The Randolph-Sheppard Act (RSA) gives licensed blind individuals priority to operate vending facilities on federal property, 20 U.S.C. 107(b). The Secretary of Education promulgates implementing regulations and designates state agencies to administer the program. The RSA includes a grievance scheme for vendors to challenge a state’s operation of its Randolph-Sheppard program through the state licensing agency. A licensee dissatisfied with the results of the state’s hearing may seek further review before the Secretary, who must “convene a panel to arbitrate the dispute.” In the District of Columbia, the designated licensing agency is the Rehabilitation Services Administration.The plaintiffs, current and former vendors in the District’s Randolph-Sheppard program, claim that the District discriminated against them, based on their blindness, specifically by discriminatory inspections of vending facilities and failing to provide aids such as human or electronic readers. The plaintiffs did not pursue the Randolph-Sheppard grievance procedure but filed a lawsuit, claiming disability-based discrimination under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act. The district court dismissed the case for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The D.C. Circuit affirmed. The plaintiffs had to proceed through the RSA grievance procedure before pursuing their discrimination claims in court; no futility exception could apply here. View "Patten v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs in districts across the country filed class action complaints against four airlines, alleging violations of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1, 3, by colluding to decrease capacity and raise prices. These lawsuits were consolidated and transferred to the District of Columbia for multidistrict litigation proceedings. The plaintiffs reached settlement agreements with Southwest and American. The district court preliminarily approved both settlements. Settlement class members include anyone who purchased flights from the defendant airlines for a period after July 2011. Litigation against Delta and United continued. Under the proposed settlements, Southwest would pay $15 million and American would pay $45 million. The amount ultimately received by each settlement class member may increase at the close of litigation against Delta and United. To avoid piecemeal payments, the proposed settlements left open the question of how the funds should be allocated and distributed until the entire lawsuit concluded.Bednarz and Frank objected, arguing the settlement notice should have detailed how the funds would be distributed and opposing the possibility of a cy pres distribution of funds to undisclosed recipients. After a hearing, the district court approved the settlements, rejecting the objections. The court dismissed Southwest and American from the consolidated action but declined to make the dismissal a final judgment. The D.C. Circuit dismissed, for lack of jurisdiction, an appeal by Bednarz and Frank. The court’s order is not an appealable final judgment or interlocutory order. View "In re: Domestic Airline Travel Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

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The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, 25 U.S.C. 2719, allows a federally recognized Indian tribe to conduct gaming on lands taken into trust by the Secretary of the Interior as of October 17, 1988 and permits gaming on lands that are thereafter taken into trust for an Indian tribe that is restored to federal recognition where the tribe establishes a significant historical connection to the particular land. Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians regained its federal recognition in 1991 and requested an opinion on whether a Vallejo parcel would be eligible for tribal gaming. Yocha Dehe, a federally recognized tribe, objected. The Interior Department concluded that Scotts Valley failed to demonstrate the requisite “significant historical connection to the land.” Scotts Valley challenged the decision.Yocha Dehe moved to intervene to defend the decision alongside the government, explaining its interest in preventing Scotts Valley from developing a casino in the Bay Area, which would compete with Yocha Dehe’s gaming facility, and that the site Scotts Valley seeks to develop "holds cultural resources affiliated with [Yocha Dehe’s] Patwin ancestors.”The D.C. Circuit affirmed the denial of Yocha Dehe’s motion, citing lack of standing. Injuries from a potential future competitor are neither “imminent” nor “certainly impending.” There was an insufficient causal link between the alleged threatened injuries and the challenged agency action, given other steps required before Scotts Valley could operate a casino. Resolution of the case would not “as a practical matter impair or impede” the Tribe’s ability to protect its interests. View "Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation v. United States Department of the Interior" on Justia Law

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Defendants who enter into SEC consent decrees gain certain benefits: they may settle a complaint without admitting the SEC’s allegations, and often receive concessions. The SEC does not permit a defendant to consent to a judgment or order that imposes a sanction while denying the allegations, 17 C.F.R. 202.5(e)). Cato alleged that SEC defendants are, therefore, unable to report publicly that the SEC threatened them with unfounded charges or otherwise coerced them into entering into consent decrees, impermissibly stifling public discussion of the SEC’s prosecutorial tactics. Cato has not entered into any SEC consent decree but alleges that it has contracted to publish a manuscript written by someone who is subject to such a consent decree and has been contacted by other such individuals, who would otherwise participate in panel discussions hosted by Cato on the topic of the SEC’s prosecutorial overreach, and allow Cato to publish their testimonials.Cato’s complaint invoked the First Amendment and the Declaratory Judgment Act. The D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Cato’s complaint for lack of standing. Cato’s alleged injury is not redressable through this lawsuit; the no-deny provisions that bind the SEC defendants whose speech Cato wishes to publish would remain unable to allow Cato to publish their speech, given their consent decrees. View "Cato Institute v. Securities and Exchange Commission" on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs are residents of Gujarat, India, an Indian governmental entity, and a nonprofit focused on fish workers' rights. IFC is an international organization of 185 member countries. The plaintiffs allege that they have been injured by operations of India's coal-fired Tata Mundra Power Plant, owned and operated by CGPL. IFC loaned funds for the project and conditioned disbursement of those funds on CGPL’s compliance with certain environmental standards. The plaintiffs allege that IFC negligently failed to ensure that the Plant’s design and operation complied with these environmental standards but nonetheless disbursed funds to CGPL. These supervisory omissions and disbursement decisions allegedly took place at IFC’s Washington, D.C. headquarters.On remand from the Supreme Court, which held that organizations such as IFC possess more limited immunity equivalent to that enjoyed by foreign governments, the district court again ruled that IFC was immune from the claims. The D.C. Circuit affirmed. United States courts lack subject-matter jurisdiction. The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act provides that foreign states are immune from the jurisdiction of United States’ courts, 28 U.S.C. 1604; the commercial activity exception does not apply because the gravamen of the complaint is injurious activities that occurred in India. View "Jam v. International Finance Corp." on Justia Law

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In March 2020, the District of Columbia's mayor declared a public health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of Corrections responded by instituting policies intended to protect its employees and inmates from the coronavirus. On March 30, inmates at D.C. correctional facilities filed a class action, asserting claims under 28 U.S.C. 2241 and 42 U.S.C. 1983 for violations of the Fifth and Eighth Amendments. The district court appointed amici to investigate conditions at D.C. correctional facilities; based on their report the court granted the plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order on April 19, generally requiring Corrections to address identified problems. Although COVID cases in the facilities decreased, significant problems remained. In June 2020, the district court entered a preliminary injunction, ordering the defendants to ensure inmates receive medical attention within 24 hours after reporting medical problems, to contract for COVID-19 cleaning services, ensure quarantine isolation units are nonpunitive and provide access to confidential legal calls. Corrections took steps to comply. One month later, Corrections moved to vacate the preliminary injunction due to changed circumstances. Amici reported substantial improvement but imperfect compliance with the preliminary injunction.The district court denied the motion. The D.C. Circuit dismissed an appeal. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 18 U.S.C. 3626(a)(2), the preliminary injunction has expired; the cases are now moot. View "Banks v. Booth" on Justia Law

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In 2019, the Consumer Product Safety Commission revised its safety standard for infant bath seats, stating: “Each infant bath seat shall comply with all applicable provisions of ASTM F1967–19, Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Infant Bath Seats.” When Milice, a then-expectant mother, contacted Commission staff about inspecting the ASTM standard, they were told they would have to purchase the standard from its developer. Milice challenged the 2019 Rule on the grounds that it violated the Administrative Procedure Act and the First and Fifth Amendments because its content is not freely available to the public. The D.C. Circuit declined to address Milice’s arguments, finding her petition for review was untimely, having been filed more than 60 days after the 2019 Rule was published in the Federal Register, 15 U.S.C. 2060(g)(2). A revised voluntary safety standard issued by an outside organization that serves as the basis of a Commission standard “shall be considered to be a consumer product safety standard issued by the Commission” effective 180 days after the Commission is notified, “unless . . . the Commission notifies the organization that it has determined that the proposed revision does not improve the safety of the consumer product covered by the standard,” 15 U.S.C. 2056a(b)(4)(B). View "Milice v. Consumer Product Safety Commission" on Justia Law

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FCI Miami employees work in several departments. When the Custody Department was short-staffed, FCI either left Custody positions vacant or paid a Custody employee overtime. In 2016, FCI notified the union (AFGE) that it planned to start using Non-Custody employees to fill vacant Custody positions; it called the process “augmentation.” AFGE sought to negotiate the matter. FCI denied the request, stating that it had implemented augmentation consistent with the Master Agreement, which permits FCI to change the shift or assignment of Custody and Non-Custody employees: FCI viewed augmentation as “reassignment.”AFGE filed a formal grievance. An arbitrator concluded that FCI had breached a binding past practice of non-augmentation and violated the Master Agreement by implementing and failing to bargain over augmentation. FCI filed exceptions. The Federal Labor Relations Authority concluded that the arbitrator award failed to draw its essence from the parties’ agreement because the Master Agreement unambiguously “gives [FCI] broad discretion to assign and reassign employees”—encompassing the practice of augmentation— and set aside the award. The D.C. Circuit dismissed an appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute allows for judicial review of an Authority decision arising from review of arbitral awards only if “the order involves an unfair labor practice, 5 U.S.C. 7123(a)(1). The Authority decision does not “involve” an unfair labor practice. View "American Federation of Government Employees Local 3690 v. Federal Labor Relations Authority" on Justia Law