Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
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The case involves Dr. Saad Aljabri, a former Saudi Arabian government official, who alleges that a group led by the current Saudi Prime Minister and Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, plotted to kill him after he relocated to Canada. The district court dismissed Aljabri's claims, finding that it lacked personal jurisdiction over most of the defendants, and that Aljabri had failed to state a claim against two others.The district court found that due to the burden on bin Salman to litigate in the United States and Saudi Arabia’s greater procedural and substantive interest, the court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction over bin Salman would not meet “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” The court also determined that the District of Columbia’s long-arm statute did not provide “specific” personal jurisdiction over other defendants because Aljabri failed to sufficiently align their alleged business activities in D.C. with the plot against his life. The court denied Aljabri's request for jurisdictional discovery, finding that any information revealed in the discovery would not change the court’s conclusion that exercising personal jurisdiction over the defendants would be unreasonable.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the dismissal of all claims against Saudi Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, albeit for a different reason: his immunity from suit. However, the court held that the district court did abuse its discretion in denying Aljabri’s motion for jurisdictional discovery outright. The court therefore reversed the district court’s order denying jurisdictional discovery, vacated the judgment of dismissal with respect to two defendants, and remanded for jurisdictional discovery. The court affirmed the dismissal of claims against two other defendants for the reasons given by the district court. View "Aljabri v. Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Evergreen Shipping Agency (America) Corp. and its affiliates, who were charged by the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) for imposing "unjust and unreasonable" detention charges on TCW, Inc., a trucking company. The charges were for the late return of a shipping container. The FMC argued that the charges were unreasonable as they were levied for days when the port was closed and could not have accepted a returned container. Evergreen contested this decision, arguing that the FMC's application of the interpretive rule was arbitrary and capricious, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.The FMC had previously ruled in favor of TCW, Inc. in a small claims program. The Commission then reviewed the decision, focusing on the application of the interpretive rule on demurrage and detention. The FMC upheld the initial decision, stating that no amount of detention can incentivize the return of a container when the terminal cannot accept the container. The Commission dismissed Evergreen's arguments that failing to impose detention charges during the port closure would have disincentivized the return of the container before the closure.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reviewed the case and found the FMC's decision to be arbitrary and capricious. The court noted that the FMC failed to consider relevant factors and did not provide a reasoned explanation for several aspects of its decision. The court also found that the FMC's application of the incentive principle was illogical. The court concluded that a detention charge does not necessarily lack any incentivizing effect because it is levied for a day on which a container cannot be returned to a marine terminal. The court granted the petition for review, vacated the Commission’s order, and remanded the matter to the agency for further proceedings. View "Evergreen Shipping Agency (America) Corp. v. Federal Maritime Commission" on Justia Law

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The case involves the Sandpiper Residents Association and other residents of Sandpiper Cove, a privately owned apartment complex in Texas, subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under its Section 8 project-based rental assistance program. The residents sued HUD, alleging that the agency failed to ensure that Sandpiper Cove was maintained in a habitable condition. They sought to compel HUD to issue Tenant Protection Vouchers, which would allow them to receive rental payment assistance for use at other properties.The District Court dismissed the residents' claims for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, reasoning that their claims had been mooted by the sale of Sandpiper Cove to a new owner who had not received a Notice of Default. The residents appealed this decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that the District Court erred in dismissing the residents' claims as moot. The court found that the question of whether the residents were legally entitled to relief after the sale of Sandpiper Cove went to the merits of their case, not mootness. However, the court affirmed the District Court’s dismissal of the residents' complaint because they failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The court held that the residents had not shown that the new owner of Sandpiper Cove had received a Notice of Default, a condition necessary for the issuance of Tenant Protection Vouchers under the relevant statute. View "Sandpiper Residents Association v. Housing and Urban Development" on Justia Law

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The case involves Dr. S. Stanley Young and Dr. Louis Anthony Cox, who were not appointed to the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They sued the EPA, alleging violations of the Federal Advisory Committee Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. The plaintiffs claimed that the EPA's selection process was biased, favoring candidates who supported stricter air quality standards, and that the EPA failed to adequately explain its compliance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act.The case was first heard in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, which awarded summary judgment to the EPA. The plaintiffs then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.The Court of Appeals found that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the suit. The court noted that the plaintiffs had not demonstrated an Article III injury with any of the theories presented. The court found no evidence that the EPA's process was biased against the plaintiffs. The court also noted that the plaintiffs had not raised an Equal Protection claim or any claim based on race or sex discrimination. Furthermore, the court found that the plaintiffs had not demonstrated a loss of benefits enjoyed by committee members, as they conceded that they had no individual right to serve on the committee. The court vacated the district court's order resolving the counts on the merits and remanded with instructions to dismiss both for lack of standing. View "Young v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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The case involves Leatrice Tanner-Brown, a descendant of people enslaved by the Cherokee Tribe and emancipated at the end of the Civil War. Her grandfather, George Curls, received land allotments as a minor. Tanner-Brown and the Harvest Institute Freedman Federation, LLC (HIFF) brought suit seeking various remedies related to the allotments, including an accounting from the Secretary of the Interior arising from the alleged creation of a trust relationship between the federal government and Indian beneficiaries.The district court dismissed the case for lack of standing, finding that Tanner-Brown failed to establish that she was injured by not receiving an accounting on the ground that there was no trust relationship between Curls and the federal government and that HIFF failed to satisfy the requirements for associational standing.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the district court's decision in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case for further proceedings. The court found that although HIFF cannot sustain standing, Tanner-Brown has alleged a concrete injury-in-fact sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. The court also found that the case raises factual questions that cannot be resolved at this juncture and remanded for the district court to consider the merits of Tanner-Brown’s allegations and the relevant record documents in the first instance. View "Tanner-Brown v. Haaland" on Justia Law

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The case involves Tanya Mills, who sued her former employer, Anadolu Agency NA, Inc., under the D.C. Wage Payment and Collection Law. Mills alleges that she worked as an Executive Producer in Anadolu’s D.C. news bureau until she was terminated in July 2019. She claims that Anadolu unlawfully delayed the payment of her final month’s wages and that it continues unlawfully to withhold the value of her accrued but unused leave. Anadolu moved to dismiss Mills’s suit for lack of personal jurisdiction, arguing that none of its contacts with the D.C. forum related to Mills’s wage-payment claims. The district court agreed and dismissed the case.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed the district court's decision. The court held that Mills only needed to allege facts sufficient to show Anadolu’s purposeful contacts with the District of Columbia and a nexus between those contacts and her claim under D.C.’s Wage Payment and Collection Law. The court found that Mills had adequately pled a joint-employment relationship with Anadolu sufficient to survive its motion to dismiss for failure to state a legal viable claim. The court also rejected Anadolu’s alternative ground for dismissal based on a forum-selection clause in an agreement Mills signed with Anadolu’s Turkish parent company. The court remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. View "Mills v. Anadolu Agency NA, Inc." on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Matthew Couch, a self-described investigative journalist and political commentator, who operates a news and opinion website and maintains active profiles on various social media platforms. Couch had been involved in spreading conspiracy theories about the unsolved murder of Seth Rich, a worker for the Democratic National Committee. In 2019, a podcast called Conspiracyland discussed the murder and the conspiracy theories surrounding it, including those propagated by Couch. Following this, Couch sued the journalist and his publishers for defamation and other related torts.The case was initially heard in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The district court granted judgment to all defendants, finding that Couch failed to plausibly allege actual malice or verifiable facts that were defamatory. It also denied Couch's request to file an amended complaint, concluding that the proposed amendments would not fix the deficient pleadings.The case was then brought to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The court affirmed the lower court's decision, stating that Couch failed to plausibly state any claims against the defendants. Eight of the supposedly defamatory statements lacked any evidence that could prove actual malice, and the other six lacked verifiable facts that could be proven or disproven to a jury. The court also noted that each of Couch's other claims relied on the success of the defamation claim, and thus, they failed as well. The court concluded that Couch's proposed amended complaint did not fix these problems, and therefore, affirmed the dismissal of the case with prejudice. View "Couch v. Verizon Communications Inc." on Justia Law

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The case revolves around the use of forecasts in the electric energy industry, specifically in proposing rates for electricity-generating entities. The New York Independent System Operator, Inc., a non-profit entity that operates New York’s electric grid and oversees the state’s wholesale electricity markets, proposed rates for the 2021–2025 period. It shortened the amortization period from twenty years to seventeen years, justifying the change by pointing to the recently enacted New York Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, 2019. The Act proclaims that by the year 2040, the statewide electrical demand system will be zero emissions.The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) initially rejected the System Operator’s submission, deeming the justification for a seventeen-year commercial lifespan “speculative”. Independent Power Producers of New York, Inc., a trade association of electricity generators, sought judicial review of FERC’s rejection. The court granted their petition, holding that FERC failed to sufficiently explain its reasons for rejecting the System Operator’s proposal. On remand, FERC again rejected the System Operator’s analysis as “speculative”. Independent Power Producers sought rehearing before FERC, which granted its request. This time, FERC approved the System Operator’s submission. The Public Service Commission sought (re-)rehearing before FERC, which was denied. The Public Service Commission now petitions for judicial review in this court.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied the Public Service Commission’s petitions for review. The court found that FERC’s ultimate decision to approve the shortened amortization period satisfied the directives of the court's prior judgment. The court also found that FERC’s decision to not address the cost impact of the change was in line with the court’s precedents. The court concluded that the Public Service Commission can file a separate complaint to argue that the existing rate design is producing rates that are not just and reasonable. View "New York State Public Service Commission v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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The case involves attorney Larry Klayman, who has been subject to multiple disciplinary investigations and proceedings by the District of Columbia Bar’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel. In response, Klayman filed a series of lawsuits against the District of Columbia Bar, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, and individual D.C. Bar officials, alleging torts and constitutional claims. In June 2020, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals ordered a ninety-day suspension of Klayman’s license to practice law. Employees of the Office of Disciplinary Counsel mailed notice of that suspension to other jurisdictions where Klayman is admitted to practice law. Klayman then brought three lawsuits against the Office of Disciplinary Counsel employees and the Chair of the D.C. Board on Professional Responsibility, alleging that the notification letters amounted to tortious interference and abuse of process. The district court dismissed Klayman’s suits in full and entered a pre-filing injunction restricting Klayman’s ability to file any related actions or claims for relief in any forum, state or federal.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated the pre-filing injunction. The court affirmed on immunity grounds the district court’s dismissal of Klayman’s claims for damages, but it affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s dismissal of Klayman’s claims for injunctive relief. The court held that the Office of Disciplinary Counsel employees were entitled to absolute immunity from Klayman’s damages claims. However, the court found that there was no relevant pending state proceeding to support Younger abstention at the time of the dismissal, and thus reversed the district court’s dismissal of Klayman’s claims for injunctive relief. The court remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings on those injunctive-relief claims. View "Klayman v. Porter" on Justia Law

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An investigative reporter, Jason Leopold, sought access to the written directives of the United States Capitol Police and audits and reports prepared by the Inspector General of the Capitol Police. He invoked the District Court’s mandamus jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1361, claiming a common law right to access public documents and a statutory right under 2 U.S.C. § 1909(c)(1). The District Court dismissed these claims, holding that sovereign immunity barred the suit.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the District Court’s dismissals for lack of jurisdiction, but for different reasons. The court found that Leopold failed to establish that the Capitol Police had a clear, indisputable, and ministerial duty to provide access to the records. The court also rejected Leopold's argument that the Inspector General of the Capitol Police breached his duty to publish all audits and reports that recommend corrective action under 5 U.S.C. § 404(e)(1)(C), as applied to the Inspector General of the Capitol Police under 2 U.S.C. § 1909(c)(1). The court concluded that even if this duty existed, the Inspector General was forbidden from publishing the audits and reports due to their designation as "security information" under 2 U.S.C. § 1979. The dismissal was affirmed without prejudice, allowing Leopold to refile his complaint with the requisite allegations to satisfy the mandamus standard if he so desires and if he plausibly believes that he can prove those allegations. View "Leopold v. Manger" on Justia Law