Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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Chance Gordon, a licensed California attorney, appealed the district court's order of summary judgment for the CFPB on its enforcement action for violations of the Consumer Financial Protection Act, 12 U.S.C. 5531, 5536, and Regulation O, 12 C.F.R. 1015.1-11. On January 4, 2012, President Obama, relying on his recess-appointment power, named Richard Cordray as the CFPB’s initial Director. President Obama renominated Cordray as Director on January 24, 2013. The parties agree that while Cordray’s initial January 2012 recess appointment was invalid, his July 2013 confirmation was valid. The court concluded that, while the failure to have a properly confirmed director may raise Article II Appointments Clause issues, it does not implicate the court's Article III jurisdiction to hear this case. That its director was improperly appointed does not alter the Executive Branch’s interest or power in having federal law enforced. The subsequent valid appointment, coupled with Cordray’s August 30, 2013 ratification, cures any initial Article II deficiencies. Because the CFPB had the authority to bring the action at the time Gordon was charged, Cordray’s August 2013 ratification, done after he was properly appointed as Director, resolves any Appointments Clause deficiencies. On the merits, the court concluded that CFPB is entitled to summary judgment on all counts because there is no dispute as to material fact regarding Gordon's liability. Because the district court conscientiously tailored the injunction at issue, it did not abuse its discretion in granting equitable judgment. However, because the district court may have impermissibly entered a monetary judgment against Gordon for a time period prior to the enactment or effective date of the relevant provisions of the CFPA and Regulation O, the court vacated and remanded for further consideration. View "Consumer Fin. Prot. Bureau v. Gordon" on Justia Law

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ALDF filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552 et seq., action seeking to compel the FDA to release redacted data pertaining to information related to ALDF's FOIA request regarding egg-production farms in Texas. The district court ordered the release of information regarding the number of birds per cage at each farm. But the district court held on summary judgment that, under FOIA Exemption 4, the FDA properly withheld the other categories of information. The court agreed and concluded that the release of the redacted information would likely cause "substantial competitive harm" to the affected producers and farmers. In this case, the district court did not clearly err in finding that disclosure of the information was likely to cause commercial undercutting. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying third-party discovery. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "ALDF V. FDA" on Justia Law

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The Navajo Nation filed suit seeking immediate return of human remains and associated funerary objects taken from its reservation. Between 1931 and 1990, the National Park Service removed 303 sets of human remains and associated funerary objects from Canyon de Chelly National Monument, a sacred site on the Navajo Reservation. In the mid-1990s, the Park Service decided to inventory the remains and objects pursuant to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), 25 U.S.C. 3001-3013, with the ultimate goal of repatriating the remains and objects to culturally-affiliated tribes. The district court dismissed the suit as barred by sovereign immunity. The court held that the district court had jurisdiction to consider the Navajo Nation’s claims because the Park Service’s decision to inventory the remains and objects was a final agency action within the meaning of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 704. By deciding to undertake NAGPRA’s inventory process, the Park Service conclusively decided that it, and not the Navajo Nation, has the present right to “possession and control” of the remains and objects. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Navajo Nation v. USDOI" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the parties contest the proper interpretation of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA), 5 U.S.C. 3345 et seq., as it relates to the appointment of the former Acting General Counsel of the NLRB. KTSS challenges the authority of Lafe E. Solomon, the former Acting General Counsel of the NLRB, to authorize a petition for injunctive relief against KTSS after the President nominated him to the permanent position. As a preliminary matter, the court rejected KTSS’s argument that because Solomon’s appointment did not comply with section 3(d) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), 29 U.S.C. 153(d), the appointment was necessarily invalid. The court concluded that, to be valid, a petition under section 10(j) of the NLRA, 29 U.S.C. 160(j), must be authorized by the Board through one of two avenues: the first is for a quorum of three Board members to directly authorize the specific 10(j) petition, and the second is for the General Counsel to authorize the petition pursuant to a previous delegation of the Board’s 10(j) authority to the General Counsel. The Board concedes that the first avenue was not satisfied in this case. The court held that the second avenue was not satisfied either because Solomon was not properly serving as Acting General Counsel under the FVRA at the time that the petition was filed. In light of this holding, the court need not reach KTSS’s alternative argument that the Board never validly delegated its 10(j) authority to Solomon. Finally, the Board explicitly waived any arguments based on the FVRA’s exemption clause and it does not otherwise contest the remedy sought by KTSS. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the petition. View "Hooks v. Kitsap Tenant Support Servs." on Justia Law

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Three masked intruders entered plaintiff's home, fatally shooting her husband and daughter, and shooting plaintiff in the arm. Plaintiff and her surviving daughter filed suit alleging that the United States is liable under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 1346(b)(1), 2680(a), for damages arising out of the attack because the FBI negligently failed to disclose the information about the impending home invasion to local law enforcement, in contravention of the Attorney General’s Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations. The district court granted the United States' motion to dismiss. The court concluded that the FBI’s decision whether or not to disclose information regarding potential threats is discretionary; the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying discovery; the FBI’s decision whether to disclose information is the type of decision that Congress intended to shield from FTCA liability; and the design-implementation distinction does not apply to permit suit against the government in this case. Therefore, the district court properly concluded that the government satisfied both prongs of the discretionary function exception. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Gonzalez v. United States" on Justia Law

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Relators filed suit under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729(b)(2)(A), against various lenders and loan servicers, alleging that defendants certified that loans purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were free and clear of certain home owner association liens and charges when they were not. At issue was whether Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are officers, employees, or agents of the federal government for purposes of the Act. The court concluded that the district court properly held that a claim presented to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac is not presented to an “officer, employee or agent” of the United States. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are private companies, albeit companies sponsored or chartered by the federal government. The court's prior decision in Rust v. Johnson, where it held that Fannie Mae was a federal instrumentality for state/city tax purposes, does not change the result, because Rust does not address Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac’s status under the False Claims Act. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States ex rel. Adams v. Aurora Loan Servs." on Justia Law

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The United States filed suit against E. Wayne Hage, who is now deceased, and his son, Wayne N. Hage, alleging that they grazed cattle on federal lands without a permit or other authorization. The court concluded that defendants' unauthorized grazing of cattle on federal lands was unlawful, and their water rights have no effect on the analysis. Further, defendants' counterclaim under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 701(a)(2), is barred by the statute of limitations. The court reversed the judgment for defendants on their counterclaims and remanded with instructions that the district court enter judgment for the government; vacated the judgment with respect to the government’s trespass claims and remanded for reconsideration under the correct legal standard; and, on remand, the district court shall determine, among other things, whether the source of law - state law or federal law - has any effect on the calculation of damages. On remand, the court ordered the cased assigned to a different district judge. View "United States v. Estate of E. Wayne Hage" on Justia Law

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After the district court found that USCIS engaged in a pattern or practice of violating the Freedom of Information Act’s (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(6)(A), (B), (C), time limits, USCIS challenged the district court’s grant of summary judgment, a permanent injunction, and an attorneys’ fees award in favor of plaintiffs. USCIS also challenged the district court’s jurisdiction to enforce a 1992 Settlement Agreement entered into by an INS attorney. Determining that the court has jurisdiction to review the summary order, the court dismissed USCIS's challenge to the permanent injunction for lack of jurisdiction given its prematurely filed notice of appeal; held that while the district court may assert supplemental jurisdiction over the Settlement Agreement claims, plaintiffs have failed to show an “unequivocally expressed” waiver of sovereign immunity; and clarified the standing requirements to assert a FOIA pattern or practice claim. Therefore, the court vacated the injunction and remanded with instructions to conduct further proceedings on an open record to determine whether the attorney has standing to bring a pattern or practice claim under this standard. The court also found plaintiffs' pattern or practice claim moot and reversed the summary judgment order, remanding for further proceedings. The court vacated and remanded the attorneys' fees award for further consideration. View "Hajro v. USCIS" on Justia Law

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ASSE, a third-party Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) sponsor, challenged the Department's sanctions decision. The district court dismissed the suit as unreviewable under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 701(a)(2), because the administration of the EVP is "committed to agency discretion by law." The district court also dismissed ASSE's constitutional claims based on the grounds that the process was fundamentally fair. The court concluded that the Department failed to rebut the strong presumption of judicial reviewability because its regulations provide a “meaningful standard” by which the court can review its exercise of discretion in sanctioning ASSE. Therefore, the court may review the State Department’s final agency action under the standards prescribed by 5 U.S.C. 706(2)(A). To the extent the petition challenges the agency’s factfinding, the court may review the State Department’s determinations for substantial evidence. Because ASSE did not have a meaningful opportunity to rebut significant portions of the evidence that the Department used against it, the Department did not afford it adequate procedural protections. Therefore, the court concluded that the district court erred in finding that ASSE failed to state a claim because the process afforded was fundamentally fair. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "ASSE Int'l, Inc. v. Kerry" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a medical doctor, filed suit arguing that he has the right to obtain, and the DOJ has an obligation to provide, the correction of statements the DOJ made about him in a 2009 press release. Plaintiff argued that the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 500 et seq., provides for judicial review of the DOJ's denial of his correction requests under the Information Quality Act (IQA), Pub. L. No. 106-554, 114 Stat. 2763. The court concluded that the DOJ’s exclusion of press releases from the ambit of the IQA guidelines was within the discretion accorded to the agency and that the DOJ’s exclusion of press releases applies to the press release of which plaintiff seeks correction. Applying the second step of the Chevron analysis, the court concluded that the DOJ’s determination that the 2009 press release fell within its exclusion of press releases is neither erroneous nor inconsistent with the scope of dissemination as defined in the agency-specific guidelines. Therefore, the DOJ’s determination is accorded Auer v. Robbins deference. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the suit. View "Harkonen v. USDOJ" on Justia Law