Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's preliminary injunction preventing implementation of California Senate Bill 84, which requires railroads to collect fees from customers shipping certain hazardous materials and then to remit those fees to California. The district court held that the railroads were likely to succeed on the merits of their claims. The panel agreed and held that SB 84 was preempted under the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act because it had a direct effect on rail transportation, and it was not protected from preemption by the Hazardous Materials Transportation Uniform Safety Act because the fees authorized by SB 84 were not "fair." The panel also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in evaluating irreparable harm, the balance of the equities, and the public interest. View "BNSF Railway Co. v. California Department of Tax and Fee Administration" on Justia Law

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FERC acted arbitrarily and capriciously in denying a complaint brought by the Turlock and Modesto Irrigation Districts alleging that PG&E breached agreements between the parties. The Ninth Circuit granted the petition for review of FERC's orders and held that FERC misinterpreted the definition of "Adverse Impact" to the service territories of the Districts, and thus improperly disposed of the Districts' complaints without determining whether changes to the Remedial Action Scheme may result in reductions in transmission over the California-Oregon Transmission Project. The panel also held that FERC applied the wrong standard for initiating a study when making its factual findings. The panel directed FERC on remand to apply the broader definition of Adverse Impact that included reductions in import capability over the California-Oregon Transmission Project and the proper standard for requesting a study in determining whether PG&E breached the Interconnection Agreements. View "Turlock Irrigation District v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying the school's motion for summary judgment in a qui tam action brought by relators under the False Claims Act (FCA). Relators alleged that the school violated an incentive compensation ban included in its program participation agreement with the Department of Education, through which it qualified for federal funding. The panel held that a reasonable trier of fact could conclude that the school's actions met the falsity requirements in Universal Health Servs., Inc. v. United States ex rel. Escobar, 136 S. Ct. 1989 (2016). The panel held that Escobar did not overrule United States ex rel. Hendow v. Univ. of Phoenix, 461 F.3d 1166 (9th Cir. 2006), which held that, with regard to materiality, the question is whether the false certification was relevant to the government's decision to confer a benefit. The panel applied Esobar's standard of materiality and held that a reasonable trier of fact could find materiality because the DOE's payment was conditioned on compliance with the incentive compensation ban, past enforcement activities, and the substantial size of the incentive payments. Finally, the safe harbor provision was inapplicable in this case. View "US ex rel. Rose v. Stephens Institute" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit amended the certification order in an appeal challenging Nevada state water law. The panel certified the following questions to the Supreme Court of Nevada: Does the public trust doctrine apply to rights already adjudicated and settled under the doctrine of prior appropriation and, if so, to what extent? If the public trust doctrine applies and allows for reallocation of rights settled under the doctrine of prior appropriation, does the abrogation of such adjudicated or vested rights constitute a "taking" under the Nevada Constitution requiring payment of just compensation? View "Mineral County v. Walker River Irrigation District" on Justia Law

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CBD filed suit challenging the FWS's decision not to list the arctic grayling as an endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Ninth Circuit reversed in part the district court's grant of summary judgment to FWS, holding that FWS acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner. The panel held that the 2014 Finding's decision that listing the arctic grayling was "not warranted" was arbitrary and capricious because it ignored the DeHaan study's evidence that shows decreasing numbers of breeders and instead heavily relied on a contrary finding showing increasing population; did not provide a reasoned explanation for relying on the existence of cold water refugia in the Big Hole River; failed to consider the synergistic effects of climate change solely because of "uncertainty"; and concluded that the Ruby River population was viable based on data collected over a shorter period than that underlying the 2010 Finding and FWS's own established criteria for viability. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. Zinke" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit granted a petition for review of the EPA's 2017 order maintaining a tolerance for the pesticide chlorpyrifos. In this case, the EPA did not defend the order on the merits but argued that despite petitioners having properly-filed administrative objections to the order more than a year ago and the statutory requirement that the EPA respond to such objections "as soon as practicable," the EPA's failure to respond to the objections deprived the panel of jurisdiction to adjudicate whether the EPA exceeded its statutory authority in refusing to ban use of chlorpyrifos on food products. The panel held that obtaining a response to objections before seeking review by this court was a claim-processing rule that did not restrict federal jurisdiction, and that could, and here should, be excused. Accordingly, the court vacated the order and remanded to the EPA with directions to revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos within 60 days. View "League of United Latin American Citizens v. New York" on Justia Law

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Under the principle of Separation of Powers and in consideration of the Spending Clause, which vests exclusive power to Congress to impose conditions on federal grants, the Executive Branch may not refuse to disperse federal grants to sanctuary cities and counties without congressional authorization. President Trump issued Executive Order 13,768, "Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States," with the purpose of directing executive departments and agencies to employ all lawful means to enforce immigration laws. The Executive Order's primary concern was sanctuary jurisdictions, which the President viewed as willfully violating Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the country. As a preliminary matter, the Ninth Circuit held that the Counties had standing and the case was ripe for review. On the merits, the panel affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Counties because Congress did not authorize withholding of funds in this case and thus the Executive Order violates the constitutional principle of the Separation of Powers. However, given the absence of specific findings underlying the nationwide application of the injunction, the panel vacated the injunction and remanded for reconsideration and further findings. View "City and County of San Francisco v. Trump" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action brought by plaintiff under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), challenging the U.S. Consulate's denial of his visa application filed on behalf of his wife, who is a native and citizen of Germany. Determining that the district court had subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1331 and that the doctrine of consular nonreviewability did not strip the district court of that jurisdiction, the panel held that the APA provides no avenue for review of a consular officer's adjudication of a visa on the merits. The panel explained that, rather, the only standard by which it could review the merits of a consular officer's denial of a visa was for constitutional error, where the visa application was denied without a facially legitimate and bona fide reason. In this case, the consular officer's citations to the Immigration and Nationality Act and identification of the wife's criminal history constituted facially legitimate and bona fide reasons for rejecting her visa application. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the district court's denial of the petition for writ of mandamus. View "Allen v. Milas" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied the government's petition for a writ of mandamus, asking the court to direct the district court to dismiss a case seeking various environmental remedies, or to stay all discovery and trial. The court denied the government's first mandamus petition, concluding that it had not met the high bar for relief at that stage of the litigation. The court held that no new circumstances justified the second petition where the government failed to satisfy the Bauman factors at this stage of the litigation, because the government's fear of burdensome or improper discovery did not warrant mandamus relief in the absence of a single specific discovery order; the government's arguments as to the violation of the Administrative Procedure Act and the separation of powers failed to establish that they would suffer prejudice not correctable in a future appeal; and the merits of the case could be resolved by the district court or in a future appeal. View "United States v. United States District Court for the District of Oregon" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the dismissal of an action against Medicare Advantage organizations under the False Claims Act (FCA). Relator alleged that Medicare Advantage organizations retained MedXM to fraudulently increase, or at least maintain, their capitation payments for enrollees whose risk scores were set to expire and revert to the unadjusted Medicare beneficiary average. The panel held that relator has pleaded a wheel conspiracy-like fraud in which MedXM was the hub and defendants were the spokes. Therefore, the panel held that relator's charges of factually false claims, express false certifications, and false records should not have been dismissed due to her use of group allegations. The panel rejected defendants' contentions that the complaint failed to allege a sufficient factual basis to link MedXM's misconduct to defendants' actual submissions of claims or certifications to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or that the complaint's allegations about the Medicare Advantage organizations' knowledge of the alleged fraud did not satisfy Rule 8. Finally, the panel affirmed the dismissal of a reverse false claim count, reversed dismissal on the pleadings of other counts, and remanded for further proceedings. View "United States ex rel. Silingo v. WellPoint, Inc." on Justia Law