Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order granting summary judgment for the FAA in an action seeking information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In this case, plaintiff made a FOIA request after the FAA notified him that he was ineligible for an Air Traffic Control Specialist position based on his performance on a screening test called the Biographical Assessment. The panel held that the FAA failed to show that it undertook an adequate search of the relevant documents; the records at issue were not intra-agency documents and thus not subject to Exemption 5; and the panel rejected the consultant corollary theory, which uses a functional interpretation of Exemption 5 that treats documents produced by an agency's third-party consultant as "intra-agency" memorandums. Finally, the panel rejected plaintiff's challenge to the district court and the FAA's interpretation of his FOIA request. The panel held that the FAA was not obligated under FOIA to retrieve and responsive documents, such as the underlying data to the summaries, held by APTMetrics. View "Rojas v. FAA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, small scale solar producers, filed suit alleging that CPUC's programs did not comply with the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), because CPUC incorrectly defined the amount that PURPA requires utilities to pay qualifying facilities (QFs). The district court dismissed plaintiffs' claims for equitable damages and attorney fees, entering summary judgment for CPUC on the PURPA challenges. The panel held that the district court erred in not interpreting FERC's regulations to require state utility commissions to consider whether a Renewables Portfolio Standard changed the calculation of avoided cost. Accordingly, the panel reversed as to this issue. The panel affirmed in all other respects, holding that utilities did not violate PURPA in not compensating QFs for Renewable Energy Credits and the Net Energy Metering Program did not violate PURPA's interconnection requirement. The panel also affirmed the dismissal of equitable damages and attorney fees claims. View "Californians for Renewable Energy v. California Public Utilities Commission" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of an action brought by conservationist groups to enjoin the federal government's participation in the killing of gray wolves in Idaho pending additional analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). The panel held that the conservationist groups had Article III standing because declarations from members described how USDA Wildlife Services's wolf-killing activities threatened their aesthetic and recreational interests. Therefore, the members established that the interests fell within the scope of NEPA's protections and they established an injury-in-fact. The panel noted that causation was established under the relaxed standard for procedural injuries. Finally, the panel held that the district court erred in finding that plaintiffs' injuries were not redressable and in relying on an unpublished opinion that lacked precedential value. View "Western Watersheds Project v. Grimm" on Justia Law

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The United States challenged California's enactment of three laws expressly designed to protect its residents from federal immigration enforcement: AB 450, which requires employers to alert employees before federal immigration inspections; AB 103, which imposes inspection requirements on facilities that house civil immigration detainees; and SB 54, which limits the cooperation between state and local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. The Ninth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it concluded that AB 450's employee-notice provisions neither burden the federal government nor conflict with federal activities, and that any obstruction caused by SB 54 is consistent with California's prerogatives under the Tenth Amendment and the anticommandeering rule. Therefore, the panel affirmed the district court's denial of a preliminary injunction as to these laws. The panel also affirmed the district court's denial of a preliminary injunction as to those provisions of AB 103 that duplicate inspection requirements otherwise mandated under California law. However, the panel held that one subsection of AB 103—codified at California Government Code section 12532(b)(1)(C)—discriminates against and impermissibly burdens the federal government, and so is unlawful under the doctrine of intergovernmental immunity. Therefore, the panel reversed the preliminary injunction order as to this part and remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. California" on Justia Law

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In 2015, the San Francisco Sheriff issued a Memo establishing protocols and parameters for communications between Sheriff's Department employees and ICE. In this case, plaintiffs filed suit after an undocumented alien shot and killed plaintiffs' daughter after he was released from custody by the Sheriff's Department. After the shooting, ICE stated: "If the local authorities had merely notified [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] that they were about to release this individual into the community, ICE could have taken custody of him and had him removed from the country—thus preventing this terrible tragedy." The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' general negligence claim against the City defendants. The panel held that, while it deeply sympathized with plaintiffs, the question of discretionary immunity raised in this case was controlled by California law. The panel agreed with the district court that the issuance of the Memo was a discretionary act that was entitled to immunity under section 820.2 of the California Government Code. Therefore, the panel held that California law barred plaintiffs' negligence claim. The panel also held that the district court did not err in determining immunity on a motion to dismiss; the district court appropriately considered the Memo under the incorporation by reference doctrine; although 8 U.S.C. 1373(a) and 1644 prohibit restrictions on providing certain types of information to ICE, they plainly and unambiguously did not prohibit the restriction at issue in this case regarding release-date information; and, assuming the Sheriff's actions adversely affected ICE's ability to do its job, this did not without more strip him of the discretionary authority under California law to institute the policy that he did. The panel rejected plaintiffs' claims that the Memo was a legislative act; failure to provide ICE with the alien's release date violated the California Public Records Act; and the Memo violated California Health and Safety Code section 11369. Finally, the panel rejected plaintiffs' claims under local laws and held that plaintiffs waived their request for leave to amend. View "Steinle v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Forest Service in an action challenging travel management plans implemented by the Forest Service to permit limited motorized big game retrieval in three Ranger Districts of the Kaibab National Forest. The panel held that the Forest Service did not violate the plain terms of the Travel Management Rule absent authority requiring a strictly geographic interpretation of the words "limited" and "sparingly." Determining that plaintiffs had standing to bring their claims under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the panel held that the Forest Service took the requisite hard look and its determinations were neither arbitrary nor capricious. In this case, the Forest Service did not violate NEPA by declining to prepare environmental impact statements based on the plans' environmental impacts. Finally, the panel held that the Forest Service satisfied its procedural obligations under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) by conducting the required prefield work, consulting the appropriate entities, and reaching a determination consistent with the evidence before it. View "WildEarth Guardians v. Provencio" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the government defendants, in an action brought by the Community challenging Interior's determination that it is ineligible for gaming for purposes of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). The panel held that the agency's determination was correct, because the IGRA clearly and unambiguously requires federal recognition by the Secretary of the Department of the Interior before a tribe may qualify to participate in Indian gaming. The panel also held that the Frank's Landing Act did not authorize the Community to engage in class II gaming. View "Frank's Landing Indian Community v. National Indian Gaming Commission" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, three Muslim residents of California, filed a putative class action against Government Defendants and Agent Defendants, alleging that the FBI paid a confidential informant to conduct a covert surveillance program that gathered information about Muslims based solely on their religious identity. Plaintiffs argued that the investigation involved unlawful searches and anti-Muslim discrimination, in violation of eleven constitutional and statutory causes of action. The Ninth Circuit held that some of the claims dismissed on state secrets grounds should not have been dismissed outright. Rather, the district court should have reviewed any state secrets evidence necessary for a determination of whether the alleged surveillance was unlawful following the secrecy protective procedure in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The panel held that the Fourth Amendment injunctive relief claim against the official-capacity defendants should not have been dismissed, because expungement relief was available under the Constitution to remedy the alleged constitutional violations. The panel declined to address whether plaintiffs' Bivens claim remained available after the Supreme Court's decision in Ziglar v. Abbasi, 137 S. Ct. 1843 (2017), and thus remanded for the district court to determine whether a Bivens remedy was appropriate for any Fourth Amendment claim against the Agent Defendants. The panel addressed defendants' remaining claims supporting the dismissal of plaintiffs' claims and held that some of plaintiffs' allegations stated a claim while others did not. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part and reversed in part, remanding for further proceedings. View "Fazaga v. FBI" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for DHS in an action challenging DHS's authority to expedite construction of border barriers near San Diego and Calexico, California. On January 25, 2017, President Trump issued Executive Order 13,767, directing federal agencies to deploy all lawful means to secure the Nation's southern border. A focal point of the directive was to immediately construct a physical wall. As a threshold matter, the panel held that it had jurisdiction to consider the "predicate legal question" of whether the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) authorizes the contested projects. On the merits, the panel held that IIRIRA section 102(a)'s broad grant of authority, which was not limited by section 102(b), authorized the construction projects. The panel affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to DHS, holding that the projects were statutorily authorized and therefore not ultra vires. The panel also held that DHS has waived the environmental laws California and environmental groups sought to enforce. Furthermore, the panel lacked jurisdiction to consider any argument challenging the Secretary of DHS's August and September 2017 waivers of applicable environmental laws. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. Department of Homeland Security" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for federal defendants in an Administrative Procedure Act (APA) action challenging the Functional Standard regarding the sharing of terrorism-related information. The panel held that the Functional Standard constituted final agency action because it has legal and practical effects. However, it was not a legislative rule because it requires significant analyst discretion, and thus the Functional Standard was exempt from the notice and comment requirement. Furthermore, the Functional Standard was not arbitrary and capricious because the Information Sharing Environment's (ISE) 2015 explanation distinguishing Part 23 information and suspicious activity reports (SARs) is consistent with the ISE's objectives. View "Gill v. DOJ" on Justia Law