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

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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Planned Parenthood filed suit against HHS, alleging that the agency's 2018 Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) for funding programs to combat teen pregnancy were contrary to the law as required in their appropriation, the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP), which is the relevant part of the 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the action, holding that Planned Parenthood had standing under the competitor standing doctrine and that the case is not moot because it satisfies the capable of repetition, yet evading review exception to mootness. The panel explained that Planned Parenthood could reasonably expect to be subject to the same injury again, and the injury was inherently shorter than the normal life of litigation. The panel exercised its discretion to reach two issues in the first instance. First, the panel held that the 2018 Tier 1 FOA was contrary to law, because the 2018 Tier 1 FOA's direction that grant applicants address and replicate each of the elements of the TAC or the SMARTool, contradicts the TPPP's direction that Tier 1 grants go only to applicants whose programs are proven effective. Second, the panel held that the 2018 Tier 2 FOA was not contrary to the TPPP on its face. The panel remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. View "Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho v. United States Department of Health & Human Services" on Justia Law

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The Association filed suit challenging the National Park Service's authority to prohibit commercial herring fishing in the waters of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco Bay. In a prior appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that the Association had failed to allege any final agency action under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and directed the district court to dismiss the case. On remand, the district court allowed the Association to replead, but held that its proposed amendments still failed to allege final agency action. The panel held that the Association's proposed second amended complaint sufficiently alleged final agency action; the Park Service's in-water enforcement orders were final agency action that could be challenged in court; and the Park Service's contrary position that would require fishermen either to violate the law and risk serious punishment or engage in unnecessary further pleas before the agency would leave regulated parties facing stiff penalties without the judicial recourse that the APA enables. The panel held, however, that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying leave to add a Declaratory Judgment Act count that the Association could have brought much earlier. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "San Francisco Herring Assoc. v. U.S. Department of the Interior" on Justia Law

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CBD filed suit seeking to compel the Department of the Interior to reinstate the Refuges Rule that prevented Alaska from applying certain state hunting regulations on federal wildlife refuges. In 2017, Congress used the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to order Interior to rescind the regulation. The Ninth Circuit held that CBD lacked standing to challenge the Reenactment Provision, because it failed to allege an injury in fact that was more than speculative. Therefore, the panel dismissed CBD's argument that the Reenactment Clause violated the nondelegation doctrine. After determining that the Jurisdiction-Stripping Provision of the CRA did not include any explicit language barring judicial review of constitutional claims, the panel held that the Joint Resolution disapproving the Refuges Rule did not violate the Take Care Clause of the Constitution, and thus CBD's complaint failed to state a claim that was plausible on its face. The panel rejected CBD's argument that the CRA and Joint Resolution violated separation-of-powers principles because they interfere with the Executive Branch's duty under the Take Care Clause. The panel held that, because Congress properly enacted the Joint Resolution, and therefore validly amended Interior's authority to administer national wildlife refuges in Alaska, Congress did not prevent the President from exercising his constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws. The panel joined other circuits in holding that federal courts do not have jurisdiction over statutory claims that arise under the CRA. In this case, CBD challenged Interior's rescission of the Refuges Rule solely on the ground that Congress did not validly enact the Joint Resolution. Therefore, the panel held that CBD's claim necessarily involved a challenge to a congressional "determination, finding, action or omission" under the CRA, and was therefore subject to the Jurisdiction-Stripping Provision. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. Bernhardt" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order denying the Board's petition to enforce five requests issued by the Board in subpoenas following an explosion and chemical release at an ExxonMobile refinery. The panel held that, although the district court did an admirable job, it erred in finding these five requests unenforceable. In this case, the five subpoena requests relating to the alkylation unit and the modified hydrofluoric acid stored there were relevant to the February 2015 explosion and accidental release of modified hydrofluoric acid. The panel held that a review of the specific disputed requests confirmed that each sought material that might cast light on the Board's investigation into the February 2015 release. View "United States v. Exxon Mobil Corp." on Justia Law

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Various states, municipalities, and organizations filed suit seeking a preliminary injunction against the implementation of DHS's Final Rule, which redefined the term "public charge" to require consideration of not only cash benefits, but also certain non-cash benefits. Under the Final Rule, an alien is a public charge if they receive one or more public benefits, including cash and non-cash benefits such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Section 8 housing assistance, Section 8 project-based rental assistance, Medicaid (with certain exceptions), and Section 9 public housing. The Ninth Circuit granted a stay of two preliminary injunctions granted by two different district courts, holding that DHS has shown a strong likelihood of success on the merits because the Final Rule was neither contrary to law nor arbitrary and capricious; DHS will suffer irreparable harm because the preliminary injunctions will force it to grant status to those not legally entitled to it; and the balance of the equities and public interest favor a stay. View "City and County of San Francisco v. USCIS" on Justia Law

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A plaintiff who obtains a preliminary injunction under the All Writs Act does not qualify as a prevailing party for fee-shifting purposes by virtue of that injunction, where the order granting injunctive relief makes no mention of the merits of the plaintiff's claims. In this case, plaintiffs filed suit against the State of Hawaii and other defendants, alleging that defendants became state actors by conducting elections and that the State's involvement in the self-governance process violated the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because of the race-based restrictions on eligibility. Although the district court denied the injunction and this court denied a motion for an injunction pending appeal, the Supreme Court subsequently granted plaintiffs' application for an injunction under the All Writs Act. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of attorney fees under 42 U.S.C. 1988, holding that there was no indication that the Supreme Court's injunction order addressed the merits. Furthermore, plaintiffs sought and received a voluntary dismissal without prejudice in the district court, which was the opposite of an adjudication on the merits. Therefore, plaintiffs were not prevailing parties entitled to attorney fees. View "Makekau v. Hawaii" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), challenging the denial of his U visa petition. The district court dismissed plaintiff's action after determining that section 701(a)(2) of the APA precluded judicial review. The Ninth Circuit held that section 701(a)(2) -- which precludes judicial review of actions "committed to agency discretion by law," where there is no judicially manageable standard by which a court can judge how the agency should exercise its discretion -- does not bar judicial review of plaintiff's APA claims. The court explained that 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(15)(U) and 8 U.S.C. 1184(p) provide meaningful standards by which to review USCIS's denial of plaintiff's U visa. Furthermore, after sua sponte consideration, the panel held that section 1252(a)(2)(B)(ii) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), which bars judicial review of certain immigration decisions or action, does not strip jurisdiction over plaintiff's action. View "Perez Perez v. Wolf" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Court of Appeals' judgment ruling that FMC must pay an annual use permit fee for storage of hazardous waste on fee lands within the Shoshone-Bannock Fort Hall Reservation pursuant to a consent decree settling a prior suit brought against FMC by the EPA under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The panel held that the judgment of the Tribal Court of Appeals was enforceable pursuant to the two exceptions under Montana v. United States, 450 U.S. 544 (1981). First, a tribe may regulate the activities of nonmembers who enter into consensual relationships with the tribe or its members. Second, a tribe retains inherent power to exercise civil authority over the conduct of non-Indians on fee lands within its reservation when that conduct threatens or has some direct effect on the political integrity, the economic security, or the health or welfare of the tribe. In this case, the panel held that the Tribes had regulatory jurisdiction to impose the permit fees because FMC entered into a consensual relationship when it signed a permit agreement with the Tribes. Furthermore, FMC's storage of millions of tons of hazardous waste on the Reservation fell within the second Montana exception. Finally, the panel held that the Tribal Court of Appeals did not deny FMC due process through a lack of impartiality. View "FMC Corp. v. Shoshone-Bannock Tribes" on Justia Law

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Petitioners sought review of the EPA's Risk Evaluation Rule establishing a process to evaluate the health and environmental risks of chemical substances. The Rule was promulgated by the EPA under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The Ninth Circuit held that it lacked jurisdiction to review petitioners' challenge to provisions of the Rule relating to the process by which EPA will conduct risk determinations. The panel explained that the challenge was not justiciable where petitioners' interpretation of what EPA intended to do and the resulting theory of injury were too speculative. In regard to petitioners' contention that the Rule contravenes TSCA's requirement that EPA consider all of a chemical's conditions of use when conducting a risk evaluation, the panel held that the challenged preambular language was not final agency action and not reviewable under the Administrative Procedure Act. The panel held that challenges to specific provisions of the Rule were justiciable, but they failed on the merits because the provisions that petitioners point to did not in fact assert discretion to exclude conditions of use from evaluation. Finally, the panel held that EPA's exclusion of legacy uses and associated disposals contradicted TSCA's plain language, but that EPA's exclusion of legacy disposals did not. Accordingly, the panel dismissed in part, granted in part, and denied in part. View "Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families v. EPA" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of an action alleging that the FAA wrongfully terminated plaintiff. Plaintiff filed her action in the district court within the 30-day statutory limitations period, but she mistakenly named only the FAA and her former supervisor as defendants. Because plaintiff's action alleged claims of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, she should have named the head of the executive agency to which the FAA belonged, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao. After the statute of limitations had expired, the FAA moved to dismiss and Secretary Chao then filed her own motion to dismiss. The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiff was entitled to relation back under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c)(2). The panel held that the district court adopted an overly technical interpretation of the term "process" as used in Rule 15(c)(2). Rather, the panel held that the notice-giving function of "process" under Rule 15(c)(2) was accomplished whether or not the summons accompanying the complaint was signed by the clerk of court. Furthermore, the requirements for relation back were met here where both the United States Attorney and the Attorney General were sufficiently notified of the action within Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m)'s 90-day period. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Silbaugh v. Chao" on Justia Law