Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of claims brought by DaVinci, alleging conversion and other common law torts against the United States and several U.S. Air Force employees. In 2014, the Air Force agents seized ten military GPS antennas from DaVinci, allegedly under the guise of the Espionage Act. DaVinci sought damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). DaVinci alleged abuse of process and conversion claims, arguing that the United States conspired to fraudulently and wrongfully coerce DaVinci to surrender the antennas without due process or just compensation. The panel held that the abuse of process claim was barred by section 2680(c) of the FTCA, because the antennas were not seized "solely" for the purpose of forfeiture. Likewise, the conversion claim failed because it was based on the allegedly illegal seizure of goods. The panel held that DaVinci could proceed in the Court of Federal Claims under the Tucker Act through a takings claim under the Fifth Amendment. In regard to DaVinci's claims against individual defendants, the panel held that DaVinci voluntarily dismissed the case against three individuals and never amended the complaint to include any others. Furthermore, DaVinci's claims against the individual defendants were not part of this appeal. Finally, the district court properly dismissed the Bivens claim against the United States, as the only remaining defendant, based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "DaVinci Aircraft, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Center filed suit seeking an injunction under the citizen suit provision of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) to require the Kaibab National Forest's administrator, the Forest Service, to address hunters' use of lead ammunition in the Kaibab. Scavenger birds ingest the lead ammunition left in animal carcasses and then suffer lead poisoning. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the complaint for lack of jurisdiction, holding that the case concerned a genuine adversary issue between the parties and that a ruling in plaintiffs' favor would require the Forest Service to mitigate in some manner the harm caused by spent lead ammunition. The panel rejected the Forest Service's contention that the district court had discretion to decline jurisdiction over the case and held that the district court did not purport to exercise discretion with regard to whether to hear this case, nor could it properly have done so. Rather, the district court's order dismissing the case was based on its determination that it lacked jurisdiction. Furthermore, because the district court improperly determined that there was no jurisdiction over this case, it failed to decide whether the operative complaint stated a claim under 42 U.S.C. 7002 and applicable pleading standards. Accordingly, the court remanded to the district court for further proceedings. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. United States Forest Service" on Justia Law

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Under 47 U.S.C. 555a(a), local authorities and municipalities, involved in the regulation of cable television services within their boundaries, are exempted from civil money damages liability in any lawsuit for any claim arising from the regulation of cable services. The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's grants of summary judgment for Comcast. In this case, Comcast sought money damages against a municipality, and thus the suit arose out of the regulation of cable services pursuant to section 555a(a), which barred the only relief Comcast sought. Accordingly, the panel remanded with instructions to dismiss Comcast's lawsuit. View "Comcast of Sacramento I, LLC v. Sacramento Metropolitan Cable Television Commission" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting the Board's petition to enforce the law firm's compliance with the Board's civil investigative demand (CID) to respond to interrogatories and requests for documents. The panel held that the Board's structure was constitutionally permissible in light of Humphrey's Executor v. United States, 295 U.S. 602 (1935), and Morrison v. Olson, 487 U.S. 654 (1988). These cases indicate that the for-cause removal restriction protecting the Board's Director did not impede the President's ability to perform his constitutional duty to ensure that the laws are faithfully executed. The panel rejected the law firm's contention that the CID violated the Board's practice-of-law exclusion and held that one of the exceptions to the practice-of-law exclusion applied: 12 U.S.C. 5517(e)(3). Section 5517(e)(3) empowered the Board to investigate whether the law firm was violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule. Finally, the panel held that the CID complied with section 5562(c)(2). View "Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Seila Law LLC" on Justia Law

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Ten children in the Arizona foster care system filed a class action against the directors of the Arizona Department of Child Safety and the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, alleging that Arizona's state-wide policies and practices deprived them of required medical services, among other things, and thus subjected them to a substantial risk of harm. After the district court certified a class of all children who are or will be in the Department of Child Safety's custody, along with two subclasses, the agencies appealed. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's certification of the General Class and held that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion in its rulings on standing, commonality, typicality, and uniform injunctive relief. The panel also affirmed the district court's certification of the Non-Kinship Subclass, but vacated the Medicaid Subclass. The panel held that the district court abused its discretion by certifying the Medicaid Subclass based on an apparent misconception of the legal framework for such a claim. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "B.K. v. Snyder" on Justia Law

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After ONDA challenged the BLM's Recreation Plan, which involved the route network for motorized vehicles in the Steens Mountain Area, the Interior Board of Land Appeals approved the related Travel Plan under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), the Federal Land Policy Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), and the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Act of 2000 (Steens Act). Harney County then intervened to defend the Board's approval of the Travel Plan and cross-claimed against the BLM, challenging the Recreation Plan. The district court upheld both the Recreation Plan and the Travel Plan. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the BLM satisfied its obligation to consult the Steens Mountain Advisory Council before issuing the Recreation Plan, so its action was not arbitrary and capricious in that respect; the BLM acted arbitrarily and capriciously by changing its definition of "roads and trails" without providing a reasoned explanation for the change; the Board acted arbitrarily and capriciously by affirming the BLM's issuance of the Travel Plan; and the BLM acted arbitrarily and capriciously in issuing the Recreation Plan. Finally, the court vacated the cost award to the BLM and remanded. View "Oregon Natural Desert Assoc.v. Rose" on Justia 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