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

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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In 2018, the EPA approved conditional registrations for three dicamba-based herbicides for an additional two years. Petitioners sought review of the 2018 decision, alleging that it violates both the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Ninth Circuit held that the EPA's 2018 decision, and the conditional new-use registrations of XtendiMax, Engenia, and FeXapan for use on DT soybean and cotton that are premised on that decision, violate FIFRA. The panel explained that it need not decide whether substantial evidence supports a finding that the applicants submitted satisfactory data, because the panel held that the EPA substantially understated risks that it acknowledged and failed entirely to acknowledge other risks. In this case, among other things, the EPA substantially understated the amount of DT seed acreage that had been planted in 2018, and, correspondingly, the amount of dicamba herbicide that had been sprayed on post-emergent crops; the EPA purported to be agnostic as to whether formal complaints of dicamba damage under-reported or overreported the actual damage, when record evidence clearly showed that dicamba damage was substantially under-reported; and the EPA refused to estimate the amount of dicamba damage, characterizing such damage as "potential" and "alleged," when record evidence showed that dicamba had caused substantial and undisputed damage. Therefore, the panel vacated the EPA's 2018 decision and the three registrations premised on that decision. View "National Family Farm Coalition v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from Volkswagen's installation of defeat devices in new cars for the purpose of evading compliance with federally mandated emission standards, and subsequent updating of the software in those cars so the defeat devices would do a better job of avoiding and preventing compliance. After Volkswagen settled EPA's criminal and civil actions for over $20 billion dollars, two counties sought to impose additional penalties for violation of their laws prohibiting tampering with emission control systems. The district court concluded that the claims were preempted by the Clean Air Act (CAA). The Ninth Circuit held that, although the CAA expressly preempts state and local government efforts to apply anti-tampering laws to pre-sale vehicles, the CAA does not prevent the two counties here from enforcing their regulations against Volkswagen for tampering with post-sale vehicles. Furthermore, the panel rejected Volkswagen's assertions that the counties' anti-tampering rules were preempted under ordinary preemption principles. In this case, the panel saw no indication that Congress intended to preempt state and local authority to enforce anti-tampering rules on a model-wide basis. Furthermore, the CAA's cooperative federalism scheme, its express preservation of state and local police powers post sale, and the complete absence of a congressional intent to vest in the EPA the exclusive authority to regulate every incident of post-sale tampering raised the strong inference that Congress did not intend to deprive the EPA of effective aid from local officers to combat tampering with emission control systems. View "The Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County v. Volkswagen Group of America, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the Secretary's issuance, under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), of Secretarial Procedures which authorize the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians to operate class III gaming activities on a parcel of land in Madera, California. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Secretary and intervenor. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part as to plaintiffs' Johnson Act claim, holding that Secretarial Procedures are an exception to the prohibitions of the Johnson Act and thus they comply with the Administrative Procedure Act. The panel vacated and remanded in part as to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) claim, holding that the IGRA does not categorically bar application of NEPA because the two statutes are not irreconcilable and do not displace each other, and because a contrary result would contravene congressional intent and common sense. Finally, the panel vacated and remanded in part as to the Clean Air Act (CCA) claim, holding that Secretarial Procedures are categorically exempt from the CAA's requirement of a conformity determination. View "Stand Up for California! v. U.S. Department of the Interior" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff cardrooms, filed suit challenging the Secretary's approval of a Nevada-style casino project on off-reservation land in the County of Madera, California by the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians, a federally recognized tribe. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Department and Secretary. The Ninth Circuit held that the Tribe's jurisdiction over the Madera Parcel operates as a matter of law and the Tribe clearly exercised governmental power when it entered into agreements with local governments and enacted ordinances concerning the property; because neither the Enclave Clause nor 40 U.S.C. 3112 are implicated here, neither the State's consent nor cession is required for the Tribe to acquire any jurisdiction over the Madera Parcel; and the Indian Reorganization Act does not offend the Tenth Amendment because Congress has plenary authority to regulate Indian affairs. Therefore, the Secretary's actions were not arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law. View "Club One Casino, Inc. v. Bernhardt" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Department of Defense in an action challenging the Department's construction and operation of an aircraft base in Okinawa, Japan. Plaintiffs also challenged the potential adverse effects on the endangered Okinawa dugong. The panel held that the Department complied with the procedural requirement that it "take into account" the effects of its proposed action on foreign property under Section 402 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). The panel also held that the Department's finding that its proposed action would have no adverse effect on the foreign property was not arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and/or contrary to law in violation of Section 706 of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). In this case, the Department met its procedural obligations and its finding of "no adverse impact" was not arbitrary and capricious. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. Esper" on Justia Law

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Empire challenged HHS's 2005 Rule interpreting a Medicare regulation under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), as part of its appeal of HHS's calculation of its 2008 reimbursement. The 2005 Rule removed the word "covered" from 42 C.F.R. 412.106(b)(2)(i), effectively amending HHS's interpretation of "entitled to [Medicare]" in 42 U.S.C. 1395ww(d)(5)(F)(vi), a subsection of the Medicare Act, 42 U.S.C. 1395 et seq. The district court granted partial summary judgment for Empire, ruling that, while the 2005 Rule was substantively valid, it should be vacated because the rulemaking process leading to its adoption failed to meet the APA’s procedural requirements. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment and vacatur of the 2005 Rule on different grounds. The panel held that the 2005 Rule's rulemaking process, while not perfect, satisfied the APA's notice-and-comment requirements. However, the panel held that the 2005 Rule is substantively invalid and must be vacated, because it directly conflicts with the panel's interpretation of 42 U.S.C. 1395ww(d)(5)(F)(vi) in Legacy Emanuel Hospital and Health Center v. Shalala, 97 F.3d 1261, 1265–66 (9th Cir. 1996). Legacy Emanuel interpreted the meaning of "entitled to [Medicare]" as unambiguous and thus the 2005 Rule's conflicting construction cannot stand. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Empire Health Foundation v. Azar" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit granted the Forest Service's request to publish the unpublished Memorandum Disposition with modifications. The panel reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Forest Service in an action alleging violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and National Forest Management Act (NFMA). The panel held that the Forest Service's determination that the Crystal Clear Restoration Project did not require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was arbitrary and capricious for two independent reasons. First, the effects of the Project are highly controversial and uncertain, thus mandating the creation of an EIS. Second, the Forest Service failed to identify and meaningfully analyze the cumulative impacts of the Project. Because an EIS is required, and because the findings in the EIS could prompt the Forest Service to change the scope of the Project or the methods it plans to use, the panel did not reach the remaining claims. The panel reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Bark v. United States Forest Service" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Forest Service and intervenors in an action challenging the Forest Service's issuance of grazing authorizations between 2006 and 2015 on seven allotments in the Malheur National Forest. ONDA argued that the Forest Service acted arbitrarily and capriciously in its application of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) by failing to analyze and show that the grazing authorizations were consistent with the Forest Plan. The panel held that ONDA's challenge is justiciable where the challenge was sufficiently ripe and the dispute was not moot. On the merits, the panel held that the Forest Service met its procedural and substantive obligations pursuant to the NFMA and the APA in issuing the grazing authorizations. In this case, because the Forest Service was not obligated by statute, regulation, or caselaw to memorialize each site-specific grazing authorization's consistency with the forest plan, the panel held that the absence of such a document is not in itself arbitrary and capricious. Furthermore, the Forest Service did not act arbitrarily or capriciously with respect to the NFMA's consistency requirement as applied to Standard GM-1 in issuing any of the challenged grazing authorizations. Finally, the Forest Service did not act arbitrarily or capriciously with respect to Standard 5 in issuing any of the challenged grazing authorizations. View "Oregon Natural Desert Assoc. v. United States Forest Service" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying plaintiff's motion to remand his case to state court, where he wants to pursue his claim that a JAG colleague, defendant, is engaged in the unauthorized practice of law because defendant is licensed only in states outside of California. The panel held that defendant was "acting under" a federal officer within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. 1442(a)(2). The panel rejected plaintiff's contention that this was not a "civil action or criminal prosecution" under section 1442(a)(1), and held that defendant was a "person" within the meaning of the statute; there was a causal connection between plaintiff's claims and defendant's actions taken pursuant to a federal officer's directions; and defendant raised a colorable federal defense under the Supremacy Clause. In this case, defendant was appointed by and reports to a federal officer and is permitted by federal regulation to practice law, in a specific and limited capacity, without becoming a member of the California Bar. Therefore, defendant has a colorable defense that this federal regulatory scheme preempts a claim by a private individual that would have the effect of invalidating those federal regulations in states, like California, that do not require all JAG Trial Defense Service attorneys to become members of the California Bar. View "Stirling v. Minasian" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs' challenges to HHS's 2019 Final Rule, implementing Title X of the Public Health Service Act, failed in light of Supreme Court approval of the 1988 regulations and the Ninth Circuit's broad deference to agencies' interpretations of the statutes they are charged with implementing. Section 1008 of Title X prohibits grant funds from being used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning. Specifically, plaintiffs challenged the "gag" rule on abortion counseling, where a counselor providing nondirective pregnancy counseling "may discuss abortion" so long as "the counselor neither refers for, nor encourages, abortion." The Final Rule also requires providers to physically and financially separate any abortion services from all other health care services. The panel held that the Final Rule is a reasonable interpretation of Section 1008; it does not conflict with the 1996 appropriations rider or other aspects of Title X; and its implementation of the limits on what Title X funds can support does not implicate the restrictions found in Section 1554 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The panel also held that the Final Rule is not arbitrary and capricious because HHS properly examined the relevant considerations and gave reasonable explanations; because plaintiffs will not prevail on the merits of their legal claims, they are not entitled to the extraordinary remedy of preliminary injunction; and thus the district courts' preliminary injunction orders are vacated and the cases are remanded for further proceedings. View "California v. Azar" on Justia Law