Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
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On petition for rehearing en banc, the en banc court held that the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives has standing under Article III of the Constitution to seek judicial enforcement of its duly issued subpoena. This case arose when the Committee began an investigation into alleged misconduct by President Trump and his close advisors. The Committee requested that Donald F. McGahn, II turn over documents related to the President's alleged obstruction of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller's investigation. When McGahn, then no longer White House Counsel, declined these requests, the Committee issued a subpoena ordering McGahn to appear at a hearing to testify and to produce the requested documents.The en banc court held that the Committee, acting on behalf of the full House of Representatives, has shown that it suffers a concrete and particularized injury when denied the opportunity to obtain information necessary to the legislative, oversight, and impeachment functions of the House, and that its injury would be redressed by the order it seeks from the court. The court explained that the ordinary and effective functioning of the Legislative Branch critically depends on the legislative prerogative to obtain information, and constitutional structure and historical practice support judicial enforcement of congressional subpoenas when necessary. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court in part. View "Committee on the Judiciary of the United States House of Representatives v. McGahn" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the District of Columbia, seeking compensation for the Executive Director of the Lottery Board's violation of plaintiff's Fifth Amendment rights. In this case, the Executive Director took a series of adverse personnel actions designed to push plaintiff out of his job without due process.The DC Circuit held that the district court erred in granting summary judgment for the District and in denying summary judgment for plaintiff on the question of Monell liability. The court held, as a matter of law, that the Executive Director acted as a final policymaker on behalf of the District when he took the series of personnel actions that led to plaintiff's constructive termination without due process. Therefore, the court held that the District is liable for the Executive Director's wrongdoing. The court remanded for the district court to enter summary judgment against the District on the liability issue and to determine the appropriate amount of damages. View "Thompson v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the DOJ under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging discrimination on the basis of his race and his sex, as well as retaliation for protected activity. Plaintiff cited seven instances of being passed over for positions for which he believes he was qualified. The district court granted the DOJ's motion for summary judgment, denying plaintiff's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d) motion requesting to be allowed to take discovery.The DC Circuit held that the district court acted within its discretion in finding that plaintiff failed to make a showing as to each one of the disputed nonselections, with the notable exception of the handling of plaintiff's request for discovery on his first nonselection. The court stated that, in that respect, the district court's denial of plaintiff's Rule 56(d) motion was premised on error and was thus an abuse of discretion. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's entry of judgment as to that nonselection and reversed its denial of the relevant portion of plaintiff's Rule 56(d) motion. The court affirmed in part the district court's entry of judgment in DOJ's favor and its denial of plaintiff's Rule 56(d) motion. View "Jeffries v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims of employment discrimination against Cushman & Wakefield's Chief Executive Officer of the Americas for lack of personal jurisdiction based on the fiduciary shield doctrine.The court held that the fiduciary shield doctrine lacks any basis in either the Due Process Clause or the transacting-business prong of the District of Columbia's long-arm statute, D.C.CODE 13-423(a)(1). The court also held that the district court's dismissal erroneously denied plaintiff's request in the alternative for limited jurisdictional discovery. Accordingly, on remand, the district court may either (i) determine on the current record that defendant's suit-related contacts (made in his capacity as CEO of the Americas and otherwise) satisfy the minimum-contacts standard, or (ii) grant jurisdictional discovery to permit development of the record on defendant's contacts with the District of Columbia. View "Urquhart-Bradley v. Mobley" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a putative class action against Autovest and its debt-collection agency under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), alleging claims related to a prior collection action.The DC Circuit vacated the district court's order granting summary judgment to defendants, holding that plaintiff lacked Article III standing because she did not suffer a concrete injury-in-fact traceable to the alleged false representations or alleged statements for requested contingency fees. Rather, plaintiff testified unequivocally that she neither took nor failed to take any action because of these statements. Nor did plaintiff testify that she was otherwise confused, misled, or harmed in any relevant way during the collection action by the contested affidavits. In this case, although plaintiff stated that Autovest's collection action caused her stress and inconvenience, she never connected those general harms to the affidavits. Therefore, the court remanded with instructions to dismiss the complaint. View "Frank v. Autovest, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit contending that USPS's custom postage program violated the prohibition against viewpoint discrimination under the First Amendment. While the parties were completing discovery and nearing summary judgment, the Postal Service adopted the 2018 Rule, which deems custom postage designs acceptable only if they are commercial or social and exclude any content that is political. After plaintiff filed a Supplemental Complaint, the district court granted the Government's motion to dismiss the viewpoint discrimination claim as moot and plaintiff's challenge to the 2018 Rule for failure to state a claim.The DC Circuit held that it had jurisdiction on appeal, because plaintiff's Supplemental Complaint raises two challenges to the Postal Service's current policies covering custom postage and neither claim is moot. First, the Supplemental Complaint incorporates the allegation that plaintiff suffers ongoing viewpoint discrimination. Second, the Postal Service has not met its heavy burden of making it absolutely clear that the allegedly wrongful behavior could not reasonably be expected to recur. Accordingly, the court reversed the viewpoint discrimination claim and remanded for further proceedings on the merits.The court reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's facial challenge to the 2018 Rule, because the rule's blanket ban on political content fails the objective, workable standards test articulated by the Supreme Court in Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky, 138 S. Ct. 1876, 1891 (2018). Therefore, the contested rule is unconstitutional. View "Zukerman v. United States Postal Service" on Justia Law

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Following an incident at President Trump's 2019 Social Media Summit involving Appellee Brian Karem, a journalist with a hard pass, and Sebastian Gorka, a Summit attendee, the Press Secretary suspended Karem's pass for thirty days on the ground that his conduct violated "professional journalistic norms."The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction enjoining the enforcement of the suspension of Karem's hard pass credentials based on Fifth Amendment due process grounds. The court held that Karem is likely to succeed on his due process claim because, on this record, he lacked fair notice that the White House might punish his purportedly unprofessional conduct by suspending his hard pass for a month. The court also held that the remaining preliminary injunction factors counsel in favor of affirmance where Karem stands to suffer immediate irreparable harm absent an injunction, and the balance of the equities and the public interest factors also favor an injunction. The court limited the scope of the injunction to run only to the Press Secretary, rather than the Press Secretary and the President. View "Karem v. Trump" on Justia Law

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Appellant contends that he received ineffective assistance of counsel during the direct appeal of his murder conviction in D.C. Superior Court. Appellant alleged that his appellate counsel labored under two conflicts of interest and failed to argue that the government withheld exculpatory evidence. The court rejected appellant's claims that a conflict arose from counsel's prior representation of another individual present at the time of the murder where counsel had forgotten his prior representation of the individual and thus lacked an actual conflict. Consequently, appellant's second claim of conflict also failed.The court further held that counsel was not ineffective by declining to pursue a losing Brady claim. Moreover, appellant's final argument that counsel was ineffective on appeal in failing to argue that he had been ineffective at trial simply repackaged the losing Brady argument. Therefore, appellant was not denied effective assistance of appellate counsel. View "Johnson v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the validity of District of Columbia regulations that impose minimum education requirements for certain childcare providers. The district court held that the case was non-justiciable on grounds of standing, ripeness, and mootness.The DC Circuit held that the case is justiciable and remanded for the district court to consider the merits of the complaint. The court held that Plaintiff Sorcher's due process and equal protection claims are ripe for review, because she has demonstrated cognizable hardship where, in the absence of a decision in her favor, she will have to begin expending time and money in order to obtain the necessary credentials. The court also held that Plaintiff Sanchez's claims are not moot where there is no dispute that the regulations' education requirements continue to apply to her and her experience waiver is not permanent. Therefore, Sanchez retains a concrete interest in the outcome of the litigation and her case is also ripe. Likewise, Plaintiff Homan's claims are similar to Sorcher and Sanchez. View "Sanchez v. Office of the State Superintendent of Education" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the Attorney General of the United States in his official capacity as head of the Department of Justice (DOJ), alleging that the DOJ had denied her a promotion to a Division Director position because of her gender, in violation of 42 U.S.C. 2000e-16, and her age, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 633a. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the DOJ.The DC Circuit held that a reasonable jury could find that the DOJ's proffered nondiscriminatory reason for denying plaintiff the promotion that she sought was pretextual and that discrimination was the real reason. In this case, a reasonable jury could find in plaintiff's favor based on her superior qualifications, the accumulated evidence of gender discrimination, and pretext. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Stoe v. Barr" on Justia Law