Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
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Plaintiffs, two former Liberian officials, allege that Global Witness, an international human rights organization, published a report falsely implying that they had accepted bribes in connection with the sale of an oil license for an offshore plot owned by Liberia. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint for failing to plausibly allege malice. The court concluded that the First Amendment provides broad protections for speech about public figures, and the former officials have failed to allege that Global Witness exceeded the bounds of those protections. In this case, plaintiffs advanced several interlocking theories to support the allegation of malice, but the court agreed with the district court that these theories fail to support a plausible claim that Global Witness acted with actual malice. View "Tah v. Global Witness Publishing, Inc." on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the District in an action brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by plaintiff, alleging that OAG's denial of her multiple requests for a lateral transfer to a different unit within OAG constituted unlawful sex discrimination and unlawful retaliation for filing discriminatory charges with the EEOC. The court agreed with the district court that plaintiff failed to establish that she suffered an adverse employment action. In this case, no reasonable jury could conclude that plaintiff suffered materially adverse consequences associated with the denial of her lateral transfer requests for purposes of her discrimination or retaliation claim. View "Chambers v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law

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Appellant, a United States citizen working in Syria as a journalist, seeks a declaration that his alleged inclusion on the government's purported terrorist list is unconstitutional and an injunction barring the United States government from including him on the purported list without providing additional procedural protections. In this case, because five aerial bombings allegedly occurred in appellant's vicinity in Syria during the summer of 2016, he claims that he has mistakenly been placed on a purported list of individuals the United States has determined are terrorists who may be targeted and killed. The district court dismissed the complaint under the state secrets privilege.The DC Circuit held, however, that the complaint fails to allege plausibly that any of the five aerial bombings were attributable to the United States and specifically targeted appellant. Therefore, the court concluded that appellant's standing theory does not cross the line from conceivable to plausible. The court vacated the district court's dismissal and remanded with instructions to dismiss the complaint on the ground that appellant lacks Article III standing. View "Kareem v. Haspel" on Justia Law

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Pursuant to the Affordable Care Act, Congress required hospitals to make public "a list" of "standard charges" in accordance with guidelines developed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The Hospital and others challenged the Secretary's rule defining "standard charges" as including prices that hospitals charge insurers.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Secretary, holding that the rule does not violate the Affordable Care Act of 2010, the Administrative Procedure Act, or the First Amendment. The court concluded that, viewed in its entirety, 42 U.S.C. 2718(e) is best interpreted as requiring disclosure of more than list prices. The court explained that section 2718(e) permits the Secretary to require disclosure of negotiated rates, and requiring hospitals to display certain datapoints separately falls squarely within the Secretary's authority to develop guidelines for making the list public. Furthermore, contrary to the Association's argument, the best reading of section 2718(e), in its entirety, permits the Secretary to require hospitals to display the information in multiple ways.In regard to the APA claims, the court concluded that the Secretary adequately addressed the feasibility and administrative burdens, as well as the benefits, of complying with the rule. Furthermore, the court rejected the Association's claim that the agency changed its position. Finally, the court concluded that the Association's argument that the rule violates the First Amendment is squarely barred by the Supreme Court's decision in Zauderer v. Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the Supreme Court of Ohio, 471 U.S. 626 (1985), and the court's case law applying that decision. View "American Hospital Ass'n v. Azar" on Justia Law

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Appellant, a resident of the District of Columbia and a dual citizen of the United States and the Russian Federation, filed a defamation action in district court against appellee, a nonresident alien and citizen of the United Kingdom. Because appellee made his allegedly defamatory statements outside of the District of Columbia, appellant sought to establish personal jurisdiction over appellee under the District's long-arm jurisdiction statute, D.C. CODE 13-423(a)(4). The district court granted appellee's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.The DC Circuit vacated, concluding that it cannot determine whether appellee's non-government contacts with the District satisfy any of the three "plus factors" required under the long-arm statute. In this case, the district court relied on an overly broad construction of the government contacts exception in granting judgment for appellee and denying jurisdictional discovery. Accordingly, the court has no sound basis upon which to credit the district court's judgment. The court remanded for jurisdictional discovery. View "Akhmetshin v. Browder" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that DCPS failed to provide her son with a free appropriate public education (FAPE) based on his 2017 individualized education program (IEP). The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the claim as moot, holding that the case presents a fact-specific challenge to particular provisions in an inoperative IEP. Furthermore, the parties agreed to a subsequent IEP and plaintiff does not seek retrospective relief. The court also held that an exception to mootness does not apply where the voluntary cessation doctrine is inapplicable and plaintiff's claim fails to meet the capable of repetition prong because the challenge focuses on a fact-specific inquiry rather than a recurring legal question. View "J. T. v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit held that the members of the House of Representatives' Committee on Oversight and Reform who requested agency information under 5 U.S.C. 2954 have standing under Article III to enforce their statutorily conferred right to information. In this case, members requested information from the General Service Administration related to property owned by the government.The court explained that informational injuries have long satisfied the injury requirement of Article III where a rebuffed request for information to which the requester is statutorily entitled is a concrete, particularized, and individualized personal injury, within the meaning of Article III. The court distinguished that traditional form of injury from the non-cognizable, generalized injuries claimed by legislators that are tied broadly to the law-making process and that affect all legislators equally. Furthermore, nothing in Article III erects a categorical bar against legislators suing to enforce statutorily created informational rights against federal agencies, whether under the Freedom of Information Act or under Section 2954. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of the case and remanded for further proceedings. View "Maloney v. Murphy" on Justia Law

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E-cigarette manufacturers and retailers, as well as a nonprofit organization, challenged the FDA's Deeming Rule, which deemed e-cigarettes to be "tobacco products" subject to the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act's requirements, under the Appointments Clause and the First Amendment of the Constitution.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the FDA and held that appellants' Appointments Clause challenge lacks merit and their First Amendment challenge is foreclosed. In this case, even assuming for purposes of argument, that Associate Commissioner for Policy Kux's issuance of the Deeming Rule violated the Appointments Clause and that FDA Commissioner Califf's general ratification of prior actions by the FDA as part of an agency reorganization was invalid, FDA Commissioner Gottlieb's ratification cured any Appointments Clause defect. Furthermore, appellants' challenge to the Act's preclearance pathway for modified risk tobacco products as violative of the First Amendment is foreclosed by Nicopure Labs, LLC v. FDA, 944 F.3d 267, 271 (D.C. Cir. 2019). In Nicopure Labs, the court found unpersuasive the objection that appellants make now, namely that the Deeming Rule violates the First Amendment because it places the burden on manufacturers to show that certain of their marketing claims are truthful and not misleading before they make them. View "Moose Jooce v. Food & Drug Administration" on Justia Law

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In July 2019, the Department of Justice announced a revised protocol for execution by lethal injection using a single drug, pentobarbital. Plaintiffs, federal death row inmates, sought expedited review of three of the district court's rulings, and two plaintiffs with upcoming execution dates moved for stays of execution pending appeal.The DC Circuit held that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment for the government on plaintiffs' Federal Death Penalty Act (FDPA) claim. In this case, plaintiffs had pointed to several alleged discrepancies between the 2019 Protocol and state statutes dictating different methods of execution or aspects of the execution process. The court agreed with the district court's conclusion that there was no conflict, either because the government had committed to complying with the state statutes at issue or because no plaintiff had requested to be executed in accordance with them.However, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' Eighth Amendment challenge for failure to state a claim. The court held that, by pleading that the federal government's execution protocol involves a "virtual medical certainty" of severe and torturous pain that is unnecessary to the death process and could readily be avoided by administering a widely available analgesic first, plaintiffs' complaint properly and plausibly states an Eighth Amendment claim. The court denied Plaintiffs Hall and Bernard's request for a stay of execution based on the Eighth Amendment claim. The court also held that the district court should have ordered the 2019 Protocol to be set aside to the extent that it permits the use of unprescribed pentobarbital in a manner that violates the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act (FDCA). Finally, the court affirmed the district court's denial of a permanent injunction to remedy the FDCA violation. View "Roane v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Statewide filed three actions alleging that certain aspects of DHS's current administration of the immigration-bond system violate the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and Statewide's right to due process under the United States Constitution. The district court dismissed Statewide I for failure to state a claim and lack of jurisdiction, Statewide II on DHS's motion for judgment on the pleadings, and Statewide III for failure to state a claim.In Statewide I, plaintiffs sued DHS to prevent its collection on breached immigration bonds before the resolution of Statewide's pending untimely appeals; in Statewide II, plaintiffs sued DHS to prevent collection on breached immigration bonds because DHS provided allegedly defective Notices to Appear and Notices to Produce Alien before issuing bond breach determinations; and in Statewide III, plaintiffs sued DHS for rejecting appeals of bond breach determinations that Statewide alleges were timely filed.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the APA claims in Statewide I and III because the challenged DHS actions are consistent with the pertinent regulations. The court also affirmed the district court's dismissal of the due process claims in Statewide I, II, and III because the multiple means DHS provides to contest final bond breach determinations afford Statewide constitutionally sufficient process. View "Statewide Bonding, Inc. v. Department of Homeland Security" on Justia Law