Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to uphold an arbitration award reinstating an employee to his job as a security officer at Entergy's nuclear power plant. The employee has chronic folliculitis, and Entergy thought this would keep him from shaving often enough to properly wear a full-face gas mask in the event of a chemical attack. The arbitrator ordered reinstatement because Entergy never fit-tested the employee with facial hair before concluding that it disqualified him from the position. The Eighth Circuit held that the arbitrator's order requiring that the employee be reinstated with backpay and subject to an acceptable respirator or a reasonable accommodation was not against public policy nor exceeded the arbitrator's authority. In this case, the arbitrator did not stray outside his authority to interpret and apply the contract, and the award was within the range of possibilities Entergy bargained for. View "Entergy Operations v. United Government Security Officers" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of relator's False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729 et seq., suit based on the public disclosure bar. Relator alleged that CSL Behring conspired with pharmacies to submit false claims to the United States for reimbursement for prescription drugs. The Eighth Circuit concluded that, viewed collectively, the public disclosures provided enough information about the participants in the scheme to directly identify the defendants and the subject drugs; the disclosures would have set the government squarely on the trail of the defendants' participation in the purported fraudulent reporting; and the essential elements of relator's claims -- the purported fraud -- were publicly disclosed prior to him filing suit. View "Lager v. CSL Behring" on Justia Law

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Petitioner sought review of the Board's decision and order affirming the ALJ in petitioner's Federal Rail Safety Act (FRSA), 49 U.S.C. 20109, retaliatory termination action. The court concluded that the ALJ correctly applied the background evidence rule enunciated by the Supreme Court in National Railroad Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, which held that an employee can use prior acts as background evidence for a timely claim even when those same acts are time-barred; the court rejected petitioner's argument that hearsay evidence at the hearing undermines the ALJ's ultimate conclusions where the evidence was not offered to prove the truth of the matters asserted, but instead, to show the effect of the assertions on the decision maker; and the ALJ's determination that petitioner's protected acts were not a contributing factor in his termination was supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the court denied the petition and affirmed the final decision and order. View "Mercier v. U.S. Department of Labor" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a group of drivers, filed suit against the City and Gatso, alleging that the Automatic Traffic Enforcement (ATE) system violates their right to procedural due process, their fundamental right to travel, Iowa Code 602.6101, and causes unjust enrichment for the City and Gatso. The City contracted with Gatso to install and operate the ATE system. The district court dismissed plaintiffs' claims. The court concluded that the district court did not err by determining that plaintiff Hughes lacks Article III standing where he does not allege that he has incurred any costs to mitigate or avoid the threat of ATE enforcement, or that the threat of an ATE citation is sufficiently imminent, and plaintiff Mazgaj lacks third party standing where he failed to show a hindrance to his wife’s ability to protect her own interests. The court concluded, however, that plaintiff Lee's claims are ripe where he was found guilty of violating the ordinance and no further factual development is necessary. Thus, Lee has the hardship of citation and the cost of litigation. The court further concluded that the district court never had jurisdiction of Hughes and Mazgaj’s claims and therefore their claims should be remanded to state court. Plaintiffs Robinson, Sparks, Northrup, Yarpezeshkan, French, and Stimpson have established standing to bring procedural-due-process claims. However, these plaintiffs failed to state a violation of their procedural due process rights. The court rejected plaintiffs' claims that the system violated their substantive rights, Equal Protection claim, and unjust enrichment claim. Because the City’s appeal of the IDOT’s ruling is still pending, this claim is not ripe. Therefore, the district court should dismiss without prejudice the drivers’ state-law claims based on the alleged violation of IDOT rules. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Hughes v. City of Cedar Rapids" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, six drivers, filed suit against the City alleging that the Automatic Traffic Enforcement (ATE) system violates federal and state law. The district court dismissed plaintiffs' claims. Plaintiffs argue that the district court should not have relied on Hughes v. City of Cedar Rapids because the facts here are materially different. The court concluded that Cedar Rapids and Des Moines offer direct access to the district court or an optional administrative proceeding with de novo appellate review. Based on this court’s holding, the other differences that the drivers allege are irrelevant. Therefore, plaintiffs' claims are addressed in the Hughes opinion. The court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Brooks v. City of Des Moines" on Justia Law

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In 2013, the IRS seized $32,820.56 from Carole Hinders’s business bank account based on allegations that Hinders had unlawfully “structured” deposits to avoid federal currency reporting requirements. The government then filed a civil forfeiture complaint against the seized currency, and Hinders filed claims to the seized property. The district court eventually dismissed the action without prejudice. The district court then denied Hinder's motion for fees under the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act (CAFRA), 28 U.S.C. 2465(b)(1), and declined to reconsider its prior dismissal without prejudice. The court concluded, however, that Hinders has not “substantially prevailed” in this action where the district court’s dismissal without prejudice did not materially alter the legal relationship of the parties. Therefore, Hinders is not eligible for an award of attorney fees, costs, or interest under CAFRA. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the case without prejudice rather than with prejudice. In this case, the district court considered each of the relevant factors in deciding to grant the government’s motion and Hinders had not shown that she would be prejudiced by a dismissal without prejudice. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Hinders" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs (the Associations) challenged the district court's ruling that they lack Article III standing to bring a "reverse" Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552, 706(2)(A), claim against the EPA. Plaintiffs challenge the EPA's disclosure of certain information about concentrated animal feeding operations, contending that this disclosure is an unlawful release of their members’ personal information. The court concluded that, assuming that plaintiffs' claim would be successful on the merits, the associations have established a concrete and particularized injury in fact traceable to the EPA’s action and redressable by judicial relief. Therefore, the court concluded that the district court erred in dismissing this case for lack of standing. The court also concluded that the EPA abused its discretion in deciding that the information at issue was not exempt from mandatory disclosure under Exemption 6 of FOIA. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for the district court to consider the associations’ request for injunctive relief. View "American Farm Bureau v. EPA" on Justia Law

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The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, Pub. L. No. 109-248, 120 Stat. 587, limits who may file a petition for a visa on behalf of an immediate family member who is a foreign national. In 2009, Joel Bremer, who had previously been convicted of sexual abuse of a minor, petitioned for a spousal visa on behalf of his wife, a native and citizen of the Philippines. The USCIS, exercising discretion delegated to it by the Secretary, determined that Mr. Bremer failed to show that he posed no risk to his wife and denied his petition. The Bremers filed a class action suit contending that the manner in which the USCIS makes the no-risk determinations violates the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 701(a)(1), and the Constitution. The district court granted in part the Bremers' motion for class certification, dismissed the case, and concluded that the Bremers sought judicial review of determinations that were committed to the “sole and unreviewable discretion” of the Secretary. The court remanded to the district court for further consideration of Count II where the Bremers allege that the Adam Walsh Act no longer applies to Mr. Bremer's petition; the court agreed with the Bremers that whether Mr. Bremer’s petition has already been filed, and if so, whether Clause (viii) is inapplicable, are predicate legal questions over which the district court has jurisdiction; the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq., bars judicial review of the Bremers' challenges to how the Secretary has exercised his discretion to make a no-risk determination under the Act; and the court rejected the Bremers' remaining claims. View "Bremer v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Petitioners, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and one of its members, seek review of regulatory guidance issued by the FMCSA, which exempts from federal accident-reporting regulations certain accidents involving commercial motor vehicles known as attenuator trucks. The court dismissed the petition for lack of an Article III case or controversy because petitioners have failed to identify a concrete and particularized injury that would give them standing to proceed. View "OOIDA v. US Dep't of Transp." on Justia Law

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Compart, a producer of breeding swine, filed a negligence suit against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 2671 et seq. Compart intended to export over three hundred pigs to China but China suspended all imports from Compart after it was notified by the United States government that the test results from a small set of the blood samples were "inconclusive" for Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome virus (PRRSv). The district court dismissed the suit for lack of jurisdiction. The court affirmed, concluding that the discretionary function exemption precludes jurisdiction over Compart's negligence claims because the testing and reporting of Compart's swine was governed by discretionary governmental procedures and susceptible to policy analysis. View "Compart's Boar Store, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law