Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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Facing a tight deadline from the Ninth Circuit, the Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of chlorpyrifos on food crops. Two environmental groups petitioned the EPA in 2007 to have all tolerances revoked. In denying the petition, the EPA concluded that their objections were “not supported by valid, complete, and reliable evidence.”   The Eighth Circuit granted the petitions, finding that the EPA’s decision was arbitrary and capricious. The court explained that in this case, the EPA believed it lacked discretion or at least acted that way. The Ninth Circuit’s opinion had already narrowed its options down to two: revoke the tolerances or modify them. With little time to act, the agency ruled out the second option, leaving only revocation by default. In doing so, however, it misread the statute and misunderstood the “scope of its discretion”. Therefore, the court set aside the decision as arbitrary and capricious. Further, the court explained that a partial ban was a real alternative for the EPA. It could have canceled some registrations and retained others that satisfied the statutory safety margin. View "RRVSG Assoc. v. Michael Regan" on Justia Law

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Debt collector Rent Recovery Solutions (“RRS”) called Plaintiff to collect an alleged $900 debt to her former landlord. In June, without sending the relevant documents to Plaintiff, RRS reported her debt to TransUnion, a credit reporting agency, failing to tell TransUnion that the debt was disputed. Plaintiff commenced this action against RRS, alleging that it violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). Plaintiff requested an award of $18,810 in attorneys’ fees for work by two attorneys and a paralegal. RRS challenged the fees requested by both attorneys, who submitted sworn declarations and detailed billing records. The district court, applying the lodestar method of calculating an attorney fee award, found that the attorneys’ claimed hourly rates were reasonable, but the hours expended on the case were excessive. The court reduced the claimed attorney hours by fifty percent, exclusive of paralegal work, and awarded Plaintiff $9,480 in attorneys’ fees. Plaintiff’s attorneys accused the district court of departing from the lodestar calculation by imposing a “cap” that violates FDCPA policies and deprives counsel of full compensation for bringing consumer enforcement actions under this complex federal statute.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the district court followed the lodestar method, reducing the award based on its determination of the number of attorney hours reasonably expended on litigation. There is a “strong presumption” that the lodestar method represents a reasonable fee. The court wrote that the district court did not abuse its substantial discretion in finding that fifty hours was unreasonable for such a claim. View "Adrianna Beckler v. Rent Recovery Solutions, LLC" on Justia Law

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Parents Defending Education, an association of parents, brought this action to challenge a policy adopted by the Linn Mar Community School District in Iowa. The disputed policy is entitled “Administrative Regulations Regarding Transgender and Students Nonconforming to Gender Role Stereotypes.” The policy sets forth regulations for the District that “address the needs of transgender students, gender-expansive students, nonbinary, gender nonconforming students, and students questioning their gender to ensure a safe, affirming, and healthy school environment where every student can learn effectively.” The parents who seek to participate in this case are anonymous; the pleadings identify them by a letter of the alphabet. The district court determined that Parents Defending failed to establish Article III standing because the organization did not show injury, causation, or redressability on its claims.   The Eighth Circuit dismissed the appeal in part as moot and reversed on one claim. The court concluded that at least Parent G has alleged an injury in fact sufficient to confer Article III standing. Parent G asserts that her son wants to “state his belief that biological sex is immutable.” Because of the policy, however, Parent G states that her son remains silent in school “when gender identity topics arise” to avoid violating the policy. This student’s proposed activity “concerns political speech” and is “arguably affected with a constitutional interest.” Thus, Parent G has standing to bring a claim challenging the policy based on the First Amendment. Therefore, Parents Defending has standing as an association to pursue the claim on behalf of a member. View "Parents Defending Education v. LinnMar Community School Dist., et al" on Justia Law

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Kenneth Kraemer and Kraemer Farms, LLC (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) commenced this qui tam action under the False Claims Act (“FCA”), against United Dairies, other dairy farms, and their partners and agents (“Defendants”) alleging that they knowingly filed false crop insurance claims. Plaintiffs’ FCA Complaint alleged that Defendants (1) fraudulently obtained crop insurance payments by falsely reporting a silage-use-only variety of corn as grain and using that false statement to obtain the payments, and (2) were unjustly enriched by receiving the payments. The district court held that Defendants submitted materially false claims but denied Plaintiffs FCA relief because they failed to prove that Defendants knowingly defrauded the United States. However, the court found that certain Defendants had been unjustly enriched and awarded damages to the United States. The United States then filed a post-trial motion urging the district court to vacate or amend its judgment because Plaintiffs do not have standing to seek common law unjust enrichment relief on behalf of the United States. The district court granted the motion and vacated its judgment for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ FCA claims must be affirmed even if Plaintiffs are correct that the district court erred in ruling that any violations were not knowing. The court wrote that because it concludes that Defendants in submitting Acreage Reporting Forms supporting their crop insurance applications did not submit materially false claims for crop insurance payments, Plaintiffs contention -the district court applied the wrong legal standard in denying FCA relief on other grounds is of no moment. View "United States ex rel. Kenneth Kraemer v. United Dairies, L.L.P." on Justia Law

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Great River Entertainment, LLC sought coverage from Zurich American Insurance for losses related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The district court granted Zurich’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Great River appealed and moved to remand because there was not complete diversity of citizenship.   The Eighth Circuit remanded to the district court to consider whether there is federal diversity jurisdiction. The court explained that it cannot proceed without subject matter jurisdiction. The court wrote that based on Great River’s new affidavit, it is unable to conclude that its members were diverse. While Great River’s carelessness has clearly wasted judicial resources, the court explained that it cannot address the merits before determining federal jurisdiction. This is a task better suited for the district court. The court wrote that on remand, the court may also take additional action it deems appropriate. View "Great River Entertainment, LLC v. Zurich American Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The City of Belle Plaine, Minnesota, designated Veterans Memorial Park as a limited public forum and granted permits to two groups to place monuments there. Before the Satanic Temple could place its monument, the City closed the Park as a limited public forum and terminated both permits. The Satanic Temple sued the City. The district court dismissed its claims, except for promissory estoppel. When the Satanic Temple moved to amend its complaint, a Magistrate Judg2denied its motion. The Satanic Temple filed a second suit, reasserting the dismissed claims and adding new ones. The district court held that res judicata bars the second suit and granted summary judgment to the City on the promissory estoppel claim from the first suit.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the Satanic Temple failed to plausibly allege that closing the Park as a limited public forum was unreasonable or viewpoint discriminatory. The court further explained that the Satanic Temple asserted that the City violated its free exercise rights. The court explained that although the Enacting and Recession Resolutions were facially neutral, facial neutrality is not a safe harbor if the City’s actions targeted the Satanic Temple’s religious conduct. However, the Satanic Temple failed to plausibly claim that its display was targeted. Moreover, the Satanic Temple has not plausibly alleged that it and the Veterans Club were similarly situated or that it was treated differently. The City gave a permit to both groups, had no control over the fact that the Veterans Club placed its statue first, and closed the Park as a limited public forum to everyone. View "The Satanic Temple v. City of Belle Plaine" on Justia Law

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Two organizations, one individual, one business (collectively “Private Plaintiffs”) and seventeen states (“the States”) sued the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) for overstepping its statutory authority and for violating federal law in promulgating the “Definition of ‘Frame or Receiver’ and Identification of Firearms” (“Final Rule”). Plaintiffs appealed the district court’s denial of a motion for a preliminary injunction.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Plaintiffs have not clearly shown how the Final Rule will prevent them from engaging in constitutionally protected conduct. Regarding the business plaintiff in this case, we are left unsure what behavior it wishes to engage in, as an LLC, that is protected by the Second Amendment. Plaintiffs also argued they will suffer economic harm without a preliminary injunction. Plaintiffs asserted generally that compliance costs and uncertainty surrounding the validity and scope of the Final Rule will be costly to businesses and lead to fewer sales of firearms. However, Plaintiffs do not explain the economic harm in definite enough terms to show the extent of any harm is “actual and not theoretical.” The district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding Plaintiffs have not met their burden. View "Morehouse Enterprises, LLC v. Bureau of ATF" on Justia Law

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Petitioner is a pilot and flight instructor. After she failed to produce her pilot logbooks and training records upon request by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the FAA suspended Petitioner’s pilot certificate. Petitioner appealed the suspension to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) but, days later, complied with the records request. The FAA then terminated her suspension, which lasted 14 days in total and reinstated her certificate. Nonetheless, an NTSB administrative law judge held a hearing on Petitioner’s appeal and concluded that the suspension was reasonable. Petitioner appealed the decision to the full NTSB, but it dismissed the matter as moot. Petitioner petitioned for a review of the NTSB’s final order under 49 U.S.C. Sections 44709(f) and 46110.   The Eighth Circuit concluded that Petitioner lacked Article III standing and dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction. The court explained that the first problem with Petitioner’s theory of future injury is that she has not shown with particularity how her brief suspension for noncompliance with a records request would harm her job prospects. Further, the court wrote that even assuming the 14-day suspension would be damaging to her job prospects, Petitioner’s claims are not y “real and immediate.” Moreover, the court explained that the record here lacks any facts showing that Petitioner’s suspension would harm her reputation in the estimation of the pilot community. Instead, Petitioner relied on vague, blanket statements of reputational harm. View "Amy McNaught v. Billy Nolen" on Justia Law

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After serving in the United States Navy, Plaintiff became eligible to receive education benefits under the G.I. Bill, which he used to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Plaintiff also sought tuition assistance from his employer, Omaha Public Power District (OPPD), under the company’s Employee Education Program, but OPPD denied Plaintiff’s request because his G.I. Bill benefits fully covered his tuition expenses. Plaintiff sued, claiming that OPPD’s denial of company-provided tuition assistance based on his receipt of G.I. Bill benefits amounted to unlawful discrimination under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). The district court granted summary judgment in OPPD’s favor, and Plaintiff appealed.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Plaintiff y has “failed to present sufficient evidence to make” the requisite “threshold showing” that his status as a military veteran was “a motivating factor” in OPPD’s decision to deny him EEP benefits. His discrimination claim under USERRA thus fails, and the district court properly granted summary judgment in OPPD’s favor. View "Andrew Kelly v. Omaha Public Power District" on Justia Law

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Show Me State Premium Homes wants its purchase of a foreclosed property to be free and clear of all other interests, including those belonging to the United States. Getting what it wants would require a “judicial sale.” After removing the case the United States filed a motion to dismiss. Its position was that there could be no foreclosure without a judicial sale. The district court agreed, declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over what remained, and remanded to state court.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court but modified the dismissal of the ejectment and damages claims to be without prejudice. The court explained that a buyer’s interest is only “inchoate” before it gets a valid deed, not after. And here, title vested once the bond company “exercised its right to have the legal title transferred.” No “judicial sale” ever took place, and it is too late to hold one now, meaning that the interests held by the United States have never been foreclosed. View "Show Me State Premium Homes, LLC v. George McDonnell" on Justia Law