Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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Delek petitions for review of OSHA citations for violations of its process safety management rules, which govern an employer’s responsibility to inspect, and to develop inspection and recording regimes for, machinery that handles large volumes of hazardous chemicals. Item 4 alleges a failure to resolve open findings and recommendations identified during process hazard analyses that occurred in 1994, 1998, 1999, 2004, and 2005—prior to Delek purchasing and taking possession of the refinery. Item 8 alleges an inadequate monitoring and inspection regime for certain equipment involved in process safety management. Item 12 alleges that Delek failed to determine and document a response to the findings of a 2005 compliance audit in a timely manner. Item 12 was also conducted before Delek took possession of the refinery. The court concluded that citations for Items 4 and 12 are barred by the six-month statute of limitations in 29 U.S.C. 658(c). Accordingly, the court vacated those items. The court also concluded that the regulations relevant to the citation for Item 8 are ambiguous and the Secretary's interpretation is reasonable. The court affirmed the citation for Item 8. View "Delek Refining, Ltd. v. OSHC" on Justia Law

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West Texas LTC Partners, Inc., doing business as Cedar Manor Nursing & Rehabilitation Center ("Cedar Manor"), appealed a Departmental Appeals Board ("DAB") of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ("HHS") decision. In 2013, Cedar Manor was surveyed by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services ("DADS"). The surveyor found Cedar Manor out of compliance with three regulations after observing the care provided to two wheelchair-bound residents, Resident #1 and Resident #4. Early the next year, DADS found additional violations of several regulations. The surveys were conducted by a designated state agency on behalf of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services ("CMS") of HHS. The findings were reviewed by CMS, and civil money penalties ("CMPs") or other remedies may be imposed by the Secretary of HHS if the facility was found noncompliant. For the two sets of violations, CMS recommended two CMPs: $6,050 per day for three days, and $350 per day for forty-two days, to run consecutively from the end of an "immediate hazard" penalty. Cedar Manor appealed the findings and CMPs and requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). CMS moved for summary judgment on all of the violations after the briefing and evidence were submitted. The ALJ granted summary judgment and upheld the CMPs. On de novo review, the DAB affirmed. The Fifth Circuit found that the DAB decision was neither arbitrary and capricious nor unsupported by substantial evidence, it denied Cedar Manor's petition for review. View "West Texas LTC Partners, Inc. v. Dept. of Health & Hum. Svcs." on Justia Law

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A group of Houston-area pastors and a council representing the interests of Houston-area pastors challenged the dismissal of their claims against Annise Parker, the former mayor of Houston. This case stemmed from a heated dispute surrounding the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance ("HERO"), enacted by the city council in 2014. HERO was controversial; its supporters claimed it was a garden-variety non-discrimination ordinance mainly designed to prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered ("LGBT") persons, while its opponents maintained that it granted LGBT individuals special privileges and that, to avoid rejection, it was rammed through the council instead of being put to referendum. The district court found, variously, that plaintiffs lacked standing, that they failed to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), that they failed to show Parker was not immune from suit, and that res judicata barred their claims. Because the claims are non-justiciable, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal. View "Williams v. Parker" on Justia Law

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The Commission issued two citations to Noranda and assessed penalties for the citations. Noranda's upper management and counsel later realized that the assessment had been paid even though Noranda apparently had intended to contest the citations rather than pay the assessment. Noranda petitions for review of the Commission's order denying a motion to reopen, seeking to adjudicate the citation and penalty on the merits. Because the Commission has not applied its "internal processing system" rule consistently, the court found that the Commission abused its discretion by arbitrarily denying Noranda’s motion to reopen. Accordingly, the court granted the petition and remanded for further proceedings. On remand, the court noted that the Commission may very well deny Noranda’s motion to reopen, but it must do so with more clarity than it showed in the first instance. View "Noranda Alumina, LLC. v. Perez" on Justia Law

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Integrity and Buentello filed suit against the City, alleging that its refusal to include them on the non-consent tow list violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. On appeal, the City challenged the district court's order requiring it to include plaintiffs on the City's non-consent tow list and to develop neutral criteria for that list. The court has previously held that a class-of-one equal-protection claim is unavailable in a public employment context. The court concluded that this conclusion logically applies as well to a local government’s discretionary decision to include or not include a company on a non-consent tow list. In the alternative, the court concluded that Integrity and Buentello’s class-of-one equal-protection claim fails because they have not shown that the City had a discriminatory intent and because the City has a rational basis for excluding them. Accordingly, the court reversed and rendered a judgment of dismissal for the City. View "Integrity Collision Center v. City of Fulshear" on Justia Law

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After Hurricane Katrina, Congress directed the Corps to close the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet (MR-GO) as a federal navigation project and restore the surrounding ecosystem. The Corps sought a cost-sharing arrangement with Louisiana. Louisiana objected and filed suit under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 706(2), contending that the Corps’ decision, expressed in two Corps reports to Congress, was arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion because the relevant statutes require the federal government to bear 100 percent of the costs. The district court agreed with Louisiana and rejected a statute of limitations challenge to the suit and concluded that the relevant statutes unambiguously require the Corps to bear all of the costs of deauthorizing the MR-GO. The court bifurcated the limitations issue and found Louisiana’s APA challenge to the closure portion of the deauthorization project timely filed, but dismissed the challenge to the Corps’ decision concerning the ecosystem restoration project because the agency has not taken final action under the APA. On the merits, the court reversed the district court’s judgment that overturned the required cost-sharing between Louisiana and the Corps, which constitutes a reasonable interpretation of ambiguous statutes. View "Louisiana State v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers" on Justia Law

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JTB Tools challenges the dismissal of its suit against defendants, alleging that the district court erred in granting OSHA’s Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and in transferring the case to this court. The court affirmed the district court's transfer, holding that this court has exclusive jurisdiction to review OSHA’s actions pursuant to 29 U.S.C. 655(f). Because JTB Tools failed to adequately brief its merits arguments before this court, the court held that JTB Tools waived any potential right to relief and the court dismissed the case. View "JTB Tools & Oilfield v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, eight female alien detainees, filed suit alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 2671 et seq., as well as several state law claims, after a male CCA officer, Donald Dunn, sexually assaulted them. The court concluded that the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiffs’ Section 1983 claim against CCA and Evelyn Hernandez, the former CCA facility administrator, or in granting summary judgment for Dunn. The CCA defendants, in housing alien detainees according to ICE specifications, were performing a federal function, rather than operating the detention center under color of state law. Williamson County had almost no involvement in the detention center’s day-to-day operations. The court also concluded that summary judgment for Williamson County was proper where the county is not directly responsible for CCA’s failure to follow policy, and the county did not otherwise act with deliberate indifference in monitoring the detention center. Furthermore, plaintiffs have not plausibly asserted that ICE officials acted with deliberate indifference and the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' FTCA claims against the United States. The court affirmed as to the federal claims, but reversed the dismissal of the remaining state claims and remanded. View "Doe v. United States" on Justia Law

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Texas filed suit seeking a declaration that an Enforcement Guidance document from the EEOC regarding the hiring of persons with criminal backgrounds violates the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 701–06. On appeal, the State challenged the district court’s order dismissing the action under FRCP 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court concluded that Texas has constitutional standing to challenge the Enforcement Guidance under the APA where Texas is an object of the Guidance and, taking the complaint’s allegations as true, has alleged a sufficient injury in fact - the Guidance forces Texas to alter its hiring policies or incur significant costs; the “flexible” and “pragmatic” approach to assessing the finality of agency action, leads to the conclusion that the Guidance is “final agency action” under section 704 of the APA; the EEOC erred in relying on AT&T Co. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to suggest that agency actions are “final” under the APA only when federal courts are later bound to give deference to the agency’s interpretation of the statute at issue; and it is also sufficient that the Enforcement Guidance has the immediate effect of altering the rights and obligations of the “regulated community” by offering them a detailed and conclusive means to avoid an adverse EEOC finding, and, by extension, agency referral and a government-backed enforcement action. The Guidance is an agency determination in its final form and is applicable to all employers nation-wide; it is not an intermediate step in a specific enforcement action that may or may not lead to concrete injury. Because the district court erred in dismissing this action on justiciability and subject matter jurisdiction grounds, the court reversed and remanded. View "State of Texas v. EEOC" on Justia Law

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The Commission may refuse a permit to any applicant who has not been a citizen of Texas for at least one year before filing an application. This case stems from the original plaintiffs' attempt to acquire a night club twenty-five years ago. The district court declared the residency requirement invalid and permanently enjoined the Commission from enforcing it. The district court denied TPSA's motion for relief from the injunction under Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 60(b), concluding that there was no case or controversy because the original plaintiffs had not appeared and seemed to lack an ongoing interest and because TPSA lacked standing. The court concluded that, although the original plaintiffs have not appeared and may no longer possess any direct stake in the outcome of the proceeding, there remains a live case or controversy because of the intervention of Fine Wine and Southern Wine. Their intervention ensures that this proceeding involves an actual dispute between adverse litigants. The court also concluded that TPSA has associational standing to bring its Rule 60(b) motion where the interests of TPSA’s members in the enforcement of the residency requirement are germane to TPSA’s purpose, and neither TPSA’s claim for relief nor the relief it requests requires the participation of its individual members. Addressing the injury in fact prong and the redressability prong, the court concluded that TPSA has standing. On the merits, the court concluded that the Twenty-first Amendment does not authorize states to impose a durational-residency requirement on the owners of alcoholic beverage retailers and wholesalers. Finally, TPSA has failed to address the district court’s holding that Texas’s residency requirement violates the Privileges and Immunities Clause. Accordingly, the court reversed and rendered an order denying the motion on the merits. View "Cooper v. Texas Alcoholic Beverage Comm'n" on Justia Law