Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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PRP Group, an association cooperating with the EPA to pay costs associated with cleanup of a superfund site in Pasadena, Texas, filed suit against 1200 parties they believed should be responsible for part of the environmental remediation costs. PRP Group filed claims under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), and its state law counterpart, the Texas Solid Waste Disposal Act (TSWDA). The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's order denying the state agency and university defendants' motion to dismiss, holding that the agencies and universities were entitled to state sovereign immunity. Therefore, the district court erred when it concluded that state sovereign immunity did not bar PRP Group's CERCLA claims. The court likewise reversed as to PRP's state law claims. View "US Oil Recovery Site Potentially Responsible Parties Group v. Railroad Commission of Texas" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, who were each over the age of 18, had filed Suits Affecting Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR). In the SAPCR suits, the state courts awarded child support and made certain findings. After plaintiffs received the state court SAPCR orders, they filed Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status petitions with USCIS, which were subsequently denied. Plaintiffs then filed suit in district court seeking declaratory relief regarding the definition of "child" under Texas state law and the proper interpretation and application of the terms "juvenile court" and "dependent," as those terms were defined by federal law. The district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss, concluding that the SAPCR orders were not proper ones to support SIJ status. The Fifth Circuit affirmed and held that USCIS properly determined that the state court orders for child support were not the equivalent of the necessary "care and custody" rulings required for SIJ status; the court rejected plaintiffs' claim that the district court relied on reasoning not employed by the agency when upholding the USCIS decision; and USCIS's denials were not arbitrary and capricious. The court denied plaintiffs' motion to supplement and rejected plaintiffs' claim that the district court failed to consider the entire administrative record. View "Budhathoki v. Nielsen" on Justia Law

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Shareholders challenged a 2012 agreement between the FHFA, as conservator to Fannie and Freddie, and the Treasury Department. Under the agreement, Treasury provided billions of taxpayer dollars in capital and, in exchange, Fannie and Freddie were required to pay Treasury quarterly dividends equal to their entire net worth (net worth sweep exchange). The Fifth Circuit found the FHFA acted within its statutory authority by adopting the net worth sweep, and thus held that the Shareholder's Administrative Procedure Act claims were barred by 5 U.S.C. 706(2)(A). The court also found that the FHFA was unconstitutionally structured and violated the separation of powers. Accordingly, the court reversed in part and affirmed in part. On remand, the court instructed the district court to enter judgment declaring the "for cause" limitation on removal of the FHFA's Director in 12 U.S.C. 4512(b)(2) violates the Constitution's separation-of-powers principles. View "Collins v. Mnuchin" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit granted Nevada's motion to dismiss Texas' petitions for declaratory and injunctive relief in a dispute arising out of the government's struggle with nuclear waste disposal under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. Texas sought equitable relief prohibiting the Department of Energy from conducting any other consent-based siting activity and ordering defendants to finish the Yucca licensure proceedings. The court held that the deadline in 42 U.S.C. 10139(c) was not jurisdictional, and thus proceeded to consider whether the continuing violations doctrine may apply to Texas' claims; applying either versions of the continuing violations doctrine, whether as a tolling mechanism or as an apparent shorthand for an exercise in statutory interpretation, Texas' claims were still untimely; the court lacked jurisdiction to consider the Department of Energy's 2017 consent-based siting activities because they were not sufficiently final under the statute; and thus Texas' claims did not satisfy the statutory requirements of timeliness or finality. View "Texas v. United States" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was whether a certain Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) order conflicted with a prior Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) order. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's order and rendered judgment in favor of PUCT and TIEC, holding that PUCT's order was not in conflict with any FERC order. The court held that FERC's orders requiring the Entergy compliance filing did not call for a retroactive reallocation of 2007 Bandwidth Payments; Entergy's compliance filing did not contain a retroactive reallocation that FERC approved in the 2015 FERC Order; the 2015 FERC Order did not retroactively reallocate 2007 Bandwidth Payments; and PUCT's Order was consistent with the 2015 FERC Order. View "Entergy Texas, Inc. v. Nelson" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims against the Government for false arrest and false imprisonment under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). Plaintiff claimed that she was falsely arrested and imprisoned by Custom and Border Protection (CBP) officers because the officers detained her after she presented them with an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which in her view conclusively showed entitlement to remain in the United States. The court held that the discretionary function exception to the FTCA applied in this case where the officers enforced a removal order. The court reasoned that, what plaintiff insisted was certain from the EAD and removed all discretion was, in reality, sufficiently uncertain as to leave discretion in the hands of the officers. Furthermore, reading the discretionary function exception in conjunction with the law enforcement proviso, the court held that the district court was correct in holding that there was no subject matter jurisdiction. However, the district court did err in dismissing the FTCA claims with prejudice. Therefore, the court vacated and remanded so that the district court may enter a revised order and final judgment that dismisses the suit without prejudice. View "Campos v. United States" on Justia Law

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After Family Rehabilitation was assessed about $7.6 million for Medicare overpayments, it filed suit for an injunction against recoupment until it received an ALJ hearing. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and remanded in regard to Family Rehabilitation's procedural due process and ultra vires claims. The court held that exhaustion of administrative review was waived because Family Rehabilitation asserted a collateral challenge that could not be remedied after the exhaustion of administrative review. In this case, Family Rehabilitation sought only the suspension of recoupment before a hearing, which was plainly collateral to the result of that hearing, and the combined threats of going out of business and disruption to Medicare patients were sufficient to show that it would suffer irreparable injury. The court affirmed in all other respects. View "Family Rehabilitation, Inc. v. Azar" on Justia Law

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After Family Rehabilitation was assessed about $7.6 million for Medicare overpayments, it filed suit for an injunction against recoupment until it received an ALJ hearing. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and remanded in regard to Family Rehabilitation's procedural due process and ultra vires claims. The court held that exhaustion of administrative review was waived because Family Rehabilitation asserted a collateral challenge that could not be remedied after the exhaustion of administrative review. In this case, Family Rehabilitation sought only the suspension of recoupment before a hearing, which was plainly collateral to the result of that hearing, and the combined threats of going out of business and disruption to Medicare patients were sufficient to show that it would suffer irreparable injury. The court affirmed in all other respects. View "Family Rehabilitation, Inc. v. Azar" on Justia Law

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Business groups challenged the “Fiduciary Rule” promulgated by the Department of Labor (DOL) in April 2016. The Rule is a package of seven different rules that broadly reinterpret the term “investment advice fiduciary” and redefine exemptions to provisions concerning fiduciaries that appear in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001, and the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. 4975. The business groups alleged the Rule’s inconsistency with the governing statutes; DOL’s overreaching to regulate services and providers beyond its authority; DOL’s imposition of legally unauthorized contract terms to enforce the new regulations; First Amendment violations; and the Rule’s arbitrary and capricious treatment of variable and fixed indexed annuities. The Fifth CIrcuit vacated the district court’s rejection of all of those challenges. DOL’s interpretation of “investment advice fiduciary” relies too narrowly on a purely semantic construction of one isolated statutory provision and wrongly presupposes that the statutory provision is inherently ambiguous. Congress intended to incorporate the well-settled meaning’” of “fiduciary.” In addition, the Fiduciary Rule renders the second prong of ERISA’s fiduciary status definition in tension with its companion subsections. DOL therefore lacked statutory authority to promulgate the Rule with its overreaching definition of “investment advice fiduciary.” View "Chamber of Commerce of the USA v. United States Department of Labor" on Justia Law

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Legacy, a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), filed suit against the Commission, alleging that Texas's reimbursement scheme violated the Medicaid Act. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Legacy, holding that the Commission's requirement that Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) fully reimburse FQHCs did not violate the Medicaid Act; Legacy lacked standing to challenge the Commission's lack of a policy that the state directly reimburse an FQHC if it is not fully reimbursed by the MCO; and Legacy was not entitled to reimbursement for the non-emergency, out-of-network services about which it complained. Accordingly, the court remanded with instructions. View "Legacy Community Health Services, Inc. v. Smith" on Justia Law