Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
The hotel occupancy tax applies only to the discounted room rate paid by the online travel company (OTC) to the hotel. The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's judgment in a class action asserting that the service fee an OTC charges for facilitating a hotel reservation was included in the "cost of occupancy", and thus subject to the municipalities' hotel occupancy tax ordinances. The court applied City of Houston v. Hotels.com, L.P., 357 S.W.3d 706, 707, and held that OTCs in this case were not liable because the only monetary amounts at issue in this class action were those not included in the scope of the hotel occupancy tax base. The Houston court explained that, under the plain meaning of the ordinance, the cost of occupancy was the amount for which three conditions were satisfied: the consideration at issue must have been paid or charged for the use or possession, or the right to use or possess, a hotel room; the amounts to be taxed must have been paid by the occupant of such room; and the amount to be taxed must have been paid to such hotel. Therefore, the court rendered judgment for the OTCs in this case. View "City of San Antonio, Texas v. Hotels.com, L.P." on Justia Law

by
ExxonMobil’s 859-mile long Pegasus Pipeline transports crude oil from Patoka, Illinois to Nederland, Texas. In March 2013, it ruptured, spilling several thousand barrels of oil near Mayflower, Arkansas. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, within the U.S. Department of Transportation, conducted an investigation and concluded that ExxonMobil violated several pipeline safety regulations under the Pipeline Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. 60101. Specifically, the agency found that the integrity management program (IMP) plan had not properly accounted for the risk of longitudinal seam failure and that this was a contributing factor in the Mayflower release. The agency assessed a $2.6 million civil penalty and ordered ExxonMobil to take certain actions to ensure compliance with those regulations. The Fifth Circuit vacated certain items in the order. Finding that it owed no deference to the agency’s interpretation of the regulation, the court concluded that ExxonMobil reasonably applied 49 CFR 195.452(e)(1)’s instruction to “consider” all relevant risk factors in making its pipeline susceptibility determination. The court remanded with an instruction to reevaluate the basis for the penalty associated with another violation. View "ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. v. United States Department of Transportation" on Justia Law