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

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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Walmart filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against the TABC, challenging Texas statutes that govern the issuance of permits allowing for the retail sale of liquor in Texas (package store permits). TPSA later intervened as a matter of right in defense of the statutes. The Fifth Circuit held that Tex. Alco. Bev. Code 22.16 is a facially neutral statute that bans all public corporations from obtaining P permits irrespective of domicile. The court held that, although the district court correctly cited the Arlington framework, it committed clear error in finding that section 22.16 was enacted with a purpose to discriminate against interstate commerce. Therefore, the court remanded Walmart's dormant Commerce Clause challenge for reconsideration of whether the ban was enacted with a discriminatory purpose. Furthermore, a remand was necessary to allow the district court to find facts for proper application of the Pike test. The court affirmed the district court's judgment rejecting Walmart's Equal Protection challenge to the public corporation ban, holding that there was a rational basis for Texas' decision to ban all public corporations from obtaining package store permits and its legitimate purpose of reducing the availability and consumption of liquor throughout Texas. Finally, Walmart's challenges to section 22.04 and 22.05 are withdrawn. View "Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission" on Justia Law

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After the Secretary of Labor issued Wynnewood Refining multiple citations alleging safety violations at its Oklahoma refinery, Wynnewood contested the citations. The Commission modified five violations by recharacterizing them as less severe than the Secretary alleged. The Secretary appealed to the Tenth Circuit and Wynnewood appealed to the Fifth Circuit. When, as in this case, none of the petitions was filed within ten days of the challenged agency decision, the Commission shall file the record in the court in which proceedings with respect to the order were first instituted. Once the agency properly files the record where a petition for review was first filed, all courts other than the court in which the record was filed under 28 U.S.C. 2112, shall transfer those proceedings to the court in which the record was so filed. In this case, the Tenth Circuit appeal was filed first and thus the court granted the Secretary's motion to transfer the appeal to the Tenth Circuit. View "Wynnewood Refining Co., LLC v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission" on Justia Law

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Texas filed suit against the EEOC and the Attorney General, challenging the EEOC's guidance on employers' use of criminal records in hiring. On remand, the district court dismissed Texas's claim under the Declaratory Judgment Act (DJA), but enjoined defendants from enforcing EEOC's guidance against Texas until EEOC complied with the notice-and-comment rulemaking requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The Fifth Circuit held that the Guidance was a reviewable final agency action that the court had jurisdiction to review. Furthermore, Texas had standing to sue EEOC and the Attorney General to challenge the legality of the Guidance. On the merits, the court held that the Guidance was a substantive rule subject to the APA's notice-and-comment requirement and that EEOC overstepped its statutory authority in issuing the Guidance. Because the Guidance is a substantive rule, and the text of Title VII and precedent confirmed that EEOC lacked authority to promulgate substantive rules implementing Title VII, the court modified the injunction by striking the clause "until the EEOC has complied with the notice and comment requirements under the APA for promulgating an enforceable substantive rule." The court also modified the injunction to clarify that EEOC and the Attorney General may not treat the Guidance as binding in any respect. Therefore, the court affirmed the injunction as modified and declined to consider the DJA claim. View "Texas v. EEOC" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed in part, affirmed with modification in part, and vacated in part an injunction remedying certain constitutional deficiencies in Texas's foster care system. The court previously found that DFPS's policies violated plaintiffs' substantive due process rights by maintaining overburdened caseworkers who are responsible for the children in the permanent management conservatorship (PMC), and by failing to adequately monitor and oversee the children in the licensed foster care (LFC) subclass. The court affirmed the 24-hour-supervision requirement with the modification that it applied only to LFC placements, not unlicensed placements; vacated the face-to-face provision as being inconsistent with Stukenberg I; affirmed workload study provisions and rejected the State's argument that DFPS should be able to determine on its own how many cases, on average, caseworkers, and RCCL investigators can safely carry; invalidated the integrated computer system requirement and the accompanying access provision; vacated the court's expressed validation of the integrated computer system; vacated the missing medical records provision because there was no longer a justification for the provision; affirmed the remote access provision but modified the injunction to require that any of the Monitors' staff and consultants who have unrestricted, remote access to DFPS's systems be qualified to handle the information, be taught how to use the systems, and be given confidentiality agreements; and vacated the injunctive provision dealing with the previous third party studies. Finally, the court held that the State's objections to the modified injunction's termination provisions were waived, and the court declined to lift the stay in full. View "M.D. v. Abbott" on Justia Law

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Two Mississippi hospitals filed suit alleging that the government miscalculated their Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments. In this case, the district court gave substantial deference to the interpretation of HHS, which read that the relevant statute and regulation to exclude from the numerator Mississippi's uncompensated care pool (UCCP) patient days. However, the Fifth Circuit held that HHS's position was foreclosed by the text and structure of the relevant provisions. Therefore, HHS's decision to exclude UCCP patient days from the Medicaid fraction's numerator was not in accordance with law. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Forrest General Hospital v. Azar" on Justia Law

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Qui tam relators appealed the district court's dismissal of their False Claims Act (FCA) suit against several hospice organizations owned and operated by Walter Crowder, the president and director of Nurses to Go. The Fifth Circuit considered the materiality factors in Universal Health Services, Inc. v. United States ex rel. Escobar, and held that relators' alleged violations were material. In this case, defendants' alleged fraudulent certifications of compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements violated conditions of payment under 42 U.S.C. 1395(a)(7), and relators' allegations were sufficient to state a claim that the Government would deny payment if it knew of defendants' false certifications. The court reversed and remanded for further proceedings to allow the district court to conduct a Rule 9(b) particularity analysis consistent with United States ex rel. Grubbs v. Kanneganti. View "United States ex rel Lemon v. Nurses To Go, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated portions of the EPA's final rule updating effluent limitation guidelines (ELGs) for legacy wastewater and for combustion residual leachate and remanded for agency reconsideration. The court held that the EPA acted arbitrarily and capriciously by setting a Best Available Technology Economically Available (BAT) limit for legacy wastewater equal to the outdated best practicable control technology currently available (BPT) standard of surface impoundments. The court held that the leachate rule conflates the BAT and BPT standards in a way not permitted by the statutory scheme, and the agency's proffered justifications for the leachate rule were not supported by the factors set forth under the Clean Water Act for determining BAT. Therefore, the BAT determination for leachate failed Chevron step one. In the alternative, the leachate regulation failed at Chevron step two because it rests on an impermissible interpretation of the Clean Water Act. View "Southwestern Electric Power Co. v. EPA" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's contempt finding and injunction related to the BOP's calculation of sentencing credits for federal prisoners. The court held that the district court made no explicit factual findings to support its decision to hold the BOP in contempt, nor did it identify which specific court orders the BOP violated. The district court abused its discretion, and the court could not identify any evidence in the record to support the conclusion that the BOP violated a definite and specific court order. Even if there was no error in holding the BOP in content, the court held that the sanction the district court imposed was contrary to law. The court held that, given the district court’s lack of authority over credit awards, it was improper to order the BOP to deny custody credits required by statute. Furthermore, the district court’s error was compounded by its threat to hold BOP officials in individual contempt for fulfilling their statutory duties. View "In re: U.S. Bureau of Prisons" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to HHS in an action under the Administrative Procedure Act arising from a demonstration project deviating from the ordinary Medicare reimbursement rules. In this case Texas Tech could keep the additional fees it received for implementing the project only if its care management model achieved cost savings. When the government determined that Texas Tech failed to do so, it demanded return of about $8 million in fees. As a preliminary matter, the court held that the demonstration agreement was not a procurement contract and the HHS Departmental Appeals Board had jurisdiction over this case. On the merits, the court held that it need not resolve whether the Board erred in suggesting that the common law of contracts never informs grant disputes, because, even if it did, the Board made valid findings justifying the rejection of Texas Tech's various contract theories. The court rejected Texas Tech's contention that CMS breached the demonstration agreement by failing to provide an appropriately matched control group; by refusing to allow Texas Tech to access relevant Medicare claims data; and by engaging RTI to evaluate whether differences between the intervention and control groups may have accounted for the apparent lack of cost savings. Finally, the court held that, although the Board did not expressly address two common law contract doctrines -- mistake and impracticability -- it did make findings that doom those two defenses. View "Texas Tech Physicians Assoc. v. US Department of Health and Human Services." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit dismissed a petition for review of an FTC order based on lack of jurisdiction. The court held that the FTC's order denying the Board's motion to dismiss and granting the FTC's motion for partial summary decision was not a cease and desist order and thus the Federal Trade Commission Act did not expressly authorize the court to exercise jurisdiction in this case. The court also held that the language in the Act could not be interpreted to allow appellate review of collateral orders. View "Louisiana Real Estate Appraisers Board v. FTC" on Justia Law