Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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A certified class of minor children in the Permanent Managing Conservatorship (PMC) of DFPS filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, seeking injunctive relief and alleging that Texas' maintenance of its foster care system exposes them to a serious risk of abuse, neglect, and harm to their physical and psychological well-being. The district court granted plaintiffs a permanent injunction requiring sweeping changes to the state's foster care system. The Fifth Circuit held that facts in the record adequately supported the finding that a policy or practice of maintaining overburdened caseworkers directly causes all PMC children to be exposed to a serious risk of physical and psychological harm; the district court correctly found that the State was deliberately indifferent to a substantial risk of serious harm to the Licensed Foster Care (LFC) subclass as a result of its insufficient monitoring and oversight, and that these deficiencies were a direct cause of the constitutional harm; the district court erred in concluding that inadequate placement array causes constitutionally cognizable harm to the LFC subclass and that the State was deliberately indifferent to a substantial risk of serious harm; and to the extent that the lack of awake-night supervision may have sustained a constitutional claim under the circumstances, the remaining policies and their effects did not cause foster group homes (FGH) children an amplified risk of harm sufficient to overcome the threshold hurdle. The court also held that Rule 23-specific arguments were waived. While the district court entered an expansive injunction mandating dozens of specific remedial measures and it was entitled to grant plaintiffs injunctive relief, the court held that the injunction was significantly overbroad. Accordingly, the court vacated the injunction and remanded with instructions to remove the remedial provisions related to placement array and FGHs, and to strike provisions that were not necessary to achieve constitutional compliance. View "M.D. v. Abbott" on Justia Law

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An action to recover civil penalties for violation of the preconstruction requirements for major emitting facilities under 42 U.S.C. 7475(a) must be brought within five years of the first day of the alleged construction period. The Government filed suit against Luminant, alleging that the company violated the Clean Air Act by failing to obtain a statutorily mandated preconstruction permit for the modification of their facilities. The district court dismissed the government's civil penalty and injunctive relief claims as time barred, and held that the injunctive relief claims were subject to dismissal for lack of jurisdiction. The Fifth Circuit held that the government, in its sovereign capacity, was exempted from the concurrent remedies doctrine; the statute of limitations did not apply to the government's claims for injunctive relief that were not civil fines, penalties, or forfeitures; there was no support for the district court's assumption that it was without jurisdiction to entertain any injunctive relief based on past violations of section 7475(a); and thus the district court was not barred by the statute of limitations, nor by the absence of jurisdiction, from further considering whether equitable relief may in some form be available to the government. Accordingly, the court remanded the injunctive relief claims for further consideration. View "United States v. Luminant Generation Co." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal with prejudice as to relators and without prejudice as to the Government in an action under the False Claims Act (FCA). The court held that the district court did not err by dismissing the Government without prejudice when relators sought to abandon their claims. The court explained that relators acted on purely private interests and the Government, even one that chose not to intervene, should not be bound by that decision, because it was powerless to vindicate the public's interests in other actions that may have a stronger basis or a relator more able to shoulder the burdens of litigation. The court rejected United's remaining claims regarding relators' voluntary dismissal and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion. View "United States ex rel. Vaughn v. United Biologics, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of CFPB's petition to enforce a civil investigative demand (CID) against Public Data. The court held that, pursuant to 12 U.SC. 5562(c)(2), CFPB failed to advise Public Data of the nature of the conduct constituting the alleged violation which was under investigation and the provision of law applicable to such violation. View "Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. The Source for Public Data" on Justia 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