Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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The Jackson Municipal Airport Authority (JMAA) currently manages the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport, but control would transfer to a new board under Senate Bill 2162, which was recently passed by the Mississippi Legislature. The new board would be structured differently with nine commissioners, rather than the current five. Although Governor Bryant signed the Bill into law in 2016, it has only nominally taken effect. The FAA does not consider disputed airport transfers if there is pending litigation. JMAA and others sued, challenging S.B. 2162 under the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses, alleging discriminatory purposes. In discovery, Governor Bryant identified Chief of Staff Songy as a person having discoverable knowledge that would tend to support or refute any claim, defense, or element of damages in the case. JMAA moved to compel Songy’s deposition. Governor Bryant sought a protective order, claiming official privilege, which limits depositions. The Fifth Circuit declined to issue a writ of mandamus requested by the Governor. Involuntary depositions of highly-ranked government officials are only allowed in “exceptional circumstances.” A court must consider the status of the deponents, the potential burden on them, and the substantive reasons for taking the depositions; it rare that exceptional circumstances can be shown where the testimony is available from an alternate witness. The court nonetheless noted important aspects of this analysis that the lower court failed to fully consider, including parallel litigation regarding the deposition of legislators. View "In Re: Bryant" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied WCX's petition for review of the FCC's order denying its application for review to apply the Automatic Roaming Rule to its dispute. The court held that any alleged error that the Commission may have made in stating that WCX requested Mobile Broadband Internet Access Services was harmless and therefore did not warrant vacatur; the Commission did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in concluding that the Data Roaming Rule applied to this dispute; and the Commission's determination that AT&T's proposed rates were commercially reasonable was supported by substantial evidence and not arbitrary and capricious. View "Worldcall Interconnect, Inc. v. FCC" on Justia 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