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

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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The Fifth Circuit withdrew its prior opinion and substituted the following opinion.The States filed suit against the United States, raising constitutional challenges to Section 9010 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as well as statutory and constitutional challenges to an HHS administrative rule (Certification Rule).As a preliminary matter, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling that the States had standing. The court reversed the district court's ruling that the States' Administrative Procedure Act (APA) claims were not time-barred and dismissed those claims for lack of jurisdiction. On the merits, the court held that the Certification Rule and Section 9010 are constitutional and lawful. As a result, the court explained that there can be no equitable disgorgement, regardless of whether such a remedy would be otherwise appropriate. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment on the Section 9010 claims and reversed the district court's judgment that the Certification Rule violated the nondelegation doctrine. Therefore, the court rendered judgment in favor of the United States. Because the court held that neither the Certification Rule nor Section 9010 are unlawful, the court vacated the district court's grant of equitable disgorgement to the States. View "Texas v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former alien detainee, filed suit alleging that CoreCivic's work programs are not voluntary. Plaintiff claimed that CoreCivic forced her to clean detention facilities, cook meals for company events, engage in clerical work, provide barber services for fellow detainees, maintain landscaping, and other labors. Furthermore, if she refused, CoreCivic would impose more severe living conditions, physical restraints, and deprivation of basic human needs.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of CoreCivic's motion to dismiss under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), 18 U.S.C. 1589(a). The court concluded that sections 1589(a) and 1595 impose civil liability on "[w]hoever knowingly provides or obtains the labor or services of a person by any one of, or by any combination of" four coercive methods. The court rejected CoreCivic's contention that this language does not capture labor performed in work programs in a federal immigration detention setting. The court explained that nothing in the text supports this claim; CoreCivic is clearly an entity covered by the term "whoever;" and it has clearly "obtain[ed]" the labor of these alien detainees. The court rejected CoreCivic's remaining claims to the contrary and declined to apply the rule of lenity. Because on its face section 1589 unambiguously protects labor performed in work programs in federal immigration detention facilities, the court concluded that the "judicial inquiry is complete." View "Gonzalez v. CoreCivic, Inc." on Justia Law

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After employees of M.D. Anderson lost patients' data, HHS fined M.D. Anderson $4,348,000. M.D. Anderson petitioned for review, and HHS conceded that it could not defend a fine in excess of $450,000. HHS then sought a reduction of the penalty by a factor of 10.The Fifth Circuit granted M.D. Anderson's petition for review and held that the civil monetary penalty (CMP) violates the Administrative Procedure Act because it is arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law. In this case, HHS steadfastly refused to interpret the statutes at issue; the ALJ likewise refused to consider whether the multi-million-dollar CMP was arbitrary or capricious; and HHS's Departmental Appeals Board agreed with the ALJ. Reviewing de novo, the court concluded that the CMP order was arbitrary, capricious, and otherwise unlawful for at least four independent reasons: 1) based on the Encryption Rule; 2) based on the Disclosure Rule; 3) the ALJ erroneously insisted that the Government can arbitrarily and capriciously enforce the CMP rules against some covered entities and not others; and 4) based on the penalty amounts. Because the Government has offered no lawful basis for its civil monetary penalties against M.D. Anderson, the court vacated the CMP order and remanded for further proceedings. View "University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center v. United States Department of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied petitions for review by the State of Texas and Sierra Club, challenging the EPA's action designating Bexar County, Texas as in nonattainment and three neighboring counties as in attainment with the 2015 Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).After determining that venue is proper in the Fifth Circuit, the court held that the relevant statutory language in the Clean Air Act grants EPA discretionary authority to make the changes it "deems necessary." The court also held that EPA's interpretation and implementation of the statute is reasonable. In this case, because Bexar County was not compliant with the 2015 NAAQS when EPA promulgated its designation, the court concluded that the Clean Air Act and the Administrative Procedure Act allowed the change. In regard to the three counties, the court concluded that EPA has not arbitrarily reversed its interpretation of "contribution" and EPA did not fail to articulate a rational connection between the facts in the record and its decision not to designate the disputed counties as nonattainment. In this case, EPA used a permissible, multi-factor analysis to determine that the contributions of Atascosa, Comal, and Guadalupe Counties to Bexar County's ambient ozone levels were insufficient to merit a nonattainment designation. View "Texas v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a federal prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a mandamus action in the district court, seeking an order to compel USCIS officials to travel to federal prison in order to administer the oath of citizenship to him. Plaintiff alleged that USCIS unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed the administration of his oath under section 706(1) of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claim under 28 U.S.C. 1915A(b)(1) for failure to state a claim for relief and denial of his subsequent motion for reconsideration. Contrary to defendant's contention, the district court did consider defendant's APA claim before dismissing it. The district court dismissed after determining that his section 706(1) claim could not proceed. The court explained that when plaintiff appears before USCIS officials, they must administer the oath to him. But the manner in which USCIS administers the oath, including where within the United States that administration occurs, is left to the agency's discretion. In this case, plaintiff cannot show a clear right to relief and thus he is not entitled to a writ of mandamus. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiff leave to amend the complaint. View "Mendoza-Tarango v. Flores" on Justia Law

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El Paso County and BNHR, a community organization headquartered in El Paso, filed suit challenging the government's use of funds allocated for 10 U.S.C. 284 and 2808 purposes to construct a wall on the southern border. The district court enjoined defendants from using section 2808 funds to build the border wall but declined to enjoin defendants from using section 284 funds.The Fifth Circuit held that El Paso County and BNHR do not have standing to challenge either the section 2808 or section 284 expenditures. The court concluded that a county's loss of general tax revenues as an indirect result of federal policy is not a cognizable injury in fact. In this case, El Paso County only alleges a loss of general tax revenue, and thus has not established a cognizable injury in fact sufficient to establish standing to challenge the government's section 2808 expenditures. Even if El Paso County's alleged economic injury were cognizable, the county fails to demonstrate that the injury is redressable by a favorable decision in this case. The court explained that an order granting relief against the section 2808 expenditures would not rescind the proclamation and accordingly would not redress any harm caused by the proclamation. Therefore, the alleged reputational injuries do not provide El Paso County standing to challenge the section 2808 expenditures. Furthermore, BNHR failed to establish standing to challenge the government's section 2808 expenditures by establishing an injury in fact. In this case, BNHR's single vague, conclusory assertion that the organization had to divert resources is insufficient to establish that the section 2808 construction has "perceptibly impaired" the organization's ability to carry out its mission. Likewise, the court concluded that El Paso County and BNHR do not have standing to challenge the government's section 284 expenditures. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for plaintiffs; vacated the district court's injunction enjoining the section 2808 expenditures; and remanded for dismissal of all claims for lack of jurisdiction. View "El Paso County v. Trump" on Justia Law

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The en banc court held that 42 U.S.C. 1396a(a)(23) does not give Medicaid patients a right to challenge, under 42 U.S.C. 1983, a State's determination that a health care provider is not "qualified" within the meaning of section 1396a(a)(23). The en banc court vacated the preliminary injunction issued by the district court prohibiting the termination of the Providers' Medicaid provider agreements.The Providers provide family planning and other health services to Medicaid patients, and each of the Providers is a member of Planned Parenthood. This case stemmed from a pro-life organization's release of video recordings of conversations at Planned Parenthood (PP) Gulf Coast headquarters. The videos depict two individuals posing as representatives from a fetal tissue procurement company discussing the possibility of a research partnership with PP Gulf Coast. The release of the videos prompted congressional investigations, which ultimately led to the OIG sending each Provider a Notice of Termination of its respective Medicaid provider agreement. The Providers and Individual Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that the terminations violated rights conferred by section 1396a(a)(23) and sought relief under section 1983.The en banc court held that the Individual Plaintiffs may not bring a section 1983 suit to contest the State's determination that the Providers were not "qualified" providers within the meaning of section 1396a(a)(23). The en banc court rested its decision primarily on two independent bases: (1) the Supreme Court's decision in O'Bannon v. Town Court Nursing Center, 447 U.S. 773 (1980), and (2) the text and structure of section 1396a(a)(23), which does not unambiguously provide that a Medicaid patient may contest a State's determination that a particular provider is not "qualified." Rather, the court held that whether a provider is "qualified" within the meaning of section 1396a(a)(23) is a matter to be resolved between the State (or the federal government) and the provider. In so holding, the en banc court overruled Planned Parenthood of Gulf Coast, Inc. v. Gee, 862 F.3d 445 (5th Cir. 2017), which held that a state agency or actor cannot legitimately find that a Medicaid provider is not "qualified" unless under state or federal law the provider would be unqualified to provide treatment or services to the general public, including Medicaid patients who paid for the care or services with private funds. View "Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Family Planning and Preventative Health Services, Inc. v. Kauffman" on Justia Law

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After plaintiffs filed suit challenging Texas's absentee-ballot system in August 2019, the district court granted plaintiffs' summary judgment motion in part, issuing an injunction adopting many of plaintiffs' proposed changes to Texas's election procedures. The injunction included three main provisions regarding the 2020 election: first, the district court required the Secretary to issue an advisory, within ten days, notifying local election officials of the injunction, and the notification must inform them that rejecting ballots because of mismatching signatures is unconstitutional unless the officials take actions that go beyond those required by state law; second, the Secretary must either issue an advisory to local election officials requiring them to follow the district court's newly devised signature verification and voter-notification procedures, or else promulgate an advisory requiring that officials cease rejecting ballots with mismatched signatures altogether; and third, the district court mandated that the Secretary take action against any election officials who fail to comply with the district court's newly minted procedures.The Fifth Circuit considered the Nken factors and granted the Secretary's motion to stay the district court's injunction pending appeal, because the Secretary is likely to succeed in showing that Texas's signature-verification procedures are constitutional. The court held that the Secretary is likely to show that plaintiffs have alleged no cognizable liberty or property interest that could serve to make out a procedural due process claim. Given the failure of plaintiffs and the district court to assert that voting—or, for that matter, voting by mail—constitutes a liberty interest, along with the absence of circuit precedent supporting that position, the court stated that the Secretary is likely to prevail in showing that plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on their due process claim should have been denied. The court rejected the district court's reasoning regarding any state-created liberty interest. Even if voting is a protected liberty or property interest, the court held that the Secretary is likely to show that the district court used the wrong test for the due process claim. The court held that the Anderson/Burdick framework provides the appropriate test for plaintiffs' due process claims and Texas's signature-verification procedures are reasonable and nondiscriminatory, and they survive scrutiny under the Anderson/Burdick framework. In this case, Texas's important interest in reducing voter fraud—and specifically in stymying mail-in ballot fraud—justifies its use of signature verification.The court also held that the Secretary is likely to prevail in her defense that sovereign immunity bars the district court's injunction requiring that she issue particular advisories and take specific potential enforcement action against noncomplying officials. Finally, the remaining Nken factors counsel in favor of granting a stay pending appeal where the Secretary will be irreparably injured absent a stay, public interest favors granting a stay, and the balance of harms weighs in favor of the Secretary. View "Richardson v. Texas Secretary of State" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a certified class of minor children in the permanent managing conservatorship (PMC) of the Texas Department of Family Protective Services, filed 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims alleging that the Texas foster-care system violated their substantive due process right to be free from an unreasonable risk of harm. The district court issued a wide-ranging permanent injunction imposing sweeping changes on the Texas foster-care system. The Fifth Circuit vacated and remanded the injunction to the district court for modification; the district court made additional modifications to the injunction; and the state appealed again.The Fifth Circuit then instructed the district court to begin implementing, without further changes, the modified injunction with the alterations the court made. On remand, however, the district court expanded the injunction again by enjoining the state from moving any PMC child from their current placement as a result of enforcement of the court's requirement for 24-hour awake-night supervision unless application is made to the court prior to the proposed discharge. The Fifth Circuit reversed and held that it is black-letter law that a district court must comply with a mandate issued by an appellate court. The Fifth Circuit remanded to the district court to begin implementing, without further changes, the modified injunction with the alterations the court has made. View "M.D. v. Abbott" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit challenging the Affordable Care Act (ACA), seeking retrospective and prospective relief for myriad alleged violations of the United States Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Fifth Circuit declined to reach the merits of plaintiff's claims. The court held that, given the altered legal landscape and the potential effects of plaintiff's request for prospective relief, a mootness analysis must precede the merits. In this case, a year after plaintiff filed his lawsuit, Congress passed and President Trump signed the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, which reduced the shared responsibility payment (imposed on individuals who fail to purchase health insurance) to $0. In the same year, the Department of Health and Human Services created new exemptions to the contraceptive mandate, including an exemption for individuals like plaintiff. These exemptions were enjoined until the Supreme Court's recent decision in Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims and remanded for the district court to conduct a mootness analysis in the first instance. The court also remanded to allow plaintiff to amend his complaint where the parties agreed that the district court incorrectly dismissed plaintiff's claim for retrospective relief. View "Dierlam v. Trump" on Justia Law