Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeking records related to the suicide of Admiral J.M. Boorda. Specifically, plaintiff sought six pages of handwritten notes regarding official business found in the backseat of Adm. Boorda's official vehicle and the suicide note to Adm. Boorda's wife. The Eleventh Circuit held that the Navy improperly withheld the backseat notes because it withheld the responsive records when plaintiff asked for them. The court also held that FOIA contained nothing that would allow an agency to withhold records simply because it had previously given them to the requester, and the court rejected the Navy's argument that plaintiff's claim as to the backseat notes was precluded by the parties' prior litigation. The court also held that the suicide note was subject to protection under exemption 7(c), which covers records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes if their production could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Sikes v. United States Department of the Navy" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit vacated its original opinion in this case and issued the following opinion in its place. The CFTC begain investigating defendants in response to a customer's complaint of commodities fraud. The NFA also opened an investigation, which proceeded in tandem with the CFTC's, but ended in a settlement. The CFTC then filed suit alleging that defendants violated the Commodities Exchange Act (CEA) when they failed to register as futures commission merchants, transacted the purchase and sale of contracts for the future delivery of a commodity (futures) outside of a registered exchange, and promised to invest customers' money in precious metals (metals) but instead invested the funds in so-called "off-exchange margined metals derivatives" (metals derivatives). The court affirmed the district court's judgment except as to the restitution award for the group of investors whose losses were associated solely with the registration violations. In regard to the restitution award, the court vacated and remanded with instructions to consider other equitable remedies. View "U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission v. Southern Trust Metals, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a putative class action claiming that two provisions of the Florida Renewable Technologies and Energy Efficiency Act, which authorized the Nuclear Cost Recovery System (NCRS), were invalid under the Dormant Commerce Clause (DCC). Plaintiffs also claimed that the two provisions of the Act were preempted by the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, and the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the DCC claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), because plaintiffs' interests as Florida electric utility customers were well beyond the zone the DCC was meant to protect. The court held that the Atomic Energy Act did not preempt the NCRS, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiffs leave to amend. View "Newton v. Duke Energy Florida, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the United States and the district court's denial of NextEra's claims seeking a tax refund for net operating losses resulting from fees it paid to the Nuclear Waste Fund for the disposal of nuclear waste. The court held that NextEra was not entitled to a refund under 26 U.S.C. 172(f), because it could not show that its payment of fees under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 was for an act that qualified as nuclear decommissioning, was done pursuant to a law that required nuclear decommissioning, and that the act occurred more than three years prior to the claimed loss. View "Nextera Energy, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit lacked jurisdiction to consider the merits of petitioners' suit challenging the FAA's interpretation of 49 U.S.C. 47133 as set forth in a 2016 letter because the letter did not constitute final agency action. Section 47133 prohibits local taxes on aviation fuel from being spent on anything but aviation. The court held that petitioners' action came too late to challenge the FAA's policy clarification issued in 2014, and it came too early to challenge an FAA enforcement action that may never happen. View "Clayton County, Georgia v. Federal Aviation Administration" on Justia Law

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Verizon filed suit challenging the Board's denial of its application for a special use permit to construct a cellular communications tower. The district court dismissed the action as time-barred under the thirty-day limitations period of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (TCA). The Eleventh Circuit reversed, holding that the Board's action became final not when the Clerk entered a document in the Ordinances and Resolutions books, as the district court found, but when the Board approved the minutes of the meeting at which it voted on Verizon's application. The court reasoned that only when an applicant receives sufficient notice does the decision become "final," and only then can the thirty-day clock begin to run. In this case, the minutes, created pursuant to published statute, provided the notice that due process and the Supreme Court's interpretation of the TCA required. View "Athens Cellular, Inc. v. Oconee County, Georgia" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit denied the petition for review of the Secretary's order requiring Georgia to repay approximately $2.1 million of federal grant funds to the United States Department of Education. The court held that the Secretary properly considered the circumstances of the underlying fraud in petitioner's case in denying the equitable offset remedy, which he noted was to be determined based on agency precedent on a case by case basis at the discretion of the trier of fact. In this case, the nature and scope of the violation was too serious to warrant an equitable offset given petitioner's employees participated in a complex fraud scheme which led to the state improperly awarding $5.7 million to seventeen subgrantees who did not qualify to receive those funds. View "Georgia Department of Education v. United States Department of Education" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit denied the petition for review of the DEA's denial of Jones Pharmacy and SND Healthcare's application for certificates of registration to dispense controlled substances under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), 21 U.S.C. 801 et seq. The court held that substantial evidence supported the DEA's determination that Jones Pharmacy's owner did not credibly accept full responsibility; the DEA's refusal to consider Jones Pharmacy's remedial measures did not render its decision arbitrary or capricious in this case; and the chosen sanction was not arbitrary or capricious. View "Jones Total Health Care Pharmacy, LLC v. DEA" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint for money damages against the United States, holding that Section 3730 of the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3730, did not waive the sovereign immunity of the United States. The court explained that Section 3730 said nothing about a complaint filed against the government by a relator whose qui tam action was dismissed for a discovery violation after the government obtained a settlement, and it did not expressly waive sovereign immunity from that kind of collateral attack. View "King v. United States Government" on Justia Law

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In 2011 and 2012, a number of individuals and closely held corporations known as Treasure Your Success (TYS) operated a fraudulent credit card interest reduction scheme. Universal Processing Services of Wisconsin, LLC (Universal) violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), 16 C.F.R. 310.1 et seq., by providing substantial assistance to the TYS schemers. The district court found that a violation of the TSR constitutes an “unfair or deceptive act or practice” in violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act. As such, the district court was authorized to order restitution and disgorgement. Furthermore, the court clarified that substantial assistance under the TSR was itself sufficient to justify joint and several liability. The court reaffirmed its order holding Universal jointly and severally liable; Universal contended that was error and joint and several liability can only lie where the defendant is a participant in a common enterprise with the primary violators. The Eleventh Circuit concluded after review the district court did not abuse its discretion in holding Universal jointly and severally liable with the members of the TYS scheme. View "Federal Trade Comm'r v. Universal Processing Services of Wisconsin, LLC" on Justia Law