Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit seeking to move or extend the Brick-Kiln Dock to improve its accessibility. Plaintiffs argued that the deed by which plaintiffs conveyed the island property to the government and reserved the right to continue to use the dock permitted them to relocate the dock. Alternatively, plaintiffs contend that the Park Service's denial of permission to relocate or extend the dock was arbitrary and capricious. The court affirmed the district court's determination that, under the plain language of the deed, plaintiffs have no reserved right to unilaterally relocate or extend the dock. The court also concluded that the Park Service's denial of permission to relocate or extend the Dock was not arbitrary or capricious and did not exceed its authority. In this case, the Wilderness Act, 16 U.S.C. 1131(a), foreclosed relocation of the Dock, and the Park Service was authorized to regulate the marshlands. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "High Point, LLLP v. National Park Service" on Justia Law

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This case arose from the Broward County (Florida) Sheriff’s potential liability under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for failing to rehire a former deputy allegedly due to his political loyalties and in violation of his First Amendment rights. Broward County has expressly designated its sheriff as its chief correctional officer (CCO); thus, at issue in this case was the basic question whether a Florida county sheriff, acting in his capacity as chief correctional officer in the hiring and firing of his deputies, was an arm of the state entitled to the benefit of the state’s Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit in federal court. After careful review, and having the benefit of oral argument, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that a Florida sheriff was not an arm of the state when acting in this capacity. The Court therefore reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment for the Sheriff and remanded to the district court for further proceedings. View "Stanley v. Broward County Sheriff" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, two survivors of a bus crash that occurred because the driver fell asleep at the wheel, filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 2680, against the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Plaintiffs alleged that agency officials were at fault for allowing the bus company to continue operating after it should have been declared unsafe to do so. The case was dismissed for lack of federal subject matter jurisdiction. The court affirmed the district court's Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. 1951, analysis in its order granting summary to the United States on plaintiffs' claims. The district court correctly held that because it lacks jurisdiction to determine the validity of 49 C.F.R. 385.17(f), the district court must proceed with its discretionary function analysis based on the regulation as it stood in 2011. Therefore, the court's review is limited to the portion of plaintiffs' claims that would not require it to assume invalid the version of 49 C.F.R. 385.17(f) in effect at the time the FMCSA granted the company the ten-day extension. The court agreed with the district court's holding that the United States had not waived its immunity from suit related to the decision allowing the bus company to continue operating because that decision was a discretionary one, excepted under 28 U.S.C. 2680(a) from the United States’ waiver of sovereign immunity for certain tort actions. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Chhetri v. United States" on Justia Law

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FEB filed suit against the government seeking to quiet title to a spoil island off Key West, known as Wisteria Island. Wisteria Island was formed as a result of the Navy's dredging operations. In this case, it is undisputed that the state of Florida, F.E.B.’s predecessor in interest, had actual knowledge of the United States’ claim to the island in 1951. F.E.B.'s Quiet Title Act (QTA), 28 U.S.C. 2409a(g), claim expired in 1963, well before initiation of this suit. The court concluded that the Submerged Lands Act (SLA), 43 U.S.C. 1301-1315, does not rise to the level of the “clear and unequivocal” abandonment of the government’s interest in Wisteria Island necessary to reset the QTA statute of limitations. The court found F.E.B.'s arguments to the contrary unpersuasive. Therefore, the court found that the QTA's statute of limitations has run and affirmed the district court's dismissal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "F.E.B. Corp. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a federal inmate, filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 2680, alleging that a Bureau of Prisons (BOP) official withheld wages he was owed for his work while incarcerated. Plaintiff also filed related claims of discrimination, retaliation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court concluded that the record shows that BOP regulations allowed no discretion to refuse to pay the wages at that stage and that the refusal was not grounded in policy. Therefore, the district court erred in dismissing the claim on the basis of the pleading allegations. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment in regards to the pay claim. The court affirmed as to the other claims. View "Douglas v. United States" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated appeals, plaintiff challenged the regulations implementing the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act, 42 U.S.C. 300gg-13(a), arguing that the regulations’ accommodation for nonprofit organizations with a religious objection to providing contraceptive coverage violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. 2000bb, et seq. The court concluded that the regulations do not substantially burden plaintiffs' religious exercise and, alternatively, because (1) the government has compelling interests to justify the accommodation, and (2) the accommodation is the least restrictive means of furthering those interests. The court rejected EWTN’s challenges under the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses because the accommodation is a neutral, generally applicable law that does not discriminate based on religious denomination. The court also rejected EWTN’s challenge under the Free Speech Clause because any speech restrictions that may flow from the accommodation are justified by a compelling governmental interest and are thus constitutional. View "Eternal Word Television Network v. Secretary" on Justia Law

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The County petitioned for review of the Board's ruling reversing the ALJ's findings and conclusions in a proceeding under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, 33 U.S.C. 1367. The parties agreed that the Board incorrectly applied a de novo rather than substantial-evidence standard to the ALJ's findings. The court denied the petition for review, concluding that reviewing for substantial evidence would not have changed the result because the Board reversed the ALJ on matters of law, not fact. View "DeKalb Cnty. v. U.S. Dept. of Labor" on Justia Law

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Two separate groups brought pre-enforcement challenges to the MSHA's final rule, entitled Lowering Miners’ Exposure to Respirable Coal Mine Dust, Including Continuous Personal Dust Monitors (New Dust Rule). On the first challenge, the court concluded that, consistent with the plain language of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (Mine Act), 30 U.S.C. 801 et seq., and with the earlier precedent of this court, the statute as amended clearly evinces a congressional intent that, although it must consider the advice of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), MSHA has the sole responsibility to issue regulations covering the subjects addressed by this rule. On the second challenge, the court concluded that MSHA’s decades-long effort, culminating in the publication of this rule, adequately took into account the scientific evidence of record and arrived at conclusions which, given MSHA’s expertise, are worthy of deference. Accordingly, the court denied the petitions for review. View "National Mining Ass'n v. Secretary, U.S. Dep't of Labor" on Justia Law

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Petitioners filed petitions with the EPA seeking to withdraw Alabama's authorization to administer the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), as part of the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq. On appeal, petitioners challenged the EPA's findings on some of the 22 alleged deficiencies that did not warrant the initiation of program withdrawal proceedings. The court dismissed the appeal without prejudice, concluding that it does not have jurisdiction to review the interim report with which petitioners disagreed because EPA has not made a "determination" within the meaning of section 1396(b)(1)(D). View "Cahaba Riverkeeper v. EPA" on Justia Law

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This case concerns Lolita, a killer whale held in captivity since 1970, who performs each day at the Seaquarium. ALDF filed suit against the USDA for declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that Seaquarium houses Lolita in conditions that violate the Animal Welfare Act's (AWA), 7 U.S.C. 2131-59, standards for granting a license under 7 U.S.C. 2133-34. The district court granted summary judgment to USDA. The court held that USDA’s renewal of Seaquarium’s April 2012 license is a final agency action subject to judicial review under 5 U.S.C. 706(2). On the merits, the court concluded that USDA’s licensing regulations constitute a reasonable policy choice balancing the conflicting congressional aims of due process and animal welfare, and the AWA licensing scheme is entitled to deference by the court. USDA has the discretionary enforcement authority to revoke a license due to noncompliance. Only Congress possesses the power to limit the agency’s discretion and demand annual, substantive compliance with animal welfare standards. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Animal Legal Defense Fund v. USDA" on Justia Law