Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Year-End Report by Chief Justice Roberts, 2018

For his 2018 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary, the sexual harassment concerns which surfaced at the end of Chief Justice Roberts 2017 report (which we discussed here) occupied center stage. Opening with an anecdote about the importance of law clerks, the Chief Justice discussed the contribution that the Federal Judiciary Workplace Conduct Working Group has made, linking to its more than 140 page report issued in June. The Chief Justice noted that the report determined that "inappropriate workplace conduct is not pervasive within the Judiciary, but it also is not limited to a few isolated instances involving law clerks" and that "misconduct, when it does occur, is more likely to take the form of incivility or disrespect than overt sexual harassment" and frequently goes unreported.  The Chief Justice noted that committees have proposed changes to various codes of conduct and the employment dispute resolution plan.

Interestingly, the Chief Justice does not note that these codes exclude the United States Supreme Court itself, which is of continuing interest, and which the Chief Justice has alluded to in the past, as we last discussed here. Although he writes that "The Supreme Court will supplement its existing internal initiatives and experience of the other federal courts."

The Chief Justice again thanked judicial staff for working through numerous natural disasters, but again did not address the declining diversity of the federal bench, a lack we mentioned last year and which has seemingly only increased.

John_G._Roberts

image: John Roberts being sworn-in as the 17th Chief Justice of the United States by Supreme Court Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, 2005, via.

 

January 2, 2019 in Current Affairs, Gender, Interpretation, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Tenth Circuit Judicial Council Tosses Complaints Against Justice Kavanaugh

The Judicial Council of the Tenth Circuit today tossed out the scores of complaints against Justice Kavanaugh on the ground that as a Supreme Court justice he is no longer subject to the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act. Thus, the Council lacked jurisdiction and dismissed the complaints.

Chief Justice Roberts referred to the Tenth Circuit 83 complaints, alleging that Justice Kavanaugh testified falsely to Congress in his confirmation hearings about his role in the Bush administration, that he testified falsely about his personal conduct, and that he displayed partisan bias and lack of appropriate judicial temperament--all in violation of various canons of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges.

But the Judicial Council of the Tenth Circuit ruled that the Act "effectively precludes action against an individual who is no longer a circuit, district, bankruptcy or magistrate judge." "In conclusion, Congress has not extended the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act to Supreme Court justices."

Still, this might not end the matter. As the ruling states,

The importance of ensuring that governing bodies with clear jurisdiction are aware of the complaints should also be acknowledged. Accordingly, we request that the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability of the Judicial Conference of the United States forward a copy of this Order to any relevant Congressional committees for their information.

. . .

As with any misconduct complaint . . . any complainant has a right to seek review of this Order by filing a petition for review by the Judicial Council . . . .

December 18, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 14, 2018

Ninth Circuit Halts Interim Rules on ACA Contraception Exemptions, but Only as to Plaintiff States

The Ninth Circuit upheld a lower court's preliminary injunction barring the government from enforcing its interim final rules allowing employers and organizations more freely to exempt themselves from the Affordable Care Act's contraception requirement. But at the same time, the court narrowed the nationwide injunction to just the plaintiff states.

The ruling is a significant victory for the plaintiffs. But it may be short-lived, as the government moves to implement final rules (the same as the interim rules, published in November) in January.

The case, California v. Azar, involves several states' (California, Delaware, Virginia, Maryland, and New York) challenge to the government's 2017 interim final rules substantially loosening the exemption standard for organizations and persons to get out from under the Affordable Care Act's contraception requirement. (Recall that the Supreme Court declined to rule on the government's prior exemption in Zubik v. Burwell.) The two IFRs categorically exempted certain religious employers and essentially made the requirement optional for anyone else who has a "sincerely held moral conviction" to contraception.

The plaintiffs argued that the IFRs violated the Administrative Procedure Act (because the agencies didn't use APA notice-and-comment procedures in implementing the IFRs), equal protection, and the Establishment Clause. The Northern District of California held that they were likely to succeed on their APA claim, and issued a nationwide injunction.

The Ninth Circuit affirmed, but limited the injunction to the plaintiff states.

The court first held that the case wasn't moot. The court said that while the agencies published final rules in November, those rules won't go into effect until January 14, 2019. In the meantime, the IFRs are in effect. And because the plaintiffs challenge the IFRs, their case isn't moot.

The court next held that the plaintiffs had standing, based on their increased costs for their already-existing contraception programs. "The states show, with reasonable probability, that the IFRs will first lead to women losing employer-sponsored contraceptive coverage, which will then result in economic harm to the states" because the states will have to fill the coverage loss through their existing free or subsidized contraceptive programs. 

As to the APA, the court ruled that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed--that HHS violated notice-and-comment rulemaking under the APA. The court held that the government's interests in eliminating regulatory uncertainty, eliminating RFRA violations, and reducing the cost of health insurance were insufficient to bypass notice-and-comment procedures. As to regulatory uncertainty, the court said it "is not by itself good cause" to bypass APA procedures. As to RFRA, the court said that "the agencies' reliance on this justification was not a reasoned decision based on findings in the record." And as to reducing health insurance costs, the court said that "[t]his is speculation unsupported by the administrative record and is not sufficient to constitute good cause." The court also said that the agencies lacked statutory authority to bypass notice-and-comment procedures. 

But the court narrowed the district court's nationwide preliminary injunction, and applied it only to the plaintiff states.

Judge Kleinfeld dissented, arguing that the plaintiffs lacked standing, because "their injury is what the Supreme Court calls 'self-inflicted,' because it arises solely from their legislative decisions to pay" for contraception-access programs.

December 14, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Executive Authority, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, Mootness, News, Opinion Analysis, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Fifth Circuit Dismisses Texas's Plea for Declaratory Relief on Anti-Sanctuary Bill

The Fifth Circuit dismissed Texas's case seeking a declaration that its anti-sanctuary-city bill, SB4, did not violate the Constitution. The ruling follows its opinion earlier this year upholding most of the law.

The upshot: SB4 mostly stays on the books.

In this most recent case, Texas v. Travis County, the state sought declaratory relief that SB4 did not violate various provisions of the Constitution. (Recall that SB4 is a state law that requires jurisdictions within the state to comply with federal immigration detainer requests--and, to that extent, not be sanctuary jurisdictions.) The defendants moved to dismiss for lack of standing. But the court held that under Franchise Tax Board it lacked federal-question jurisdiction (and therefore didn't reach the standing question). Here's why (quoting Franchise Tax Board):

States are not significantly prejudiced by an inability to come to federal court for a declaratory judgment in advance of a possible injunctive suit by a person subject to federal regulation. They have a variety of means by which they can enforce their own laws in their own courts, and they do not suffer if the [constitutional questions that] such enforcement may raise are tested there.

...

[U]ntil Congress informs us otherwise, such a suit is not within the original jurisdiction of the United Sates district courts.

Because of the earlier ruling upholding SB4--and because this case merely dismisses Texas's suit for lack of jurisdiction--this case has no effect on SB4. As the court said, "[M]ost of SB4 is now in effect."

 

December 13, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis | Permalink | Comments (0)

Second Circuit Lets Eviction-Settlement Challenges Move Forward

The Second Circuit ruled that a case challenging New York officials' eviction-settlement practices can move forward in federal court, despite the fact that a state-court judge ratified the settlements. The ruling is a victory for victims of the practices, and says that a civil-rights defendant can't side-step federal jurisdiction by having a state-court judge merely ratify the defendant's actions.

The case, Cho v. City of New York, arose when New York officials coerced individuals and businesses into signing settlement agreements waiving various constitutional rights in order to avoid eviction. The settlement agreements were subsequently "so-ordered" by state-court judges.

Plaintiffs sued in federal court under Section 1983, but the defendants won a district court ruling dismissing the case based on the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. (That doctrine says that a federal district court can't hear an appeal of a state-court judgment.) The Second Circuit reversed.

The court ruled that the state-court judges' acts of "so-order[ing]" the settlement agreements didn't turn the plaintiffs' federal-court case into a de facto appeal (that would have been barred by Rooker-Feldman). Instead, the state-court judges merely ratified the settlements. Moreover, the plaintiffs' harm was caused by the coerced settlement agreements themselves, not by the state-court ratification. The court explained:

The instant case thus does not entail the evil Rooker-Feldman was designed to prevent. Plaintiffs are attempting to remedy an alleged injury caused when, prior to any judicial action, they were coerced to settle, not an injury that flows from a state-court judgment. By allowing an action such as this to go forward, we do not risk turning our federal district courts into quasi-appellate courts sitting in review of state-court decisions.

The ruling only allows the case to move forward in federal court; it says nothing about the merits.

December 13, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Court Tosses San Francisco's Challenge to Trump Walk-Back of Regulatory Guidance

Judge Jon S. Tigar (N.D. Cal.) ruled that San Francisco lacked standing to challenge the Trump Administration's rescission of administrative guidance documents related to various federal civil rights and immigration statutes. The ruling is a victory for the Trump Administration and its deregulatory agenda.

The case, San Francisco v. Whitaker, arose out of President Trump's executive order instructing agencies to identify regulatory actions that were "outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective" as candidates for repeal, modification, or replacement. Then-AG Sessions issued a memo stating that DOJ would no longer "issue guidance documents that purport to create rights or obligations binding on persons or entities outside the Executive Branch (including state, local, and tribal governments)." DOJ subsequently announced that it would rescind 25 guidance documents.

San Francisco sued to stop the DOJ from rescinding eight of those, arguing that the rescission was arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act. (The eight relate to the ADA, the FHA, the INA, and various fee and fine practices.)

The court ruled that San Francisco lacked standing. While the court said that San Francisco could assert procedural standing or organizational standing, it still needed to show a harm--and it didn't. The city's theory of harm varied depending on the particular guidance document, but in general the court held that it failed to show that rescission would interfere with its interest in regulation, or increase the risk of enforcement action against it, or that it failed to show a sufficiently tight connection between the rescission and any harm to the city.

The ruling means that the rescission can move forward, ultimately curbing federal regulation of these provisions. Establishing standing to challenge a roll-back on regulations is always trickier than establishing standing to challenge regulations themselves, and it's not clear if or how another plaintiff might show a harm to challenge these or other rescission documents.

December 12, 2018 in Courts and Judging, Executive Authority, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

District Court Dismisses FACA Challenge to Trump's Infrastructure Council

Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle (D.D.C.) dismissed a suit challenging President Trump's Infrastructure Council under the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

The ruling in Food & Water Watch v. Trump arose out of the plaintiff's FACA challenge to the Council, which was (or would have been) designed to give the President advice on infrastructure policy. The plaintiff claimed that the Council was stacked with President Trump's friends, and thus violated FACA's membership and transparency requirements.

The problem: the Council never got off the ground. For that reason, the court said it wasn't a "committee" or even a "de facto committee" under FACA, and the court therefore lacked jurisdiction.

Judge Huvelle emphasized how narrowly courts interpret FACA in order to avoid a separation-of-powers problem. Citing In re Cheney, she wrote

Congress could not have meant that participation in committee meetings or activities, even influential participation, would be enough to make someone a member of the committee . . . . Separation-of-powers concerns strongly support this interpretation of FACA. In making decisions on personnel and policy, and in formulating legislative proposals, the President must be free to seek confidential information from many sources, both inside the government and outside.

The court also denied the plaintiff's request for further discovery.

December 11, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Executive Authority, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Organizations Have Standing to Challenge USDA Inaction on Birds (again), but Lose (again)

Judge Trevor N. McFadden (D.D.C.) ruled in American Anti-Vivisection Society v. USDA that plaintiff organizations had standing to sue the USDA for its 14-year failure to extend protections under the Animal Welfare Act to birds. But at the same time, the court ruled that the plaintiffs' Administrative Procedure Act claims failed.

The case is a reprise of PETA v. USDA, a D.C. Circuit ruling over 3 years ago.

The court recognized the D.C. Circuit's "permissive" rules on organizational standing, and said that while this case presented standing difficulties, it fell in line with PETA:

But the Plaintiffs' organizational standing allegations are similar enough to PETA II to dictate the outcome here. As there, the Plaintiffs have, "at the dismissal stage, adequately shown that the USDA's inaction injured [their] interests and, consequently, [they have] expended resources to counteract those injuries." They have alleged with enough supporting factual allegations that the challenged agency decisions "deny [them] access to information and avenues of redress they wish to use in their routine information-dispensing, counseling, and referral activities." In other words, they have plausibly "alleged inhibition of their daily operations, . . . an injury both concrete and specific to the work in which they are engaged."

This injury--an inability to gather information, publish reports, and help reduce the neglect and abuse of birds--is traceable to the Department's inaction and could be redressed by an order compelling the Department to issue regulations. And the Plaintiffs have pointed to webinars and other educational programs they must produce in the absence of applicable avian regulations. The Court finds that the Plaintiffs have standing and that it has jurisdiction to consider the merits of their arguments.

Nevertheless, the court ruled that the plaintiffs' APA claims failed, because the USDA took the "legally required" action (even if not the bird rules), and because the USDA's inaction isn't a "final agency action."

December 11, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 28, 2018

District Court Says Members of Congress Have Standing to Sue President for Emoluments Violations

Judge Emmet G. Sullivan (D.D.C.) ruled today in Blumenthal v. Trump that members of Congress have standing to sue President Trump for violations of the Foreign Emoluments Clause. At the same time, Judge Sullivan declined to rule on the President's other three arguments for dismissal--that the plaintiffs lack a cause of action, that they've failed to state a claim (because the President's business interests aren't "emoluments" under the Clause), and that injunctive relief sought is unconstitutional. Thus, the ruling is a set-back for the President, but Judge Sullivan may yet end up dismissing the case on other grounds.

We posted here on the earlier district court ruling that another Emoluments case, brought by Maryland and D.C., can move forward.

The Congressmembers' case alleges that President Trump's overseas business holdings and properties generate income and benefits for the President, without the consent of Congress, in violation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause. That Clause says:

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

The 201 plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief. They claimed that they were harmed (for standing purposes) because the President, by failing to seek congressional consent, denied each of them a "vote on the record about whether to approve his acceptance of a prohibited foreign emolument."

The court agreed:

[E]ach time the President allegedly accepts a foreign emolument without seeking congressional consent, plaintiffs suffer a concrete and particularized injury--the deprivation of the right to vote on whether to consent to the President's acceptance of the prohibited foreign emolument--before he accepts it. And although the injury is an institutional one, the injury is personal to legislators entitled to cast the vote that was nullified.

The court went on to say that standing didn't violate the separation of powers. The court held that the plaintiffs lacked an alternative legislative remedy, and that the case was appropriate for judicial review.

September 28, 2018 in Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Executive Authority, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Ninth Circuit Rules No-Fly Challenger's Case Not Moot

The Ninth Circuit ruled in Fikre v. FBI that the plaintiff's due process challenges to his inclusion on the government's no-fly list were not moot, even though the government took him off the list during the litigation. The ruling means that the plaintiff's case challenging his inclusion on the no-fly list can move forward.

The case arose from Yonas Fikre's inclusion on the no-fly list and his several and significant resulting harms. Fikre alleged that his inclusion violated substantive and procedural due process, and he sought declaratory and injunctive relief. During the litigation, the government removed Fikre from the list, however, and moved to dismiss the case as moot. The district court granted the motion.

The Ninth Circuit reversed. The court ruled that Fikre's case came under the voluntary cessation exception to mootness--that signs pointed to the government opportunistically removing him, and that the government could reinstate him at any time. The court explained:

To begin, the FBI's decision to restore Fikre's flying privileges is an individualized determination untethered to any explanation or change in policy, much less an abiding change in policy. . . .

Moreover, the government has no assured Fikre that he will not be banned from flying for the same reasons that prompted the government to add him to the list in the first place, nor has it verified the implementation of procedural safeguards conditioning its ability to revise Fikre's status on the receipt of new information. . . .

Finally . . . we note that Fikre's removal from the No Fly List does not "completely and irrevocably eradicate[] the effects of the alleged violation[s]."

The ruling sends the case back to the district court for further proceedings.

September 20, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, Mootness, News, Opinion Analysis | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Federal Judge Orders Return of Mother and Daughter Being Deported

In a terse written Order in Grace v. Sessions, United States District Judge for the District of Columbia, Emmet Sullivan reiterated his oral order  "requiring the Defendants to return “Carmen” and her daughter to the United States FORTHWITH" (emphasis in original).  Judge Sullivan's Order recounted that at the emergency hearing on August 8, "Defendants stated that they would not consent to staying the removal past 11:59 pm Thursday August 9, 2018, but specifically represented to the Court that “Carmen” and her daughter would not be removed prior to that time." The judge therefore set a hearing for 1:00pm on Thursday, during which it was learned that Carmen and her daughter were being removed from the country by plane. The Judge's Order concluded:

it is

HEREBY ORDERED that the Defendants shall return “Carmen” and her daughter to the United States FORTHWITH; and it is

FURTHER ORDERED that in the event that the Defendants do not fully comply with this Order, Defendants Attorney General Jefferson Sessions, III; Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service Director Lee Francis Cissna; and Executive Office of Immigration Review Director James McHenry, preferably accompanied by their attorneys, shall be ORDERED to appear in Court to SHOW CAUSE why they should not be held in CONTEMPT OF COURT; and it is

FURTHER ORDERED that the Defendants shall file a status report on the docket in this case by no later than 5:00 pm August 10, 2018, informing the Court of the Defendants’ compliance with this Order.

SO ORDERED.

[emphasis in original].

The complaint in the case challenges expanded "expedited removal" for asylum seekers whose claims are based on gang violence or domestic violence, with statutory claims for relief augmented by separation of powers arguments and a constitutional claim of violation of due process.

August 9, 2018 in Courts and Judging, Current Affairs, Executive Authority, Fifth Amendment, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, Procedural Due Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Ninth Circuit Says Cross Border Shooting Case Can Go Forward

The Ninth Circuit ruled yesterday in Rodriguez v. Swartz that a case against a U.S. Border Patrol agent for shooting and killing a Mexican youth across the U.S.-Mexican border can go forward. The court denied qualified immunity for the agent and ruled that the plaintiff had a valid Bivens claim.

This case is yet another cross-border shooting case, different than Hernandez v. Mesa. Recall that the Court remanded that case for further proceedings on the Bivens question. The Fifth Circuit held that Bivens did not provide a remedy in that case, because the case raised a new Bivens context, and because "extending Bivens would interfere with the political branches' oversight of national security and foreign affairs"; "would flout Congress's consistent and explicit refusals to provide damage remedies for aliens injured abroad"; and "would create a remedy with uncertain limits."

The Ninth Circuit ruling thus splits with the Fifth Circuit.

Rodriguez arose when a Border Patrol agent shot and killed a Mexican youth across the border for no apparent reason whatsoever, and without knowing the youth's nationality. The youth's representatives sued under Bivens.

The Ninth Circuit first denied qualified immunity to the agent. The court said that the Fourth Amendment applies to this kind of situation, that it clearly prohibits this kind of "seizure," and that it was clearly established at the time that the agent couldn't shoot the youth. The court distinguished Verdugo-Urquidez, saying that the agent in this case "acted on American soil subject to American law."

The court went on to rule that Bivens provided a remedy. The court said that while this case indeed presented a new Bivens context, Rodriguez had no other adequate remedy, and there were no "special factors" counseling hesitation.

Judge M. Smith dissented, arguing that Bivens did not extend to this case, and that the court's ruling created a circuit split and disregarded Supreme Court law.

August 8, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Ninth Circuit Boots Environmental Case Against Ex-Im Bank for Lack of Standing

The Ninth Circuit ruled this week that environmental non-profits lacked standing to sue Ex-Im Bank for its failure to follow statutorily prescribed procedures before authorizing loans to private corporations for two liquid natural gas projects near the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

The case is a cautionary tale for environmental groups (or others) suing for statutory procedural violations: Develop the record.

The ruling means that the case is dismissed.

The case, Center for Biological Diversity v. Export-Import Bank of the U.S., arose when Ex-Im Bank approved funding for two liquid natural gas projects near the Great Barrier Reef. Environmental organizations sued, arguing that Ex-Im Bank failed to consult as required by the Endangered Species Act and failed to take into account environmental impacts as required by the National Historical Preservation Act.

The Ninth Circuit dismissed the case for lack of standing. The court said that the plaintiffs didn't sufficiently connect the Bank's procedural failures to the harm to the Reef, especially given that the projects had begun by the time the Bank provided funding, and therefore failed to show causation and redressability. For one, the plaintiffs couldn't show "what action could be taken by the Ex-Im Bank to alter the course of the Projects, if the Bank were to perform the procedures" under the Acts. For another, the plaintiffs "have not established that the Ex-Im Bank was a necessary party without whom the Projects would not have been realized." Both problems resulted from the plaintiffs' failure to develop the record--the funding contracts themselves (to show what Ex-Im might do if the procedures were followed) and evidence of alternative project funding (to show the significance of Ex-Im's loans on the projects).

At the same time, the court held that the case was not moot. That's because the record didn't show whether Ex-Im continued to have some leverage over the borrowers, even though the project is now complete and at least some of the loans are fully repaid.

June 30, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Seventh Circuit Narrows Injunction Against DOJ's Sanctuary Cities Crackdown

The Seventh Circuit earlier this week narrowed the nationwide injunction against AG Sessions's crackdown on Chicago's sanctuary-cities practices so that it now only applies "as to the imposition of the conditions on the City of Chicago," and not the "geographic areas in the United States beyond the City of Chicago pending the disposition of the case by the en banc court."

The ruling means that the injunction now applies only to Chicago, and not nationwide.

The ruling was expected: the court said that it'd rule on the issue as soon as the Supreme Court handed down the travel ban decision.

The ruling gave no reasons for restricting the injunction. Recall that on Tuesday, in the travel ban case, the Court declined to address the issue of whether a lower court can issue a nationwide injunction. (It didn't have to rule on this, because it upheld the travel ban.)

June 28, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Executive Authority, Federalism, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Check it Out: Matz and Adler on Chevron

Check out the back-and-forth between Joshua Matz (at Take Care) and Jonathan Adler (at Volokh) on Justice Kennedy's broadside in his Pereira concurrence this week against Chevron deference to administrative interpretations. Justice Kennedy wrote separately--joined by no one, but citing Chevron-critical opinions by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas and Gorsuch--that

it seems necessary and appropriate to reconsider, in an appropriate case, the premises that underlie Chevron and how courts have implemented that decision. The proper rules for interpreting statutes and determining agency jurisdiction and substantive agency powers should accord with constitutional separation-of-powers principles and the function and province of the Judiciary.

June 24, 2018 in Executive Authority, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 22, 2018

Court OKs Simultaneous Service on Different Military Courts

The Supreme Court ruled today in Ortiz v. United States that a military officer could serve on both the military Court of Criminal Appeals (as an inferior officer) and the Court of Military Commission Review (as a principal officer) without violating the Appointments Clause. The ruling also says that the dual appointment didn't violate federal statutory law.

The ruling leaves in place a conviction upheld by a CCA panel that included an officer who also had an appointment on the CMCR (which reviews military commission decisions--different than court martial rulings--out of Guantanamo Bay).

But before the Court said anything about the dual appointment, it said quite a bit about its jurisdiction to hear the case. Justice Kagan, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor, wrote that the Court (the top of the Article III branch) had jurisdiction over the appeal from the military courts (located in Article I), because "the judicial character and constitutional pedigree of the court-martial system enable this Court, in exercising appellate jurisdiction, to review the decisions of the court sitting at its apex." The Court thus rejected arguments by amicus Professor Aditya Bamzai that the Court lacked jurisdiction over military-court appeals because military courts aren't Article III courts. (The argument is substantially more complicated than that; check out the opinion, and Prof. Bamzai's brief.) Justice Thomas concurred, basing his conclusion that military courts exercise a judicial function (and therefore that the Court can exercise appellate jurisdiction over them) on his originalist argument that adjudicating "private" rights is a core judicial function. Justice Alito, joined by Justice Gorsuch, dissented, arguing that military courts can't exercise judicial power, because that would violate the separation of powers:

Today's decision is unprecedented, and it flatly violates the unambiguous text of the Constitution. Although the arguments in the various opinions issued today may seem complex, the ultimate issue is really quite simple. The Court and the concurrence say that Congress may confer part of the judicial power of the United States on an entity that is indisputably part of the Executive Branch. But Article III of the Constitution vests "[t]he Judicial Power of the United States"--every single drop of it--in "one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish" in compliance with that Article. A decision more contrary to the plain words of the Constitution is not easy to recall.

On the merits, the Court held that the dual appointment didn't violate the Appointments Clause. The reason is easy: That Clause simply doesn't forbid dual service, even when one office is an "inferior office" and the other is a "principal office," especially so long as the two offices have nothing to do with each other:

The problem, [petitioner] suggests, is that the other (inferior officer) judges on the CCA will be "unduly influenced by" Judge Mitchell's principal-officer status on the CMCR.

But that argument stretches too far. This Court has never read the Appointments Clause to impose rules about dual service, separate and distinct from methods of appointment. Nor has it ever recognized principles of "incongruity" or "incompatibility" to test the permissibility of holding two offices. As Ortiz [the petitioner] himself acknowledges, he can "cite no authority holding that the Appointments Clause prohibits this sort of simultaneous service."

And if we were ever to apply the Clause to dual office-holding, we would not start here. Ortiz tells no plausible story about how Judge Mitchell's service on the CMCR would result in "undue influence" on his CCA colleagues. The CMCR does not review the CCA's decisions (or vice versa); indeed, the two courts do not have any overlapping jurisdiction. They are parts of separate judicial systems, adjudicating different kinds of charges against different kinds of defendants. We cannot imagine that anyone on the CCA acceded to Judge Mitchell's views because he also sat on the CMCR . . . . The CAAF put the point well: "When Colonel Mitchell sits as a CCA judge, he is no different from any other CCA judge." So there is no violation of the Appointments Clause.

The Court also ruled that the dual appointment didn't violate federal statutory law.

June 22, 2018 in Appointment and Removal Powers, Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Executive Authority, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 14, 2018

District Court Lets Drone-Strike-List Case Move Forward

Judge Rosemary Collyer (D.D.C.) ruled yesterday that a journalist's due process claim against the government for including him on a drone-strike kill list can move forward. Judge Collyer ruled that the journalist had standing, and that his due process challenge did not present a non-justiciable political question.

The ruling in Zaidan v. Trump stands in contrast to other similar cases, and is a significant (though preliminary) victory for the plaintiff.

The case originally involved two journalists who challenged their inclusion on the government's drone-strike kill list. They lodged a series of challenges, including violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (because inclusion violated the government's criteria for inclusion, adopted under President Obama); violations of the EO banning assassinations, the Geneva Conventions, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and federal law; and violations of due process.

The government moved to dismiss the case for lack of standing and because it raised a non-justiciable political question. The court granted the motion in part and denied it in part.

The court ruled that one of the plaintiffs lacked standing, because he failed sufficiently to allege a harm. The court said that the other plaintiff demonstrated harm (and causation and redressability), but that claims based on the APA, the EO, the Geneva Conventions, the ICCPR, and related federal law all raised a political question. As to the APA claim, the court said that it had no judicially manageable standards for resolving it. The court said that the presidential guidance for inclusion on the kill list didn't provide sufficiently determinate standards for judicial review. (The more vague a government policy, the less likely a plaintiff can challenge it under the APA.) As to the other claims, the court merely said that "the process of determining whether Defendants exceeded their authority or violated any of the statutes referenced in the Complaint would require the Court to make a finding on the propriety of the alleged action, which is prohibited by the political question doctrine."

But as to the due process claim, the court concluded that there was no political-question-doctrine bar to moving forward. The court emphasized that the plaintiff's claim was against his inclusion on the kill list, and not that a drone strike was invalid (which might have raised a political question):

[The plaintiff] does not seek a ruling that a strike by the U.S. military was mistaken or improper. He seeks his birthright instead: a timely assertion of his due process rights under the Constitution to be heard before he might be included on the Kill List and his First Amendment rights to free speech before he might be targeted for lethal action due to his profession.

The ruling does not touch on the merits; it merely allows the due process portion of one plaintiff's case to move forward. Still, getting over the political question doctrine in a case like this is a significant victory for the plaintiff.

June 14, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Executive Authority, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Political Question Doctrine, Separation of Powers, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

District Court Tosses Kaspersky Lab's Lawsuits

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly (D.D.C.) today tossed two lawsuits filed by Kaspersky Lab arising out of the government's rejection of Kaspersky products. The ruling ends Kaspersky's challenges and means that the federal prohibition on government use of Kaspersky products stays on the books.

Kaspersky Lab, the Russian cyber-security firm, filed its first suit in response to the Department of Homeland Security's Binding Operative Directive that required all federal departments and agencies to stop using Kaspersky products. DHS issued the BOD out of concern that Kaspersky products on the government's networks and computer systems could create a security risk. Kaspersky argued that the BOD violated the Administrative Procedure Act and the Fifth Amendment.

Kaspersky filed its second suit in response to the National Defense Authorization Act, which also prohibited the government from using Kaspersky products. (The NDAA contained a somewhat broader prohibition, effective October 1, 2018.) Kaspersky argued that the NDAA was an unconstitutional bill of attainder.

The court ruled first that the NDAA did not violate the Bill of Attainder Clause, because the prohibition wasn't "punishment" under any of the three tests adopted by the D.C. Circuit (the "Historical Test," the "Functional Test," or the "Motivational Test"). The court dismissed this suit.

The court next ruled that Kaspersky lacked standing to challenge DHS's BOD, because any ruling in its favor wouldn't redress its harm. In particular, the court said that revoking the BOD wouldn't do anything to allow Kaspersky to sell its products to the government, because the (valid) prohibition in the NDAA would prohibit that. The court said that the government, knowing that the NDAA's ban takes effect on October 1, 2018, wouldn't purchase any Kaspersky products in the interim.

The ruling means that the bans on Kaspersky products stay on the books, and the government must remove all Kaspersky products from its systems.

May 30, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 29, 2018

District Court Tosses Manafort's Civil Case Challenging Mueller's Authority

Judge Amy Berman Jackson (D.D.C.) on Friday dismissed Paul Manafort's civil case challenging the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel, and therefore Meuller's authority to prosecute him. The ruling will almost certainly withstand any appeal and thus ends Manafort's civil challenge to Mueller's authority. It has no effect on Manafort's criminal case, or his ability to challenge Mueller's authority in that case.

Manafort original pleading challenged his indictment and future actions by Mueller, arguing that Mueller's appointment was invalid and that his indictment exceeded Mueller's authority. But Manafort subsequently refined his claim and sought only prospective relief: an order declaring Mueller's appointment order invalid (but only as to paragraph (b)(ii), authorizing the Special Counsel to investigate "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation") and "enjoining the Special Counsel's future ultra vires exercise of authority under that Order." Manafort backed away from his earlier and much broader claims, because circuit law would certainly foreclose those. But by seeking only prospective relief, Manafort did himself in.

Judge Jackson ruled that "Manfort's situation falls squarely within the scope of" Deaver v. Seymour, the 1987 case in which the D.C. Circuit extended Younger abstention and held that the subject of a criminal investigation cannot bring a civil action to attack an impending federal prosecution (except when the criminal case chilled First Amendment rights, not applicable here). In short:

[A] civil case is not the appropriate vehicle for taking issue with what a prosecutor has done in the past or where he might be headed in the future. It is a sound and well-established principle that a court should not exercise its equitable powers to interfere with or enjoin an ongoing criminal investigation when the defendant will have the opportunity to challenge any defects in the prosecution in the trial court or on direct appeal. Therefore, the Court finds that this civil complaint must be dismissed.

Moreover, Judge Jackson ruled that Manafort lacked standing, because he couldn't plead imminent harm, and because his claim wasn't ripe. (Remember that he refined his case to ask for only prospective relief.)

April 29, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 26, 2018

SCOTUS Upholds Inter Partes Review Against Article III Challenge

The Supreme Court this week upheld a congressionally authorized practice called "inter partes review" that allows for reconsideration and cancellation by the Patent and Trademark Office of an already-issued patent. The Court said that inter partes review didn't violate Article III (by assigning a role of the judiciary to the PTO) or the Seventh Amendment.

The case tested inter partes review against Article III, on the argument that inter partes review represents an impermissible delegation of a core judicial function to an executive agency.

The Court, drawing on precedent, said that patents fell within the "public-rights doctrine," which permits executive or legislative bodies to determine matters "arising between the government and others." And moreover, inter partes review "involves the same basic matter as the grant of a patent" in the first place, and is therefore only a kind of "second look at an earlier . . . grant" by the PTO.

Justice Breyer wrote a concurrence, joined by Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor, saying that "the Court's opinion should not be read to say that matters involving private rights may never be adjudicated other than by Article III courts."

Justice Gorsuch, joined by Chief Justice Roberts, dissented, arguing that the practice cut into the unique Article III role and independence of the courts and impermissibly assigned the role to the PTO. (Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Gorsuch (joined by Justice Kennedy) also dissented in Patchak, the case earlier this Term holding that a congressional act instructing courts to dismiss a certain class of cases didn't violate Article III, even when the act was targeted at a particular pending case, for similar reasons. These dissents are well worth a read.)

April 26, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Executive Authority, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)