Justia U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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The Fourth Circuit granted a petition for review of the FWS's new 2018 Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement in connection with the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The court held that FWS arbitrarily reached its no-jeopardy conclusions and failed to correct the deficiencies in the take limits that the court identified in the previous appeal. In this case, the Biological Opinion's conclusion that the pipeline will not jeopardize the rusty patched bumble bee (RPBB) in Bath County, Virginia was arbitrary and capricious because it runs counter to available evidence, relies on data without providing a meaningful basis for that reliance, fails to consider the species’s status as a whole, and fails to consider the pipeline’s impacts on RPBB recovery. Furthermore, the Biological Opinion's finding that the clubshell's continued survival will not be jeopardized by the pipeline construction was not in accordance with the law and failed to consider important aspects of the issue before the agency. The court also held that the Biological Opinion failed to create enforceable take limits for the Indiana bat and the Madison Cave isopod. Accordingly, the court vacated the 2018 Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement. View "Defenders of Wildlife v. U.S. Department of the Interior" on Justia Law

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The District of Columbia and the State of Maryland lacked Article III standing to pursue their claims against President Trump, in any capacity including his individual capacity, under the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Circuit held that the claims that the District and Maryland assert against the President in his individual capacity are identical to the claims they assert against him in his official capacity and are premised on the same factual allegations. Therefore, the court's decision in appeal No. 18-2486, also decided on the same day and addressing the same standing issue, governs the outcome here. Accordingly, based on this opinion and the court's opinion in No. 18-2486, the court remand with instructions to dismiss the complaint with prejudice. View "District of Columbia v. Trump" on Justia Law

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The District of Columbia and the State of Maryland lacked Article III standing to pursue their claims against President Trump under the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Circuit granted President Trump's petition for writ of mandamus and reversed the district court's orders in an action brought by the District and Maryland, contending that the President is receiving emoluments from them because his continued ownership interest in a global business empire provides him with millions of dollars in payments, benefits, and other valuable consideration. Exercising jurisdiction through 28 U.S.C. 1292(b), the court rejected the District and Maryland's argument that they have Article III standing based on harm to their proprietary interests, parens patriae interests, and quasi-sovereign interests. The court stated that the District and Maryland’s interest in enforcing the Emoluments Clauses is so attenuated and abstract that their prosecution of this case readily provokes the question of whether this action against the President is an appropriate use of the courts, which were created to resolve real cases and controversies between the parties. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's orders denying the President's motion to dismiss filed in his official capacity, and in light of the court's related decision in No. 18-2488, the court remanded with instructions to dismiss the complaint with prejudice. View "In re: Donald Trump" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs alleged that the government's decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy (and its changes to policies governing the use of information provided by DACA applicants) violates the Fifth Amendment, as well as the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and common law principles of estoppel. The Fourth Circuit agreed with the district court that plaintiffs' challenges were subject to judicial review and that the government's decision to rescind DACA did not require notice and comment under the APA. However, the court held that the decision violated the APA because—on the administrative record before the court—it was not adequately explained and thus was arbitrary and capricious. The court also held that the district court erred in ordering the government to comply with its policies promulgated in 2012 on the use of information provided by DACA applicants and enjoining it from altering those policies. The court declined, under the doctrine of constitutional avoidance, to decide whether plaintiffs' Fifth Amendment rights were violated. The court also declined to address plaintiffs' remaining arguments. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part, dismissed in part, and remanded. View "Casa De Maryland v. DHS" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the FCC and the Government, in an action alleging that part of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) contravenes the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. In relevant part, the Act prohibits calls to cell phones by use of an automated dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice, subject to three statutory exemptions. Specifically, plaintiffs alleged that one of the statutory exemptions to the automated call ban — created by a 2015 TCPA amendment — is facially unconstitutional under the Free Speech Clause. Although the Fourth Circuit agreed with the district court that strict scrutiny review applied in this case, it held that the debt collection exemption fails to satisfy strict scrutiny, constitutes an unconstitutional content-based restriction on speech, and therefore violates the Free Speech Clause. The court concluded that the flawed exemption could be severed from the automatic call ban. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded. View "American Association of Political Consultants, Inc. v. FCC" on Justia Law

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In an action arising from a condemnation proceeding, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's partial grant of summary judgment to MVP based on its right to condemn certain temporary and permanent easements on the properties of several landowners, including WPPLP. In this case, MVP was authorized by FERC to exercise its rights of eminent domain to construct a natural gas pipeline. The court also affirmed the district court's grant of MVP's motion for a preliminary injunction allowing MVP immediate access to the easements described in MVP's complaint. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding evidence regarding potential damage to WPPLP and WPPLLC's coal as a result of the pipeline; the district court did not err by declining to join WPPLLC as an indispensable party; there was no genuine dispute of material fact as to MVP's claim to invoke eminent domain powers; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the Winter factors favored a grant of a preliminary injunction to MVP. View "Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC v. Western Pocahontas Properties" on Justia Law

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The Sanitary Board challenged the EPA's decision disapproving a revised standard for the receiving waters of the Board's wastewater treatment facility along the Kanawha River. The district court dismissed the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) claims as moot following the issuance of a new permit to the Board. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of the EPA on the merits, finding that the agency did not violate the APA. The court held that, on the record, it was evident that the EPA reached a justified conclusion and its decision was not arbitrary, capricious, nor contrary to law. In this case, the EPA employed the scientific expertise and grounded judgment that the Clean Water Act contemplates. View "Sanitary Board of the City of Charleston v. Wheeler" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's dismissal of his action against the Department of Education for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Plaintiff's action stemmed from defendants' treatment of an allegedly fraudulent student loan in plaintiff's name. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action based on lack of jurisdiction because Congress had not waived sovereign immunity for suits under the FCRA. The court held that the purported FCRA waiver in this case fell short of being unambiguous and unequivocal. View "Robinson v. US Department of Education" on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from FERC's approval of Mountain Valley's application to construct a natural gas pipeline through West Virginia and Virginia. Mountain Valley successfully negotiated easements allowing access onto the land of most of the affected landowners, but in order to obtain the rest of the easements it needed, it initiated condemnation proceedings. Three district courts granted partial summary judgment to Mountain Valley and issued preliminary injunctions granting immediate possession of the easements. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's orders and held that East Tennessee Natural Gas Co. v. Sage, 361 F.3d 808 (4th Cir. 2004), squarely foreclosed the Landowners' argument that the district courts lacked the authority to grant immediate possession in a Natural Gas Act condemnation. The court also held that the district courts did not abuse their discretion in granting preliminary injunctive relief to Mountain Valley under the test in Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008). View "Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC v. 6.56 Acres of Land" on Justia Law

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The temporary, ex parte emergency order presented by plaintiff did not qualify as a predicate state court custody order for the special immigrant juvenile application. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and held that it properly concluded that the USCIS did not impose an ultra vires requirement for permanent custody orders within the SIJ application process. Therefore, the agency did not act arbitrarily, capriciously or contrary to law, or abuse its discretion in determining that plaintiff failed to present a qualifying predicate order in support of his SIJ petition. Finally, the court held that the Full Faith and Credit Act was inapplicable under the facts presented in this case. View "Perez v. Cissna" on Justia Law