Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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Three municipalities who use the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to carry out their obligations under state law filed suit against the DOD and its constituent military departments, seeking to compel the department to more thoroughly comply with federal law requiring the department to provide records to the NICS. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the municipalities' claim and held that they lacked constitutional standing and failed to establish subject matter jurisdiction under the Administrative Procedure Act. The court explained that there was simply no basis in the APA's text for such a broad incursion into internal agency management. The court noted that the APA did not permit the municipalities' efforts to include judicial supervision of the myriad programmatic workings of the federal government. View "City of New York v. DOD" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged the Board's decision certifying that it had reasonable assurances that activities related to the construction of a natural gas pipeline would not degrade the state's water resources. The Fourth Circuit denied the petition for review, holding that the Board's certification under section 401 of the Clean Water Act was not arbitrary and capricious. The court held that the decision to reopen the comment period and not to conduct a combined effect analysis did not render the state agencies' issuance of a section 401 certification arbitrary and capricious. The court also held that the state agencies' reasonable assurance determination was not arbitrary and capricious because they relied on existing Virginia water quality standards and regulations to effectively address concerns regarding water quality deterioration, and the state agencies' treatment of karst terrain was not arbitrary or capricious because of the conditions imposed on the certification. View "Appalachian Voices v. State Water Control Board" on Justia Law

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Relator brought a qui tam action against four student loan corporations, including PHEAA, alleging that they violated the False Claims Act (FCA) by defrauding the Department of Education. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the jury's unanimous verdict in favor of PHEAA, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding a 2004–2007 Performance Audit as irrelevant; plaintiff failed to preserve his challenge to the failure to give his proposed jury instructions; and the district court did not plainly err in instructing the jury. View "United States ex rel. Oberg v. Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency" on Justia Law

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Relator appealed the district court's dismissal of his qui tam action against his former employer, United Airlines, under the False Claims Act. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court properly dismissed plaintiff's complaint as to the substantive claims under 31 U.S.C. 3729(a)(1)(A)–(B), because he failed to plead his claims with the requisite particularity. However, the court held that plaintiff pleaded retaliation under section 3730(h), and the district court therefore erred in holding that plaintiff failed to plead sufficient facts to withstand the motion to dismiss. In this case, under the objective reasonableness standard, plaintiff sufficiently alleged that he was engaged in protected activity, United knew about the protected activity, and United terminated plaintiff because he engaged in the protected activity. View "United States ex rel. Grant v. United Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit granted a petition for review of the Forest Service's Special Use Permit and Record of Decision authorizing Atlantic, the project developer, to construct the Atlantic Coast Pipeline through parts of the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests and granting a right of way across the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The court held that the Forest Service's decisions in its 2012 Planning Rule and the 2016 Amendment to the 2012 Planning Rule violated the National Forest Management Act and the court remanded for further proceedings. The court also held that the Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act, and that the Forest Service lacked statutory authority pursuant to the Mineral Leasing Act to grant a pipeline right of way across the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The court concluded that the Forest Service abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources, and noted that the Forest Service's serious environmental concerns were suddenly, and mysteriously, assuaged in time to meet a private pipeline company's deadlines. View "Cowpasture River Preservation Association v. Forest Service" on Justia Law

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Air Evac, an air ambulance company and registered air carrier, filed suit to enjoin the enforcement of various laws in West Virginia enacted to limit the reimbursement rates of air ambulance companies. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling in favor of Air Evac by enjoining the state from enforcing the maximum reimbursement caps and fee schedules for ambulance companies. The court held that the state's laws were preempted by the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 (ADA), which expressly preempts state efforts to regulate the prices, routes, and services of certain air carriers. View "Air Evac EMS, Inc. v. Cheatham" on Justia Law

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The district court awarded summary judgment to the state and entered an injunction that required DOE to remove not less than one metric ton of defense plutonium from the State within two years. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court properly enforced the statutory responsibilities imposed on the DOE by Congress and that it also appropriately crafted and entered the injunction. The court rejected the DOE's contention that the principles governing mandamus proceedings, as well as fundamental principles of injunctive relief, control the award of an injunction under the Administrative Procedure Act. The court held that the district court, in carefully crafting the injunction, gave full consideration to the positions of the parties and the record. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion or improperly burdened the DOE by imposing 50 U.S.C. 2566(c)'s two-year removal time frame. View "South Carolina v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' constitutional and statutory challenges to Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority's (MWAA) ability to use toll revenues to fund projects enhancing access to Dulles airport. The court applied the standard from Lebron v. National Railroad Passenger Corporation, 513 U.S. 374 (1995), and held that MWAA was not a federal entity. The court held that MWAA's structure did not violate the non-delegation principle because MWAA exercises no power assigned elsewhere by the Constitution; MWAA did not violate the Guarantee Clause because it did not deny any state a republican form of government; and the court rejected plaintiff's claim that MWAA's use of toll road funds to build metro service to Dulles violates the command that funds only be spent on "capital and operating costs of the Metropolitan Washington Airports" and agreed with the Secretary of Transportation's interpretation of the Lease and Transfer Act. View "Kerpen v. Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to grant preliminary injunctive relief under section 10(j) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), 29 U.S.C. 160(j), as requested to preserve the ability of the National Labor Relations Board to award relief after the completion of the ongoing agency process adjudicating unfair labor practice charges against two hospitals because the Board failed sufficiently to demonstrate that the effectiveness of its remedial power was in jeopardy in this case. A union filed unfair labor practice charges with the Board alleging that two hospitals had refused to bargain collectively and in good faith with the union. The Board later filed petitions in the district court against the hospitals under section 10(j) requesting preliminary injunctions - pending the final disposition of the matters pending before the Board - that would direct the hospitals to bargain with the union in good faith. The Board alleged that preliminary injunctive relief was necessary to prevent declining employee support for the union. The district court declined to grant relief. The Fourth Circuit affirmed, holding that the Board’s arguments for injunctive relief failed to demonstrate that the Board’s ability to redress the alleged unfair labor practices will be impaired or frustrated. View "Henderson v. Bluefield Hospital Co." on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit held that agency decisions that provided necessary approvals for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) were arbitrary and capricious. In Case No. 18-1083, petitioners challenged the Incidental Take Statement (ITS) authorizing the pipeline to take five species listed as threatened or endangered. The court held that, although FWS was not required to set a numeric limit, it can only use a habitat surrogate if it demonstrates a causal link between the species and the delineated habitat, shows that setting a numerical limit was not practical, and set a clear standard for determining when incidental take is exceeded. In this case, FWS failed some or all of these requirements for all five challenged species, and thus the agency's take limits were not enforceable. In Case No. 18-1082, petitioners argued that NPS lacked the authority to grant a right-of-way to a gas pipeline and that doing so violated the statutory mandate that agency decisions not be inconsistent with the Parkway's conservation purpose. The court assumed that NPS had the requisite statutory authority but held that NPS did not explain how the pipeline crossing was not inconsistent with the purposes of the Parkway and the overall National Park System. View "Sierra Club v. National Park Service" on Justia Law