Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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Constitution petitioned for review of the Department's decision denying its application for certification pursuant to Section 401 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, more commonly known as the Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C. 1341. Constitution sought certification that its proposed interstate natural gas pipeline would comply with New York State water quality standards. NYSDEC denied the application on the ground that Constitution had not provided sufficient information. The Second Circuit held that, to the extent Constitution challenged the timeliness of the NYSDEC decision, the petition was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. On the merits, the court held that NYSDEC's actions were within its statutory authority and that its decision was not arbitrary or capricious. The court deferred to NYSDEC's expertise as to the significance of the information requested from Constitution, given the record evidence supporting the relevance of that information to NYSDEC's certification determination. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "Constitution Pipeline Co. v. New York Sate Department of Environmental Conservation" on Justia Law

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The notice of termination itself constitutes an adverse employment action, even when the employer later rescinds the termination. The Second Circuit held that plaintiff's notice of termination in this case was itself an adverse employment action, despite its later revocation; likewise, the court saw no reason to construe plaintiff's Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) claim differently from her Title VII claim with respect to whether the rescission of a notice of termination given to a pregnant employee establishes as a matter of law that the notice may not constitute an adverse employment action; the facts alleged were insufficient to establish constructive discharge nor a hostile work environment; plaintiff's retaliation claim was properly dismissed; and because plaintiff did state a plausible claim of discriminatory termination, and interference with her FMLA rights, the district court should reconsider on remand its decision to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state and city law claims. Accordingly, the court vacated in part and remanded, and affirmed in all other respects. View "Shultz v. Shearith" on Justia Law

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The Aviation and Transportation Security Act, 49 U.S.C. 44935 note, commits the termination of the employment of TSA screeners to the unreviewable discretion of the TSA Administrator. The Second Circuit held that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to review the termination decisions pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 701(a). Therefore, the court affirmed the dismissal of the complaint in this case seeking judicial review of the employment termination of a screening officer employed by the TSA. View "Connors v. United States" on Justia Law

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The ACLU made requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552, seeking information from government agencies regarding drone strikes. In this appeal, the ACLU challenges responses to the FOIA requests made to the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) of the Department of Justice (DOJ), the CIA, and the DOD. The ACLU’s appeal challenges the district court’s ruling to the extent it upheld nondisclosure of 52 documents, and the government’s cross-appeal challenges the ruling to the extent it ordered disclosure, in whole or in part, of seven documents. The court concluded that none of the 52 withheld documents must be disclosed, and that the seven documents ordered disclosed may also be withheld. Accordingly, the court affirmed the appeal, reversed the cross-appeal, and remanded for entry of a revised judgment. View "ACLU v. US DOJ" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, victims of terrorist acts linked to the Islamic Republic of Iran, contend that they are entitled to enforce unsatisfied money judgments against defendants under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1602 et seq., and the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), 28 U.S.C. 1610 note. The court concluded that defendants in this case do not equate to the “foreign state” of Iran for purposes of the FSIA or the TRIA; defendants cannot be deemed “agencies or instrumentalities” of Iran under the FSIA, but defendants’ status as “agencies or instrumentalities” of Iran under the TRIA and their properties’ status as “blocked assets” under that statute is not foreclosed as a matter of law; but, nonetheless, the court identified questions of fact that prevent either of these TRIA questions from being decided on summary judgment. Accordingly, the court vacated the award of summary judgment for plaintiffs and remanded for further proceedings. View "Kirschenbaum v. 650 Fifth Avenue and Related Properties" on Justia Law

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Claimants-Appellants appealed an award of summary judgment which forfeited to the United States various claimants’ interests in multiple properties, including a 36‐story office building located at 650 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, real properties in Maryland, Texas, California, Virginia, and New York, and the contents of several bank accounts. Also at issue is the September 9, 2013 order denying a motion to suppress evidence seized from the Alavi Foundation’s and the 650 Fifth Avenue Company’s office. The court vacated the judgment as to Claimants Alavi Foundation and the 650 Fifth Ave. Co., of which Alavi is a 60% owner because there are material issues of fact as to whether the Alavi Foundation knew that Assa Corporation, its partner in the 650 Fifth Ave. Co. Partnership, continued after 1995, to be owned or controlled by Bank Melli Iran, which is itself owned or controlled by the Government of Iran, a designated threat to this nation’s national security; the district court erred in sua sponte considering and rejecting claimants’ possible statute of limitations defense without affording notice and a reasonable time to respond; in rejecting claimants’ motion to suppress evidence seized pursuant to a challenged warrant, the district court erred in ruling that claimants’ civil discovery obligations obviate the need for any Fourth Amendment analysis; and the district court erred in its alternative ruling that every item of unlawfully seized evidence would have been inevitably discovered. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "In re 650 Fifth Avenue and Related Properties" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552 et seq., request to the CIA, requesting information regarding his father, who served in several high-level diplomatic roles on behalf of the Republic of Cuba. The CIA answered plaintiff's request with a Glomar response, and plaintiff filed an administrative appeal. While the administrative appeal was pending, plaintiff filed the underlying action. The district court granted summary judgment to the CIA. During the pendency of the appeal, the FBI released several declassified documents pertaining to plaintiff's father. The CIA reviewed the FBI Disclosures, but declined to alter its position that a Glomar response is supportable in these circumstances. The court concluded that the FBI Disclosures are relevant to the merits of this case and remanded to the district court with instructions to enter an order stating whether its prior conclusion that the CIA adequately justified its Glomar response must be revised in light of the FBI Disclosures and any post‐remand submissions. View "Florez v. CIA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a qui tam action under the New York False Claims Act (NYFCA), N.Y. Stat Fin. Law 187 et seq., on behalf of the State and the City against Wells Fargo for fraudulent avoidance of New York tax obligations. The district court dismissed for failure to state a claim. The court concluded that, with no special state interest, and with no indication of congressional preference for state-court adjudication, the exercise of federal jurisdiction in this case is fully consistent with the ordinary division of labor between federal and state courts. The court also concluded that the complaint did not plausibly allege that the Wells Fargo trusts were not qualified to be treated as Real Estate Mortgage Investment Conduits (REMICs). Therefore, the complaint failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted under the NYFCA for any false statement or record affecting the trusts' entitlement to exemption from income tax under the New York tax laws. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "State of New York ex rel. Jacobson v. Wells Fargo" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the dismissal of his suit brought under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729(a)-(b), and state analog. Plaintiff alleged that Pfizer, his former employer, improperly marketed Lipitor as appropriate for patients whose risk factors and cholesterol levels fall outside the National Cholesterol Education Program Guidelines; the Guidelines are incorporated into and made mandatory by the drug’s label; and Pfizer thus induced doctors to prescribe the drug, pharmacists to fill the prescriptions, and federal and state health care programs to pay for “off‐label” prescriptions. Judge Cogan dismissed the claims because he determined that the FDA’s approval of Lipitor was not dependent upon compliance with the Guidelines. The court expressly endorsed and adopted Judge Cogan’s carefully considered and thorough analysis, and affirmed on that basis. View "United States ex rel. Polansky v. Pfizer" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a class action alleging that federal student loans were fraudulently procured on their behalf when the Wilford beauty schools falsely certified that plaintiffs had an ability‐to‐benefit (ATB) from the education they received from Wilfred. Plaintiffs allege that the DOE’s refusal to temporarily suspend collection of the student loan debt of putative class members, and refusal to send them notice of their potential eligibility for a discharge, was arbitrary and capricious in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 701. The court concluded that it has jurisdiction to review this case because plaintiffs had standing when they filed their class action complaint and this case fits into the narrow exception to the mootness doctrine for class action claims that are “inherently transitory.” On the merits, the court held that plaintiffs are entitled to judicial review because there is sufficient law to apply to the challenged agency decisions. The text of the relevant statute directs that the DOE “shall” discharge a borrower’s loan liability when a school has falsely certified a student’s ATB.  DOE’s regulations and informal agency guidance direct that the DOE “shall” temporarily suspend collection on loans and notify borrowers of their possible eligibility for a discharge when the DOE has reliable information that a borrower “may be eligible” for discharge.  Because plaintiffs' claims are judicially reviewable under the APA, the court vacated and remanded. View "Salazar v. King" on Justia Law