Articles Posted in Government & Administrative 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

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Relators filed a qui tam action under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729(a)(1)(A), alleging that Wells Fargo defrauded the government within the meaning of the FCA by falsely certifying that they were in compliance with various banking laws and regulations when they borrowed money at favorable rates from the Federal Reserve’s discount window. The district court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss. The district court held that the banks’ certifications of compliance were too general to constitute legally false claims under the FCA and that relators had otherwise failed to allege their fraud claims with particularity. The court agreed, concluding that it has long recognized that the FCA was not designed to reach every kind of fraud practiced on the Government. Even assuming relators’ accusations of widespread fraud are true, they have not plausibly connected those accusations to express or implied false claims submitted to the government for payment, as required to collect the treble damages and other statutory penalties available under the FCA. Accordingly, the court affirmed the dismissal of the suit. View "Bishop v. Wells Fargo" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the award of costs against it in a False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729-3733, case, arguing that the district court improperly ordered it to pay defendants the costs of deposition transcripts under FRCP 54(d)(1) and 28 U.S.C. 190. Because "costs" and "expenses" have distinct meanings under Rule 54(d), section 1920, and the FCA, the court concluded that 31 U.S.C. 3730(d)(4) does not preclude the award of the costs for deposition transcripts. Plaintiff forfeited its argument under 28 U.S.C. 1920; and, even if appropriately presented, the argument has no merit where the court has stated clearly that section 1920 permits the taxation of deposition expenses, when necessarily incurred for use of the deposition in the case. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Associates Against Outlier Fraud v. Huron" on Justia Law

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Garden City appealed from a final judgment finding it liable for violations of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 3601 et seq.; 42 U.S.C. 1981; 42 U.S.C. 1983; and the Equal Protection Clause. Plaintiffs cross-appealed from the 2012 grant of summary judgment by the same district court in favor of Nassau County. The court held that plaintiffs have Article III standing and plaintiffs' claims are also not moot; the district court did not commit clear error in finding that Garden City’s decision to abandon R‐M zoning in favor of R‐T zoning was made with discriminatory intent, and that defendants failed to demonstrate they would have made the same decision absent discriminatory considerations; the court affirmed the judgment insofar as it found plaintiffs had established liability under 42 U.S.C. 3604(a) of the FHA based on a theory of disparate treatment; the court held that 24 C.F.R. 100.500(c) abrogated the court's prior precedent as to the burden‐shifting framework of proving a disparate impact claim; the court vacated the judgment insofar as it found liability under a disparate impact theory, and remanded for further proceedings; the court held that the district court properly dismissed plaintiffs’ disparate treatment claims against Nassau County at the summary judgment stage because plaintiffs have not raised a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the County had legal responsibility for Garden City’s adoption of R‐T zoning; the court affirmed the dismissal of plaintiffs' disparate treatment claims against Nassau County at the summary judgment stage; and the court remanded with respect to plaintiffs' claims under Section 804(a) and Title VI relating to Nassau County’s “steering” of affordable housing. View "MHANY Mgmt., Inc. v. City of Nassau" on Justia Law