DC Circuit

DC Circuit - The FindLaw DC Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog


When it comes to federal regulation, the D.C. Circuit is arguably the most important court in the nation. Not only does it see more cases challenging government rulemaking, it throws out those rules regularly -- at a rate significantly higher than any other circuit.

The EPA is no stranger to the less-than-deferential D.C. Circuit, with two recent EPA cases making the news over the past weeks. Last Wednesday, SCOTUS heard oral arguments over the EPA's mercury and air toxics rules, which the D.C. Circuit upheld and several states say improperly ignore costs. The agency was also recently instructed by the circuit to revisit its dust corrosivity standards after an EPA scientist sued, saying that the standards were too lax and failed to protect 9/11 first responders.

A former University of Virginia undergrad who was allegedly sexually assaulted while a student has lost her suit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education for mishandling her complaints against the University.

The plaintiff, suing as Jane Doe, had complained to the agencies that UVA's failure to take action regarding severe sexual harassment and misconduct against her violated Title IX. The departments took no significant action on her complaints, Doe alleged, leading to her lawsuit.

In 2010, Luis Miranda -- also known as "El Gordo" -- was indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiracy to smuggle drugs into the United States, among other places. In 2012, after a federal court rejected his motion to dismiss the charges because the statute was unconstitutional and because the statute didn't apply to his conduct, El Gordo entered an unconditional guilty plea that purported to prevent him from raising the pretrial motions on appeal.

Well, now El Gordo, and an associated named Francisco Valderrama Carvajal, are appealing their convictions on the same grounds as before.

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser told the D.C. Circuit that the dispute between the mayor's office and city council over the District's Budget Autonomy Act is now moot. The Act, a local law, grants D.C. autonomy over its locally raised funds, contrary to the dictates of the federal Home Rule Act which requires that local tax dollars be spent by the District only through congressional appropriations.

Vincent Gray, Bowser's predecessor, had refused to implement the bill, leading to the current litigation. Unlike Gray, Bowser believes the Act is valid. She will likely now move to have the existing suit dismissed.

Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, America's self-styled "toughest sheriff," isn't taking "no" for an answer. Just two weeks after the District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed his lawsuit against the Obama Administration and its nascent immigration policy, Arpaio is urging the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to expedite the briefing schedule for this all-important appeal.

What could possibly be so urgent that one of the nation's most important appellate courts has to speed up the calendar for Arpaio's lawsuit?

Whenever something goes wrong with our nation's governance, the D.C. Circuit is the first to hear about it. (Well, really, it's the second -- after the D.C. District Court.) From lawsuits against the president to immigration challenges, the D.C. Circuit has seen it all.

So what did you, dear readers, find the most interesting in 2014? Take a look out our Top 10 D.C. Circuit Posts of 2014:

A lawsuit filed against President Obama by the self-styled "America's Toughest Sheriff" was dismissed today by Judge Beryl A. Howell in the D.C. District Court.

In his complaint, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio claimed that Obama's new immigration policy, announced last month, was unconstitutional. Rather than dismiss Arpaio's case out of hand for lack of standing, Howell delves into the deep questions of justiciability raised by the lawsuit. Then she dismisses it for lack of standing.

In 2005, Harry Barko, an employee of government contractor Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), filed a False Claims Act complaint. KBR, which at the time was a subsidiary of Halliburton, provided military support services in Iraq. Barko alleged that KBR was inflating costs and receiving kickbacks.

This case, for which Barko filed a cert. petition with the U.S. Supreme Court, isn't even about all that yet. This is a case about the limits of attorney-client privilege.

As we noted last month, Washington, D.C.'s voter-approved recreational marijuana law is subject to a veto by Congress, which has the last word in administration over the District. Well, it looks like Congress is going to severely harsh people's mellows.

Buried in a 2015 appropriations bill -- on pages 213 to 214, to be exact -- is a paragraph noting that "none of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used" by any of the states or jurisdictions that legalize marijuana in any form to implement those laws. (We should note that the text of this bill only seems to affect "medical marijuana," but an appropriations committee flyer suggests that forthcoming legislation will apply to any kind of marijuana.)

In 2011, Homeland Security received an anonymous tip that someone was trying to help an Iranian company obtain relays for an Iranian power project. The source shared an email from that person, which contained a phone number. Homeland Security searched for this number in its secret database and found a match for a number in Los Angeles.

They searched for more information in their database, finding that the suspect -- Shantia Hassanshahi -- had been investigated before for violating the Iranian trade embargo. More investigations resulted in Hassanshahi being detained at LAX in 2012, during which time his laptop was seized and he was questioned.