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


On appeal, the D.C. Circuit Court vacated the conviction of Ezra Griffith, who was found guilty of possessing a firearm as a felon. In doing so, the court, in U.S.A. v. Ezra Griffith, clarified what information is necessary in an affidavit to support a search for a cell phone or other electronic storage devices.

The key issue on appeal was whether the Griffith's motion to suppress the evidence gathered during a search of his home was properly denied. While the lower court found that the search warrant was not proper, it nevertheless allowed the evidence discovered during the search to be used at trial, as it found the good-faith exception applied. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals saw it differently and has raised the bar for what's acceptable in a search warrant affidavit in support of seizing a cell phone.

Circuit Strikes EPA Ban on Aerosol Chemical

Somewhere in the contentious air over climate change, the Environmental Protection Agency went too far.

A federal appeals court said that happened when the EPA banned hydrofluorocarbons, a chemical found in aerosol spray cans that scientists have linked to global warming. The agency has authority to outlaw ozone-depleting chemicals, but HFC's are not ozone-depleting.

"Here, EPA has tried to jam a square peg (regulating non-ozone-depleting substances that may contribute to climate change) into a round hole (the existing statutory landscape)," Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote in Mexichem Fluor, Inc. v. Environmental Protection Agency.

Risk of Identity Theft Is Injury Enough for Federal Court Standing

With data breaches occurring daily, the courts have become center stages for deciding who is responsible.

In Attias v. CareFirst, Inc., the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reviewed the story of customers against a health insurer after hackers compromised their data. A trial court said the plaintiffs didn't allege sufficient injury to confer federal court standing.

Drawing on "experience and common sense," however, the appeals court turned the spotlight on the company and said the potential for identify theft was injury enough.

DC Circuit Takes on the 'Case of the Incredible Shrinking Seat'

It's not your imagination if you think airline seats are getting smaller. Even the U.S Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has taken note.

"As many have no doubt noticed, aircraft seats and the spacing between them have been getting smaller and smaller, while American passengers have been growing in size," Judge Patricia Millett wrote in Flyers Rights Education Fund v. Federal Aviation Administration.

The countries of Sudan and Iran may finally be getting some relief from an over $14 billion judgment entered against them in the U.S. Federal District Court. The judgment is the result of an action filed against the nations for harboring the terrorists, members of al Qaeda, responsible for a coordinated attack on two U.S. embassies abroad in 1998.

Unfortunately for the two nations, neither lodged an appearance before the judgment was made final. Since that time, the nation of Sudan has appealed the judgment, and lost. However, the most recent order trimmed the $4 billion plus award of punitive damages off the total judgment.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a controversial ruling this week striking down D.C.'s restriction on carrying a concealed weapon.

Prior to the court's decision, the District of Columbia enforced a permitting system for individuals who wanted to carry a concealed weapon, legally. The permits would only be provided to those who had a good reason for having a concealed weapon, such as there being a known threat of harm or if the individual carries large amounts of cash or valuables as part of their occupation.

DC Circuit Revives Purple Line Light Rail

Construction of Maryland's on-again, off-again Purple Line light rail is on again, following a ruling by a federal appeals court.

The $2.5 billion project had been on hold since last year when a federal judge blocked construction. Judge Richard Leon said the federal transportation authority needed to evaluate ridership and safety issues before proceeding.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia stayed that order, however, pending an appeal in Fitzgerald v. Federal Transit Administration.

DC Circuit Judge on Drones: 'Our Democracy Is Broken'

Judge Janice Rogers Brown said courts should not step into political issues, like deciding whether the United States wrongfully killed bystanders in a drone attack.

Then the judge told us how she really felt about it.

"Our democracy is broken," she wrote in Ahmed Salem Bin Ali Jaber v. United States. "We must, however, hope that it is not incurably so."

Net Neutrality Rules Stand -- for Now

A federal appeals court let stand a decision upholding net neutrality rules, staying the course in a three-way race among internet service providers, government and consumers over the fate of the controversial rules.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia refused to rehear last year's ruling, which held that internet service providers were common carriers and could not regulate internet traffic. The decisions are a setback to ISPs that sued the Federal Communications Commission, but the court pointed out that the contest over net neutrality is far from over.

"The agency will soon consider adopting a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would replace the existing rule with a markedly different one," the appeals court said in United States Telecom Association v. FCC. "In that light, the en banc court could find itself examining, and pronouncing on, the validity of a rule that the agency had already slated for replacement."

Timber Industry Wins Round Against Spotted Owl

Although it may ruffle the feathers of environmentalists, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of the timber industry and against the spotted owl in the Pacific Northwest.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said a lumber association has standing to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its designation of 9.5 million acres of land as a critical habitat for the northern spotted owl. The decision revives a lawsuit by the American Forest Resource Council that claimed the regulation cut back the industry in California, Oregon, and Washington.

"The Council has demonstrated a substantial probability that the critical habitat designation will cause a decrease in the supply of timber from the designated forest lands, that Council members obtain their timber from those forest lands, and that Council members will suffer economic harm as a result of the decrease in the timber supply from those forest lands," the appellate panel said in Carpenters Industrial Council v. Zinke.