DC Circuit

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


The Independence Institute, a Colorado nonprofit, wanted to run a radio advertisement before the November 4 election. The ad urges the two U.S. senators from Colorado to support the Justice Safety Valve Act. Not really a problem, except that Independence Institute didn't want to have to disclose the contributors to the communication, as required by (what's left of) the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA).

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia was having none of it and ruled against Independence Institute.

Because the D.C. Circuit is the go-to circuit for questions involving the powers of the branches of government, the cases that come from this circuit, predictably, involve government authority.

So far this term, the Supreme Court has found at least one extremely polemical issue among other more prosaic questions of agency authority.

With a public evidentiary hearing looming on the issue of force feeding of Guantanamo detainees, a district court judge in Washington, D.C., issued two rulings that showed that she's not afraid of a showdown with her Article II counterparts: one keeping the ruling open to the public, and a second that should lead to the release of videos of the feedings.

The legal battle that is set to take place will be about whether the feedings are humane, while the battle for public opinion, which will be fought in the news during election season, could turn on the videos themselves, which will be partly redacted to hide the identities of Guantanamo staff, reports The New York Times.

When does a federal agency have "inherent authority"? Not in this case, according to the D.C. Circuit Court in Ivy Sports Medicine v. Burwell.

ReGen Biologics made a device called a Collagen Scaffold for use in knee surgery. ReGen began the process of obtaining FDA approval for the device in 2004. In 2006, several members of Congress from New Jersey, where ReGen is based, expressed concern about the review process. In 2008, the FDA ultimately classified the Collagen Scaffold as a Class II device, which requires less regulation.

But months after getting the approval, a Wall Street Journal article alleged "political pressure" in the Collagen Scaffold approval process. Members of Congress expressed umbrage (no doubt in the most public ways possible) and the FDA investigated, finding that ReGen was a little too close to FDA officials, who didn't follow standard procedures when approving the Collagen Scaffold. The FDA summarily reclassified the device as a Class III device, which had the practical effect of making it unmarketable unless ReGen applied all over again.

Grab yer guns and head out of Wyoming fellas, cuz there ain't no wolf huntin' here, at least for now.

A couple of years ago, we brought you the big news: Gray wolves were being taken off the Endangered Species Act (ESA) list after 10 years of waiting, all thanks to a bit of language slapped on to a defense bill. (Thanks Congress!) Once Congress cleared the federal red tape, it was up to the states to give the all-clear for wolf hunting.

Montana and Idaho were on board. Wyoming joined too. But last week, some namby-pamby judge in Washington, D.C., decided that Wyoming's laws weren't protective enough, and called a cease fire on fun.

Back in 2010, Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning was arrested for supplying WikiLeaks with hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. government documents; he claimed his actions were rooted in the public's right to be aware of what the government was doing abroad.

Manning was convicted in 2013 and sentenced to 35 years in prison. Shortly thereafter, Manning came out as transgender and wanted to be known as "Chelsea Manning," a request most news outlets have been happy to abide by.

Though Manning has repeatedly requested a treatment plan to accommodate her gender dysphoria, the Army has stalled. As a result, Manning -- through the ACLU -- filed a complaint Tuesday in the D.C. District Court alleging deliberate indifference to a serious medical need.

We were wondering when we'd hear more on the D.C. Circuit's NSA cell phone metadata case, especially after the Second Circuit allowed C-SPAN to livestream oral arguments in a parallel case earlier this month.

The answer? On November 4, unlike its sister circuit to the north, the D.C. Circuit will not be televising the revolution, reports Politico. Audio recordings are typically posted on the D.C. Circuit's website after oral arguments, however.

Here's a recap of the lower court's anti-NSA opinion and what's at stake in this case:

The American Psychological Association (APA) is a nonprofit organization, so it can't use membership dues for lobbying. That's why the APA established a subsidiary, the APA Practice Organization (APAPO), to engage in the lobbying that the APA can't. Of course, the APA still can't shuttle any part of its membership dues into the APAPO, so it came up with a new tactic: including a line item for a separate "special assessment fee" in its members' dues statements. You can see where this is going: The special assessment fee doesn't go to the APA; instead, it goes to the APAPO.

APA members discovered that they actually couldn't be required to pay this special fee, even though their dues statements never said they didn't have to pay it. Several members sued under unjust enrichment and false advertising. The district court granted the APA's motions to dismiss. This appeal to the D.C. Circuit followed.

Back in July, a curious thing happened: Two circuit courts of appeal, both addressing the same issue, released conflicting opinions within hours of each other. In the D.C. Circuit, the panel held that the language of the Affordable Care Act only authorized tax subsidies for low-income individuals who purchased insurance through state exchanges. A few hours later, and a few hours' drive south, the Fourth Circuit went the other way and agreed with the Internal Revenue Service's interpretation, which allows subsidies for those who purchase through the federal exchange.

The D.C. Circuit ruling was a massive blow to the federal program and could have meant the end of Obamacare. Could have, but might not, as the circuit just pulled its opinion and granted en banc review.

It's like a scene out of an after-school special: Police are called to the scene of a raucous house party, and finding illegal activity going on, they arrest everyone -- including the party's host, who, as it turns out, doesn't even live there.

That's more or less what the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police wanted the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to see. But the court saw quite the opposite: a party that wasn't in violation of any ordinances, admittedly no illegal activity going on, and a party host whose residency at the house wasn't so cut-and-dry.

Five of the partygoers sued the police for false arrest, and the D.C. Circuit Court affirmed a grant of summary judgment to them.