DC Circuit

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


Court Approves Limits on Protests for Trump's Inauguration

Freedom Plaza rises grandly above the parade that courses through Washington, D.C. on Inauguration Day, a tradition that marks the election of a new president ever since George Washington took office in 1789.

Thousands of spectators line up along Pennsylvania Avenue from the U.S. Capitol to the White House to see the next President of the United States. They crowd together on the sidewalks, parks, and plazas. On Freedom Plaza, parade organizers, media representatives, and other ticket holders take their seats on bleachers set up by the parade committee for the historic event.

But a protest group sued over the exclusive seating, saying the bleachers restricted their freedom of speech. They contended that the prime spot unconstitutionally favored the government's message to its own.

Another Federal Case Put on Hold Pending Trump's Inauguration

In case you missed it the first time, the federal courts are putting their cases on hold until after the incoming President of the United States takes office. A federal appeals court in Washington granted a motion to continue a challenge to Obamacare last week, following a federal district court decision to delay action on an immigration case last month. The courts decided the issues were big enough to allow the new administration time to weigh in after the inauguration.

In the Texas case, the court stayed proceedings against the Obama administration's plan to delay deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants. Texas and 25 other states have sued the outgoing President's delayed deportation plans. In the DC case, U.S. House Republicans are challenging how Obama funded an insurance subsidy program of the Affordable Care Act. The postponements are temporary wins for the president-elect.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was established in the wake of the 2007 financial meltdown that gave birth to the "Great Recession." Created by the 2010's Dodd-Frank Act, the CFPB was to operate as a Wall Street watchdog agency. To ensure its independence from political interference, it was to have a single director who, once appointed, could only be removed for cause.

That level of independence, however, was too much for the D.C. Circuit. A three judge panel ruled earlier this month that the CFPB's structure gave too much authority to its director, in violation of the executive powers given to the President. An independent director who could not be fired without cause, the court found, was a "threat to individual liberty."

In 2015, years of intense grass roots opposition succeeded in shutting down the Key Stone XL Pipeline, a massive pipeline that would run from the intensely polluting Alberta tar sands to the Gulf Coast. Since then, pipeline fights have remained at the forefront of environmental fights. One of the most recent battles is over the Dakota Access pipeline, a $3.8 billion project that would transfer crude oil from North Dakota's Bakken oil fields to Illinois, and through the sacred lands of many Native American groups.

Now, the Standing Rock Sioux are suing. The tribe turned to the D.C. Circuit yesterday, asking it to impose a temporary injunction on further pipeline work while the tribe litigates whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers properly consulted with it before approving the project.

A divided D.C. Circuit panel ordered the United States Election Assistance Commission to remove additional, state-specific citizenship questions from the federal voter registration form on Friday. That form already requires U.S. citizenship as a requirement to register to vote, but the states of Kansas, Georgia, and Alabama had requested additional citizenship questions in the section of the form dedicated to state-specific instructions.

The brief order from the D.C. Circuit requires the EAC to remove state-specific instructions from the form and ignore those questions on completed forms.

Big Telecom Urges D.C. en Banc Review of Net Neutrality Ruling

Several weeks have passed since the D.C. Circuit ruled that the FCC possessed the power to reclassify broadband companies as telecom common carriers, thereby subjecting them to regulatory authority. Well, some of the bigger names in the industry have already decided to fight back.

It was the kind of petition we just knew was in the works. After all, the reclassification stands to shake up potentially billions of dollars in investment by interested parties. What's a little extra cost for petitioning?

The Other Blue Book: DOJ's Prosecution Manual Can Be Kept Secret

Several years ago, Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska was criminally indicted on corruption charges but managed to slip by a conviction on what many consider a technicality. The case against him produced much debate about whether or not government lawyers were being properly trained in their ethical duties of disclosure. It also produced "the Blue Book."

Not that Blue Book, but the Federal Criminal Discovery Blue Book. And it, unlike its more famous cousin, is probably more important than you know.

As the FBI announced that it would not recommend indicting Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server while secretary of state on Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit simultaneously ruled that emails kept on private accounts could be subject to Freedom of Information Act requests.

The ruling didn't touch on Hillary's emails. Rather, it involved the little-known White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. But the implications for Hillary and other politicians are clear: keeping government records on private servers may not shield them from public scrutiny.

Sure, residents of Washington, D.C. don't have real representation in Congress and can easily have their laws overturned by that same body, but they've got something that's almost better now. FindLaw now has the best, easiest-to-use District of Columbia Codes around.

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Internet Can Be Treated as Utility, DC Circuit Rules

In a major ruling last week, the DC Circuit left undisturbed the FCC's decision on forced net neutrality. Internet service providers balked at the notion that the internet should be regarded as a utility. But they will simply have to get used to this new reality.

This decision, which surprised both proponents and opponents alike, means several things, including more litigation.