DC Circuit

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


A warrantless airport seizure of a man's laptop, followed by extensive searches of its contents, can't be justified as a routine border search, the District Court of D.C. ruled last week. Contrary to government arguments, a computer isn't just a container agents can pop open and look in to, as they might a suitcase or backpack.

In 2012, DHS agents seized a foreign citizen's computer as he was boarding a flight to Korea, after suspecting he was involved in illegal trading with Iran. They shipped the computer to San Diego, copied it, searched it, and burned the information onto a DVD -- all before bothering with a warrant. That's not the type of border search that's allowed, the circuit ruled, finding that the evidence from that search must be suppressed.

Back in 2013, the FAA blissfully relaxed restrictions on when personal electronic devices (PEDs) could be used on airplanes. Prior to October 31, 2013, passengers had to wait until the plane was above 10,000 feet before using things like eBook readers and portable video game players.

That all changed -- because those rules weren't grounded in reality -- but the Association of Flight Attendants challenged the law. Last week, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the challenge.

One half of a duo of allegedly drug dealing brothers may have a shot at overturning his conviction after the D.C. Circuit remanded his claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Since the D.C. Circuit allows that claim to be raised on appeal, but district courts are better suited for hearing it, almost any claim which asserts sufficient facts is entitled to remand -- though the court promises this isn't reflexive!

At trial, Maurice Williams was found guilty of conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute. His brother, Ronald, faced similar charges, but the jury was hung on each of his counts. After a mistrial was declared, Ronald was retried and found guilty. On appeal he alleged, successfully enough for now, that his counsel failed to provide effective assistance, as required by the Sixth Amendment.

An AFL-CIO transit union cannot be held responsible for disparaging comments made by its members on Facebook, the D.C. Circuit has ruled. The case involved comments about picket line crossers made on the Union's private Facebook page during a strike.

The comments, which predictably called non-union workers scabs and rhetorically asked about Molotov cocktails, were not union-organized coercion which would violate the National Labor Relations Act, the Circuit held.

FERC properly allowed premium rates to be applied in the sale of a pipeline connecting Missouri and Illinois, the D.C. Circuit ruled this week. After MoGas, a pipeline operator, purchased a 5.6 mile natural gas pipeline running under the Mississippi River, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) allowed it to charge premium rates as a "benefits exception" to usual limitations.

The Missouri Public Service Commission sued, arguing that purchasing the pipeline served no public benefit and ran counter to FERC precedent. The court, however, disagreed, choosing to defer to FERC's interpretation of its own regulations.

In 2001, Khaled Shabban had a child with Araceli Hernandez. The two didn't live together, so they stipulated to a custody agreement in which Hernandez would have physical custody but Shabban would be allowed unsupervised visits. In 2004, Shabban told Hernandez he was taking their son -- then three years old -- to an amusement park.

Except that he didn't take the kid to an amusement park; he took the kid to Egypt, where Shabban was from. This resulted, almost two years later, in Shabban being arrested and charged with international parental kidnapping.

In case you haven't been paying attention, here's the dirt on Sri Srinivasan, a newer arrival to the D.C. Circuit, but widely considered a rising legal star and potential future SCOTUS nominee. A native of India, he grew up in Kansas, graduated from Stanford, and clerked for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Srinivasan gained notice as a private litigator and government lawyer before joining the D.C. Circuit.

Four of the nine Justices currently sitting on the Supreme Court came through the D.C. Circuit. Will Srinivasan be next?

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.