DC Circuit

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


The NSA can continue its controversial mass phone metadata collection now, after the D.C. Circuit threw out a lower court injunction against the program on Friday. The D.C. Circuit panel found that the plaintiff, conservative lawyer Larry Klayman, had not shown a likelihood that he would succeed on the merits sufficient enough to support a preliminary injunction.

The ruling is a rare win for the NSA these days. It comes two years after Edward Snowden exposed the agency's secret, massive data collection program and on the heels of a Second Circuit ruling that such collection is not lawful. The program itself has not been renewed by Congress and is set to expire in upcoming months -- but, as the D.C. Circuit notes, it's not gone yet.

The D.C. Circuit has once again struck down a part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act which required companies to disclose if their products used conflict minerals. Conflict minerals, gold, tantalum, tin, and tungsten, are the less shiny cousins of blood diamonds. They generally come from war torn areas of the Congo, where armed factions use child soldiers and child laborers in a fight to profit off the area's natural resources. With their origin in deep African mines and deeper human rights abuses, the products find their way into gold jewelry, electronics, computers and even children's games.

Dodd-Frank sought to address the humanitarian crises surrounding these minerals by requiring companies to disclose whether they used them. It was an attempt to shame companies into avoiding conflict minerals and, thus, potentially to undermine the strength of the military groups fighting for control over their production. It was also, the D.C. Circuit ruled, a violation of corporations' First Amendment rights.

American music would be much worse without college radio. College radio stations helped bring us The Pixies and music-snob mags like CMJ. Your local college radio station is one of the few places willing to let kids spin avant-garde African pop for an hour every week.

But college radio is much less actual radio, these days. Many college radio stations have taken to streaming their music live over the Internet, to potentially much larger audiences. That means more royalty fees, fees the D.C. Circuit just upheld this Tuesday.

The D.C. Circuit has revived a challenge to the constitutionality of the Dodd-Frank Act. A small Texas bank, State National Bank of Big Spring, had challenged the constitutionality of the Wall Street Reform Act. It was joined by 11 states, who also took issue with the Act.

Dod-Frank, you'll remember, was passed in 2010 in an effort to reform the banking industry and prevent a repeat of the financial collapses that began the "Great Recession" of 2007 to 2009. The district court had tossed the challenge, arguing that the bank and States had no standing, but the D.C. Circuit disagreed, breathing new life into at least half the claims.

A law prohibiting political contributions by federal contractors was upheld by a unanimous, en banc D.C. Circuit last week. The eleven judge panel ruled that the law does not violate the First Amendment or equal protection rights of government contractors, the court ruled.

The law was first adopted in 1940, over concerns that businesses would use campaign contributions to influence the government contract process. Those concerns are still valid today, the Court ruled, justifying the narrowly drawn restrictions of the law.

Alternative Title: AT&T Can Ban Union 'Inmate' Shirt, D.C. Circuit Rules

It can be hard to organize workers and wage a successful grassroots labor campaign. Sometimes, theatrics are called for. That's what motivates carpenters to inflate giant rats outside non-union construction sites and museum workers to 'bomb' the Guggenheim with protest fliers. That might also be the impetus behind AT&T Connecticut employees donning shirts that said "Inmate" and "Prisoner of AT$T" when interacting with customers.

After AT&T banned the "Inmate" apparel, the NLRB ruled 2-1 that employees must be allowed to wear the protest shirts. Sadly, Connecticuters can no longer look forward to the spectacle of seeing an AT&T customer service representative fix their cable in a prison costume. "Common sense" requires the NLRB's decision to be overturned, the D.C. Circuit ruled today.

Following the D.C. Circuit's decision on Friday, military tribunals will have a more difficult time prosecuting terrorists. The court threw out another charge brought against Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, a former assistant to Osama bin Laden.

For the past 13 years, al-Bahlul has been held in Guantanamo Bay. A number of criminal charges have been brought against him unsuccessfully. The latest charge, conspiracy, was knocked down by the D.C. Circuit for a simple reason: the international law of war doesn't recognize the offense of conspiracy.

A $2 billion class action brought by injured defense contractor employees against military contractors and insurance companies was dismissed by the D.C. Circuit on Thursday. The defense contractor employees suffered a range of injuries while working for the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan, from lost limbs, to traumatic brain injuries.

Their suit argued that they were repeatedly denied medical care, given false information and had benefits impermissibly withheld. However, the D.C. Circuit found that, since the workers were covered by the Defense Base Act, that Act's exclusivity provision prevented any common-law or state remedies for their claims.

Tobacco companies won't have to include disclosures stating that a federal court has ruled they deliberately deceived the American public, the D.C. Circuit ruled last week. While statements about the health consequences and addictiveness of cigarettes can be required, forcing the companies to announce the court's findings is too backwards looking to be allowed under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

The case is the fifth appeal in a suit that was filed 15 years ago, when the U.S. sued Philip Morris and eight other "Big Tobacco" companies. According to the government, the companies engaged in illegal RICO violations through an "ongoing conspiracy to deceive the American public" about cigarettes' addictiveness and health consequences. The court agreed and imposed strict civil remedies to prevent future violations.

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.