DC Circuit

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


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.

D.C. Cir. Upholds Your Right to Use a Kindle During Takeoff

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.

D.C. Circuit Upholds Conviction for International Child Kidnapping

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?