DC Circuit

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


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.

After years of fighting for their freedom in U.S. courts, Fadi al-Maqaleh and Amin al-Bakri, who had been detained at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan for at least a decade, were repatriated to Yemen earlier this week.

The timing of the release was curious: not only is al-Bakri is suffering from leukemia, but both al-Maqaleh and al-Bakri were named parties seeking certiorari from the U.S. Supreme Court in an appeal of the D.C. Circuit's holding that the district court correctly determined that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to review their habeas petitions. Though U.S. officials refused to comment on al-Bakri's condition, sources told The Washington Post that he was in "bad shape."

The D.C. Circuit Court has been quiet this week, but an opinion from the D.C. District Court is set to create a rumbling that no amount of Tums can abate.

In Citizens United v. FEC, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010 struck down limitations on campaign spending by corporations. That same year in SpeechNow.org v. FEC, the D.C. Circuit expanded that to include spending by PACs not affiliated with candidates. In this last term, McCutcheon v. FEC expanded the flip side of Citizens United by striking down limitations on aggregate contributions to candidates and PACs.

Steel yourself for the next exciting episode. The Republican and Libertarian Parties asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to strike down limitations on contributions to their parties' non-coordinated campaign funds. In an opinion issued Tuesday, the court agreed that there was something there worth adjudicating.

To what degree must federal agencies consider alternatives when building energy infrastructure? A little bit, said the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday in Minisink Residents for Environmental Preservation and Safety v. FERC. Just because an agency considered an alternative, however, doesn't mean it's obligated to use the alternative.

The Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) approved construction by Millennium Pipeline Company of a natural gas compressor station in Minisink, New York -- a tiny town of 4,490 people about a two hours' drive from New York City. Several Minisink residents weren't too keen about a compressor station and advanced another proposal called the "Wagoner Alternative," which involved building a smaller station seven miles outside of Minisink. The proponents of the Wagoner Alternative claimed it would be better suited to the project than placing the station in the largely residential Minisink. The alternative, however, would require replacing seven miles of pipe -- something the original plan didn't.

It was like the worst DMV visit ever. Except that Aaron Schnitzler wasn't trying to renew his drivers license; he was trying to renounce his U.S. citizenship. And instead of the DMV, he was going to the U.S. State Department. And instead of being a driver on the open road, he was a state prisoner in South Dakota.

Schnitzler wanted to renounce his U.S. citizenship "[f]or reasons we do not understand," the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals explains. OK, fine. So he wrote to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, but they replied that he had to talk to the State Department. Then he wrote to the State Department. But they said that, in order to renounce his citizenship, he had to appear before a diplomat or consular official at a U.S. embassy. He tried the Department of Justice. No dice. He then filed a lawsuit against all three of those departments, telling them he didn't want to be a U.S. citizen anymore.

Former Reagan press secretary James Brady's death earlier this month has been ruled a homicide by the District of Columbia medical examiner, apparently based on his being shot in 1981 by John Hinckley Jr.

Hinckley was trying to assassinate President Reagan but failed; instead, he wounded both Reagan and Brady, who was shot in the head. A jury found Hinckley not guilty by reason of insanity (he said he'd shot Reagan to impress actress Jodie Foster, whom he had been stalking), though he didn't go free. He's spent his life since then in St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C., as The New York Times has reported.

But even with the homicide ruling, prosecuting Hinckley for Brady's death 33 years after the shooting "could prove tough," an Associated Press headline from over the weekend reads. That would seem to be an understatement.

While much ado was being made of the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision, another case that could be the death knell for Obamacare flew below the radar -- that is, until the D.C. Circuit ruled against the Obama administration. Then, everyone was all ears. That's because the court's decision -- if adopted by other circuits -- could mean the end of the Affordable Care Act as we know it.

But you didn't think the Obama administration would stop there, did you? Last Friday, the administration filed a petition for rehearing en banc. Let's explore whether the D.C. Circuit will grant the petition.

Americans aren't too keen on mystery meat, and thankfully, the U.S.D.A. is backing us up on that. On the second go around, the D.C. Circuit upheld a country-of-origin labeling rule for meat products, finding that the rule did not compel meat producers to speak.

With only one option left, we'll have to wait and see if the plaintiff will seek redress from the U.S. Supreme Court. Until then, let's look at the legal backdrop.