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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.

DC Circuit: No 2nd Amendment Right to Concealed Carry

DC will continue to enforce its concealed-carry gun law after the circuit stayed a lower federal judge's ruling that the local law was "likely unconstitutional." The city's law is another one of the local municipalities that requires a "good cause" (or "good reason") of those applicants when filing for a concealed carry permit.

Concealed carry seems to be fading in this country. Take note of the recent Ninth Circuit ruling.

DC Circuit Sides With Gov't in TSA/Flight School Case

Unless the petitioner appeals to a higher power (SCOTUS, that is), it appears that the battle is over between a Venezuelan man and the TSA concerning his denial into flight school. The reasons for the denial? Security concerns. Of course, this raises several issues of due process.

Can the TSA block access to flight school based on what the lower court called "absurd" justifications? Apparently, yes.

Dog Shooting Case Will Move to Trial, DC Circuit Rules

An elderly D.C. woman will finally be able to have her case heard in court after the D.C. Circuit Court determined that a reasonable jury could have determined that officers were unreasonable in shooting the plaintiff's dog while executing a search warrant for drugs.

This is the second qualified immunity case recently reviewed by a circuit that also involved dogs within the facts.

DC Circuit Hears Oral Args on Obama Drone Strike Records

Does a drone strike qualify as intelligence? Oral arguments that strike at the very heart of this question began recently and are sure to leave DC Circuit Judge David Tatel’s head spinning.

This is the latest chapter in the ACLU’s attempt to pry open the CIA’s files and lists on overseas drone-killings and the definition of “intelligence” could be the make-or-breaker.

Sharif Mobley, a U.S. citizen, has been detained in Yemen for five years -- for reasons unclear to him, his lawyers, or the D.C. Circuit. Mobley claims he was plucked from the streets by armed men, shot, interrogated by the FBI and other federal agencies, and has remained in custody ever since.

Mobley sued to uncover the reasons behind his detention and other "proxy detentions" in Yemen. That information won't be forthcoming anytime soon, though, after the D.C. Circuit rejected his Freedom of Information Act claims.

District Judge Richard Leon has twice ordered the NSA to halt its massive, once-secret collection of telephone metadata. Twice his rulings have been overturned by the D.C. Circuit. Now, in the most recent blow to NSA lawsuits, the D.C. Circuit has refused to rehear a challenge en banc.

The D.C. Circuit's rulings have largely been procedural -- touching on standing or the appropriateness of a preliminary injunction, for example. The most recent denial was just a sentence long. But, D.C. Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh wasn't content with just a denial. He took the opportunity to expound on the NSA's metadata collection all together. The gist: the massive surveillance doesn't bother him at all.

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.

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.