Civil Rights Law News - DC Circuit
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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.

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.

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.

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.

D.C. Cir. Cancels Obamacare Subsidies Arguments Thanks to SCOTUS

Big shocker: A lower court decided not to hear a case because a higher court is going to decide the issue for them! Yeah, we saw this coming too once the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in the Fourth Circuit's Obamacare subsidies case: The D.C. Circuit pressed pause on its own en banc consideration of the issue.

Meantime, also in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, a three-judge panel upheld the Obama administration's newest workaround for religious exemption to the birth control mandate.

Obamacare litigation never ends, does it?

Klayman v. Obama: D.C. Cir. to Hear NSA Surveillance Case

On Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is set to hear oral arguments in Klayman v. Obama, a case that has the potential to alter the Fourth Amendment -- if the court will let it.

Back in December, District Judge Richard Leon granted a preliminary injunction to block the NSA's "metadata" surveillance. Though Leon wasn't ruling on the constitutionality of the program (because likelihood of success on the merits is one element of issuing an injunction), he said the program was very likely unconstitutional.