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


In what's being hailed as a win for the public, one federal court judge ruled (over the weekend) that the federal court system has been misusing the profits generated by the PACER and the CM/ECF system.

The Saturday ruling in the National Veterans Legal Services Program v. U.S.A. case found that several programs and purchases funded by the profits generated by the PACER systems, which climbs into the millions annually, were improper. While not a win, exactly, for either party, the case will continue to move forward as the court determines what exactly PACER fees can be used for.

Benghazi Claims Against Hillary Clinton Dismissed

For better or for worse, Hillary Clinton will forever be linked to the attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi. This week, it was better for the former secretary of state.

A federal appeals court agreed to dismiss claims against her by parents whose sons died in the 2012 attacks. The U.S Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said Clinton was acting within her office at the time and was not a proper defendant.

In Smith and Woods v. Clinton and the United States of America, the parents claimed Clinton defamed them and lied about the attack. The appeals panel said she just disagreed with them.

While using your smartphone, have you ever sent a text message to or called someone who didn't you give you their number, or explicitly consent for you to call or text? If you have, there's good and bad news.

First the bad news: Apparently, you broke the current FCC commissioners understanding of the TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) by texting/calling without consent. Now the good news: The D.C. Circuit just killed the FCC's interpretation of the rule that could have, theoretically (in some magical land), been used to allow individuals to sue each other over, and this is according the majority opinion here, unexpected social gathering invitations.

For a pair of former military contractors, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals may have finally cut through all the red tape to let their case get up to the summary judgment stage.

The contractors filed claims of for retaliatory discharge and breach of contract. Notably, although only one was injured on the job, both contractors were abruptly terminated, after a work comp claim was filed, despite their contract requiring an ample notice period for terminations without, or with curable, cause.

In short, while moving sand bags around at an U.S. military base in Iraq, one contractor hurt his back. When the base doctor, another contractor, recommended he seek treatment in the United States, the other listened and took a short leave to do so. While on leave, he filed a worker comp claim. The base doctor had supported the claim. And, to make a long story short, both the doctor and injured worker got fired.

Fine Upheld Against Polish Broadcaster for U.S. Copyright Violations

Court observers saw Spanski Enterprises v. Polska as a copyright stand-off.

In one corner of Poland, Telewizja Polska was broadcasting television episodes on the internet for on-demand users. In another corner of New York City, lawyers discovered by downloading the episodes that the programs violated U.S. copyright law.

The controversy made it to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, where the judges resolved it. TV Polska owes the copyright holders more than $3 million.

Doctor Files Whistleblower Suit Against Hospital

It was not news in Washington, D.C. when a prominent doctor sued United Medical Center.

Washington Post readers could see it coming because Dr. Julian Craig told city officials about billing problems at the hospital, only to be fired weeks later. Councilwoman Mary Cheh put it this way:

"This looks like a classic retaliation to me," she said. Now a federal court will decide in Craig v. Not-for-Profit Hospital Corporation.

In line with recent rulings limiting the reach of Bivens claims, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in Liff v. Dept. of Labor, reversed a lower federal court, and refused to extend Bivens to a federal contractor's claim.

Stewart Liff, who ran Stewart Liff and Associates, was, at one time, a successful human resources expert and government contractor. However, he alleged that he was the subject of a reputation assassination that resulted in him essentially losing all his government contract work, which made up about 90 percent of his business. Liff claimed that as a result of a public agency report (that stated spending on his services was wasteful) going public, and other reputational harms, he lost nearly all his business.

President Can Fire Agency Head Only for Cause

During his State of the Union address, President Trump urged Congress to allow government officials to fire workers who "undermine the public trust or fail the American people."

But under a federal court decision issued the next day, it's not going to be that easy even for the president. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said the head of a consumer protection agency can only be fired for cause.

PHH Corporation v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is not a big setback for the "You're fired" president, but it is a huge affirmation of the power of an administrative agency.

Bars Liable in Drunken Brawl, but Not McDonald's

This is a case for why McDonald's should never offer alcohol or host a happy hour.

It's also an awful lesson about not drinking and fighting because Patrick Casey died outside a McDonald's in a drunken brawl. His parents sued the fast-food restaurant and the bars that allegedly served the brawlers too much booze.

In Casey v. McDonalds Corporation, a trial judge threw out their case. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, however, said the plaintiffs have a case -- but not against McDonald's.

The Deputy Director of the United States Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Leandra English, has not given up her legal fight to become the Acting Director of the CFPB after former Director Richard Cordray stepped down at the end of last year. Prior to stepping down, Cordray promoted English from Chief of Staff to Deputy Director, presumably for the express purpose of ensuring his immediate successor was qualified.

After the district court dismissed her claim to usurp Trump's appointed Acting Director, English filed an emergency appeal up to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. In short, English is challenging President Trump's appointment of Mick Mulvaney as the Acting Director, given that she was next in line for the position under a specific provision of the Dodd-Frank Act.