Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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Robinson is a stockholder in the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) (the Companies), for-profit corporations organized by the government under 12 U.S.C. 1716-1723 and 1451-1459. During the economic recession in 2007–2008, Congress enacted the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA), which created the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), and authorized FHFA to place the Companies in conservatorship. The Companies, through FHFA, entered into agreements with the Department of the Treasury that allowed the Companies to draw funds from Treasury in exchange for dividend payments and other financial benefits. An Amendment to those agreements modified the dividend payment structure and required the Companies to pay to Treasury, as a quarterly dividend, an amount just short of their net worth. The Amendment effectively transferred the Companies’ capital to Treasury and prevented dividend payments to junior stockholders, such as Robinson. Robinson brought suit. The district court found and the Sixth Circuit affirmed that Robinson’s claims under the Administrative Procedures Act were barred by HERA’s limitation on court action and that Robinson had failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Robinson failed to demonstrate that FHFA or Treasury exceeded the statutory authority granted by HERA. View "Robinson v. Federal Housing Finance Agency" on Justia Law

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Gatlin, an employee of Hopkins County Coal (HCC), was terminated from his job after refusing to perform a pre-shift examination that he believed entitled him to extra pay. Gatlin filed a discrimination complaint with the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). After forwarding the complaint to HCC and making an initial request to interview HCC managerial employees, the MSHA sent a letter requesting to review documents that it claimed were necessary to properly evaluate Gatlin’s claim. Following a series of letters and a site visit, HCC refused to produce Gatlin’s personnel file and the personnel files of other employees at the mine who faced discipline during the previous five years for engaging in the conduct that led to Gatlin’s termination. An MSHA investigator issued citations and an order to HCC under sections 104(a) and (b)1 of the Mine Safety and Health Act, 30 U.S.C. 814. An ALJ with the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission upheld the citations and order. The Commission and the Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting HCC’s claims that the MSHA exceeded its authority under the Mine Act by demanding company personnel documents without first identifying any basis for a discrimination claim and the MSHA’s demands to inspect the records violated HCC’s Fourth Amendment rights. View "Hopkins County Coal v. Mine Safety and Health Administration" on Justia Law

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At a campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky, in March 2016, then-candidate Trump responded to protesters by stating, “Get ‘em out of here,” followed closely by, “Don’t hurt ‘em—if I say go ‘get ‘em,’ I get in trouble with the press.” Allegedly in response to Trump’s initial statement, three protesters were assaulted by Trump supporters. Those protesters filed a complaint in Kentucky state court, which was removed to federal court. The district court denied in part Trump’s motion to dismiss, holding the complaint stated a plausible claim for “incitement to riot” under Kentucky law. The Sixth Circuit granted a petition for leave to appeal under 28 U.S.C. 1292(b). A district court may certify an order for interlocutory appeal if it is “of the opinion” that: “[1] the order involves a controlling question of law to which there is [2] substantial ground for difference of opinion and . . . [3] an immediate appeal may materially advance the termination of the litigation.” When the district court certifies its order and a timely petition follows, the Circuit Court must decide whether to exercise its “discretion,” as a prudential matter, to permit an appeal. The three factors that justify interlocutory appeal should be treated as guiding criteria rather than jurisdictional requisites. In this case, these criteria, along with other prudential factors, indicate that interlocutory appeal is “hardly imprudent.” View "In re: Donald Trump" on Justia Law

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Kerr sought judicial review of the final determination that Kerr’s husband was not disabled and not entitled to any Social Security disability insurance benefits before his death. Kerr was due to receive any payment owed to Mr. Kerr. The parties stipulated to reversal and remand under 42 U.S.C. 405(g). Kerr then sought an award of $3,206.25 in attorney fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. 2412(d), with any fees awarded “be made payable to Plaintiff’s counsel,” attaching an “Affidavit and Assignment of EAJA Fee.” The Commissioner did not oppose the motion. The district court granted the award, declined to honor Kerr’s assignment, and concluded that it was required to order payment to Kerr as the prevailing party. The court held that it could not “ignore the Anti-Assignment Act,” which prohibits “an assignment of a claim against the United States that is executed before the claim is allowed, before the amount of the claim is decided, and before a warrant for payment of the claim has been issued” but “le[ft] it to the Commissioner’s discretion to determine whether to waive the Anti-Assignment Act and make the fee payable to Mr. Marks.” The Commissioner responded that she would accept [Kerr’s] assignment and suggested that the court deny as moot Kerr’s Rule 59(e) motion. The district court and Sixth Circuit agreed that Kerr’s motion was moot, and did not reconsider the application of the AAA to the EAJA assignment. View "Kerr v. Commissioner of Social Security" on Justia Law

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Abilify is approved to treat schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, major depressive disorder and irritability associated with autism. There are no disapproved treatments for elderly patients, but the FDA has included a warning since 2007 that Abilify is associated with increased mortality in elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis. Relators, former BMS employees, alleged in a qui tam suit that BMS and Otsuka engaged in a scheme to encourage providers to prescribe Abilify for unapproved (off-label) uses and improperly induced providers to prescribe Abilify in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute. Nearly identical allegations were leveled against the companies years earlier. In 2007-2008, the companies each entered into an Agreement as part of a settlement of qui tam actions concerning improper promotion of Abilify. Relators allege that, despite those agreements, the companies continued to promote Abilify off-label and offer kickbacks, causing claims for reimbursement for the drug to be submitted to the government, in violation of the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729. The district court dismissed in part. The Sixth Circuit affirmed; the complaint did not satisfy Rule 9(b)’s requirement that relators adequately allege the entire chain to fairly show defendants caused false claims to be filed. As sales representatives, relators did not have personal knowledge of provider’s billing practices.The alleged plan was to increase Abilify prescriptions through improper promotion, which does not amount to conspiracy to violate the FCA. View "Ibanez v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co." on Justia Law

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ICN, a religious nonprofit, operates a Nashville mosque and a school. In 2008, it began building a new school building, financed by an ijara agreement, to avoid “running afoul of the Islamic prohibition on the payment of interest.” The bank essentially bought the property, leased it back to ICN, and then sold it back to ICN, with the lease payments substituting for interest payments. The agreement lasted until October 2013; the property was “continuously occupied by [ICN] and physically used solely for exempt religious educational purposes.” The transfer of title prompted the tax assessor to return the property to the tax roll. In February 2014, ICN applied for a property tax exemption, seeking retroactive application. The Tennessee State Board of Equalization’s designee regranted ICN's exemption, but not for the time during which the bank had held title. An ALJ and the State Board’s Assessment Appeals Commission upheld the decision. ICN did not seek review in the chancery court, but filed suit in federal court under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act; the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act; the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act; and the Establishment Clause. The court dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, citing the Tax Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. 1341. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Tennessee’s statutory provision for state-court appeal provides a plain, speedy, and efficient alternative to federal-court review, so the Tax Injunction Act bars ICN’s suit in federal court. View "Islamic Center of Nashville v. State of Tennessee" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, Flint, Michigan residents, filed a purported class action against city and state officials in state court, alleging that they have been harmed since April 2014 by the toxic condition of the Flint water supply. Defendants sought removal under 28 U.S.C. 1442, the federal-officer removal statute, and 28 U.S.C. 1441, which allows removal of state-law causes of action that raise substantial federal questions. Defendants claimed that they are being sued for actions that they took while acting under the direction of the federal EPA, which delegated primary enforcement authority to the state to implement the federal Safe Drinking Water Act in Michigan, and that the EPA retains “tremendous oversight authority.” Defendants also asserted “a substantial federal question”: whether the MDEQ Defendants complied with federal law. The Sixth Circuit affirmed a remand to state court. Complete diversity of citizenship is lacking, and no federal question is presented on the face of the complaint. Simply complying with a regulation is insufficient, even if the regulatory scheme is “highly detailed” and the defendant’s “activities are highly supervised and monitored.” Despite the EPA’s authority to intervene, Michigan was governing itself when the alleged actions and inactions giving rise to the Plaintiffs’ claims occurred. View "Mays v. City of Flint, Michigan" on Justia Law

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Upon receiving an anonymous tip, the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) investigated allegations of race-fixing, involving gamblers and harness-racing drivers. Plaintiffs, MGCB-licensed harness drivers, attended an administrative hearing but declined to answer questions, invoking their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The MGCB immediately suspended their licenses, based on a requirement that license applicants “cooperate in every way . . . during the conduct of an investigation, including responding correctly, to the best of his or her knowledge, to all questions pertaining to racing.” MGCB later issued exclusion orders banning the drivers from all state race tracks and denied Plaintiffs’ applications for 2011, 2012, and 2013 licenses. Plaintiffs sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming violations of their procedural due process and Fifth Amendment rights. The Sixth Circuit held that the defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity. The exclusion orders were issued about 30 months before a post-exclusion hearing; Plaintiffs identified a violation of a clearly established right. Under specific conditions, a public employee “may rightfully refuse to answer unless and until he is protected at least against the use of his compelled answers.” The Supreme Court has held that if a state wishes to punish an employee for invoking that right, “States must offer to the witness whatever immunity is required to supplant the privilege and may not insist that the employee ... waive such immunity.” Both rights were clearly established at the time of the violation. View "Moody v. Michigan Gaming Control Board" on Justia Law

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The Jackson County Michigan Board of Commissioners begins its monthly meetings with a Christian prayer. Bormuth, a non-Christian resident, attended meetings because he was concerned about environmental issues. During the prayer, Bormuth was the only one in attendance who did not rise and bow his head. Bormuth felt isolated and worried that the Commissioners would hold his action against him. He raised the First Amendment issue during a public comment period. The Commissioners reacted with “disgust.” Bormuth filed suit asserting that this prayer practice violated the Establishment Clause. The Commissioners declined Bormuth’s application to serve on an environmental committee. The district court granted the County summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit initially reversed, but on rehearing, en banc, affirmed. “Since the founding of our Republic, Congress, state legislatures, and many municipal bodies have commenced legislative sessions with a prayer.” Jackson County’s invocation practice is consistent with the Supreme Court’s legislative prayer decisions and does not violate the Establishment Clause. View "Bormuth v. County of Jackson" on Justia Law

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Flint, which previously obtained water from DWSD, decided to join the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA). The DWSD contract terminated in 2014. Because KWA would take years to construct, Flint chose the Flint River as an interim source. A 2011 Report had determined that river water would need to be treated to meet safety regulations; the cost of treatment was less than continuing with DWSD. Genesee County also decided to switch to KWA but continued to purchase DWSD water during construction. Flint did not upgrade its treatment plants or provide additional safety measures before switching. Residents immediately complained that the water “smelled rotten, looked foul, and tasted terrible.” Tests detected coliform and E. coli bacteria; the water was linked to Legionnaire’s disease. General Motors discontinued its water service, which was corroding its parts. Eventually, the city issued a notice that the drinking water violated standards, but was safe to drink. Subsequent testing indicated high levels of lead and trihalomethane that did not exceed the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) Lead and Copper Rule’s “action level.” The tests indicated that corrosion control treatment was needed to counteract lead levels. The City Council voted to reconnect with DWSD; the vote was overruled by the state-appointed Emergency Manager. The EPA warned of high lead levels; officials distributed filters. Genesee County declared a public health emergency in Flint, advising residents not to drink the water. The Emergency Manager ordered reconnection to DWSD but the supply pipes' protective coating had been damaged by River water. Flint remains in a state of emergency but residents have been billed continuously for water. The Michigan Civil Rights Commission determined that the response to the crisis was “the result of systemic racism.” The Sixth Circuit reversed dismissal, as preempted by SDWA, of cases under 42 U.S.C. 1983. SDWA has no textual preemption of section 1983 claims and SDWA’s remedial scheme does not demonstrate such an intention. The rights and protections found in the constitutional claims diverge from those provided by SDWA. The court affirmed dismissal of claims against state defendants as barred by the Eleventh Amendment. View "Boler v. Earley" on Justia Law