Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

by
Jeffrey Ware, Ph.D., was a University of Pennsylvania neuroscientist, studying the effects of radiation on biological organisms with the goal of better understanding how radiation affects astronauts while in orbit. Ware used cesium-137 irradiators to track the effects of low-level radiation on mice and rats. In 2010, Ware suffered a rare form of brain cancer, gliosarcoma. His widow, Boyer, claims gliosarcoma is associated with radiation exposure but produced no expert reports and that Ware’s cancer specifically resulted from radiation exposure that UPenn failed to properly monitor, protect against or warn of. Ware underwent chemotherapy and radiation at the University’s hospital. Boyer alleges that Ware was not given appropriate information about these treatments; that, given the advanced stage of his disease, they provided little benefit; and that a UPenn doctor enrolled Ware in a research study to investigate the effects of chemotherapy and radiation on brain cancer patients without his knowing consent. The Third Circuit affirmed the application of the Price-Anderson Act, 42 U.S.C. 2011, and its remedy-limiting provisions to Boyer's suit. The Act gives federal courts jurisdiction to resolve a broad set of claims involving liability for physical harm arising from nuclear radiation. Boyer’s case is within the Act’s reach. View "Estate of Ware v. Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania" on Justia Law

by
Tennessee Gas applied to several federal and state agencies seeking approval to build the Orion interstate pipeline project, comprising 12.9 miles of pipeline looping that would transport 135,000 dekatherms of natural gas per day via Pennsylvania. Approximately 99.5% of the new pipeline would run alongside existing pipeline. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued a permit approving the project. Riverkeeper argued that the court lacked jurisdiction to rule on its challenge because PADEP’s order was not final and that PADEP made an erroneous “water dependency” finding and improperly rejected a “compression” alternative to the pipeline project. The Third Circuit concluded that PADEP’s decision was final and upheld the decision on the merits because the agency’s unique interpretation of water dependency was reasonable and worthy of deference. PADEP considered and rejected the compression alternative for reasons that are supported by the record. Where an interstate pipeline project is proposed to be constructed,15 U.S.C. 717f provides “original and exclusive jurisdiction over any civil action for the review of an order or action of a . . . State administrative agency acting pursuant to Federal law to issue . . . any permit, license, concurrence, or approval . . . required under Federal law,” View "Delaware Riverkeeper Network v. Secretary, Pennsylvania Department Environmental Protection" on Justia Law

by
Misternovo and his sons (Petitioners) are citizens of Guatemala who first entered the U.S. in 1990, 1998, and 2004, respectively. In 1999, Misternovo filed an application for suspension of deportation or special rule cancellation of removal under the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) that listed his sons as derivatives. USCIS denied the NACARA application. In 2008, the Department of Homeland Security initiated removal proceedings under 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(6)(A)(i). The Immigration Judge ruled that Petitioners were removable as charged. Later, in January 2012, Misternovo’s NACARA application received a full merits hearing. An Immigration Judge denied that application, holding that Misternovo had failed to establish that he had timely registered for benefits pursuant to the American Baptist Churches v. Thornburgh settlement agreement; an appeal was dismissed by the BIA. More than two years later, Petitioners filed a motion to reopen based on changed country conditions in Guatemala. The BIA denied the motion. The Third Circuit denied a petition for review. The time bar contained in 8 C.F.R. 1003.2(c) applies to motions to reopen based on a request for withholding of removal under the Convention Against Torture. View "Bamaca-Cifuentes v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

by
About 99.5% of the Orion Project, 12.9 miles of pipeline looping that would transport an additional 135,000 dekatherms per day of natural gas through Pennsylvania, would run alongside existing pipelines. According to Riverkeeper, construction will lead to deforestation, destruction of wetland habitats, and other forms of environmental damage. Riverkeeper asserts that such damage can be avoided by building or upgrading a compressor station. The Army Corps of Engineers, which administers certain provisions of the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1344(a), 1362(7) issued a Section 404 permit approving the project. The Third Circuit rejected Riverkeeper’s challenge. The Corps considered the compression alternative but rejected it for reasons supported by the record. While the compression alternative would disturb less land, its impact would be mostly permanent. The pipeline project would disturb more land, but its impact would be mostly temporary. In making a policy choice between those environmental tradeoffs, the agency’s discretion “was at its apex.” View "Delaware Riverkeeper Network v. United States Army Corps of Engineers" on Justia Law

by
Vanderklok wanted to fly from Philadelphia to Miami, to run a half-marathon. In his carry-on luggage, he had a heart monitor and watch stored inside a piece of PVC pipe, capped on both ends. During screening at the airport security checkpoint, the pipe and electronics prompted secondary screening, supervised by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employee Kieser. According to Vanderklok, Kieser was disrespectful, so Vanderklok stated an intent to file a complaint against him. Vanderklok claims that Kieser, in retaliation, called the Philadelphia police and falsely reported that Vanderklok had threatened to bring a bomb to the airport. Vanderklok was arrested. He was acquitted because Kieser’s testimony about Vanderklok’s behavior did not match airport surveillance footage. Vanderklok sued. The district court concluded that Kieser lacked qualified immunity as to Vanderklok’s First Amendment claim and that a reasonable jury could find in Vanderklok’s favor as to his Fourth Amendment claim. The Third Circuit vacated. Because Kieser sought and was denied summary judgment on the merits of Vanderklok’s Fourth Amendment claim, rather than on the basis of qualified immunity, that claim cannot be reviewed on interlocutory appeal. The court concluded that no First Amendment claim against a TSA employee for retaliatory prosecution even exists in the context of airport security screenings. View "Vanderklok v. United States" on Justia Law

by
As unclaimed property has become Delaware’s third-largest source of revenue, companies have filed lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of Delaware’s escheat regime. Plains All American Pipeline attacked the constitutionality of several provisions of the Delaware Escheats Law, which provides that a holder of “property presumed abandoned” must file a yearly report with the State Escheator in which it provides information about the property and its possible owner (Del. Code tit. 12, sects. 1142, 1143) and Delaware’s demand that it submit to an abandoned property audit. Because Plains brought suit before Delaware assessed liability based on its audit or sought a subpoena to make its audit-related document requests enforceable, the district court dismissed the suit, finding that the claims were unripe except for an equal protection claim that it dismissed for failure to state a claim. The Third Circuit reversed in part, finding an as-applied, procedural due process claim ripe, but otherwise affirmed. To establish a due process violation, all Plains must show is that it was required to submit a dispute to a self-interested party. No further factual development is needed to address the merits of the claim. View "Plains All American Pipeline LLP v. Cook" on Justia Law

by
Long Branch Police Lieutenant Johnson filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging racial discrimination, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e, by subjecting him “to different and harsher disciplinary measures than similarly situated white colleagues who committed the same or similar . . . infractions.” The EEOC served Long Branch with a notice to charge and requested “all disciplinary records” for Johnson and six Caucasian comparator officers. Long Branch responded that it would not produce the materials unless the EEOC executed a confidentiality agreement. The EEOC refused to execute the agreement and served a subpoena on Long Branch. The city responded with a “Notice of Motion to Quash Subpoena,” captioned for the Superior Court of New Jersey. A person or entity intending not to comply with an EEOC subpoena must submit a petition to modify or revoke the subpoena to the EEOC’s Director or General Counsel within five days after service, 29 C.F.R. 1601.16(b)(1). Long Branch never did so. The EEOC sought enforcement of its subpoena in federal court. The Third Circuit vacated an order enforcing the subpoena in part without reaching claims concerning exhaustion of administrative remedies and disclosure to the charging party of other employees’ records. The court noted a significant procedural defect pertaining to the treatment of the motion to enforce under the Federal Magistrates Act. View "Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. City of Long Branch" on Justia Law

by
In 1993, Congress amended the Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. 151–622, to allow the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to grant electromagnetic spectrum licenses through a system of competitive bidding. The Act requires the FCC to pursue objectives required by statute, including promoting economic opportunity and competition and ensuring that new and innovative technologies are readily accessible to the American people by avoiding excessive concentration of licenses and by disseminating licenses among a wide variety of applicants, including small businesses, rural telephone companies, and businesses owned by members of minority groups and women (designated entities or “DEs”). The FCC’s principal means of fulfilling the statutory objectives for DEs is to confer bidding credits upon small and rural businesses that participate in FCC auctions. Bidding credits operate as a discount on the spectrum DEs purchase, allowing them sometimes to outbid companies that make higher bids. In 2015, the FCC issued a rule indicating that it would cap credits available in future auctions. The Third Circuit concluded the FCC acted legally when it limited the bidding credits available to DEs. The Order: preserved a significant bidding credit program; reviewed data suggesting DE participation would continue despite the proposed caps; and altered other rules to make DEs more competitive. View "Council Tree Investors, Inc. v. Federal Communications Commission" on Justia Law

by
Elliott worked in a coal mine until 1993 and developed a chronic cough. Three after his retirement, he developed more acute breathing problems. Elliott sought Black Lung Benefits Act, 30 U.S.C. 901–45, benefits in 2012. Helen Mining conceded it was the responsible employer, but challenged Elliott’s entitlement to benefits. The parties stipulated that Elliott had a totally disabling respiratory impairment. Because Helen Mining conceded disability and because Elliott demonstrated more than 15 years of employment, the ALJ determined that section 921(c)(4) applied and that the other elements, including causation, would be presumed, and shifted the burden to Helen Mining. Helen Mining offered the opinions of two doctors, attributing Elliott’s respiratory impairment to adult-onset asthma unrelated to coal dust exposure. The ALJ did not find their testimony persuasive, concluded that Helen Mining had failed to rule out coal dust-induced pneumoconiosis as a cause of Elliott’s disability, and awarded benefits. The Benefits Review Board upheld the award. The Third Circuit affirmed, upholding the application of the 2013 regulation, specifying the standard a coal mine operator must meet to rebut the presumed element of disability causation, 20 C.F.R. 718.305(d)(1). The regulation permissibly fills a statutory gap and Helen Mining did not meet that rebuttal standard. View "Helen Mining Co v. Elliott" on Justia Law

by
Rodriquez was elected to serve in the Virgin Islands Legislature. After his election, plaintiffs sued, challenging Rodriquez’s qualifications. Plaintiffs had learned that Rodriguez had filed a bankruptcy petition in Tennessee, swearing that he was a resident of Tennessee. Rodriquez removed that suit to federal court and filed his own action against the 32nd Legislature of the Virgin Islands and its president, seeking a ruling that only the Legislature can decide who is qualified to serve in the Legislature. Because of an injunction issued by the Virgin Islands Superior Court, Rodriquez was not sworn in and has not taken a seat in the Legislature. The Governor of the Virgin Islands issued a proclamation calling for a special election to fill the vacancy.The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Rodriguez's suit and dismissed an appeal of the removal. Because a judicial determination of whether Rodriquez is qualified to serve as a member of the Virgin Islands 32nd Legislature would infringe on the separation of powers between the Virgin Islands legislative and judicial branches, that action is no longer justiciable. Rodriquez does not having standing to appeal the district court’s removal order because he was a prevailing party. View "Rodriquez v. 32nd Legislature of the Virgin Islands" on Justia Law