Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

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This case arose when a member of the House of Representatives asked the House-appointed Chaplain, Father Patrick J. Conroy, to invite Daniel Barker—a former Christian minister turned atheist—to serve as guest chaplain and deliver a secular invocation. After Conroy denied the request, Barker filed suit alleging that Conroy unconstitutionally excluded him from the guest chaplain program because he is an atheist. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Barker's Establishment Clause claim. The court held that, although Barker had Article III standing to challenge his exclusion from the program, he failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The court held that Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783 (1983), and Town of Greece v. Galloway, 572 U.S. 565, 570 (2014), leave no doubt that the Supreme Court understands our nation's longstanding legislative-prayer tradition as one that, because of its "unique history," can be both religious and consistent with the Establishment Clause. The court noted that, although the Supreme Court has warned against discriminating among religions or tolerating a pattern of prayers that proselytize or disparage certain faiths or beliefs, it has never suggested that legislatures must allow secular as well as religious prayer. Therefore, in the sui generis context of legislative prayer, the court held that the House does not violate the Establishment Clause by limiting its opening prayer to religious prayer. View "Barker v. Conroy" on Justia Law

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D.C. Code 22-1307(a), the anti-obstructing statute, is not unconstitutionally vague on its face. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a complaint by three DC residents who were arrested under the statute. The court held that the statute conferred no sweeping power; its terms are clear enough to shield against arbitrary deployment; it bars only blocking or hindering others' use of the places it identifies; a person is not subject to arrest unless he refuses to move out of the way when an officer directs him to do so; and the statute does not criminalize inadvertent conduct, nor does it authorize the police to direct a person to move on if he is not currently or imminently in the way of anyone else’s shared use of the place at issue. Accordingly, the court rejected plaintiffs' claims to the contrary and upheld the statute. View "Agnew v. Government of the District of Columbia" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs challenge the ATF's rule classifying bump-stock devices as machine guns under the National Firearms Act. The ATF promulgated the rule after a mass shooting at a concert in Las Vegas in October 2017. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiffs' motions for a preliminary injunction to halt the rule's effective date, holding that plaintiffs failed to establish a likelihood of success both for their challenge to Acting Attorney General Whitaker's appointment and for their objections to the substantive validity of the rule. In this case, Plaintiff Codrea failed to show a likelihood of success on his appointment-based challenges due to Attorney General Barr's independent and unchallenged ratification of the Bump-Stock Rule; the Bump-Stock rule was a legislative rule that sets forth a permissible interpretation of the statute's ambiguous definition of "machinegun" and therefore merited the court's deference; the rule was not arbitrary in applying the definition of "machinegun" to bump stocks and the ATF has articulated a satisfactory explanation for the rule; and Codrea forfeited his claim that the rule was impermissibly retroactive. View "Guedes v. ATF" on Justia Law

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Appellant moved to vacate his rape and murder conviction under 28 U.S.C. 2255 and the holding in Napue v. Illinois, 360 U.S. 264 (1959), after the government conceded that the testimony of a forensic expert was false and misleading and that the government knew or should have known so at the time of appellant's trial. The DC Circuit reversed the district court's denial of appellant's section 2255 motion, holding that he demonstrated a reasonable likelihood that the forensic expert's admittedly false testimony could have affected the judgment of the jury. In this case, without the agent's hair-comparison testimony, there was a reasonable likelihood that the jury could have accepted appellant's defense theory that he had been in the victim's apartment, but not during the day of her rape and murder. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Ausby" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal on mootness grounds plaintiff's action because the allegations in the complaint logically fell within a mootness exception for claims capable of repetition yet evading review. Plaintiff filed suit alleging that the BOP had violated its own policies and procedures in three ways: (1) the BOP had failed to deliver his magazine subscriptions while he was confined in special housing units (SHUs); (2) the BOP had deprived him of outside exercise while he was confined in SHUs; and (3) the BOP deprived him of meaningful access to the administrative remedy procedures. In this case, the district court dismissed the pleadings on the basis that plaintiff's transfer from the SHU rendered inapplicable the capable of repetition, yet evading review exception as a matter of law. The court held, however, that there was no logical flaw in the theory of why the mootness exception could apply. Plaintiff adequately alleged that the challenged action was too fleeting to be fully litigated, and there was no logical deficiency in plaintiff's allegation that he reasonably expects to be subjected to the same challenged deprivations in the future. View "Reid v. Inch" on Justia Law

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Felons are not among the law-abiding, responsible citizens entitled to the protections of the Second Amendment. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's action seeking to enjoin the enforcement of 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), which prohibits anyone convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year from owning firearms for life. The court held that, in this applied challenge, plaintiff failed to show facts about his conviction that distinguished him from other convicted felons encompassed by the section 922(g)(1) prohibition. In this case, plaintiff was convicted as a felon for falsifying his income on mortgage applications twenty-seven years ago. View "Medina v. Whitaker" on Justia Law

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Representatives of the estates of black male farmers sought to submit claims of past discrimination in agricultural credit programs to a claims-processing framework set up to resolve Hispanic and female farmers' credit discrimination claims. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action, holding that representatives lacked standing to challenge the framework because they have no live underlying credit discrimination claims to present. In this case, representatives never submitted claims in the Black Farmers remedial process, but instead sought to present their claims in the parallel framework for claims of discrimination against women and/or Hispanic farmers. Therefore, the harm representatives asserted from being excluded was not redressable. Furthermore, representatives' claims were time barred and, even if the claims were not time barred, any credit discrimination claim a member of the Black Farmers plaintiff class may have had during the relevant period, whether or not actually pursued in the remedial process established under the Black Farmers' consent decree, was now precluded by that decree, or, for any member who opted out, time barred. View "Estate of Earnest Lee Boyland v. United States Department of Agriculture" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of claims related to conditions placed by the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board on the liquor license of the Alibi restaurant. The court held that HRH properly invoked the curable defect exception to issue preclusion, and the district court erred by rejecting HRH's proposed second amended complaint that included allegations about the Board's enforcement action that would have cured the standing defect. On the merits, the court affirmed the dismissal of HRH's First Amendment retaliation claim because, even assuming the facts alleged in the complaint were true, the record showed that retaliation was not a plausible conclusion. The court also affirmed the dismissal of the commercial association claim based on the same reasoning as the retaliation claim; the dismissal of the right to travel claim in light of Hutchins v. District of Columbia, 188 F.3d 531, 537-38 (D.C. Cir. 1999); and procedural due process claim based on the failure to identify a cognizable liberty or property interest. View "Scahill v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law

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The Architect of the Capitol removed high school student David Pulphus’ painting from the exhibition of the 2016 winners of the Congressional Art Competition. The painting was initially described as “a colorful landscape of symbolic characters representing social injustice, the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri, and the lingering elements of inequality in modern American society.” It was removed after protests by police unions and a FOX news personality, based on a newspaper story that described it as “depicting police officers as pigs with guns terrorizing a black neighborhood.” After unsuccessfully asking that the House Office Building Commission overrule the removal decision, Pulphus and Missouri Congressman Clay unsuccessfully sought a preliminary injunction, alleging violations of their First Amendment rights. The D.C. Circuit dismissed an appeal as moot; the 2016 Congressional Art Competition is over and no other concrete, redressable injury is alleged that was caused by the Architect’s removal decision. View "Pulphus v. Ayers" on Justia Law

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AFDI filed suit against WMATA and its then-general manager, alleging that WMATA's refusal to display its advertisements violated its rights to free speech and equal protection under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The district court granted summary judgment to WMATA. Determining that the case was justiciable, the DC Circuit held that WMATA's advertising space was a nonpublic forum and that its restrictions were viewpoint-neutral. In this case, the court rejected AFDI's as-applied challenge, AFDI's claim that the ban on issue-oriented advertising was facially unconstitutional; and AFDI's claim that Guideline 12 was an unconstitutional prohibition of religious and antireligious views. The court remanded to the district court to determine whether the restrictions were reasonable in light of Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky, 138 S. Ct. 1876 (2018). Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "American Freedom Defense Initiative v. Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority" on Justia Law