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

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These petitions concern the conduct of a military judge, Colonel Vance Spath, who presided over a current Guantanamo Bay detainee, Abd Al-Rahim Hussein Muhammed Al-Nashiri, who faces capital charges before a military commission. After receiving a job offer but before retiring from the military, Spath found himself locked in a dispute with Al-Nashiri's defense lawyers, three of whom sought to leave the case. The DC Circuit granted Al-Nashiri's petition for a writ of mandamus and held that Spath's job application to the Justice Department created a disqualifying appearance of partiality. In this case, the average, informed observer would consider Spath to have presided over a case in which his potential employer (the Attorney General) appeared. The court vacated all orders issued by Spath after he applied for the job, and dismissed counsels' petition as moot. View "In re: Abd Al-Rahim Hussein Muhammed Al-Nashiri" on Justia Law

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Matthew LeFande appealed a criminal contempt order for refusing a magistrate judge's orders to take the witness stand and be sworn for in-court questioning on the record in lieu of an ordinary, out-of-court deposition in a civil action. LeFande served as counsel for defendants in an underlying civil case. The DC Circuit affirmed the criminal contempt order, holding that a fair-minded and reasonable trier of fact could accept the evidence as probative of a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In this case, LeFande did not dispute that he willfully violated the magistrate judge's orders. Furthermore, the district court indisputably had jurisdiction over the underlying action; the district court had personal jurisdiction over LeFande based on his nexus with the forum and the case; LeFande's objection that the order to testify violated the attorney-client privilege was contrary to circuit law, and to the magistrate judge's and district judge's prior orders applying that precedent to LeFande; the validity of the contempt order was unaffected by LeFande's assertion that District Title sought to depose him for an improper purpose; and LeFande's discovery argument lacked merit. View "In re: Deposition of Matthew Lefande" on Justia Law

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This litigation over attorney's fees stemmed from a Freedom of Information Act case. At issue was whether plaintiff was entitled to attorney's fees under the Freedom of Information Act attorney's fee statute. Applying a deferential standard, the DC Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in its analysis of four factors: (i) the public benefit from the case; (ii) the commercial benefit to the plaintiff; (iii) the nature of the plaintiff's interest in the records; and (iv) the reasonableness of the agency's withholding of the requested documents. Furthermore, the district court acted within its discretion when it concluded that the fourth factor outweighed the other three. View "Morley v. CIA" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment that certain documents subpoenaed by the FTC were covered by the attorney-client privilege. The court held that obtaining or providing legal advice was one of the significant purposes of the communications at issue. In this case, the relevant communications consisted primarily of the transmission of factual information from Boehringer's employees to the general counsel, at the general counsel's request, for the purpose of assisting the general counsel in formulating her legal advice regarding a possible settlement. Other communications were between the general counsel and the corporation's executives regarding the settlement. Therefore, all of the communications were protected by the attorney-client privilege. View "FTC v. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc." on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit held that two Federal Trade Commission attorneys were immune from suit for their conduct during an enforcement action against a medical-records company after the company's CEO publicly criticized the FTC about their investigation, where the company's data-security practices made patient records available over public file-sharing. The court held that qualified immunity protected all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law and, even if the attorneys sought to retaliate for the public criticism, their actions did not violate any clearly established right absent plausible allegations that their motive was the but-for cause of the Commission's enforcement action. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's denial of qualified immunity to the attorneys. View "Daugherty v. Sheer" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiffs' motion to compel payment of attorneys' fees that they say should have been but were not paid as a result of PBGC doing too little to identify and make payments to class members. The court's de novo interpretation of the wrap-up agreement gave it no reason to question the district court's conclusion that PBGC fully performed notwithstanding class counsel's unsupported assertions to the contrary. The court also held that PBGC did not prevent class counsel's performance of the wrap-up agreement. In this case, the parties intended that the wrap-up would be complete within ten years. This ten year period was unambiguous and has expired. View "Collins v. PBGC" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiffs' motion to compel payment of attorneys' fees that they say should have been but were not paid as a result of PBGC doing too little to identify and make payments to class members. The court's de novo interpretation of the wrap-up agreement gave it no reason to question the district court's conclusion that PBGC fully performed notwithstanding class counsel's unsupported assertions to the contrary. The court also held that PBGC did not prevent class counsel's performance of the wrap-up agreement. In this case, the parties intended that the wrap-up would be complete within ten years. This ten year period was unambiguous and has expired. View "Collins v. PBGC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs settled a legal malpractice suit (2009 Litigation) in 2010 against defendant, but alleged that defendant failed to explain that the settlement meant all of their claims were fully and finally dismissed. In 2015, plaintiffs filed suit against defendant for, inter alia, his allegedly negligent settlement advice. The district court twice dismissed the complaint as untimely. The DC Circuit held that, taking the allegations of the complaint as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in plaintiffs' favor, plaintiffs' claims were not conclusively time barred at the pleading stage. Under the circumstances of this case, including the parties' attorney-client relationship, plaintiffs' efforts to check in with defendant about the 2009 Litigation every three months following the 2010 settlement plausibly fulfilled their duty to investigate their affairs with reasonable diligence. Therefore, it was plausible that plaintiffs' claims did not accrue prior to May 6, 2012 and thus their claims were not time-barred. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Momenian v. Davidson" on Justia Law