Justia U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Education Law
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Decker developed the patented inventions while employed at the University of Texas and assigned the patents to UT. Gensetix obtained an exclusive license in the patents. The license agreement provides that, Gensetix must enforce the patents. The parties agreed to cooperate in any infringement suit and that nothing in the agreement would waive UT's sovereign immunity. Gensetix sued Baylor, alleging infringement and requested that UT join as a co-plaintiff. UT declined. Gensetix named UT as an involuntary plaintiff under FRCP 19(a). The district court dismissed, finding that UT is a sovereign state entity, so that the Eleventh Amendment barred joinder of UT, and that the suit could not proceed without UT.The Federal Circuit affirmed in part. UT did not voluntarily invoke federal jurisdiction; the Eleventh Amendment prevents “the indignity of subjecting a State to the coercive process of judicial tribunals” against its will. It is irrelevant that the license agreement requires the initiation of an infringement suit by Gensetix or cooperation by UT. The court erred in dismissing the suit without adequate analysis of Rule 19(b)'s factors: the extent to which a judgment might prejudice the missing required party or the existing parties; the extent to which any prejudice could be lessened; whether a judgment rendered in the required party’s absence would be adequate; and whether the plaintiff would have an adequate remedy if the action were dismissed. View "Gensetix, Inc. v. Baylor College of Medicine" on Justia Law

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Under the GI Bill, the VA provides monetary benefits to veterans enrolled in “approved” “course[s] of education,” 38 U.S.C. 3483. Approval must be provided by the state approving agency (SAA) for the state where the educational institution is located. For online courses, the educational institution must obtain approval from the SAA where the institution’s “main campus” is located. The VA may discontinue educational assistance, after following certain procedures, if this requirement is not met. Ashford is a for-profit educational institution that provides online courses to veterans and others. In November 2017, the VA sent a Cure Letter to Ashford stating that Ashford’s online courses were not approved by the correct SAA, expressing its “inten[t] to suspend payment of educational assistance and suspend approval of new enrollments and re-enrollments [for Ashford’s online programs] in 60 days unless corrective action is taken.” The Letter noted the availability of a hearing before the Committee on Educational Allowances. Ashford sought review, contending that the Cure Letter “announces” new “rules” and that 38 U.S.C. 502 provided the court with jurisdiction to review those alleged rules. The Federal Circuit dismissed the petition, finding that the Cure Letter is not rulemaking or any other reviewable action; it is also not a final agency action under the Administrative Procedure Act. View "Ashford University, LLC v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law

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On inter partes review of ATI’s “Unified Shader Patents,” LGE cited multiple prior references. A “shader” as used in this field is a computer-implemented system that specifies how a computer-graphics three-dimensional image is generated and presented on a two-dimensional screen. ATI argued that the invention in each of the three patents preceded the primary reference dates for that patent. In conformity with 37 C.F.R. 1.131, ATI presented evidence of conception, reduction to practice, and diligence for each patent. the Patent Trial and Appeal Board held all but one of the challenged claims unpatentable as anticipated or obvious, The Board held that ATI had not established actual reduction to practice and had not established diligence to constructive reduction to practice, for all three patents. The Federal Circuit reversed, concluding that the Board erred in its application of the law of diligence and that on the correct law, diligence was shown, thereby antedating the relevant references. The undisputed rulings established conception and constructive reduction to practice. View "ATI Technologies ULC v. Iancu" on Justia Law

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Kennedy enrolled at George Washington University (GWU) in 2003. He obtained a Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) scholarship in 2005, agreeing to complete Officer Candidate School (OCS), a requirement which is not waivable. The scholarship provided that if Kennedy failed to complete the requirements, he could become liable to reimburse the program. Kennedy subsequently suffered trauma and began to act abnormally. During his OCS course, his platoon commander recommended that Kennedy be disenrolled as emotionally unstable. In June 2006, a Commanding Officer’s Board disenrolled Kennedy from OCS without opportunity to return. NROTC stopped funding Kennedy’s education. In February 2007, the Assistant Secretary approved disenrollment with recoupment of $50,675. After graduation from GWU in 2007, Kennedy graduated from law school, was admitted to the bar, and filed suit. The Claims Court directed the case to the Board for Correction of Naval Records (BCNR), a civilian body that exists to correct Naval Records. The BCNR upheld Kennedy’s disenrollment, but held that Kennedy should be relieved from reimbursement because he had been dissuaded from appearing at a hearing. The Claims Court held that Kennedy’s disenrollment was lawful and that his breach-of-contract claims for monetary relief lacked merit. The Federal Circuit reversed. Given the government’s concession that Kennedy’s due process rights were violated when he was dissuaded from attending his hearing, the Claims Court erred in concluding that Kennedy’s disenrollment was inevitable. The court directed the case be returned to the BCNR. View "Kennedy v. United States" on Justia Law

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Graviss has worked in education since 1978. In 2008, she became a pre-school special needs teacher at Kingsolver Elementary, part of Fort Knox Schools. Kingsolver’s principal, McClain, issued Graviss a reprimand based on an “inappropriate interaction with a student” and “failure to follow directives,” asserting that Graviss and her aide had physically carried a misbehaving pre-school student and Graviss had emailed concerns to the director of special education, although McClain had directed Graviss to “bring all issues directly to [her].” The union filed a grievance. Subsequently, one of Graviss’s students had an episode, repeatedly flailing his arms, kicking, and screaming. While the other students were out at recess, Graviss employed physical restraint to subdue the child. After an investigation, McClain submitted a Family Advocacy Program Department of Defense Education Activity Serious Incident Report and Alleged Child Abuse Report to the Family Advocacy Program (child protective services for the military). McClain forwarded the Report to her direct supervisor, who was later the decision-maker in Graviss’s termination. An arbitrator concluded that that Graviss's termination promoted the efficiency of the service and was reasonable. The Federal Circuit reversed, concluding that Graviss’s due process rights were violated by improper ex parte communication between a supervisor and the deciding official. That communication contained new information that the supervisor wanted Graviss terminated for insubordination. View "Federal Education Association v. Department of Defense" on Justia Law

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Since 2001 the company has provided professional training, curriculum development, and technical assistance to schools, teachers, and administrators to schools run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The BIA funds its program directly through BIA contracts with a provider and indirectly through distribution of funds under the No Child Left Behind Act, 20 U.S.C. 6301, to BIA schools, which contract with a provider. The company sought payment from the BIA for specific time periods. The Civilian Board of Contract Appeals dismissed, finding that it did not have jurisdiction under the Contract Disputes Act, 41 U.S.C. 601, because the company failed to establish that it had a contract with the government for the unpaid services. The Federal Circuit vacated, in part, dismissal on jurisdictional grounds. Failure to establish the existence of a contract meant that the company failed to state an element of its claim, not that the court lacked jurisdiction. Questions of fact concerning some of the claimed contracts remain unresolved.