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

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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The case involves Daniel D. Barry, a veteran who appealed a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Barry had argued that the Board of Veterans’ Appeals should have considered his entitlement to multiple special monthly compensation (SMC) increases, rather than just one, under 38 C.F.R. § 3.350(f)(3). The Veterans Court disagreed, interpreting § 3.350(f)(3) to permit only one SMC increase, regardless of how many qualifying disabilities Barry could demonstrate.The Veterans Court had previously remanded the case for further explanation and consideration of potential additional SMC entitlement. The Board then concluded that Barry could not show entitlement to an additional SMC increase under 38 C.F.R. § 3.350(f)(4). Barry appealed this decision to the Veterans Court, arguing that the Board erred by not considering whether he would be entitled to an additional SMC increase under 38 C.F.R. § 3.350(f)(3).The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed the decision of the Veterans Court. The court held that § 3.350(f)(3) does not limit how many SMC increases can be provided; instead, it is a mandatory entitlement that can apply multiple times, subject to a statutory cap. The court remanded the case for further proceedings, including the calculation of the number of intermediate-rate SMC increases Barry should receive. View "BARRY v. MCDONOUGH " on Justia Law

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The case involves an appeal by Wheatland Tube Company against a decision by the U.S. Court of International Trade, which affirmed the U.S. Department of Commerce’s remand determination concerning the scope of an antidumping duty order on certain steel pipes imported from Thailand. The dispute centers on whether certain imports of steel pipes, specifically those that are "dual-stenciled" as both standard pipes and line pipes, fall within the scope of the existing antidumping duty order.The U.S. Court of International Trade initially found that the Department of Commerce unlawfully expanded the scope of the antidumping duty order by determining that it covered dual-stenciled pipes. On remand, the Department of Commerce, under protest, concluded that the antidumping duty order did not cover dual-stenciled pipes. The U.S. Court of International Trade sustained this determination.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed the decision of the U.S. Court of International Trade. The Court of Appeals held that the Department of Commerce’s initial determination that dual-stenciled pipes fall within the scope of the antidumping duty order was reasonable and supported by substantial evidence. The Court of Appeals found that the lower court's interpretation lacked support in the record and failed to give sufficient deference to the Department of Commerce under the substantial evidence standard of review. View "SAHA THAI STEEL PIPE PUBLIC COMPANY LIMITED v. US " on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Jay Anthony Dobyns, a former agent with the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), who sued the United States for failing to adequately protect him and his family from threats related to his undercover work. The government counterclaimed, alleging that Dobyns violated his employment contract and several federal regulations by publishing a book based on his experience as an agent and by contracting his story to create a motion picture. The Court of Federal Claims found that the government had not breached the settlement agreement but had breached the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, awarding Dobyns emotional distress damages. The court also found that the government was not entitled to relief on its counterclaim.The government appealed the Claims Court’s judgment to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which reversed the finding that the government breached the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing. Dobyns, having prevailed on the government’s counterclaim, sought attorneys’ fees and costs. However, the Claims Court denied his application for attorneys’ fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) as untimely. Dobyns appealed this decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that the Claims Court had abused its discretion and applied the incorrect legal standard. The Appeals Court held that the filing deadline for fee applications under EAJA is subject to equitable tolling. It found that Dobyns had justifiably relied on the government's representations about the procedure for Claims Court judgments, and thus his motion for attorneys’ fees under EAJA should be accepted as timely. The court reversed the Claims Court's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Dobyns v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2006, veteran Robert Fleming began applying for disability benefits for service-connected injuries. In 2016, he entered into a contingent-fee agreement with James Perciavalle for representation before the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA awarded Fleming past-due benefits in 2017, but ruled that Perciavalle was statutorily barred from receiving fees on the non-SMC portion of the award. The VA found the pre-Act version of 38 U.S.C. § 5904(c)(1) applicable based on the date on which Fleming had filed a particular notice of disagreement with the regional office regarding his PTSD benefits.The Board of Veterans’ Appeals affirmed the fee denial, agreeing with the regional office that the pre-Act version of the fee provision, not the post-Act version, applies here. The United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (Veterans Court) affirmed the Board’s decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed and remanded the decision of the Veterans Court. The Federal Circuit concluded that the Veterans Court relied on an incorrect legal standard in determining which version of § 5904(c)(1) applies. The Federal Circuit also concluded that the post-Act version is the applicable one, based on the material facts that are not in dispute. The Federal Circuit found that as long as a notice of disagreement was filed on or after June 20, 2007, in the same “case” in which counsel is seeking fees, the post-Act version of 38 U.S.C. § 5904(c)(1) applies. View "PERCIAVALLE v. MCDONOUGH " on Justia Law

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Kevin D. Jones, an attorney, held a term position with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) before transferring to the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). At the USDA, Jones primarily provided advice and counsel regarding discrimination complaints filed against the agency and litigated ensuing discrimination claims before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). At the ATF, Jones served as an advisor to the Professional Review Board (PRB) as part of a team of attorneys in the Management Division of the ATF Office of General Counsel (OGC). After three months at the ATF, Jones was asked to resign due to his lack of contract law experience. Jones filed a complaint alleging discrimination and lack of due process in his termination.The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) dismissed Jones's administrative appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The Administrative Judge (AJ) of the MSPB found that Jones was not an "employee" as defined by 5 U.S.C. § 7511(a)(1)(B) because his positions at the USDA and ATF were not the same or similar. The AJ noted several distinctions between the tasks Jones performed at each agency. Jones did not appeal the Initial Decision to the full Board, so the AJ’s Initial Decision became the Final Decision of the Board.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the Board's decision. The court found that the AJ did not err in her determination that Jones's positions at the USDA and ATF were not similar. The court also found that the AJ's decision was supported by substantial evidence. Therefore, the court affirmed the Board's determination that it lacked jurisdiction to hear Jones's appeal. View "Jones v. Merit Systems Protection Board" on Justia Law

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This case revolves around Mr. Orville Thomas, a former U.S. Navy serviceman, who sought an earlier effective date for his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) claim connected to his service. Thomas had initially filed a claim for "depressive mania" in 1971, after surviving a plane crash during his service, which had been denied by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In 2014, he requested to reopen his claim, submitting additional service department records not previously considered by the VA. While the VA granted service connection for PTSD in 2014, they denied an earlier effective date.Thomas appealed to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, arguing the VA had overlooked certain service department records and regulations, specifically 38 C.F.R. § 3.156(c), which could have potentially allowed for an earlier effective date. However, the Board agreed with the VA’s denial. Thomas further appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, arguing that the Board failed to consider all potentially relevant issues, violating its statutory duty under 38 U.S.C. § 7104(d)(1).The Veterans Court affirmed the Board's decision, arguing that Thomas did not demonstrate the relevance of his service records to his 1971 claim. Thomas appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which found that the Veterans Court applied a more stringent legal standard than required under 38 U.S.C. § 7104. It ruled that the Board must consider all "potentially applicable" regulations raised in the record, not only those proven to be relevant or favorable by the veteran.The Federal Circuit court vacated the Veterans Court’s decision and remanded the case to the Board to provide an adequate written statement of its reasons for denying Thomas's claim for an earlier effective date for his PTSD, considering all relevant regulations and records. View "Thomas v. McDonough" on Justia Law

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The case originates from the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The appellant, Herbie D. Vest, served on active duty in the United States Army from 1966 to 1971. In 1971, Vest filed a claim for service connection for hearing loss and tinnitus, which was granted at a 0% rating. A subsequent request for an increased rating was denied. In 1972, Vest sent a letter to the Veterans Administration Regional Office (RO) expressing his belief of an error in their decision. In 2016, Vest submitted a claim for compensation for Meniere's disease and "ears-ringing," which was granted at a 60% disability rating, which Vest disputed.In 2020, Vest argued that his 1972 letter constituted a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) and should be considered as such. However, the RO did not accept the letter as an NOD. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals found that the letter expressed dissatisfaction with the decision on his hearing loss disability, but did not express disagreement with the decision regarding tinnitus. The United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims dismissed Vest's appeal, holding that they did not have jurisdiction to address the question of defective notice. The court noted that Vest did not argue that he had submitted an NOD with the initial decision concerning tinnitus, and he didn't challenge the Board’s determinations that the letter was not an NOD for the tinnitus decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the appeal by the Veterans Court due to lack of jurisdiction. The court reasoned that the absence of an NOD on the 1971 tinnitus claim and the lack of any decision by the Board on that claim defeat jurisdiction in the Veterans Court. View "Vest v. McDonough" on Justia Law

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This case involves Avue Technologies Corporation ("Avue") and the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Administrator of the General Services Administration. Avue is a software development company that sells its software to private and government entities, which helps them automate administrative tasks while complying with statutory, regulatory, and policy requirements. Avue does not sell its software licenses directly to federal agencies. Instead, it sells annual subscriptions through third party Carahsoft Technology Corporation (“Carahsoft”), an authorized reseller that has a Federal Supply Schedule (“FSS”) contract with the General Services Administration (“GSA”).Avue tried to govern its relationship with end users of its software through an end-user licensing agreement ("EULA"), which is incorporated into the FSS contract between Carahsoft and the GSA. In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration ("FDA") placed a task order for a subscription to Avue's software under the FSS contract. However, in 2016, the FDA chose not to renew its subscription, leading Avue to claim that the FDA had violated its EULA.The Civilian Board of Contract Appeals ("Board") dismissed Avue's appeal for lack of jurisdiction, stating that even if the EULA established a contract between Avue and the U.S. Government, the Board lacked jurisdiction because the EULA was not a procurement contract within the meaning of the Contract Disputes Act ("CDA"). Avue appealed this decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.The court disagreed with the Board's decision, stating that Avue only needed to allege non-frivolously that it had a contract with the U.S. Government to establish the Board's jurisdiction, and it didn't need to prove the existence of such a contract. The court held that Avue's allegation that it was part of a procurement contract was non-frivolous and sufficient to establish the Board's jurisdiction. Therefore, the court vacated the Board's dismissal and remanded the case for further proceedings on the merits. View "AVUE TECHNOLOGIES CORPORATION v. HHS " on Justia Law

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This case involves an appeal by Pfizer Inc. from decisions made by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Patent Trial and Appeal Board (the Board). The Board concluded that claims 1–45 of U.S. Patent 9,492,559, owned by Pfizer and related to immunogenic compositions comprising conjugated Streptococcus pneumoniae capsular saccharide antigens for use in pneumococcal vaccines, were unpatentable. The Board also denied Pfizer’s proposed amendments to the claims.Pfizer's first challenge pertained to the Board’s conclusion regarding the molecular weight of the glycoconjugate in the patent, arguing that the Board incorrectly applied the "result-effective variable doctrine." The court disagreed, upholding the Board's decision that the molecular weight was a result-effective variable that a person of ordinary skill in the art would have been motivated to optimize.Pfizer's second challenge related to the Board’s finding that the compositions of additional claims incorporating more specific glycoconjugates would have been obvious. The court disagreed with Pfizer's argument that without examples showing the claimed glycoconjugates would have each been immunogenic, there would have been no reasonable expectation of success.Thirdly, Pfizer challenged the Board’s denial of its motions to amend the claims. The court affirmed the Board's decision on some of the proposed claims but vacated the decision on others, remanding them for further consideration due to the Board’s lack of clarity.Lastly, Pfizer challenged the Patent and Trademark Office’s Director Review procedure, alleging it violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The court rejected this argument, finding any potential APA violation was harmless as Pfizer had not demonstrated prejudice.Therefore, the court affirmed the Board’s decisions in part, vacated them in part, and remanded the case back to the Board for further proceedings. View "PFIZER INC. v. SANOFI PASTEUR INC. " on Justia Law

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The case involved Sha’Lisa Lewis, a former correctional officer at the Federal Correctional Complex in Butner, North Carolina, who contested her termination from the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) during her probationary period. Lewis contended that she did not receive notification of her termination until after her probationary term had ended. She argued that she was denied due process protections, such as a proposed removal action and a reasonable opportunity to respond.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit examined the issue, focusing on the interpretation of 5 C.F.R. § 315.804, which mandates that an agency notify an employee in writing about the reasons for termination and the effective date. The court ruled that while the agency must notify the employee, the regulation does not necessitate the employee's actual receipt of the notice before the end of the probationary period. The court held that termination is effective if the agency does all that could be reasonably expected under the circumstances to deliver the notice before the end of the probationary period.In Lewis's case, the court concluded that BOP had made reasonable efforts to notify her of her termination before the end of her probationary period. Thus, the court affirmed that Lewis was effectively terminated as a probationary-period employee. View "LEWIS v. BOP " on Justia Law