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

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Dr. Braun worked at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for almost 32 years as a research doctor with a specialty in neurological disorders. He obtained tenured status in 2003. In 2016, the NIH, which is located within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, removed Dr. Braun from his position after an audit revealed that his records were incomplete for all but 9% of the human subjects who had participated in his research over the course of six years.The Merit Systems Protection Board rejected Braun’s argument that an NIH policy required de-tenuring of tenured scientists (which NIH had not done in his case) before they could be removed for performance-related reasons and that the NIH committed certain other errors. The Board reasoned that the cited NIH policy allows removal “for cause” without de-tenuring. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The “for cause” provision was properly applied to this case. The evidence permitted the conclusions that Dr. Braun, “over a long period of time,” failed to a “dramatic and disturbing” degree, to comply with protocol requirements that exist “for the safety of the patients and the credibility of the research.” There was no denial of due process. View "Braun v. Department of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

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Murphy served in the Army, 1971-1974. In 2003, he sought disability benefits for PTSD; the VA regional office (RO) denied this claim because Murphy lacked a PTSD diagnosis. A private doctor had diagnosed Murphy with schizophrenia in 1982. In 2006, Murphy submitted another claim for disabilities, including schizophrenia. He requested that the RO reopen his PTSD claim. The RO denied the claim for schizophrenia for failure to show service connection and declined to reopen the PTSD claim for lack of material evidence. In 2007-2012, the RO denied multiple requests to reopen both claims.A 2012 request to reopen listed only PTSD. The VA physician found no PTSD but noted the schizophrenia diagnosis. The RO denied Murphy’s request to reopen his PTSD claim. Murphy filed a Notice of Disagreement. The cover page referred to PTSD; a handwritten attachment mentions “schizophrenia” and “PTSD” multiple times. His Form 9 included numerous mentions of both “PTSD” and “schizophrenia.” The RO determined that Murphy was also seeking to reopen his schizophrenia claim but denied that request for lack of new and material evidence. Murphy did not appeal. The Board remanded the PTSD claim; the RO maintained its denial.The Veterans Court determined that the Board correctly found it lacked jurisdiction over the schizophrenia claim, which was a request to reopen, not an initial claim. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Murphy’s request to reopen cannot be construed as seeking to reopen his schizophrenia claim. Although the lenient-claim-scope rule applies to requests to reopen, Murphy demonstrated an understanding that the conditions would be addressed separately. View "Murphy v. Wilkie" on Justia Law

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Perry served in the Wisconsin Army National Guard from January 1977 to March 1977, with active duty for training in February-March 1977. Active duty for training is “full-time duty in the Armed Forces performed by Reserves for training purposes,” 38 U.S.C. 101(22). Medical Board examiners at his March 1977 separation opined that enuresis and incontinence existed prior to service. Perry died in 2014. There was no claim for service-connected disability during his lifetime.The Board of Veterans’ Appeals held that Mrs. Perry was not eligible for nonservice-connected death pension benefits because Perry did not have active duty service during a period of war nor did he have a service-connected disability, as required by 38 U.S.C. 1541, that Mr. Perry did not attain veteran status, and that he “was not service-connected for any disability at the time of his death, and there is no evidence that his death was in any way related to" his 1977 military service. The Veterans Court and Federal Circuit affirmed. Service in the state National Guard including a period of active duty for training, without disability incurred or aggravated in line of duty, does not achieve “veteran” status for these purposes. View "Perry v. Wilkie" on Justia Law

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In 2011, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued antidumping and countervailing duty orders on aluminum extrusions from China. In 2016, Commerce initiated an anti-circumvention inquiry concerning heat-treated 5050-grade extruded aluminum products exported by Zhongwang and its affiliates and announced in its Preliminary Determination that it was applying the anticircumvention inquiry to all heat-treated 5050-grade extruded aluminum products from China, including those of Tai-Ao and Regal, finding that all such products were circumventing the Orders. Commerce instructed U.S. Customs and Border Protection to suspend liquidation of all heat-treated 5050-grade extruded aluminum products from China entered, or withdrawn from warehouse, on or after March 21, 2016, the date that the original inquiry was commenced.The Court of International Trade found that Commerce did not provide adequate notice to Tai-Ao and Regal that their products were subject to the inquiry and “liquidation should have been suspended from the date of the Preliminary Determination,” November 14, 2016. On remand, Commerce instructed Customs to exclude from the scope of the Orders and from duty assessment, entries for Tai-Ao made between March 21, 2016, and November 13, 2016. The Trade Court and Federal Circuit sustained Commerce’s reformulated liquidation instructions. Because Commerce did not provide adequate notice to Tai-Ao and Regal until November 2016, Commerce’s instructions to suspend liquidation effective March 21, 2016, were not lawful. View "Tai-Ao Aluminum (Taishan) Co., Ltd v. United States" on Justia Law

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The National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates (NOVA), sought review under 38 U.S.C. 502. The Knee Joint Stability Rule, promulgated in 2018 and set forth in the Veterans Affairs Adjudication Procedures Manual, assigns a joint instability rating under Diagnostic Code (DC) 5257, 38 C.F.R. 4.71a, based on the amount of movement that occurs within the joint. The Knee Replacement Rule provides that evaluation under DC 5055, 38 C.F.R. 4.71a, is not available for partial knee replacement claims. The Replacement Rule was published in the Federal Register in 2015, stating that section 4.71a was amended to explain that “‘prosthetic replacement’ means a total, not a partial, joint replacement.” It was published in a 2016 Manual provision, which informs regional office staff that evaluation under DC 5055 is not available for partial knee replacement claims filed on or after July 16, 2015.The Federal Circuit referred the case for adjudication on the merits. NOVA has standing because it has veteran members who are adversely affected by the Rules. The Manual provision is an interpretive rule reviewable under 38 U.S.C. 502 and constitutes final agency action. The Knee Replacement Rule is a final agency action. The merits panel will determine whether the Manual provision or the Federal Register publication constitutes the reviewable agency action. The challenge is timely under the six-year statute of limitations, 28 U.S.C. 2401(a); Federal Circuit Rule 15(f), establishing a 60-day time limit for bringing section 502 petitions, is invalid. View "National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates, Inc. v. Secretary of Veterans' Affairs" on Justia Law

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Mazur discovered a process for creating “black silicon” by irradiating a silicon surface with ultra-short laser pulses to create a textured surface; the resulting black silicon has electronic properties different from traditional silicon. Several patents issued, including the 467 patent, from a 2001 patent application. SiOnyx was formed to commercialize black silicon. In 2006, SiOnyx met with Hamamatsu, which produces silicon-based photodetector devices. The parties entered into a nondisclosure agreement (NDA), providing that a party receiving confidential information shall maintain the information in strict confidence for seven years after the expiration of the agreement and acknowledges that the disclosing party claims ownership of the information and all patent rights. While the NDA was in effect, SiOnyx provided to Hamamatsu proposed architectures and a manufacturing process for a photodetector device, which were marked as confidential. Hamamatsu ultimately represented that it wished to develop its products alone. The NDA expired in 2008. In 2009, Hamamatsu notified SiOnyx that Hamamatsu intended to introduce a new photodiode that it did not believe infringed SiOnyx’s intellectual property or breached Hamamatsu’s confidentiality obligations. Hamamatsu filed patent applications in several countries. In 2010, Hamamatsu began releasing the accused products. SiOnyx began selling its own photodetector products. In 2014 a customer alerted SiOnyx to Hamamatsu’s patents.The Federal Circuit affirmed that Hamamatsu breached the NDA and infringed the 467 patent. SiOnyx is entitled to sole ownership of the disputed U.S. Patents. The district court erred in failing to grant SiOnyx sole ownership of the Disputed Foreign Patents. View "Sionyx LLC v. Hamamatsu Photonics K.K." on Justia Law

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Harrington, a Bay Pines VA Healthcare System police officer, sent a photograph of a document contained on the secure agency server to a former VA police officer, Hooker, who was no longer employed by VA. VA had provided Hooker with a text file of the contents of that document in response to a FOIA request but did not provide the document itself. Two weeks later, Congress enacted the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017; 38 U.S.C. 714 speeds up removal proceedings, lowers VA’s burden of proof at the Merit Systems Protection Board from a preponderance of the evidence to substantial evidence, and eliminates the MSPB’s authority to mitigate VA’s imposed penalty. The VA brought a removal action under section 714, alleging misconduct by sending the photograph, and issued a decision removing Harrington. The MSPB found that substantial evidence supported the charge of misconduct and did not review the appropriateness of the severity of the penalty.The Federal Circuit vacated. Section 714 does not apply to proceedings instituted based on conduct occurring before its enactment. The proper interpretation of section 714 requires the MSPB to review the entire decision below, including the choice of penalty. View "Harrington v. Department of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law

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Esparraguera was removed for performance reasons from her position as the Army’s top labor lawyer and placed into another high-level position at the same agency but outside the Senior Executive Service (SES). Federal civil service is divided into the competitive service, the excepted service, and the SES, 5 U.S.C. 2101a, 2102, 2103. . Esparraguera’s request for reconsideration was denied by the Under Secretary. She requested an informal hearing under 5 U.S.C. 3592(a)(2), which entitled her to “appear and present arguments” before an official designated by the Merit Systems Protection Board. By statute, she could not avail herself of the ordinary appellate provisions of the Board. Esparraguera submitted exhibits designated A through UU into evidence and read a prepared statement into the record. The Army neither presented evidence nor objected to the entry of these exhibits. Esparraguera did not expressly ask the Board to review her removal—and it did not. The Board official issued the Order Referring Record, which summarized the proceedings. The Army did not change its decision.Esparraguera argued that she was deprived of constitutionally protected property and liberty interests without due process. The Federal Circuit dismissed her appeal. An “Order Referring Record” is not a “final order or decision” of the Board, as required for appellate jurisdiction. View "Esparraguera v. Department of the Army" on Justia Law

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The Department of Commerce initiated an antidumping duty investigation into certain carbon and alloy steel cut-to-length plate from France. Commerce chose Dillinger, a European producer of cut-to-length plate, as one of the mandatory importer respondents and assigned Dillinger a 6.15% antidumping margin. The Trade Court initially sustained most of Commerce’s determination but remanded certain issues to Commerce. The Trade Court then sustained Commerce’s remand results and the 6.15 percent duty.The Federal Circuit vacated in part. In calculating normal value, Commerce improperly allocated costs between Dillinger’s non-prime and prime products based on Dillinger’s books and records, which allocate cost based on likely selling price rather than actual cost; Dillinger’s books and records did not reasonably reflect the costs associated with the production and sale of the merchandise as required by 19 U.S.C. 1677b(f). Affirming in part, the court found that Dillinger has not shown how Commerce failed to use “comparable merchandise” in using the average-to-transaction method to determine the dumping margin. Nor did Commerce err in determining that Dillinger’s factory sales and sales from its affiliated service centers constituted a single level of trade in France and thus concluding that a level of trade adjustment was not warranted. View "Dillinger France S.A. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Department of Commerce issued an antidumping order, 19 U.S.C. 1673(d)–(e), on steel threaded rod (STR) from China, describing the physical characteristics of the STR, including shape, finish, construction, and metallurgical requirements. Commerce prescribed several exclusions for merchandise that would otherwise meet the order’s “description.” None of these exclusions relate to mixed media items. Star Pipe requested a scope ruling to clarify whether its Joint Restraint Kits are within the scope of the Order. The Kits consist of a combination of castings, bolts, bolt nuts, washers, and STR components, which Star conceded “if imported alone, would be covered" under the Order. Star argued the STR components were merely incidental components used to secure the castings. Commerce found nothing in the STR Order or its history indicating that otherwise-subject merchandise should be treated differently due to its packaging with other merchandise.The Trade Court and Federal Circuit upheld Commerce’s ruling. Star’s STR components are within the literal scope of the STR Order. If the order’s language and history do not establish that subject merchandise should be treated differently on the basis of its inclusion within a mixed media set, then “a presumption arises that the included merchandise is subject to the order.” The court rejected a challenge to Commerce’s liquidation instruction as moot because Star is not at risk of any assessment of duties on the entries at issue. View "Star Pipe Products v. United States" on Justia Law