The Government Should Stop Using ‘Operation Choke Point’ to Bully Banks into Cutting Ties with Legitimate Businesses

imagezOn the eve of the inauguration, many industries and businesses await the changes a new administration will bring.  In particular, payday lenders are hoping that they will once again be able to enjoy unrestricted banking access, as for the past several years their banking relationships have slowly been severed as a result of a government initiative known as “Operation Choke Point.”

Operation Choke Point began—without any Congressional approval or even knowledge—as a product of President Obama’s 2009 executive order to eliminate fraudulent and illegal businesses.  Not surprisingly, however, the initiative quickly expanded.  By 2013, the Department of Justice (DOJ) had started quietly launching the now-infamous federal initiative unconstitutionally cutting off countless legitimate businesses from banking services. Continue reading

A 2017 Food-Court Resolution: End Regulation-through-Litigation Crusade Against Trans Fat

Partially hydrogenated oil chemical structure

Partially hydrogenated oil
chemical structure

In 2016, class-action lawsuits alleging that a processed food product or its labeling violated state consumer-protection laws continued to clog the federal courts, especially in California. The number of new food-related consumer class actions filed last year nearly equaled the number filed in 2015, according to a report in Food Navigator USA. It’s unclear whether these trends will hold in 2017, but there is one set of blatantly frivolous claims that should disappear this year: those that seek judicial regulation of products that contain partially hydrogenated oil (PHO), the main source of trans fat. A December 13, 2016 Southern District of California decision should frustrate such claims in the short term, and a forthcoming US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decision in a pending case may (and should) end them permanently. Continue reading

Will Federal Circuit Finally Bring an End to “Form 18” Minimal Pleading for Direct Patent Infringement in 2017?

jhighGuest Commentary

By J High, Sidley Austin LLP*

In Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, the US Supreme Court tightened the pleading standard for civil cases.  Because of a quirk of the exemplary forms formerly included with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (specifically, Form 18), the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that Twombly and Iqbal did not apply to claims of direct infringement of a patent (In re Bill of Lading Transmission & Processing Sys. Pat. Litig.).  I discussed this state of affairs in two 2012 Washington Legal Foundation Legal Backgrounders (3/23/12 and 10/5/12).

This past fall, the Federal Circuit issued another decision on the pleading standard in patent cases, Lyda v. CBS Corp., 838 F.3d 1331 (Fed. Cir. 2016).  However, Lyda did not address the question many have been waiting for the Federal Circuit to answer—how to implement the pleading standard of Iqbal and Twombly for claims of garden-variety direct infringement after the abrogation of Form 18.  The district court proceedings in Lyda all occurred while Form 18 was part of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and on appeal the Federal Circuit stated “that the repeal of Form 18 does not apply to this case.”  Id. at 1337 n.2. Continue reading

WLF’s ‘Gordon v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’ Supreme Court Petition Evaluated in Law Firm’s Year-End Assessment of CFPB

gordonvcfpb-certpetition_page_01In a year-end assessment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), attorneys from the law firm K&L Gates LLP evaluated the potential impact of Gordon v. CFPB, a constitutional challenge in which Washington Legal Foundation has filed a certiorari petition with the US Supreme Court on behalf of its client, Chance Gordon.

In the Legal Insight, “Down But Not Out: The CFPB’s Future May Be Uncertain, But Industry Participants Must Remain Vigilant,” the authors discuss judicial challenges facing the Bureau in 2017, including Gordon and PHH Corp. v. CFPB.  In PHH Corp., the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled that CFPB’s leadership structure runs afoul of the Constitution’s separation of powers. WLF’s petition in Gordon calls into question the subsequent, retroactive ratification of CFPB’s enforcement action against Mr. Gordon, as well as 15 other actions, that were taken during a time when Bureau Director Richard Cordray had not been lawfully appointed.

The K&L Gates Legal Insight notes:

With PHH concluding (for now) that the CFPB’s directorship structure is unconstitutional and Gordon questioning the validity of certain CFPB actions on other constitutionality grounds, a trend may be developing toward judicial challenges to the validity of the CFPB as an agency and the propriety of its enforcement activities.”

A WLF Legal Pulse post discussing Gordon and the three amicus briefs filed in support of WLF’s cert petition can be found here.

EPA Fracking Report Deliberately Ignores Key Studies to Embrace Inconclusive Results

permian

*Grace Galvin, a Communications Associate at WLF who received her JD from Charleston School of Law and is pursuing a Master’s in Journalism and Public Affairs at American University, contributed significantly to this post.

“A blessing” is the description Franklin Bess used to convey his feelings toward the oil and natural gas industry, as long as the drilling is American-based. He and his wife, Katie Bess, are the proud owners of The Williamson Ranch in west Texas, land that has been in Katie’s family for five generations.

In an interview with Ezra Levant, a Canadian broadcaster and “ethical oil” advocate, the Bess family expressed relief in April 2015 when an oil-and-gas exploration and production company bought their expiring lease with Tall City Exploration. This sale has provided the income necessary to allow the Bess family to maintain the ranching life—a rarity today—and pass their land on to future generations.

Many ranching families near Big Spring, Texas have similar stories, and they have the Permian Basin shale that lies beneath their town, and the use of such extraction techniques as hydraulic fracturing, to thank for their livelihoods. Unfortunately, environmental activists, with the help of the federal government, have generated a narrative that paints hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” as a destructive and offensive process. Continue reading

‘Amicus’ Briefs Support WLF’s ‘Gordon v. CFPB’ Cert Petition on Appointments Clause and Standing Issues

supreme courtOn November 17, 2016, Washington Legal Foundation petitioned the US Supreme Court to review a US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decision, Gordon v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. CFPB had pursued a substantial fine against WLF’s client, Chance Gordon, in June 2013, a time during which the Bureau lacked a properly appointed Director. Mr. Gordon’s petition argues that the attempted corrective action Richard Cordray took once he lawfully became CFPB Director—a blanket, retroactive ratification of all actions taken during his unconstitutional recess appointment—runs afoul of the US Constitution’s Appointments Clause (contained in Article II). Mr. Gordon also argues that because Mr. Cordray had not been properly appointed, CFPB lacked standing to pursue a claim against him in federal court.

This week, three organizations filed amicus curiae briefs with the Supreme Court in support of Mr. Gordon’s writ of certiorari. The briefs positively reinforce WLF’s two major justifications for the Court’s review of Gordon v. CFPB. The petition first argues that the Ninth Circuit’s acceptance of Director Cordray’s blanket ratification severely undermines a fundamental check on Executive power: the requirement that Congress must first approve presidential nominees before they can be lawfully appointed. The Gordon decision is also contrary to Supreme Court precedent and furthers a split in the circuit courts over when ratification of ultra vires administrative action is permissible. Continue reading

Should Pharmaceutical Manufacturers be Forced to Produce a Product Against Their Will?

5th-aAs the beginning of a new administration nears, politicians and pundits have been floating many ideas for regulating the cost and availability of pharmaceuticals and other medical treatments. One of the worst ideas being discussed is the judicial creation of a common-law duty to manufacture. Thankfully, there are significant Constitutional and judicial hurdles preventing this duty from materializing.

In order to develop and produce innovative, life-saving drugs, pharmaceutical manufacturers must go through incredibly expensive and time-consuming clinical trials required by the rigid guidelines of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As an incentive to go through this process, these companies receive patents to help them recoup the costs of the clinical trials. In some instances, however, even with market exclusivity, manufacturers are unwilling to continue producing these drugs, often because production ceases to be economically feasible. Continue reading