In creating the federal judicial branch, the Framers of the US Constitution did not intend that courts would right every possible wrong. Article III authorizes federal courts to resolve “Cases” and “Controversies.” The US Supreme Court has interpreted that power to mean that civil-litigation plaintiffs must prove they suffered an “injury in fact,” which is concrete and particularized, and not speculative. We’ve discussed Article III standing jurisprudence here in numerous contexts, most frequently in consumer class actions targeting food labels or data-security breaches, areas where the ever-amorphous concept of “economic harm” is often alleged. A March 6, 2017 Seventh Circuit decision, Eike v. Allergan, Inc. et al., shot down an especially outlandish attempt to expand standing based on an alleged economic injury. Continue reading
By Jeremy B. Rosen, John F. Querio, and Lacey L. Estudillo, Horvitz & Levy LLP*
The National Labor Relations Act guarantees private-sector employees the right to organize, form unions, and bargain collectively with their employers. In 1947, Congress amended the NLRA to expressly exclude independent contractors from the Act’s definition of employee.
In NLRB v. United Insurance Company of America, the US Supreme Court stressed that “there is no shorthand formula or magic phrase that can be applied to find the answer” to whether someone is an employee or independent contractor. Rather, “all of the incidents of the relationship must be assessed and weighed with no one factor being decisive.” Following United Insurance, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and the National Labor Relations Board—the agency charged with enforcing the NLRA—have applied a non-exhaustive, ten-factor test utilizing common-law agency principles to determine whether a worker is properly classified as an employee or independent contractor: (1) the extent of control the employer has over the work; (2) whether the worker is engaged in a distinct occupation or business; (3) whether the kind of occupation is usually done under the direction of the employer or by a specialist without supervision; (4) what level of skill is required in the particular occupation; (5) whether the employer or worker supplies the instrumentalities, tools, and the place of work; (6) length of employment; (7) whether the employer pays by the time or by the job; (8) whether the work is part of the employer’s regular business; (9) whether the employer and worker believe they are creating an employer-employee relationship; and (10) whether the hiring party is in business. Continue reading
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) faces a difficult balancing act in its role as the federal regulator of drug and medical-device manufacturers. On the one hand, it is charged with ensuring that medical products are both safe and effective for their intended uses. On the other hand, it must avoid imposing overly stringent regulations, lest it harm public health by blocking or delaying access to life-saving products, or to truthful information about those products.
Through its public-interest litigating, publishing, and communications capabilities, Washington Legal Foundation has long been at the forefront of efforts to ensure that FDA maintains the proper balance. Those activities have generated an impressive body of material that would be instructive for new FDA leadership to review. We provide a summary of and links to those documents below (limited to WLF’s FDA-related work product in the past several years) to simplify access to that work product. Continue reading
Civil Justice/Class Actions
Frank Cruz-Alvarez, a Partner in the Miami, FL office of Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P. with Rachel Forman, an Associate with the firm.
On February 6, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in the consolidated appeal Beck v. McDonald, 848 F.3d 262 (4th Cir. 2017), affirmed the district court’s order dismissing the plaintiff veterans’ putative class-action claims against the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Dorn Veterans Affairs Medical Center (“Dorn VAMC”) officials for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Fourth Circuit held that the plaintiffs “failed to establish a non-speculative, imminent injury-in-fact for purposes of Article III standing.” Id. at 267. Continue reading
*Note: This is the fourth in a series of posts compiling Washington Legal Foundation papers, briefs, regulatory comments, and blog commentaries relevant to critical legal and constitutional issues facing new senior leaders at specific federal agencies. To read posts addressing other federal agencies, click here.
Few agencies have been more active in the past eight years than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). With its singular, near-myopic focus on combatting climate change, EPA has issued a series of regulations that not only threaten to raise energy costs dramatically, but have already cost tens of thousands of Americans their livelihoods. Similarly, the Department of Interior’s Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) has continued to expand the scope of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), among other federal laws, in ways that fail to strike a proper balance between safeguarding ecological health and respecting private property rights and other individual and business civil liberties.
Through its public-interest litigation, publications, and other advocacy, WLF has influenced debates over many EPA and FWS policies and actions with timely papers and blog commentaries, and weighed in directly through regulatory comments and amicus briefs. Those activities have resulted in an impressive body of reference materials that are instructive for new leadership in the two agencies. Below we provide a summary of and links to those documents to simplify access to relevant WLF work product in specific areas. Continue reading
Over the last two decades, the False Claims Act (FCA) has become a popular tool for plaintiffs—and qui tam attorneys—to enrich themselves at the expense of government contractors. To keep the profits flowing, private plaintiffs, called relators, have invented new legal theories under which to bring their claims. As they test the FCA’s bounds, defendants have urged courts to maintain the law’s traditional limits. Last June, the US Supreme Court addressed one of FCA relators’ more successful liability expansions: the “implied-certification” theory. As a recent WLF Legal Backgrounder notes, though the Court affirmed the availability of this liability theory in Universal Health Services v. US ex rel. Escobar, it also urged lower courts to carefully scrutinize relators’ complaints as a way of limiting the implied-certification claims. Federal appellate courts have begun taking the Supreme Court at its word and have rejected claims that cannot establish materiality or satisfy the FCA’s scienter requirement. Continue reading
Featured Expert Column – Environmental Law and Policy
By Samuel B. Boxerman, Sidley Austin LLP with Katharine Falahee Newman, Sidley Austin LLP
A fractured US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rejected a request seeking rehearing en banc of the court’s decision in Markle Interests, LLC, et al v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, et al. The February 13 decision is the latest in the ongoing legal saga regarding the endangered dusky gopher frog and the designation of private property in Louisiana as “critical habitat”—even though this “shy frog” does not reside on the land and the land does not currently feature the characteristics needed to support the frog.
On June 5, 2016, a majority panel for the Fifth Circuit upheld the district court’s opinion that nearly 1,500 acres of private land in Louisiana (“Unit 1”) is critical habitat for the frog and therefore subject to the requirements of the Endangered Species Act. In order to be designated as critical habitat, land must meet strict criteria: it must contain physical or biological features essential to conservation of the species. The land in question contains only one of three features considered necessary to support the dusky gopher frog—five ephemeral ponds—and more significantly, is covered with closed canopy pine that make the land uninhabitable by the species. Designation of the land as critical habitat comes at a cost of nearly $34 million in economic impact to the landowners. Despite these facts, the majority held that the land was critical habitat and furthermore, that the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision not to carve out Unit 1 from the critical-habitat decisions was judicially unreviewable. Continue reading