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DC Cir Cases: SCOTUS Grants and a Decision

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on June 23, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The past few weeks have been busy for cases originating in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari in three cases, two of them related, and issued a decision today. The two related cases involve the interpretation of the Administrative Procedure Act, the third case granted cert. involves the delegation doctrine, while the High Court decision issued today interprets the Clean Air Act.

For details on these cases, read on.

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Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Association and Nikols v. Mortgage Bankers Association -- Cert. Granted

This pair of cases was initiated by Mortgage Bankers Association challenging the Department of Labor's interpretation of an agency regulation, determining the status of mortgage brokers. Under a 2006 interpretation, mortgage brokers were exempt from overtime wage requirements. In 2010, the DoL changed course, and determined that mortgage brokers were not exempt from the overtime wage requirements.

The Mortgage Bankers Association sued the DoL, arguing that they had relied on the agency's previous interpretation, and it could not alter its interpretation without prior notice and comment. The district court rejected the argument, but the D.C. Circuit reversed holding that notice and comment was required, in conflict with other circuits, and much to the chagrin of 72 administrative law professors. Now, the Supreme Court will hear the case -- we're betting they won't agree with the D.C. Circuit.

Department of Transportation v. Association of American Railroads -- Cert. Granted

Section 207 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 requires the Federal Railroad Administration and Amtrak to work together to "to jointly develop performance measures to enhance enforcement of the statutory priority Amtrak's passenger rail service has over other trains." The Association of American Railroads sued the Department of Transportation arguing that the law is unconstitutional, and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals held that Section 207 "constitutes an unlawful delegation of regulatory power to a private entity." Today, the Supreme Court granted cert in this case and it will interpret the not-oft-used delegation doctrine.

Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency -- Decision

Today, the Court issued an opinion written by Justice Scalia, in this term's most anticipated environmental decision. At issue was the interpretation of the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency's interpretation of the Act.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA may issue permitting requirements for stationary source of pollutants (i.e., factories), but the EPA concluded that it could also regulate emissions from motor-vehicles. The Supreme Court held "that the EPA is not obligated to regulate GHGs under the PSD and Title V programs and that the EPA is not permitted to rewrite the applicable statutory emission thresholds," reports The Washington Post. The Court noted that the "EPA may, however, continue to treat greenhouse gases as a 'pollutant subject to regulation under this chapter' for purposes of requiring BACT for 'anyway' sources."

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