Corrective Action Catch 22: Court of Federal Claims Holds Agency Action Must Be Rational Even If GAO Protest Decision Was Not

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By Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman

Today, Pillsbury attorneys Joël Van Over and Alex Ginsberg published their advisory titled Corrective Action Catch 22: Court of Federal Claims Holds Agency Action Must Be Rational Even If GAO Protest Decision Was Not. The Advisory discusses the U.S. Court of Federal Claims' July 15, 2014 decision in RUSH Construction, Inc. v. United States.

This decision reflects the unusual circumstance in which the court effectively sat in appellate review of an earlier bid protest decision by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers followed GAO's recommendation in that decision. The court ultimately overruled GAO when it found that it was arbitrary and capricious for the agency to follow GAO's recommendation. In so doing, the court cited numerous shortcomings in GAO's reasoning and its reliance on inapposite case law. The RUSH decision, authored by the Court of Federal Claims' new chief judge, may foretell greater judicial scrutiny of agency corrective action and a shift at the court away from deference to GAO's bid protest recommendations.

If you have any questions about the content of this blog, please contact the Pillsbury attorney with whom you regularly work or Joël Van Over or Alex Ginsberg, the authors of this blog.

9th Cir. Vacates PSD Permit Granted to Avenal Power After Revised and More Stringent Emissions Standards Were Promulgated

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In the case of Sierra Club, et. al., v. EPA, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that EPA cannot rely on Chevron deference to authorize its grant of a Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permit to Avenal Power Center based on superseded National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) and Best Available Control Technology (BACT) requirements. Avenal was an Intervenor in this case which was argued in October and decided August 12.

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Spotlight On Federal Contractors' Labor Practices

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Recently President Obama issued an Executive Order purportedly seeking to increase efficiency and cost savings in the work performed by parties who contract with the Federal Government by ensuring that they understand and comply with labor laws. In sum, the Executive Order requires contractors seeking federal contracts to disclose labor law violations, and to require their subcontractors to do the same, and creates new compliance advisers at agencies to oversee decisions about which contractors are awarded federal work.

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8th Cir. Holds that Union Pacific's CERCLA Settlement with EPA Trumps Tolling Agreement

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On August 8, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit issued a ruling affirming the lower court's holding that Union Pacific (UP) did not breach the tolling agreement it entered into with ASARCO, LLC while a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) dispute was being resolved with EPA. At the conclusion of the FOIA matter, UP settled its CERCLA liability for $25 million with EPA at the Omaha, Nebraska Lead CERCLA Site by means of a court-approved consent decree.

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Determining the Number of Occurrences Arising From Multiple Construction Defects ... It Depends on Who Is Sued

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The United States District Court for the District of Oregon held that property damage incurred to a condominium project resulting from a myriad of construction defects constituted just one occurrence under the relevant excess general liability policy.

In Chartis Specialty Ins. Co. v. American Contractors Ins. Co. Risk Retention Group et al., Case No. 3:13-CV-1669 (D. Ore. Aug. 12, 2014), the owners association of a condominium complex sued its developers for property damage incurred to the condominium as a result of numerous and distinct construction defects. The owners association alleged that the developers failed in their duties as developers to build the condominium complex free from defects. The alleged defects included errors in the construction of the roof, fire sprinklers, insulation, and windows and doors, resulting in total damages of $3.6 million.

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7th Cir. Holds Wisconsin Town's Refusal to Process Building Permits for a Wind Farm Not Subject to Constitutional Due Process Challenge

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In the case of CEnergy-Glenmore Wind Farm #1, LLC, v. Town of Glenmore, decided on
August 7, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the lower court's ruling that the Town of Glenmore, Wisconsin's delay and final rejection of wind farm building permits did not violate CEnery's constitutional substantive due process rights. The proposal became very controversial, prompting the Town's Board to rescind its earlier approval of the building permits, and the applicant alleged that it consequently lost a potentially lucrative business opportunity if the wind farms were unable to deliver power to a local utility.

The Court of Appeals held that the Board's actions "were not arbitrary in the constitutional sense", and that "popular opposition to a proposed land development plan is a rational and legitimate reason to delay making a decision". Moreover, the plaintiff had other state law remedies available which it chose not to use, which further weakened its case. Finally, the Court of Appeals noted that if the plaintiff was successful, its success would cost each resident of Glenmore roughly $6000.

"Ban the Box" Legislation Expands Across the Country ~ Employers Need to Update Employment Applications and Policies

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By Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman

Yesterday, Pillsbury attorneys Ken Taber, Paula Weber, Rebecca Carr Rizzo and Stephen Asay published their advisory titled "Ban the Box" Legislation Expands Across the Country Employers Need to Update Employment Applications and Policies. The Advisory discusses the growing national movement to "Ban the Box" - i.e., to prohibit questions about a job applicant's criminal history on employment applications.

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9th Cir. Ninth Circuit Holds Coast Guard "Letter of Recommendation" Provided in LNG Permitting Matter Was Not a Final Agency Action Triggering Appellate Review

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In Columbia Riverkeeper, et al. v. U.S. Coast Guard, decided on August 5, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that a Coast Guard "Letter of Recommendation" provided to FERC in connection with FERC's ongoing review of a proposed Oregon LNG terminal project was not a final agency action that was reviewable under the Natural Gas Act. The Letter was issued in 2009 and addressed the suitability of the Columbia River for vessel traffic associated with the facility; it was subjected to unsuccessful administrative appeals within the Coast Guard, after which this challenge was filed in the Ninth Circuit. After reviewing the regulatory apparatus that is used to determine whether a proposed LNG facility can be permitted by FERC, the Court of Appeals held that the Letter does not have any "conclusive legal effect", and it is therefore not a final agency action triggering judicial review. However, the Court of Appeals noted that the Letter could be an issue when the FERC permit is itself litigated, or if the Coast Guard issues a final order pursuant to its independent legal authority.

4th Cir. Orders Lower Court to Conduct Additional Hearings on Environmental Challenge to North Carolina Outer Banks Transportation Project

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit recently reviewed the lower court's rejection of a series of challenges to an important North Carolina highway transportation project that will repair and restore access to the North Carolina Outer Banks. The case is Defenders of Wildlife, et al., v. North Carolina Department of Transportation, et al., decided August 6, 2014.

Following its review of a long and complex administrative record, the Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's dismissal of the plaintiffs' National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) challenge to the complicated project, but ordered to court to conduct additional inquiries into the defendants' argument that the "joint planning exception" known as a "Section 4(f)" exception, was warranted. The "Section 4(f) exception" is a shorthand reference to a provision of the transportation laws administered by the Federal Highway Administration that affect the use of federal transportation funds in a designated wildlife area.

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PA Amends Mechanic's Liens Law

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On July 9, 2014, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed into law PA State Flower.jpgSenate Bill 145 (aka "Act 117"), amending Pennsylvania's Mechanics' Lien Law of 1963. Act 117 is effective September 7, 2014.

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IL Governor Signs Bill to Limit Use of Payroll Cards

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On August 6, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law House Bill 5622, a bill amending the state Wage Payment and Collection Act, 820 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 115, et seq., and barring employers from making the use of payroll cards a condition of employment and preserving workers' right to demand more traditional forms of wage payment, such as paper checks and direct deposits into a bank account. The new law becomes effective January 1, 2015.

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Significant Superfund Ruling: 9th Circuit Rejects De Minimis CERCLA Settlements

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Over a strong dissent, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected the lower court's approval of several proposed de minimis consent decree settlements. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) had negotiated these settlements with a number of potentially responsible parties ("PRPs") at the Broadway-Patano Landfill, a former hazardous waste site located in Tucson, Arizona; the site is being cleaned up at an expected cost of $75 million. Several parties claiming to be de minimis PRPs approached the ADEQ seeking early settlements of their alleged liability. Their allocations at the site ranged from 0.01% to 0.2% of the overall liability, and the ADEQ's review of the record agreed with these conclusions. A proposed Consent Decree was filed with the U.S. District Court for Arizona. Although opposed by many intervenors, the court approved the Consent Decree. An appeal followed; the case is State of Arizona v. Raytheon, et. al., decided August 1, 2014.

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The ADA and Private Professional Certification

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By Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman

Today, Pillsbury attorneys Jerry Jacobs, Julia Judish, Dawn (Crowell) Murphy and Chris Leuchten issued their advisory titled The ADA and Private Professional Certification. Their Advisory discusses Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as amended, which mandates that private entities offering examinations or courses related to certain applications, licensing, certification, or credentialing ensure that such exams and courses are accessible to individuals with disabilities or offer alternative accessible arrangements. They encourage those involved with any aspect of credentialing examinations to pay careful attention to what aids or accommodations must be offered by law.

If you have any questions about the content of this blog, please contact the Pillsbury attorney with whom you regularly work or Jerry Jacobs, Julia Judish, or Dawn (Crowell) Murphy, the authors of this blog.

Zurich Seeks to Assert Unprecedented Control over Defense Counsel

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Zurich has updated its "Litigation Management Guidelines" to give the insurer an unprecedented level of control over defense counsel's activities. The new Guidelines adopt the Recommended Case Handling Guidelines for Insurers created by The Defense Research Institute, and also append an extensive Addendum covering business policies, expense and professional fee payment, and other administrative points.

The Guidelines purport to impose a sweeping waiver of attorney-client privilege and work product protection, even though the law in most states imposes significant limitations on an insurer's access to privileged or protected information developed by defense counsel - especially where the insured is entitled to so-called Cumis or independent counsel as a result of conflicts of interest with its insurer. Zurich's Guidelines mandate almost complete and constant transparency in case development and strategy, stating "counsel should provide a significant development report to immediately communicate important case developments to the claims professional, such as settlement overtures by other parties, codefendant strategies or developments, new information obtained through discovery, etc." The Addendum also requires counsel to "enunciate the impact of the information being conveyed," specifically on "case strategy, evaluation, posture, and resolution opportunities." Zurich essentially attempts to coerce insureds to waive the attorney-client privilege and work product protection by expressly stating that Zurich reserves the right to review defense counsel's files and will not pay for defense activities for which Zurich is not given access to "full" explanation and documentation.

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Ohio Supreme Court Announces Rule for Pay-if-Paid Provisions

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Last month, in its decision in Transtar Electric, Inc. v. A.E.M. Electrical Services, Corp., Slip Opinion No. 2014-Ohio-3095, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the inclusion of term "condition precedent" in a contractual payment provision was an explicit statement of the parties' intent to transfer the risk of the project owner's non-payment from the general contractor to the subcontractor. This decision is significant for Ohio, a state that enforces the validity of pay-if-paid provisions, unlike other states that have found them void as against public policy.

Transtar involved a contract between a general contractor and an electrical subcontractor for the construction of a pool at a Holiday Inn. The subcontractor fully performed its work under the subcontract, but the general contractor failed to pay the last three of the subcontractor's invoices because the owner had not paid the general contractor for the work reflected in those invoices. The subcontractor filed suit alleging both breach of contract and unjust enrichment, and both sides moved for summary judgment. While the general contractor did not dispute the facts asserted by the subcontractor, it argued that, under the contract, it did not have to pay the subcontractor until it received payment from the owner. The trial court agreed with the general contractor, but the appeals court reversed, stating that the contract's payment provision was not sufficient to shift the risk of non-payment by the owner to the subcontractor. The Ohio Supreme Court then reinstated the judgment of the trial court.

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