In U.S. v. Brownstein, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, reversing the District Court, held that a federal law regulating conduct in the Supreme Court Building, 40 U.S.C. § 6134, which prohibits “harangues and orations” during oral argument, is constitutionally infirm. On April 1, 2015, the defendants interrupted oral argument to announce their displeasure for the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a political speech case. Noting that the defendants had fair notice of the rules governing conduct in this area, the DC Circuit, citing the movie “My Cousin Vinny,” concluded that a” person of ordinary intelligence could read this law and understand that, as a member of the Supreme Court’s oral argument audience, making disruptive public speeches is clearly proscribed behavior.”
Today, our colleagues Jenny Sheng, Julian Zou and Yi Zhu published a client alert discussing China’s recent restrictions on outbound investments by Chinese companies in certain industries. Among other things, they encourage Chinese firms and foreign investors engaged in overseas investments to be aware of these new trends and to prepare to adjust their strategic plans and overseas activities. The alert is titled China’s Recent Restrictions on Outbound Investments by Chinese Companies.
Today, our colleagues Jennifer Trock, Kenneth Quinn, Graham Keithley, and Chris Leuchten published an informative client alert on the Department of Transportation’s interim final rule increasing the maximum aviation-related civil penalty amounts to adjust for inflation. The rule became effective on August 10, 2016. The alert is titled Civil Penalties Up For Some Aviation Violations.
Photo: Steven Conry, Plane Landing Over Simpson Bay, Taken July 19, 2009 – Creative Commons
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has decided a new federalism case. In State of Tennessee, et al., v. Federal Communications Commission, decided on August 10, 2016, the Court of Appeals held that Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 does not authorize the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), acting as a federal agency, to preempt laws enacted by the legislatures of Tennessee and North Carolina to confine municipalities engaged in telecommunications services (by providing internet service) to their current territorial boundaries. This decision is important because it helps to define federal agencies’ authority to act.
Can the federal government at times and, in all places, commandeer the states to act in a certain way? “Commandeering” refers to a federal requirement that state officials enact, administer, or enforce a federal regulatory program. There are limits to the federal government’s constitutional authority to do so, which are discussed in a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. On August 9, the Court of Appeals held that a 2014 New Jersey law, which partially repealed the state’s prohibitions on sports betting, was preempted by the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. Consequently, the federal law prohibiting sports betting will prevail in New Jersey, where the Legislature was hoping to find a way to generate more revenues for its casinos and racetracks. The en banc Court of Appeals rejected New Jersey’s arguments that the federal law was unconstitutional because it “commandeered” the states to act in a way that violates the Constitution. This case is NCAA v. Governor of New Jersey. Of interest, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that, under the commandeering doctrine, the federal government cannot compel or coerce the states, as separate sovereigns, to enact legislation demanded by the federal government.
Also on August 9, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit held that the administrative law judges (ALJ) employed by the Securities and Exchange Commission were not “Officers” as that term is employed by the Constitution because their actions were also subject to review by the Commission. Since they are not constitutional officers, their decisions cannot be set aside simply because they were not appointed in accordance with the Appointments Clause. This case is Raymond J. Lucia Companies, Inc., et al., v. SEC. This ruling would appear to apply to many ALJS employed by the federal government.
Photo: KOMUnews, Airport Advisory Determines Future Plans After Election Results, Taken April 3, 2013 – Creative Commons
The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was urged this week by some in Congress to speed up its rulemaking aimed at arbitration provisions in consumer contracts used by companies offering payment services or financial products to consumers. In May, the preliminary rule was released. In Arbitration Provisions Mauled by Consumer Watchdog, my colleagues Mercedes Tunstall, Amy Pierce, Andrew Caplan, and I discussed the proposed rule and the potential new reality for all consumer facing companies. At the heart of the proposal, the CFPB would ban consumer financial services providers from requiring consumers to waive class action rights in connection with pre-dispute arbitration clauses. (In a minor victory for the industry, the CFPB has not outright banned pre-dispute arbitration agreements—at least not yet.)
Photo: CafeCredit.com, CFPB, Uploaded June 13, 2016 – Creative Commons
Today, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) announced, effective August 28, 2016 and continuing for 180 days, it is expanding its earlier Geographic Targeting Orders (GTO) requiring information about the natural persons behind shell companies used to purchase high-end residential real estate for “all cash.” FinCEN has been collecting this data on Manhattan and Miami-Dade County, Florida since January and believes it is “on the right track” in its anti-money laundering (AML) efforts and investigation of possible money laundering using real estate deals. It will collect this information in California for San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties; Los Angeles County; and San Diego County. It will expand to all boroughs of New York City and to Broward and Palm Beach counties in Florida. Bexar county in Texas, that includes San Antonio is also included. Monetary thresholds for each area identified are provided in FinCEN’s announcement. Title insurance companies are required to comply with the GTO and provide the information.
Photo: Images by John ‘K’, Blue and Gold, Taken April 1, 2013 – Creative Commons
On July 5, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an important ruling interpreting the reach of the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in the case of Competitive Enterprise Institute v. Office of Science and Technology Policy. The Office is located in the Executive Branch, and it has been engaged in a long-running dispute with the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) with respect to a short, two-minute video released by the Director of the Office, John Holdren. In the instant action, the Court of Appeals reviewed the CEI’s attempts to obtain the records of the Director found in emails sent to or from the Director’s private, non-governmental email account.
My colleagues Stephanie Amaru and Mark Elliott, in Open Wide: FOIA Reform Expands Public Access to U.S. Government Information, discuss the bipartisan Freedom of Information Improvement Act of 2016 (S. 337) signed into law by President Obama’s on June 30. The bill’s most notably requirement is that the government operate under a “presumption of openness” and help protect the public from government secrecy. Its goal otherwise is to make it more difficult for agency officials to withhold government records sought under the Freedom of Information Act (aka FOIA).
Photo: J. Albert Bowden II, Keep Calm and Use FOIA, Taken April 1, 2014 – Creative Commons