Justia U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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The First Circuit vacated the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) dismissing Petitioner's appeal of the immigration judge's (IJ) claims for relief and ordering her removed to El Salvador, holding that the IJ denied Petitioner her statutory right to be represented by the counsel of her choice. Petitioner, a native and citizen of El Salvador, entered the United States without being admitted or paroled. Over the course of her removal proceedings, Petitioner retained an attorney, lost that attorney, and attempted to find another to assist her in presenting the merits of her claims for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture. The IJ denied relief. Petitioner appealed and filed a motion to reopen and remand. The BIA dismissed the appeal, denied Petitioner's motion, and ordered her removed to El Salvador. The First Circuit vacated the BIA's order and remanded the matter, holding that the IJ failing to meaningfully effectuate Petitioner's statutory right to counsel, and the assistance of a lawyer likely would have affected the outcome of Petitioner's removal proceedings. View "Hernandez Lara v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated an air permit granted by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for a proposed natural gas compression station set to be built in Weymouth, Massachusetts as part of Algonquin Gas Transmission, LLC's Atlantic Bridge Project, holding that the DEP did not follow its own established procedures for assessing whether an electric motor was the Best Available Control Technology (BACT). The Atlantic Bridge Project is a natural gas pipeline connecting the Northeastern United States and Canada. The DEP approved Algonquin's non-major comprehensive plan application for the station and granted the station's air permit, certifying its compliance with the Massachusetts Clean Air Act (CAA), Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 111, 142A-142F. Petitioners, nearby municipalities and two citizen-petition groups, argued that DEP violated the CAA and related laws and regulations. The First Circuit (1) vacated the air permit and remanded to DEP for it to conduct further proceedings, holding that the DEP's final decision excluding an electric motor was arbitrary and capricious; and (2) resolved the remaining issues in favor of DEP. View "Town of Weymouth v. Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) denying Petitioner's motion to reopen sua sponte his immigration proceedings, holding that the BIA departed from his settled course of adjudication and that remand was required consistent with this opinion. Petitioner argued that the BIA clearly erred when it determined that he was not entitled to relief from deportation under section 237(a)(2)(A)(vi) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(vi) (the Pardon Waiver Clause). In making its determination, the BIA concluded that a pardon issued by the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles is "not effective for purposes of establishing entitlement to" a waiver of deportation. The First Circuit held (1) this Court has jurisdiction to review colorable legal and constitutional challenges to denials of motions to reopen sua sponte; and (2) the BIA departed from its settled course of adjudication by deeming a pardon from Connecticut insufficient under the Pardon Waiver Clause. View "Thompson v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the order of the district court finding that Plaintiff was disabled as defined under 20 C.F.R. 404.1520 and awarding her benefits, holding that there was very strong evidence of Plaintiff's disability, without any contrary evidence, to justify an award of benefits. At age thirty-four, Plaintiff filed applications for Social Security Disability Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. The Commissioner of Social Security denied Plaintiff's applications. In an independent assessment of her claim, an ALJ agreed with the Commissioner's decision, finding that Plaintiff was not disabled as defined under the Social Security Act. A federal magistrate judge found that substantial evidence did not support the ALJ's denial of benefits and recommended reversing the Commissioner's decision and remanding the case for further development of the facts. The district court agreed with the magistrate judge's findings but bypassed the need for further fact-finding and awarded benefits. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that there was overwhelming evidence to support a finding of disability and an award of benefits and that a remand for further proceedings was unnecessary. View "Sacilowski v. Saul" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for review of the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirming the immigration judge's decision denying Petitioner's claims for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT) and ordering Petitioner removed, holding that Petitioner's arguments lacked merit. In finding that Petitioner did not meet his burden to show eligibility for any of the grounds for relief he sought the immigration judge (IJ) concluded that Petitioner was not credible for several reasons. The BIA affirmed. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the IJ's adverse credibility determination was supported by substantial evidence; (2) the introduction of law enforcement gang database records did not violate Petitioner's due process rights; and (3) even if the BIA erred in applying the wrong legal standard in its analysis of Petitioner's CAT claim, any such error would be harmless. View "Diaz Ortiz v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit denied Petitioner's petition seeking review of the Board of Immigration Appeals' (BIA) denial of her untimely motion to reopen her family's removal proceedings, holding that the BIA's denial of Petitioner's motion to reopen was not an abuse of discretion. Petitioner, a native and citizen of Indonesia, applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture for her herself, her husband, and her two daughters. An immigration judge denied the application, and the BIA affirmed. Six years later, Petitioner filed a motion to reopen the removal proceedings. The BIA denied the motion as untimely. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the BIA's decision not to reopen the proceedings was neither arbitrary nor capricious. View "Sutarsim v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit held that the requirements for establishing membership in a particular social group in support of a request for asylum or withholding of removal do not categorically preclude applicants from successfully relying on any group defined in material part as women "unable to leave" a domestic relationship. Petitioner, a native and citizen of the Dominican Republic, sought asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture. Petitioner alleged that her former domestic partner and the father of her son abused her in the past, will abuse her in the future, and will remain unfettered by Dominican law enforcement authorities. The immigration judge ruled against Petitioner in part on claimed inadequacy of the tendered social groups. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirmed. The First Circuit remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that the BIA's holding that Petitioner's claim necessarily failed because the groups to which she claimed to belong were necessarily deficient was arbitrary and unexamined. View "De Pena-Paniagua v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit held that the New Hampshire Judicial Retirement Plan (Plan) does not allow a former judge who resigned with sufficient years of creditable service, but before reaching the minimum retirement age, to receive a Service Retirement Allowance (SRA) upon later reaching the retirement age. Plaintiff was fifty-four years old when she resigned from her position as a superior court justice for the state of New Hampshire. Plaintiff served in that position for sixteen-and-a-half years. At the age of sixty-one, Plaintiff applied for an SRA. The Board of Trustees of the Board of Trustees (Board) of the Plan denied her application. Plaintiff filed suit against the Plan seeking a declaratory judgment that she was eligible for an SRA. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Plan as to Plaintiff's claim for violation of N.H. Rev. Stat. 100-C, 5, concluding that the plain language of the statute requires a judge to be in active service when she elects to retire and claim a service retirement allowance. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, Plaintiff was not eligible to receive an SRA on her application. View "Coffey v. New Hampshire Judicial Retirement Plan" on Justia Law

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In this case arising from a directive issued by the EPA that prohibits EPA grant recipients from sitting on the EPA's twenty-two scientific advisory committees the First Circuit reversed in part the judgment of the district court dismissing the complaint for a lack of justiciability and failure to state a claim, holding that EPA's challenged directive was judicially reviewable under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 551 et seq. In 2017, the EPA former director issued the directive. The complaint alleged that the new directive disqualified thousands of scientists affiliated with academic and not-for-profit institutions. Count I alleged that the directive violated the APA's reasoned decision-making standard. Count II alleged that the directive conflicted with directives issued by the General Services Administration and regulations of the Office of Governmental Ethics. Counts III and IV alleged violations of the Federal Advisory Committee Act's requirements for advisory committees. The district court dismissed all counts, concluding that they raised questions unreviewable under the APA and, alternatively, that the first and second counts failed to state a claim on the merits. The First Circuit reversed the district court's decision on Counts III and IV, holding that the challenged directive was judicially reviewable under the APA. View "Union of Concerned Scientists v. United States Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for review of the order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) denying Petitioner's motion to reopen his immigration case, holding that the BIA did not abuse its discretion in denying Petitioner's motion to reopen on the grounds that Petitioner did not establish changed country conditions. Petitioner, a native and citizen of Guatemala who illegally entered the United States and was later placed in removal proceedings, applied for asylum and withholding of removal on the grounds that he feared gang violence upon his return to Guatemala. The immigration judge (IJ) denied Petitioner's applications. The BIA dismissed Petitioner's appeal, agreeing with the conclusion of the IJ that Petitioner had not shown that he would more likely than not suffer persecution upon his return to Guatemala. Petitioner later moved the BIA to reopen his case, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel and that country conditions in Guatemala had substantially changed. The BIA denied Petitioner's motion to reopen. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the BIA did not err in declining to equitably toll the ninety-day statutory filing deadline and in concluding that Petitioner had not demonstrated that country conditions in Guatemala had substantially changed since his hearing. View "Molina v. Barr" on Justia Law