Justia Aerospace/Defense Opinion Summaries

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The Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP), a sub-agency of the Defense Logistics Agency, issued a solicitation for an Indefinite-Delivery/Indefinite-Quantity commercial item contract to provide food and non-food products to customers, including the military, in three overseas zones. In May 2003, DSCP awarded a contract to Agility to supply “Full Line Food and Non-Food Distribution” to authorized personnel in Kuwait and Qatar. After many modifications, in December 2005, Agility submitted a Request for Equitable Adjustment for $13.1 million related to trucks being held in Iraq by the government for longer than 29 days. In April 2007, the government’s contracting officer denied Agility’s claim. The Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals denied Agility’s appeal in August 2015, finding that Agility had accepted all risks associated with delays beyond 29 days. The Board stated that it “need not decide whether the government constructively changed contract performance or whether it breached its implied duty of cooperation” because “whether the government breached the contract comes down to contract interpretation.” The Federal Circuit affirmed-in-part, agreeing that the government did not breach the express terms of the contract or a later agreement to consider exceptions, but finding that the Board erred when it concluded that it “need not decide” Agility’s implied duty and constructive change claims. View "Agility Public Warehousing Co. KSCP v. Mattis" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, who had endured many hardships in 2003 while trying to leave Baghdad, alleged, in a purported class action, that former officials of the President George W. Bush administration engaged in the war against Iraq in violation of the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. 1350. The district court held that plaintiff had not exhausted her administrative remedies as required by the Federal Tort Claims Act. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal, holding that the individual defendants were entitled to official immunity under the Westfall Act, 28 U.S.C. 2679(d)(1), which accords federal employees immunity from common-law tort claims for acts undertaken in the course of their official duties. The court upheld the Attorney General’s scope certification (determining that the employees were acting within the scope of their employment so that the action was one against the United States). The court rejected an argument that defendants could not be immune under the Westfall Act because plaintiff alleged violations of a jus cogens norm of international law from which no derogation is permitted and which can be modified only by a subsequent norm of general international law. Congress can provide immunity for federal officers for jus cogens violations. View "Saleh v. Bush" on Justia Law

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Within the Department of Defense, DRMS disposes of surplus military property at Defense Reutilization and Marketing Offices (DRMOs). Property that cannot be reutilized is demilitarized and/or reduced to scrap that can be sold. A 2007 DRMS Request for Proposals sought performance of DRMO activities for up to five years. A referenced website showed DRMS’s historical workload and scrap weight; an amendment indicated that “the contractor may experience significant workload increases or decreases” and outlined a process to “renegotiate the price” if workload increased. DRMS awarded its first contract to Agility to operate six DRMOs for one base year with four option years at a fixed price of $45,233,914.92 per year. Upon commencing work in Arifjan, the largest of the DRMOs, Agility immediately fell behind. It inherited a backlog of approximately 30 weeks. From the start, the volume received at Arifjan was greater than Agility anticipated. The parties terminated their contract for convenience in 2010. Agility thereafter requested funding for its additional costs, claiming DRMS provided inaccurate workload estimates during solicitation. The contracting officer awarded Agility only $236,363.93 for its first claim and nothing for the second, noting that Agility received an offset from its scrap sales. The Federal Circuit reversed, as “clearly erroneous,” the Claims Court’s findings that DRMS did not inadequately or negligently prepare its estimates and that Agility did not rely on those estimates. Agility’s receipt of scrap sales and the parties’ agreement did not preclude recovery. View "Agility Defense & Government Services, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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All Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) plant officers are required to maintain medical clearance as a condition of employment. Since his employment began in 2009, Hale maintained the clearance necessary for his position. In 2013, the TVA began requiring a pulmonary function test for that clearance; Hale failed the testing and was terminated because of his chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. Hale sued, alleging disability discrimination and failure to accommodate under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. In an unsuccessful motion to dismiss, the TVA argued that Title VII’s national-security exemption applies to the Rehabilitation Act and precludes the court from reviewing the physical-fitness requirements imposed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the interests of national security and that the Egan doctrine precludes the judiciary from reviewing the TVA’s determination that Hale lacked the physical capacity to fulfill his job duties because this decision was one of national security. The Sixth Circuit denied an interlocutory appeal; the national security exemption does not apply to Hale’s Rehabilitation Act claim. The court declined to extend Egan to preclude judicial review of an agency’s determination regarding an employee’s physical capability to perform the duties of his position. View "Hale v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Wilson was a civilian Resource Analyst at the Nuclear Propulsion Directorate at the Naval Sea Systems Command, which required a Department of Energy security clearance. The DOE revoked Wilson’s security clearance, stating that Wilson: knowingly brought a personal firearm onto a Navy facility in violation of regulations; armed himself with a personal weapon while acting as a Metropolitan Police Department reserve officer, contrary to regulations; and made false statements and false time and attendance entries to his civilian employer, the Naval Reserve Unit and the MPD. Wilson maintains that he brought his firearm to the facility in response to the 2013 Washington Navy Yard shooting, in perceived compliance with his duty as a Navy Reservist, and requested reinstatement under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, 38 U.S.C. 4301. The Navy removed Wilson from federal service. A Merit Systems Protection Board administrative judge determined that the Board lacked authority to consider claims of discrimination or reprisal in the context of a removal based on security clearance revocation; that the Navy provided him the procedural protections of 5 U.S.C. 7513(b); and that the Navy did not have a policy to reassign employees to alternate positions that do not require a security clearance. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s finding that it lacked the authority to consider Wilson’s USERRA claim. View "Wilson v. Department of the Navy" on Justia Law

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Kase was exposed to asbestos insulation used on nuclear submarines during the early 1970s. The trial court rejected claims against a broker that arranged for asbestos-containing insulation to be shipped to the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, where workers packed it around the submarine piping it protected. The court held, on summary judgment, that the Navy‘s procurement of asbestos insulation for its nuclear submarines implicated the government contractor defense set forth in the Supreme Court’s 1988 holding, Boyle v. United Technologies Corp. The broker procured the insulation pursuant to and in compliance with relatively detailed performance and testing specifications, although those specifications did not expressly call out for asbestos in the insulation. According to undisputed evidence, the specifications could only be met by asbestos-containing insulation, and the only product on the Navy‘s approved list of suitable products was the product at issue, Unibestos. The court of appeal affirmed, stating that the defense does not necessarily exclude the procurement of products also sold commercially. The Navy‘s procurement of the asbestos insulation at issue occurred after years of evaluating and weighing the utility of and the health hazards associated with asbestos products and pursuant to specifications that required an asbestos product. View "Kase v. Metalclad Insulation Corp." on Justia Law

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Papp alleged that his late wife suffered secondary “take home” asbestos exposure while washing the work clothes of her first husband, Keck. Keck had several jobs that exposed him to asbestos. Papp sued multiple companies in New Jersey. In a deposition, he indicated that the landing gear Keck sandblasted was for a C-47 military cargo plane, built by Boeing’s predecessor. Boeing removed the case, citing the federal officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1442(a)(1). Boeing asserted that it was entitled to government contractor immunity because the C-47 was produced for, and under the specific supervision of, the U.S. military and that the supervision extended to labels and warnings for all parts of the aircraft, including those parts laden with the asbestos to which Keck would later be exposed. The district court remanded, reasoning that Boeing, as a contractor and not a federal officer, had a “special burden” to demonstrate “that a federal officer or agency directly prohibited Boeing from issuing, or otherwise providing, warnings as to the risks associated with exposure to asbestos contained in products on which third-parties … worked or otherwise provided services.” The Third Circuit reversed, holding that the statute extends to contractors who possess a colorable federal defense and that Boeing made a sufficient showing of such a defense. View "Papp v. Fore-Kast Sales Co Inc" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the constitutionality of a Syracuse noise ordinance that prohibits the creation of “unnecessary noise” emanating beyond fifty feet from a motor vehicle operated on a public highway. Defendant was convicted of sound reproduction in violation of the ordinance. The Appellate Division affirmed, holding that the noise ordinance was constitutional. The Appellate Division concluded that while a similar local noise ordinance was held to be void for vagueness in People v. New York Trap Rock Corp., the Syracuse noise ordinance at issue was not unconstitutionally vague. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the statute does not offend the constitutional void-for-vagueness doctrine of due process. View "People v. Stephens" on Justia Law

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Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center submitted to the Department of Homeland Security a Freedom of Information Act request for information relating to Tier III terrorist organizations. Membership in any tier makes a person inadmissible to the United States, with narrow exceptions. Tier I and Tier II organizations are publicly identified terrorist groups such as ISIS and al‐Qaeda. Tier III organizations are defined in 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(3)(B)(vi)(III) as any group that engages in terrorist activity (defined in 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(3)(B)(iv)), even if the activity is conducted exclusively against regimes that are enemies of the United States. The government typically does not have good intelligence about Tier III organizations. The Department provided only some of the requested information. The Center filed suit. The district judge granted, and the Seventh Circuit affirmed, summary judgment for the government on the ground that the names of the Tier III organizations are protected from disclosure by the Freedom of Information Act’s exemption, 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(7)(E), for “records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that the production of such law enforcement records or information ... would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law.” View "Heartland Alliance National Immigrant Justice Center v. Department of Homeland Security" on Justia Law

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Zafer, an Ankara, Turkey, contractor, and the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) entered into a firm-fixed-price contract to construct the MILCON Support Facility at the Bagram Air Force Field in Afghanistan. Zafer was responsible for delivering materials to the site, and assumed the risk “for all costs and resulting loss or profit.” After issuing notice to proceed, USACE recognized that it could not make the project site available immediately and increased the contract price and set a new completion date. In November 2011, Pakistan closed its border from the seaport city of Karachi along the land routes into Afghanistan in response to a combat incident with the U.S. and NATO. The route remained closed for 219 days, Zafer notified USACE that the closure would greatly impact its delivery of materials and requested direction on how to proceed. USACE replied that the closure was “purely the act of Pakistan governmental authorities,” that the U.S. government was “not responsible” and denied further compensation. Zafer subsequently, repeatedly, asked for payment for additional costs. In 2013, Zafer submitted an unsuccessful request for an equitable adjustment. The contracting officer found no evidence supporting a constructive change claim. The Claims Court granted USACE summary judgment. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Zafer failed to designate specific facts to establish a constructive change claim based on either a constructive acceleration theory or on a government fault theory. View "Zafer Taahhut Insaat v. United States" on Justia Law