District of Columbia et al. v. Wesby et al.

Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The District Of ColumbiaCircuit

No. 15-1485. Argued October 4, 2017--Decided January 22, 2018

District of Columbia police officers responded to a complaint about loud music and illegal activities in a vacant house. Inside, they found the house nearly barren and in disarray. The officers smelled marijuana and observed beer bottles and cups of liquor on the floor, which was dirty. They found a make-shift strip club in the living room, and a naked woman and several men in an upstairs bedroom. Many party-goers scattered when they saw the uniformed officers, and somehid. The officers questioned everyone and got inconsistent stories. Two women identified “Peaches” as the house’s tenant and said that she had given the partygoers permission to have the party. But Peaches was not there. When the officers spoke by phone to Peaches, she was nervous, agitated, and evasive. At first, she claimed that she was renting the house and had given the partygoers permission to have the party, but she eventually admitted that she did not have permission to use the house. The owner confirmed that he had not given anyone permission to be there. The officers then arrested the partygoers for unlawful entry.

Several partygoers sued for false arrest under the Fourth Amendment and District law. The District Court concluded that the officers lacked probable cause to arrest the partygoers for unlawful entry and that two of the officers, petitioners here, were not entitled to qualified immunity. A divided panel of the D. C. Circuit affirmed.


1. The officers had probable cause to arrest the partygoers. Pp. 7–13.

(a) Considering the “totality of the circumstances,” Maryland v. Pringle, 540 U. S. 366, the officers made an “entirely reasonable inference” that the partygoers knew they did not have permission to be in the house, id., at 372. Taken together, the condition of the house and the conduct of the partygoers allowed the officers to make several “ ‘common-sense conclusions about human behavior.’ ” Illinois v. Gates, 462 U. S. 213. Because most homeowners do not live in such conditions or permit such activities in their homes, the officers could infer that the partygoers knew the party was not authorized. The officers also could infer that the partygoers knew that they were not supposed to be in the house because they scattered and hid when the officers arrived. See Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U. S. 119–125. The partygoers’ vague and implausible answers to questioning also gave the officers reason to infer that the partygoers were lying and that their lies suggested a guilty mind. Cf. Devenpeck v. Alford, 543 U. S. 146–156. Peaches’ lying and evasive behavior gave the officers reason to discredit everything she said. The officers also could have inferred that she lied when she said she had invited the partygoers to the house, or that she told the partygoers that she was not actually renting the house. Pp. 7–11.

(b) The panel majority failed to follow two basic and well-established principles of law. First, it viewed each fact “in isolation, rather than as a factor in the totality of the circumstances.” Pringle, supra, at 372, n. 2. Second, it believed that it could dismiss outright any circumstances that were “susceptible of innocent explanation,” United States v. Arvizu, 534 U. S. 266. Instead, it should have asked whether a reasonable officer could conclude—considering all of the surrounding circumstances, including the plausibility of the explanation itself—that there was a “substantial chance of criminal activity,” Gates, supra, at 244, n. 13. Pp. 11–13.

2. The officers are entitled to qualified immunity. Pp. 13–19.

(a) As relevant here, officers are entitled to qualified immunity under 42 U. S. C. 1983 unless the unlawfulness of their conduct was “clearly established at the time,” Reichle v. Howards, 566 U. S. 658. To be clearly established, a legal principle must be “settled law,” Hunter v. Bryant, 502 U. S. 224, and it must clearly prohibit the officer’s conduct in the particular circumstances before him, see Saucier v. Katz, 533 U. S. 194. In the warrantless arrest context, “a body of relevant case law” is usually necessary to “ ‘clearly establish’ the answer” with respect to probable cause. Brosseau v. Haugen, 543 U. S. 194.

Even assuming that the officers lacked actual probable cause to arrest the partygoers, they are entitled to qualified immunity because, given “the circumstances with which [they] w[ere] confronted,” they “reasonably but mistakenly conclude[d] that probable cause [wa]s present.” Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U. S. 635. The panel majority and the partygoers have failed to identify a single precedent finding a Fourth Amendment violation “under similar circumstances.” White v. Pauly, 580 U. S. ___, ___. And this is not an “obvious case” where “a body of relevant case law” is unnecessary. Brosseau, supra, at 199. Pp. 13–16.

(b) Instead of following this straightforward analysis, the panel majority reasoned that, under clearly established District law, a suspect’s bona fide belief of a right to enter vitiates probable cause to arrest for unlawful entry. Thus, it concluded that the “uncontroverted evidence” of an invitation in this case meant that the officers could not infer the partygoers’ intent from other circumstances or disbelieve their story. But looking at the entire legal landscape at the time of the arrests, a reasonable officer could have interpreted the law as permitting the arrests here. There was no controlling case holding that a bona fide belief of a right to enter defeats probable cause, that officers cannot infer a suspect’s guilty state of mind based on his conduct alone, or that officers must accept a suspect’s innocent explanation at face value. And several precedents suggested the opposite. Pp. 16–19.

765 F. 3d 13, reversed and remanded.

Thomas, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Kennedy, Breyer, Alito, Kagan, and Gorsuch, JJ., joined. Sotomayor, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. Ginsburg, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part.


Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Sixth Circuit

No. 16-299. Argued October 11, 2017--Decided January 22, 2018

The Clean Water Act (Act) generally prohibits “the discharge of any pollutant by any person,” except in express circumstances. 33 U. S. C. 1311(a). A “discharge of a pollutant” includes “any addition of any pollutant to navigable waters from any point source,” 1362(12), and the statutory term “navigable waters,” in turn, means “the waters of the United States,” 1362(7). Section 1311(a) contains important exceptions to the general prohibition on discharge of pollutants, including two permitting schemes that authorize certain entities to discharge pollutants into navigable waters: the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under 1342, and a program administered by the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) under 1344.

The statutory term “waters of the United States” delineates the geographic reach of those permitting programs as well as other substantive provisions of the Act. In 2015, the EPA and the Corps proffered a definition of that term through an agency regulation dubbed the Waters of the United States Rule (WOTUS Rule or Rule). The WOTUS Rule “imposes no enforceable duty on any state, local, or tribal governments, or the private sector.” 80 Fed. Reg. 37102. As stated in its preamble, the Rule “does not establish any regulatory requirements” and is instead “a definitional rule that clarifies the scope of” the statutory term “waters of the United States.” Id., at 37054.

There are two principal avenues of judicial review of an EPA action. Generally, parties may file challenges to final EPA actions in federal district courts, typically under the Administrative Procedure Act. But the Clean Water Act enumerates seven categories of EPA actions for which review lies directly and exclusively in the federal courts of appeals, including, as relevant here, EPA actions “approving or promulgating any effluent limitation or other limitation under section 1311, 1312, 1316, or 1345,” 1369(b)(1)(E), and EPA actions “issuing or denying any permit under section 1342,” 1369(b)(1)(F).

Several parties, including petitioner National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), challenged the Rule in United States District Courts across the country. Many parties, but not NAM, filed “protective” petitions for review in various Courts of Appeals to preserve their challenges should their District Court lawsuits be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction under 1369(b). The circuit-court actions were consolidated and transferred to the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Meanwhile, the parallel actions in the District Courts continued. NAM intervened as a respondent in the Sixth Circuit and, along with several other parties, moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. The Government opposed those motions, arguing that the challenges must be brought first in the Court of Appeals because the WOTUS Rule fell within subparagraphs (E) and (F) of 1369(b)(1). The Sixth Circuit denied the motions to dismiss.

Held: Because the WOTUS Rule falls outside the ambit of 1369(b)(1), challenges to the Rule must be filed in federal district courts. Pp. 9–20.

(a) Neither subparagraph (E) nor subparagraph (F) of 1369(b)(1) grants courts of appeals exclusive jurisdiction to review the WOTUS Rule in the first instance. Pp. 9–17.

(1) Subparagraph (E) grants courts of appeals exclusive jurisdiction to review any EPA action “in approving or promulgating any effluent limitation or other limitation under section 1311, 1312, 1316, or 1345.” 33 U. S. C. 1369(b)(1)(E). The WOTUS Rule does not fall within that provision. To begin, the Rule is not an “effluent limitation,” which the Act defines as “any restriction . . . on quantities, rates, and concentrations” of certain pollutants “which are discharged from point sources into navigable waters.” 1362(11). The WOTUS Rule imposes no such restriction; instead, it announces a regulatory definition for a statutory term. Nor does the Rule fit within subparagraph (E)’s “other limitation” language. Congress’ use of the phrase “effluent limitation or other limitation” suggests that an “other limitation” must be similar in kind to an “effluent limitation”: that is, a limitation related to the discharge of pollutants. This natural reading is reinforced by subparagraph (E)’s cross-references to 1311, 1312, 1316, and 1345, which each impose restrictions on the discharge of certain pollutants. The statutory structure thus confirms that an “other limitation” must also be some type of restriction on the discharge of pollutants. Because the WOTUS Rule does no such thing, it falls outside the scope of subparagraph (E).

Even if the Government’s reading of “effluent limitation or other limitation” were accepted, however, the Rule still does not fall within subparagraph (E) because it is not a limitation promulgated or approved “under section 1311.” As subparagraph (E)’s statutory context makes clear, this phrase is most naturally read to mean that the effluent or other limitation must be approved or promulgated “pursuant to” or “by reason of the authority of” 1311. But the EPA did not promulgate or approve the WOTUS Rule under 1311, which neither directs nor authorizes the EPA to define a statutory phrase appearing elsewhere in the Act. Rather, the WOTUS Rule was promulgated or approved under 1361(a), which grants the EPA general rulemaking authority “to prescribe such regulations as are necessary to carry out [its] functions under” the Act.

The Government contends that the statutory language “under section 1311” poses no barrier to its reading of subparagraph (E) because the WOTUS Rule’s practical effect is to make 1311’s limitations applicable to the waters covered by the Rule. But the Government’s “practical effects” test is not grounded in the statute, renders other statutory language superfluous, and ignores Congress’ decision to grant courts of appeals exclusive jurisdiction only over seven enumerated types of EPA actions set forth in 1369(b)(1). Pp. 9–15.

(2) The Government fares no better under subparagraph (F), which grants courts of appeals exclusive and original jurisdiction to review any EPA action “in issuing or denying any permit under section 1342.” 1369(b)(1)(F). That provision does not cover the WOTUS Rule, which neither issues nor denies NPDES permits issued under 1342. Seeking to avoid that conclusion, the Government invokes this Court’s decision in Crown Simpson Pulp Co. v. Costle, 445 U. S. 193, and argues that the WOTUS Rule falls under subparagraph (F) because it is “functionally similar” to issuing or denying a permit. But that construction misconstrues Crown Simpson, is unmoored from the statutory text, and would create surplusage in other parts of the statute. Pp. 15–17.

(b) The Government’s policy arguments provide no basis to depart from the statute’s plain language. First, the Government contends that initial circuit-court review of the WOTUS Rule would avoid a bifurcated judicial-review scheme under which courts of appeals would review individual actions issuing or denying permits, whereas district courts would review broader regulations governing those actions. But, as explained, Congress has made clear that rules like the WOTUS Rule must be reviewed first in federal district courts. Crown Simpson, 445 U. S., at 197, distinguished. Moreover, the bifurcation that the Government bemoans is no more irrational than Congress’ choice to assign challenges to NPDES permits to circuit courts and challenges to 1344 permits to district courts, see 1369(b)(1)(E). And many of this Court’s recent decisions regarding the agencies’ application and definition of “waters of the United States” have originated in district courts, not the courts of appeals. Second, the Court acknowledges that, as the Government argues, routing WOTUS Rule challenges directly to the courts of appeals may improve judicial efficiency. But efficiency was not Congress’ only consideration. Had Congress wanted to prioritize efficiency, it could have authorized direct circuit-court review of all nationally applicable regulations, as it did under the Clean Air Act, instead of structuring judicial review as it did in 1369(b)(1). Third, the Government argues that initial review in the courts of appeals promotes the important goal of national uniformity with regard to broad regulations. Although that argument carries some logical force, Congress did not pursue that end at all costs. Finally, contrary to the Government’s contention, the presumption favoring court-of-appeals review of administrative action does not apply here, for the scope of subparagraphs (E) and (F) is set forth clearly in the statute. Florida Power & Light Co. v. Lorion, 470 U. S. 729, distinguished. Pp. 17–20.

817 F. 3d 261, reversed and remanded.

Sotomayor, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.


Certiorari To The District Of Columbia Court Of Appeals

No. 16-460. Argued November 1, 2017--Decided January 22, 2018

Federal district courts may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over state claims not otherwise within their adjudicatory authority if those claims are “part of the same case or controversy” as the federal claims the plaintiff asserts. 28 U. S. C. 1367(a). When a district court dismisses all claims independently qualifying for the exercise of federal jurisdiction, it ordinarily also dismisses all related state claims. See 1367(c)(3). Section 1367(d) provides that the “period of limitations for” refiling in state court a state claim so dismissed “shall be tolled while the claim is pending [in federal court] and for a period of 30 days after it is dismissed unless State law provides for a longer tolling period.”

When petitioner Artis filed a federal-court suit against respondent District of Columbia (District), alleging a federal employment-discrimination claim and three allied claims under D. C. law, nearly two years remained on the applicable statute of limitations for the D. C.-law violations. Two and a half years later, the Federal District Court ruled against Artis on her sole federal claim and dismissed the D. C.-law claims under 1367(c). Fifty-nine days after the dismissal, Artis refiled her state-law claims in the D. C. Superior Court, but that court dismissed them as time barred. The D. C. Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that 1367(d) accorded Artis only a 30-day grace period to refile in state court and rejecting her argument that the word “tolled” in 1367(d) means that the limitations period is suspended during the pendency of the federal suit.


1. Section 1367(d)’s instruction to “toll” a state limitations period means to hold it in abeyance, i.e., to stop the clock. Pp. 7–16.

(a) Statutes that shelter from time bars claims earlier commenced in another forum generally employ one of two means. First, the period of limitations may be “tolled,” i.e., suspended, while the claim is pending elsewhere; the time clock starts running again when the tolling period ends, picking up where it left off. A legislature may instead elect simply to provide a grace period, permitting the statute of limitations to run while the claim is pending in another forum and averting the risk of a time bar by according the plaintiff a fixed period in which to refile. The District has identified no federal statute in which a grace-period meaning has been ascribed to the word “tolled” or any word similarly rooted. And the one case in which this Court used tolling language to describe a grace period, see Hardin v. Straub, 490 U. S. 536, is a feather on the scale against the weight of decisions in which “tolling” a statute of limitations signals stopping the clock. Pp. 7–11.

(b) Considering first the ordinary meaning of the statutory language, 1367(d) is phrased as a tolling provision. It suspends the statute of limitations both while the claim is pending in federal court and for 30 days postdismissal. Artis’ interpretation is a natural fit with this language. The District, in contrast, reads “tolled” to mean to remove, temporarily, the bar that would ordinarily accompany the expiration of the limitations period. But the District offers no reason to home in only on the word “tolled” itself and ignore information about the verb’s ordinary meaning gained from its grammatical object, “period of limitations.” That object sheds light on what it means to “be tolled.” The District’s reading also tenders a strained interpretation of the phrase “period of limitations”; makes the first portion of the tolling period, the duration of the claim’s pendency in federal court, superfluous; and could yield an absurdity, permitting a plaintiff to refile in state court even if the limitations period on her claim had expired before she filed in federal court. Pp. 11–13.

(c) The D. C. Court of Appeals erred in concluding that Congress adopted an American Law Institute (ALI) recommendation to allow refiling in state court only for 30 days after a dismissal. The ALI provision, like 1367(d), established a 30-day federal floor on the time allowed for refiling, but it did not provide for tolling “while the [state] claim is pending” in federal court. Pp. 13–14.

(d) The 30-day provision casts no large shadow on Artis’ stop-the-clock interpretation. The provision accounts for cases in which a plaintiff commenced a federal action close to the expiration date of the relevant state statute of limitations, by giving such a plaintiff breathing space to refile in state court. Adding a brief span of days to the tolling period is not unusual in stop-the-clock statutes. See, e.g., 46 U. S. C. 53911. Section 1367(d)’s proviso “unless State law provides for a longer tolling period” could similarly aid a plaintiff who filed in federal court just short of the expiration of the state limitations period. Pp. 14–16.

2. The stop-the-clock interpretation of 1367(d) does not present a serious constitutional problem. In Jinks v. Richland County, 538 U. S. 456, the Court rejected an argument that 1367(d) impermissibly exceeds Congress’ authority under the Necessary and Proper Clause. Id., at 464–465. The District contends that a stop-the-clock prescription serves “no federal purpose” that could not be served by a grace-period prescription. But both devices are standard, off-the-shelf means of accounting for the fact that a claim was timely pressed in another forum. Requiring Congress to choose one over the other would impose a tighter constraint on Congress’ discretion than this Court has countenanced. A concern that a stop-the-clock prescription entails a greater imposition on the States than a grace-period prescription may also be more theoretical than real. Finally, a stop-the-clock rule like 1367(d) is suited to the primary purposes of limitations statutes: “ ‘preventing surprises’ ” to defendants and “ ‘barring a plaintiff who has slept on his rights.’ ” American Pipe & Constr. Co. v. Utah, 414 U. S. 538. Pp. 16–19.

135 A. 3d 334, reversed and remanded.

Ginsburg, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Gorsuch, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito, JJ., joined.