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Hispanic Affairs Project v. Acosta

United States District Court, District of Columbia

July 7, 2017

HISPANIC AFFAIRS PROJECT, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ALEXANDER ACOSTA, in his official capacity as Secretary of U.S. Department of Labor, et al., [1] Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          BERYL A. HOWELL Chief Judge

         The Immigration and Nationality Act authorizes the issuance of temporary work visas, also known as H-2A visas, to foreign agricultural laborers. 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(15)(H)(ii)(a). This case concerns the special procedures and conditions under which American employers bring temporary foreign laborers into the United States to perform shepherding work. The plaintiffs, Rodolfo Llacua, a U.S. citizen originally from Peru, who labored as a shepherd in the United States on an H-2A visa from 1999 through 2011, and Hispanic Affairs Project ("HAP"), brought this lawsuit against the United States Department of Labor ("DOL"); the Secretary of Labor in his official capacity; DOL's Assistant Secretary, Employment and Training Administration, in her official capacity; the United States Department of Homeland Security ("DHS"); and the Secretary of DHS in his official capacity (collectively, "the government"); as well as the Western Range Association and the Mountain Plains Agricultural Service, which employ shepherds (collectively, "the association defendants").[2] The plaintiffs' claims against the government arising out of invalid Training and Employment Guidance Letters ("TEGLs") were previously dismissed, and the claims for back pay against the association defendants, predicated on the invalid TEGLs, were severed and transferred to the District of Colorado. See generally Order, ECF No. 82; Mem. Op., ECF No. 83.[3] Counts V, VI, and VII now remain, each of which challenges aspects of DOL's 2015 Rule, Temporary Agricultural Employment of H-2A Foreign Workers in the Herding or Production of Livestock on the Range in the United States ("Final Rule"), 80 Fed. Reg. 62, 958 (Oct. 16, 2015) (codified at 20 C.F.R. §§ 655.200-655.235), which supplanted the 2011 TEGLs. To be precise, the plaintiffs contend that the 2015 Rule "allows [H-2A] shepherds ... to: (1) conduct work on a permanent basis, (2) for a wage that falls to as low as $3 per hour, and (3) in accord with definitions contained in the Rule for 'range' and the type of work shepherds can perform that are illegally broad." Pls.' Mot. Summ. J. at 1, ECF No. 93. Each remaining Count challenges these same three aspects of the 2015 Rule under a different AP A subsection. Count V asserts three claims under § 706(2)(A) of the AP A, which prohibits arbitrary and capricious agency action. Compl. ¶¶ 111-12. Count VI asserts three claims under § 706(2)(C), which proscribes agency action in excess of the agency's statutory authority. Id. ¶¶ 113-14. Finally, Count VII alleges three claims under § 706(2)(D), which prohibits agency action taken "without observance of procedure required by law." Id. ¶¶ 115-16.[4]

         Pending before the Court are four motions, which became ripe on May 19, 2017, with the filing of the parties' Joint Appendix:[5] (1) the plaintiffs, the government defendants, and the association defendants have each moved for summary judgment, see generally Pls.' Mot. Summ. J.; Defs.' Opp'n Pls.' Mot. Summ. J. & Cross-Mot. Summ. J. ("Gov't's Cross-Mot. Summ. J."), ECF No. 101; Ass'n Defs.' Cross-Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 99, and (2) the government has moved to strike the exhibits attached to the plaintiffs' summary judgment motion, citing the long-standing principle that judicial review of agency action under the AP A must be limited to the administrative record. See generally Defs.' Mot. Strike Extra-Record Materials ("Gov't's Mot. Strike"), ECF No. 100. For the reasons set out below, the government's Motion to Strike is granted in part and denied in part; the plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment is denied in full; and the government's and intervenors' Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment are granted in full.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Much of the factual and regulatory background has been set out in prior opinions in this and related cases. See, e.g., Mendoza v. Perez, 754 F.3d 1002, 1007-10 (D.C. Cir. 2014); Hispanic Affairs Project v. Perez, 206 F.Supp.3d 348, 354-57 (D.D.C. 2016); Hispanic Affairs Project v. Perez, 141 F.Supp.3d 60, 63-66 (D.D.C. 2015). Thus, only a brief overview of the particular challenges at issue is necessary here.

         The H-2A visa program, established by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, 8 U.S.C. § 1101 et seq., and amended by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, Pub. L. 99-603, sec. 301, 100 Stat. 3359 (1986), allows employers to hire "an alien . .. having a residence in a foreign country which he has no intention of abandoning who is coming temporarily to the United States to perform agricultural labor or services ... of a temporary or seasonal nature." 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(15)(H)(ii)(a). As the government explains, "the admission of foreign workers pursuant to [the H-2A visa program] involves a multi-step process before three [f]ederal agencies." Defs.' Mem. Supp. Opp'n Pls.' Mot. Summ. J. & Cross-Mot. Summ. J. ("Gov't's Mem. Supp. Cross-Mot. Summ. J.") at 2, ECF No. 101-1. An employer seeking to hire H-2A workers must first obtain a "certification from [DOL] that (1) there are not sufficient qualified and willing U.S. workers to fill open positions and (2) hiring foreign workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers." Mendoza, 754 F.3d at 1007 (citing 8 U.S.C. § 1188(a)(1)). After securing the DOL certification, the employer must file an 1-129 Petition to Import a Nonimmigrant Worker ("1-129 Petition") with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS"), a component of DHS. See 8 U.S.C. § 1184(c)(1); see also United States v. Ramirez, 420 F.3d 134, 137 (2d Cir. 2005) (explaining that after engaging with DOL, an employer "then files with [DHS] a Form 1-129 Petition").[6] Upon approval of an 1-129 Petition, the foreign worker identified in that petition may apply for and obtain a visa at a Department of State consulate overseas. See Id. §§ 1184(c), 1225, 1182(a), 1221(h).[7]

         A. The Mendoza Litigation

         The H-2A visa program applies to a wide range of foreign agricultural workers hired for temporary work in the United States. Recognizing "[t]he unique occupational characteristics" of herders, who "spend[] extended periods of time with grazing herds of sheep in isolated mountainous terrain [and] being on call to protect flocks from predators 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, " DOL has long prescribed special rules for this class of agricultural workers. Training and Employment Guidance Letter No. 32-10: Special Procedures: Labor Certification Process for Employers Engaged in Sheepherding and Goatherding Occupations Under the H-2A Program ("2011 TEGL"), 76 Fed. Reg. 47, 256, 47, 256-57 (Aug. 4, 2011); see also Temporary Agricultural Employment of H-2 A Foreign Workers in the Herding or Production of Livestock on the Range in the United States ("NPRM"), 80 Fed. Reg. 20, 300, 20, 301 (proposed Apr. 15, 2015) (20 C.F.R. pt. 655). For many years, the special rules governing H-2A visas for herders were set out in Field Memoranda and Training and Guidance Employment Letters ("TEGLs"). See 2011 TEGL, 76 Fed. Reg. at 47, 257; NPRM, 80 Fed. Reg. at 20, 300, 20, 302. In a 2014 case challenging the procedural validity of the 2011 TEGLs, however, the D.C. Circuit held that "the Department of Labor violated the Administrative Procedure Act by promulgating [the TEGLs- one for sheep and goat herders and the other for open range production of other types of livestock] without providing public notice and an opportunity for comment." Mendoza, 754 F.3d at 1025. The D.C. Circuit remanded the case to this Court "to craft a remedy to the APA violation." Id. On remand, this Court ordered the government to publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking by March 1, 2014, and a final rule by November 1, 2015, and set the new rule's effective date as "30 days after the rule's publication or December 1, 2015, whichever is earlier." Mendoza v. Perez, 72 F. Supp. 3d 168, 175 (D.D.C. 2014). The 2011 TEGLs were ordered vacated as of the effective date of the new rule. Id.

         B. The 2015 Final Rule

         In accordance with a Court authorized extension, see Memorandum and Order at 5, Mendoza v. Perez, Civ. No. 11-1790 (BAH), ECF No. 61, on April 15, 2015, DOL issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking ("NPRM") in the Federal Register "proposing to amend its regulations governing certification of the employment of nonimmigrant workers in temporary or seasonal agricultural employment under the H-2A program to codify certain procedures for employers seeking to hire foreign temporary agricultural workers for job opportunities in sheepherding, goat herding and production of livestock on the open range." NPRM, 80 Fed. Reg. at 20, 300. After a comment period, DOL published the challenged Final Rule on October 16, 2015. See Final Rule, 80 Fed. Reg. at 62, 958.

         The plaintiffs advance three challenges to the Final Rule. First, the plaintiffs contend that the Final Rule effectively allows herders to work on a permanent basis because it does not restrict "the timing or frequency of renewals." Pls.' Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. at 6, ECF No. 93. Second, the plaintiffs assert that the Final Rule prescribes herder wages "that fall[] as low as $3 per hour, " Pls.' Mot. Summ. J. at 1, since the Final Rule, 20 C.F.R § 655.211(c)(1), specifies that the minimum wage applicable to H-2A shepherds, phased in over a two-year period, will be $7.25 per hour, multiplied by 48 hours per week, multiplied by 4.333 weeks per month, see Pls.' Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. at 2, 26-36. Finally, the plaintiffs argue that the Final Rule "create[s] an illegally expansive definition of 'range' .. . and has illegally broadened the scope of shepherd work, which now includes ever-more ranch-based work." Id. at 37. The plaintiffs maintain that these three aspects of the Final Rule violate the APA, 5 U.S.C. §§ 706(2)(A) (proscribing agency action that is "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law"), 706(2)(C) (proscribing agency action that is "in excess of statutory .. . authority"), and 706(2)(D) (proscribing agency action that is "without observance of procedure required by law").

         As relief, the plaintiffs seek a "declaratory judgment that DOL and DHS have violated the APA by adhering to the permanent work-visa, the subminimum wage, and shepherd-as-ranch-hand policies, " and "ask the Court to set aside and vacate the portions of the 2015 Rule that allow for these policies, which will have the effect of enjoining both DOL and DHS from authorizing H-2A visas to shepherds." Pls.'Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. at 40.[8]

II. LEGAL STANDARD

         In APA cases such as this one, involving cross-motions for summary judgment, "the district judge sits as an appellate tribunal. The 'entire case' on review is a question of law." Am. Bioscience, Inc. v. Thompson, 269 F.3d 1077, 1083 (D.C. Cir. 2001) (collecting cases). Thus, this Court need not and ought not engage in lengthy fact finding, since "[g]enerally speaking, district courts reviewing agency action under the APA's arbitrary and capricious standard do not resolve factual issues, but operate instead as appellate courts resolving legal questions." James Madison Ltd. by Hecht v. Ludwig, 82F.3d 1085, 1096 (D.C. Cir. 1996); see also Lacson v. U.S. Dep 't of Homeland S'ec, 726 F.3d 170, 171 (D.C. Cir. 2013) (noting, in an APA case, that "determining the facts is generally the agency's responsibility, not ours"). As a general rule, judicial review is limited to the administrative record, since "[i]t is black-letter administrative law that in an [Administrative Procedure Act] case, a reviewing court should have before it neither more nor less information than did the agency when it made its decision." CTS Corp. v. EPA, 759 F.3d 52, 64 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted; alteration in original); see also 5 U.S.C. § 706 ("[T]he Court shall review the whole record or those parts of it cited by a party"); Fla. Power & Light Co. v. Lorion, 470 U.S. 729, 743 (1985) (noting, when applying the arbitrary and capricious standard under the APA, that '"[t]he focal point for judicial review should be the administrative record already in existence ....'" (quoting Camp v. Pitts, 411 U.S. 138, 142 (1973))).

         Under the APA, a reviewing court must set aside a challenged agency action that is found to be, inter alia, "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law, " 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A); "in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations, or short of statutory right, " id. § 706(2)(C); or "without observance of procedure required by law, " id. § 706(2)(D); Otis Elevator Co. v. Sec'y of Labor, 762 F.3d 116, 120-21 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (citing Fabi Constr. Co. v. Sec'y of Labor, 370 F.3d 29, 33 (D.C. Cir. 2004)). The arbitrary or capricious provision, under subsection 706(2)(A), "is a catchall, picking up administrative misconduct not covered by the other more specific paragraphs" of the APA. Ass 'n of Data Processing Serv. Orgs., Inc. v. Bd. of Governors of Fed. Reserve Sys., 745 F.2d 677, 683 (D.C. Cir. 1984) (Scalia, J.).

         To pass arbitrary and capricious muster, "the agency must examine the relevant data and articulate a satisfactory explanation for its action including a rational connection between the facts found and the choice made." Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Ass 'n, Inc. v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. ("State Farm"), 463 U.S. 29, 43 (1983) (internal quotation marks omitted). As the D.C. Circuit has explained, a party challenging agency action as arbitrary and capricious "must show the agency action is not a product of reasoned decisionmaking." Van Hollen, Jr. v. FEC, 811 F.3d 486, 495 (D.C. Cir. 2016). "This is 'a heavy burden, ' since State Farm entails a 'very deferential scope of review' that forbids a court from 'substitut[ing] its judgment for that of the agency.'" Id. (citing Transmission Access Policy Study Grp. v. FERC, 225 F.3d 667, 714 (D.C. Cir. 2000)); see also Judulang v. Holder, 565 U.S. 42, 52-53 (2011) (same); Fogo De Chao (Holdings) Inc. v. U.S. Dep't of Homeland Sec., 169 F.3d 1127, 1135 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (same); Agape Church, Inc. v. FCC, 738 F.3d 397, 408 (D.C. Cir. 2013) (same). When "an agency has acted in an area in which it has 'special expertise, ' the court must be particularly deferential to [the agency's] determinations." Sara Lee Corp. v. Am. Bakers Ass 'n Ret. Plan, 512 F.Supp.2d 32, 37 (D.D.C. 2007) (quoting Bldg. & Constr. Trades Dep't AFL-CIO v. Brock, 838 F.2d 1258, 1266 (D.C. Cir. 1988)). That said, "courts retain a role, and an important one, in ensuring that agencies have engaged in reasoned decisionmaking." Judulang, 565 U.S. at 53. Simply put, "the agency must explain why it decided to act as it did." Butte Cty. v. Hogen, 613 F.3d 190, 194 (D.C. Cir. 2010).

         The D.C. Circuit has summarized the circumstances under which an agency action would normally be "arbitrary and capricious" to include "if the agency has relied on factors which Congress has not intended it to consider, entirely failed to consider an important aspect of the problem, offered an explanation for its decision that runs counter to the evidence before the agency, or is so implausible that it could not be ascribed to a difference in view or the product of agency expertise." Pharm. Research & Mfrs. of Am. v. FTC, 790 F.3d 198, 209 (D.C. Cir. 2015). Thus, when an agency '"fail[s] to provide a reasoned explanation, or where the record belies the agency's conclusion, [the court] must undo its action.'" Cty. of Los Angeles v. Shalala, 192 F.3d 1005, 1021 (D.C. Cir. 1999) (quoting BellSouth Corp. v. FCC, 162 F.3d 1215, 1222 (D.C. Cir. 1999)); see Select Specialty Hosp.-Bloomington, Inc. v. Burwell, 757 F.3d 308, 312 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (noting that when '"an agency's failure to state its reasoning or to adopt an intelligible decisional standard is [ ] glaring [ ] we can declare with confidence that the agency action was arbitrary and capricious'" (quoting Checkosky v. SEC, 23 F.3d 452, 463 (D.C. Cir. 1994))); Amerijet Int'l, Inc. v. Pistole, 753 F.3d 1343, 1350 (D.C. Cir. 2014) ("[A] fundamental requirement of administrative law is that an agency set forth its reasons for decision; an agency's failure to do so constitutes arbitrary and capricious agency action." (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)). "[C]onclusory statements will not do; an agency's statement must be one of reasoning.'" Amerijet lnt'l Inc., 753 F.3dat 1350 (internal quotation marks omitted; emphasis in original).

         III. DISCUSSION

         The parties' cross-motions for summary judgment are addressed after considering the government's motion to strike exhibits appended to the plaintiffs' motion.

         A. The Government's Motion to Strike

         The plaintiffs attached eighteen exhibits to their motion for summary judgment, see generally Pls.' Mot. Summ. J., Exs. A-R, ECF Nos. 93-1 to 93-18, sixteen of which were not submitted to, or otherwise considered by, DOL during its notice-and-comment rulemaking and are consequently not part of the administrative record. The government seeks to strike those sixteen exhibits, [9] arguing that "judicial review of agency action, except in rare circumstances . .., is limited to the administrative record." Gov't's Mot. Strike at 3; see also Id. at 6 (arguing that "the problem of which [the plaintiffs] complain is .. . one of their own making" because they did not present these exhibits to DOL during the rulemaking process). The government points out that the plaintiffs "file[d] extra-record materials contemporaneously with their summary judgment brief, " without first seeking leave of court. Id. at 4. This, in turn, "places the burden on [the government] to move to strike, . . . [and] leaves some uncertainty about the documents and arguments to which [the government] must respond." Id. at 4. The government's points are well taken, since, as another Judge on this Court has observed, "[a]sking the Court for permission to consider additional materials on the very day on which the dispositive motions are filed is simply too late. Doing so meant that Plaintiffs precluded Defendant from effectively objecting to the inclusion of these materials before Plaintiffs relied on them in their briefing." Banner Health v. Burwell, 126 F.Supp.3d 28, 60 (D.D.C. 2015). Due to this awkward procedural posture, the government requests an opportunity to file supplemental briefing in the event that any of the plaintiffs' exhibits are accepted for review. See Gov't's Mot. Strike at 7. The plaintiffs, on the other hand, maintain that "[their] submission of these [exhibits] should not delay a decision in this case." Pls.' Opp'n Mot. Strike at 10, ECF No. 108. Thus, a determination as to whether the exhibits attached to the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment is necessary. See CTS Corp., 159 F.3d at 64 (observing that the plaintiff "did not even move to supplement the record" and instead "simply attached. .. new evidence to its brief but nevertheless addressing whether supplementation would be appropriate).

         1. Standards Governing Supplementation and Extra-Record Evidence

         Under the APA, "the court shall review the whole record or those parts of it cited by a party." 5 U.S.C. § 706; accord, e.g., Hill Dermaceuticals, Inc. v. FDA, 709 F.3d 44, 47 (D.C. Cir. 2013) ("[I]t is black-letter administrative law that in an AP A case, a reviewing court 'should have before it neither more nor less information than did the agency when it made its decision.'" (quoting Walter O. Boswell Mem'l Hosp. v. Heckler, 749 F.2d 788, 792 (D.C. Cir. 1984)). "The administrative record includes all materials compiled by the agency . .. that were before the agency at the time the decision was made." James Madison Ltd. by Hecht, 82 F.3d at 1095 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Otherwise, the reviewing court would consider de novo material not included in the agency record and "reach its own conclusions based on such an inquiry, " Fla. Power & Light Co. v. Lorion, 470 U.S. 729, 744 (1985), which is inconsistent with AP A standards of review, under which "the focal point for judicial review should be the administrative record already in existence, not some new record made initially in the reviewing court, " Camp, 411 U.S. at 142.

         Supplementation of the administrative record is appropriate only in exceptional or "unusual" circumstances. City of Dania Beach v. FAA, 628 F.3d 581, 590 (D.C. Cir. 2010) ("[W]e do not allow parties to supplement the record 'unless they can demonstrate unusual circumstances justifying a departure from this general rule.'" (quoting Tex. Rural Legal Aid v. Legal Servs. Corp., 940 F.2d 685, 698 (D.C. Cir. 1991))). The D.C. Circuit has recognized three narrow instances in which supplementation of an administrative record may be appropriate before reaching the merits of an AP A challenge to agency action: "(1) if the agency 'deliberately or negligently excluded documents that may have been adverse to its decision, ' (2) if background information was needed 'to determine whether the agency considered all the relevant factors, ' or (3) if the 'agency failed to explain administrative action so as to frustrate judicial review.'" City of Dania Beach, 628 F.3d at 590 (quoting Am. Wildlands v. Kempthorne, 530 F.3d 991, 1002 (D.C. Cir. 2008)). Underlying these exceptions, however, is the "strong presumption" that an agency has properly compiled the entire record of materials that it considered, either directly or indirectly, in making its decision. Dist. Hosp. Partners, L.P. v. Sebelius, 971 F.Supp.2d 15, 20 (D.D.C. 2013) (quoting Pac. Shores Subdiv., Cal. Water Dist. v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng'rs, 448 F.Supp.2d 1, 5 (D.D.C. 2006)), affirmed sub nom. Dist. Hosp. Partners, L.P. v. Burwell, 786 F.3d 46 (D.C. Cir. 2015); accord United States v. Chem. Found., Inc., 212 U.S. 1, 14-15 (1926) ("In the absence of clear evidence to the contrary, courts presume that [public officers] have properly discharged their official duties."); Bar MK Ranches v. Yuetter, 994 F.2d 735, 740 (10th Cir. 1993) ("[T]he designation of the Administrative Record, like any established administrative procedure, is entitled to a presumption of administrative regularity.").

         "In addition to supplementing administrative records with material that an agency considered but failed to include, courts have in certain circumstances departed from the general rule of limiting judicial review to the administrative record and permitted the introduction of extra-record information." Safari Club Int'l v. Jewell, 111 F.Supp.3d 1, 5 (D.D.C. 2015). In a case involving a "serious question" about "the procedural validity" of the challenged agency action, the D.C. Circuit identified eight circumstances in which consideration of extra-record evidence may be appropriate. Esch v. Yeutter, 876 F.2d 976, 991 (D.C. Cir. 1989).[10] More recently, however, the D.C. Circuit has cautioned that the exceptions announced in Esch are "narrow" and that, "at most [Esch] may be invoked to challenge gross procedural deficiencies- such as where the administrative record itself is so deficient as to preclude effective review." Hill Dermaceuticals, Inc., 709 F.3d at 47 (citing Theodore Roosevelt Conservation P 'ship v. Salazar, 616 F.3d497, 514 (D.C. Cir. 2010) ("The APA limits judicial review to the administrative record except when there has been a strong showing of bad faith or improper behavior or when the record is so bare that it prevents effective judicial review.") (internal quotations omitted))); see also Axiom Res. Mgmt. v. United States, 564 F.3d 1374, 1380-81 (Fed. Cir. 2009) (rejecting Esch because (1) the Esch exceptions originated in a law review article that predated the Supreme Court's decision in Florida Power & Light Company, (2) the Esch exceptions "are so broadly-worded as to risk being incompatible with the limited nature of arbitrary and capricious review, particularly if construed to allow the introduction of new evidence or theories not presented to the deciding agency, " and (3) "Esch's vitality even within the D.C. Circuit is questionable in light of more recent opinions by that court which demonstrate a more restrictive approach to extra-record evidence" (internal quotation marks and citations omitted)).

         Here, the plaintiffs do not take issue with the general proposition that a court reviewing an agency's action under § 706 of the APA is limited to the administrative record. Instead, the plaintiffs respond that "most of the materials in question are offered not to supplement the record but rather for a different, permissible purpose-namely: (1) to establish standing [Exhibits B, C, J, K, and L], (2) as records subject to judicial notice offered for demonstrative purposes [Exhibits G, H, Q, and R], (3) as quasi-judicial authorities binding on DHS [Exhibits M and N], and (4) as a streamlined compendium of materials actually in the administrative record [Exhibit E]." Pls.' Opp'n Mot. Strike at 1. The plaintiffs concede that four exhibits were submitted as extra-record material-Exhibits D, F, I, and P-but that supplementation is "permissible .. . because of the [government's failure to consider issues that it was duty-bound to consider in the 2015 Rule." Id. Each group of exhibits and the associated justification asserted by the plaintiffs is addressed in turn.

         2. Exhibits B, C, J, K, and L

         Exhibits B, C, J, K, and L are offered to help establish the plaintiffs' standing. Those exhibits are, respectively, declarations by (1) Ricardo Perez, the Executive Director of HAP; (2) former plaintiff John Doe; (3) plaintiff Rodolfo Llacua; (4) Magdaleno Diaz, a member of HAP; and (5) Fidel Medina, also a HAP member. See generally Pls.' Mot. Summ. J., Ex. B, Decl. of Ricardo Perez, ECF No. 93-2; id., Ex. C, Decl. of John Doe, ECF No. 93-3; id., Ex. J, Decl. of Rodolfo Llacua, ECF No. 93-10; id, Ex. K, Decl. of Magdaleno Diaz, ECF No. 93-11; id., Ex. L, Decl. of Fidel Medina, ECF No. 93-12. The plaintiffs are correct to point out that they may introduce extra-record evidence to establish their standing, and that the Court may rely on that evidence in evaluating whether standing exists. See Sierra Club v. EPA, 292 F.3d 895, 899 (D.C. Cir. 2002) (citing Amfac Resorts, LLC v. Dep 't of Interior, 282 F.3d 818, 830 (D.C. Cir. 2002) ("[The petitioners] are not confined to the administrative record. .. . Beyond the pleading stage, they must support their claim of injury with evidence.")); accord, e.g., Mass. v. EPA, 415 F.3d 50, 55 (D.C. Cir. 2005) ("[T]o establish standing, a petitioner challenging agency action has the same burden of production as a plaintiff moving for summary judgment in the district court: it must support each element of its claim to standing by affidavit or other evidence." (internal quotation marks omitted)), rev 'd on other grounds, 549 U.S. 497 (2007); Chesapeake Climate Action Network v. Export-Import Bank of the U.S., 78 F. Supp. 3d 208, 217 (D.D.C. 2015) ("Although judicial review of agency action is typically confined to the administrative record, where there is not sufficient evidence of standing in the record because the question was not before the agency, plaintiffs may submit extra-record evidence to establish standing."); Otay Mesa Prop., L.P. v. U.S. Dep't of Interior, 144 F.Supp.3d 35, 57 (D.D.C. 2015) ("[E]ven if [the plaintiff's] standing in this matter was not evident from the administrative record, [the plaintiff] has clearly cured any evidence-related deficiency by submitting a declaration ....").

         Critically, however, the topics addressed in the relevant declarations here exceed the scope of any standing inquiry, see, e.g., Perez Decl. ¶9 (explaining that HAP members have communicated to HAP that they "are generally paid the monthly salary of $1206.33 per month and that they work on a permanent basis in this country pursuant to continually renewed H-2A contracts that last around three years"), and the plaintiffs' summary judgment brief cites those declarations principally for purposes other than establishing standing, see, e.g., Pls.' Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. at 5 n.4, 6 n.5, 23, 40. The plaintiffs may not smuggle in extra-record evidence relevant to the merits of this AP A action by contending that the evidence pertains to standing, particularly where standing was previously addressed in detail at the motion to dismiss stage and is no longer at issue.[11] Accordingly, the Court will disregard Exhibits B, C, J, K, and L, as well as the arguments predicated on those exhibits.

         3. Exhibits G, H, Q, and R

         The plaintiffs next argue that the Court may take judicial notice of Exhibits G, H, Q, and R, which are "labor certifications accessible through the Department of Labor's website." Pls.' Opp'n Mot. Strike at 3. More precisely, Exhibit G is an H-2A application for DOL certification for harvesters, and Exhibits H, Q, and R are similar applications for shepherds. The plaintiffs cite Exhibits G and H in their summary judgment brief to argue that "[t]he lack of a temporary or seasonal need for H-2A shepherds stands in striking contrast to typical H-2A workers." Pls.' Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. at 8. The plaintiffs use Exhibits Q and R (H-2A applications for shepherds in Hawaii and on the border of Alabama and Florida, respectively) to contend that "the broader new definitions of 'range' and 'shepherd' now employed by DOL allow for a race to the bottom for all workers that could be classified as 'shepherds' and be paid the H-2A shepherd minimum of $3 per hour." Id. at 35.

         The plaintiffs' position that the Court may take judicial notice of documents on an agency's website does not find support in the caselaw. To the contrary, to take judicial notice in a § 706 APA case, the materials must still come within one of the judicially delineated exceptions to the rule against supplementation and consideration of extra-record documents. See Riffin v. Surface Transp. Bd., Civ. No. 16-1147, 2016 WL 6915552, *1 (D.C. Cir. Oct. 6, 2016) (unpublished) (summarily rejecting a plaintiff's effort to supplement the administrative record via judicial notice, with an application filed with the agency, explaining that none of the three exceptions to the rule against supplementation obtained); Banner Health, 126 F.Supp.3d at 61 ("Insofar as Plaintiffs seek to base their challenge upon these extra-record materials, even those available to the public of which the Court could take judicial notice, the Court concludes that it is necessary to apply the standard for considering extra-record evidence."); Dist. Hosp. Partners, L.P. v. Sebelius, 971 F.Supp.2d 15, 32 n.14 (D.D.C. 2013) ("[T]aking judicial notice is typically an inadequate mechanism for a court to consider extra-record evidence when reviewing an agency action. . .. [A] court may only consider an adjudicative fact subject to judicial notice that is not part of the administrative record if it qualifies for supplementation as extra-record evidence under Esch." (emphasis in original)), aff'd sub nom. Dist. Hosp. Partners, L.P. v. Burwell, 786 F.3d 46 (D.C. Cir. 2015); Silver State Land, LLC v. Beaudreau, 59 F.Supp.3d 158, 172 (D.D.C. 2014) (same).[12] The plaintiffs here make no effort to argue that evaluation of Exhibits G, H, Q, and R is proper under the narrow exceptions to the general rule forbidding supplementation of the administrative record or extra-record review of materials. Accordingly, the Court will not take judicial notice of those exhibits and will not consider them in evaluating the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment.

         4.Exhibits M and N

         The plaintiffs argue that Exhibits M and N may properly be considered as "quasi-judicial authorities" because they are memoranda prepared by the Office of Legal Counsel ("OLC") within the Department of Justice. Pls.' Opp'n Mot. Strike at l.[13] Exhibit M is an OLC memorandum entitled "Meaning of 'Temporary' Work Under 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(15)(H)(ii)(b) [i.e., the H-2B visa provision[14]" and was prepared in 2008 for the acting general counsel of DHS. Pls.' Mot. Summ. J., Ex. M at 1, ECF No. 93-13. This 2008 OLC memorandum discussed USCIS's proposed rule that "employment is of a temporary nature" for purposes of H-2B visas "when the employer needs a worker for a limited period of time, " generally one year or less, but not to exceed three years, and concluded the proposed rule is "based on a permissible reading of the statute." Id. at 1-2. Exhibit N is an OLC memorandum entitled "Temporary Workers Under § 301 of the Immigration Reform and Control Act, " which was prepared over 20 years earlier than Exhibit M, in 1987, for the Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Pls.' Mot. Summ. J., Ex. N at 1, ECF No. 93-14. This 1987 OLC memorandum concluded that "temporary work refers to any job where the employer's need for the employee is temporary, regardless of whether the underlying job can be described as permanent or temporary, " id., and that "the basic rule for H2 petitions is that a 'temporary' job means one for a year or less, " id. at 3. The plaintiffs argue that the two OLC memoranda were pertinent to the DOL's rulemaking in this case and maintain that "it is unclear how the OLC opinions to DHS are not the equivalent of judicial authority from this circuit and should not be accorded precedential weight from DHS (and DOJ)." Pls.' Opp'n Mot. Strike at4.[15]Essentially, the plaintiffs seek to piggyback on the legal reasoning set out in the OLC memoranda, and would prefer to cite the memoranda as authority rather than claim the legal analysis as their own. See Pls.' Opp'n Mot. Strike at 4 ("Plaintiffs would have been happy to have copied and pasted without attribution the same arguments on 'temporary' into the MSJ, but giving OLC the attribution and paraphrasing good arguments that Defendants are desperate to ignore seemed the more appropriate course.").

         The government argues that the Court should not consider the two OLC memoranda because neither was prepared for DOL, and one "discusses 'temporary' for purposes of the H-2B nonimmigrant classification for n on agricultural labor or services, not the H-2A nonimmigrant classification for agricultural work at issue in this case." Gov't's Reply Supp. Mot. Strike at 9. While the government's differentiation between the OLC memoranda and the 2015 rulemaking are correct, these distinctions go to the weight or force of the memoranda rather than whether they should be considered at all. The plaintiffs are correct to point out that such memoranda are akin to legal authority for an agency engaging in rulemaking on a related subject and therefore may now be considered by the Court, even if the agency elected not to consider such materials. See Carlton v. Babbitt, 26 F.Supp.2d 102, 107 (D.D.C 1998) (considering documents not previously considered by the agency "[b]ecause all of these documents were publicly available at the time the [agency] compiled its . .. statistics, and all but two were official records from court proceedings . .. ."). Indeed, the agency's non-consideration of the OLC memoranda-whether deliberate or inadvertent-is all the more reason to consider them in reviewing the agency's action. A contrary result would permit agencies to toss aside OLC memoranda that contain legal conclusions contrary to the agency's preferred policy choices. See Arthur H. Garrison, The Opinions by the Attorney General and the Office of Legal Counsel: How and Why They Are Significant, 16 Alb. L. Rev. 217, 238 (2013) ("The exclusive authority held by the OLC to determine the interpretation of the law for the executive branch is based on the authority historically and statutorily bestowed upon the Attorney General-'because the Attorney General's opinions are treated as final and conclusive they necessarily become the executive branch interpretation of the law.'" (quoting Randolph D. Moss, Executive Branch Legal Interpretation: A Perspective from the Office of Legal Counsel, 52 Admin. L. Rev. 1303, 1321 (2000)). Accordingly, it would be appropriate for the Court to account for Exhibits M and N in addressing the pending motions for summary judgment.[16] As explained below, however, the Court ultimately does not reach the merits of the plaintiffs' argument that the 2015 Rule enables H-2A shepherds to work in non-temporary positions, and, thus, Exhibits M and N have no practical effect in this case.

         5. Exhibit E

         The plaintiffs contend that Exhibit E is properly before the Court because it is "mainly a compilation of authorities from the administrative record." Pls.' Opp'n Mot. Strike at 4. Exhibit E is a 39-page document that begins with a 3-page cover memorandum prepared by the plaintiffs' counsel entitled "Additional Authorities, " which provides an overview of the materials that follow and explains how they relate to the arguments advanced in the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. See Pls.' Mot. Summ. J., Ex. E at 2-4, ECF No. 93-5. The cover memorandum states that the balance of Exhibit E "provide[s] additional authorities mainly from a selection of the approximately five-hundred comments submitted as part of the administrative record" during the rulemaking underlying this case. Id. at 2. The government does not take issue with judicial consideration of the vast majority of the material comprising Exhibit E but instead notes that "the memorandum and two newspaper articles that it cites" must be ignored. Gov't's Reply Supp. Mot. Strike at 10 (emphasizing that the plaintiffs "cannot rely on evidence or argument that was not before DOL during the rulemaking process"). The Court agrees and will not consider the cover memorandum or the two referenced news articles as evidence but will otherwise consult the materials in Exhibit E, which even the government acknowledges are part of the extant administrative record.

         6. Exhibits D, F, I, and P

         Finally, the government has moved to strike Exhibits D, F, I, and P. Exhibit D is a declaration by Ignacio Alvarado, a HAP member, who worked as a shepherd for 15 years, both in Chile and in Colorado. See Pls.' Mot. Summ. J., Ex. D, Decl. of Ignacio Alvarado ("Alvarado Decl.")¶¶ 1-2, ECF No. 93-4; see also Pls.' Opp'n Mot. Strike at 8 (describing Mr. Alvarado as "an expert on H-2A shepherds"). Mr. Alvarado's declaration addresses the different types of work that shepherds perform during discrete herding seasons and states that "[t]he work of an H-2A shepherd lasts through these different seasons and normally for many years, " and that "the custom with the shepherds ... is that they work for three-year contracts, return home for a brief period of time, and begin another three-year contract." Alvarado Decl. ¶ 35. Exhibit F is a notice published on February 12, 2014, on the intervenor-defendant WRA's website. See Pls.' Mot. Summ. J., Ex. F, WRA Membership Notice at 1, ECF No. 93-6. The notice states that members "should be aware that one of our assurances to the Department of Labor is that travel for each herder, to and from their home country, is provided" and that WRA "purchases these tickets and prorates the cost thereof over 36 months (the maximum time a man could stay)." Id. at 1. The plaintiffs cite this notice as evidencing a quasi-permanent work policy. Exhibit I reflects DOL wage data for lambers, which the plaintiffs use to argue that "the new definition of 'shepherd' completely envelopes any separate work performed by a 'lamber.'" Pls.' Opp'n Mot. Strike at 8. Finally, Exhibit Pls a declaration by the plaintiffs' attorney, which analyzes a 2014 "data set providing information across a number of fields about each H-2A Visa Certification, " which he downloaded from DOL's website. Pls.' Mot. Summ. J., Ex. P, Decl. of Dermot Lynch ¶¶ 2-3, ECF No. 93-16.

         The plaintiffs contend that Exhibits D, F, I, and P are offered to "supplement or clarify the record" because DOL and DHS ignored relevant evidence in crafting the Final Rule and in "rubber stamping visa petitions, " respectively. Pls.' Opp'n Mot. Strike at 5 ("[T]he [g]overnment, including in its rulemaking (and in this litigation), takes a stance on some of the problems with the 2015 Rule and in rubber stamping visa petitions that amounts to 'see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil' about the reality of H-2A shepherd work."); see also Id. at 6 ("[I]t is permissible to supplement the record on review of an agency action, 'when the agency failed to consider factors which are relevant to its final decision.'" (quoting Esch, 876 F.2d at 991)). Although the plaintiffs use the word "supplement, " they seem to argue in substance that the exhibits are properly before the Court as extra-record evidence because the agencies should have, but did not, consider these documents. See Safari Club Int'l, 111 F.Supp.3d at 4 ("Supplementing the administrative record in an APA case means adding material to the volume of documents the agency considered, while admitting extra-record evidence means adding material outside of or in addition to the administrative record that was not necessarily considered by the agency."); see also Silver State Land, LLC, 59 F.Supp.3d at 165, 170 (distinguishing between "supplementation of the administrative record" and "extra-record review"). As such, the plaintiffs must make "a strong showing of bad faith or improper behavior" or show that "the record is so bare that it prevents effective judicial review." Theodore Roosevelt Conservation P'ship, 616 F.3d at 514.

         With respect to Exhibit D, the declaration by Mr. Alvarado, and Exhibit F, the notice issued on WRA's website, there is no basis to conclude that the agency deliberately ignored these documents in engaging in rulemaking-indeed, Mr. Alvarado's declaration was prepared over one year after the rulemaking was completed as part of this litigation. Nor do Exhibits D and F add to the extant record in any meaningful way, since record evidence, cited by the plaintiffs, indicates that H-2A shepherds tend to stay as long as an H-2A visa allows, for more than one season, and return many times working for the same rancher for up to twenty years. See Pls.' Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. at 7 n.5 (citing Exhibits D and F, as well as the Federal Register, as indicating that the same shepherds are reemployed over time). Accordingly, Exhibits D and F will not be considered. See Safari Club Int'l, 111 F.Supp.3d at 7 ("Plaintiffs have not met the requirements for admitting the email as extra-record evidence [because] [t]hey do not allege bad faith nor improper behavior by the agency, and the Court finds that this email is not necessary to make judicial review effective in this case."). Regarding Exhibit I, which discloses lamber wages, the plaintiffs present no reason to believe that this document was overlooked in bad faith by the agency. Further, as with Exhibits D and F, Exhibit I does not meaningfully add to the plaintiffs' argument and evidence that DOL's wage determination for H-2A shepherds is unlawful. See Pls.' Mot. Summ. J. at 9-11. Thus, Exhibit I will not be considered.

         Exhibit P is a declaration by the plaintiffs' attorney, Mr. Lynch, which analyzes data culled from employers' Form ETA-9142A filings, which H-2A employers submit to DOL to obtain a certification allowing them to hire H-2A workers. Lynch Decl. ¶ 2; Final Rule, 80 Fed. Reg. at 62, 974. This is the same data set relied on by attorney and commenter Edward Tuddenham to conclude that herders work, on average, 48 hours per week. See Oct. 30, 2014 Letter from Edward Tuddenham to DOL Acting Deputy Associate Solicitor, AR at 264-68. DOL "relied upon" the data underlying Mr. Tuddenham's comment "in reasoning that H-2A shepherds work an average of 48 hours per week." Lynch Decl. ¶ 2; see also Final Rule, 80 Fed. Reg. at 62, 995-96 (citing data submitted by employers in "Form ETA-9142A filings" as justifying the 48-hour workweek). In his declaration, Mr. Lynch concludes that defendant-intervenor WRA "always says shepherds work 40 hours a week" in its Form ETA-9142A filings and MP AS "always says that H-2A shepherds work 60 hours a week" in its filings. Lynch Decl. ¶ 8. Particularly because the agency did not set out the data set Mr. Tuddenham relied upon, Mr. Lynch's declaration is helpful to understanding whether reliance on that data set-as opposed to other sources, as urged by some commenters during the rulemaking process-was appropriate. Cf. Izaak Walton League of Am. v. Marsh, 655 F.2d 346, 368 (D.C. Cir. 1981) ("Appellants are clearly correct in suggesting that the administrative record must disclose the studies and data used in compiling environmental impact statements."). As such, Mr. Lynch's declaration-and the data set it cites-is properly before the Court. The declaration helps effectuate judicial review in pointing out potential flaws in the data relied upon by the agency, at least indirectly, in setting a 48-hour work week. Cf. Western Watersheds Project v. U.S. Forest Serv., Civ. No. 05-189, 2006 WL 292010 (BLW), *4 (D. Idaho Feb. 7, 2006) (unpublished) (relying on an extra-record declaration analyzing a data set utilized by the agency where the agency did not include the data in the certified administrative record and "d[id] not quarrel" with the analysis set out in the declaration); Friends of the Earth v. Hall, 693 F.Supp. 904, 921 (W.D. Wash. 1988) ("[T]he extra-record evidence explains the data and factors on which the Navy and the Corps relied, and thus can be relied upon by the court.").[17]

         In sum, Exhibits A, M, N, O, and P, as well as Exhibit E, except for the cover memo, attached to the plaintiffs' summary judgment motion are properly before the Court. All other exhibits will be disregarded.[18]

         B. The Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment

         The plaintiffs argue that three aspects of the Final Rule violate the APA. These three challenges are taken up seriatim.

         1. The "Permanent Work-Vis ...


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