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Municipio Autonomo de Ponce v. United States OMB

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

December 22, 2015

MUNICIPIO AUTÓ NOMO DE PONCE; CENTRO DEAMBULANTES CRISTO POBRE, INC.; LUCHA CONTRA EL SIDA, INC.; INICIATIVA COMMUNITARIA, INC.; ITCIA HERNÁ NDEZ-LABOY; JORGE ORTIZ-TORRES; JOSÉ ALVAREZ-MEDINA; HOGAR CREA POSADA LA ESPERANZA, Plaintiffs, Appellees,
v.
UNITED STATES OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET; BRIAN DEESE, Acting Director, United States Office of Management and Budget; UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES; SYLVIA MATHEWS BURNWELL, Secretary, United States Department of Health and Human Services; UNITED STATES HEALTH RESOURCES AND SERVICES ADMINISTRATION; MARY WAKEFIELD, Administrator, Health Resources and Services Administration, Defendants, Appellants

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO. Hon. José Antonio Fusté , U.S. District Judge.

Jeffrey A. Clair, Attorney, Civil Division, Department of Justice, with whom Michael S. Raab, Attorney, Civil Division, Department of Justice, Benjamin C. Mizer, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division, Department of Justice, and Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney, were on brief, for appellants.

Edgar Hernández Sánchez, with whom Cancio, Nadal, Rivera & Dí az, P.S.C., was on brief, for appellees.

Before Kayatta, Stahl, and Barron, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 29

KAYATTA, Circuit Judge.

This lawsuit concerns the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act (" Ryan White Act" or the " Act" ), Pub. L. No. 101-381, 104 Stat. 576 (1990) (codified at 42 U.S.C. § 300ff et seq.). Under " Part A" of the Act, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (" HHS" ) disburses funding to combat HIV/AIDS infection in metropolitan areas that are home to more than a specified number of individuals who have AIDS. 42 U.S.C. § 300ff-11(a). This lawsuit arose because HHS recently determined that the Ponce metropolitan area no longer has enough AIDS cases to qualify for continued Part A funding. Joined by several community health groups, Ponce claims that HHS has unfairly drawn the boundaries of Ponce's metropolitan area too narrowly, and that the addition of three adjoining communities would raise the total number of AIDS cases enough to qualify for continued funding. Confronted with what it correctly recognized as largely unhelpful briefing by the parties, the district court agreed with Ponce in part and declared that the boundaries of the Ponce area were " unlawful as they now stand." Municipio Autónomo de Ponce v. U.S. Office of Mgmt. & Budget, 40 F.Supp.3d 222, 233 (D.P.R. 2014), reconsideration denied, No. 3:14-CV-01502 JAF, 2014 WL 4639896 (D.P.R. Sept. 16, 2014) (" Ponce" ). Because we agree with HHS that Congress can reasonably be said to have dictated that HHS use the boundaries that it uses in defining the Ponce metropolitan area, we reverse.[1]

I. BACKGROUND

The Act originally defined " metropolitan area" to be " an area referred to in the HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a metropolitan area." 42 U.S.C. § 300ff-17(2) (1992); see also id. § 300ff-19(d)(3) (explicitly adopting the § 300ff-17 definitions for the subsection relevant to Ponce). When Congress enacted this definition, the CDC used the Office of Management and Budget's (" OMB" ) delineations of geographical Metropolitan Statistical Areas (" MSAs" ) in its Surveillance Reports. See Ctr. Disease Control, Dept. Health & Human. Servs., HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report 21 (Jan. 1990). Accordingly, the practical effect of the manner in which Congress defined " metropolitan area" was to require HHS to use as its metropolitan areas under the Act the MSAs developed by OMB, unless and until CDC started using some other

Page 30

definition in its surveillance reports. And CDC has in fact continued to use OMB's MSAs in its surveillance reports. See, e.g., Ctr. Disease Control, Dept. Health & Human Servs., HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report 18 (July 1993) (hereinafter, " 1993 Surveillance Report" ); Ctr. Disease Control, Dept. Health & Human Servs., HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report 14 (2013).

For its own purposes, OMB has delineated the boundaries of MSAs (under various names) since the 1940s. See 2010 Standards for Delineating Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas, 75 Fed.Reg. 37,246, 37,246 (June 28, 2010) (hereinafter " 2010 MSA Standards" ). OMB's standards for arriving at the delineations and the MSAs themselves are published decennially in the Federal Register. See Revised Standards for Defining Metropolitan Areas in the 1990's, 55 Fed.Reg. 12154-01 (Mar. 30, 1990) (hereinafter, " 1990 MSA Standards" ). The delineations are issued according to OMB's general statutory mandate to " develop and oversee the implementation of Governmentwide [sic] policies, principles, standards, and guidelines concerning--(A) statistical collection procedures and methods; (B) statistical data classification; (C) statistical information presentation and dissemination; [etc.]." 44 U.S.C. § 3504(e)(3); see also 31 U.S.C. § 1104(d) (overlapping, similar statutory mandate).

OMB has made it clear that it developed the MSAs to be used " solely for statistical purposes" and they might not be suitable for allocating funding. 2010 MSA Standards at 37,246.[2] The CDC, though, does not make the Ryan White Act funding decisions. Nor did it " select" OMB's MSAs to be used for that purpose. The CDC uses the MSAs as they were intended: for the purpose of gathering statistics. It did so before and when the Act was enacted; and there is no hint in the Act at all that the CDC needed to set aside its own purposes in selecting how to define " metropolitan areas."

Under OMB's 1993 delineation used by CDC in its 1993 Report and, thus, used by HHS to award Part A grants in fiscal year 1994, Puerto Rico was divided into four " metropolitan areas" : the " Combined Metropolitan Area" of San Juan, which includes 38 of the island's 78 communities, and three other " Metropolitan Statistical Areas," one of which is comprised of Ponce and five other communities. As thus delineated, Ponce initially qualified as eligible to receive funding under the Act. In 1996, however, Congress raised the eligibility requirements,[3] enough so that Ponce's number of AIDS cases no longer rendered it eligible. Nevertheless, for a decade Ponce continued to receive funding as if it were eligible ...


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