Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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The State of New Mexico sued the Department of the Interior (“DOI”) to challenge its authority to promulgate the regulations found at 25 C.F.R. 291 et seq. (“Part 291”). The challenged regulations concerned the process under which Indian tribes and states negotiate compacts to allow gaming on Indian lands. Congress established in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (“IGRA”). The Supreme Court would later decide, however, Congress lacked the authority to make states subject to suit by Indian tribes in federal court. However, the Court left intact the bulk of IGRA, and Congress has not amended it in the intervening years. As relevant here, the Part 291 process was implicated after the Pueblo of Pojoaque tribe sued New Mexico under IGRA and the State asserted sovereign immunity. Following the dismissal of the case on sovereign-immunity grounds, the Pojoaque asked the Secretary to prescribe gaming procedures pursuant to Part 291. Before the Secretary did so, New Mexico filed the underlying suit, seeking a declaration that the Part 291 regulations were not a valid exercise of the Secretary’s authority. The Pojoaque intervened. The district court granted New Mexico’s motion for summary judgment and denied that of DOI, holding that the Part 291 regulations were invalid and barred the Secretary from taking any further action on the Pojoaque’s request for the issuance of gaming procedures under them. DOI and the Pojoaque appealed that order, challenging the State’s standing, the ripeness of the dispute, and the district court’s holding that Part 291 was an invalid exercise of the Secretary’s authority. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "New Mexico v. Dept. of the Interior" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-Appellants, a certified class of Osage tribal members who owned headrights, appealed the district court’s accounting order. Plaintiffs alleged that the government was improperly distributing royalties to non-Osage tribal members, which diluted the royalties for the Osage tribal members, the rightful headright owners. The complaint attributed this misdistribution to the government’s mismanagement of the trust assets and the government’s failure to perform an accounting. Thus, Plaintiffs sought to compel the government to perform an accounting and to prospectively restrict royalty payments to Osage tribal members and their heirs. The district court dismissed Plaintiffs’ accounting claim because it found that the applicable statute only required the government to account for deposits, not withdrawals, and that such an accounting would not support Plaintiffs’ misdistribution claim. After review, the Tenth Circuit could not say the district court abused its discretion. "The accounting the district court fashioned will certainly inform Plaintiffs of the trust receipts and disbursements and to whom those disbursements were made." View "Fletcher v. United States" on Justia Law

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State employee Shirley Shea suffered from chronic pain and has been unable to work. She applied for occupational disability benefits, claiming that prolonged sitting at work aggravated a preexisting medical condition. The Division of Retirement and Benefits denied the claim. An administrative law judge affirmed that decision, determining that employment was not a substantial factor in causing Shea's disability. On appeal, the superior court reversed the administrative law judge’s decision. Because the administrative law judge’s decision was supported by substantial evidence, the Alaska Supreme Court reversed the superior court’s decision and affirmed the administrative law judge. View "Alaska Dept. of Administration, Division of Retirement & Benefits v. Shea" on Justia Law

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Laura Miller appeals from a summary judgment entered by the Jefferson Circuit Court ("the circuit court") in favor of the City of Birmingham ("the City"), Sandy Roberts, and Alice Crutchfield (collectively, "the City defendants"). Robert Miller, Laura's husband, was employed by the City as a firefighter. Unum Life Insurance Company of America ("Unum") issued a group life and accidental death and dismemberment policy. According to the summary of benefits, the policy included different life-insurance benefits for active employees and for retired employees. Under the policy, as an active employee, the City paid Robert's insurance premiums, thereby entitling him to a life-insurance benefit of $151,000. However, if Robert were to retire, he would be required to pay his life-insurance premiums and would be entitled to only a $50,000 life-insurance benefit. The summary of benefits specified that, in order to be eligible for a waiver of the life-insurance premiums, the insured had to "be disabled through your elimination period," which was nine months. In 2012, Robert was diagnosed with brain cancer and soon became unable to perform the duties of his job. Laura contended once the Millers learned of Robert's condition, they "sought to obtain information about [Mr. Miller's] life insurance benefit and all other benefits that might be available." The Millers did not have a copy of the policy or the summary of benefits at that time. The Millers and Ed Bluemly, Mrs. Miller's brother-in-law, met with Sandy Roberts, the assistant benefit administrator and the pension coordinator for the Jefferson County Personnel Board, and Alice Crutchfield, a personnel technician for the Jefferson County Personnel Board, to learn about the available benefits. The Millers asked for a copy of the policy, and there was a dispute over whether the Crutchfield gave the Millers a copy. The Millers ultimately sued the City for negligence with respect to the policy and collection of the benefits to which Robert was entitled. After review of this matter, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's summary judgment in favor of the City insofar as the circuit court based its summary judgment in favor of the City on the City defendants' argument that the City was entitled to immunity from Laura's claim alleging wanton and reckless misrepresentation. However, the Court reversed the circuit court's summary judgment in favor of the City defendants in all other respects. The Case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Miller v. City of Birmingham et al." on Justia Law

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CFPB filed a petition to enforce a civil investigative demand, seeking information relating to unlawful acts and practices in connection with accrediting for-profit colleges. The district court denied the petition. The court affirmed, concluding that the civil investigative demand (CID) did not comply with the governing statute, 12 U.S.C. 5562(c)(2). In this case, pursuant to section 5562(c)(2), the CID failed to advise ACICS of the nature of the conduct constituting the alleged violation which is under investigation and the provision of law applicable to such violation. View "CFPB v. Accrediting Council For Independent Colleges and Schools" on Justia Law

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CREW filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552, after the FBI declined to provide requested information related to former House of Representatives Majority Leader Tom DeLay. On appeal, CREW challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment for the DOJ and denial of CREW's cross-motion for partial summary judgment. The district court concluded that Exemption 5 shielded certain FBI correspondence and that Exemptions 6 and 7(C) could be invoked to protect names and other personal information contained in responsive records. The court concluded that the Government's assertion of Exemption 5 was untimely and, before ruling on Exemptions 6 and 7(C), a more particularized balancing of the interests was required. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. DOJ" on Justia Law

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This petition for review returned to a long series of administrative cases arising out of the California energy crisis of 2000 and 2001 all centering on whether the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “Commission”) acted arbitrarily or capriciously in calculating certain refunds. FERC that FERC had acted outside its jurisdiction when ordering governmental entities/non-public utilities to pay refunds, the Commission vacated each of its orders in the California refund proceeding to the extent that they ordered governmental entities/nonpublic utilities to pay refunds. In sum, although the tariffs were not specific, the Ninth Circuit could not concluded FERC acted arbitrarily or capriciously in its construction of the tariffs. View "California Pub. Util. Comm'n v. Federal Energy Reg. Comm'n" on Justia Law

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A City of Berkeley ordinance required cell phone retailers to inform prospective cell phone purchasers that carrying a cell phone in certain ways may cause them to exceed Federal Communications Commission guidelines for exposure to radio-frequency radiation. CTIA, a trade association, challenged the ordinance on two grounds: (1) the ordinance violated the First Amendment; and (2) the ordinance was preempted. CTIA requested a preliminary injunction staying enforcement of the ordinance. The district court denied CTIA’s request, and CTIA filed an interlocutory appeal. Finding no reversible error, the Ninth Circuit affirmed. View "CTIA Witeless Ass'n v. City of Berkeley" on Justia Law

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The former owner of the subject property at issue in this case filed a valuation complaint in 2006 seeking to reduce the property’s tax-year-2005 value. The Franklin County Board of Revision (BOR) lowered the value but failed to send that notice to the Groveport Madison Local Schools Board of Education (BOE) at the time. When no appeal was timely filed, a refund was issued to a prior owner, and the case was closed. NSCO International Investment, LLC subsequently acquired the property. More than four years later, the BOE appealed, citing its lack of notice as the reason for its delay. The BOR made no effort to notify NSCO of the appeal. The Board of Tax Appeals (BTA) reinstated the auditor’s valuation. Two years after the BTA decision, NSCO asked the BTA to vacate its decision and schedule a new hearing because it had not been given notice or an opportunity to be heard. the BTA denied NSCO’s motion to vacate. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the BTA lacked jurisdiction to vacate its decision after the time to appeal that decision had passed; and (2) the BTA complied with Ohio Rev. Code 5717.03(B) by sending a copy of its decision to NSCO’s tax mailing address. View "Groveport Madison Local Schools Bd. of Education v. Franklin County Board of Revision" on Justia Law

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Norman James was injured while employed by Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. James later quit his job at Wal-Mart. James briefly got a job with Casper Transport Inc. and Casper Service Automotive (Casper). On June 1, 2007, James was involved in an auto accident unrelated to his employment. Casper fired James on November 16, 2007 for excessive absenteeism, and James had not worked since that time. James filed a motion requesting temporary-total-disability benefits beginning November 17, 2007. The Industrial Commission denied benefits for the period from November 17, 2007 through September 29, 2009, the date of the Commission hearing. James then filed an original action in mandamus. The court of appeals granted a limited writ vacating the denial of temporary-total-disability benefits and returned the case to the Commission to further address the end of James’ employment at Casper. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals to the extent that the court issued a limited writ of mandamus and affirmed the remainder of the appellate court’s judgment, holding that the evidence supported the Commission’s decision to deny temporary-total-disability compensation. View "State ex rel. James v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc." on Justia Law