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Plaintiffs Yvonne Reid and Serena Wong sued defendants the City of San Diego (City) and the San Diego Tourism Marketing District (TMD) in a putative class action complaint, challenging what they allege is "an illegal hotel tax." The trial court sustained Defendants' demurrer without leave to amend on statute of limitations and other grounds. The Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding some of the causes of action were time-barred and the remainder failed to state facts constituting a cause of action. View "Reid v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal based on lack of standing of an action under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), alleging that the Department failed to turn over documents requested by one of its members, on behalf of the organization. The panel disagreed with the government's argument that the submitted form did not adequately identify the organization as the requester. The panel held that the submitted form's unambiguous reference to A Better Way, confirming correspondence, and common sense make clear that A Better Way was the requester and consequently had standing to sue. View "A Better Way for BPA v. U.S.D.O.E." on Justia Law

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The trial court granted the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors’ and the City of Brookhaven, Mississippi’s motions to dismiss Samuel Wilcher, Jr.’s personal injury suit, finding both governmental entities enjoyed discretionary-function immunity. In doing so, the judge employed the Mississsippi Supreme Court’s recently created test announced in Brantley v. City of Horn Lake, 152 So.3d 1106 (Miss. 2014). On appeal, the Court faced "head on one of the unintended but predicted consequences of Brantley—that the test forces parties and judges to wade through an ever-deepening quagmire of regulations and ordinances to locate 'ministerial' or 'discretionary' duties, overcomplicating the process of litigating and deciding claims involving governmental entities." Unfortunately, this methodology had proved unworkable. "Instead of trying to retool the Brantley test to somehow make it workable, we concede this short-lived idea, which was meant to be a course correction, has ultimately led this Court even farther adrift." The Court found it best to return to its original course of applying the widely recognized public-policy function test—the original Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA) test first adopted by the Court in 1999. Applying the latter test to this case, the Supreme Court held that Wilcher’s claim that County and City employees negligently left an unfinished culvert installation overnight, without warning drivers they had removed but not yet replaced a bridge, was not barred by discretionary-function immunity. "Wilcher is not trying to second-guess a policy decision through tort. He is seeking to recover for injuries caused by run-of-the-mill negligence." Because, from the face of the complaint, the County and City were not immune, the Court reversed the grant of their motions to dismiss. View "Wilcher, Jr. v. Lincoln County Board of Supervisors" on Justia Law

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The California Table Grape Commission’s advertisements and related messaging represent government speech, as opposed to private speech, and the Ketchum Act’s (Cal. Food & Agric. Code 65500) scheme providing that the Commission’s activities are funded by assessments on shipments of California table grapes does not violate Plaintiffs’ rights under Cal. Const. art. I, 2. Plaintiffs, five growers and shippers of California table grapes, brought suit arguing that the collection of assessments under the Act to subsidize promotional speech on behalf of California table grapes as a generic category violates their right to free speech under Cal. Const. art. I, 2(a). Plaintiffs claimed specifically that the table grapes they grow and ship are exceptional and that the assessment scheme requires them to sponsor a viewpoint that they disagree with. The Supreme Court held that Plaintiffs failed to advance a viable claim under article I, section 2. Specifically, the Court held that there was sufficient government responsibility for and control over the messaging at issue for the communications to represent government speech that Plaintiffs can be required to subsidize without implicating their article I, section 2 rights. View "Delano Farms Co. v. California Table Grape Commission" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the issue presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court's consideration was whether the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) required disclosure of the names and addresses of successful bidders at a public auction of government property. An auction was held at the Bergen County Law and Public Safety Institute to sell sports memorabilia seized by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office. There were thirty-nine successful bidders. Plaintiff William Brennan submitted a request to the Prosecutor’s Office, based on OPRA and the common law, for “[r]ecords of payment received from all winning bidders” and “[c]ontact information for each winning bidder.” The Prosecutor’s Office offered redacted copies of receipts that did not include the buyers’ names or addresses. The Office explained that it had sent the buyers letters to ask if they would consent to disclosure of their personal information. For buyers who consented, the Office represented it would provide unredacted receipts. The trial court directed defendants to release the requested information under OPRA. The Supreme Court determined courts were not required to analyze the "Doe" factors each time a party asserts that a privacy interest exists. "A party must first present a colorable claim that public access to records would invade a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy." Here, defendants could not make that threshold showing. "It is not reasonable to expect that details about a public auction of government property -- including the names and addresses of people who bought the seized property -- will remain private. Without a review of the Doe factors, we find that OPRA calls for disclosure of records relating to the auction." The Court reversed the judgment of the Appellate Division. View "Brennan v. Bergen County Prosecutor's Office" on Justia Law

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Between 1853 and 1995, the Port Gamble Bay facility in Kitsap County, Washington operated as a sawmill and forest products manufacturing facility by Pope & Talbot and its corporate predecessors. Close to four decades after Puget Mill Co., predecessor to Pope & Talbot, began operating the sawmill, the legislature authorized the disposal of certain occupied state-owned aquatic lands, including the tidal lands within Port Gamble Bay. The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued the first lease for Pope & Talbot's use of the Port Gamble Bay submerged lands in 1974. In 1985, Pope & Talbot transferred 71,363 acres of its timberlands, timber, land development, and resort businesses in the State of Washington to Pope Resources, LP, which in turn leased the mill area to Pope & Talbot. Pope & Talbot ceased mill operations in 1995. Pope sought to develop their Port Gamble holdings for a large, high-density community with a marina. However, the Port Gamble site was contaminated, in part from the operation of sawmill buildings to saw logs for lumber, operation of chip barge loading facilities and a log-transfer facility, particulate sawmill emissions from wood and wood waste burning, in-water log rafting and storage, and creosote treated pilings placed throughout the bay to facilitate storage and transport of logs and wood products. After entering into a consent decree with the Washington Department of Ecology in 2013 for remediation of portions of the site exposed to hazardous substances, Pope/OPG filed a complaint in 2014 seeking a declaration that DNR was liable for natural resources damages and remedial costs, and for contribution of costs. The Superior Court granted summary judgment in favor of DNR in 2016. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that DNR was an "owner or operator" with potential liability under the Washington Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA). DNR appealed, and the Washington Supreme Court reversed, finding DNR was neither an "owner" nor an "operator" of the Port Gamble Bay facility for purposes of MTCA. View "Pope Res., LP v. Dep't of Nat. Res." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the circuit court’s dismissal of Appellant’s pro se petition for declaratory judgment and writ of mandamus challenging the Arkansas Department of Correction’s (ADC) calculation of his parole eligibility. In his petition, Appellant alleged that the ADC incorrectly included certain felony convictions in its calculation of his multiple-offender classification and therefore misclassified him as a fourth offender for purposes of parole eligibility. In addition, Appellant argued that including his 1981 convictions for burglary and robbery resulted in an ex post facto violation. The circuit court ruled that Appellant had failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted because the ADC had not erred in its calculation as to either issue. The Supreme Court held (1) there was no ex post facto violation; but (2) the ADC incorrectly included Appellant’s perjury conviction in its calculation of Appellant’s status as a habitual offender. View "Davis v. Kelley" on Justia Law

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Perry filed suit under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) seeking the disclosure from the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation of information concerning a complaint against his structural engineer’s license. After the circuit court ruled on Perry’s motion for summary judgment, section 2105-117 of the Department of Professional Regulation Law took effect, which, if applicable, would exempt the type of confidential source information sought by Perry from disclosure. The appellate court affirmed the denial of Perry’s motion to reconsider. During the pendency of the Institute’s separate FOIA lawsuit against the Department, seeking information about complaints against licensees, 225 ILCS 410/4-24 was added to the Barber, Cosmetology, Esthetics, Hair Braiding, and Nail Technology Act, and, if applicable, would exempt the type of information sought by the Institute from disclosure. The circuit court granted the Institute summary judgment. The Illinois Supreme Court consolidated the cases and held that the amendments do not apply to the pending cases. Illinois’s retroactivity analysis governs where a change of law becomes effective during the pendency of a lawsuit. The legislature did not clearly prescribe whether sections 2105-117 and 4-24 should be applied to pending lawsuits, so courts must consider whether the changes are procedural or substantive. As both sections are substantive changes to the law, the amendments apply prospectively only. View "Perry v. Department of Financial and Professional Regulation" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court granting an application by five individual electors of the Town of Fairfield (collectively, Plaintiffs) for a writ of mandamus compelling a special election for a vacant seat on the Board of Selectmen. On appeal, the Town and its Board (collectively, Defendants) argued that the trial court improperly issued the writ of mandamus. Specifically, Defendants argued that article VI, 6.3(B) of the Fairfield Town Charter, which does not provide for a special election when the Board has acted to fill a vacancy within thirty days, was controlling over Conn. Gen. Stat. 9-222, which provides for the possibility of a petition for a special election to fill a vacancy on the Board even after the Board has acted. The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) the charter provision controlled the method by which to fill the vacancy on the Board; and (2) because the Board timely designated a new selectman, the provision of the charter directing resort to Conn. Gen. Stat. chapter 146, which could have required a special election pursuant to section 9-222, was not triggered. View "Cook-Littman v. Board of Selectmen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court reversing the decision of the Office of the Commissioner of Political Practices (the Commissioner) that the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks (FWP) was responsible for ethics violations. Trap Free Montana Public Lands (Trap Free) filed an ethics complaint alleging that FWP allowed the Montana Trappers Association (MTA) to use an FWP-owned trailer and equipment in MTA’s efforts to oppose a ballot initiative, in violation of Mont. Code Ann. 2-2-101 and -121. A hearing examiner found that FWP staff were responsible for three statutory violations for the occasions when MTA members used the trailer and equipment in conjunction with its political advocacy efforts. The Commissioner adopted the hearing examiner’s recommendation that the Commissioner impose an administrative penalty on FWP. The district court reversed, concluding that FWP employees did not violate state ethics laws. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that where section 2-2-121(3)(a) prohibits public employees from using public resources for political purposes, and where MTA members are not public employees, there was no violation of the ethics code. View "Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks v. Trap Free Montana Public Lands" on Justia Law