Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

by
The City of Flint and city and state officials allegedly caused, sustained, and covered up the poisoning of the people of Flint. Plaintiffs filed a 2017 “Master Complaint,” containing the allegations and claims made by plaintiffs across the coordinated litigation; “short-form” complaints charted certain components of the Master Complaint, including named defendants, alleged injuries, and claims. In this case, the district court declined to dismiss all defendants other than former State Treasurer Andy Dillon. Earlier in 2020, the Sixth Circuit, in "Waid," decided that the same officials who are defendants in this case plausibly violated plaintiffs’ substantive due process right to bodily integrity and are not entitled to qualified immunity and rejected Flint’s and Michigan Governor Whitmer’s arguments that the Eleventh Amendment required their dismissal. Defendant Johnson argued that the allegations against him in this case differently than those levied against him in Waid. The court concluded that there is no reason to treat Johnson differently. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that higher-ups should be treated differently than officials making decisions on the ground. . View "In re Flint Water Cases" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) denying Petitioner's request for temporary protected status (TPS) under 8 U.S.C. 1254a, holding that the BIA did not err in finding that Petitioner's ninety-eight-day absence from the country was not "brief, casual, and innocent" under the regulations. Petitioner entered the United States on December 27, 1997. Since then, Petitioner spent ninety-eight days outside the United States pursuant to an order of removal. In his TPS request, Petitioner argued that he could excuse the ninety-eight days at issue as "brief, casual, and innocent" under 8 U.S.C. 1254a(c)(4)(A)-(B) because an immigration judge later rescinded his order of removal. The BIA denied Petitioner's request, determining that the rescission of removal order was improper. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the BIA correctly found that the immigration judge's rescission order was not proper, and therefore, Petitioner's absence from the country was not brief, casual, and innocent. View "Machado Sigaran v. Barr" on Justia Law

by
The Immigration and Nationality Act states that any alien who is “likely at any time to become a public charge is inadmissible,” 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(4)(A) but has never defined “public charge.” The Department of Homeland Security sought to define “public charge,” via rulemaking, as an alien who was likely to receive certain public benefits, including many cash and noncash benefits, for more than 12 months in the aggregate over any 36-month period. The district court enjoined that Rule nationwide. The Fourth Circuit reversed. Invalidating the Rule “would visit palpable harm upon the Constitution’s structure and the circumscribed function of the federal courts that document prescribes” and would entail the disregard of the statute's plain text. The Constitution commands “special judicial deference” to the political branches in light of the intricacies and sensitivities inherent in immigration policy. Congress has charged the executive with defining and implementing a purposefully ambiguous term and has resisted giving the term the definite meaning that the plaintiffs seek. The court noted that, in cases addressing the identical issue, the Supreme Court granted the government’s emergency request to stay the preliminary injunctions, an action which would have been improbable if not impossible had the government, as the stay applicant, not made “a strong showing that it was likely to succeed on the merits.” View "Casa De Maryland, Inc. v. Trump" on Justia Law

by
The United States District Court for the District of Idaho certified a question of law to the Idaho Supreme Court. Plaintiff was a prisoner in the custody of the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC), currently incarcerated at the Idaho State Correctional Institution (ISCI). He asserts that he, and all IDOC prisoners, have a state-created liberty interest in being employed, arising from Idaho Code [section] 20-209. Plaintiff asserted the statute contained a "very specific, clear, and unambiguous" mandate that the Board of Correction must provide all inmates with employment during incarceration. The federal court asked the Idaho Supreme Court for guidance on plaintiff's contention: whether Idaho Code section 20-209 required the state board of correction to provide employment for all prisoners, and, if so, what was the minimum the board must do to implement the statute’s mandate? The Supreme Court responded, finding 20-209 required the Board to make employment available for all prisoners in the form of: (1) labor assignments as prescribed by the Board’s rules and regulations; and/or (2) implementation of statutory work programs managed by the Board in accordance with its rules and regulations. The Board retained discretion to manage these prisoner employment opportunities pursuant to its broad control over the correctional system. Section 20-209 did not create a right to paid or unpaid work during a prisoner’s period of incarceration or establish an employer-employee relationship between the Board and the prisoner. At a minimum, the Board must comply with legislation controlling its responsibilities managing prisoner employment and with its own rules and regulations. View "Goodrick - Certified Question of Law" on Justia Law

by
A district court order denying a government motion to dismiss a False Claims Act case under 31 U.S.C. 3730(c)(2)(A) is not an immediately appealable collateral order. In this case, the Ninth Circuit dismissed, based on lack of jurisdiction, the government's appeal from the district court's order denying a government motion to dismiss a FCA case. The panel noted that this issue was not before the Supreme Court in United States ex rel. Eisenstein v. City of New York, 556 U.S. 928 (2009). The panel held that the collateral order doctrine did not apply because the district court's order did not resolve important questions separate from the merits. Because the interests implicated by an erroneous denial of a government motion to dismiss a FCA case in which it has not intervened are insufficiently important to justify an immediate appeal, the panel held that they fall outside of the collateral order doctrine's scope. View "United States v. United States ex rel. Thrower" on Justia Law

by
Zen Magnets, LLC's small rare-earth magnets were shiny and smooth, resembling candies that commonly garnish cookies and desserts. The appearance sometimes leads young children to put the magnets in their mouths. Older children also sometimes put the magnets in their mouths to magnetize braces or mimic facial piercings. When put in children’s mouths, the magnets were sometimes swallowed, lodging in the digestive system and causing serious injury or death. The Consumer Product Safety Commission tried to address this danger through both rulemaking and adjudication. The Commission conducted two proceedings involving the making of small rare-earth magnets: (1) a rulemaking affecting all manufacturers of these magnets; and (2) an adjudication affecting only one manufacturer: Zen Magnets, LLC. For the adjudication, the Commission needed to provide Zen with a fair proceeding under the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. Zen contended the adjudication was unfair for two reasons: (1) the Commissioners conducted the adjudication after engaging in a rulemaking on closely related issues; and (2) three Commissioners participated in the adjudication after making public statements showing bias. The district court found: (1) the Commission had not denied due process by simultaneously conducting the adjudication after the related rulemaking; (2) two of the Commissioners had not shown bias through their public statements; but (3) one Commissioner did show bias through a public statement specifically about Zen. Both parties appealed: the Commission appealed the district court's decision as to the third Commissioner's statements; Zen cross-appealed, arguing a due process violation, and that the district court issued an advisory opinion on the merits. After its review, the Tenth Circuit concluded the Commissioners’ participation in the rulemaking and their statements did not result in a denial of due process, so the district court's judgment as to Commissioners Robinson and Kaye were affirmed. The Court reversed, however, as to Commissioner Adler. The Court concluded it lacked jurisdiction to decide whether the district court rendered an advisory opinion. View "Zen Magnets v. Consumer Product Safety" on Justia Law

by
Reniery Adalberto Galeano-Romero sought review of a Board of Immigration Appeals decision that denied both his application for cancellation of removal under 8 U.S.C.1229b(b)(1) and his motion to remand and reopen his case to raise a Convention Against Torture (CAT) claim. The Board acknowledged his removal would result in hardship to his citizen spouse but concluded that the hardship would not be “exceptional and extremely unusual,” leaving him ineligible for cancellation of removal. Furthermore, the Board denied his motion to remand to present his CAT claim to an Immigration Judge (IJ) after finding Galeano-Romero had referenced no previously unavailable and material evidence, a prerequisite to any such motion to reopen. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals determined it lacked jurisdiction to consider Galeano-Romero's challenge to the Board's discretionary hardship decision, so that portion of his petition was dismissed. With regard to Galeano-Romero's request for remand, the Court found the Board did not abuse its discretion in concluding how he could proffer material evidence that was not previously available or could have been discovered at the original hearing. View "Galeano-Romero v. Barr" on Justia Law

by
The Communications Act of 1934 restricts the rates that telecommunications carriers may charge for transmitting calls across their networks, 47 U.S.C. 201(b). Iowa-based Aureon is a joint venture through which local carriers connect to long-distance carriers such as AT&T and has “subtending” agreements with participating local carriers. AT&T alleged that Aureon imposed interstate and intrastate access charges that violated the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) transitional pricing rules; improperly engaged in access stimulation (enticing high call volumes to generate increased access charges); committed an unreasonable practice by agreeing with subtending carriers to connect calls involving access stimulation; and billed for service not covered by its 2013 interstate tariff. The FCC found that Aureon violated the transitional rule. The D.C. Circuit reversed in part. The transitional rule applies to all “competitive local exchange carriers,” and Aureon falls into that category but the rule applies to intrastate rates so Aureon’s 2013 increase of its interstate rate was not covered. The court remanded the question of whether Aureon’s subtending agreements qualify as access revenue sharing agreements. The court affirmed the FCC’s determination that Aureon’s interstate tariffs apply to traffic involving any local carriers engaged in access stimulation. The FCC erred in refusing to adjudicate AT&T’s unreasonable-practices claim. View "AT&T Corp. v. Federal Communications Commission" on Justia Law

by
The Department of Health and Human Services disallowed roughly $30 million in Medicaid reimbursements for payments Virginia made to two state hospitals. HHS determined that Virginia had materially altered its payment methodology without notifying HHS or obtaining approval and that the new methodology resulted in payments that overstepped applicable federal limits. Virginia had allocated disproportionate share hospitals (DSH) payments for the two hospitals to fiscal years other than “the actual year in which [related] DSH costs were incurred” by those hospitals for purposes of complying with the annual statewide DSH allotment and hospital-specific limit. The district court and D.C. affirmed. A comparison between Virginia’s previous operation of its plan—as manifested in the state’s prior representations about the plan’s operation—and its later operation of the same plan shows that there was a “[m]aterial change” in “the State’s operation of the Medicaid program,” so that the state was required to amend its plan and present the amendment for approval, 42 C.F.R. 430.12(c)(1)(ii). View "Department of Medical Assistant Services of the Commonwealth of Virginia v. United States Department of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

by
OSHA found that Echo violated 29 C.F.R. 1926.964(b)(1), the tension-stringing regulation, when two employees were electrocuted while rehanging a line. After the ALJ upheld the citation, Echo petitioned for review. The Fifth Circuit denied the petition for review, holding that the tension-stringing provision is sufficiently precise to repel Echo's vagueness challenge. In this case, the express language of the provision afforded Echo "sufficiently definite warning" of the conduct required. The court also held that the evidence of industry custom was unnecessary to establish Echo's violation where the provision is not unconstitutionally vague and instructs the employer about specific methods to use in order to comply. Therefore, the provision is not a performance standard and the ALJ did not err by declining to consider evidence that Echo's method complied with industry custom. View "Echo Powerline, LLC v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission" on Justia Law