Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

by
Justice, employed as a workers’ compensation claims adjuster since 1991, fell at work in 2011 and injured her left knee. She later developed problems in her right knee, which was found to be a compensable consequence of the first injury. In 2012-2013 Justice had total bilateral knee replacement. Dr. Anderson, an orthopedic surgeon, testified that there was significant preinjury degeneration in both knees, that knee replacement was not required because of the meniscus tear, and that the fall “hasten[ed]” the need for knee replacement by “lighting up the underlying pathology.” Anderson apportioned 50 percent of the bilateral knee disability to the nonindustrial, preexisting degeneration. The workers’ compensation judge determined that Justice had sustained permanent partial disability of 48 percent, worth $59,110.00, stating that “the need for these surgeries was at least partially non-industrial. … the surgeries appear to have significantly increased [Justice’s] ability to walk and engage in weight-bearing activities. The judge stated that before the 2017 Hikida decision, he would have awarded permanent disability with 50% apportionment but that Hikida precluded apportionment. The Appeals Board affirmed. The court of appeal annulled the decision. Justice's permanent disability should have been apportioned between industrial and nonindustrial causes. Hikida, in which a medical treatment resulted in a new compensable consequential injury, is distinguishable. Here, there was unrebutted substantial medical evidence that Justice’s permanent disability was caused, in part, by preexisting pathology. Apportionment was required. Whether or not the workplace injury “directly caused” the need for surgery, the apportionment statutes demand that the disability be sorted among direct and indirect causal factors. View "County of Santa Clara v. Workers' Compensation Appeals Board" on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeal summed up the issue before it on appeal in this matter: a fight between the tax entities who negotiated favorable passthrough agreements before their redevelopment agencies were dissolved, and those who did not, for their pro rata share of the residual pool of money in the redevelopment property tax fund left for distribution after the successor agencies first paid the passthrough agreements in full, enforceable obligations, and administrative costs. Seven cities filed a petition for mandamus and declaratory relief against Tracy Sandoval, the auditor-controller for the County of San Diego (Auditor) challenging the methodology the Auditor used to distribute the residual pool of former tax increment, a method that favored San Diego County and, at least, three community college districts, all of whom had passthrough agreements with their former redevelopment agencies. The trial court agreed with Cities and granted their petition. Auditor appealed. The Court of Appeal concluded there was no plain meaning to be attributed to the applicable statutory language. The Court felt compelled nonetheless to construe the "mangled" statutes as it found them, and offered direction to auditor-controllers throughout California. The Court accepted nearly all of Cities’ contentions, including their premise that the fundamental purpose of Health & Safety Code section 34188, was to include passthrough payments as part of a taxing entity’s Assembly Bill No. 8 (1977-1978 Reg. Sess.) pro rata share and thereby equalize the tax distributions to those taxing entities with favorable passthrough agreements and those without. The Court reversed the trial court's decision to grant the Cities' petition for a writ of mandate. "Without deciding on the constitutionality of Cities’ interpretation of the statutes, we can say their interpretation raises substantial doubt as to the constitutionality of Cities’ methodology, adding support to our conclusion the trial court erred and Auditor’s methodology must prevail." View "City of Chula Vista v. Sandoval" on Justia Law

by
In October 2019, the Respondents-Proponents Andrew Moore, Janet Ann Largent, and Lynda Johnson filed Initiative Petition No. 420, State Question No. 804 (IP 420), with the Secretary of State of Oklahoma. The initiative measure proposed for submission to the voters the creation of a new constitutional article, Article V-A, which would create the Citizens' Independent Redistricting Commission (Commission). IP 420 was challenged in two separate cases. On February 4, 2020, the Oklahoma Supreme Court handed down its decisions in both matters. Two days later, February 6, 2020, the proponents of IP 420 filed a new initiative petition (Initiative Petition No. 426, State Question 810). The Secretary of State published the required notice of the initiative petition on February 13, 2020. Initiative Petition No. 426 (IP 426) was nearly identical to IP 420, creating a new constitutional article, Article V-A, which would create the Citizens' Independent Redistricting Commission (Commission). Like IP 420, it would vest the power to redistrict the State's House of Representatives and Senatorial districts, as well as Federal Congressional Districts, in this newly created Commission. Initiative Petition No. 426, like IP 420, requires the Commission's Secretary to gather information from the Department of Corrections about the home address of state and federal inmates and add this information to the Federal Decennial Census data so that incarcerated people can be counted in their home communities rather than place of incarceration. The issue presented to the Supreme Court's original jurisdiction involved the legal sufficiency of Initiative Petition No. 426, State Question No. 810. The Petitioners contended the petition was unconstitutional because it violated Article 1, section 2, the Equal Protection Clause and the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Upon review, the Supreme Court held Petitioners did not meet their burden to show Initiative Petition No. 426 contained "clear or manifest facial constitutional infirmities." On the grounds alleged, the petition is legally sufficient for submission to the people of Oklahoma. View "In re: Initiative Petition No. 426 State Question No. 810" on Justia Law

by
A complaint issued by the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct (ACJC) alleged four counts of misconduct against a superior court judge, Respondent John Russo, Jr. The charges and findings related to four discrete instances of misconduct. Count I, the most serious matter, concerns Respondent’s conduct at a hearing on an application for a final restraining order. The misconduct charged related to his questioning of an alleged victim of domestic violence who testified that she had been sexually assaulted, as well as his comments to staff members in open court after the hearing. Count II addressed a personal guardianship matter in which Respondent allegedly asked a Judiciary employee to contact her counterpart in another vicinage and request that a hearing be rescheduled to accommodate Respondent. Count III asserted Respondent created the appearance of a conflict of interest when he presided over a matter in the Family Division in which he knew both parties since high school. Count IV related to Respondent’s ex parte communication with an unrepresented litigant. After it conducted a hearing, the ACJC found clear and convincing evidence to support all the charges. A panel of three Judges designated by the Supreme Court then conducted a separate, additional hearing and concluded that the evidence supported a finding beyond a reasonable doubt that Respondent violated the Canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct and the Rules cited in all four counts. The panel recommended that Respondent be removed from office. Based on its review of the extensive record, the New Jersey Supreme Court found beyond a reasonable doubt that there was cause for Respondent’s removal, and ordered such removal. View "In the Matter of John F. Russo, Jr." on Justia Law

by
This appeal involved the investigation into a claim that a mother, S.C., abused her seven-year-old son by corporal punishment. The New Jersey Department of Children and Families (Department) concluded, after its investigation, that the claim of abuse was “not established.” Because the abuse allegation was deemed “not established” rather than “unfounded,” it was not eligible to be expunged. S.C. appealed the Department’s action, claiming: (1) a deprivation of her due process rights because she was not afforded a hearing; and (2) that the Department’s “not established” finding was arbitrary and capricious because the record was insufficient to support a finding that her son was harmed. S.C. did not raise a direct challenge to the validity of having a “not established” finding category in the Department’s regulations, although amici urged that the category be declared illegitimate and eliminated. The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed and remanded: (1) for the Department to provide improved notice of the basis on which its investigation has found credible evidence to support the allegation of harm; and (2) for S.C. to have an informal opportunity before the Department to rebut and/or supplement the record before the Department finalizes its finding. The Supreme Court rejected that due process considerations required the Department to conduct an adjudicative contested case proceeding either internally or at the Office of Administrative Law for a “not established” finding. That said, on the basis of the present record, the Supreme Court could not assess whether the “not established” finding in this instance was arbitrary or capricious. "It would be well worth the effort of the Department to revisit its regulatory language concerning the standard for making a 'not established' finding as well as its processes related to such findings. Our review of this matter brings to light shortcomings in fairness for parents and guardians involved in investigations that lead to such findings and which may require appellate review." View "S.C. v. New Jersey Department of Children and Families" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the Secretary's issuance, under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), of Secretarial Procedures which authorize the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians to operate class III gaming activities on a parcel of land in Madera, California. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Secretary and intervenor. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part as to plaintiffs' Johnson Act claim, holding that Secretarial Procedures are an exception to the prohibitions of the Johnson Act and thus they comply with the Administrative Procedure Act. The panel vacated and remanded in part as to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) claim, holding that the IGRA does not categorically bar application of NEPA because the two statutes are not irreconcilable and do not displace each other, and because a contrary result would contravene congressional intent and common sense. Finally, the panel vacated and remanded in part as to the Clean Air Act (CCA) claim, holding that Secretarial Procedures are categorically exempt from the CAA's requirement of a conformity determination. View "Stand Up for California! v. U.S. Department of the Interior" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff cardrooms, filed suit challenging the Secretary's approval of a Nevada-style casino project on off-reservation land in the County of Madera, California by the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians, a federally recognized tribe. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Department and Secretary. The Ninth Circuit held that the Tribe's jurisdiction over the Madera Parcel operates as a matter of law and the Tribe clearly exercised governmental power when it entered into agreements with local governments and enacted ordinances concerning the property; because neither the Enclave Clause nor 40 U.S.C. 3112 are implicated here, neither the State's consent nor cession is required for the Tribe to acquire any jurisdiction over the Madera Parcel; and the Indian Reorganization Act does not offend the Tenth Amendment because Congress has plenary authority to regulate Indian affairs. Therefore, the Secretary's actions were not arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law. View "Club One Casino, Inc. v. Bernhardt" on Justia Law

by
"The right to vote is a cornerstone of our constitutional republic." The voting laws implicated in this case were South Carolina statutes governing absentee voting. Pursuant to subsection 7-15-320(A) of the South Carolina Code (2019), absentee ballots could be used by certain voters who were unable to vote in person because they were absent from their county of residence on election day during the hours the polls are open. Subsection 7-15-320(B) allowed voters to cast absentee ballots when they were not absent from the county, but only if they fit into one of the listed categories of people eligible to vote by absentee ballot. Plaintiffs contended that in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, existing South Carolina law permitted all South Carolina registered voters to vote by absentee ballot in the June 9, 2020 primary election and the November 3, 2020 general election. Plaintiffs implicitly contended that if existing law did not permit this, it should. Plaintiffs asked the South Carolina Supreme Court to hear this case in its original jurisdiction. The South Carolina Republican Party was granted permission to intervene, and moved to dismiss. The Supreme Court granted the request to hear the case in its original jurisdiction, declined to dismiss on grounds raised by the South Carolina Republican Party, but dismissed on alternate grounds: the case did not present a justiciable controversy. View "Bailey v. SC State Election" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court voiding a permit issued by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) allowing the Montana Artesian Water Company (MAWC) to appropriate water, holding that while the DNRC issued its preliminary determination granting MAWC the water use permit based on incomplete data, because the statutory deadline had passed, the application was deemed correct and complete as a matter of law, and DNRC could not require the missing information. DNRC failed to identify defects in the application before the statutory deadline. The district court concluded that DNRC failed to comply with its own rules to determine whether the application was correct and complete and voided the permit without addressing other issues raised on judicial review. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding (1) with or without the missing information, MAWC's application became correct and complete as a matter of law after the statutory deadline had passed; and (2) Mont. Code Ann. 85-2-302(5) forecloses an argument regarding compliance with application requirements the agency imposed by rule. View "Flathead Lakers v. Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation" on Justia Law

by
The district court remanded the Fiscal Year 2014 Rule to the Secretary of Health and Human Services without vacating the Rule. The district court's decision was made in response to the challenge by a group of hospitals to a 0.2% reduction in Medicare reimbursement rates for inpatient hospital services. The Secretary subsequently increased the Medicare inpatient rates by 0.6% for Fiscal Year 2017 to offset the past effects of the abandoned rate reduction. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Secretary. The court held that the district court was not required to vacate the Rule or order make whole relief as the hospitals sought, and the remedy on remand reasonably addressed the problem. The court also held that the district court did not err in partially granting and denying statutory interest to certain hospitals in accord with this court's precedent. Finally, the court affirmed the partial award and denial of statutory interest. View "Shands Jacksonville Medical Center, Inc. v. Azar" on Justia Law