Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed as moot this appeal from the decision of the superior court dismissing Appellant's petition against the Maine Department of Corrections for failure to serve the Department pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 5, 11003(1), holding that events in the superior court had overtaken this appeal, rendering it moot. After Appellant filed this action, the trial court, treating the action as a petition for review of agency action, issued Appellant an order requiring him to show cause why his appeal should not be dismissed for failure to serve the Department. The court ultimately dismissed the petition for insufficient service of process. After Appellant's appeal was docketed, Appellant filed a motion asserting that the Department had acknowledged receipt of process. The court then negated its dismissal of Appellant's action. Therefore, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal as moot. View "Paquette v. Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The VA promoted Dr. Sayers to Chief of Pharmacy Services for the Greater Los Angeles (GLA) Health Care System in 2003. In 2016, a VA site-visit team discovered violations of policy in the pharmacies under Sayers’s supervision. When Sayers failed to follow orders to immediately correct the violations, the VA detailed him from his position pending review. Months later, the VA sent another team to the GLA pharmacies, discovering numerous, serious policy violations. Because compliance fell within Sayers’s purview, the GLA Chief of Staff proposed Sayers’s removal. The GLA Health Care Director acted as the deciding official and sustained the charges. The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) and the Administrative Judge affirmed his removal, finding that substantial evidence supported factual specifications that Sayers failed to perform assigned duties and failed to follow instructions. The AJ declined to consider Sayers’s argument that his removal constituted an unreasonable penalty, inconsistent with the VA’s table of penalties and violating the VA’s policy of progressive discipline. The Federal Circuit vacated his removal. The basis for Sayers’s removal, the 2017 Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, 38 U.S.C. 714, which gives the VA a new, streamlined authority for disciplining employees for misconduct or poor performance, and places limitations on MSPB review of those actions, cannot be retroactively applied to conduct that occurred before its enactment. View "Sayers v. Department of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law

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Oakland requested proposals for franchise contracts regarding garbage and residential recycling services. Following a lawsuit, a settlement provided that WMAC would receive garbage and mixed materials and organics contracts; CWS would receive the residential recycling contract. WMAC and CWS agreed to pay franchise fees to the city, which redesignated part of WMAC’s franchise fee as a fee to compensate the city for the cost of implementing the Alameda County Waste Management Plan, under Public Resource Code 41901. Plaintiffs challenged the fees as improperly imposed taxes under the California Constitution, article XIIIC. The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of claims concerning the Redesignated Fee as not ripe for adjudication but reversed dismissal as to the franchise fees. A franchise fee, arguably subject to an article XIIIC, section 1(e) exemption, must still be reasonably related to the value of the franchise to be exempt from the “tax” definition. The court cited Proposition 26: To qualify as a nontax ‘fee’ under article XIII C, as amended, a charge must satisfy both the requirement that it be fixed in an amount that is ‘no more than necessary to cover the reasonable costs of the governmental activity,’ and the requirement that ‘the manner in which those costs are allocated to a payor bear a fair or reasonable relationship to the payor’s burdens on, or benefits received from, the governmental activity. View "Zolly v. City of Oakland" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit withdrew its prior opinion and substituted the following opinion. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal, based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction, of plaintiff's action under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). Plaintiff, a security guard, was shot in the leg while on duty by a pair of Islamic terrorists. The court held that plaintiff failed to establish that the discretionary function exception does not apply under the FTCA, and thus sovereign immunity has not been waived. Although the district court erred in stating the standard for construing exceptions to the FTCA, the error was harmless because plaintiff's contentions failed either way. The court held that the district court correctly declined jurisdiction under a two-step framework. First, plaintiff failed to identify a nondiscretionary duty violated by an agency or employee of the United States. Furthermore, the government did not violate any directives prohibiting agents from engaging in acts of violence. Second, the court held that the discretion at issue here is precisely the kind that the exception was designed to shield. The court held that plaintiff's remaining arguments were unavailing. The court declined to forge new circuit precedent and adopt the state-created danger doctrine in such uncharted territory; the district court properly dismissed the ATA claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by barring additional discovery. View "Joiner v. United States" on Justia Law

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BGE petitioned for review of FERC's orders arising out of its efforts to apply its "matching" principles to divergences between the timing of deductions for tax purposes and timing for purposes of allocating costs to ratepayers. BGE filed a new rate proposal seeking a net recovery of $38 million and FERC denied BGE's request. FERC concluded that BGE had breached the requirements of Order No. 144 by failing to file for recovery in its "next rate case," which, according to FERC, was BGE's 2005 rate filing. BGE countered that FERC's application of Order No. 144 was arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act. The DC Circuit denied the petition for review, holding that FERC's orders were not arbitrary and capricious. The court held that FERC reasonably interpreted its regulations and the settlement agreement to mean that BGE simply failed to comply with 18 C.F.R. 35.24 by its next rate case, as required by Order No. 144. The court rejected BGE's argument that, notwithstanding the requirements of Order No. 144, FERC has been more permissive with four "similarly situated" utilities and fails to explain its disparate treatment of BGE's filing. Therefore, FERC's rejection of BGE's tariff filing is a reasonable and reasonably explained application of Order No. 144. View "Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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The county sought to revoke two exemptions the Board granted with respect to a freight rail easement over the county's property, alleging that both notices misrepresented the easement's ownership. The Board denied the petitions because only a court competent in property, contract, and bankruptcy law could determine whether the notices' representations were in fact false. The DC Circuit dismissed the county's first petition for review as incurably premature and dismissed the second petition with respect to its material-error challenge to the Board's reconsideration order. The court held that it has jurisdiction to review the Board's initial order pursuant to the county's second petition, and that the Board's denial of the petitions to revoke was arbitrary and capricious for failing to address the claim that the notices, whether or not ultimately false, misleadingly omitted material information. Accordingly, the court granted the second petition for review insofar as it challenges the Board's initial order, vacated that order, and remanded the case to the Board for further proceedings. View "Snohomish County v. Surface Transportation Board" on Justia Law

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An unsuccessful bidder on managed-care contracts for MississippiCAN, the state’s managed-care program, argued that the Division of Medicaid and its executive director violated multiple statutes and regulations in procuring the contracts. Mississippi True appealed the decision of the chancery court affirming the Division of Medicaid’s award of the contracts to three other companies and the chancery court’s order denying its motion to sever and transfer its damages claims to circuit court. The Mississippi Supreme Court "thoroughly reviewed the voluminous record" and concluded that Mississippi True has failed to prove any basis for reversal. "The decision of the DOM was supported by substantial evidence, was not arbitrary or capricious, was not beyond the DOM’s power to make, and did not violate Mississippi True’s statutory or constitutional rights." View "Mississippi True v. Dzielak et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting the Love Ranch's petition for a writ of mandamus and compelling the Department of Employment, Training & Rehabilitation (DETR) to comply with the Love Ranch's public records request for various records related to audits of the Love Ranch and other legal brothels, holding that Nev. Rev. Stat. 612.265 did not categorically exempt the requested records from disclosure. After the DETR's Employment Security Division (ESD) audited the Love Ranch the Love Ranch made a formal records request asking that DETR produce all records related to the audit and past audits and decisions regarding the Love Ranch and other brothels. DETR denied the request. The Love Ranch then petitioned the district court for a writ of mandamus, which the district court granted. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 612.265 protects from disclosure a person's or employing unit's identity but otherwise does not prohibit disclosure of the ESD's records; and (2) because the request in this case expressly excluded any records that would reveal a person's or employing unit's identity and the district court did not compel disclosure of any records beyond those requested, the district court properly granted the petition for a writ of mandamus. View "State, Department of Employment, Training & Rehabilitation v. Sierra National Corp." on Justia Law

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Appellant William Rohland was an inmate confined at SCI-Huntingdon. In 2005, he was charged in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, with various offenses. He was ultimately sentenced on those charges in November 2006 to one-to-five years’ imprisonment, and was required as part of his sentence to pay restitution, fines, and costs. Thereafter, in 2007, Appellant was convicted in Luzerne County on two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment. As of December 2016, the Department of Corrections' records reflected Appellant still owed approximately $2,300 in connection with his Lackawanna County sentence, although the incarceration aspect of that sentenced had expired. Thus, the prison’s business office sent Appellant a memorandum notifying him of the amount owed and indicating that the prison would begin making periodic Act 84 deductions from his inmate account to satisfy that obligation. The memo also gave instructions on how Appellant could challenge the deductions. The issue this case presented for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's review was whether the deductions from an inmate account could continue after Appellant finished serving the prison-term portion of the sentence while still incarcerated on a separate sentence. The Supreme Court determined the Department had clear legal authorization under Act 84 to effectuate such deductions. That being the case, the Supreme Court determined the Commonwealth Court acted properly in granting the Department's motion for summary judgment. View "Rohland v Business Office, Dept. of Corrections" on Justia Law

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In this appeal by allowance, the issue this case presented for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's review centered on whether the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education's (“State System”) policy regarding the protection of minors ― requiring, inter alia, that faculty members submit to criminal background checks and report to their university employers if they are arrested or convicted of a serious crime, or found or indicated to be a perpetrator of child abuse ― constituted an inherent managerial policy or prerogative, rendering it nonbargainable for purposes of collective bargaining between the faculty and the State System. The Supreme Court determined the policy at issue constituted a nonbargainable inherent managerial policy. The Court reversed the Commonwealth Court, which held to the contrary. View "APSCUF v. PLRB" on Justia Law