Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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Stephen Taylor was convicted by jury of numerous sex offenses against his adopted daughters, Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2. In total, the jury convicted him on 12 counts. The trial court sentenced him to prison for a one-year determinate term and an aggregate indeterminate term of 165 years to life. On appeal, Taylor argued the trial court erred by admitting expert testimony on child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome, and instructing the jurors that they could use that evidence to evaluate the victims’ credibility. He also claimed the court made several sentencing errors: (1) by imposing two indeterminate terms under the former “One Strike” law for two offenses that occurred during a single occasion; (2) by imposing multiple punishments for four counts of aggravated sexual assault and four counts of lewd acts arising from the same facts; and (3) by imposing a restitution fine and court operations and facilities fees without an ability to pay hearing. The Court of Appeal agreed that the court erred by imposing multiple punishments on four counts of aggravated sexual assault (counts 1 through 4) and four counts of forcible lewd acts (counts 5 through 8) that arose from the same conduct. Accordingly, Taylor’s sentence was stayed on counts 5 through 8. The Court also agreed the court should hold an ability to pay hearing, at least as to the court operations and facilities fees. Therefore, the Court reversed the order imposing those fees and remanded for a hearing on Taylor’s ability to pay them. As to the restitution fine, Taylor forfeited his contention. The Court otherwise rejected Taylor’s arguments and affirmed. View "Holden v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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Raymond Dapo was born in 1990. OCS took custody of him ten years later and, in April 2000, placed him in Taun Lucas’s foster home. Lucas and her husband David legally adopted Dapo in May 2002. According to Dapo, Lucas began sexually abusing him shortly thereafter; Lucas, however, alleged that she was sexually abused by Dapo, and Dapo, then 11 years old, was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree sexual assault. The charges were eventually dropped, and Dapo was returned to the custody of the State as a dependent child. When he was 24 years old (in 2015), Dapo filed a complaint against Lucas, alleging that she had sexually abused him while he was a minor. In September 2015, Lucas filed a third-party claim against OCS for apportionment of fault, contending that OCS “had a duty to protect” Dapo and “negligently failed to protect” him. The superior court granted OCS’s motion to dismiss the apportionment claim, holding that it was barred by the ten-year statute of repose, AS 09.10.055(a). Dapo appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court held that the statute of repose applied to the apportionment claim and was not unconstitutional as applied. However, the Court determined there were issues of fact regarding the applicability of two exceptions to the statute of repose: claims for gross negligence and claims for breaches of fiduciary duty. Therefore the superior court’s order was reversed, and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Dapo v. Alaska, Office of Children's Services" on Justia Law

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Monterey County's Laguna Seca Raceway obtained a license from the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) to hold FIM-sanctioned motorcycle racing events. No one at the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP), which manages operations, possessed any experience or training on-track safety. Without consulting experts, SCAMP directed the placement of sandbags—provided by the County—around the Raceway for erosion control, in violation of FIM Standards. Kim attended a Raceway event. It was foreseeable that participants would lose control of their motorcycles and enter the safety zone, but they were not warned about unmarked sandbags placed around the racecourse. Kim “ran wide” into the safety zone, collided with sandbags, was ejected from his motorcycle, and suffered serious injuries. The court of appeal reversed summary judgment in favor of the County and SCRAMP on claims of dangerous conditions of public property and gross negligence. Kim adequately alleged that the presence of sandbags on or near a track is not an inherent risk of amateur motorcycle track racing. A reasonable factfinder could determine that the use of sandbags was a severe departure from the “first-class manner” that SCRAMP was contractually obligated to operate the Raceway; that because local conditions made erosion inevitable and in light of $5.25 million revenue contractually-designated for “capital improvements,” it was grossly negligent for SCRAMP to divert this money to operations; and that defendants were grossly negligent for relying entirely on the assessments of a SCRAMP executive with virtually no track safety training. View "Kim v. County of Monterey" on Justia Law

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In 2002 or 2003, Sonoma County authorized increased pension benefits for County employees, pursuant to a settlement of employee lawsuits alleging past miscalculation of retirement benefits. In doing so, the County failed to comply with state laws requiring local legislative bodies to obtain an actuarial statement of the future annual costs of proposed pension increases and to make the future annual costs public at a public meeting, before authorizing the pension increases, Gov. Code 7507, 23026, 31515.5, 31516. In 2017, Plaintiff, a county resident and taxpayer filed a mandamus petition, alleging those violations and seeking to enjoin payment of the increased pension benefits. The trial court dismissed, finding the claim barred by the statute of limitations. The court of appeal affirmed., holding that the continuous accrual doctrine does not trigger a new limitations period every time retirement benefits are paid pursuant to the increased pension benefits approved in 2002 and 2003. Neither delayed discovery nor estoppel applies to toll the statute of limitations. View "Luke v. Sonoma County" on Justia Law

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Years of heavy industrial use at Wisconsin's Badger Army Ammunition Plant contaminated the soil and groundwater with asbestos, lead paint, PCBs, and oil. Operations ceased in 1975. Remediation has yielded thousands of acres suitable for recreational use. The National Park Service donated 3,000 acres to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. An environmental group sued to halt three activities at the Sauk Prairie Recreation Area: dog training for hunting, off-road motorcycle riding, and helicopter drills by the Wisconsin National Guard citing the Property and Administrative Services Act, which controls deeds issued through the Federal Land to Parks Program, 40 U.S.C. 550. The Act requires the government to enforce the terms of its deeds and that the land be used for recreational purposes. The relevant deeds require that Wisconsin use the park for its originally intended purposes. Dog training and motorcycle riding were not mentioned in Wisconsin’s initial application. The group also argued that the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321, required an environmental impact statement. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment. Dog training and off-road motorcycle riding were not mentioned in the application, but are recreational uses. While helicopter training is not recreational, the Service included an explicit deed provision reserving the right to continue the flights, as authorized by the Property Act. The Service reasonably concluded that its approval of dog training and motorcycle riding fell within a NEPA categorical exclusion for minor amendments to an existing plan. The Service was not required to prepare an environmental impact statement for helicopter training because it had no authority to discontinue the flights. View "Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance v. United States Department of the Interior" on Justia Law

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The North Dakota Department of Transportation appeals from a judgment reversing the decision of an administrative hearing officer revoking Corey Joseph Jesser’s driving privileges for 180 days. Jesser refused to take a sobriety test and was arrested for driving under the influence. The hearing officer found Peterson had reason to believe Jesser was involved in a traffic accident as the driver, Jesser’s body contained alcohol, and he refused to submit to the onsite screening test. The hearing officer found the arresting police officer had reasonable grounds to believe Jesser was driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor. The hearing officer found Jesser was arrested and refused to submit to the chemical breath test. The license was revoked for 180 days based on Jesser's refusal of the onsite screening and chemical tests. Notwithstanding these findings, the district court reversed the hearing officer's decision. Refusal of the screening test could have been cured by consenting to take the chemical test after arrest; Jesser argued a statutory opportunity to consult with an attorney before deciding whether to submit to the chemical test was deprived. Whether the statutory right to counsel before chemical testing under N.D.C.C. 39-20-01 impacted the right to cure under N.D.C.C. 39-20-14 was a question of first impression for the North Dakota Supreme Court. After review, the Court determined the limited statutory right of a defendant to consult with an attorney before taking a chemical test attached only after arrest. The Court rejected the argument that a post-arrest limited statutory right to counsel created a pre-arrest right because an individual was deprived of a post-arrest remedy. The Court reversed the district court judgment and reinstated the hearing officer's decision revoking Jesser's driving privileges. View "Jesser v. N.D. Dept. of Transportation" on Justia Law

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After falling into arrears on his court-ordered child support obligation, the North Dakota suspended Joshua Rose's drivers license. In November 2018, Rose entered into a child support payment plan with the State which lifted his drivers license suspension. The payment plan required Rose to make a $1,000 down payment and pay $836 per month for his current child support obligation and $167.20 per month for his arrears. Rose stopped paying his child support obligation after December 31, 2018. Following Rose’s failure to comply with the payment plan, the State resuspended his drivers license. Rose requested a hearing in the district court and asked to appear telephonically to contest the license suspension. The court denied the motion on May 17, 2019, reasoning Rose “has failed to show any statutory, or procedural, basis for granting his requests.” The North Dakota Supreme Court determined the district court erred, reversed and remanded for a hearing as required by N.D.C.C. 50-09-08.6. View "North Dakota v. Rose" on Justia Law

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Bile Salat appealed the discontinuation of his disability benefits. In 2016, Salat slipped and fell at work. On March 31, 2016, WSI accepted liability for a contusion of the lower back and pelvis and a right ankle sprain. By November 2016, an independent medical examination revealed Salat's ankle injury had not healed and was not at pre-injury status, but low back pain was unrelated to the work injury. Salat's personal physician reviewed the IME's opinion and did not have any "objective findings on physical exam to challenge or disagree with his medical opinion." On August 5, 2016, WSI issued an order discontinuing Salat’s disability benefits after June 29, 2016. On December 15, 2016, WSI issued a notice of decision denying further benefits of Salat’s lumbar spine after November 11, 2016. The North Dakota Supreme Court reversed the discontinuation of benefits, finding Salat's physician's statement was misunderstood by the district court as a "blanket agreement" with the independent medical examiner: Salat's physician's "statement is better understood as stating she had no objective findings on physical exam to challenge or disagree with [the IME] opinion regarding the source of Salat’s back pain." On this record, the Supreme Court surmised the ALJ could have reasonably found the two physicians had conflicting medical opinions on the source of continued back pain, and that a "reasoning mind reasonably could determine" Salat suffered low back pain after November 11, 2016 that was attributable to the compensable work injury. View "WSI v. Salat, et al." on Justia Law

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Robert Sheffield was injured on the job while working for S.J. Louis Construction (S.J. Louis). Sheffield filed a petition to contravert, and the administrative law judge (AJ) awarded Sheffield permanent-partial disability benefits. S.J. Louis appealed the decision to the full Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission (Commission), and the Commission reversed this finding, concluding that Sheffield did not suffer any additional disability from the 2015 injury than that caused by a 2010 injury. Sheffield appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed the Commission’s decision. S.J. Louis filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Mississippi Supreme Court. Because the Supreme Court found, after review, that the Commission’s decision was supported by substantial evidence, it reinstated and affirmed that decision. View "Sheffield v. S.J. Louis Construction Inc." on Justia Law

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Following a heavy rain on April 2-3, 2017, several homes in the Mill Creek Place Subdivision in Rankin County, Mississippi flooded and were damaged. Several homeowners, whose homes had been damaged, sued the County for failing to properly maintain Mill Creek, which is adjacent to the Mill Creek Place Subdivision. Rankin County filed a Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss the complaint. The trial court granted Rankin County’s motion, finding that Rankin County was immune from liability—specifically discretionary function immunity—under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act. The homeowners appealed, arguing that Rankin County is not immune. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed. Taking all of the allegations of the plaintiffs’ complaint as true, Rankin County’s alleged failure to maintain Mill Creek was a case of simple negligence, and "such maintenance decisions do not involve policy considerations." The Court therefore determined the trial court erred by dismissing the complaint based on discretionary function immunity. View "Moses v. Rankin County" on Justia Law