Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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The issue common to appeals consolidated for the Tenth Circuit's review centered on what are "waters of the United States." In April 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers tried to define the phrase through a regulation called the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR). The State of Colorado swiftly challenged the NWPR in federal court, arguing the new rule, despite its name, did very little to protect waters of the United States and was both substantively and procedurally flawed. Before the NWPR took effect, Colorado asked the district court to enjoin the Agencies from implementing the rule pending a determination on the merits of the case. The district court obliged, issuing an order staying the effective date of the NWPR and preliminarily enjoining the Agencies to continue administering the Clean Water Act under the then-current regulations. The Tenth Circuit was asked whether the district court abused its discretion when it granted Colorado injunctive relief. To this, the Court responded in the affirmative: "Colorado asked for immediate relief but hasn’t shown it will suffer irreparable injury absent a preliminary injunction. Because that alone compels us to reverse, we do not consider the other preliminary injunction factors." View "State of Colorado v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request after the FAA notified him that he was ineligible for an Air Traffic Control Specialist position based on his performance on a screening test called the Biographical Assessment. At issue is FOIA's Exemption 5, which provides that FOIA's disclosure requirements do not apply to "interagency or intra-agency memorandums or letters that would not be available by law to a party . . . in litigation with the agency."The en banc court joined six of its sister circuits in adopting the consultant corollary to Exemption 5, and held that the term "intra-agency" in 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(5) included, at least in some circumstances, documents prepared by outside consultants hired by the agency to assist in carrying out the agency's functions. The en banc court explained that the relevant inquiry asks whether the consultant acted in a capacity functionally equivalent to that of an agency in creating the document or documents the agency sought to withhold. In this case, the FAA properly withheld two of the three documents at issue under that exemption. However, the en banc court held that the FAA did not establish that the remaining document is protected by the attorney work-product privilege, and the agency failed to show that it conducted a search reasonably calculated to locate all documents responsive to petitioner's FOIA request. Accordingly, the en banc court vacated the district court's entry of summary judgment for the FAA and remanded for further proceedings. The en banc court denied plaintiff's motion for judicial notice. View "Rojas v. Federal Aviation Administration" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court set aside the decision of administrative law judge (ALJ) for the Industrial Commission of Arizona (ICA) denying the claim for benefits filed by deputy John France, who developed post-traumatic stress disorder after he shot and killed a man, holding that the administrative law judge erred by failing to apply the standard required by Ariz. Rev. Stat. 23-1043.01(B).Under section 23-1043.01(B), employees may receive compensation for mental injuries if an unexpected, unusual or extraordinary employment-related stress was a substantial contributing cause of the mental injury. An ALJ denied France's claim for benefits, concluding that the shooting incident was not "unusual, unexpected, or extraordinary." The Supreme Court set aside the ICA's decision, holding (1) under section 23-1043.01(b), a work-related mental injury is compensable if the specific event causing the injury was objectively "unexpected, unusual or extraordinary"; (2) under this objective standard, an injury-causing event must be examined from the standpoint of a reasonable employee with the same or similar job duties and training as the claimant; and (3) the ALJ erred by limiting her analysis to whether France's job duties encompassed the possibility of using lethal force in the line of duty and failing to consider whether the shooting incident was unexpected or extraordinary. View "France v. Industrial Commission of Arizona" on Justia Law

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In 2016, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved, as just and reasonable, cost allocations filed by PJM, the Mid–Atlantic’s regional transmission organization, for a project to improve the reliability of three New Jersey nuclear power plants. The Commission denied a complaint lodged by Delaware and Maryland alleging a large imbalance between the costs imposed on the Delmarva transmission zone and the benefits that zone would accrue from the project. On rehearing in 2018, the Commission reversed course, concluding that application of PJM’s cost–allocation method to the project violated cost–causation principles and was therefore unjust and unreasonable under the Federal Power Act, 16 U.S.C. 824e. The Commission’s replacement cost–allocation method shifted primary cost responsibility for the project from the Delmarva zone to utilities in New Jersey.The New Jersey Agencies argued that the Commission departed from precedent without adequate explanation, made findings that are unsupported by substantial evidence, and failed to respond meaningfully to objections raised during the proceedings. The D.C. Circuit denied their petitions for review. The Commission reasonably decided to adopt a different cost–allocation method for the type of project at issue here and adequately explained its departure from the cost allocations it had approved in 2016. View "Public Service Electric and Gas Co. v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Krainewood Shores Association, Inc. and Black Cat Island Civic Association appealed a superior court decision granting defendants' Town of Moultonborough (Town) and TYBX3, LLC motion to dismiss. In 2018, TYBX3 sought to develop a vacant lot into condominium storage units for the purpose of storing large “toys,” such as boats, snowmobiles, and motorcycles. The Town’s planning board approved the application in May 2019. Plaintiffs appealed the planning board's decision, and defendants moved to dismiss, arguing the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the complaint as not timely filed. Specifically, the defendants argued that the plaintiffs missed the 30-day deadline imposed by RSA 677:15, I, to file an appeal of a planning board’s decision. To this, the trial court concurred and granted the motion. On appeal, the plaintiffs argue that the trial court erred in granting defendants’ motion to dismiss, and erred in denying plaintiffs’ motion to amend their complaint. Because the trial court did not decide whether to allow plaintiffs to amend their complaint, the New Hampshire Supreme Court vacated the order denying plaintiffs’ motion to amend, and remanded for the trial court to decide, in the first instance, whether plaintiffs’ amended complaint could proceed. The Court expressed no opinion as to the parties’ arguments regarding whether plaintiffs’ amended complaint would cure the jurisdictional defect. View "Krainewood Shores Association, Inc. v. Town of Moultonborough" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Andrew Panaggio appealed a New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board (Board) determination that respondent, CNA Insurance Company (the insurer), could not be ordered to reimburse him for his purchase of medical marijuana because such reimbursement would have constituted aiding and abetting his commission of a federal crime under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA). When Panaggio appealed the insurer’s denial to the New Hampshire Department of Labor, a hearing officer agreed with the insurer. Panaggio appealed the hearing officer’s decision to the Board, which unanimously found that his use of medical marijuana was reasonable and medically necessary. Nonetheless, the Board upheld the insurer’s refusal to reimburse Panaggio, concluding that “the carrier is not able to provide medical marijuana because such reimbursement is not legal under state or federal law.” The New Hampshire Supreme Court surmised the issue on appeal raised a question of federal preemption, "which is essentially a matter of statutory interpretation and construction." Although it was an issue of first impression for the New Hampshire Court, other courts considered whether the CSA preempted a state order requiring reimbursement of an employee’s purchase of medical marijuana. Panaggio reasoned that “[b]ecause New Hampshire law unambiguously requires the insurer to pay for the claimant’s medically related treatment,” an insurer that reimburses a claimant for the purchase of medical marijuana acts without the volition required by the federal aiding and abetting statute. The insurer asserted Panaggio’s argument leads to an absurd result, observing that “[c]onflict preemption applies because state law requires what federal law forbids.” The New Hampshire Supreme Court ultimately concluded the CSA did not make it illegal for an insurer to reimburse an employee for his or her purchase of medical marijuana. "[A] Board order to reimburse Panaggio does not interfere with the federal government’s ability to enforce the CSA. Regardless of whether the insurer is ordered to reimburse Panaggio for his medical marijuana purchase, the federal government is free to prosecute him for simple possession of marijuana under the CSA." Under these circumstances, the Court concluded the “high threshold” for preemption “is not met here.” The Board's decision was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Appeal of Andrew Panaggio" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal issued a peremptory writ of mandate directing the trial court to set aside its order enjoining the County from enforcing its orders to the extent they prohibit outdoor dining due to the COVID-19 pandemic until after conducting an appropriate risk-benefit analysis. During the pendency of the petition, the County lifted its prohibition based on infection rates declining and ICU availability increasing. However, the court concluded that these cases are not moot because conditions may change and the County may re-impose its outdoor restaurant dining ban.The court held that courts should be extremely deferential to public health authorities, particularly during a pandemic, and particularly where, as here, the public health authorities have demonstrated a rational basis for their actions. In this case, the County's order banning outdoor dining is not a plain, palpable invasion of rights secured by the fundamental law and is rationally related to limiting the spread of COVID-19.Even assuming that Mark's, a restaurant, has a First Amendment right to freedom of assembly, or that Mark's has standing to bring a First Amendment challenge on behalf of its patrons or employees, the court held that the order does not violate Mark's purported First Amendment right to freedom of assembly or that of its patrons. The court explained that the County's order does not regulate assembly based on the expressive conduct of the assembly; it is undisputed that limiting the spread of COVID-19 is a legitimate and substantial government interest; and the order leaves open alternative channels for assembling. Accordingly, the court entered a new order denying the Restauranteurs' request for a preliminary injunction. View "County of Los Angeles Department of Health v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law

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Petitioners sought review of the Commission's final rule prohibiting the manufacture and sale of any children's toy or child care article that contains concentrations of more than 0.1 percent of any one of five phthalates.The Fifth Circuit held that EMCC has standing to bring its challenge to the Final Rule and the court has jurisdiction to review the Final Rule. The court also held that the Commission procedurally erred by not providing an adequate opportunity to comment on the rule and by failing to consider the costs of a portion of the rule. Having reviewed the record and the Final Rule, the court can discern the Commission's path for each of the six decisions at issue and held that its explanations are not "so implausible that it could not be ascribed to a difference in view or the product of agency expertise." Because there is a serious possibility that CSPC will be able to remedy its failures, the court concluded that remand, rather than vacatur, was appropriate in this case. View "Texas Association of Manufacturers v. United States Consumer Product Safety Commission" on Justia Law

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In this case involving litigation over milk price regulation in Puerto Rico the First Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court granting ORIL's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and remanded to the district court with instructions to return the case to the Puerto Rico Court of First Instance, holding that the district court lacked federal subject matter jurisdiction over this dispute.Industria Lechera de Puerto Rico, Inc. (Indulac) filed a challenge to the 2017 price order issued by the Milk Industry Regulation Administration for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in the Puerto Rico Court of First Instance, arguing that ORIL had failed to comply with certain procedural administrative requirements before issuing the order. ORIL filed a notice of removal, asserting federal jurisdiction based on 28 U.S.C. 1331 and 1441(a) and (c). The district court found that it had jurisdiction and then granted ORIL's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding that federal courts lacked jurisdiction over this matter. View "Industria Lechera de Puerto Rico, Inc. v. Flores" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the court of special appeals concluding that it had jurisdiction to consider this appeal, holding that, under the circumstances, there was no right to appeal arising under statute or local law.ProVen Management, Inc. filed a petition for judicial review of the Baltimore City Department of Public Works Director's final decision in favor of the City as to ProVen Management, Inc.'s action seeking additional sums under the parties' contract. The circuit court affirmed, and ProVen appealed. The City filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that the court of special appeals lacked jurisdiction under Md. Cts. & Jud. Proc. art. 12-302(a). The court of special appeals denied the motion to dismiss. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) ProVen's petition for judicial review was, in both form and substance, a petition for judicial review of an administrative agency decision arising under pertinent provisions of the Baltimore City Charter; and (2) because the Charter provided no right to appeal, the court of special appeals was required to dismiss the matter. View "Mayor & City Council of Baltimore v. ProVen Management, Inc." on Justia Law