Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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This case involved claims for subvention by community college districts pertaining to 27 Education Code sections and 141 regulations. The regulations includes “minimum conditions” that, if satisfied, entitles the community college districts to receive state financial support. As to the minimum conditions, the Commission on State Mandates generally determined that reimbursement from the state qA not required because, among other things, the state did not compel the community college districts to comply with the minimum conditions. Coast Community College District, North Orange County Community College District, San Mateo County Community College District, Santa Monica Community College District, and State Center Community College District (the Community Colleges) filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging the Commission’s decision. The trial court denied the petition and entered judgment, and the Community Colleges appealed. The Court of Appeal concluded the minimum condition regulations imposed requirements on a community college district in connection with underlying programs legally compelled by the state. The Court surmised the Commission was. Suggesting the minimum conditions were not legally compelled because the Community Colleges were free to decline state aid, but the Court concluded that argument was inconsistent with the statutory scheme and the appellate record. Based on a detailed review of the statutes and regulations at issue, the Court reversed judgment with regard to Cal. Code Regs., tit. 5, regs. 51000, 51006, 51014, 51016, 51018, 51020, 51025, 54626, subdivision (a), 55825 through 55831, regulation 55760 in cases involving mistake, fraud, bad faith or incompetency, and the Handbook of Accreditation and Policy Manual. The Court affirmed as to Education code sections 66738, subdivision (b), 66741, 66743, 78210 through 78218, paragraphs 2, 4 and 5 of section 66740, the portion of regulation 51008 dealing with education master plans, regulations 51024, 54626, subdivisions (b) and (c), 55005, 55100, 51012, 55130, 55150, 55170, 55182, 55205 through 55219, 55300, 55316, 55316.5, 55320 through 55322, 55340, 55350, 55500 through 55534, 55600, 55602, 55602.5, 55603, 55605, 55607, 55620, 55630, 55752, 55753, 55753.5, 55758.5, 55761, 55764, 55800.5, 55805, 55806, 55807, 55808, 55809, 58102, 58107, 58108, 59404, the portion of regulation 55000 et seq. relating to community service classes, and pages A-1 to A-54 of the Chancellor’s Program and Course Approval Handbook. The matter was remanded for further further proceedings on additional challenges. View "Coast Community College Dist. v. Com. on State Mandates" on Justia Law

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Elaine Kirt died in 2010, due to complications that developed shortly after undergoing eye surgery. On September 23, 2011, her son, Neville Kirt, appearing in person and on behalf of his deceased mother and his two brothers, filed a request with the Division of Administration asking for a medical review panel to review the care provided to his mother by three defendants: Dr. Rebecca Metzinger, the attending surgeon; Dr. Theodore Strickland III, the anesthesiologist for the procedure; and Tulane Medical Center. In a reply letter to Neville, the Patient’s Compensation Fund Oversight Board (PCF) acknowledged receipt of the request; confirmed Dr. Metzinger, Dr. Strickland, and Tulane University Hospital & Clinic were qualified under the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act (Act); informed Kirt a filing fee of $100 per qualified defendant was due; and requested payment of $300. The notice stated the failure to pay would render the request invalid, without effect, and would not suspend the time to file suit. Days later, then appearing through counsel, the Kirts sent a second letter asking to amend its previous request, adding two additional nurses. The Kirts included a $500 check to cover filing fees. A medical review panel convened, reviewed the care provided by all named healthcare providers, and found no breach of the standard of care. The Kirts thereafter filed against the doctors and nurses. Claims against the doctors were dismissed by summary judgments because there was no proof they breached the standard of care while treating Elaine Kirt. Those judgments expressly barred allocating fault to the dismissed parties and prohibited introducing evidence at trial to establish their fault. The nurses then filed peremptory exceptions of prescription, claiming the request for a medical review panel was invalid because the Kirts failed to pay the final $100 filing fee, and prescription was not suspended for any claims. The trial court concurred with the nurses and granted an exception of prescription. The Supreme Court determined that because the Kirts paid filing fees for five of six named defendants, dismissal of one of the nurses was proper for lack of a filing fee. The Court determined the lower courts did not consider or decide the merits of the Kirts' argument that they could not have reasonable known about the claims against two of the nurse defendants until one was deposed. Because the lower courts did not consider or decide the merits of the Kirts' basis for the exception of prescription, which could have turned on factual findings, the Supreme Court pretermitted consideration of these arguments and remanded the matter to the trial court for further disposition of the exception. View "Kirt v. Metzinger" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of the court of appeals and the trial court holding that the City of Asheville improperly denied an application for the issuance of a conditional use permit submitted by PHG Asheville, LLC seeking authorization to construct a hotel in downtown Asheville, holding that the City lacked the authority to deny the requested conditional use permit. The trial court determined that PHG was entitled to the issuance of the requested conditional use permit because the City had improperly concluded that PHG failed to present competent, material, and substantial evidence tending to show that the proposed hotel satisfied the standards of a conditional use permit set out in the City's unified development ordinance. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that PHG presented competent, material, and substantial evidence that the proposed hotel satisfied the relevant conditional use permit standards set out in the City's unified development ordinance. View "PHG Asheville, LLC v. City of Asheville" on Justia Law

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In this dispute concerning the manner in which the cost of pensions for certain retirees should be funded, the Supreme Court held that the Administrative Procedure Act's (APA) rulemaking procedures bind how the Retirement System's Board of Trustees adopt "cap factors" under the anti-pension spiking provision at issue in this case. In order to calculate the retirement benefit cap applicable to each retiree, the Act to Enact Anti-Pension-Spiking Legislation by Establishing a Contribution-Based Benefit Cap directs the Retirement System's Board of Trustees to adopt a contribution-based benefit cap factor recommended by an actuary, which the Board had traditionally adopted by resolution. Here, the Retirement System determined that Dr. Barry Shepherd's pension benefits were subject the contribution-based benefit cap. The trial court concluded that the Board of Trustees' adoption of the cap factor was void because the action was subject to rulemaking under the APA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Board of Trustees was required to adopt the statutorily mandated cap factor utilizing the rulemaking procedures required by the APA; and (2) the Retirement System erred by billing the Board of Education an additional amount relating to Dr. Shepherd's pension, in light of the Board of Trustees' failure to adopt the necessary cap factor in an appropriate manner. View "Cabarrus County Board of Education v. Department of State Treasurer" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's summary judgment for the Town of Pinebluff, holding that the court of appeals erred in concluding that Session Law 1999-35 required Moore County to approve Pinebluff's expansion request. Session Law 1999-35 amended North Carolina's extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) statute, N.C. Gen. Stat. 160A-360, as it pertained to Pinebluff. After Pinebluff annexed land extending beyond the town's corporate boundaries, Pinebluff requested that the Moore County Board of Commissioners adopt a resolution to authorize the expansion of Pinebluff's ETJ two miles beyond the annexed boundary, pursuant to section 160A-360. The Board denied the request. Pinebluff filed a complaint against Moore County seeking a writ of mandamus. The trial court granted summary judgment for Pinebluff and directed Moore County to adopt a resolution authorizing Pinebluff to exercise its ETJ within the proposed area. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that there is no irreconcilable conflict between subsections (e) and (f) of section 160A-360, as modified by Session Law 1999-35, and that subsection (e) prohibits Pinebluff from extending its ETJ into the requested areas within an agreement between Pinebluff and Moore County. View "Town of Pinebluff v. Moore County" on Justia Law

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The trial court dismissed plaintiff Paul Civetti's negligence action against the Town of Isle La Motte and the Town Road Commissioner on grounds that: (1) because the Road Commissioner was an “appointed or elected municipal officer,” plaintiff was required by 24 V.S.A. section 901(a) to bring his action against the Town, rather than the Road Commissioner; and (2) the Town was, in turn, immune from suit based on municipal immunity. In his complaint, plaintiff alleged that: the Town has formally adopted road standards for its town roads; the Road Commissioner is responsible for assuring that the Town’s roads meet those standards; Main Street did not comply with those standards, including standards relating to the “width and shoulder”; the Road Commissioner knew or should have known that Main Street did not comply; and plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident because of the non-compliant road. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court concluded that if the Road Commissioner was negligent in performing a ministerial function, the Town assumes the Road Commissioner’s place in defending the action and therefore may not assert municipal immunity from the claim pursuant to section 901(a) or § 901a, and that dismissal of this claim on the basis of qualified immunity was premature. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Civetti v. Turner" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning the application of the statutory scheme permitting an employer that has provided workers compensation benefits to an injured employee to obtain both a subrogation interest in any recovery the employee receives from a third party and a credit for future benefits, the Supreme Court held that the Workers Compensation Board used the improper method for determining the subrogation lien and the future credit. In Employee's third party negligence action, the jury decided both the fault of Employer and the measure of Employee's damages from his workplace injury. The Board applied the jury's finding of fault to Employee's settlement with one of several defendants in his negligence action to compute the reduction in Employer's subrogation lien and future credit for workers compensation benefits it provided or will provide to Employee. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) consistent with Kan. Stat. Ann. 44-504(b), Employer's credit for future benefits should have been determined using each annual settlement payment to Employee from one of the third-party defendants when the payment was received; and (2) the Board erred in aggregating those payments and relying on the total amount when Employee would not receive the last installment for twenty years. View "Hawkins v. Southwest Kansas Co-op Service" on Justia Law

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The Association of Businesses Advocating Tariff Equity (ABATE) (Docket Nos. 158305 and 158306) and Energy Michigan, Inc. (Docket Nos. 158307 and 158308) each appealed an order of the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) implementing MCL 460.6w. The MPSC order imposed a local clearing requirement on individual alternative electric suppliers. The local clearing requirement represented the amount of capacity resources that were required to be in the local resource zone in which the electric supplier’s demand was served. ABATE and Energy Michigan challenged the MPSC’s interpretation of MCL 460.6w, and Energy Michigan further asserted that the MPSC order improperly imposed new rules that were not promulgated in compliance with the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). The Court of Appeals consolidated the appeals and reversed the MPSC’s decision, holding that no provision of MCL 460.6w clearly and unmistakably authorized the MPSC to impose a local clearing requirement on individual alternative electric suppliers and that the MPSC could impose a local clearing requirement only exactly as MISO does—on a zonal basis. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals concluded that the MPSC was not permitted to impose a local clearing requirement on any provider individually. Because the Court of Appeals held that MCL 460.6w did not provide the MPSC with the authority to impose a local clearing requirement on individual alternative electric suppliers, the Court of Appeals did not reach the APA argument. The Michigan Supreme Court reversed, finding that despite the identical language describing the MPSC’s authority for determining both elements of its capacity obligation, the Court of Appeals concluded that there was a difference based on its review of the entire statute. The Court surmised that conclusion was unfounded; in fact, a contextual review of the statute supported the opposite conclusion. The Supreme Court determined the Court of Appeals misread MCL 460.6w when it read into the statutory text a requirement that the MPSC impose Michigan’s local clearing requirement using the same methodology the Mid-continent Independent System Operator did. The Court of Appeals further misunderstood the differences between the wholesale and retail capacity markets when it held that the MPSC could not impose a local clearing requirement on alternative electric suppliers individually. View "In re Reliability Plans of Electric Utilities for 2017-2021" on Justia Law

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Brian Ehrhart died within days of contracting hantavirus near his Issaquah, Washington home in early 2017. His widow, Sandra Ehrhart, sued King County’s public health department, Swedish Medical Center, and an emergency room physician, arguing all three had negligently caused Brian's death. King County asserted public duty as an affirmative defense, arguing it was not liable for Brian’s death because it did not owe him any duty as an individual. Ehrhart moved for partial summary judgment asking the court to dismiss this defense and others. The trial court granted Ehrhart’s motion but conditioned its ruling on the jury finding particular facts. King County appealed, and the Washington Supreme Court accepted direct discretionary review. The issues presented were: (1) whether the trial court could properly grant summary judgment conditioned on the jury finding particular facts; and (2) whether the regulations governing King COunty's responsibility to issue health advisories created a duty owed to Brian individually as opposed to a non actionable duty owed to the public as a whole. The Supreme Court determined the trial court could not properly grant summary judgment conditioned on the jury finding particular facts; summary judgment was appropriate only when there were no genuine issues of material fact. The Court concluded King County did not owe an individualized duty to Brian, and no exception to the public duty doctrine applied in this case. The Supreme Court therefore reversed the trial court, and remanded for entry of judgment in favor of King County on its public duty doctrine defense. View "Ehrhart v. King County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing two lawsuits brought by Black Diamond Energy of Delaware, Inc. (BDED) in an attempt to challenge the forfeiture of its bonds by the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, holding that the complaint in Case No. 2017-0074 was outside the scope of 30-5-113(a) and that the complaint in Case No. 2018-0011 was brought in the wrong venue. BDED, an oil and gas exploration company, secured a Wyoming oil and gas lease by posting bonds with the Commission and the Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments. After the Commission ordered the bonds forfeited, BDED did not seek administrative review but, instead filed these lawsuits claiming that certain statutes authorized the direct action. The district court dismissed both lawsuits on the ground that BDED had failed to comply with the Wyoming Administrative Procedures Act. The Supreme Court affirmed but on different grounds, holding (1) BDED's complaint against the Commission in Case No. 2017-0074 was not properly brought pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. 30-5-113(a); and (2) BDED did not bring its Wyoming Governmental Claims Act complaint in Case No. 2018-0011 in the proper venue. View "Black Diamond Energy of Delaware Inc. v. Wyoming Oil & Gas Conservation Commission" on Justia Law