Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Court of Appeals' judgment ruling that FMC must pay an annual use permit fee for storage of hazardous waste on fee lands within the Shoshone-Bannock Fort Hall Reservation pursuant to a consent decree settling a prior suit brought against FMC by the EPA under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The panel held that the judgment of the Tribal Court of Appeals was enforceable pursuant to the two exceptions under Montana v. United States, 450 U.S. 544 (1981). First, a tribe may regulate the activities of nonmembers who enter into consensual relationships with the tribe or its members. Second, a tribe retains inherent power to exercise civil authority over the conduct of non-Indians on fee lands within its reservation when that conduct threatens or has some direct effect on the political integrity, the economic security, or the health or welfare of the tribe. In this case, the panel held that the Tribes had regulatory jurisdiction to impose the permit fees because FMC entered into a consensual relationship when it signed a permit agreement with the Tribes. Furthermore, FMC's storage of millions of tons of hazardous waste on the Reservation fell within the second Montana exception. Finally, the panel held that the Tribal Court of Appeals did not deny FMC due process through a lack of impartiality. View "FMC Corp. v. Shoshone-Bannock Tribes" on Justia Law

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This case addressed whether a foster-care provider and a caseworker for the Department of Human Resources ("DHR") were immune from liability. Arnold Curry filed this wrongful-death action against Becky Van Gilder, a licensed foster-care provider, and Kristi Kelley, a caseworker with the Montgomery County, Alabama DHR office, seeking damages for the death of his nine-year-old son A.C., who died of complications related to sickle-cell anemia after DHR removed him from Curry's home. Curry alleged that Van Gilder had acted negligently and wantonly in caring for A.C. and that Kelley had acted negligently and wantonly in managing A.C.'s case. Van Gilder and Kelley separately asked the Montgomery Circuit Court to enter summary judgments in their favor, denying liability and arguing that they were protected by immunity based on their respective roles as a foster parent and a DHR caseworker. The trial court denied their motions. They separately petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for writs of mandamus to direct the trial court to vacate its previous order denying their summary-judgment motions and to enter a new order granting those motions. The Supreme Court consolidated the petitions for the purpose of issuing one opinion, and granted the petitions in part and denied them in part. To the extent Curry's wrongful-death claims against Van Gilder and Kelley were based on allegations of negligence, those claims were barred by the doctrine of parental immunity. Parental immunity, however, did not bar wantonness-based claims, and Kelley did not establish that she was entitled to State-agent immunity as to the wantonness claim against her. Therefore, Curry's wrongful-death claims against Van Gilder and Kelley were allowed to proceed to the extent those claims were based on allegations of wantonness. View "Ex parte Kristi Kelley." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court affirming the decision of the O'Brien County Board of Supervisors determining that two newspapers under common ownership and published in the same city could not be combined for purposes of determining circulation because the publications were not offered for sale or delivered "in the same geographic area" under Iowa Code 349.6, holding that the district court did not err. The two newspapers at issue were the Sanborn Pioneer and the O'Brien County's Bell-Times-Courier, both owned by Marcus News, Inc. Marcus News and Iowa Information, Inc. both submitted applications to the Board requesting that their newspapers be selected as official county publications. The Board concluded that the two newspapers of Marcus News should not be considered as one newspaper and, as a result, did not select the publications as official newspapers for O'Brien County. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court also affirmed, holding that the district court correctly concluded that the two publications should not be combined and considered as one publication in the same geographic area. View "Marcus News, Inc. v. O’Brien County Board of Supervisors" on Justia Law

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Petitioners sought review of the EPA's Risk Evaluation Rule establishing a process to evaluate the health and environmental risks of chemical substances. The Rule was promulgated by the EPA under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The Ninth Circuit held that it lacked jurisdiction to review petitioners' challenge to provisions of the Rule relating to the process by which EPA will conduct risk determinations. The panel explained that the challenge was not justiciable where petitioners' interpretation of what EPA intended to do and the resulting theory of injury were too speculative. In regard to petitioners' contention that the Rule contravenes TSCA's requirement that EPA consider all of a chemical's conditions of use when conducting a risk evaluation, the panel held that the challenged preambular language was not final agency action and not reviewable under the Administrative Procedure Act. The panel held that challenges to specific provisions of the Rule were justiciable, but they failed on the merits because the provisions that petitioners point to did not in fact assert discretion to exclude conditions of use from evaluation. Finally, the panel held that EPA's exclusion of legacy uses and associated disposals contradicted TSCA's plain language, but that EPA's exclusion of legacy disposals did not. Accordingly, the panel dismissed in part, granted in part, and denied in part. View "Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families v. EPA" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of an action alleging that the FAA wrongfully terminated plaintiff. Plaintiff filed her action in the district court within the 30-day statutory limitations period, but she mistakenly named only the FAA and her former supervisor as defendants. Because plaintiff's action alleged claims of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, she should have named the head of the executive agency to which the FAA belonged, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao. After the statute of limitations had expired, the FAA moved to dismiss and Secretary Chao then filed her own motion to dismiss. The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiff was entitled to relation back under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c)(2). The panel held that the district court adopted an overly technical interpretation of the term "process" as used in Rule 15(c)(2). Rather, the panel held that the notice-giving function of "process" under Rule 15(c)(2) was accomplished whether or not the summons accompanying the complaint was signed by the clerk of court. Furthermore, the requirements for relation back were met here where both the United States Attorney and the Attorney General were sufficiently notified of the action within Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m)'s 90-day period. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Silbaugh v. Chao" on Justia Law

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First Student, Inc., a school bus contractor, sought to reverse a Court of Appeals decision to affirm dismissal of its business and occupation ("B&O") tax refund action. At issue was whether First Student's transporting of students qualified as transporting persons "for hire" such that it made First Student subject to the public utility tax ("PUT") rather than the general B&O tax. The Washington Supreme Court found the meaning of "for hire" was ambiguous as used in the PUT, but resolved the ambiguity in favor of the long-standing interpretation that school buses were excluded from the definitions of "motor transportation business" and "urban transportation business" under RCW 82.16.010(6) and (12). The Court found that WAC 458-20-180 was a valid interpretation of the statute, and affirmed the Court of Appeals. View "First Student, Inc. v. Dep't of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Broadly speaking, Seattle's First-In-Time ("FIT") rule requires Seattle landlords when seeking to fill vacant tenancies to provide notice of rental criteria, screen all completed applications in chronological order, and to offer the tenancy to the first qualified applicant (subject to certain exceptions). Plaintiffs were Seattle landlords who claimed the FIT rule facially violated their state constitutional rights. The trial court ruled the FIT rule was unconstitutional on its face because: (1) the rule facially effected a per se regulatory taking for private use; (2) the rule facially infringed on plaintiffs' substantive due process rights; and (3) the rule facially infringed plaintiffs' free speech rights. The Washington Supreme Court determined the FIT rule was constitutional, "[t]he FIT rule is unquestionably an experiment." The Court adopted the definition of regulatory takings set forth in Lingle v. Chevron U.S.A., 544 U.S. 528 (2005) for the purposes of Washington Constitution article I, section 16, and held plaintiffs did not meet their burden of showing the FIT rule facially met this definition. The Court also clarified the rational basis review applied in substantive due process challenges to laws regulating the use of property, and held plaintiffs did not meet their burden of proving the FIT rule failed rational basis review on its face. Furthermore, the Supreme Court held that on its face, the FIT rule required only factual disclosures, and the City met its burden of showing the rule survived deferential scrutiny. View "Yim v. Seattle" on Justia Law

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San Bernardino County Children and Family Services (CFS) removed K.T. (K. or child) from his mother when he was about nine months old. At that time, a nurse noticed that he had an enlarged head. He was placed with distant relatives, Mr. and Ms. B., who were already caring for his older half-brother. Further testing showed that K. had a subdural hematoma. Meanwhile, the B.’s began refusing to communicate with K.’s social worker or her “friends” in the same office, claiming that she had discriminated against them and insulted them. CFS detained K., placed him in a special health care needs foster home, and filed a petition to remove K from the B.'s custody. The B.'s in turn, filed a "changed circumstances" petition for return of the child. The trial court denied the B.'s petition, finding they had not show they were qualified as a special health care needs foster home. It then granted CFS' petition, finding that communication between the B.'s and CFS has broken down. The B.'s appealed; CFS contended the B.’s lacked standing to appeal the trial court's orders, citing In re Miguel E., 120 Cal.App.4th 521 (2004). The Court of Appeal agreed with Miguel E. that, in general, a person from whom a child has been removed under Welfare & Institutions Code section 387 lacked standing to challenge the removal. However, when that person is a relative, the Court disagreed with Miguel E., because under Welfare & Institutions Code section 361.3, a relative has standing to appeal from a refusal to place a child with him or her (an argument that Miguel E. did not consider). Nevertheless, the Court of Appeal rejected the B.'s contentions of error and affirmed the trial court's orders. View "In re K.T." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs New England Backflow, Inc. (NEB) and Paul Whittemore, appealed a superior court order dismissing several of their claims against defendants the New Hampshire Office of the Fire Marshall (OFM) and Jeremy Cyr, in his official capacity as chief inspector of OFM, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Specifically, plaintiffs challenged the trial court’s dismissal of their declaratory judgment requests and their claims of unconstitutional taking, malicious prosecution, and abuse of process. Whittemore started NEB, which installed, repaired, tested, and replaced backflow prevention devices, also known as backflow preventers, for private and public entities. OFM was tipped off by a licensed plumber NEB might be plumbing without a license, which lead to this suit against NEB and Whittemore. Plaintiffs argued to the New Hampshire Supreme Court the trial court erred by: (1) concluding plaintiffs’ declaratory judgment requests were inconsistent with the applicable statutory language without holding an evidentiary hearing; (2) ruling plaintiffs’ request for declaratory judgment relating to a cease and desist order issued by OFM was moot; (3) concluding that Whittemore did not have a vested right to perform his professional work necessary to support plaintiffs’ takings claims; and (4) ruling that plaintiffs failed to state a claim for malicious prosecution and abuse of process. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s order because the declarations plaintiffs sought were inconsistent with the plain and ordinary meaning of the relevant statutory language, their request for the cease and desist declaration was moot, and plaintiffs’ remaining claims failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. View "New England Backflow, Inc. v Gagne" on Justia Law

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Kennith Evans was pulled over for driving with his off-road-only lights illuminated while on a "highway." After exhibiting signs of intoxication, Evans consented to a chemical breath test. Evans was notified his license was being suspended for driving a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or more. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) upheld the suspension after conducting an administrative hearing. Evans filed a petition for a writ of administrative mandate challenging the DMV's decision. Evans the appealed the superior court's denial of his writ petition. In his petition, Evans argued his suspension was not supported by substantial evidence: he contended he was allowed to use off-road lights inasmuch as the road he was on was not a "highway" as defined by section 24411 of the Vehicle Code. In addition, he claimed substantial evidence did not support the finding he was driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or more because the time entries on the notice indicate the arresting officer administered two chemical breath tests before he had had the opportunity to observe Evans for 15 minutes, as required by Title 17 of the California Code of Regulations. After review, the Court of Appeal determined Evans’ initial stop was lawful, the DMV and superior court properly considered the dispatch log and breath test results, and substantial evidence supported the superior court’s findings. View "Evans v. Shiomoto" on Justia Law