by
This appeal centered on whether a solar energy project proposed by a local agency, the Lake Arrowhead Community Services District (District), was exempt from, or whether the District must comply with, the zoning ordinances of the city in which the project is to be developed, the City of Hesperia (City). The District adopted a resolution that its proposed solar energy project was both (1) absolutely exempt from the City's zoning ordinances under Government Code section 53091(e) and (2) qualifiedly exempt under section 53096(a), following the requisite determination that there was no feasible alternative to the proposed location of the project. The City successfully challenged the resolution in the underlying superior court proceedings, where the court issued a judgment in favor of the City and a related writ of mandate directing that the District and its board comply with the City's zoning ordinance prior to implementing the project. The Court of Appeal affirmed: because the District's proposed project included the transmission of electrical energy, the exemption contained in section 53091(e) did not apply to the project; and because the administrative record did not contain substantial evidence to support the District's board's finding that there was no feasible alternative to the proposed location of the project, the District prejudicially abused its discretion in determining that the exemption contained in section 53096(a) applied to the project. View "City of Hesperia v. Lake Arrowead Comm. Serv. Dist." on Justia Law

by
Smith worked at the General Services Administration for nearly 30 years before GSA removed him. For most of his career, he received positive evaluations and faced no discipline. When Smith began to complain about GSA’s ineffective collection and management practices, his supervisor warned him to communicate his concerns only to his supervisor. He was eventually suspended for failure to follow that instruction and his relationship with his supervisor deteriorated. Smith was also disciplined for disrespect toward his supervisor and failing to remove his computer access card from his laptop, although Smith, a quadriplegic, was physically unable to remove the card. The Merit Systems Protection Board agreed that GSA retaliated against him for his repeated disclosure of gross mismanagement; Smith was a whistleblower, 5 U.S.C. 2302(b)(8), and his protected disclosures contributed to the decision to remove him. The Board nevertheless upheld the removal. Without addressing evidence relevant to GSA’s motive to retaliate or its treatment of other similarly situated non-whistleblowers, the Board ruled that because GSA had strong evidence of misconduct, removal was justified. The Federal Circuit vacated. The Board conflated two distinct inquiries: whether the penalty was reasonable and whether the agency would have imposed that same penalty absent Smith’s protected whistleblowing. Given Smith’s disability and his supervisors’ knowledge that he could not remove his computer access card, the GSA policy did not apply to him. View "Smith v. General Services Administration" on Justia Law

by
The DC Circuit denied a petition for review challenging the EPA's February 2018 decision not to issue financial responsibility requirements for the hardrock mining industry. The court deferred to the EPA's interpretation that it should set financial responsibility regulations based on financial risks, not risks to health and the environment, because the use of "risk" in section 9608(b) in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), in the general mandate and amount clauses, was ambiguous and the EPA's interpretation was reasonable. Furthermore, nothing in section 9608(b) mandates the EPA to promulgate financial responsibility requirements for the hardrock mining industry, authorizing the EPA to decline to do so. The court also held that the EPA's financial risk analysis and economic analysis were neither arbitrary nor capricious. Finally, under Circuit and Supreme Court precedent, the court held that the EPA's Final Action not to adopt financial responsibility requirements for the hardrock mining industry constitutes a logical outgrowth of the Proposed Rule. View "Idaho Conservation League v. Wheeler" on Justia Law

by
Petitioners Northern Pass Transmission, LLC and Public Service Company of New Hampshire d/b/a Eversource Energy (PSNH), appealed the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee’s decision denying their application for a “Certificate of Site and Facility” (certificate) for the siting, construction, and operation of a high voltage transmission line (HVTL) and associated facilities from Pittsburg to Deerfield (the project). A subcommittee of the Evaluation Committee held 70 days of adjudicative hearings between April and December 2017. It received testimony from 154 witnesses and received 2,176 exhibits. At the conclusion of its proceedings, the Subcommittee voted unanimously that petitioners “failed to demonstrate by a preponderance of evidence that the Project will not unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region” and denied the application on February 1, 2018. The New Hampshire Supreme Court reviewed the record and concluded the Subcommittee’s findings were supported by competent evidence and ere not erroneous as a matter of law. Accordingly, the Court held petitioners did not sustain their burden on appeal to show that the Subcommittee’s order was unreasonable or unlawful. View "Appeal of Northern Pass Transmission, LLC & a." on Justia Law

by
Defendant Genesee County served as an administrator for certain employee health insurance plans. Plaintiff Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeffrey Wright participated in this plan even though the office of drain commissioner had statutory autonomy from the county. The parties’ insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM), conducted a multi-year audit that revealed that the county’s collective insurance premiums, including those paid by the plaintiff, significantly exceeded the amount that should have been charged. The county held a public meeting about the overpayment -allegedly totaling millions of dollars - during which it accepted a refund from BCBSM. The county deposited the refund into its general fund. The plaintiff demanded a proportionate share of the refund; the county denied his request, and this lawsuit followed. The issue plaintiff’s case raised for the Michigan Supreme Court’s review reduced to whether a claim for unjust enrichment was barred by the governmental tort liability act (GTLA). The Court determined a claim for unjust enrichment was neither a tort nor a contract but rather an independent cause of action. And the remedy for unjust enrichment was restitution, not compensatory damages, the remedy for tort. For both reasons, the GTLA did not bar an unjust-enrichment claim. View "Genesee County Drain Commissioner v. Genesee County" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit granted in part and denied in part Petitioner's petition for review of the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirming an immigration judge's (IJ) denial of Petitioner's application for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT), holding that substantial evidence did not support the BIA's decision to deny Petitioner's applications for asylum and withholding of removal. Petitioner, a citizen of Nepal, contested deportation, claiming a fear of persecution for his political beliefs if he repatriated. The IJ denied Petitioner's application for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under CAT. The BIA affirmed. The First Circuit held (1) the Government did not meet its burden to rebut the presumption of a well-founded fear of persecution, and therefore, Petitioner was statutorily eligible to seek asylum; (2) because the BIA and IJ did not weigh the total corpus of evidence offered in support of the withholding claim, this evidence should be assessed in the first instance by the agency on remand; and (3) substantial evidence supported the BIA's denial of Petitioner's application for protection under CAT. View "Dahal v. Barr" on Justia Law

by
Peabody Twentymile Mining, LLC (“Peabody Twentymile”) operates the Foidel Creek Mine, a large underground coal mine in Colorado. The mine uses over one thousand ventilation stoppings to separate the fresh intake air from the air flowing out of the mine that has been circulated through areas where extraction is occurring. In 2014, an inspector for the Mine Safety and Health Administration (“MSHA”) issued a citation to Peabody Twentymile for a violation of the federal law requiring permanent ventilation stoppings to be “constructed in a traditionally accepted method and of materials that have been demonstrated to perform adequately.” MSHA alleged Peabody Twentymile was using polyurethane spray foam to seal the perimeter of a permanent concrete block ventilation stopping. Peabody Twentymile unsuccessfully contested the citation and civil penalty before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). The ALJ relied on the preamble to the ventilation stopping regulation, which listed six “traditionally accepted construction methods,” to determine that Peabody Twentymile’s method of constructing concrete block stoppings was not “traditionally accepted” and was subject to a $162 fine. Peabody Twentymile then petitioned the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (the “Commission”) for review, and the Commission issued an evenly split decision, causing the ALJ’s decision to stand. Peabody Twentymile thereafter petitioned the Tenth Circuit for review of the ALJ’s decision. The Tenth Circuit concluded Peabody Twentymile’s construction method was “traditionally accepted” by MSHA under the unambiguous meaning of that phrase, it reversed the ALJ’s decision and vacated the citation. View "Peabody Twentymile Mining v. Secretary of Labor" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Sacramentans for Fair Planning contended the City of Sacramento violated zoning law and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when it approved entitlements for real party 2500 J Owners, LLC, to construct a high-rise condominium building in the City’s Midtown area. The project was not consistent with the general plan and zoning code standards for building intensity and height. But the City approved it pursuant to a general plan policy authorizing more intense development than zoning otherwise allowed if the project provided a significant community benefit. The City also conducted a streamlined CEQA review. CEQA authorized the less intense review for a type of residential mixed-use development such as the proposed project which, because of its proximity to mass transit services, may help reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions by generating less use of motor vehicles. In a petition for writ of mandate, plaintiff argued that approving the project under the general plan policy violated constitutional law and an implied-in-law zoning contract that required identical uses in a zoning district to be treated uniformly and prohibited a delegation of legislative authority without sufficient standards to govern its use. Plaintiff also claimed the City violated CEQA because the streamlined review did not analyze all of the project’s environmental effects. The trial court denied plaintiff’s petition. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order and judgment. View "Sacramentans for Fair Planning v. City of Sacramento" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against DCFS and a private foster care agency, alleging claims of negligence and failure to perform statutorily mandated duties which resulted in sexual abuse by her foster mother's two sons. The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment of nonsuit and postjudgment awards of attorney fees, but reduced costs by $6,988.37. The court held that the trial court properly granted nonsuit, because plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence to permit the jury to find in her favor. In this case, there was no evidence Children's Institute owed plaintiff a duty to protect her from the brothers because their sexual abuse was not foreseeable or imminent. Furthermore, the evidence presented by plaintiff was insufficient to permit a jury to find the county's breach of three mandatory duties was a proximate cause of her injuries. The court also held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it denied leave to file a fifth amended complaint, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it awarded attorney fees for unreasonably denied requests for admission. Finally, the court modified the postjudgment order to reflect trial costs are additionally taxed for disallowed costs for investigative expenses. View "Doe v. Department of Children & Family Services" on Justia Law

by
The Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance (the “Commission”) recommended that the Mississippi Supreme Court publicly reprimand and assess a $500 fine against Judge Frank Sutton, a justice court judge for Post Three in Hinds County, Mississippi. Based on complaints against Judge Sutton, the Commission initiated an inquiry into his role in two matters. This investigation led to the Commission’s filing a formal complaint. Judge Sutton did not file an answer to the complaint; instead, he and the Commission stipulated to agreed facts. The Commission then unanimously adopted those facts in its findings of fact and recommendation. The Commission made this recommendation after finding by clear and convincing evidence that Judge Sutton’s conduct constituted misconduct in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct as well as Section 177A of the Mississippi Constitution of 1890. The Supreme Court agreed with the Commission that Judge Sutton’s conduct constituted misconduct. The Court disagreed, however, with the Commission’s imposition of sanctions. Instead, the Supreme Court ordered a public reprimand, fined Judge Sutton $500 and suspended Judge Sutton for thirty days without pay. View "Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance v. Sutton" on Justia Law