Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries
State ex rel. DeBlase v. Ohio Ballot Bd.
In this action arising from an initiative petition proposing a constitutional amendment entitled "The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety" the Supreme Court held that Relators, registered Ohio voters, were not entitled to a writ of mandamus.The Ohio Ballot Board and its members determined that the initiative petition proposed a single constitutional amendment to the Ohio Constitution that would protect an individual's "right to make and carry out one's own reproductive decisions." Relators commenced this action ordering the Board to issue a determination that the petition contained more than one amendment. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that the ballot board did not abuse its discretion or disregard applicable law in determining that petition at issue contained a single constitutional amendment. View "State ex rel. DeBlase v. Ohio Ballot Bd." on Justia Law
Indigenous Lifeways v. N.M. Compilation Comm’n Advisory Comm.
A constitutional amendment proposed by the Legislature and approved by the electorate in the 2020 general election made a number of changes governing the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (Commission or PRC). Those changes included alterations to the selection, qualifications, and terms of Commission members, and revision to the PRC’s constitutionally assigned responsibilities. Petitioners were three nonprofit organizations who represented the rights of Native Americans. Petitioners asked the New Mexico Supreme Court to declare the ratification of the constitutional amendment a nullity and to issue a writ of mandamus directing Respondent Advisory Committee of the New Mexico Compilation Commission (Advisory Committee) to remove the amendment from the Constitution. The Advisory Committee responded that Petitioners’ challenge was untimely and improperly raised against the committee through a petition for writ of mandamus, but took no position on the merits. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, who was granted leave to intervene in these proceedings, joined the Advisory Committee’s timeliness arguments and additionally argued that the amendment was constitutional. After hearing oral arguments, the Supreme Court denied the petition for writ of mandamus, holding that the petition was timely, but that the amendment did not violate Article XIX, Section 1 of the New Mexico Constitution. View "Indigenous Lifeways v. N.M. Compilation Comm'n Advisory Comm." on Justia Law
Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice v. Oklahoma
Petitioners filed this original proceeding objecting to two pieces of legislation passed by the Oklahoma legislature during the 2022 legislative session: S.B. 1503 and H.B. 4327. Both acts prohibited abortion after certain cutoff points while providing for a civil enforcement mechanism; both acts prohibited enforcement by the State, its subdivisions, and its agents--instead, the bills created a cause-of-action maintainable by any person for performing, or aiding and abetting the performance of, an abortion in violation of the acts. Petitioners challenged the bills on many grounds, but the Oklahoma Supreme Court did not address them here. The Court held both bills were unconstitutional; the Court found it unnecessary to address the Petitioners' request for injunctive relief and/or writ of prohibition or Respondents' claims that Petitioners did not have a justiciable claim against them. Petitioners' request for injunctive relief and/or a writ of prohibition was denied. View "Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice v. Oklahoma" on Justia Law
South River Watershed Alliance, et al. v. DeKalb County, Georgia
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and Georgia Department of Natural Resources (“GDNR”) sued DeKalb County for violating the Clean Water Act (“CWA”). To resolve this suit, the parties agreed to a consent decree in 2011. Eight years later, South River Watershed Alliance, Inc. (“South River”) and J.E. sued DeKalb County for failing to follow the decree and violating the CWA. The CWA authorizes citizen suits for enforcement purposes, but such suits are not allowed when an “administrator or State has commenced and is diligently prosecuting a civil or criminal action . . . to require compliance with the standard, limitation, or order.” Thus, this case turned on whether the 2011 consent decree—along with the ongoing efforts of the EPA and GDNR to require compliance—constitutes diligent prosecution. The district court determined that South River’s suit was barred by the diligent prosecution bar. On appeal, South River argued for the opposite result and requests injunctive relief to ensure DeKalb County’s compliance. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that South River wants the current consent decree discarded in favor of a more muscular alternative. The fact that South River disagrees with the prosecution strategy undertaken by the EPA and GDNR, however, is not enough to prove that the EPA and GDNR have failed to diligently prosecute DeKalb County’s CWA violations. To the contrary, the record shows that the EPA and GDNR have been diligent, which means that South River’s suit is barred under 33 U.S.C. Section 1365(b)(1)(B). View "South River Watershed Alliance, et al. v. DeKalb County, Georgia" on Justia Law
CSHV 1999 Harrison, LLC v. County of Alameda
CalSTRS is a “unit of the Government Operations Agency” authorized to invest the assets of the Teachers’ Retirement Fund (Ed. Code, 22001, 22203). In 2016, CalSTRS formed two LLCs for the purpose of acquiring two properties in Oakland. Both LLC agreements state “The purpose of the Company is to implement the essential governmental function of the Member ([CalSTRS]) … No other person or entity may become a member of the Company.” “For Federal and relevant State income and/or franchise tax purposes and for no other purposes whatsoever, the Company shall be disregarded as an entity separate from [CalSTRS].” The LLCs paid documentary transfer taxes of $3,371,250 to Oakland, and $247,225 to Alameda County for the acquisition of one property and $161,250 to Oakland, and $11,825 to Alameda County in connection with the other property. The LLCs unsuccessfully sought refunds.The superior court ruled “[t]he LLCs are not governmental entities even if a governmental entity is the sole member of the LLC” and the ordinances do not “provide a textual basis for an exemption for transactions in which a business entity takes ownership of real property based on that entity’s ownership” by an exempt state agency. The court of appeal affirmed, finding that the competing interests at stake are a matter for the legislature. View "CSHV 1999 Harrison, LLC v. County of Alameda" on Justia Law
Hirschfeld, et al. v. Oklahoma Turnpike Authority
A group of Oklahoma landowners petitioned for a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief, claiming that the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority violated the Open Meeting Act, 25 O.S.2021, §§ 301 to 314, regarding its notice to the public of the ACCESS Oklahoma Program. Both parties sought summary judgment. The district court rendered summary judgment in the landowners' favor, finding that the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority willfully violated the Open Meeting Act. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority gave sufficient notice of the agenda items that the landowners challenged. Furthermore, the Court found that the lack of notice regarding the announcement of the ACCESS Oklahoma Program at the February 2022 meeting did not violate the Open Meeting Act because the announcement was for informational purposes only. View "Hirschfeld, et al. v. Oklahoma Turnpike Authority" on Justia Law
City of Wilmington, Delaware v. United States
Wilmington charges its residential and non-residential property owners a stormwater management fee, based on an estimation of each property’s contribution to stormwater runoff. Because a precise measure of the actual amount of stormwater pollution from each property is impossible, the city devised a methodology for approximating the runoff attributable to each property based on recommendations from an engineering firm. For non-residential properties, the city assesses the fee based on a formula comprised of four variables. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) owns five properties in Wilmington, comprising 270 acres, classified as vacant, and used to store dredged material. USACE disputed whether the Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C. 1323, waived its sovereign immunity with respect to this fee.The Federal Circuit affirmed a Claims Court holding that the fees are not reasonable service charges, allowable under the CWA. Wilmington did not explain how the vacant land use code corresponded to the runoff coefficients nor whether its stormwater class fairly captured variability in vacant parcels, given that only one parcel contains any paved surface. Wilmington’s methodology, as applied, led to charges that are not a fair approximation of the properties’ proportionate contribution to stormwater pollution. View "City of Wilmington, Delaware v. United States" on Justia Law
Lonergan v. Town of Sanbornton
Plaintiffs Juliana and David Lonergan appealed a superior court order affirming a Town of Sanbornton’s (Town) Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) approval of a special exception for an excavation site for property that intervenor, R.D. Edmunds Land Holdings, LLC, owned. As a threshold matter, the Town and the intervenor argued that the New Hampshire Supreme Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction based upon plaintiffs’ failure to timely move for rehearing with the ZBA as required by RSA 155-E:9 (2014). To this, the Supreme Court concluded that RSA 155-E:9 applied to plaintiffs’ motion for rehearing to the ZBA and that plaintiffs did not meet the ten-day filing deadline set forth in the statute. Accordingly, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and vacated the superior court’s order. View "Lonergan v. Town of Sanbornton" on Justia Law
Knox v. Georgia
Five University System of Georgia (“USG”) professors filed suit to block a 2017 statutory amendment that removed public colleges and other public postsecondary educational institutions from the statutory definition of “school safety zone.” Before the 2017 amendment, carrying or possessing a weapon on any real property or in any building owned by or leased to any postsecondary educational institution was a misdemeanor, and the 2017 amendment decriminalized that conduct. The professors alleged that, as a result of the 2017 amendment, the Code required the Board of Regents, the USG, and USG institutions to permit persons to carry or possess weapons on the campuses of public postsecondary educational institutions, contrary to longstanding USG policies. The professors sought a declaration that the statutory amendment was unconstitutional as applied because it usurped the Board’s constitutional authority to govern, control, and manage the USG and its member institutions. The trial court granted the State's motion to dismiss the complaint and denied the professors’ request for declaratory relief, ruling that the trial court lacked jurisdiction on three alternative grounds, including mootness. The Georgia Supreme Court found that because the complaint showed that the Board adopted gun-carrying policies consistent with the 2017 statutory amendment, the question of whether the amendment usurped the constitutional authority of the Board to govern, control, and manage the USG and its member institutions became moot. Consequently, the trial court lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate the professors’ as-applied challenge, and the judgment dismissing the professors’ complaint on that basis was affirmed. View "Knox v. Georgia" on Justia Law
Raffensperger v. Jackson, et al.
In 2018, Mary Jackson and a nonprofit organization, Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere, Inc. (“ROSE”), filed a complaint against the Georgia Secretary of State challenging the constitutionality of the Georgia Lactation Consultant Practice Act (“the Act”), OCGA §§ 43-22A-1 to 43-22A-13. Under the Act, the Secretary issues licenses authorizing lactation care providers to provide lactation care and services for compensation. Only lactation care providers who obtain a privately issued certification as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (“IBCLC”) were eligible to obtain a license. Jackson and ROSE (collectively “Plaintiffs”) alleged their work included the provision of lactation care and services and that the Act was irrational and lacked any real and substantial connection to the public health, safety, or welfare because there was no evidence that non-IBCLC providers of lactation care and services ever harmed the public. They also contended the Act would require them to cease practicing their chosen profession, thus violating their rights to due process and equal protection under the Georgia Constitution. In the first round of this litigation, the trial court granted the Secretary’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, but the Georgia Supreme Court reversed and remanded with direction. Following remand, the Secretary withdrew his motion to dismiss, and the parties engaged in discovery and filed cross-motions for summary judgment. On the due process claim, the trial court granted the Secretary’s motion for summary judgment, and on the equal protection claim, the trial court granted Plaintiffs’ motion. The Secretary appealed, and Plaintiffs filed a cross-appeal. The Supreme Court concluded in the cross-appeal that the Act was unconstitutional on due process grounds and that the trial court therefore erred in granting summary judgment to the Secretary and denying it to Plaintiffs. Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court on the due process claim and did not reach the equal protection claim raised in the main appeal. View "Raffensperger v. Jackson, et al." on Justia Law