Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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Respondents are a group of college students, all of which face criminal charges for marching though San Luis Obispo in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Respondents sought recusal of the San Luis Obisbo District Attorney's Office on the basis that the District Attorney had a well-publicized association with critics of the Black Lives Matter movement. The trial court granted respondents' motion, appointing the Attorney General to the case, and the District Attorney and Attorney General appealed.On appeal, the Second Appellate District affirmed. Based on social media posts, public statements and targeted fundraising appeal to undermine the Black Lives Matter movement, the court concluded that substantial evidence supported the trial court’s determination that the San Luis Obisbo District Attorney's Office was not likely to treat respondents fairly. View "P. v. Lastra" on Justia Law

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The Indiana Southwestern Railway Company sought to abandon railway easements, in which the owners had reversionary interests. The Surface Transportation Board (49 U.S.C. 10903) issued a Notice of Interim Trail Use and Abandonment (NITU). Negotiations with potential railbanking sponsors failed. Eventually, the NITU expired, Railway abandoned its easements without entering into a trail use agreement, and the landowners’ fee simple interests became unencumbered by any easements.The landowners sought compensation for an alleged taking arising under the National Trails System Act Amendments of 1983, 16 U.S.C. 1247(d), claiming that the government had permanently taken their property in April 2001, when the NITU became effective. The Claims Court found that the government had taken the property but that the taking lasted only from the date the NITU went into effect until it expired. The Federal Circuit affirmed in part. The landowner’s property was temporarily taken under the Trails Act. The NITU delayed the reversion of the owners’ interests. The Railway would have otherwise relinquished its rights to its right-of-way during the NITU period. The court remanded for a determination as to the compensation and interest to which the owners are entitled. View "Memmer v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the Arizona Corporation Commission, acting by a majority of its commissioners, may not prevent an individual commissioner from exercising investigatory powers pursuant to Ariz. Const. art. XV, 4, and a commission aggrieved by such action may seek judicial recourse by way of declaratory judgment pursuant to Ariz. Rev. Stat. 12-1831 to -1846.The court of appeals affirmed the ruling of the trial court dismissing the underlying case brought by Plaintiff, a member of the Commission, seeking declaratory relief and arguing that individual commissioners have authority to demand compliance with subpoenas without the approval from other commissioners. The Supreme Court vacated the opinion of the court of appeals and reversed the superior court's denial of summary judgment on the issues before the Court, holding (1) the Arizona Constitution does not allow a majority of commissioners to prevent any single commissioner from exercising the investigatory powers expressly granted to each in article 15, section 4; and (2) the Arizona Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act grants a commissioner standing to seek a declaration of his and his colleagues' rights. View "Burns v. Arizona Public Service Co." on Justia Law

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Cecil Bristow suffered from a chronic lung disease, COPD, and attributed it to coal-mine dust from years of working in coal mines. An administrative law judge and the Benefits Review Board agreed with Bristow and awarded him benefits. Bristow's most recent employer, Energy West Mining Company, petitioned the Tenth Circuit for judicial review of the Board's decision, and the Tenth Circuit denied the petition, finding the Board did not err in upholding the administrative law judge's award of benefits. View "Energy West v. Bristow" on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant Donald J. Trump and Movant-Appellant the United States of America appealed from a district court’s judgment denying their motion to substitute the United States in this action pursuant to the Westfall Act of 1988. On appeal, Appellants argued that substitution is warranted because the President of the United States is a covered government employee under the Westfall Act, and because Trump had acted within the scope of his employment when he made the allegedly defamatory statements denying Plaintiff-Appellee’s 2019 sexual assault allegations.   The Second Circuit reversed the district court’s holding that the President of the United States is not an employee of the government under the Westfall Act. And the court vacated the district court’s judgment that Trump did not act within the scope of his employment, and certified that question to the D.C. Court of Appeals.   The court certified the following question: Under the laws of the District, were the allegedly libelous public statements made, during his term in office, by the President of the United States, denying allegations of misconduct, with regards to events prior to that term of office, within the scope of his employment as President of the United States? View "E. Jean Carroll v. Donald J. Trump" on Justia Law

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The government filed a complaint against Defendant, alleging that he promoted a tax evasion scheme in which he advised his clients to claim unwarranted federal income tax deductions for bogus charitable donations. The government sought to enjoin him from operating his business, as well as disgorgement of all of the proceeds from his scheme.   The question before the Eleventh Circuit was whether the Act bars a defendant from moving—in an action initiated by the government—for a protective order to restrain the government from using his responses to requests for admission when assessing a tax penalty in a separate administrative proceeding.   The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court’s dismissal of Defendant’s motion under the Anti-Injunction Act and remanded for further proceedings. The court explained that because moving for a protective order in an action filed by the government does not amount to the maintenance of a “suit,” the Act does not apply. View "USA v. Michael L. Meyer" on Justia Law

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ICE has decided to rely almost exclusively on privately owned and operated facilities in California. Two such facilities are run by appellant The Geo Group, Inc. AB 32 would override the federal government’s decision, pursuant to discretion conferred by Congress, to use private contractors to run its immigration detention facilities.The Ninth Circuit en banc court vacated the district court’s denial of the United States and The Geo Group, Inc.’s motion for preliminary injunctive relief, and held that California enacted Assembly Bill (AB) 32, which states that a “person shall not operate a private detention facility within the state,” would give California a virtual power of review over Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s detention decisions, in violation of the Supremacy Clause.The en banc court held that whether analyzed under intergovernmental immunity or preemption, California cannot exert this level of control over the federal government’s detention operations. The en banc court remanded for further proceedings. The en banc court held that AB 32 would breach the core promise of the Supremacy Clause. To comply with California law, ICE would have to cease its ongoing immigration detention operations in California and adopt an entirely new approach in the state. This foundational limit on state power cannot be squared with the dramatic changes that AB 32 would require ICE to make. The en banc court held that appellants are likely to prevail on their claim that AB 32 violates the Supremacy Clause as to ICE-contracted facilities. View "THE GEO GROUP, INC., ET AL V. GAVIN NEWSOM, ET AL" on Justia Law

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Johnson was a Dyess Air Force Base firefighter from 2017-2019. In 2018, Johnson’s mother came to live with Johnson's family. She took around 13 pills to treat health issues; Johnson was taking “seven or eight” pills. The Air Force subsequently selected Johnson for a mandatory random drug test. He tested positive for oxycodone and oxymorphone. Johnson told his supervisor, Ranard, that he had accidentally taken his mother’s pills instead of his own prescribed medication. Ranard proposed that Johnson be fired. The deciding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Fletcher, fired Johnson, explaining that he could not “risk the possibility of Johnson] coming to work again under the influence of illicit drugs.” At an arbitration hearing, Fletcher testified that he “just [didn’t] believe” that Johnson accidentally took his mother’s pill, having consulted his wife, a registered nurse, and his brother-in-law, a nurse practitioner, who “confirmed that the likelihood of that happening is slim to none.” The arbitrator denied Johnson’s grievance, affirming his termination.The Federal Circuit reversed and remanded. Fletcher’s ex parte communications violated Johnson’s right to due process. When Fletcher’s relatives allegedly “confirmed” that the chances of Johnson taking his mother’s pill were “slim to none,” they were not confirming information in the record; they were providing new opinions on the evidence. View "Johnson v. Department of the Air Force" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the environmental court's orders granting partial summary judgment and the ensuing order entering final judgment in favor of the Department of Water, County of Kaua'i (KDOW) in this transfer case addressing the required scope of environmental review under the Hawai'i Environmental Police Act (HEPA) and its administrative rules, holding that KDOW must prepare a new environmental assessment (EA) that complies with HEPA and its administrative rules.KDOW proposed to install an eighteen-inch-diamter water transmission in the Lihu'e area (relief line) that would run 9,000 feet in length and connect to existing KDOW water lines on each end. Pursuant to HEPA, KDOW published a final environmental assessment (FEA) for the relief line and made a finding of no significant impact. Plaintiff challenged the FEA in the environmental court, and the court granted summary judgment for KDOW. The Supreme Court vacated the decision below, holding that KDOW did not properly analyze the impact of water withdrawals facilitated by the relief line and may have improperly segmented the relief line from planned development projects and a water treatment facility project. View "Kia’i Wai O Wai’Ale’Ale v. Dep't of Water, County of Kaua'i" on Justia Law

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Claimant Joseph Worrall challenged an Employment Security Board decision finding him ineligible for unemployment compensation and liable to the Vermont Department of Labor for an overpayment. In November 2020, a claims adjudicator found that claimant was disqualified from receiving benefits as of the week ending May 2, 2020, because he left his employment voluntarily without good cause attributable to his employer. The claims adjudicator determined that claimant was obligated to repay $15,028 in overpaid benefits. Claimant argues on appeal that the Board erred in finding him disqualified for benefits. According to claimant, the Board accepted that he undertook efforts to relocate out of state before receiving a return-to-work notice. Based on this premise, claimant asserts that he was “unavailable for work” at the time his employer offered him the opportunity to return and that he was therefore entitled to benefits. Finding no error in the Board's decision, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Worrall v. Department of Labor (Snowfire Ltd., Employer)" on Justia Law