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The district court properly placed the burden of proof on a grocery store (Store) in this action brought by Plaintiffs alleging that the Store unlawfully trafficked in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), the bureau within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) charged with administering the SNAP regime, concluded that the Store had engaged in trafficking and permanently disqualified the Store from SNAP participation. The Store brought an action in Maine’s federal district court challenging the agency’s final decision. The district court granted summary judgment for the USDA. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the burden of proof is imposed on the claimant - here, the Store; and (2) no rational fact-finder could conclude that the Store had demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that the finding of trafficking was incorrect. View "Irobe v. United States Department of Agriculture" on Justia Law

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Appellants’ action brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 1346(b), 2671-2680, seeking compensatory damages for the allegedly negligent act of a federal employee was time-barred under the FTCA’s statute of limitations. On April 22, 2013, Appellants filed a medical malpractice complaint pursuant to the FTCA against the United States Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS). The district court granted summary judgment for USDHHS, concluding that the complaint was time-barred for failing to file compulsory administrative claims within the FTCA’s two-year statute of limitations. On appeal, Appellants argued that their claim was timely under the “discovery rule.” The First Circuit affirmed, holding that, at least by March 8, 2010, Appellants knew of sufficient facts for their cause of action to accrue, and therefore, Appellants’ action was time-barred. View "Morales-Melecio v. United States" on Justia Law

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In this workers’ compensation case, the Court of Appeals clarified an exception to the "going and coming rule" - the special mission or errand doctrine. Employee, who was employed by Montgomery County, was injured in a car accident while driving from her home to a mandatory work training on a Saturday, which was normally her day off. The Workers’ Compensation Commission awarded compensation, finding that Employee’s injury arose out of and in the course of employment. The County sought judicial review, arguing that the going and coming rule prohibited recovery because accidental injuries sustained while going to or coming from work do not ordinarily arise out of and in the course of employment, and none of the exceptions to the rule applied. The circuit court granted summary judgment for the County. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the going and coming rule, rather than the traveling employee doctrine, controlled Plaintiff’s case; but (2) the undisputed facts permitted a reasonable conclusion that the special mission exception to the going and coming rule applied in this case. View "Calvo v. Montgomery County, Maryland" on Justia Law

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In 2011, the City of Aspen adopted an ordinance which imposed a regulatory scheme designed to meet the city council’s “duty to protect the natural environment and the health of its citizens and visitors.” Under the ordinance, grocery stores within Aspen’s city limits were prohibited from providing disposable plastic bags to customers, though they could still provide paper bags to customers, but each bag is subject to a $0.20 “waste reduction fee,” unless the customer was a participant in a “Colorado Food Assistance Program.” This case presented the question of whether Aspen’s $0.20 paper bag charge was a tax subject to voter approval under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (“TABOR”). The trial court held that this charge was not subject to TABOR because it was not a tax, but a fee. The court of appeals concurred with this holding. The Colorado Supreme Court also agreed, finding the bag charge was not a tax subject to TABOR. View "Colorado Union of Taxpayers Found. v City of Aspen" on Justia Law

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Doreen Heyboer was a passenger on a motorcycle involved in an accident with an automobile in Denver and suffered catastrophic injuries. As a result of her injuries, her conservator sued the City and County of Denver, alleging that the street’s deteriorated condition contributed to the accident. Denver responded by asserting its immunity under the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act (“CGIA”). Heyboer argued Denver waived its immunity because the road was a dangerous condition that physically interfered with the movement of traffic, and thus, her suit fits an express exception found in the CGIA. After review, the Colorado Supreme Court determined her evidence did not establish that the road constituted an unreasonable risk of harm to the health and safety of the public, nor did her evidence establish that the road physically interfered with the movement of traffic. Accordingly, Denver retained its immunity under the CGIA; the Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals which held to the contrary. View "City & Cty. of Denver v. Dennis ex. rel. Heyboer" on Justia Law

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The Upper Skagit Indian Tribe purchased land and commissioned a boundary survey, which convinced the Tribe that about an acre of its land lay on the other side of a boundary fence between its land and land owned by the Lundgrens. The Lundgrens filed a quiet title action in Washington state court, arguing adverse possession and mutual acquiescence. The Washington Supreme Court rejected the Tribe’s sovereign immunity claim, reasoning that tribal sovereign immunity does not apply to in rem suits. The U.S. Supreme Court vacated and remanded. The precedent on which the state court relied (Yakima) addressed not the scope of tribal sovereign immunity, but a question of statutory interpretation of the Indian General Allotment Act of 1887. The Act authorized the President to allot parcels of reservation land to individual tribal members and directed the government to issue fee patents to the allottees. In 1934, Congress reversed course but did not withdraw the lands already conveyed so that Indian reservations sometimes contain both trust land held by the government and fee-patented land held by private parties. The Supreme Court held that the state collection of property taxes on fee-patented land within reservations was allowed under the Act; Yakima resolved nothing about the law of sovereign immunity. View "Upper Skagit Tribe v. Lundgren" on Justia Law

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Hawaii’s use tax, Haw. Rev. Stat. 238-2, does not violate the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution notwithstanding that the 2004 amendment to the statute eliminated the application of the tax to in-state unlicensed sellers. CompUSA Stores, L.P. filed claims for refund of its 2006, 2007, and 2008 use tax payments. The Department of Taxation (Department) denied the request. CompUSA appealed, arguing that the tax discriminates against out-of-state commerce, cannot be justified by a legitimate local purpose, and thus violates the Commerce Clause and the Equal Protection Clause. The Tax Appeals Court granted the Department’s motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the current version of the use statute establishes a classification between in-state and out-of-state sellers; but (2) the statute satisfies rational basis review because the classification of out-of-state sellers bears a rational relationship to the legitimate state interest of leveling the economic playing field for local businesses subject to the general excise tax. View "CompUSA Stores, L.P. v. State" on Justia Law

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Defendants the Alabama Secretary of State, John Merrill, and a member of his staff, Ed Packard, the director of elections, petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Montgomery Circuit Court to vacate a preliminary injunction and to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction the underlying action seeking injunctive and declaratory relief. On December 7, 2017, plaintiffs Pamela Miles, Dan Dannemueller, Paul Hard, and Victoria Tuggle (hereinafter referred to collectively as "the plaintiffs") filed a civil action against Merrill and Packard, in their official capacities, alleging certain electronic voting machines used in Alabama elections created digital images of the paper ballots scanned and counted by the machines, and that defendants "do not and will not instruct election officials" to preserve the digital ballot images. Those images, it was argued, were public records that, under Alabama law, had to be preserved. Plaintiffs also appeared to allege that federal law, specifically, 52 U.S.C. 20701, required those images be retained. This failure "to require that all election materials" be preserved, the plaintiffs contended, "infringe[d] upon their right to a fair and accurate election." The Alabama Supreme Court determined plaintiffs' allegations did not demonstrate how the "challenged practices harm[ed]" plaintiffs in a concrete way; how they would personally suffer the threatened injury, which is itself described only as a mere speculative possibility; or how they would benefit in a "tangible way" by a judgment in their favor. Instead, the Court found they alleged only that they "could" be harmed." Therefore, because the complaint insufficiently alleged that plaintiffs have standing, the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the action. The Court therefore directed that the case be dismissed. View "Ex parte Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill and Director of Elections Ed Packard." on Justia Law

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Defendants the Alabama Secretary of State, John Merrill, and a member of his staff, Ed Packard, the director of elections, petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Montgomery Circuit Court to vacate a preliminary injunction and to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction the underlying action seeking injunctive and declaratory relief. On December 7, 2017, plaintiffs Pamela Miles, Dan Dannemueller, Paul Hard, and Victoria Tuggle (hereinafter referred to collectively as "the plaintiffs") filed a civil action against Merrill and Packard, in their official capacities, alleging certain electronic voting machines used in Alabama elections created digital images of the paper ballots scanned and counted by the machines, and that defendants "do not and will not instruct election officials" to preserve the digital ballot images. Those images, it was argued, were public records that, under Alabama law, had to be preserved. Plaintiffs also appeared to allege that federal law, specifically, 52 U.S.C. 20701, required those images be retained. This failure "to require that all election materials" be preserved, the plaintiffs contended, "infringe[d] upon their right to a fair and accurate election." The Alabama Supreme Court determined plaintiffs' allegations did not demonstrate how the "challenged practices harm[ed]" plaintiffs in a concrete way; how they would personally suffer the threatened injury, which is itself described only as a mere speculative possibility; or how they would benefit in a "tangible way" by a judgment in their favor. Instead, the Court found they alleged only that they "could" be harmed." Therefore, because the complaint insufficiently alleged that plaintiffs have standing, the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the action. The Court therefore directed that the case be dismissed. View "Ex parte Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill and Director of Elections Ed Packard." on Justia Law

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SW 98/99, LLC (“SW”), appealed a Pike County Chancery Court order dismissing its complaint with prejudice under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b). SW filed objections to the tax assessments for the years 2005 and 2006 for several low-income housing properties, but those objections were denied. SW then filed a complaint at Chancery Court alleging that Pike County, the Pike County Board of Supervisors, and the Pike County Tax Assessor (collectively “the defendants”) had wrongfully and excessively assessed taxes on SW’s properties using an appraisal method not authorized by Section 27-35-50(4)(d). Along with SW’s chancery-court lawsuit, SW also appealed the property-tax assessments to the Pike County Circuit Court. This case and SW’s tax appeals proceeded separately along their own paths until March 2011, when the chancellor entered an order granting the defendants’ motion to stay the proceedings in this case pending final resolution of SW’s circuit-court tax appeals. By 2015, the Pike County Circuit Court granted summary judgment to SW on each of its tax appeals, ordering the defendants to refund SW’s overpayments for the years 2005 through 2012. The defendants moved for reconsideration. While this matter was still pending, SW’s attorney was concurrently involved in an unrelated case in federal district court. The district court contacted SW’s attorney to inquire as to his availability for a trial beginning September 14, 2015, one day before the trial setting in this tax assessment case. Because the circuit court had not yet ruled on the defendants’ motion for reconsideration in SW’s tax appeals, SW’s attorney believed that the chancellor’s stay of proceedings in this case remained in effect, as the circuit-court proceedings were not “finally resolved.” Because of this, SW’s attorney contacted the chancery court to request that the trial date be continued and removed from the trial docket. Although later disputed by the court administrator, SW’s attorney believed at this time that the case had been continued and that the trial setting had been removed from the docket. SW’s attorney then informed counsel for the defendants of the continuance. The defendants did not object to the continuance. The chancellor entered a show-cause order noting that SW had not appeared at its scheduled motions hearing and that neither of the parties had appeared on the scheduled trial date. The order acknowledged that “some telephonic communication was made by a staff member of Counsel to the Court Administrator regarding the prior Order staying this litigation.” The chancellor’s show-cause order concluded that SW’s lawsuit was “stale and in a posture to be dismissed for lack of prosecution inasmuch as Counsel set aside two full trial days on a heavily congested trial docket and failed to appear for trial.” Finding that the chancery court abused its discretion in ruling that SW had failed to prosecute its complaint, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the chancery court’s judgment and remanded this case to the chancery court for further proceedings. View "SW 98/99, LLC v. Pike County, Mississippi" on Justia Law