Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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The en banc court held that 42 U.S.C. 1396a(a)(23) does not give Medicaid patients a right to challenge, under 42 U.S.C. 1983, a State's determination that a health care provider is not "qualified" within the meaning of section 1396a(a)(23). The en banc court vacated the preliminary injunction issued by the district court prohibiting the termination of the Providers' Medicaid provider agreements.The Providers provide family planning and other health services to Medicaid patients, and each of the Providers is a member of Planned Parenthood. This case stemmed from a pro-life organization's release of video recordings of conversations at Planned Parenthood (PP) Gulf Coast headquarters. The videos depict two individuals posing as representatives from a fetal tissue procurement company discussing the possibility of a research partnership with PP Gulf Coast. The release of the videos prompted congressional investigations, which ultimately led to the OIG sending each Provider a Notice of Termination of its respective Medicaid provider agreement. The Providers and Individual Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that the terminations violated rights conferred by section 1396a(a)(23) and sought relief under section 1983.The en banc court held that the Individual Plaintiffs may not bring a section 1983 suit to contest the State's determination that the Providers were not "qualified" providers within the meaning of section 1396a(a)(23). The en banc court rested its decision primarily on two independent bases: (1) the Supreme Court's decision in O'Bannon v. Town Court Nursing Center, 447 U.S. 773 (1980), and (2) the text and structure of section 1396a(a)(23), which does not unambiguously provide that a Medicaid patient may contest a State's determination that a particular provider is not "qualified." Rather, the court held that whether a provider is "qualified" within the meaning of section 1396a(a)(23) is a matter to be resolved between the State (or the federal government) and the provider. In so holding, the en banc court overruled Planned Parenthood of Gulf Coast, Inc. v. Gee, 862 F.3d 445 (5th Cir. 2017), which held that a state agency or actor cannot legitimately find that a Medicaid provider is not "qualified" unless under state or federal law the provider would be unqualified to provide treatment or services to the general public, including Medicaid patients who paid for the care or services with private funds. View "Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Family Planning and Preventative Health Services, Inc. v. Kauffman" on Justia Law

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A series of appeals presented a question of whether the Pennsylvania Election Code required a county board of elections to disqualify mail-in or absentee ballots submitted by qualified electors who signed the declaration on their ballot’s outer envelope, but did not handwrite their name, their address, and/or a date on the ballot, where no fraud or irregularity has been alleged. Petitioner Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. (the “Campaign”) challenged the decision of multiple County Boards of Elections to count absentee and mail-in ballots. The Campaign did not contest these ballots were all timely received by the respective Boards prior to 8:00 p.m. on November 3, 2020 (election day); that they were cast and signed by qualified electors; and that there was no evidence of fraud associated with their casting. The Campaign instead contended these votes should not have been counted because the voters who submitted them failed to handwrite their name, street address or the date (or some combination of the three) on the ballot-return outer envelope. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court was "guided by well-established interpretive principles" including that where the language of a statute was unambiguous, the language would control. "In the case of ambiguity, we look to ascertain the legislative intent, and in election cases, we adhere to the overarching principle that the Election Code should be liberally construed so as to not deprive, inter alia, electors of their right to elect a candidate of their choice. . . . "Election laws will be strictly enforced to prevent fraud, but ordinarily will be construed liberally in favor of the right to vote." View "In Re: Canvass of Absentee and Mail-In Ballots" on Justia Law

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Vargas began working as a mail carrier in 2005. Mail carriers must be able to carry up to 35 pounds in their shoulder bags. Vargas’s route also required shuttling mail and equipment weighing up to 75 pounds between the post office and a satellite location. Vargas sustained an on-the-job foot injury in 2008. He was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, received treatment, submitted a successful workers’ compensation claim, and continued working. In 2011, Vargas filed an EEO complaint, raising miscellaneous workplace grievances and alleging race- and disability-related discrimination. He withdrew this complaint. Vargas’s plantar fasciitis subsequently flared up. His doctor placed him on work restrictions, March 1-22, prohibiting him from carrying more than 15 pounds. On March 14, Vargas returned to work from a vacation; he wanted his route restructured to eliminate carrying heavy loads. His superiors did not oblige and he applied for workers’ compensation. He also made daily requests for “light duty” but there was no light duty work available, so he took paid sick leave.Vargas, who is Hispanic, sued, alleging disability-based discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, with retaliation and racial discrimination claims under Title VII. Vargas still works for the Postal Service. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment rejecting his claims. Vargas could not perform the only job available to him, with or without reasonable accommodation, and there is no evidence he was treated differently because of his race or suffered unlawful workplace retaliation. View "Vargas v. DeJoy" on Justia Law

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Environmental groups challenged the constitutionality of Public Resources Code section 25531, which limits judicial review of decisions by the Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission on the siting of thermal power plants. Section 25531(a) provides that an Energy Commission siting decision is “subject to judicial review by the Supreme Court of California.” The plaintiffs contend this provision abridges the original jurisdiction of the superior courts and courts of appeal over mandate petitions, as conferred by California Constitution Article VI, section 10. Section 25531(b) provides that findings of fact in support of a Commission siting determination “are final,” allegedly violating the separation of powers doctrine by depriving courts of their essential power to review administrative agency findings (Cal. Const., Art. III, section 3; Art. VI, section 1).The court of appeal affirmed summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs. The Article VI grant of original jurisdiction includes the superior courts and courts of appeal and may not be circumscribed by statute, absent some other constitutional provision. Legislative amendments to section 25531 have broken the once-tight link between the regulatory authority of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and Energy Commission power plant siting decisions, such that the plenary power Article XII grants the Legislature over PUC activities no longer authorizes section 25531(a). Section 25531(b) violates the judicial powers clause by preventing courts from reviewing whether substantial evidence supports the Commission’s factual findings. View "Communities for a Better Environment v. Energy Resources Conservation & Development Commission" on Justia Law

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Makhsous owned three Wisconsin residential care facilities. In 2015, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) found that two of Makhsous’s facilities did not comply with Wisconsin law. Daye is the supervisor of the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) of Marinette County, which makes recommendations to individuals who inquire about residential care facilities. It does not place individuals in care facilities, monitor care facilities, or issue citations or sanctions to care facilities. In 2016, the ADRC began publishing a “facility directory” for potential residents. Under Wisconsin’s ADRC Operational Practice Guidelines, the directory cannot include facilities that have been found in violation of law.Makhsous filed suit, alleging that Daye violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses by failing to include Makhsous’s facilities in the ADRC directory and refusing to refer individuals to her facilities. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Daye. Makhsous did not show that Daye harmed a constitutionally protected property interest or discriminated against her. The ADRC directory did not include Makhsous’s facilities because they were found deficient by DHS and because Makhsous failed to ask the ADRC to include them. Makhsous had no rebuttal evidence showing that Daye failed to include her facilities in the directory because of her race. View "Makhsous v. Daye" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied Governor James Conley Justice's request for a writ of prohibition seeking relief from the circuit court's writ of mandamus compelling him to reside in Charleston under the political question doctrine and corresponding separation of powers principles, holding that Governor Justice failed to meet the standard for issuance of a writ of prohibition.W. Va. Const. art. VII, 1 provides that the Governor of West Virginia must "reside at the seat of government" during his term of office. Respondent filed a petition for writ of mandamus directing Governor Justice to reside in Charleston in accordance with this constitutional provision. The circuit court rules that mandamus was available to compel Governor Justice to comply with the provision. Governor Justice then brought this action seeking a writ of prohibition. The Supreme Court denied the requested writ to prohibit enforcement of the circuit court's order, holding that the circuit court had jurisdiction to issue a writ of mandamus, did not exceed its legitimate powers, and did not clearly err in denying the Governor's motion to dismiss the petition for writ of mandamus. View "State ex rel. Justice v. Honorable Charles King" on Justia Law

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While plaintiffs sought judicial review in federal district court of their denial of Social Security disability benefits, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Lucia v. Securities and Exchange Commission, 138 S. Ct. 2044 (2018), which elucidated a possible constitutional objection to administrative proceedings pursuant to the Appointments Clause. At issue in this appeal is whether plaintiffs may raise an Appointments Clause challenge in federal court that they did not preserve before the agency.The Fourth Circuit held that claimants for Social Security disability benefits do not forfeit Appointments Clause challenges by failing to raise them during their administrative proceedings. Balancing the individual and institutional interests at play, including considering the nature of the claim presented and the characteristics of the ALJ proceedings, the court declined to impose an exhaustion requirement. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgments of the district courts remanding these cases for new administrative hearings before different, constitutionally appointed ALJs. View "Probst v. Saul" on Justia Law

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Proposition 218, the Right to Vote on Taxes Act, generally required local governments obtain voter approval prior to imposing taxes. Plaintiffs Jess Willard Mahon, Jr. and Allan Randall brought this certified class action against the City of San Diego (City) claiming that the City violated Proposition 218 by imposing an illegal tax to fund the City’s undergrounding program. Specifically, plaintiffs contended the City violated Proposition 218 through the adoption of an ordinance that amended a franchise agreement between the City and the San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E). The ordinance, together with a related memorandum of understanding, further specifies that part of the money to fund the undergrounding budget will be collected by SDG&E through a 3.53 percent surcharge on ratepayers in the City that will be remitted to the City for use on undergrounding (Undergrounding Surcharge). Plaintiffs claim that the surcharge is a tax. Plaintiffs further claim that the surcharge violates Proposition 218 because it was never approved by the electorate. Plaintiffs note that the City has imposed more than 200 million dollars in charges pursuant to the Undergrounding Surcharge during the class period. Through this action, plaintiffs seek a refund of those amounts, among other forms of relief. The City moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted on two grounds: (1) the Undergrounding Surcharge constituted compensation for franchise rights and thus was not a tax; alternatively, (2) the Undergrounding Surcharge was a valid regulatory fee and not a tax. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the trial court properly granted the City’s motion for summary on the ground that the Undergrounding Surcharge was compensation validly given in exchange for franchise rights and thus, was not a tax subject to voter approval. View "Mahon v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Idaho Supreme Court in this case was whether the Public Records Act authorized the Idaho Department of Correction (“Department”) to withhold certain records in response to a public records request. In 2017, Aliza Cover requested records relating to the use of the death penalty in Idaho. The Department provided some records in response, but withheld or redacted others, claiming these records were exempt from disclosure in whole or in part under Board of Correction Rule 135.06 (“Rule 135”). The Department argued Rule 135 was promulgated pursuant to a provision of the Public Records Act that allowed the Board of Correction (“Board”) to identify records as exempt from disclosure through rulemaking. Because there was no evidence that the Board promulgated Rule 135 as a public records exemption, the Supreme Court reversed the district court's judgment permitting the Department to withhold records from Cover on this basis, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Cover v. ID Board of Correction" on Justia Law

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A regulation promulgated under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. 30101, requires a tire dealer to help customers register their new tires with the manufacturer. The regulation prescribes three methods for tire dealers to help register a buyer’s tires. According to Thorne, Pep Boys failed to pursue any of the three when, or after, it sold her the tires. She sued on behalf of a class of Pep Boys customers who similarly received no tire registration assistance.The district court dismissed her complaint without leave to amend, holding that a dealer’s failure to help register a buyer’s tires in one of the three prescribed ways does not, by itself, create an injury-in-fact for purposes of Article III standing. The Third Circuit vacated and remanded for dismissal without prejudice. A district court has no jurisdiction to rule on the merits when a plaintiff lacks standing. Thorne’s benefit-of-the-bargain allegations do not support a viable theory of economic injury, and her product-defect argument ignores the statute’s defined terms. Unregistered tires are not worth less than Thorne paid and are not defective. Congress did not intend to give private attorneys general standing to redress the “injury” of unregistered tires. View "Thorne v. Pep Boys Manny Moe & Jack" on Justia Law