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A 2014 statute and 2013 regulation re-defined which abortions qualified as “medically necessary” for the purposes of Medicaid funding. The statute defined medically necessary abortions as those that “must be performed to avoid a threat of serious risk to the life or physical health of a woman from continuation of the woman’s pregnancy” as a result of a number of listed medical conditions; the regulation was similarly restrictive. Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest challenged both the statute and regulation as unconstitutional, and the superior court held that both measures violated the equal protection clause of the Alaska Constitution. The court reasoned that these measures imposed a “high-risk, high- hazard” standard on abortion funding unique among Medicaid services, and held that our 2001 decision striking down an earlier abortion funding restriction on equal protection grounds compelled the same result. The State appealed, arguing that the statute and regulation should be interpreted more leniently and therefore do not violate the Alaska Constitution’s equal protection clause. The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s decision: the statute’s and the regulation’s facially different treatment of pregnant women based upon their exercise of reproductive choice required the Court to apply strict scrutiny, and the proposed justifications for the funding restrictions "did not withstand such exacting examination." View "Alaska v. Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest" on Justia Law

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Philadelphia has received funds under the federal Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program every year since the program’s 2006 inception in 2006. The Justice Department notified the city that it was withholding its FY2017 award because the city was not in compliance with three newly implemented conditions that required greater coordination with federal officials on matters of immigration enforcement. The city filed suit and was awarded summary judgment. The Third Circuit affirmed the order to the extent that it enjoins enforcement of the challenged conditions against the city and vacated the order to the extent it imposed a requirement that the federal government obtain a judicial warrant before seeking custody of aliens in city custody.. Where, as here, the Executive Branch claims authority not granted to it in the Constitution, it “literally has no power to act … unless and until Congress confers power upon it.” Congress did not grant the Attorney General this authority and the Challenged Conditions were unlawfully imposed. The Byrne statute itself provides no such authority and the conditions are not authorized by 34 U.S.C. 10102, the provision establishing the “Duties and Functions of Assistant Attorney General.” View "City of Philadelphia v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

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The city of Fort Collins, Colorado, enacted a public-nudity ordinance that imposed no restrictions on male toplessness but prohibited women from baring their breasts below the areola. In response, Free the Nipple, an unincorporated association, and two individuals, Brittiany Hoagland and Samantha Six (collectively, Plaintiffs ), sued the City in federal district court, alleging (among other things) the ordinance violated the Equal Protection Clause, U.S. Const. amend. XIV, sec. 1, and they asked for a preliminary injunction to halt enforcement of the ordinance. The district court agreed and enjoined the City, pending the resolution of the case s merits, from implementing the ordinance to the extent that it prohibits women, but not men, from knowingly exposing their breasts in public. The City then brought this interlocutory appeal to challenge the injunction. The narrow issue presented for the Tenth Circuit's review asked whether the district court reversibly erred in issuing the preliminary injunction. The Court found the trial court did not, affirmed the district court's judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Free the Nipple v. City of Fort Collins" on Justia Law

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In 2009, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) entered into a “Cooperative Agreement” with St. Bernard Parish under the Federal Grant and Cooperative Agreement Act, 31 U.S.C. 6301–08. Under the Emergency Watershed Protection Program, NRCS was “authorized to assist [St. Bernard] in relieving hazards created by natural disasters that cause a sudden impairment of a watershed.” NRCS agreed to “provide 100 percent ($4,318,509.05) of the actual costs of the emergency watershed protection measures,” and to reimburse the Parish. St. Bernard contracted with Omni for removing sediment in Bayou Terre Aux Boeufs for $4,290,300.00, predicated on the removal of an estimated 119,580 cubic yards of sediment. Omni completed the project. Despite having removed only 49,888.69 cubic yards of sediment, Omni billed $4,642,580.58. NRCS determined that it would reimburse St. Bernard only $2,849,305.60. Omni and St. Bernard executed a change order that adjusted the contract price to $3,243,996.37. St. Bernard paid Omni then sought reimbursement from NRCS. NRCS reimbursed $355,866.21 less than St. Bernard claims it is due. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the Parish’s lawsuit, filed under the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. 1491(a)(1), for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. In the Federal Crop Insurance Reform and Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act of 1994, 7 U.S.C. 6991–99, Congress created a detailed, comprehensive scheme providing private parties with the right of administrative review of adverse decisions by particular agencies within the Department of Agriculture, including NRCS. View "St. Bernard Parish Government v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission not to award Appellant benefits after he was injured while renovating a historic school building, holding that Appellant did not meet his burden of proving his statutory-employer claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Appellant sought benefits against a church and its historical society, alleging that these entities were his statutory employers. The Commission denied benefits, holding that none of the defendants were Appellant’s direct employer and that the church and the historical society were not Appellant’s statutory employers. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission applied the correct legal standard and acted within its fact-finding discretion in concluding that Appellant had failed to prove that the church or the historical society were his statutory employers. View "Jeffreys v. Uninsured Employer's Fund" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals’ denial of Appellant’s petition for a writ of mandamus in this workers’ compensation case, holding that the Industrial Commission did not abuse its discretion by concluding that res judicata barred Appellant’s motion to recalculate his average weekly wage (AWW). In challenging the calculation of his AWW, Appellant requested that the Commission forgo the standard statutory formal and to instead calculate his AWW using a method that would do him “substantial justice,” as statutorily permitted in cases of “special circumstances.” The Commission denied the motion, first on the merits and second on grounds of res judicata. The court of appeals denied Appellant’s petition for a writ of mandamus, concluding that Appellant had not established special circumstances. The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of the writ solely on the basis of res judicata, holding that the Commission did not abuse its discretion when it concluded that the issue of special circumstances was previously decided and therefore res judicata. View "State ex rel. Tantarelli v. Decapua Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

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N.L. was born in August 2014. In January 2016, she was taken into state custody because both parents were using illicit substances, father was facing jail time on a charge alleging domestic abuse against mother, and mother was unable to care for the child due to her drug addiction and homelessness. N.L. spent several months in foster care. A conditional custody order (CCO) returned N.L. to mother’s care after mother completed a substance-abuse program, and they resided for several months in a residential treatment program at Lund Family Center. The CCO remained in effect until February 27, 2017, when the Department for Children and Families (DCF) closed the case. The underlying case was initiated based on an incident that occurred in August 2017, at which time DCF was investigating reports of drug use and domestic violence in the home. The family division of the superior court granted a petition to terminate mother’s parental rights to her child, N.L., but denied the petition concerning father. Mother appealed the termination of her parental rights, and N.L. appealed the court’s decision not to terminate father’s parental rights. After careful review of the trial court record, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed termination of mother’s parental rights and reversed the court’s order declining to terminate father’s parental rights. The matter was remanded for the limited purpose of directing the family division to grant the petition to terminate father’s parental rights. View "In re N.L." on Justia Law

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Hany Dimitry obtained a coastal development permit (CDP) from the City of Laguna Beach (the City) to demolish his Laguna Beach house. Mark Fudge challenged the permit, appealing to the California Coastal Commission (the Commission), and at court, to attach the merits of the City’s decision to grant Dimitry the CDP. The Commission accepted Fudge’s appeal, which meant it would hear that appeal “de novo.” Because the Commission’s hearing would be “de novo,” the trial court followed Kaczorowski v. Mendocino County Bd. of Supervisors, 88 Cal.App.4th 564 (2001) and McAllister v. County of Monterey, 147 Cal.App.4th 253 (2007) in concluding that there was no relief that Fudge might be able to obtain in his court action. The trial court concluded Fudge’s challenge to Dimitry’s CDP was entirely in the hands of the Commission, and dismissed the civil action. Fudge appealed, arguing the Commission’s hearing was not going to be truly “de novo” because the Commission would use different rules and procedures than the City used. When it comes to a local coastal entity’s decision on a CDP, the Court of Appeal determined the Legislature constructed a system in which appeals to the Commission would be heard de novo under the Coastal Act even though the original local decision was decided under CEQA. “Fudge’s mistake lies in his belief the Legislature was bound by the Collier court’s observation about de novo hearings being conducted in ‘the same manner’ as the original. We must disagree. It’s the other way around.” The Court determined the Legislature was not bound by the California Supreme Court’s observation about the common law nature of “de novo” hearings. Rather the courts were bound by the intent of the Legislature as to what the hearings would look like – plainly expressed in Public Resources Code section 21080.5. Therefore, the Court affirmed dismissal of the state court action. View "Fudge v. City of Laguna Beach" on Justia Law

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Cerwonka, a full-time clinical psychologist for the VA in Alexandria, Louisiana, also maintained a private practice and evaluated social security disability applicants. An administrative complaint was filed against Cerwonka with the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, which revoked Cerwonka’s license to practice psychology in Louisiana for cause. The VA Chief of Staff proposed to remove Cerwonka for failure to maintain a current license, citing 38 U.S.C. 7402(f). Cerwonka did not respond to the notice of proposed removal. The deciding official sustained the charge and informed Cerwonka that he would be removed from employment. Cerwonka appealed to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). He also filed suit challenging the license revocation, asserting due process violations. One month after his removal the Louisiana district court judge reinstated Cerwonka’s license, pending further proceedings. A Louisiana Court of Appeal reversed the district court’s decision and remanded. The MSPB and Federal Circuit upheld his removal from employment. It is undisputed that, at the time of his removal, Cerwonka’s Louisiana license was revoked for cause, which compelled the agency to remove Cerwonka from his position as a psychologist under 38 U.S.C. 7402(f). View "Cerwonka v. Department of Veterans Affairs." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals denying Appellant’s complaint seeking a writ of procedendo ordering the Industrial Commission to proceed with its adjudication of her application for permanent-total-disability benefits after a staff hearing officer (SHO) suspended her application, holding that Appellant failed to show she was entitled to the writ. The SHO here determined that the application could not be adjudicated until Appellant submitted to a second medical examination by a commission specialist. Appellant, however, argued that she could not be required to submit to a second examination because she had already been examined once by a commission specialist. Appellant then sought her writ of procedendo, and the court of appeals denied the writ. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals properly denied the writ because Appellant did not show a clear legal duty or a clear legal right. View "State ex rel. Mignella v. Industrial Commission" on Justia Law