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The Fourth Circuit granted a petition for review of the Forest Service's Special Use Permit and Record of Decision authorizing Atlantic, the project developer, to construct the Atlantic Coast Pipeline through parts of the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests and granting a right of way across the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The court held that the Forest Service's decisions in its 2012 Planning Rule and the 2016 Amendment to the 2012 Planning Rule violated the National Forest Management Act and the court remanded for further proceedings. The court also held that the Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act, and that the Forest Service lacked statutory authority pursuant to the Mineral Leasing Act to grant a pipeline right of way across the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The court concluded that the Forest Service abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources, and noted that the Forest Service's serious environmental concerns were suddenly, and mysteriously, assuaged in time to meet a private pipeline company's deadlines. View "Cowpasture River Preservation Association v. Forest Service" on Justia Law

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In Moses v. Skanders (Moses II), the New Mexico Supreme Court considered whether using public funds to lend textbooks to private school students violated Article XII, Section 3. In Moses II, the Court held the plain meaning and history of Article XII, Section 3 forbade such lending. The U.S. Supreme Court subsequently vacated the New Mexico Court's judgment and remanded the case for further consideration in light of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, 137 S.Ct. 2012 (2017). On remand, the New Mexico Court concluded its previous interpretation of Article XII, Section 3 raised concerns under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. To avoid constitutional concerns, the Court held that the textbook loan program, did not result in use of public funds in support of private schools as prohibited by Article XII, Section 3. The Court also held the textbook loan program was consistent with Article IV, Section 31 of the New Mexico Constitution, which addressed appropriations for educational purposes, and Article IX, Section 14 of the New Mexico Constitution. View "Moses v. Ruszkowski" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the circuit court, holding that, under the plain language of Md. Code Ann., Transp. (TR) 16-205.1(b)(2)(ii), a law enforcement officer in requesting that a driver take an alcohol concentration test is not required specifically to advise the driver whether the test will be a blood test or a breath test. After James Nelson crashed a vehicle that he had been driving, Corporal Brandon Foor requested that Nelson take an alcohol concentration test. Nelson refused, and Corporal Foor confiscated Nelson’s commercial driver’s license. An administrative law judge determined that Nelson had violated TR 16-205.1 and ordered that Nelson’s commercial driver’s license be disqualified for twelve months. The circuit court reversed, holding that Corporal Foor was required specifically to request that Nelson take a blood test. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that an officer is not required specifically to request that a driver take a blood test or a breath test, and the circuit court erred in determining otherwise. View "Motor Vehicle Administration v. Nelson" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an action brought by the State of Texas, seeking a declaratory judgment under 28 U.S.C. 2201 that SB 4 -- which curbs sanctuary city policies by requiring law enforcement agencies to comply with, honor, and fulfill federal immigration detainer requests -- does not violate the Fourth or Fourteenth Amendments and is not preempted by federal law. Although the district court held that Texas lacked Article III standing to seek declaratory judgment, the court held that the district court lacked federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1331 in light of Franchise Tax Board of the State of California v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust for Southern California, 463 U.S. 1 (1983). In Franchise Tax Board, the Supreme Court held that section 1331's grant of federal question jurisdiction does not encompass suits by the States to declare the validity of their regulation despite possibly conflicting federal law. The court explained that Franchise Tax Board reinforces comity among federal and state courts and mandates that the court dismiss Texas's declaratory relief action. View "Texas v. Travis County" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit denied Petitioner’s appeal of an order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) denying her request for deferral of removal under the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT), holding holding that the BIA’s factual determinations were supported by reasonable, substantial and probative evidence on the record. Petitioner, a native and citizen of the Dominican Republic, sought deferral of removal under the CAT, basing her claim on domestic abuse that she suffered at the hands of her partner of fifteen years. An immigration judge (IJ) found Petitioner to be credible in describing her abuse and granted deferral of removal. The BIA reversed the IJ’s determination, noting that the IJ applied an incorrect legal standard. The BIA then concluded that Petitioner did not meet her burden of establishing that the government had acquiesced in her harm or would be more likely than not to do so if she were to return. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the BIA did not err in finding that Petitioner had not established that the government would acquiesce in her harm upon removal. View "Ruiz-Guerrero v. Whitaker" on Justia Law

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By a stipulated decree issued in 1920, the Tehama County Superior Court adjudicated water rights in Mill Creek. It declared the natural flow of the water up to a total rate of 203 cfs had been appropriated by the parties appearing before it for use upon their and other persons’ lands. The decree entitled these original owners of the water rights and their successors to continue diverting from Mill Creek a total of 203 cfs of water, and it allotted them shares in the amount of water each could divert. It entitled the owners to use or dispose of their share of water in any manner, at any place, or for any purpose, or in accordance with whatever agreement the owners may make with any other person or entity. As part of the decree, the court also appointed a water master of Mill Creek to implement its order. The decree gave the water master exclusive authority to divert and apportion the water during the irrigation season according to the decree’s terms, measure the diversions, and control and superintend the diversions and the gates and ditches used to divert the water. The owner of an appropriative right to water in Mill Creek sought declaratory relief to determine whether, under the judicial decree that established the right, it could: (1) use water appropriated to it on a year around basis and not only during the irrigation season; (2) use or transfer its water outside of the creek’s watershed; and (3) make these changes in the use and location of use without obtaining prior approval of the creek’s water master or the superior court. The trial court declared the decree did not give the owner these rights. The Court of Appeal agreed with the Orange Grove Irrigation District that the trial court’s holding was incorrect: the court created a condition that did not exist in the decree, and it did so based on a misunderstanding of the extent of control the decree granted to Los Molinos Mutual Water Company and of the operation of Water Code section 1706. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded the trial court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Orange Cove Irrigation Dist. v. Los Molinos Mutual Water Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (Division) brought a guardianship action against R.L.M. and J.J., seeking to terminate their parental rights to their daughter R.A.J. At a case management conference early in the proceeding, J.J. told the court that he did not want an attorney appointed for him. As the conference continued, J.J.’s previously assigned counsel continued to speak on his behalf. At the second case management conference, J.J. left the courtroom before the conference began. At the third conference, J.J. stated that he wanted to retain substitute counsel. The judge noted that J.J.’s assigned counsel would continue to represent him pending any substitution of attorney. J.J. did not retain private counsel. At the final case management conference and the pretrial conference, J.J.’s assigned counsel represented him; J.J. declined to appear. The Court granted J.J.’s petition for certification, in which he claimed only that he was entitled to a new trial by virtue of the trial court’s denial of his request to represent himself. "Although a parent’s decision to appear pro se in this complex and consequential litigation represents poor strategy in all but the rarest case," the New Jersey Supreme Court found N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.4 plainly authorized that parent to proceed unrepresented. "The parent’s right of self-representation, however, is by no means absolute. That right must be exercised in a manner that permits a full and fair adjudication of the dispute and a prompt and equitable permanency determination for the child." In this case, the the Supreme Court found the trial court properly denied J.J.’s "untimely and ambivalent claim." View "New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency v. R.L.M." on Justia Law

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McCormick County voters elected Clarke Anderson Stearns as their Sheriff in the November 8, 2016, general election. After the election, Appellants brought this action alleging "Stearns does not possess the necessary qualifications to be Sheriff of McCormick County." Based on that claim, Appellants "specifically request[ed]" the circuit court issue an order "enjoining the Defendant Stearns from serving as Sheriff of McCormick County." Before the circuit court action was filed, however, the losing candidate in the general election, J.R. Jones, filed a Title 7 election protest with the McCormick County Board of Canvassers. Jones filed the challenge on November 16, 2016. The county board held a hearing on November 21. By a vote of 3-to-3, the county board took no action on Jones's protest. Jones did not appeal the county board's decision. Jones then filed this action in circuit court on December 7, 2016, joined as plaintiff by the South Carolina Democratic Party and the McCormick County Democratic Party. This appeal presented two issues for the South Carolina Supreme Court's resolution: (1) whether a challenge to an elected official's legal qualifications to serve in the office to which he has just been elected must be brought pursuant to the administrative provisions of Title 7 of the South Carolina Code, or whether such a challenge may be brought in circuit court; and (2) whether the "certified law enforcement officer" requirement to serve as sheriff, found in subsection 23-11- 110(A)(5) of the South Carolina Code (Supp. 2018), required the certification to come from South Carolina authorities, as opposed to authorities in another state. The Supreme Court determined the plaintiffs in this case were permitted to bring the action in circuit court, but the necessary certification to serve as sheriff need not come from South Carolina authorities. The Court affirmed the result of the circuit court's decision, which did not remove the elected McCormick County Sheriff from office. View "Jones v. South Carolina Republican Party" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the decision of the Board of Tax Appeals (BTA) that the service provided by Seaton Corporation to Kal Kan Foods, Inc. was not a taxable “employment service” under Ohio Rev. Code 5739.01(B)(3)(k) and 5739.01(JJ) was reasonable and lawful. Seaton agreed to furnish, manage and supervise supplemental staffing to assist in production operations at Kal Kan’s manufacturing plant in Columbus, Ohio. The tax commission levied a sales-tax assessment against Seaton and a use-tax assessment against Kal Kan. The BTA found that the service at issue was not taxable because Seaton, not Kal Kan, supervised and controlled the workers that Seaton supplied to Kal Kan’s plant. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the BTA properly analyzed which entity exercised supervision or control over the work performed by Seaton’s workers at Kal Kan’s plant, and those factual findings were supported by the record; and (2) therefore, the BTA’s decision was reasonable and lawful. View "Seaton Corp. v. Testa" on Justia Law

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The North Dakota State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors ("Board") appealed district court judgments affirming in part, reversing in part, and remanding to the Board its disciplinary decisions against Michael Berg, Apex Engineering Group, Inc., Scott Olson, Dain Miller, Thomas Welle, and Timothy Paustian. Respondents Berg, Olson, Miller, Welle and Paustian were former employees of Ulteig Engineers, Inc. Olson was terminated from Ulteig in 2009. In 2010, Berg, Miller, Welle, and Paustian resigned from Ulteig and, along with Olson, started a competing business, Apex. Following the Respondents' departure, Ulteig sued Apex and filed an ethics complaint with the Board, alleging Berg, Olson, Miller, Welle and Paustian violated the Professional Engineers' Code of Ethics by disclosing Ulteig's confidential information and failing to disclose a potential conflict of interest by not informing Ulteig of their decision to form Apex. Ulteig also alleged the Respondents knowingly participated in a plan to seek employment for Apex on projects that Ulteig had been contracted to perform before the Respondents' departure from Ulteig. The Board found that each of the Respondents had violated one or more of the provisions of the code of ethics. Respondents appealed the Board's disciplinary decisions to the district court. The court affirmed the Board's decision that Welle, Berg, and Miller failed to disclose a potential conflict of interest. The court reversed the determination that Miller, Welle, and Paustian had improperly disclosed confidential information. The court also reversed the decision that Berg, Olson, and Welle knowingly participated in a plan to seek employment for Apex on projects Ulteig had been contracted to perform before their departure from Ulteig. The court remanded to the Board for reconsideration the discipline imposed on Berg, Olson, Miller, Welle, and Paustian in light of the court's reversal of the disciplinary decisions. The court also awarded attorney fees to Berg, Welle, Apex, Olson, Miller, and Paustian. On appeal to the North Dakota Supreme Court, the Board argued the district court wrongfully reversed the Board's disciplinary decisions because the decisions were supported by a preponderance of the evidence. The Supreme Court concluded a preponderance of the evidence supported the Board's factual findings regarding the improper solicitation by Welle, Olson, Berg, and Apex. Those findings supported a conclusion that Welle, Olson, Berg, and Apex knowingly sought or accepted employment for professional services for an assignment for which Ulteig was previously employed or contracted to perform in violation of N.D. Admin. Code 28-03.1-01-12(6). The Supreme Court therefore reversed those parts of the district court's judgments relating to the violation of N.D. Admin. Code 28-03.1-01-12(6) by Welle, Olson, Berg, and Apex. View "Berg, et al. v. North Dakota State Board of Registration" on Justia Law