Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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Allco Renewable Energy Limited appealed a Public Utility Commission (PUC) order which found that Allco had begun “site preparation for . . . an electric generation facility” without first obtaining a certificate of public good (CPG) in violation of 30 V.S.A. 248(a)(2)(A). The PUC enjoined Allco from any further site preparation unless certain criteria were satisfied and explained that, following another hearing, it would determine a civil penalty for Allco’s violation under 30 V.S.A. 30(a). On appeal, Allco challenged the PUC’s injunction order. Because there was not yet a final appealable order, the Vermont Supreme Court dismissed this appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "In re Allco Renewable Energy Limited et al." on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit denied a petition for review challenging an FCC order removing the Solicited Fax Rule from the Code of Federal Regulations. The order was issued in response to the D.C. Circuit's decision holding that the Solicited Fax Rule was unlawful, and vacating a 2014 order of the FCC that affirmed the validity of the Rule. The court concluded that it is bound by the D.C. Circuit's decision and that the agency did not err by repealing the Rule following the D.C. Circuit's ruling. Pursuant to the Hobbs Act's channeling mechanism, the court explained that the D.C. Circuit became the sole forum for addressing the validity of the Rule. Therefore, once the D.C. Circuit invalidated the 2014 Order and the Rule, that holding became binding in effect on every circuit in which the regulation's validity is challenged. Accordingly, the FCC was bound to comply with the D.C. Circuit's mandate and could not pursue a policy of nonacquiescence. View "Gorss Motels, Inc. v. Federal Communications Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Corpus Christi pharmacist John McNeill, who participated in a Medicaid drug program run by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, was entitled to an administrative contested case hearing as to his challenge to the results of a program audit by the Commission.After the Commission audited McNeill, the auditor determined that McNeill had been overpaid by $69,911. McNeill requested a hearing, after which the Commission issued a final notice that reduced the overpayment amount to $64,549. McNeill thrice requested a contested case hearing before the State Office of Administrative Hearings. The Commission denied each request. McNeill sued the Commission, its commissioner, and its inspector general, seeking a declaration that he was entitled to a contested case hearing. The trial court granted the Commission's plea to the jurisdiction based on sovereign immunity and dismissed the complaint. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) McNeill's appeal was timely; and (2) the Commission's inspector general acted ultra vires in failing to perform her ministerial duty to provide McNeill a contested-case hearing under Tex. Gov't Code 531.1201, and the inspector general was not entitled to sovereign immunity. View "Phillips v. McNeill" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Gabriel Villegas-Castro was a Mexican citizen who entered the United States without being admitted or paroled. The government sought removal, and Villegas-Castro requested asylum, cancellation of removal, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture. The Board of Immigration Appeals ordered removal, rejecting all of Villegas-Castro’s requests. In its opinion, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals addressed three issues involving: (1) the scope of the immigration judge’s authority when the Board orders a remand; (2) the Board’s failure to apply the clear-error standard to the immigration judge’s factual findings; and (3) the immigration judge’s discretion to reconsider eligibility for withholding of removal and deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture. The Court found: the immigration judge properly considered petitioner's second application for asylum but the Board's reasoning did not support its denial of asylum; and the Board erred in failing to apply the clear-error standard. With regard to the Convention Against Torture, the Court found the immigration judge abated consideration of these applications, but the Board sua sponte rejected the applications, concluding that Villegas-Castro couldn’t obtain relief because the immigration judge had earlier deemed Villegas-Castro ineligible for withholding of removal under federal law and the Convention Against Torture. The Tenth Circuit found the immigration judge had discretion to revisit these conclusions. "Until the immigration judge entered a final decision on removal, the Board had no basis to sua sponte deny withholding of removal or deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture." The Court granted the petition for judicial review, and remanded the matter for the Board to reconsider Villegas-Castro’s application for asylum, to apply the clear-error standard to the immigration judge’s credibility findings, and to reconsider the applications for withholding of removal and deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture. View "Villegas-Castro v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Edgar Tarango-Delgado appealed the Board of Immigration Appeals’ (“BIA”) denial of his two motions to reopen his removal proceedings. Tarango-Delgado, a Mexican citizen, came to the United States in 1977, when he was seven months old. He became a lawful permanent resident at age ten. And for almost four decades, he lived in the U.S. with his parents, siblings, wife, and children. In 2015, state police arrested Tarango-Delgado and charged him with aggravated animal cruelty, a felony. He pleaded guilty to that charge. But, before entering his plea, his counsel failed to advise him that pleading guilty would have deportation consequences because aggravated animal cruelty was a crime of moral turpitude. A few months after he pleaded guilty, the government commenced removal proceedings. Tarango-Delgado moved for post-conviction relief in state court, arguing he received ineffective assistance of counsel. This was ultimately denied, and Tarango-Delgado was removed in 2017. Almost a year after his removal, a Colorado state court ruled on Tarango-Delgado’s ineffective-assistance-of-counsel motion, concluding that Tarango-Delgado had not “knowingly and voluntarily” pleaded guilty to the aggravated-animal-cruelty charge, and vacated his conviction and reinstated the original aggravated-animal-cruelty charge. In January 2019, Tarango-Delgado filed his first motion to reopen his immigration proceedings before an IJ. The IJ denied Tarango-Delgado’s motion to reopen. In late February or early March 2019, a few days after the IJ denied Tarango-Delgado’s first motion to reopen, he reentered this country without authorization. And a few weeks later, after the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) learned about the illegal reentry, it reinstated Tarango-Delgado’s prior removal order. Tarango-Delgado applied for withholding of removal under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”). An asylum officer found that Tarango-Delgado credibly feared returning to Mexico and referred his petition to an IJ. But the IJ denied his petition for CAT relief. The BIA affirmed. Tarango-Delgado pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor animal-cruelty charge, which by definition would no longer qualify as a crime of moral turpitude. Tarango-Delgado then filed a second motion to reopen his immigration proceedings. The government raised a new argument: Tarango-Delgado's motion could not be considered because he had illegally reentered the U.S. after being removed. Tarango-Delgado appeals the BIA’s denial of his two motions to reopen. Because the Tenth Circuit concluded that 8 U.S.C. 1231(a)(5) barred the reopening of his removal proceedings, the BIA’s denials were affirmed. View "Tarango-Delgado v. Garland" on Justia Law

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A tax-sharing agreement between the County of San Benito and the City of Hollister requires the city to pay the county a fixed fee (Additional Amount) per residential unit constructed on land annexed into the city from the county during the period covered by that agreement. Plaintiff’s predecessor entered into an annexation agreement with the city, agreeing to comply with “all applicable provisions” of that tax sharing agreement. When the plaintiff purchased the annexed land and sought to develop it into subdivisions, the city informed the plaintiff that it was liable for the Additional Amount fees. Plaintiff paid the fees under protest, then sued, seeking a declaration of its rights and duties under various written instruments.The court of appeal affirmed a defense judgment. Plaintiff is contractually liable for the Additional Amount by the terms of the annexation agreement. Any challenge to the calculation of the Additional Amount is beyond the scope of a declaratory relief action and time-barred. The court rejected the plaintiff’s arguments that neither the annexation agreement nor the tax sharing agreement requires the plaintiff to pay the Additional Amount and that the fees violate the Mitigation Fee Act and federal constitutional constraints on development fees as monetary exactions. View "BMC Promise Way, LLC v. County of San Benito" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit granted the Texas Attorney General a stay pending appeal of the permanent injunction that bars him from enforcing Texas Governor Greg Abbott's Executive Order GA-38, which prohibits local governmental entities from imposing mask mandates.After determining that plaintiffs have likely failed to demonstrate standing, the court concluded that the Attorney General has demonstrated a strong likelihood of success on the merits as a matter of law. In this case, the district court lacked jurisdiction over plaintiffs' claims where plaintiffs have not exhausted their administrative remedies under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Furthermore, even if a failure to exhaust remedies does not bar plaintiffs' claims, plaintiffs likely failed to make out a prima facie case under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Rehabilitation Act. The court explained that, given the availability of vaccines, voluntary masking, and other possible accommodations, the record before the court likely does not support the conclusion that a mask mandate would be both necessary and obvious under the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act. The court also held that it was likely erroneous for the district court to hold that GA-38 was preempted by either the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act. To the extent that it is even properly before the court, the court did not read the American Rescue Plan Act to preempt GA-38's prohibition of local mask mandates, as the district court did. The court further concluded that, assuming plaintiffs' claims are otherwise viable, at a minimum, the district court's blanket injunction prohibiting the enforcement of GA-38 in all public schools across the State of Texas is overbroad. Finally, the court concluded that the Attorney General has demonstrated the prospect of irreparable injury absent a stay; has shown that maintaining the status quo ante pending appeal will not risk substantial injury to plaintiffs; and that the public interest favors a stay. View "E.T. v. Paxton" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs challenged a surcharge that Long Beach imposes on its water and sewer customers by embedding the surcharge in the rates the Water Department charges for service. The surcharge funds are transferred from the Water Department to the city’s general fund, to be used for unrestricted general revenue purposes. The surcharge was approved by a majority of the city’s voters under California Constitution article XIII C. The plaintiffs argued that notwithstanding majority voter approval, the surcharge violates article XIII D, which prohibits a local agency from assessing a fee or charge “upon any parcel of property or upon any person as an incident of property ownership” unless the fee or charge satisfies enumerated requirements the city acknowledges were not met.The trial court found the surcharge unconstitutional and invalid. The court of appeal affirmed the judgment and an award of attorney fees. Because the surcharge qualifies as a “levy other than an ad valorem tax, a special tax, or an assessment, imposed by an agency upon a parcel or upon a person as an incident of property ownership, including a user fee or charge for a property related service,” it satisfies the definition of “fee” or “charge” in article XIII D and must comply with article XIII D, section 6(b)’s requirements regardless of voter approval. View "Lejins v. City of Long Beach" on Justia Law

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An Angel Brothers construction crew was installing a drainage pipe alongside a road. For two days, the crew had adequate protection from cave-ins. On day three, the work was too close to the street to continue with “benching” the walls of the excavation. Angel’s safety manager told foreman Vidal to use a trench box, which is placed in the ditch and has walls that guard against cave-ins. Vidal did not follow those instructions. Vidal admitted that he allowed Fonseca to work without the trench box because Fonseca would only need to spend 10-15 minutes inside the excavation; installing the trench box would have blocked the adjoining intersection and taken more time. Vidal and another employee stood by while Fonseca worked in the trench.An OSHA Compliance Officer happened to visit the worksite and issued a citation for violating the requirement that “[e]ach employee in an excavation shall be protected from cave-ins by an adequate protective system,” 29 C.F.R. 1926.652(a)(1). An ALJ assessed a $35,000 penalty. The Commission affirmed, reasoning that Vidal’s knowledge as a supervisor flowed to the company, that the company did not prove that it effectively enforced safety rules or disciplined employees for safety violations, and that the conduct was willful. The Fifth Circuit upheld the findings. Imputing the supervisor’s knowledge of the safety violation to the employer is appropriate in this situation under basic agency principles. View "Angel Brothers Enterprises, Ltd. v. Walsh" on Justia Law

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Chavez-Cortez filed a representative cause of action under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA, Lab. Code 2698), seeking civil penalties for wage-and-hour violations. The suit was dismissed for failure to satisfy the requirement of notice to the Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA). Relying on precedent (Khan), the defendants argued that the notice provided did not inform the LWDA “of the claims of any other alleged similarly situated but unidentified individuals” or that Chavez-Cortez “intended to pursue this matter on behalf of these unnamed individuals.”The court of appeal reversed. The notice at issue in Khan differs substantially from plaintiffs’ notice; here, the plaintiffs’ notice alerted the agency and defendants to ongoing Labor Code violations that were not by nature isolated or unique to plaintiffs. The notice was not deficient for failing to reference other aggrieved employees implicated by the representative action. Plaintiffs’ letter provided fair notice to the agency of representative claims for meal breaks, rest breaks, and overtime violations. View "Santos v. El Guapos Tacos, LLC" on Justia Law