Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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Section 6259 of the California Public Records Act governs venue, not jurisdiction, and thus it does not deprive a superior court of subject matter jurisdiction over a public records dispute even if the requested records are not situated in the county where the lawsuit is brought. In this case, although the records sought are not situated in Los Angeles County, the Court of Appeal held that the Los Angeles Superior Court nonetheless has jurisdiction over this action. The court also held that the venue provision of section 6259 does not override Code of Civil Procedure section 401, which provides that if an action may be brought against the state or its agencies in Sacramento, it also may be brought anywhere the Attorney General has an office. Therefore, because this action may be brought in Sacramento County, the court held that it may also be brought in Los Angeles, where the Attorney General has an office. Accordingly, the court directed the trial court to vacate its order transferring this matter to Sacramento County. View "California Gun Rights Foundation v. Superior Court of Los Angeles Count" on Justia Law

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Original petitioner filed suit under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), challenging FWS's negative 90-day finding regarding the delisting of the Bone Cave harvestman arachnid as arbitrary and capricious. While the case was pending, the district court allowed intervening plaintiffs to separately argue that federal regulation of the purely intrastate species is unconstitutional because it exceeds Congress's power under the Commerce and Necessary and Proper Clauses. The district court subsequently rejected the intervening plaintiffs' arguments, but granted summary judgment to the original plaintiffs. FWS's negative 90-day finding was vacated and the FWS then issued a positive 90-day finding, beginning a 12-month review of whether the Bone Cave harvestman should be delisted. The Fifth Circuit dismissed the intervenor plaintiffs' appeal of the denial of their motion for summary judgment, holding that the appeal is alternatively moot or barred by sovereign immunity. Therefore, the court lacked jurisdiction to resolve the appeal. View "American Stewards of Liberty v. Department of Interior" on Justia Law

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After ExxonMobil sought a revised Title V permit under the Clean Air Act concerning an expansion of a plant in Baytown, Texas, petitioners asked EPA to object on the grounds that the underlying Title I preconstruction permit allowing the expansion was invalid. EPA rejected petitioners' arguments and declined to object. The Fifth Circuit denied the petition for review, holding that EPA's interpretation that Title V permitting is not the appropriate vehicle for reexamining the substantive validity of underlying Title I preconstruction permits, is independently persuasive. Therefore, EPA's interpretation is entitled to the mild form of deference recognized by Skidmore v. Swift & Co., 323 U.S. 134 (1944). View "Environmental Integrity Project v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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Caquelin's land was subject to a railroad easement. The Surface Transportation Board granted the railroad permission to abandon the line unless the process (16 U.S.C. 1247(d)) for considering the use of the easement for a public recreational trail was invoked. That process was invoked. The Board issued a Notice of Interim Trail Use or Abandonment (NITU), preventing effectuation of the abandonment approval and blocking the ending of the easement for 180 days, during which the railroad could try to reach an agreement with two entities that expressed interest in the easement for trail use. The NITU expired without such an agreement. The railroad completed its abandonment three months later. Caquelin sued, alleging that a taking occurred when the government, by issuing the NITU, prevented the termination of the easement during the 180-day period. Following a remand, the Claims Court again held that a taking had occurred. The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting the contention that the multi-factor approach adopted for government-created flooding in the Supreme Court’s 2012 “Arkansas Game” decision displaced the categorical-taking analysis adopted in Federal Circuit precedents for a NITU that blocks termination of an easement. The categorical taking analysis is applicable even when that NITU expires without a trail-use agreement. A NITU does not effect a taking if, even without a NITU, the railroad would not have abandoned its line during the period of the NITU. Here, the evidence permits a finding that abandonment would have occurred during the NITU period if the NITU had not issued. View "Caquelin v. United States" on Justia Law

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Deer breeders Terry Kennedy and Johnny McDonald sought to raise and hunt bigger deer by artificially inseminating whitetail deer with mule-deer semen. Whether they could do so depended on whether the resulting hybrid deer were covered by Alabama's definition of "protected game animals" in section 9-11-30(a), Ala. Code 1975. On a motion for a judgment on the pleadings, the Circuit Court concluded that, because the hybrid deer were the offspring of a female whitetail deer, they were "protected game animals," both by virtue of the inclusion in that definition of "whitetail deer ... and their offspring," and by virtue of an old legal doctrine called partus sequitur ventrem. The trial court therefore entered a judgment in favor of the deer breeders. The Alabama Supreme Court disagreed: because the modifier "and their offspring" in section 9-11-30(a) did not reach back to apply to the term "whitetail deer," and because the Latin maxim cited as an alternative theory for relief had no application in this case, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded. View "Blankenship v. Kennedy" on Justia Law

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Joel Kennamer appealed a circuit court's dismissal of his complaint seeking a declaratory judgment, a preliminary injunction, and a permanent injunction against the City of Guntersville, the City's mayor Leigh Dollar, each member of the Guntersville City Council, and Lakeside Investments, LLC ("Lakeside"). Kennamer's complaint sought to prevent the City from leasing certain City property to Lakeside. Kennamer asserted that the City had erected a pavilion on "Parcel One" for public use and that residents used Parcel One for public fishing, fishing tournaments, truck and tractor shows, and public festivals and events. As for Parcel Two, Kennamer alleged that in 2000, the City petitioned to condemn property belonging to CSX Transportation, Inc. ("CSX"), "for the purpose of constructing [a] public boat dock and a public recreational park." In 2019, the City approved an ordinance declaring the development property "is no longer needed for public or municipal purposes." The development agreement, as updated, again affirmed that the development property would be used "for a mixed-use lakefront development containing restaurants, entertainment, retail, office space, high density multi-family residential, and other appropriate commercial uses, including parking." Thereafter, Kennamer sued the City defendants arguing the City lacked the authority to lease to a third-party developer City property that had been dedicated for use as, and/or was being used as, a public park. Finding that the City had the statutory authority to lease the property to the third-party developer, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's dismissal. View "Kennamer v. City of Guntersville et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court reversing the decision of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) that a child-care provider must pay back benefits the provider received during agency review of her cancelled provider agreement, holding that DHS erred in refusing to consider the provider's unjust enrichment defense to the recoupment proceeding. At issue was whether the provider was given constitutionally sufficient notice of DHS's intent to recoup payments. DHS sent the provider a notice cancelling the provider agreement and noted that any benefits the provider got while her appeal was being decided "may have to be paid back if the Department's action is correct." DHS affirmed its decision to cancel the provider's agreement but did not find, until years later, that the provider had to pay back the $16,000. The district court reversed DHS's decision on recoupment and denied attorney fees under Iowa Code 625.29(1)(b). The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) DHS's notice met procedural due process requirements, but the DHS should have been allowed an opportunity to raise unjust enrichment as an offset to DHS's effort to recoup overpayments; and (2) where DHS's role was primarily adjudicative, DHS was not liable for attorney fees. View "Endress v. Iowa Department of Human Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the court of appeals' decision and affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court, holding that a child-care provider whose provider agreement and registration was cancelled should be allowed to raise unjust enrichment as an offset to the Iowa Department of Human Services' (DHS) effort to recoup $31,815 for child-care services the provider rendered during agency review. This appeal was a companion case to Endress v. Iowa Department of Human Services, __ N.W.2d __ (Iowa 2020), also decided today. DHS attempted to recoup child-care service payments during agency review of the provider's cancelled provider agreement and registration. On appeal, the court of appeals held that DHS's notice concerning recoupment of overpayments was constitutionally deficient. The Supreme Court (1) vacated the court of appeals' decision on the constitutional issue, holding that DHS's notice of recoupment met procedural due process requirements; and (2) remanded the case to the district court to remand to DHS for consideration of the provider's equitable relief, holding that the provider should have been allowed to pursue her claim for unjust enrichment. View "Pfaltzgraff v. Iowa Department of Human Services" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Union Leader Corporation and American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire (ACLU-NH), appealed a superior court order denying their petition for the release of “complete, unredacted copies” of: (1) “the 120-page audit report of the Salem Police Department . . . dated October 12, 2018 focusing on internal affairs complaint investigations”; (2) “the 15-page addendum focused on the [Salem Police] Department’s culture”; and (3) “the 42-page audit report of the [Salem Police] Department dated September 19, 2018 focusing on time and attendance practices” (collectively referred to as the “Audit Report”). The trial court upheld many of the redactions made to the Audit Report by defendant Town of Salem (Town), concluding that they were required by the “internal personnel practices” exemption to the Right-to-Know Law, RSA chapter 91-A, as interpreted in Union Leader Corp. v. Fenniman, 136 N.H. 624 (1993), and its progeny. In a separate opinion, the New Hampshire Supreme Court overruled Fenniman to the extent that it broadly interpreted the “internal personnel practices” exemption and overruled our prior decisions to the extent that they relied on that broad interpretation. Here, the Court overruled Fenniman to the extent that it decided that records related to “internal personnel practices” were categorically exempt from disclosure under the Right-to-Know Law instead of being subject to a balancing test to determine whether such materials are exempt from disclosure. The Court overruled prior decisions to the extent that they applied the per se rule established in Fenniman. The Court vacated the trial court’s order and remanded for further proceedings in light of these changes. View "Union Leader Corporation v. Town of Salem" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Seacoast Newspapers, Inc. appealed a superior court order denying its petition to disclose an arbitration decision concerning the termination of a police officer by defendant City of Portsmouth. Seacoast primarily argued that the New Hampshire Supreme Court previously misconstrued the “internal personnel practices” exemption of our Right-to-Know Law. See RSA 91-A:5, IV (2013). In this opinion, the Court took the opportunity to redefine what falls under the “internal personnel practices” exemption, overruling its prior interpretation set forth in Union Leader Corp. v. Fenniman, 136 N.H. 624 (1993). The Court concluded that only a narrow set of governmental records, namely those pertaining to an agency’s internal rules and practices governing operations and employee relations, fell within that exemption. Accordingly, the Court held the arbitration decision at issue here did not fall under the “internal personnel practices” exemption, vacated the trial court’s order, and remanded for the trial court’s consideration of whether, or to what extent, the arbitration decision was exempt from disclosure because it is a “personnel . . . file[ ].” View "Seacoast Newspapers, Inc. v. City of Portsmouth" on Justia Law