Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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Applicants Marian Wright and Greg Boester and their neighbors, Day Patterson and Janet Showers, owned abutting parcels of land on the shore of Caspian Lake in Greensboro, Vermont. Neighbors appealed an Environmental Division decision granting applicants a permit to tear down and reconstruct a lakeside structure on their parcel in accordance with a revised plan they submitted just prior to trial. The Vermont Supreme Court reversed, concluding that the court erred both when it determined that the structure at issue was properly designated an “accessory structure” rather than a “boathouse” under the applicable zoning bylaws, and when it declined to remand the materially revised proposal for consideration by the municipal developmental review board in the first instance. View "In Wright & Boester Conditional Use Application (Patterson and Showers, Appellants)" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) granting certification to FirstEnergy Advisors, a competitive retail electric service provider, holding that the order in this case fell short of the requirement set forth in Ohio Rev. Code 4903.09 that PUCO file "findings of fact and written opinions setting forth the reasons prompting the decisions arrived at."Two organizations in this case intervened in the PUCO proceedings and objected to the certification. Despite the objections, PUCO granted the certification request and issued a "barebones" order offering no explanation as to how FirstEnergy Advisors met the applicable legal requirements. The Supreme Court reversed PUCO's certification decision and remanded the matter to PUCO for further proceedings, holding that PUCO's order violated action 4903.09 because it failed to explain the reasoning and factual grounds for granting FirstEnergy Advisors' application. View "In re Application of FirstEnergy Advisors for Certification as a Competitive Retail Electric Service Power Broker & Aggregator" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, tenants living in substandard conditions in a "Section 8" housing project, filed suit seeking to compel HUD to provide relocation assistance vouchers. The Fifth Circuit held that, because 24 C.F.R. 886.323(e) mandates that HUD provide relocation assistance, its alleged decision not to provide relocation vouchers to plaintiffs is not a decision committed to agency discretion by law and is therefore reviewable. Furthermore, the agency's inaction here constitutes a final agency action because it prevents or unreasonably delays the tenants from receiving the relief to which they are entitled by law. Therefore, the district court has jurisdiction over plaintiffs' Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and Fair Housing Act (FHA) claims and erred in dismissing those claims.However, the court agreed with the district court that plaintiffs failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted on their Fifth Amendment equal protection claim. In this case, plaintiffs failed to state a plausible claim of intentional race discrimination. Accordingly, the court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Hawkins v. United States Department of Housing and Urban Development" on Justia Law

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Animal rights organization Friends of Animals served a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) seeking disclosure of form 3-177s submitted by wildlife hunters and traders seeking to import elephant and giraffe parts. FWS disclosed the forms with redactions. Most relevant here, it withheld the names of the individual submitters under FOIA Exemptions 6 and 7(C), which prevent disclosure of information when a privacy interest in withholding outweighs the public interest in disclosure, as well as information on one Form 3-177 under Exemption 4, which prevents the disclosure of material that is commercial and confidential. Friends of Animals challenged these redactions in the district court, which granted summary judgment in favor of FWS, upholding the redactions. The Tenth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part, finding the district court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of FWS as to the withholdings in the Elephant Request under Exemptions 6 and 7(C) and as to the withholdings under Exemption 4. The Court affirmed summary judgment as to the withholdings in the Giraffe Request. View "Friends of Animals v. Bernhardt, et al." on Justia Law

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Ordinances banning “land uses in support of” new oil and gas wells and “land uses in support of” wastewater injection in unincorporated areas of Monterey County were enacted as part of Measure Z, an initiative sponsored by PMC and passed by Monterey County voters.The trial court upheld, in part, a challenge to Measure Z by oil companies and other mineral rights holders. The court of appeal affirmed. Components of Measure Z are preempted by state laws. Public Resources Code section 3106 explicitly provides that the State of California’s oil and gas supervisor has the authority to decide whether to permit an oil and gas drilling operation to drill a new well or to utilize wastewater injection in its operations. Those operational aspects of oil drilling operations are committed by section 3106 to the state’s discretion and local regulation of these aspects would conflict with section 3106. View "Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. County of Monterey" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Margaret McCann appealed a judgment in favor of defendant City of San Diego (City) on McCann’s petition for writ of mandate and an order denying her request for a preliminary injunction. McCann challenged the City’s environmental review process related to its decision to approve two sets of projects that would convert overhead utility wires to an underground system in several neighborhoods. McCann’s primary concern was the need for the underground system to be supplemented with several above-ground transformers, which would be housed in three-foot-tall metal boxes in the public right-of-way. According to McCann, the City violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by failing to prepare an environmental impact report (EIR) for both sets of projects. The Court of Appeal concluded McCann’s claims were barred as to the first set of projects because she failed to exhaust her administrative remedies to challenge the City’s determination that the projects were exempt from CEQA. The Court determined the City complied with the CEQA. However, the Court found merit in McCann’s argument the City’s finding that the projects would not have a significant environmental impact due to greenhouse gas emissions was not supported by substantial evidence. The Court found remand was necessary to allow the City to conduct a further review to determine if the greenhouse gas emissions were consistent with the City’s Climate Action Plan. Judgment was therefore reverse in part and affirmed in all other respects. View "McCann v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Jenaro Carrasco worked as a parole agent for real party in interest Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (department) for five years. He was promoted to the position of special agent and was subject to a 12-month probationary period. The department served Carrasco with a notice of rejection before the end of the probationary period and stated six reasons for the rejection. Carrasco challenged his rejection before defendant-respondent the State Personnel Board (the board) and, when the board upheld his rejection, he petitioned the superior court for a writ of administrative mandamus. At the conclusion of the administrative and superior court proceedings, only two of the reasons given for Carrasco’s rejection were found to have been supported by substantial evidence. However, both the board and the superior court concluded Government Code section 19175 did not mandate reinstatement if less than all the reasons given for the rejection were upheld. In addition, the board and the superior court concluded the department had not acted in bad faith when it rejected Carrasco. Therefore, the superior court denied Carrasco’s petition. After review, the Court of Appeal concurred with the board and superior court, and affirmed the superior court's judgment. View "Carrasco v. State Personnel Bd." on Justia Law

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Property owners sued the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, challenging the validity of easements that cross their property to give access to neighboring residences. The superior court dismissed most of the property owners’ claims on res judicata grounds, reasoning that the claims had been brought or could have been brought in two earlier suits over the same easements. The court also granted the Borough’s motions for summary judgment or judgment on the pleadings on the property owners’ claims involving the validity of construction permits, redactions in public records, and whether the Borough had acquired a recent easement through the appropriate process. One claim remained to be tried: whether the Borough violated the property owners’ due process rights by towing their truck from the disputed roadway. The court found in favor of the Borough on this claim and awarded the Borough enhanced attorney’s fees, finding that the property owners had pursued their claims vexatiously and in bad faith. The property owners appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the superior court correctly applied the law and did not clearly err in its findings of fact. Therefore, the superior court’s judgment was affirmed. View "Windel v Matanuska-Susitna Borough" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Zachary Rose challenged the decision of the Vermont Department of Corrections (DOC) to terminate him from treatment programming without a hearing. He argued his program termination constituted punishment under 28 V.S.A. 851, and therefore required a hearing and due process under section 852. The superior court granted summary judgment to DOC, concluding that the termination was not punishment and that plaintiff’s claim was not reviewable under Vermont Rule of Civil Procedure 75. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded that DOC’s decision was reviewable, but on this record, neither party was entitled to summary judgment. Accordingly, judgment was reversed and remanded. View "Rose v. Touchette" on Justia Law

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A majority of the taxable inhabitants of Highspire Borough, Pennslyvania (the “Coalition”) filed a petition seeking to be established as a school district independent from Steelton-Highspire School District (“SHSD”) for the sole purpose of having the new school district be absorbed into the neighboring Middletown Area School District (“MASD”). The Secretary of Education issued an opinion and order denying the transfer on the grounds that the academic benefits to be enjoyed by the transferring students did not outweigh the educational detriments imposed upon the students in the SHSD and MASD districts. In particular, the Secretary concluded that the transfer would undermine the financial stability of SHSD and put a strain on class size and facilities at MASD. On appeal, the Commonwealth Court reversed, taking issue with the Secretary’s consideration of finances and holding that the Secretary should have instead narrowly focused on the academic benefits that would be enjoyed by the transferring students. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded that in this case, the Secretary properly considered financial impacts and appropriately focused on the quality of education for the students in all of the school districts associated with the proposed transfer. The Court therefore reversed the order of the Commonwealth Court and remanded for further proceedings. View "In Re: Appeal for Formation of Independent SD" on Justia Law