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In 2015, former Virgin Islands Senator James was charged with wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343, and federal programs embezzlement, 18 U.S.C. 666(a)(1)(A), stemming from his use of legislative funds to ostensibly obtain historical documents from Denmark related to the Fireburn, an 1878 St. Croix uprising. The indictment specified: obtaining cash advances from the Legislature but retaining a portion of those funds for his personal use; double-billing for expenses for which he had already received a cash advance; submitting invoices and receiving funds for translation work that was never done; and submitting invoices and receiving funds for translation work that was completed before his election to the Legislature. James, who argued that he was engaged in legislative fact-finding, moved to dismiss the indictment on legislative immunity grounds. The district court denied the motion, stating that James’ actions were not legislative acts worthy of statutory protection under the Organic Act of the Virgin Islands. The Third Circuit affirmed. Under 48 U.S.C. 1572(d) legislators are protected from being “held to answer before any tribunal other than the legislature for any speech or debate in the legislature." The conduct underlying the government’s allegations concerning James is clearly not legislative conduct protected by section 1572(d). View "United States v. James" on Justia Law

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Katherine Heffernan appealed the trial court’s decision dismissing her complaint, which sought indemnification from the State on a default judgment she obtained against a state employee and which claimed that the State was vicariously liable for the employee’s conduct. The State determined that the acts alleged by Heffernan were outside the scope of the employee’s official duties and that, therefore, the State did not have a duty to defend the employee against Heffernan’s action. Heffernan, unable to locate the employee to make service of process, eventually served him through process by publication. Heffernan notified the State that she had served the employee, and the State again declined to take any action. The employee did not appear or offer any defense in Heffernan’s suit, and the trial court eventually issued a default judgment against him. The court subsequently held a hearing on damages and awarded Heffernan both punitive and compensatory damages. The Vermont Supreme Court found that while Heffernan presented complex arguments, its decision regarding both of her theories of State liability was controlled by the plain language of Vermont’s statutory scheme concerning each issue. Pursuant to the clear limitations on liability in Vermont’s Tort Claims Act, the State retains sovereign immunity relative to the actions alleged in Heffernan’s complaint. As such, the trial court did not err in dismissing her case. View "Heffernan v. Vermont" on Justia Law

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From 2006 to 2016, Vermont Gas Systems, Inc. (VGS) operated under an “alternative regulation” plan (ARP). Pursuant to the ARP, VGS’s rates were automatically adjusted every quarter based on changes in gas costs. In 2011, VGS proposed amending its ARP by establishing the System Expansion and Reliability Fund (SERF) as a means of facilitating the expansion of its service into Addison County, Vermont, and perhaps beyond, while maintaining a smooth rate trajectory. At the time of the proposal, VGS would have been required under the ARP’s automatic rate adjustments to reduce customer rates for the spring 2011 quarter by approximately $4.4 million, which would have been the ninth rate reduction in the previous ten quarters. Instead of reducing rates for existing customers pursuant to the provisions of the ARP, VGS proposed depositing that amount annually into SERF to smooth out rate increases resulting from future expansion of services. Under the proposal, VGS’s rates would remain the same rather than be reduced by an automatic adjustment. In this ratemaking proceeding, AARP appealed an order of the Vermont Public Utility Commission that incorporated a memorandum of understanding (MOU) reached by the Department of Public Service and VGS. Among other things, the incorporated MOU set VGS’s firm non-gas rates for the tax year beginning October 1, 2016; allowed VGS to use a specified amount from a fund previously authorized by the Commission to mitigate the rate effects of any system expansion; and established both the penalty for VGS’s imprudent costs associated with the Addison Natural Gas Project (ANGP) and its return on equity. The Vermont Supreme Court reversed and remanded the matter for the Commission to make further findings regarding VGS’s ANGP-related imprudent costs and, if necessary, to reconsider the penalty imposed for those costs under the incorporated MOU. View "In re Investigation into Petiton of Vermont Gas Systems, Inc. (AARP, Appellant)" on Justia Law

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The question this case presented for the Vermont Supreme Court’s review was whether steep increases in project cost estimates for the Addison Natural Gas Project, combined with changes in energy markets, created a “substantial change” such that Vermont Gas System, Inc. (VGS) had to secure an amended certificate of public good under Public Utility Commission Rule 5.408. In ruling on Conservation Law Foundation’s (CLF) separate petition for declaratory relief, distinct from post-judgment review of the Commission’s certificate of public good, the Commission held that increased cost estimates for VGS’s natural gas pipeline project, coupled with changes in the energy markets, were not a “substantial change” under Rule 5.408. The Supreme Court deferred to the Commission’s reasonable interpretation of Rule 5.408 and accordingly affirm. View "In re Petition of Conservation Law Foundation" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the circuit court affirming the finding of the administrative law judge (ALJ) that Respondent was coerced into submitting to an alcohol breath test required by Md. Code Ann. Transp. 16-205.1. In affirming, the circuit court concluded that substantial evidence supported the ALJ’s decision that Respondent did not voluntarily submit to the testing. The ALJ found, specifically, that the due process afforded to Respondent was insufficient and that the officer’s actions impermissibly induced Respondent to submit to an alcohol breath test. The Court of Appeals disagreed, holding that the ALJ’s determination was erroneous because Respondent failed to establish that there was an insufficient advisement of rights in violation of her due process protections. View "Motor Vehicle Administration v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Paul Irwin, Jr., appealed a final judgment of the Jefferson Circuit Court dismissing his claim for injunctive relief against the Jefferson County Personnel Board ("the Board") and the City of Trussville ("Trussville"). This case arose from Trussville's desire to hire a police chief following the retirement of its former chief. Trussville interviewed Irwin and two other candidates from a certified list of candidates. Trussville did not hire Irwin or any other candidate from the certified list supplied by the Board in January 2017. Instead, Trussville returned the list to the Board and requested that the Board administer a new test for the position of Police Chief II. On January 23, 2017, the Board "expired" the eligibility list. On January 27, 2017, the Board also approved Trussville's request to hire a provisional police chief until such time as a new assessment examination could be administered and a new eligibility list generated. On March 1, 2017, Irwin sued the Board and Trussville, contending that, once the Board issued to Trussville a certified list of eligible candidates for the position of police chief, Trussville was required to hire a candidate from that list and had no discretion to leave the position unfilled. The complaint sought only injunctive relief. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the specific actions Irwin sought to enjoin –- the administration of a new examination for the position of Trussville's police chief and the appointment of a candidate to the position of police chief who was not on the January 2017 certified list –- have since occurred. Accordingly, it was impossible to provide Irwin the relief he requested. Irwin's appeal was dismissed. View "Irwin v. Jefferson County Personnel Board" on Justia Law

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Saint Bernard Parish Government and other owners of real property in St. Bernard Parish or in the Lower Ninth Ward of the City of New Orleans sued under the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. 1491(a)(1), alleging a taking. They claimed that the government was liable for flood damage to their properties caused by Hurricane Katrina and other hurricanes. Plaintiffs’ theory was that the government incurred liability because of government inaction, including the failure to properly maintain or to modify the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet (MRGO) channel, and government action (the construction and operation of the MRGO channel). The Claims Court found a taking occurred and awarded compensation. The Federal Circuit reversed. The government cannot be liable on a takings theory for inaction and the government action in constructing and operating MRGO was not shown to have been the cause of the flooding. The Claims Court failed to apply the correct legal standard, which required that the causation analysis account for government flood control projects that reduced the risk of flooding. View "St. Bernard Parish Government v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court sustaining Appellant’s motion for summary judgment insofar as it awarded her benefits for two scheduled injuries but denied her claim that she was permanently and totally disabled. The Court held (1) there was no merit to Appellant’s first assignment of error that Appellant’s employer admitted, through its responses to Appellant’s requests for admission, that Appellant was permanently and totally disabled; but (2) the trial court erred in weighing the evidence in the summary judgment matter and concluding that Appellant was not permanently and totally disabled. View "Wynne v. Menard, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Department of Correction’s policy announced in 2013 that visitors to correctional facilities would be subject to search by drug-detecting dogs was not inconsistent with the Department’s existing regulations but was not exempt from the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 31A, 1 et seq. Plaintiffs commenced this action to prevent the Department from implementing the new policy. The superior court denied Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, and the policy was thereafter implemented. A second superior court judge entered judgment declaring that the Commissioner of Correction had the authority o establish the policy without having to comply with the procedural requirements of the APA. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded this case to the superior court for entry of a judgment declaring that the Department was required to, but did not, meet the requirements of the APA when it adopted this regulation but that the regulation, if properly adopted in conformance with the APA, would not conflict with existing Department regulations. View "Carey v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

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Appellants challenged the trial court's order and judgment dismissing appellants' petition for writ of mandate and complaint. At issue was whether Proposition 65's reliance on the International Agency for Research on Cancer to identify known carcinogens violated various provisions and doctrines of the California and United States Constitutions. The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment, rejecting appellants' arguments that the Labor Code listing mechanism violated article II, section 12 of the California Constitution, because the Agency did not qualify as a private corporation under the constitutional provision; that the Labor Code listing mechanism was an unlawful delegation of authority; that the Labor Code listing mechanism violated procedural due process rights; and that the Labor Code listing mechanism violated the Guarantee Clause of the United States Constitution. View "Monsanto Co. v. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment" on Justia Law