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At 5:33 p.m. on April 18, 2013, a 14‐barge tow pushed by the M/V Dale Heller on the Illinois River was sucked into a powerful cross‐current and broke up. Some of the barges crashed (allided) into the Marseilles Dam; some sank; some were saved. The accident happened during record‐breaking rains and high water. A day later, the nearby town of Marseilles experienced significant flooding. Flood Claimants sued to recover for their flood damage. The district court ruled that the United States, which manages the Dam through its Army Corps of Engineers, was immune from suit for its role in the allision, and that the Corps was solely responsible for the accident. Flood Claimants appealed, arguing that the company that owns and operates the Dale Heller shared some of the blame because of its failure to follow inland navigation rules and its more general negligence. The Seventh Circuit affirmed; the facts found by the district court were not clearly erroneous, and those facts support the court’s assignment of sole responsibility to the Corps. Because of the discretionary function exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act, the Corps cannot be sued for the actions of its lockmaster, however negligent or inexplicable they may have been. View "Alexander v. Ingram Barge Co." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ suit challenging the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) termination of tier disability benefits for lack of subject matter jurisdiction based on Plaintiffs’ failure to have exhausted their administrative remedies. After the SSA terminated the disability benefits that Plaintiffs had been receiving, Plaintiffs challenged that decision administratively. Before they had exhausted the administrative review process, however, Plaintiffs filed suit in federal court seeking various kinds of relief based presumably on the same grounds as the claims that had presented to the SSA in seeking to continue to receive their benefits. The district court granted the government’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that Plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs failed to show that they could not obtain a restoration of their benefits through the administrative review process, despite evidence suggesting that they would have a substantial chance of doing so. View "Justiniano v. Social Security Administration" on Justia Law

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This appeal involved the Company's effort to have declared invalid a Crossing Agreement entered into in 2012 by Michigan State officials and the Government of Canada to build another bridge spanning the Detroit River, within two miles of the Ambassador Bridge. The DC Circuit held that the district court properly granted summary judgment as to Count 7, which alleged that the Secretary failed to inquire adequately into Michigan law and, to the extent an inquiry was made, the Secretary's action was arbitrary and capricious. The court reasoned that neither the plain text of Section 3 nor other provisions of the International Bridge Act (IBA), 33 U.S.C. 535 et seq., require the Secretary to inquire into state law. Therefore, the Secretary did not clearly err in approving the Crossing Agreement and the court affirmed summary judgment. The court also held that the district court properly dismissed Counts 2 and 3, which alleged that approval of the Crossing Agreement was unlawful because it contradicted federal laws; Count 1, which alleged a non-delegation claim; and Count 6, which alleged that the issuance of a Presidential Permit by the Secretary of State was final agency action, regardless of whether this authority was delegated by the President, and thus it was reviewable. View "Detroit International Bridge Co. v. Government of Canada" on Justia Law

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In a case arising out of the “Great Dissolution” of redevelopment agencies (RDAs) in California the City of Grass Valley (City) appealed a judgment denying in part its petition for writ of mandate. The City, which was also the successor agency for its former RDA, sought to compel the Department of Finance (Department) to recognize the enforceability of certain agreements involving that RDA. The Department cross-appealed a part of the judgment commanding it to consider whether certain expenditures fell under a “goods and services” provision, claiming the City’s failure to raise this issue in an administrative forum precludes the relief granted by the trial court. The Court of Appeal agreed with the Department on that point and reversed with directions to recall the writ granting the City partial relief. However, based on the retrospective application of postjudgment legislation, the Court directed the trial court to issue a new writ commanding the Department to consider the City’s claim regarding a highway project agreement. The Court otherwise affirmed the judgment. View "City of Grass Valley v. Cohen" on Justia Law

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Traill Rural Water District ("TRWD") appealed a judgment that granted damages for overdue rent to Daniel and Marlene Motter ("the Motters"). In 2006 Melba Motter, through her estate's conservator Alerus Financial, leased approximately forty acres of land in rural Steele County to TRWD at $250 per acre for ninety-nine years. Attorneys for both Melba's estate and TRWD negotiated the leases. In January 2011 Daniel Motter, grandson of Melba, and Daniel's wife Marlene acquired title to the land, including the leases. Daniel received offers from TRWD to renegotiate the leases during the period from 2006 to 2011, when he farmed the land but did not own it. Daniel reviewed the TRWD leases in 2014 and claimed back rent of $10,000 per year for the full forty acres from 2011 through 2014. TRWD offered $4,500 compared to Motter's initial calculation of $31,300. The district court acknowledged the mathematical error and adjusted to $51,500 for the five years from 2011 to 2015. The parties' different interpretations led to this lawsuit. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in denying reformation of two leases on the Motters' land and did not abuse its discretion in granting a new trial. View "Motter v. Traill Rural Water District" on Justia Law

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The North Dakota Department of Human Services appealed a district court judgment reversing the Department's order deciding Altru Specialty Services, doing business as Yorhom Medical Essentials, received overpayments for medical equipment supplied to Medicaid recipients and ordering recoupment. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not have jurisdiction and the appeal should have been dismissed because Yorhom failed to satisfy statutory requirements for perfecting an appeal. View "Altru Specialty Services, Inc. v. N.D. Dep't of Human Services" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether, prior to the use of affix and mail service of Notices of Violation (NOVs) issued by Department of Building inspectors who discover building code violations, the New York City Charter requires more than a single attempt to personally serve the NOV at the premises. The Environmental Control Board (ECB) sustained Petitioner’s code violations, rejecting Petitioner’s argument that the NOVs were not properly served because more than one attempt at personal service is required prior to the use of the alternative affix and mail procedure authorized in New York City Chapter 1049-a(d)(2)(a)(ii). The Appellate Division confirmed the determination. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the agency properly interpreted New York City Charter 1049-a(d)(2)(b) to require only one attempt at personal service of an NOV at the premises prior to resorting to the affix and mail procedure; and (2) thus, the seven NOVs that were reviewed in the administrative hearings were properly served. View "Mestecky v. City of New York" on Justia Law

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Taylor, a citizen of Ireland, entered the U.S. in 2000 on a visitor’s visa. In 2008, Taylor was the victim of perjury, a qualifying crime under the Victims Protection Act., 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(15)(U), which created the non-immigrant U-Visa program. The Act became law in 2000, but no regulations were issued for seven years. The issuance of U-Visas in large numbers began in 2009. The FBI certified that Taylor had provided the necessary assistance with the prosecution of the crime, Taylor applied for a U-visa in 2014. U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determined that Taylor was eligible, but placed him on a waiting list because the statute prohibits the issuance of more than 10,000 U-visas per year. USCIS granted Taylor discretionary relief that defers removal and confers employment authorization benefits. Taylor filed suit, alleging that USCIS’s delay in promulgating regulations caused the backlog and asked the court to compel USCIS to immediately issue 80,000 U-visas to those on the waiting list. The court determined that Taylor lacked standing and dismissed his complaint. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The agency lacks the statutory authority to give the relief sought. The U-visa limit was reached in 2016 and 2017. Taylor lacks constitutional standing; a court cannot review his claims at all, nor determine whether there was an unreasonable delay or a non-discretionary duty under the APA to compel USCIS to issue U-visas. View "Taylor v. McCament" on Justia Law

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Two consolidated appeals challenged the Environmental Division’s decisions concerning applications for site-plan approval and an Act 250 permit for the proposed construction of a Hannaford’s supermarket in the Town of Hinesburg. In challenging the trial court’s site-plan approval, Neighbors argued: (1) the trial court erred in declining to enforce a setback limit reflected in the final plat plan for the subdivision as approved in 1987; (2) Hannaford’s site-plan application violated “front yard” parking restrictions set forth in the Town’s 2009 zoning regulations; (3) the east-west swale proposed in the site-plan application will not control and treat stormwater as predicted by Hannaford’s expert; and (4) Hannaford did not satisfy its burden regarding stormwater control because part of the discharge system was proposed to be located on land outside of its control. In cross-appeals, Hannaford and the Town challenged the trial court’s condition requiring Hannaford to install a traffic signal before the project may be completed, and the Town challenged the court’s elimination in its amended decision of a condition requiring Hannaford to perform a post-development traffic study. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded Hannaford’s proposed site plan violated the setback limit in the final plat plan approved in 1987; and Hannaford’s parking scheme did not violate the site-plan approval standards in the applicable zoning regulations. The Court did not reach issues raised in that appeal concerning the east-west swale and traffic control. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Environmental Division’s approval of the site plan. Regarding the Act 250 appeal, the Court concluded the project did not violate a requirement in the original approved subdivision permit that development be primarily “small scale,” and that the proposed project would not materially interfere with the public’s use and enjoyment of the canal path. The case was remanded for further development of evidence concerning the east-west swale and traffic issues. View "In re Hinesburg Hannaford Act 250 Permit / In re Hinesburg Hannaford Site Plan Approval" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the New Jersey Supreme Court considered whether the 2000 and 2001 financial agreements between plaintiffs EQR-Lincoln Urban Renewal Jersey City, LLC (EQR-Lincoln), and EQR-LPC Urban Renewal North Pier, LLC (EQR-North Pier), and defendant, the City of Jersey City (City), incorporated 2003 amendments to the Long Term Tax Exemption (LTTE) Law, N.J.S.A. 40A:20-1 to -22. Plaintiffs were limited liability companies that qualified as urban renewal entities under the LTTE Law. Each plaintiff entered into a separate financial agreement with the City to obtain a property tax exemption relating to an urban renewal project involving construction of an apartment building. Among other things, the financial agreements required plaintiffs to pay the City an “annual service charge” in lieu of property taxes. Plaintiffs filed a two-count complaint seeking a declaratory judgment against the City seeking: (1) a judgment declaring that the applicable law and financial agreements permitted plaintiffs to pay “excess rent” to affiliated entities under certain ground leases, with the effect of eliminating the “excess net profit” that plaintiffs might otherwise owe to the City; and (2) a judgment declaring that the parties’ financial agreements incorporated future changes to applicable law, such that plaintiffs could calculate their “allowable profit rate” in accordance with the 2003 amendments to the LTTE Law. The trial judge granted partial summary judgment on Count II, reasoning that the express language of the contract, “as amended and supplemented,” demonstrated that the parties agreed to incorporate future amendments to the LTTE Law in their financial agreements. The trial judge further concluded that the 2003 amendments to the LTTE Law applied to the financial agreements, and that legislative history supported his conclusions. The trial judge denied the City’s motion for reconsideration. The Appellate Division reversed, finding LTTE Law did not sanction plaintiffs’ unilateral changes to their financial agreements. The Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Division. View "EQR-LPC Urban Renewal North Pier, LLC v. City of Jersey City" on Justia Law