Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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The People of the State of California, by and through the Santa Clara County Counsel, the Orange County District Attorney, the Los Angeles County Counsel, and the Oakland City Attorney, filed suit against various pharmaceutical companies involved in the manufacture, marketing, distribution, and sale of prescription opioid medications. The People alleged the defendants made false and misleading statements as part of a deceptive marketing scheme designed to minimize the risks of opioid medications and inflate their benefits. The People alleged this scheme caused a public health crisis in California by dramatically increasing opioid prescriptions, opioid use, opioid abuse, and opioid-related deaths. In their suit, the People allege causes of action for violations of the False Advertising Law, and the public nuisance statutes. After several years of litigation, the defendants served business record subpoenas on four nonparty state agencies: the California State Board of Registered Nursing (Nursing Board), the California State Board of Pharmacy (Pharmacy Board), the Medical Board of California (Medical Board), and the California Department of Justice (DOJ). The Pharmacy Board, the Medical Board, and the DOJ served objections to the subpoenas. The Nursing Board filed a motion for a protective order seeking relief from the production obligations of its subpoena. After further litigation, which is recounted below, the trial court ordered the state agencies to produce documents in response to the subpoenas. In consolidated proceedings, the state agencies challenged the trial court's orders compelling production of documents. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the motions to compel against the Pharmacy Board and Medical Board were untimely, and the defendants were required to serve consumer notices on at least the doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other health care professionals whose identities would be disclosed in the administrative records, investigatory files, and coroner’s reports. Furthermore, the Court concluded the requests for complete administrative records and investigatory files, were overbroad and not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. "The requests for complete administrative records and investigatory files also ran afoul of the constitutional right to privacy and the statutory official information and deliberative process privileges." The trial court was directed to vacate its orders compelling production of documents, and to enter new orders denying the motions to compel and, for the Nursing Board, granting its motion for a protective order. View "Board of Registered Nursing v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied petitions for review of the FMCSA's determination that federal law preempted California’s meal and rest break rules (MRB rules), as applied to drivers of property-carrying commercial motor vehicles who are subject to the FMCSA's own rest break regulations.The panel held that the agency's decision reflects a permissible interpretation of the Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1984 and is not arbitrary or capricious. Applying Chevron deference to the agency's interpretation of the statute and the phrase "on commercial motor vehicle safety," the panel held that even assuming petitioners identified a potential ambiguity in the statute, the agency's reading was a permissible one. In this case, the FMCSA reasonably determined that a State law "on commercial motor vehicle safety" is one that "imposes requirements in an area of regulation that is already addressed by a regulation promulgated under [section] 31136." Furthermore, the FMCSA's 2018 preemption decision also reasonably relied on Congress's stated interest in uniformity of regulation.The panel concluded that the FMCSA permissibly determined that California's MRB rules were State regulations "on commercial motor vehicle safety," so that they were within the agency's preemption authority. The panel also concluded that the FMCSA faithfully interpreted California law in finding that California's rules were "additional to or more stringent than" federal regulations. Finally, the panel concluded that the agency did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in finding that enforcement of the MRB rules "would cause an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce." View "International Brotherhood of Teamsters v. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration" on Justia Law

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Therese and Timothy Holmes appealed a Vermont Public Utility Commission (PUC) decision granting Acorn Energy Solar 2 a certificate of public good (CPG) to build and operate a solar net-metering system. The Holmeses argued the PUC erred in concluding that: (1) Acorn’s application was complete under the PUC Rules; (2) several proposed changes constituted minor amendments; (3) the project would be located on a preferred site; (4) the project would comply with setback requirements; and (5) the project would not have an undue adverse effect on aesthetics, orderly development, wetlands, air pollution, greenhouse gases, and traffic. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the PUC's decision. View "In re Petition of Acorn Energy Solar 2, LLC (Therese & Timothy Holmes, Appellants)" on Justia Law

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Defendant Milton Town School District and plaintiff, a high-school football player who sued the District after being assaulted by team members during an off-campus team dinner at the residence of one of the players, both appealed various trial court rulings and the jury’s verdict in favor of plaintiff following a five-day trial. Plaintiff sued the District in 2017 claiming negligent supervision and a violation of the Vermont Public Accommodations Act (VPAA) in connection with his assault at the hands of fellow football team members at an on off-campus dinner in the fall of 2012. At that time, Plaintiff was a freshman, and the District was aware that members of the football team had a history of harassment, including sexual assaults and hazing, against underclassmen team members. In October 2012, nine or ten members of the team, including plaintiff, attended a team dinner at one of the player’s parents’ home. At some point that evening, plaintiff was dragged down to the basement and thrown onto a couch, where one player held plaintiff down while another player forcibly inserted a pool cue into plaintiff’s rectum. The school principal spoke to plaintiff and another football player after learning that some incoming freshman did not want to play football because they had heard rumors of team members using broomsticks to initiate new team members. When the principal told plaintiff that she would shut down the football program if the rumors proved to be true, plaintiff denied the rumors because he feared retaliation from other students for causing the football program to be shut down. The principal then directed plaintiff to speak to the incoming freshman and tell him he had lied about the use of broomsticks during the initiation of new team members. When the principal informed the district superintendent about the rumors, the superintendent declined to do anything further. In April 2014, the Department for Children and Families (DCF) opened an investigation into allegations concerning the Milton High School football team. The Chittenden County State’s Attorney later filed criminal charges against five Milton High School football players, including plaintiff’s attackers, all of whom pled guilty to criminal offenses related to harassment, hazing, and assault. After review of the trial court record, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the judgment. View "Blondin v. Milton Town School District et al." on Justia Law

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Appellant, a United States citizen working in Syria as a journalist, seeks a declaration that his alleged inclusion on the government's purported terrorist list is unconstitutional and an injunction barring the United States government from including him on the purported list without providing additional procedural protections. In this case, because five aerial bombings allegedly occurred in appellant's vicinity in Syria during the summer of 2016, he claims that he has mistakenly been placed on a purported list of individuals the United States has determined are terrorists who may be targeted and killed. The district court dismissed the complaint under the state secrets privilege.The DC Circuit held, however, that the complaint fails to allege plausibly that any of the five aerial bombings were attributable to the United States and specifically targeted appellant. Therefore, the court concluded that appellant's standing theory does not cross the line from conceivable to plausible. The court vacated the district court's dismissal and remanded with instructions to dismiss the complaint on the ground that appellant lacks Article III standing. View "Kareem v. Haspel" on Justia Law

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Relators filed a qui tam action against MIC under the False Claims Act (FCA), seeking to recover the money the VA had paid when borrowers defaulted on MIC-originated loans. Relators then amended the complaint, adding a state law fraudulent transfer claim against MIC executive William L. Edwards. The district court granted Edwards's motion to dismiss based on lack of standing and granted MIC's motion for summary judgment on the FCA claim.The Eleventh Circuit held that summary judgment was improper on relators' FCA claim because genuine issues of material fact remain as to whether MIC's alleged false certifications were material. Furthermore, relators' claim is not barred by previous public disclosure. The court also held that relators lack standing on the fraudulent transfer claim because their pre-judgment interest in preventing a fraudulent transfer is a mere byproduct of their FCA claim and cannot give rise to an Article III injury in fact. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Bibby v. Mortgage Investors Corp." on Justia Law

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Zellweger applied for disability benefits in 2013, claiming a per se disabling spinal condition equivalent to Listing 1.04. His amended onset date was August 28, 2013. His last-insured status expired on September 30, 2013, so the application presented a narrow question: whether he was disabled during the one-month period from August 28 to September 30 (42 U.S.C. 416(i)(3)(B)). The primary medical basis for his application was cervical and lumbar degenerative disc disease.An ALJ denied his claim, concluding that the medical evidence did not meet the criteria for Listing 1.04 and that Zellweger could perform light work. A magistrate reversed, ruling that the ALJ’s discussion was too cursory at step three of the sequential analysis prescribed in the agency regulations: assessing whether the claimant has an impairment that meets or medically equals one of the Listings. Although the ALJ explained his reasoning more thoroughly later in his decision, the magistrate refused to consider that discussion.The Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded. The sequential process is not so rigidly compartmentalized. Nothing prohibits a reviewing court from reading an ALJ’s decision holistically. The ALJ thoroughly analyzed the medical evidence at the step in the sequential analysis that addresses the claimant’s residual functional capacity. That analysis elaborated on the more cursory discussion at step three and was easily adequate to support the ALJ’s rejection of a per se disability under Listing 1.04. View "Zellweger v. Saul" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, aliens unlawfully in the United States seeking U-Visas, filed suit alleging that DHS unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed adjudication of their U-Visa petitions and their applications for work authorization pending U-Visa approval.The Fourth Circuit held that it lacked the power to review plaintiffs' work-authorization claims here because the agency is not required to adjudicate plaintiffs' requests. The court explained that, under the Administrative Procedure Act and All Writs Act, it can only compel faster agency action if the agency is required to act. In this case, neither congressional statutes nor agency regulations compel the agency to adjudicate these requested pre-waiting-list work authorizations. However, the court may review plaintiffs' claim that DHS unreasonably delayed adjudicating their U-Visa petitions. Furthermore, plaintiffs have pleaded sufficient facts to avoid dismissal of their claim for unreasonable delay in placing them on the waiting list. Accordingly, the court dismissed plaintiffs' claims relating to their requests for pre-waiting-list work authorization and remanded plaintiffs' claim relating to U-Visa adjudications. View "Fernandez Gonzalez v. Cuccinelli" on Justia Law

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After employees of M.D. Anderson lost patients' data, HHS fined M.D. Anderson $4,348,000. M.D. Anderson petitioned for review, and HHS conceded that it could not defend a fine in excess of $450,000. HHS then sought a reduction of the penalty by a factor of 10.The Fifth Circuit granted M.D. Anderson's petition for review and held that the civil monetary penalty (CMP) violates the Administrative Procedure Act because it is arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law. In this case, HHS steadfastly refused to interpret the statutes at issue; the ALJ likewise refused to consider whether the multi-million-dollar CMP was arbitrary or capricious; and HHS's Departmental Appeals Board agreed with the ALJ. Reviewing de novo, the court concluded that the CMP order was arbitrary, capricious, and otherwise unlawful for at least four independent reasons: 1) based on the Encryption Rule; 2) based on the Disclosure Rule; 3) the ALJ erroneously insisted that the Government can arbitrarily and capriciously enforce the CMP rules against some covered entities and not others; and 4) based on the penalty amounts. Because the Government has offered no lawful basis for its civil monetary penalties against M.D. Anderson, the court vacated the CMP order and remanded for further proceedings. View "University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center v. United States Department of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

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Saint Francis Memorial Hospital sought a writ of administrative mandate after being fined $50,000 by the California Department of Public Health. The trial court dismissed, based on the statute of limitations. The court appeal affirmed in 2018, finding that the petition was not timely and that Saint Francis was not entitled to the benefit of either equitable tolling or equitable estoppel.The state Supreme Court held that the 30-day limitations period under Government Code section 11523 for filing a petition for a writ of administrative mandate may be equitably tolled and that the first two elements of equitable tolling, timely notice and lack of prejudice, were satisfied, and remanded the question of whether Saint Francis satisfied the third element of reasonable and good faith conduct. The Department conceded that Saint Francis acted in good faith. The court of appeal again affirmed the dismissal. Saint Francis’s actions were not objectively reasonable. It is not objectively reasonable for an attorney to miss a deadline to file a petition due to a failure to appreciate easily ascertainable legal principles concerning whether reconsideration was an available remedy. View "Saint Francis Memorial Hospital v. State Department of Public Health" on Justia Law