by
Hawaii’s use tax, Haw. Rev. Stat. 238-2, does not violate the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution notwithstanding that the 2004 amendment to the statute eliminated the application of the tax to in-state unlicensed sellers. CompUSA Stores, L.P. filed claims for refund of its 2006, 2007, and 2008 use tax payments. The Department of Taxation (Department) denied the request. CompUSA appealed, arguing that the tax discriminates against out-of-state commerce, cannot be justified by a legitimate local purpose, and thus violates the Commerce Clause and the Equal Protection Clause. The Tax Appeals Court granted the Department’s motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the current version of the use statute establishes a classification between in-state and out-of-state sellers; but (2) the statute satisfies rational basis review because the classification of out-of-state sellers bears a rational relationship to the legitimate state interest of leveling the economic playing field for local businesses subject to the general excise tax. View "CompUSA Stores, L.P. v. State" on Justia Law

by
Defendants the Alabama Secretary of State, John Merrill, and a member of his staff, Ed Packard, the director of elections, petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Montgomery Circuit Court to vacate a preliminary injunction and to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction the underlying action seeking injunctive and declaratory relief. On December 7, 2017, plaintiffs Pamela Miles, Dan Dannemueller, Paul Hard, and Victoria Tuggle (hereinafter referred to collectively as "the plaintiffs") filed a civil action against Merrill and Packard, in their official capacities, alleging certain electronic voting machines used in Alabama elections created digital images of the paper ballots scanned and counted by the machines, and that defendants "do not and will not instruct election officials" to preserve the digital ballot images. Those images, it was argued, were public records that, under Alabama law, had to be preserved. Plaintiffs also appeared to allege that federal law, specifically, 52 U.S.C. 20701, required those images be retained. This failure "to require that all election materials" be preserved, the plaintiffs contended, "infringe[d] upon their right to a fair and accurate election." The Alabama Supreme Court determined plaintiffs' allegations did not demonstrate how the "challenged practices harm[ed]" plaintiffs in a concrete way; how they would personally suffer the threatened injury, which is itself described only as a mere speculative possibility; or how they would benefit in a "tangible way" by a judgment in their favor. Instead, the Court found they alleged only that they "could" be harmed." Therefore, because the complaint insufficiently alleged that plaintiffs have standing, the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the action. The Court therefore directed that the case be dismissed. View "Ex parte Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill and Director of Elections Ed Packard." on Justia Law

by
Defendants the Alabama Secretary of State, John Merrill, and a member of his staff, Ed Packard, the director of elections, petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Montgomery Circuit Court to vacate a preliminary injunction and to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction the underlying action seeking injunctive and declaratory relief. On December 7, 2017, plaintiffs Pamela Miles, Dan Dannemueller, Paul Hard, and Victoria Tuggle (hereinafter referred to collectively as "the plaintiffs") filed a civil action against Merrill and Packard, in their official capacities, alleging certain electronic voting machines used in Alabama elections created digital images of the paper ballots scanned and counted by the machines, and that defendants "do not and will not instruct election officials" to preserve the digital ballot images. Those images, it was argued, were public records that, under Alabama law, had to be preserved. Plaintiffs also appeared to allege that federal law, specifically, 52 U.S.C. 20701, required those images be retained. This failure "to require that all election materials" be preserved, the plaintiffs contended, "infringe[d] upon their right to a fair and accurate election." The Alabama Supreme Court determined plaintiffs' allegations did not demonstrate how the "challenged practices harm[ed]" plaintiffs in a concrete way; how they would personally suffer the threatened injury, which is itself described only as a mere speculative possibility; or how they would benefit in a "tangible way" by a judgment in their favor. Instead, the Court found they alleged only that they "could" be harmed." Therefore, because the complaint insufficiently alleged that plaintiffs have standing, the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the action. The Court therefore directed that the case be dismissed. View "Ex parte Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill and Director of Elections Ed Packard." on Justia Law

by
SW 98/99, LLC (“SW”), appealed a Pike County Chancery Court order dismissing its complaint with prejudice under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b). SW filed objections to the tax assessments for the years 2005 and 2006 for several low-income housing properties, but those objections were denied. SW then filed a complaint at Chancery Court alleging that Pike County, the Pike County Board of Supervisors, and the Pike County Tax Assessor (collectively “the defendants”) had wrongfully and excessively assessed taxes on SW’s properties using an appraisal method not authorized by Section 27-35-50(4)(d). Along with SW’s chancery-court lawsuit, SW also appealed the property-tax assessments to the Pike County Circuit Court. This case and SW’s tax appeals proceeded separately along their own paths until March 2011, when the chancellor entered an order granting the defendants’ motion to stay the proceedings in this case pending final resolution of SW’s circuit-court tax appeals. By 2015, the Pike County Circuit Court granted summary judgment to SW on each of its tax appeals, ordering the defendants to refund SW’s overpayments for the years 2005 through 2012. The defendants moved for reconsideration. While this matter was still pending, SW’s attorney was concurrently involved in an unrelated case in federal district court. The district court contacted SW’s attorney to inquire as to his availability for a trial beginning September 14, 2015, one day before the trial setting in this tax assessment case. Because the circuit court had not yet ruled on the defendants’ motion for reconsideration in SW’s tax appeals, SW’s attorney believed that the chancellor’s stay of proceedings in this case remained in effect, as the circuit-court proceedings were not “finally resolved.” Because of this, SW’s attorney contacted the chancery court to request that the trial date be continued and removed from the trial docket. Although later disputed by the court administrator, SW’s attorney believed at this time that the case had been continued and that the trial setting had been removed from the docket. SW’s attorney then informed counsel for the defendants of the continuance. The defendants did not object to the continuance. The chancellor entered a show-cause order noting that SW had not appeared at its scheduled motions hearing and that neither of the parties had appeared on the scheduled trial date. The order acknowledged that “some telephonic communication was made by a staff member of Counsel to the Court Administrator regarding the prior Order staying this litigation.” The chancellor’s show-cause order concluded that SW’s lawsuit was “stale and in a posture to be dismissed for lack of prosecution inasmuch as Counsel set aside two full trial days on a heavily congested trial docket and failed to appear for trial.” Finding that the chancery court abused its discretion in ruling that SW had failed to prosecute its complaint, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the chancery court’s judgment and remanded this case to the chancery court for further proceedings. View "SW 98/99, LLC v. Pike County, Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
Chem-Safe Environmental was a hazardous waste facility located in Kittitas County. 2002. While inspecting a neighboring facility, James Rivard, the Kittitas County environmental supervisor, and Gary Bleeker, an Ecology employee, saw drums labeled as hazardous waste on property belonging to ChemSafe and ABC Holdings. Rivard learned that Chem-Safe did not hold a permit to handle or store moderate risk waste. Over the next two years, both Kittitas County and Ecology employees visited the Chem-Safe facility together, e-mailed one another about the matter, and met to discuss the progress in bringing Chem-Safe into compliance with state and local regulations. Eventually, Kittitas County issued a "Notice of Violation and Abatement" (NOVA) requiring Chem-Safe to halt operations until it obtained the necessary permits and equipment and conducted contamination testing. Chem-Safe appealed a hearing officer's ruling, which was subsequently affirmed by the superior court and the Court of Appeals. During the course of the litigation, Kittitas County deputy prosecutors sent several e-mails back and forth to Ecology employees. In one of those e-mails, an Ecology employee e-mailed a county deputy prosecutor, asking, "Should these emails be considered attorney-client privileged?" The Kittitas County deputy prosecutor responded, "[Ecology] is not my client (Kittitas County is), therefore, these e-mails are not attorney-client privileged." The assistant attorney general opined there might be other privileges that applied to the e-mails but that she lacked enough information to know the specific options for keeping the e-mails privileged; thus, the record reflected only the parties' understanding of whether Kittitas County and Ecology's communications with one another were attorney-client privileged. The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court’s review were two important aspects of the work product doctrine: (1) were the e-mails exchanged between the Kittitas County and the Department of Ecology work product; and (2) if yes, were they discoverable under the Public Records Act (PRA), chapter 42.56 RCW? The Court held the e-mails were work product because they were prepared by or for Kittitas County in anticipation of litigation. Furthermore, the Court found Kittitas County did not waive its work product protection because disclosure of the e-mails to Ecology never created a significant likelihood that an adversary would also obtain the information. View "Kittitas County v. Allphin" on Justia Law

by
The Florida Public Service Commission applied the correct standard of review in its final order approving a nonunanimous settlement agreement between certain parties relating to the rates or service of a public utility providing electric service. Further, competent, substantial evidence supported the Commission’s decision. At issue was whether the Commission properly applied its public interest standard in considering and approving the settlement. The Supreme Court held (1) the public interest was the appropriate standard to apply, and there was no need for the Commission to make an express individual prudence determination; (2) the final order adequately explained the Commission’s decision; and (3) the Commission’s finding that the settlement agreement was in the public interest was supported by competent, substantial evidence. View "Sierra Club v. Brown" on Justia Law

by
The circuit court erred by dismissing a petition to enforce the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Va. Code 2.2-3700, et seq., on the basis that the petition failed to comply with Va. Code 2.2-3713(A) because it was not properly supported by an affidavit showing good cause. Marian Bragg filed an amended petition against the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors and its individual members (collectively, the Board), alleging that the Board violated the open meeting requirements of FOIA. The circuit court dismissed the petition. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the petition satisfied the requirements of section 2.2-3713(A) because the allegations in the petition, which incorporated an acknowledgement of a Board member acknowledging that the Board improperly discussed certain public business matters during closed meetings, were supported by an affidavit showing good cause. View "Bragg v. Board of Supervisors of Rappahannock County" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court dismissing Appellant’s appeal from a letter sent by the South Dakota Board of Pardons and Paroles denying Appellant’s request to review her parole date again. Appellant, a prison inmate, did not appeal from the Board’s adjudication of her initial parole-eligibility date. Two years later, Appellant requested the Board to reconsider. The Board declined, and Appellant filed an administrative appeal in circuit court. The circuit court dismissed the appeal with prejudice, concluding that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction because (1) the Board’s letter was not an appealable “decision, order, or action” within the meaning of S.D. Codified Laws 1-26-30.2; and (2) it did not have subject matter jurisdiction to review the Board’s final parole determination. In affirming, the Supreme Court held (1) the Board’s letter declining an additional review was not a final decision in a contested case that could be appealed to the circuit court; and (2) because Appellant did not appeal the Board’s final determination within thirty days as required by S.D. Codified Laws 1-26-31, the circuit court correctly concluded that it did not have subject matter jurisdiction to hear Appellant’s appeal. View "Peterson v. South Dakota Board of Pardons & Paroles" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Board of Tax Appeals (BTA) following the Court’s remand in Navistar I, holding that the BTA acted reasonably and lawfully in upholding the tax commissioner’s reduction of Navistar Inc.’s commercial-activity-tax (CAT) credit to zero. In Navistar I, the Supreme Court concluded that the BTA had ignored the testimony of Navistar’s experts in upholding the commissioner’s reduction of Navistar’s CAT credit to zero, an omission that made the BTA’s decision unreasonable and unlawful. After the BTA again upheld the tax commissioner’s decision, Navistar appealed, objecting to the BTA’s findings and its conclusion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the BTA’s findings were supported by reliable and probative evidence and that the BTA’s conclusion was reasonable and lawful. View "Navistar, Inc. v. Testa" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Carl Taswell, M.D., who is certified in nuclear medicine, filed a complaint against the Regents of the University of California (the Regents). Taswell alleged he was retaliated against for his whistleblowing activities regarding patient safety at the brain imaging center during his employment by the University of California, Irvine. Taswell appealed after the trial court granted the Regents’ motion for summary judgment and summary adjudication. After review, the Court of Appeal reversed, finding that, following an administrative hearing, Taswell was not required to exhaust his judicial remedies (by seeking a writ of mandamus) to challenge the University’s rejection of his claims of retaliation. After exhausting his administrative remedies, Taswell was statutorily authorized to file this civil action and seek damages based on his statutory whistleblower retaliation claims; the administrative decision had no res judicata or collateral estoppel effect on this action. Also, a triable issue of material fact existed as to whether the University’s decisions to place Taswell on an investigatory leave of absence and to not renew his contract had a causal connection to Taswell’s whistleblowing activities. Therefore, summary judgment and/or summary adjudication should not have been granted on the theory that no triable issue of fact existed. View "Taswell v. The Regents of the Univ. of Cal." on Justia Law