Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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Gregory Weaver worked at remote sites for ARCTEC Alaska1 off and on for several years as a relief station mechanic. His job involved heavy labor, and he filed several reports of injury during the times he worked for ARCTEC. He reported in December 2010 that he had “pulled something in the lower spinal area” while adjusting tire chains on a dump truck. He filed another injury report related to his back in early 2012, after he experienced back pain while installing garage door panels. Weaver passed “fit for duty” physical examinations after both of these injuries. In 2013, however, he woke up one morning with back pain that made it hard for him to walk. He said his back pain “had been building up for several months,” but he could not identify a specific task related to the onset of pain. He said “the majority of the heavy lifting” he did that summer had been at Indian Mountain, but he described work at Barter Island as including significant shoveling and pushing wheelbarrows of rocks over difficult surfaces. He thought the camp bed provided inadequate back support. He asked to be flown out because of his back pain and has not worked since. Weaver began receiving About six months later his employer controverted all benefits based on a medical opinion that the work caused only workers’ compensation benefits after experiencing severe low back pain at a remote job site. About six months later his employer controverted all benefits based on a medical opinion that the work caused only a temporary aggravation of a preexisting condition. Weaver the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board to join a prior back injury claim against the same employer. Following a lengthy and complex administrative process, the Board denied the worker’s claim for additional benefits, and the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Appeals Commission affirmed the Board’s decision. Finding no reversible error, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the Board's and Commission's decisions. View "Weaver v. ASRC Federal Holding Co." on Justia Law

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New Jersey and New York agreed more than 50 years ago to enter into the Waterfront Commission Compact. Congress consented to the formation of the Waterfront Commission Compact, under the Compacts Clause in Article I, section 10, of the U.S. Constitution, 67 Stat. 541. In 2018, New Jersey enacted legislation to withdraw from the Compact. To prevent this unilateral termination, the Waterfront Commission sued the Governor of New Jersey in federal court. The district court ruled in favor of the Commission. The Third Circuit vacated. The district court had federal-question jurisdiction over this dispute because the Complaint invoked the Supremacy Clause and the Compact (28 U.S.C. 1331) but that jurisdiction does not extend to any claim barred by state sovereign immunity. Because New Jersey is the real, substantial party in interest, its immunity should have barred the exercise of subject-matter jurisdiction. View "Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor v. Governor of New Jersey" on Justia Law

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Justin Craft and Jason Craft appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of members of the Lee County Board of Education ("the Board") and the Superintendent of the Lee County Schools, Dr. James McCoy. During July, August, and September 2016, the Board hired S&A Landscaping to perform three projects of overdue lawn maintenance at Lee County schools. S&A Landscaping was owned by an aunt by marriage of Marcus Fuller, the Assistant Superintendent of the Lee County Schools. The Crafts, who were employed as HVAC technicians by the Board, questioned the propriety of hiring S&A Landscaping for those projects. The Crafts expressed their concerns with various current and former Board members and individuals at the State Ethics Commission ("the Commission") and at the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts. Although an individual at the Commission instructed Jason Craft on how to file a complaint with the Commission, neither of the Crafts did so. During this time, McCoy, Fuller, and others suspected various maintenance employees, including the Crafts, of misusing their Board-owned vehicles and misrepresenting their work hours. To investigate their suspicions, the Board had GPS data-tracking devices installed in Board-owned vehicles being used by employees to monitor their use and the employees' activities. A review of the GPS data indicated that certain employees, including the Crafts, had violated Board policy by inappropriately using the Board-owned vehicles and by inaccurately reporting their work time. McCoy sent letters to the Crafts and two other employees, advising them that he had recommended to the Board the termination of their employment. The letters detailed dates, times, and locations of specific incidents of alleged misconduct. The Crafts were placed on administrative leave, then returned to work to custodial positions that did not require them to use Board-owned vehicles. The Crafts appealed their job transfers, arguing they had not been afforded due process. An administrative law judge determined the Students First Act did not provide an opportunity for a hearing before the imposition of a job transfer. The Crafts thereafter sued the Board members and McCoy, seeking declaratory relief based on alleged violations of the anti-retaliation provision of section 36-25-24, Ala. Code 1975, arguing that they were punished for contacting the Commission. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the anti-retaliation protection was triggered only when an employee filed a complaint with the Commission. Because it was undisputed the Crafts did not file a complaint, they were not entitled to those statutory protections. Therefore, summary judgment in favor of the Board and McCoy was affirmed. View "Craft v. McCoy et al." on Justia Law

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Alabama imposed a license or privilege tax on tobacco products stored or received for distribution within the State ("the tobacco tax"). Under Alabama law, the Department of Revenue could confiscate tobacco products on which the tobacco tax had not been paid. Panama City Wholesale, Inc. ("PCW") was a wholesale tobacco-products distributor located in Panama City, Florida, and owned by Ehad Ahmed. One of PCW's customers, Yafa Wholesale, LLC ("Yafa"), was an Alabama tobacco distributor owned by Sayeneddin Thiab ("Thiab"). On October 10, 2018, Hurricane Michael destroyed the roof on PCW's warehouse. Department surveillance agents observed observed one of Thiab's vehicles being unloaded at two of the recently rented storage units. The day after that, agents observed one of Thiab's delivery vehicles being loaded with tobacco products from a recently rented unit following the storm. On October 23, 2018, the Department confiscated 1,431,819 cigars from four storage units leased by persons connected to Yafa and Thiab. It is undisputed that the tobacco tax had not been paid on the cigars. Ahmed filed an action against Vernon Barnett, as Commissioner of the Department, seeking a judgment declaring that the cigars were Ahmed's and that they were not subject to confiscation. The case was transferred to the Jefferson Circuit Court, PCW was substituted for Ahmed, and the parties were realigned to make the Commissioner of the Department the plaintiff and PCW the defendant in a civil forfeiture action. On PCW's motion, the circuit court entered a summary judgment in PCW's favor, ruling that the Commissioner failed to present substantial evidence that the cigars were in the possession of a retailer or semijobber, as the court believed was required by the confiscation statute. The Commissioner appealed. A divided Alabama Supreme Court reversed, concluding the circuit court erred in interpreting the confiscation statute to apply only to untaxed tobacco products in the possession of retailers and semijobbers, and because the Commissioner presented substantial evidence that the cigars were subject to confiscation under a correct interpretation of the statute, the Court reversed summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Alabama Department of Revenue v. Panama City Wholesale, Inc." on Justia Law

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Following an incident at President Trump's 2019 Social Media Summit involving Appellee Brian Karem, a journalist with a hard pass, and Sebastian Gorka, a Summit attendee, the Press Secretary suspended Karem's pass for thirty days on the ground that his conduct violated "professional journalistic norms." The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction enjoining the enforcement of the suspension of Karem's hard pass credentials based on Fifth Amendment due process grounds. The court held that Karem is likely to succeed on his due process claim because, on this record, he lacked fair notice that the White House might punish his purportedly unprofessional conduct by suspending his hard pass for a month. The court also held that the remaining preliminary injunction factors counsel in favor of affirmance where Karem stands to suffer immediate irreparable harm absent an injunction, and the balance of the equities and the public interest factors also favor an injunction. The court limited the scope of the injunction to run only to the Press Secretary, rather than the Press Secretary and the President. View "Karem v. Trump" on Justia Law

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The NRDC and the State of Vermont seek review of certain provisions of a rule promulgated by the EPA, pursuant to the Toxic Substances Control Act, that requires manufacturers to report information about their use of mercury. Specifically, petitioners argue that three exemptions for categories of manufacturers and importers are unlawful. The Second Circuit denied review of the exemption for manufacturers of assembled products with mercury-added components at 40 C.F.R. 713.7(b)(3) and the partial exemption for high-volume manufacturers at 40 C.F.R. 713.9(a). The court held that these exemptions are reasonable in light of Congress's directive to the EPA to avoid requiring duplicative or unnecessary reporting. However, the court granted review of and vacated the exemption for importers of assembled products with mercury-added components at 40 C.F.R. 713.7(b)(2), finding that the EPA failed to provide a reasoned explanation for this exemption. View "Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. v. United States Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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Eighteen petitioners appealed a New Hampshire Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA) decision to dismiss their respective appeals of denials of applications for abatements of real estate taxes issued by respondent Town of Bartlett. he BTLA dismissed the appeals because the petitioners’ abatement applications failed to comply with the signature and certification requirement of New Hampshire Administrative Rules, Tax 203.02, and because the BTLA found that the petitioners did not demonstrate that these failures were “due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect.” There was no dispute in this case that petitioners did not personally sign or certify their abatement applications. Instead, petitioners contested the BTLA’s ruling that they did not demonstrate that the lack of signatures and certifications was due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect. "Although the question of whether reasonable cause or willful neglect exists in a particular case is one of fact for the BTLA, the questions of what elements constitute reasonable cause or willful neglect under Tax 203.02 are ones of law." Because the BTLA did not have the benefit of the construction of Tax 203.02(d) that the New Hampshire announced in its opinion of this case, BTLA's decisions were vacated, and each matter remanded for further consideration. View "Appeal of Keith R. Mader 2000 Revocable Trust et al." on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Department of Revenue (Department) conducted an audit of the Mississippi corporate tax returns of The Williams Companies, Inc. (Williams), for the years 2008 through 2010. During the course of the audit, Williams filed amended returns removing the capital of its single-member limited-liability companies (SMLLCs) from its calculation of capital employed in the state, seeking a refund of franchise tax in the amount of $981,419. After the Department’s review of Williams’ records and returns, the Department issued an assessment. The calculation included the capital of Williams’ SMLLCs in Williams’ Mississippi franchise-tax base. This resulted in a refund of $231,641. Williams objected, arguing it should not have been assessed a franchise-tax on capital employed by its Mississippi subsidiaries because of ambiguous language in the Mississippi franchise tax statutes. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the holding of the chancery court that Williams could not exclude the capital of its SMLLCs from its franchise-tax base. View "The Williams Companies, Inc. v. Mississippi Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The issue case raised centered whether the Washington Department of Social and Health Services (Department) fulfilled its statutory obligation under RCW 13.34.180(1)(d) to provide a mother necessary services before terminating her parental rights. B.B., the mother of D.H., S.T., L.L., and T.L., had her parental rights terminated after a nearly three-year long dependency. B.B. contended that the Department failed to provide her timely dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and neuropsychological services and that the parenting education services she received were not properly tailored to her mental health needs. A Court of Appeals commissioner affirmed the termination, finding that the Department provided and properly tailored all necessary services to B.B. After review, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed, finding substantial evidence supported the trial court’s finding that all necessary and ordered services were offered or provided. View "In re Parental Rights to D.H." on Justia Law

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The Pension Code allowed elected county board members to participate in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) if the participant occupied a position requiring 1000 hours of service annually and the public employee filed an election to participate. A 1968 administrative rule required the governing body of a participating employer to adopt a resolution certifying that the position of elected governing body members required the hourly standard. Williamson County complied with the 1968 rule. The plaintiffs satisfied the original requirements for IMRF participation, electing to participate in 2004, 2008, and 2012. In 2016, Public Act 99-900, amended parts of the Pension Code (40 ILCS 5/7-137.2(a), requiring, for the first time, that all county boards certify within 90 days of each general election that their board members were required to work sufficient hours to meet the hourly standard for participation and that members who participate in IMRF submit monthly timesheets. The Fund issued “Special Memorandum #334” to the authorized IMRF agent in every county, explaining the change: “If the County Board fails to adopt the required IMRF participation resolution within 90 days after an election, the entire Board will become ineligible and IMRF participation will end for those Board members.” The Fund also sent a direct mailing to individual county board members participating in IMRF. Williamson County did not timely adopt the required resolution. The Fund notified the plaintiffs that they were not eligible for continued IMRF participation. The Illinois Supreme Court found Public Act 99-900 invalid under Illinois Constitution article XIII, section 5. A public employee’s membership in a pension system is an enforceable contractual relationship; continued IMRF participation was protected from unilateral legislative diminishment or impairment when the plaintiffs became IMRF participants and began accruing the service credits. View "Williamson County Board of Commissioners v. Board of Trustees of the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund" on Justia Law