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Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that the City violated certain ordinances and selectively applied others in issuing the permit for a fence separating two neighbors while denying plaintiffs' permit for a deck they had built. The City filed a special motion to strike under Code of Civil Procedure 425.16 (the anti-SLAPP statute), because plaintiffs' complaint targeted "protected speech" where the City's decisions followed official government proceedings. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of the special motion, holding that section 425.16 does not protect a governmental entity's decisions to issue or deny permits. The court agreed with the trial court that granting a special motion to strike in these circumstances would chill citizens' attempts to challenge government action. View "Shahbazian v. City of Rancho Palos Verdes" on Justia Law

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Thirteen Illinois municipalities claimed that the online travel agencies (OTAs), including Expedia, Priceline, and Travelocity, have withheld money owed to them under their local hotel tax ordinances. The OTAs operate their online travel websites under the “merchant model”; customers pay an OTA directly to reserve rooms at hotels the OTA has contracted with. The participating hotels set a room rental rate. The OTA charges the customer a price that includes that rate, the estimated tax owed to the municipality, and additional charges for the OTA’s services. After the customer’s stay, the hotel invoices the OTA for the room rate and taxes and remits the taxes collected to the municipality. Contracts between hotels and the OTAs confirm that the OTAs do not actually buy, and never acquire the right to enter or grant possession of, hotel rooms. The municipalities claim that OTAs do not remit taxes on the full price that customers pay. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the OTAs. None of the municipal ordinances place a duty on the OTAs to collect or remit the taxes, so the municipalities have no recourse against the OTAs View "Village of Bedford Park v. Expedia, Inc." on Justia Law

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Robinson is a stockholder in the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) (the Companies), for-profit corporations organized by the government under 12 U.S.C. 1716-1723 and 1451-1459. During the economic recession in 2007–2008, Congress enacted the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA), which created the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), and authorized FHFA to place the Companies in conservatorship. The Companies, through FHFA, entered into agreements with the Department of the Treasury that allowed the Companies to draw funds from Treasury in exchange for dividend payments and other financial benefits. An Amendment to those agreements modified the dividend payment structure and required the Companies to pay to Treasury, as a quarterly dividend, an amount just short of their net worth. The Amendment effectively transferred the Companies’ capital to Treasury and prevented dividend payments to junior stockholders, such as Robinson. Robinson brought suit. The district court found and the Sixth Circuit affirmed that Robinson’s claims under the Administrative Procedures Act were barred by HERA’s limitation on court action and that Robinson had failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Robinson failed to demonstrate that FHFA or Treasury exceeded the statutory authority granted by HERA. View "Robinson v. Federal Housing Finance Agency" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the order of the Commissioner of Human Services, which affirmed the determination by the Minnesota Department of Human Services that Yasmin Salim wrongfully obtained public assistance for Kind Heart Daycare, Inc. in violation of Minn. Stat. 256.98(1)(3). Kind Heart had submitted bills to Blue Earth County under the state’s Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) representing that children from low-income families were present at Kind Heart when they were, in fact, absent or no longer enrolled in the daycare. The Department disqualified Salim from providing daycare services and revoked Kind Heart’s license. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the Commissioner erred in determining that Salim and Kind Heart were not entitled to CCAP payments; and (2) any errors on the part of the Department or the Commissioner were corrected, independently re-evaluated, or harmless. View "In re Appeal by Kind Heart Daycare, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the issue presented for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s review centered on whether access to public information available pursuant to section 614 of the Administrative Code of 1929, 71 P.S. 234, was governed by the Right-to-Know Law (“RTKL”). On January 15, 2014, then-Treasurer Robert McCord received a letter from Appellees, Pennsylvanians for Union Reform (“PFUR”), demanding production of a list of names. PFUR’s letter stated that “this is not a request pursuant to the [RTKL],” but that instead, “[t]his is a request for the public information which is mandated to be available from your office under Section 614 of the Administrative Code of 1929 (“List of Employees to be Furnished to Certain State Officers”).” The Treasurer replied that he considered PFUR’s demand to be a request under the RTKL and would proceed accordingly. PFUR objected to application of the RTKL, and the Treasurer filed a petition for review in the nature of an action for declaratory and injunctive relief in the Commonwealth Court’s original jurisdiction. The Treasurer alleged that the List contained information that he believed exempt from public disclosure under the RTKL and the Pennsylvania Web Accountability and Transparency Act (“PennWATCH Act”). The Supreme Court concluded the RTKL governed the method of access to section 614 information, but that the exceptions to disclosure under the RTKL, 65 P.S. 37.708, did not apply to permit redactions from otherwise publicly available information. “Before disclosing any section 614 information, however, the State Treasurer must perform the balancing test set forth in Pa. State Educ. Ass'n v. Commonwealth , Dep't of Cmty. & Econ. Dev., 148 A.3d 142 (Pa. 2016) (“PSEA”), to ensure that disclosures of personal information do not violate any individual’s rights of informational privacy under Article 1, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.” View "PA Treasurer v. Union Reform" on Justia Law

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Appellee Mission Funding Alpha was a calendar-year taxpayer that conducted business in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania during the year ending December 31, 2007, and subject to the Pennsylvania Foreign Franchise Tax. In this case, appellee’s annual tax report (the Report) was due to be filed on or before April 15, 2008. As of that date, appellee had timely remitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue (the Department) quarterly estimated payments totaling $430,000 for its 2007 Tax Year liability. A credit overpayment was also carried forward for appellee’s 2007 Tax Year liability. Without first seeking an extension of time to file its Report after the due date of April 15, 2008, appellee filed it late, on September 19, 2008. The Department accepted appellee’s reported franchise tax liability and imposed a $913 late-filing penalty because appellee had not requested a filing extension and had not filed its Report by the due date of April 15, 2008. On September 16, 2011, appellee filed a petition for refund with the Board of Appeals, seeking a refund of the entire amount of its reported 2007 franchise tax liability ($66,344). The Board of Appeals dismissed the petition as untimely, stating it was filed more than three years after the payment date of April 15, 2008. Appellee then appealed to the Board of Finance and Revenue, arguing its refund petition was timely because the time to file a petition did not begin to run until its tax was defined or deemed paid, which did not occur until appellee filed its 2007 Report on September 19, 2008. The Board of Finance and Revenue affirmed the decision of the Board of Appeals, concluding although appellee paid $66,344 in franchise tax for 2007 on the due date of April 15, 2008, the refund petition was filed more than three years after that due date, and therefore was untimely. Appellee argued the applicable statute of limitations for a refund claim is three years from the date of payment of tax but a tax is not deemed “paid” until amounts are applied to a definite tax liability. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held the Commonwealth Court erred in holding the three-year tax refund period specified in Section 3003.1(a) of the Tax Reform Code of 1971 (Tax Code), 72 P.S. 10003.1(a), began to run on the date the corporate taxpayer files its annual tax report. Appellee’s refund petition was not timely filed because the three-year tax refund period began to run on April 15, 2008, and expired prior to the September 16, 2011 filing date. View "Mission Funding Alpha v. Pennsylvania" on Justia Law

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In a petition for review filed in the Commonwealth Court’s original jurisdiction, a group of state senators (“the Senators”) challenged as unconstitutional the Governor of Pennsylvania’s partial disapproval of the General Appropriations Act of 2014 (“GAA”) and the 2014 Fiscal Code Amendments (“FCA”). The Commonwealth Court denied the Senators’ request for summary relief. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed with the Senators that the Governor’s attempted partial vetoes of the proposed legislation failed to adhere to the requirements of Article IV, Section 15, of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The Court therefore reversed the Commonwealth Court’s decision denying the Senators summary relief on Count I of their petition for review. View "Scarnati v. Wolf" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the issue presented for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s review centered on whether the office of Stacy Parks Miller (“Parks Miller”), the District Attorney of Centre County, Pennsylvania, was an “office or entity of the unified judicial system” and thus properly classified as a “judicial agency” for purposes of application of Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law (RTKL). Under the RTKL, only the financial records of a judicial agency are subject to disclosure in response to RTKL requests. Parks Miller contended this limitation upon the scope of disclosure of judicial records applied to district attorneys. The Commonwealth Court determined that a district attorney’s office was “county staff” and “related staff,” i.e., two categories which are expressly excluded from the Judicial Code’s definition of “personnel of the system.” The Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed with the Commonwealth Court: the definitional section of the Judicial Code, 42 Pa.C.S. 102, and the definitions provided in the Supreme Court’s Rules of Judicial Administration, demonstrated that a district attorney’s office is not a “judicial agency” for purposes of the RTKL. View "Miller v. County of Centre" on Justia Law

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This appeal by allowance involved the automatic suspension of a nursing license based on a felony drug conviction. The question raised was whether, under the applicable statute, reinstatement of the license was precluded for a fixed period of ten years, or was instead permitted at an earlier date subject to the discretion of the state nursing board. Appellee held a license to practice professional nursing in Pennsylvania. In 2013, she pled guilty to one count of felony drug possession in violation of the Controlled Substance Act and received a sentence of probation without verdict. The Commonwealth then petitioned the Board to impose an automatic suspension of Appellee’s nursing license pursuant to Section 15.1(b) of the Nursing Law. As for the length of the suspension, the Board referenced two aspects of the Nursing Law reflecting different time periods. It first observed that Section 15.2 of the law prescribes a five-year minimum period. The Board then referred to Section 6(c) of the Nursing Law, which provided for a ten-year period with regard to the issuance of a new license. After quoting these provisions, the Board, without explanation, indicated that Appellee’s license would be automatically suspended for ten years. Appellee filed exceptions arguing that the ten-year suspension period was improper. Thereafter, the Board entered a final adjudication affirming the notice and order. A divided Commonwealth Court reversed the Board’s holding. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed: “it is not illogical that the General Assembly would provide for discretionary reinstatement of an automatically suspended license while also requiring a ten-year waiting period for a convicted felon who has never held a license. In the former case the Board has a record of interaction in which the licensee previously demonstrated the requisite skills, knowledge, and moral character to become a licensed professional, and has additionally fulfilled any continuing requirements for licensure over a period of time. … nothing in our decision prevents the Board from seeking revocation of a license, in accordance with the procedures outlined in the Nursing Law, following a conviction under the Controlled Substances Act. … If an automatically-suspended license is ultimately revoked, reinstatement would then be governed by Section 15.2.” View "McGrath v. Bur. of Prof. & Occ. Affairs" on Justia Law

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This case was a direct appeal in a judicial discipline case that resulted in Appellant Dawn Segal's removal from office as a municipal court judge in Philadelphia. In 2014, amidst a federal investigation encompassing electronic surveillance of telephone conversations in which she participated, Appellant reported to the Judicial Conduct Board (the “Board”) that she had ex parte communications with then-fellow- Municipal Court Judge Joseph Waters about several cases that were pending before her. FBI agents and federal prosecutors interviewed Appellant on several occasions, ultimately playing tapes of the intercepted conversations. The Board, which had already opened an investigation into the matter, proceeded to lodge a complaint against Appellant in the Court of Judicial Discipline (the “CJD”). The Board asserted violations of the then-prevailing Canons of Judicial Conduct, including Canon 2B, Canon 3A(4), Canon 3B(3), and Canon 3C(1). A federal prosecution of Waters was initiated, and he entered a negotiated guilty plea to mail fraud, and honest service wire fraud. Shortly thereafter, Appellant (through counsel) self-reported to the Board that she and Waters had had ex parte communications concerning pending cases. The correspondence stated that Appellant had not previously made these disclosures to the Board on account of a request from federal authorities to maintain confidentiality. In March 2015, the Board filed its complaint with the CJD. Finding the sanction imposed by the CJD as lawful, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court determined it lacked authority to disapprove it. As such, the CJD's decision was affirmed. View "In Re: Dawn Segal, Judge" on Justia Law