Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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AFGE filed suit challenging two advisory opinions issued by the OSC, the agency tasked by Congress to advise on the way in which the Hatch Act's prohibitions in the federal workplace applied. The original advisory opinion was promulgated on November 27, 2018, and a clarifying opinion was promulgated three days later (jointly, "the Advisory Opinions"). Both opinions bore on conduct related to President Trump's reelection campaign. AFGE sought a declaration that the Advisory Opinions violated its members' rights under the First Amendment; an injunction against OSC's reliance on and enforcement of the Advisory Opinions; and a court order commanding their rescission. The district court dismissed the complaint on ripeness grounds.The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action, concluding that AFGE's case is now moot and would otherwise be unripe for review. The court explained that OSC's post-election update of its guidance on impeachment and "the resistance" has removed AFGE's injury-in-fact and, therefore, mooted the case. Furthermore, the issues in this case are not fit for judicial decision and the mere issuance by OSC of a generally addressed advisory opinion falls short of what is required. Finally, the court noted that for it to rule this case justiciable would upend the Hatch Act enforcement scheme whose details Congress has so meticulously set out. View "American Federation of Government Employees v. Office of Special Counsel" on Justia Law

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An oil producer challenged an Alaska Department of Revenue advisory bulletin interpreting the oil tax code, arguing that the bulletin violated the Alaska Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and seeking a declaratory judgment that the interpretation was contrary to law. The Alaska Supreme Court determined the advisory bulletin could not be challenged under the APA because it was not a regulation, and that a declaratory judgment was not available because the tax dispute between the parties was not ripe. View "Exxon Mobil Corporation v. Alaska, Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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During repair operations in M-Class's underground mine, a miner experienced chest pains and difficulty breathing. At a hospital, a physician examined him and notified the police that a miner was suffering from CO poisoning. The police called the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) hotline. An MSHA Inspector arrived at the mine that night, issued a section 103(k) order to suspend operations in the affected area, reviewed a report based on the mine’s gas detectors and data from one miner’s personal gas spotter, entered the mine, detected no elevated CO level, and allowed mining to resume. The Inspector also started the diesel air compressor and detected no elevated CO level but modified the Order to remove the compressor from service pending an investigation. MSHA tested the compressor but ultimately found no evidence that it was the source of the miner’s illness. MSHA insisted that M-Class submit an action plan governing the compressor use's before the Order would be terminated. MSHA rejected M-Class’s submission.M-Class filed a notice of contest. MSHA terminated the Order. The ALJ declined to dismiss the contest and concluded that the [terminated] Order was appropriate. The Commission concluded that the case was not moot but vacated the terminated Order, finding no substantial evidence that an accident occurred. The D.C. Circuit vacated the decision, finding the matter moot. MSHA terminated the challenged Order. Apart from the speculative, it no longer poses a risk of legal consequences. View "Secretary of Labor v. M-Class Mining, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit granted 1-800 Contacts' petitions for review of the FTC's final order finding that agreements between 1-800 Contacts and various competitors to, among other things, refrain from bidding on "keyword" search terms for internet advertisements, violate Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act).The court held that, although trademark settlement agreements are not immune from antitrust scrutiny, the FTC (1) improperly considered the agreements to be "inherently suspect" and (2) incorrectly concluded that the challenged agreements are a violation of the FTC Act under the "rule of reason." In this case, where the restrictions that arise are born of typical trademark settlement agreements, the court cannot overlook the challenged agreements' procompetitive goal of promoting trademark policy. In light of the strong procompetitive justification of protecting 1-800 Contacts' trademarks, the court concluded that the challenged agreements merely regulate and perhaps thereby promote competition. Therefore, the court stated that they do not constitute a violation of the Sherman Act and thus an asserted violation of the FTC Act fails of necessity. Accordingly, the court vacated the FTC's final order and remanded to the Commission with orders to dismiss the administrative complaint. View "1-800-Contacts, Inc. v. Federal Trade Comission" on Justia Law

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Methodist Specialty Care Center (Specialty), a hospital-based nursing facility owned by Methodist Rehabilitation Center (Methodist), included an allocation of Methodist’s Medicaid Assessment in its nursing-facility cost report. The Division of Medicaid (DOM) disallowed the allocation for Specialty’s cost report, finding that Methodist’s assessment was not an allowable cost for Specialty. Specialty appealed the decision to the Chancery Court, which affirmed the decision of the DOM. Because Methodist’s assessment was not an allowable cost for Specialty under the plain language of the State Medical Plan (Plan) and the Medicaid statutory structure, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of the DOM and the chancery court. View "Mississippi Methodist Hospital & Rehabilitation Center, Inc. v. Mississippi Division of Medicaid et al." on Justia Law

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In 2016, plaintiff Jennifer Buhl and her husband went to a party store in Oak Park, Michigan. As she was walking, plaintiff saw a raised crack in the sidewalk outside the store and tried to step over it. Because plaintiff did not notice that the sidewalk was uneven on the other side of the crack, she fell and fractured her left ankle. The specific question this case raised for the Michigan Supreme Court’s review was whether an amendment to the governmental tort liability act (GTLA) that went into effect after plaintiff’s claim accrued but before plaintiff filed her complaint could be retroactively applied. The Supreme Court held that the amended provision did not apply retroactively. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals’ judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Buhl v. City of Oak Park" on Justia Law

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The Census Bureau issued a request for quotations seeking statistical analysis system and database programming support services. The Bureau intended to issue a time and materials task order, set aside for women-owned small businesses; the contract award would be made on a best-value basis, considering price and four nonprice factors. The Bureau’s technical evaluation team assigned Harmonia’s proposal nine strengths, no weaknesses, and two risks under factor one, the technical factor; its proposals to cross-train its development staff and to introduce an extract, transform, and load (ETL) automation tool could provide efficiencies but Harmonia’s proposed cross-training and use of an ETL automation tool could result in delays in contract performance. The contracting officer found no meaningful differences in the Harmonia and Alethix proposals with respect to factors two, three, and four; the tradeoff analysis was rooted in the technical factor: The Bureau awarded Alethix the contract.Harmonia filed a protest, challenging the technical evaluation, alleging that the contracting officer violated 48 C.F.R. 19.301-1(b) by failing to refer Alethix to the Small Business Administration for a size determination, and challenging the best-value determination, The Federal Circuit affirmed the Claims Court in granting the government judgment on the administrative record with respect to Counts I and III and dismissing Count II for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Harmonia had not availed itself of the SBA’s procedures for bringing a size protest. View "Harmonia Holdings Group, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from a dispute over the unemployment-insurance tax rate applicable to Great Oaks Country Club, Inc (Great Oaks). The Department of Talent and Economic Development/Unemployment Insurance Agency (the Agency) determined that Great Oaks was not entitled to the new-employer tax rate under the Michigan Employment Security Act (the MESA), specifically MCL 421.13m(2)(a)(i)(A) and (B). An ALJ determined that because Great Oaks had eight quarters of no employment or payroll before January 1, 2014, it was entitled to the new-employer tax rate. The ALJ further ruled that the phrase “beginning January 1, 2014” in MCL 421.13m(2)(a)(i)(A) and (B) was the date by when a client employer must have accrued eight quarters of not reporting employees or payroll. The Agency appealed the ALJ’s decision to the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission (the MCAC), and the MCAC affirmed the ALJ’s decision. The Court of Appeals adopted the interpretation of Section 13m offered by the Agency, which maintained that a client employer must have switched to client-level reporting before January 1, 2014, to be assessed the new-employer tax rate (the conversion-date interpretation). The Michigan Supreme Court disagreed, holding that in this context, Section 13m was best understood according to the interpretation offered by Great Oaks: that a client employer must have accrued the relevant number of calendar quarters in which it reported “no employees or no payroll” by January 1, 2014, to be assessed the new-employer tax rate (the accrual-date interpretation). And because Great Oaks reported no employees or payroll for eight consecutive calendar quarters before January 1, 2014, the Supreme Court held that Great Oaks was entitled to be assessed the new-employer tax rate under Section 13m of the MESA. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals’ decision was reversed and the matter remanded to the Agency for further proceedings. View "Dept. of Talent & Econ. Dev. v. Great Oaks Country Club" on Justia Law

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Homeowners sought free refuse collection from the City of San Diego for their 12 condominiums located in a gated complex in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego. The City refused the request to initiate service on the grounds the complex did not qualify under its Waste Management Regulation (WMR). In response to the denial of service, the Homeowners brought suit against the City asserting the WMR was issued in violation of the San Diego Municipal Code, and claiming that the City’s use of the WMR to deny them service violated their equal protection rights. After discovery, the City brought a successful motion for summary judgment. Thereafter, the trial court entered judgment in the City’s favor. The Homeowners appealed, contending the court erred by finding the WMR was validly promulgated and that there were no triable issues of fact with respect to their equal protection claims. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s judgment. View "Perry v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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In consolidated cases, the issue presented for the Michigan Supreme Court’s consideration was whether the Court of Appeals correctly decided Streng v Bd of Mackinac Co Rd Comm’rs, 890 NW2d 680 (2016), and, if so, whether it should apply retroactively to all cases pending on appeal. the estate of Brendon Pearce filed a negligence action in the Eaton Circuit Court against the Eaton County Road Commission and others, arguing, in part, that the commission breached its duty under MCL 691.1402 of the governmental tort liability act (GTLA), MCL 691.1401 et seq., to maintain the road on which the accident occurred. In one of the cases, Lynn Pearce, acting as the personal representative of Brendon’s estate, served notice on the commission fewer than 60 days after Brendon was killed in the accident. The commission moved for summary judgment, arguing the notice was deficient under MCL 224.21(3) of the County Road Law, MCL 224.1 et seq., because the estate did not serve the notice on the county clerk. The trial court denied the motion. The commission appealed, and the estate moved to affirm the trial court’s written opinion, arguing that the notice was sufficient. The Court of Appeals granted the estate’s motion to affirm in an unpublished order. The Supreme Court denied leave to appeal. In the interim, the Court of Appeals issued Streng. The commission returned to the trial court and moved for summary judgment, arguing that the estate’s notice was insufficient under MCL 224.21(3). The parties disputed whether Streng applied retroactively and whether MCL 224.21(3), as applied in Streng, or MCL 691.1404(1) governed the estate’s notice. The Michigan Supreme Court found the Streng panel erred by failing to follow Brown. It therefore overruled Streng, vacated the decisions of the Court of Appeals, and remanded these cases to the respective circuit courts for further proceedings. View "Estate of Pearce v. Eaton Cty. Road Comm'n." on Justia Law