Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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In 2019 the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin issued a permit authorizing two transmission companies and an electric cooperative to build and operate a $500 million, 100-mile power line. Environmental groups filed lawsuits in both federal and state courts, alleging that two of the three commissioners had disqualifying conflicts of interest and should have recused themselves.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of the commissioners’ motion to dismiss based on sovereign immunity. The commissioners were sued in their official capacities, so sovereign immunity blocks this suit in its entirety unless it falls within the Ex parte Young exception, which authorizes a federal suit against state officials for the purpose of obtaining prospective relief against an ongoing violation of federal law. The environmental groups seek an order enjoining the permit’s enforcement, prospective relief; they contend that the violation is ongoing as long as the permit remains in force and effect and the commissioners have the power to enforce, modify, or rescind it. Ex parte Young applies.The court, sua sponte, remanded with instructions to stay the case pending resolution of the state proceedings. Both cases raise materially identical due-process recusal claims. The case implicates serious state interests regarding the operation of Wisconsin administrative law and judicial review. Litigating the same questions in both court systems is duplicative and wasteful; comity and the sound administration of judicial resources warrant abstention. View "Driftless Area Land Conservancy v. Valcq" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Estate of Peter Dodier, appealed a New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board (CAB) order denying the estate’s claim for workers’ compensation and death benefits following Peter Dodier’s death. The CAB denied the estate’s claim based on its determination that Dodier’s anxiety and depression were not a compensable injury. It therefore did not reach the issue of death benefits. Because the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that Dodier’s anxiety and depression were compensable, it reversed the CAB’s decision and remanded for its consideration of whether the estate was entitled to death benefits. View "Appeal of Estate of Peter Dodier" on Justia Law

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Defendant Town of Windham (Town) appealed a superior court order denying its motion to dismiss the tax abatement appeal of plaintiff Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc. (Shaw’s), for lack of standing. The Town also appealed the superior court's order granting Shaw’s requested tax abatement. The owner of the property at issue leased 1.5 acres of a 34.21-acre parcel in Windham established as Current Use. The lease, in relevant part, required Shaw’s to pay the Owner its pro rata share of the real estate taxes assessed on the entire parcel, and the Owner was required to pay the taxes to the Town. If the Owner received a tax abatement, Shaw’s was entitled to its pro rata share of the abatement. In 2017, Shaw’s was directed by the Owner to pay the property taxes directly to the Town, and it did. Shaw’s unsuccessfully applied to the Town’s selectboard for a tax abatement and subsequently appealed to the superior court. The Town moved to dismiss, arguing that Shaw’s lacked standing to request a tax abatement on property it did not own. Finding the superior court did not err in finding Shaw's had standing to seek the abatement, or err in granting the abatement, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's orders. View "Shaw's Supermarkets, Inc. v. Town of Windham" on Justia Law

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A New Hampshire circuit court issued an adjudicatory order finding that G.B., a minor, had been neglected, but that respondents, G/B/'s adoptive parents, were not at fault for the neglect. Subsequently, the court issued a dispositional order awarding legal custody of G.B. to the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) and requiring DCYF to seek placement for G.B. in a residential treatment facility. DCYF appealed both orders, and G.B.’s guardian ad litem (GAL), Court Appointed Special Advocates of New Hampshire (CASA), joined in appealing the dispositional order. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the circuit court erred as a matter of law when it ruled that the respondents did not neglect G.B. The Court further concluded that, although the circuit court did not err by ruling G.B. a neglected child and ordering G.B.’s placement in a residential treatment facility, it failed to identify legally permissible primary and concurrent case plans in its dispositional order. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. View "In re G.B." on Justia Law

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In 2015, Pittsburgh City Council passed Ordinance 2015-2062. The Ordinance supplemented Section 659.03 of the Pittsburgh Code of Ordinances, which already barred various forms of discrimination in housing. In early 2016, the Apartment Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh (“the Association”), a nonprofit corporation comprising over 200 residential property owners, managers, and landlords, filed in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas a Complaint for Equitable Relief and Request for Declaratory Judgment against the City, alleging that the Nondiscrimination Ordinance violated the Home Rule Charter ("HRC") and the Pennsylvania Constitution. The Association also sought a temporary stay of enforcement of the Ordinance, which the court granted. The parties submitted Stipulations of Fact and submitted the case for judgment on the pleadings (the City) or summary judgment (the Association). The trial court heard argument, and ultimately ruled in favor of the Association, declaring the Ordinance invalid. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the HRC’s Business Exclusion precluded the Pittsburgh ordinance that proscribed source-of-income discrimination in various housing-related contexts. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the Commonwealth Court’s entry of judgment in favor of Apartment Association. View "Apt. Assoc. of Metro Pittsburgh v. City of Pittsburgh" on Justia Law

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School districts sought a judgment declaring that the Governor and the State of Illinois, have a constitutional obligation to provide them with the funding necessary to meet or achieve the learning standards established by the Illinois State Board of Education. Plaintiffs asked the court to enter judgment for the necessary amounts and for the court to “[r]etain jurisdiction to enforce such schedule of payments.”The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The plaintiffs abandoned their claims against the State; the Governor is not a proper defendant because he does not have authority to grant the relief requested by the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs acknowledged that an appropriation of public funds may come only from the General Assembly. This case does not involve an actual controversy between the parties as required to grant declaratory relief. View "Cahokia Unit School District No. 187 v. Pritzker" on Justia Law

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The 2012 Cook County Firearm Tax Ordinance imposed a $25 tax on the retail purchase of a firearm within Cook County. A 2015 amendment to the County Code included a tax on the retail purchase of firearm ammunition at the rate of $0.05 per cartridge for centerfire ammunition and $0.01 per cartridge for rimfire ammunition. The taxes levied on the retail purchaser are imposed in addition to all other taxes imposed by the County, Illinois, or any municipal corporation or political subdivision. The revenue generated from the tax on ammunition is directed to the Public Safety Fund; the revenue generated from the tax on firearms is not directed to any specified fund or program.Plaintiffs alleged that the taxes facially violate the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Illinois Constitution concerning the right to bear arms and the uniformity clause, and are preempted by the Firearm Owners Identification Card Act and the Firearm Concealed Carry Act. The trial court rejected the suit on summary judgment. The appellate court affirmed.The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. To satisfy scrutiny under a uniformity challenge, where a tax classification directly bears on a fundamental right, the government must establish that the tax classification is substantially related to the object of the legislation. Under that level of scrutiny, the firearm and ammunition tax ordinances violate the uniformity clause. View "Guns Save Life, Inc. v. Ali" on Justia Law

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In April 2020, the district court entered a preliminary injunction and provisionally certified nationwide subclasses of ICE detainees with risk factors or disabilities placing them at heightened risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19. The court found that plaintiffs were likely to succeed on claims of deliberate indifference to the medical needs of detainees, punitive conditions of confinement, and violation of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794. The preliminary injunction imposed a broad range of obligations on the federal government.The Ninth Circuit reversed, stating that neither the facts nor the law supported a judicial intervention of this magnitude. The plaintiffs did not make a clear showing that ICE acted with deliberate indifference to medical needs or in reckless disregard of health risks. If a particular condition or restriction of pretrial detention is reasonably related to a legitimate governmental objective, it does not, alone, amount to punishment; there was a legitimate governmental objective here, ICE was holding detainees because they were suspected of having violated the immigration laws or were otherwise removable. ICE’s national directives did not create excessive conditions of “punishment.” Rejecting the Rehabilitation Act claim, the court stated that the plaintiffs at most demonstrated that they were subjected to inadequate national policies; they did not show they were treated differently from other detainees “solely by reason” of their disabilities. View "Fraihat v. United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying the Ekalaka Volunteer Fire Department, Inc.'s (Department) motion for summary judgment, holding that the district court did not err in finding that the Town of Ekalaka's fire department was municipally owned as a matter of law.The Department claimed it had always been a private fire company that existed as an unincorporated association until 2016, when it filed its incorporation paperwork following the town attorney's advice. The Town, in response, filed for a declaratory judgment that the Department was municipally owned. The district court granted summary judgment for the Town. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the evidence overwhelmingly weighed toward declaratory judgment affirming the duly established municipal department. View "Ekalaka v. Ekalaka Volunteer Fire Department, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals denying a writ of mandamus compelling the Ohio Industrial Commission to vacate its orders rejecting a proposed settlement between Employee and Employer, holding that the court of appeals correctly denied the writ.Employee suffered a work-related injury, and his workers' compensation claim was allowed. Employee applied for an award of additional compensation due to Employer's alleged violation of specific safety requirements (VSSRs). Employer and Employee subsequently submitted a proposed settlement for approval by the Commission. A staff hearing officer rejected the settlement as neither fair nor equitable and then granted Employee's request for a VSSR award. Employer sought a writ of mandamus compelling the Commission to vacate its orders and approve the settlement, but the court of appeals denied the writ. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Employer's three propositions of law are rejected. View "State ex rel. Zarbana Industries, Inc. v. Industrial Commission" on Justia Law