Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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The Randolph-Sheppard Act, 20 U.S.C. 107, requires government agencies to set aside certain contracts for sight-challenged vendors. States license the vendors and match them with available contracts. In 2010, Michigan denied Armstrong’s bid for a contract to stock vending machines at highway rest stops. A state ALJ ruled in Armstrong’s favor and recommended that she get priority for the next available facility/location. The state awarded Armstrong an available vending route later that year. Armstrong nonetheless requested federal arbitration, seeking nearly $250,000 in damages to account for delays in getting the license. The arbitrators ruled that Armstrong was wrongfully denied the location she sought and ordered Michigan to immediately assign Armstrong the Grayling vending route but declined to award damages, reasoning that her request was “too speculative.” The district court upheld the arbitration award and rejected Armstrong’s 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims, concluding that the Randolph-Sheppard Act created the sole statutory right to relief under federal law. Michigan subsequently granted her the Grayling license. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The unfavorable arbitration decision was not arbitrary or capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act. Armstrong may not sue under 42 U.S.C. 1983 to vindicate her rights under the Randolph-Sheppard Act. View "Armstrong v. Michigan Bureau of Services for Blind Persons" on Justia Law

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Mick and Cecilia Manns made unsuccessful applications for preference rights to purchase certain Alaska State land. The Mannses argued they were entitled to a preference right under AS 38.05.035(f) based on their business use of the land beginning in the mid­ 1970s. But this statute required the Mannses to establish business use beginning at least five years prior to State selection; in this case, the State selection occurred in 1972. The statute also required the Mannses to show some income reliance on the land for the five years preceding their application, but the Mannses did not submit any such evidence. The Alaska Supreme Court therefore affirmed the superior court’s decision affirming the decision of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to deny the Mannses’ application. View "Manns v. Alaska, Dept. of Nat. Rec., Div. of Mining, Land & Water" on Justia Law

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Kirby Vickers filed a grievance letter with Idaho Board of Veterinary Medicine (the Board”) against a veterinarian requesting that they take various disciplinary actions. After an investigation, the Board declined to take any action against the veterinarian. Vickers then filed suit in district court, seeking to compel the Board to hold a hearing. The district court dismissed his suit for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. On appeal, Vickers argued his letter to the Board initiated a contested action for which he was entitled to judicial review. To this, the Idaho Supreme Court disagreed, finding that a private citizen could not initiate a "contested case" with a grievance letter. Vickers points to the language in caselaw: “[t]he filing of a complaint initiates a contested case,”to argue that any public citizen could file a complaint pursuant to Idaho Rule of Administrative Procedure of the Attorney General (“IDAPA”) 04.11.01.240.02 and begin a contested case. However, the Supreme Court found both the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and the corresponding IDAPA rules, addressed only agency actions. "Vickers cannot apply these rules to his grievance letter, even if it was referred to as a “complaint” in correspondence from the Board, because it is not an agency action under the APA or IDAPA." The Court affirmed the district court's order dismissed this case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. View "Vickers v. Idaho Bd of Veterinary Medicine" on Justia Law

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On petition for rehearing en banc, the en banc court held that the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives has standing under Article III of the Constitution to seek judicial enforcement of its duly issued subpoena. This case arose when the Committee began an investigation into alleged misconduct by President Trump and his close advisors. The Committee requested that Donald F. McGahn, II turn over documents related to the President's alleged obstruction of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller's investigation. When McGahn, then no longer White House Counsel, declined these requests, the Committee issued a subpoena ordering McGahn to appear at a hearing to testify and to produce the requested documents. The en banc court held that the Committee, acting on behalf of the full House of Representatives, has shown that it suffers a concrete and particularized injury when denied the opportunity to obtain information necessary to the legislative, oversight, and impeachment functions of the House, and that its injury would be redressed by the order it seeks from the court. The court explained that the ordinary and effective functioning of the Legislative Branch critically depends on the legislative prerogative to obtain information, and constitutional structure and historical practice support judicial enforcement of congressional subpoenas when necessary. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court in part. View "Committee on the Judiciary of the United States House of Representatives v. McGahn" on Justia Law

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In May 2018, appellants Green Mountain Fireworks, LLC and its owner Matthew Lavigne, began selling fireworks from a retail store in Colchester, Vermont. As described in their complaint, the “intended purpose” for the store was “to sell retail fireworks to consumers.” In relation to the retail store, appellants obtained a license from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) as a “Type 53 - Dealer of Explosives.” They also got a building permit and a certificate of occupancy from the Town Zoning Administrator. These zoning permits were the only two permit applications appellants submitted to the Town. The issue this appeal presented for the Vermont Supreme Court's review centered on whether 20 V.S.A. 3132(a)(1) authorized municipalities to grant permits for the general retail sale of fireworks to consumers who do not hold valid permits to display those fireworks. Appellants appealed the superior court's dismissal of two actions: (1) their appeal of the Town of Colchester selectboard’s denial of their application for a permit to sell fireworks pursuant to 20 V.S.A. 3132(a)(1); and (2) their request for a declaratory judgment that, even without that distinct permit, they had “all possible and applicable permits” and were permitted under section 3132 to sell fireworks in the manner described in their complaint. The Supreme Court concluded that section 3132(a)(1) required a distinct permit for the sale of fireworks, but did not authorize a permit for the general retail sale of fireworks along the lines proposed by appellants. The only fireworks sales authorized by statute were sales to the holder of a display permit for the purpose of the permitted display. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgments. View "Green Mountain Fireworks, LLC, et al. v. Town of Colchester et al." on Justia Law

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Taxpayer Gabriel Martinez appealed a Property Valuation and Review Division (PVR) hearing officer's decision setting the fair market value of his property for purposes of the 2017 Town of Hartford grand list. Taxpayer argued the hearing officer erred in estimating fair market value based on sales of comparable properties because the value was conclusively established by the price taxpayer paid for the property in a contemporaneous arms-length transaction. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court held that, although the recent arms-length sale price constituted strong presumptive evidence of the fair market value of the property, the hearing officer did not commit legal error in considering other evidence of fair market value. In addition, the Court concluded the appraisal was rationally derived from the findings and evidence. View "Martinez v. Town of Hartford" on Justia Law

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The Spokane River originates at the outlet of Coeur d’Alene Lake in Idaho and flows west for approximately 111 miles to the Columbia River in eastern Washington. Flows in the river have been declining due to increased groundwater use from the aquifer. The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) ceased issuing new groundwater rights from the aquifer in the 1990s. Avista Corporation operated five hydroelectric projects located on the Spokane River in northern Idaho and eastern Washington. The uppermost project on the river, the Post Falls development, consisted of three dams on three channels with natural islands connecting the structures. The development impounded nine miles of the Spokane River to the outlet of Coeur d’Alene Lake. The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review centered on Ecology's authority to set minimum instream flows for the rivers and streams in Washington, and the parameters of that authority under RCW 90.22.010 and RCW 90.54.020(3)(a). At issue was whether Ecology properly adopted a rule, WAC 173-557-050, setting a summertime minimum instream flow rate for the Spokane River at 850 cfs (cubic feet per second) from June 16 to September 30. The Supreme Court upheld that rule, determining that the Agency's challengers failed to carry their burden to show the rule’s invalidity. The Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision, which reversed the trial court’s dismissal of the challengers’ suit. View "Ctr. for Envtl. Law & Policy v. Dep't of Ecology" on Justia Law

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The Oregon legislature made various changes to the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) by enacting amendments set out in SB 1049, Or Laws 2019, ch 355. Petitioners were PERS members challenging two of those amendments: (1) the redirection of a member's PERS contributions from the member’s individual account program to a newly created employee pension stability account, used to help fund the defined-benefit component of the member’s retirement plan; and (2) a cap on the salary used to calculate a member's benefits. Petitioners primarily argued the amendments impaired their contractual rights and therefore violated the state Contract Clause, Article I, section 21, of the Oregon Constitution. Respondents were the state, the Public Employees Retirement Board (the board), and various state and local public employers. The Oregon Supreme Court disagreed with petitioners' contentions, finding challenged amendments did not operate retrospectively to decrease the retirement benefits attributable to work that the member performed before the effective date of the amendments. And, although the amendments operated prospectively to change the offer for future retirement benefits, the preamendment statutes did not include a promise that the retirement benefits would not be changed prospectively. The Supreme Court resolved petitioners’ other claims on similar grounds and denied their requests for relief. View "James v. Oregon" on Justia Law

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The City of Flint and city and state officials allegedly caused, sustained, and covered up the poisoning of the people of Flint. Plaintiffs filed a 2017 “Master Complaint,” containing the allegations and claims made by plaintiffs across the coordinated litigation; “short-form” complaints charted certain components of the Master Complaint, including named defendants, alleged injuries, and claims. In this case, the district court declined to dismiss all defendants other than former State Treasurer Andy Dillon. Earlier in 2020, the Sixth Circuit, in "Waid," decided that the same officials who are defendants in this case plausibly violated plaintiffs’ substantive due process right to bodily integrity and are not entitled to qualified immunity and rejected Flint’s and Michigan Governor Whitmer’s arguments that the Eleventh Amendment required their dismissal. Defendant Johnson argued that the allegations against him in this case differently than those levied against him in Waid. The court concluded that there is no reason to treat Johnson differently. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that higher-ups should be treated differently than officials making decisions on the ground. . View "In re Flint Water Cases" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) denying Petitioner's request for temporary protected status (TPS) under 8 U.S.C. 1254a, holding that the BIA did not err in finding that Petitioner's ninety-eight-day absence from the country was not "brief, casual, and innocent" under the regulations. Petitioner entered the United States on December 27, 1997. Since then, Petitioner spent ninety-eight days outside the United States pursuant to an order of removal. In his TPS request, Petitioner argued that he could excuse the ninety-eight days at issue as "brief, casual, and innocent" under 8 U.S.C. 1254a(c)(4)(A)-(B) because an immigration judge later rescinded his order of removal. The BIA denied Petitioner's request, determining that the rescission of removal order was improper. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the BIA correctly found that the immigration judge's rescission order was not proper, and therefore, Petitioner's absence from the country was not brief, casual, and innocent. View "Machado Sigaran v. Barr" on Justia Law