Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) disciplined three of its firefighters for cheating on a promotional exam. One of the men appealed his discipline to the California State Personnel Board (Board). The other two did not. While the appeal was pending, CAL FIRE substituted new disciplinary notices against all three men, seeking to impose harsher penalties. Over the men’s objections, the Board allowed CAL FIRE to proceed. The firefighters filed a petition for a writ of mandate in the trial court, which the court denied.The court of appeal affirmed in part. CAL FIRE permissibly substituted its disciplinary notice against the firefighter whose appeal was pending before the Board, but not against the other two, because by statute their discipline became final 30 days after they did not appeal, (Gov. Code, 19575). View "Chaplin v. State Personnel Board" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for review of determinations by the immigration judge (IJ) and Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) denying Petitioner's request for withholding of removal and voluntary departure, holding that there was no abuse of discretion or error of law.Petitioner was arrested in Connecticut on criminal charges. When served with a notice to appear in immigration court, Petitioner requested withholding of removal and voluntary departure. The IJ ruled against Petitioner, and Petitioner appealed. Before the IJ made its ruling Petitioner's wife filed an I-130 petition on his behalf. While Petitioner's appeal to the BIA was pending, Petitioner's charges in Connecticut were dropped and his I-130 petition was approved. Based on these developments, Petitioner moved to remand his case to the IJ. The BIA denied Petitioner's appeal and his motion to remand. The First Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for review, holding (1) Petitioner's withholding of removal claim failed; (2) the IJ did not err in denying Petitioner's application for voluntary departure; (3) the IJ did not err in denying Petitioner's motion for a continuance; and (4) the BIA did not abuse its discretion in denying Petitioner's motion to remand. View "Lee v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court overruled the decision of the Public Service Commission (PSC) rejecting a proposed development of an eighty-megawatt solar energy facility near Billings, Montana, holding that the PSC violated the requirements of the federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) and state law precluding discrimination against solar energy projects.The district court reversed and remanded the PSC's order setting terms and conditions of MTSUN, LLC's proposed eighty megawatt solar project based on findings of violations of due process, PURPA, and Montana's mini-PURPA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in concluding that the PSC's determinations were arbitrary and unlawful; and (2) relied on record evidence in determining the existence of a legally-enforceable agreement and the avoided-cost rates. View "MTSUN, LLC v. Montana Department of Public Service Regulation" on Justia Law

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In 2005-2007, the borrowers obtained residential home mortgages on California properties. California law would normally have entitled them to “at least 2 percent simple interest per annum” on any funds held in escrow, California Civil Code Section 2954.8. The lender, a federal savings association organized and regulated under the Home Owners’ Loan Act of 1933 (HOLA), 12 U.S.C. 1461, did not pay interest because HOLA preempts California law. In a suit against the lender’s successor, Chase, a national bank organized and regulated under the National Bank Act, 12 U.S.C. 38, the district court denied the lender’s motion to dismiss; the Ninth Circuit has held that there is no “conflict preemption” between the National Bank Act and the California law.The Ninth Circuit reversed. HOLA field preemption principles applied to the claims against Chase even though its conduct giving rise to the complaint occurred after it acquired the loans in question. Because California’s interest-on-escrow law imposed a requirement regarding escrow accounts; affected the terms of sale, purchase, investment in, and participation in loans originated by savings associations; and had more than an incidental effect on the lending operations of savings associations, it was preempted by 12 C.F.R. 560.2(b)(6) and (b)(10), and 560.2(c). View "McShannock v. JP Morgan Chase Bank NA" on Justia Law

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Alita, her son, and her stepfather died in a fire that engulfed their Philadelphia apartment. With the building already burning, Alita had called 911. A fire department operator instructed her to remain inside, promising help was on the way. Firefighters initially drove to the wrong location and, at the scene, never learned that the family was waiting. The firefighters extinguished the blaze without a search, leaving all three trapped in their home where they perished from smoke inhalation. Days passed before firefighters returned and discovered their bodies. Their estates sued the city and two fire department employees.The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The state-created danger theory does not apply. The dispatcher did not act affirmatively to create the danger, but only failed to communicate the family’s location, and the operator’s behavior did not shock the conscience. The employees neglected to relay the information through error, omission, or oversight. There is no plausible allegation that the city was deliberately indifferent to anyone’s substantive due process rights. Rejecting a negligence argument based on the history of problems at the residence, and failure to fix the building’s fire hazards, the court reasoned that the city was immune from these claims because it had insufficient control over the building. View "Johnson v. City of Philadelphia" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for judicial review of the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirming the judgment of the immigration judge (IJ) denying Petitioner's applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT), holding that Petitioner's claims failed.Petitioner, an Ecuadorian national, conceded removability and applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and CAT protection. The IJ determined that Petitioner had failed to substantiate any of his three claims and denied relief. The BIA affirmed. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that substantial evidence supported the agency's findings. View "Loja-Tene v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the government's motion to dismiss Sahara's suit for injunctive relief in a Medicare recoupment case, holding that the government provided Sahara adequate process. Applying the Mathews factors, the court held that the sufficiency of the current procedures and the minimal benefit of the live hearing weighs so strongly against Sahara that its due process claim fails. In this case, Sahara received some procedure, chose to forego additional protections, and cannot demonstrate the additional value of the hearing it requests. The court also held that Sahara failed to state a claim for ultra vires actions under 42 U.S.C. 1395ff. View "Sahara Health Care, Inc. v. Azar" on Justia Law

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Six plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment regarding the meaning of the absentee-ballot provision under Mississippi law and its most recent addition in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their claims dealt exclusively with Mississippi Code Section 23-15-713(d). In partially granting plaintiffs' request, the chancery court ruled: "as it pertains to the issue of . . . whether [Section] 23-15-713(d) permits any voter with pre-existing conditions that cause COVID-19 to present a greater risk of severe illness or death to vote by absentee ballot during the COVID-19 pandemic – is well taken and the relief sought is hereby GRANTED to the extent that such pre-existing 'physical . . . condition impairs, interferes with, or limits a person’s ability to engage in certain tasks or actions or participate in typical daily activities and interactions' or in an 'impaired function or ability' that interferes thereof." The chancery court denied the Plaintiffs’ second request, finding that Section 24-15- 713(d) did not permit any voter to vote absentee if he or she wanted to avoid voting in-person at a polling place due to guidance from the MDH, the CDC, or public-health authorities to avoid unnecessary public gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic. The chancery court declared, however, that “a voter will be allowed to vote absentee if he or she or any dependent has consulted with a physician who recommends, because of that individual’s physical disability or that of their dependent, not attending any public gathering because of the possibility of contracting COVID-19[.]” The chancery court denied the Plaintiffs’ third request for injunctive relief. Secretary of State Michael Watson, Jr. appealed the chancery court’s order, arguing the plain terms of Section 24-15-713(d), a voter must have a “physical disability,” and “because of” that disability, voting in-person “could reasonably cause danger” to the voter or others. The Secretary of State maintained a preexisting condition that was not itself a “physical disability” cannot satisfy the statute, whether or not the voter believed that COVID-19 might make voting in person dangerous. The Secretary of State contended the chancery court erred to the extent its order suggested that Section 23-15-713(d) applied to voters otherwise. The Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the chancery court erred to the extent its order declared Section 25-15-713(d) permitted any voter with preexisting conditions that cause COVID-19 to present a greater risk of severe illness or death to vote by absentee ballot during the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, the chancery court erred to the extent that its order allowed a “recommended” quarantine to qualify as a “physician-imposed quarantine.” The court's order was affirmed in all other respects. View "Watson v. Oppenheim" on Justia Law

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Russell Baker was hired by Federal Express Corporation (FedEx) as a pilot in June 2006. Employment agreements between FedEx and its pilots are established via collective bargaining with a union, the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA). During the relevant period of Baker’s employment, ALPA’s agreement with FedEx offered pilots on foreign duty assignments options to finance either relocation housing or their commute. Pilots based in Hong Kong could elect an “enhanced” relocation package instead of commuting. Pilots choosing that package had 18 months to complete their relocation, but were obligated to reimburse FedEx if they did not actually relocate. FedEx retained the right to request documentation establishing that relocation had actually occurred, including “verification of the permanent relocation of a pilot’s spouse, and/or dependent children under the age of 18 years, if applicable.” Baker would be fired by FedEx after he collected a relocation allowance based on misleading statements that his spouse had relocated with him. While his employment termination proceedings were ongoing, he filed complaints with the Alaska State Commission on Human Rights, contending FedEx engaged in marital status discrimination by requiring married pilots to relocate their spouses as a condition of the relocation allowance, and FedEx retaliated against him for filing the first complaint. The Commission concluded that there was substantial evidence of illegal discrimination, but exercised its statutory discretion to dismiss the complaint instead of bringing an enforcement action. The Commission also dismissed his second complaint, concluding that there was not substantial evidence of retaliation. Baker appealed the Commission’s decisions to the superior court, which affirmed the decisions. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the Commission did not abuse its substantial discretion by declining to prosecute the discrimination complaint, and did not err by concluding that the employer did not retaliate against the pilot after he filed his discrimination complaint. View "Baker v. Alaska Commission for Human Rights (Federal Express Corp.)" on Justia Law

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Porter co-owned property with a partner. His wife, Debra, held an unrecorded $2.8 million mortgage on the property. Unbeknownst to Porter, his partner obtained a second mortgage on the property from Commerce. That mortgage went into default. The property was listed at a mortgage foreclosure sheriff’s sale. The Porters filed lawsuits before the sale. A Pennsylvania court awarded Debra damages for the title company’s failure to record her mortgage but declined to have it retroactively recorded and denied a motion to postpone the sale. A federal declaratory judgment action, claiming that Debra’s unrecorded mortgage had priority over Commerce’s mortgage, was still pending. Porter contacted the Sheriff’s Office before the sale and sought Commerce’s assurance that it would inform bidders about the pending lawsuit. Commerce’s attorney never arrived at the sale, so when the property came up for sale, Porter stood up to make the announcement. Sheriff’s Office attorney Chew and Deputy Stewart ordered him to stop speaking. They put Porter in a chokehold, placed him in handcuffs, and dragged him from the room. Porter and a deputy required medical attention. Porter was convicted of misdemeanor resisting arrest.On Porter's s Monell claim against Philadelphia based upon its unwritten policy of not allowing non-bidders to comment at a sheriff’s sales, the jury awarded him $750,000. The Third Circuit vacated the judgment. Chew’s unendorsed actions did not become municipal policy. There is no evidence that municipal decision-makers were aware of Chew’s inconsistent implementation of the no-comment policy or that Chew had previously used force to enforce it. Because the sheriff’s sale is a nonpublic forum, the Sheriff’s Office policy prohibiting comments is valid; it is viewpoint neutral and reasonable in light of the city’s right to preserve the property under its control for the use to which it is lawfully dedicated. View "Porter v. City of Philadelphia" on Justia Law