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The California Table Grape Commission’s advertisements and related messaging represent government speech, as opposed to private speech, and the Ketchum Act’s (Cal. Food & Agric. Code 65500) scheme providing that the Commission’s activities are funded by assessments on shipments of California table grapes does not violate Plaintiffs’ rights under Cal. Const. art. I, 2. Plaintiffs, five growers and shippers of California table grapes, brought suit arguing that the collection of assessments under the Act to subsidize promotional speech on behalf of California table grapes as a generic category violates their right to free speech under Cal. Const. art. I, 2(a). Plaintiffs claimed specifically that the table grapes they grow and ship are exceptional and that the assessment scheme requires them to sponsor a viewpoint that they disagree with. The Supreme Court held that Plaintiffs failed to advance a viable claim under article I, section 2. Specifically, the Court held that there was sufficient government responsibility for and control over the messaging at issue for the communications to represent government speech that Plaintiffs can be required to subsidize without implicating their article I, section 2 rights. View "Delano Farms Co. v. California Table Grape Commission" on Justia Law

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Between 1853 and 1995, the Port Gamble Bay facility in Kitsap County, Washington operated as a sawmill and forest products manufacturing facility by Pope & Talbot and its corporate predecessors. Close to four decades after Puget Mill Co., predecessor to Pope & Talbot, began operating the sawmill, the legislature authorized the disposal of certain occupied state-owned aquatic lands, including the tidal lands within Port Gamble Bay. The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued the first lease for Pope & Talbot's use of the Port Gamble Bay submerged lands in 1974. In 1985, Pope & Talbot transferred 71,363 acres of its timberlands, timber, land development, and resort businesses in the State of Washington to Pope Resources, LP, which in turn leased the mill area to Pope & Talbot. Pope & Talbot ceased mill operations in 1995. Pope sought to develop their Port Gamble holdings for a large, high-density community with a marina. However, the Port Gamble site was contaminated, in part from the operation of sawmill buildings to saw logs for lumber, operation of chip barge loading facilities and a log-transfer facility, particulate sawmill emissions from wood and wood waste burning, in-water log rafting and storage, and creosote treated pilings placed throughout the bay to facilitate storage and transport of logs and wood products. After entering into a consent decree with the Washington Department of Ecology in 2013 for remediation of portions of the site exposed to hazardous substances, Pope/OPG filed a complaint in 2014 seeking a declaration that DNR was liable for natural resources damages and remedial costs, and for contribution of costs. The Superior Court granted summary judgment in favor of DNR in 2016. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that DNR was an "owner or operator" with potential liability under the Washington Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA). DNR appealed, and the Washington Supreme Court reversed, finding DNR was neither an "owner" nor an "operator" of the Port Gamble Bay facility for purposes of MTCA. View "Pope Res., LP v. Dep't of Nat. Res." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the circuit court’s dismissal of Appellant’s pro se petition for declaratory judgment and writ of mandamus challenging the Arkansas Department of Correction’s (ADC) calculation of his parole eligibility. In his petition, Appellant alleged that the ADC incorrectly included certain felony convictions in its calculation of his multiple-offender classification and therefore misclassified him as a fourth offender for purposes of parole eligibility. In addition, Appellant argued that including his 1981 convictions for burglary and robbery resulted in an ex post facto violation. The circuit court ruled that Appellant had failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted because the ADC had not erred in its calculation as to either issue. The Supreme Court held (1) there was no ex post facto violation; but (2) the ADC incorrectly included Appellant’s perjury conviction in its calculation of Appellant’s status as a habitual offender. View "Davis v. Kelley" on Justia Law

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Perry filed suit under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) seeking the disclosure from the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation of information concerning a complaint against his structural engineer’s license. After the circuit court ruled on Perry’s motion for summary judgment, section 2105-117 of the Department of Professional Regulation Law took effect, which, if applicable, would exempt the type of confidential source information sought by Perry from disclosure. The appellate court affirmed the denial of Perry’s motion to reconsider. During the pendency of the Institute’s separate FOIA lawsuit against the Department, seeking information about complaints against licensees, 225 ILCS 410/4-24 was added to the Barber, Cosmetology, Esthetics, Hair Braiding, and Nail Technology Act, and, if applicable, would exempt the type of information sought by the Institute from disclosure. The circuit court granted the Institute summary judgment. The Illinois Supreme Court consolidated the cases and held that the amendments do not apply to the pending cases. Illinois’s retroactivity analysis governs where a change of law becomes effective during the pendency of a lawsuit. The legislature did not clearly prescribe whether sections 2105-117 and 4-24 should be applied to pending lawsuits, so courts must consider whether the changes are procedural or substantive. As both sections are substantive changes to the law, the amendments apply prospectively only. View "Perry v. Department of Financial and Professional Regulation" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court granting an application by five individual electors of the Town of Fairfield (collectively, Plaintiffs) for a writ of mandamus compelling a special election for a vacant seat on the Board of Selectmen. On appeal, the Town and its Board (collectively, Defendants) argued that the trial court improperly issued the writ of mandamus. Specifically, Defendants argued that article VI, 6.3(B) of the Fairfield Town Charter, which does not provide for a special election when the Board has acted to fill a vacancy within thirty days, was controlling over Conn. Gen. Stat. 9-222, which provides for the possibility of a petition for a special election to fill a vacancy on the Board even after the Board has acted. The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) the charter provision controlled the method by which to fill the vacancy on the Board; and (2) because the Board timely designated a new selectman, the provision of the charter directing resort to Conn. Gen. Stat. chapter 146, which could have required a special election pursuant to section 9-222, was not triggered. View "Cook-Littman v. Board of Selectmen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court reversing the decision of the Office of the Commissioner of Political Practices (the Commissioner) that the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks (FWP) was responsible for ethics violations. Trap Free Montana Public Lands (Trap Free) filed an ethics complaint alleging that FWP allowed the Montana Trappers Association (MTA) to use an FWP-owned trailer and equipment in MTA’s efforts to oppose a ballot initiative, in violation of Mont. Code Ann. 2-2-101 and -121. A hearing examiner found that FWP staff were responsible for three statutory violations for the occasions when MTA members used the trailer and equipment in conjunction with its political advocacy efforts. The Commissioner adopted the hearing examiner’s recommendation that the Commissioner impose an administrative penalty on FWP. The district court reversed, concluding that FWP employees did not violate state ethics laws. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that where section 2-2-121(3)(a) prohibits public employees from using public resources for political purposes, and where MTA members are not public employees, there was no violation of the ethics code. View "Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks v. Trap Free Montana Public Lands" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) erred in concluding that Petitioner had not suffered past persecution nor had a well-founded fear of future persecution if he returned to Ecuador on account of his indigenous Quiche ethnicity. The First Circuit vacated the order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirming the immigration judge’s (IJ) decision denying Petitioner’s asylum application. The Court held (1) Petitioner’s case should be analyzed in light of the fact that he was a minor during the time he suffered abuse, harm, and mistreatment in Ecuador; (2) the IJ and BIA erred as a matter of law in failing to apply the child-specific standard for asylum claims; and (3) the case must be remanded for a finding of whether what Petitioner suffered in Ecuador, viewed from a child’s perspective, amounted to severe mistreatment and, if so, whether the the abuse amounted to government inaction, a requisite for a finding of past persecution. View "Santos-Guaman v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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At issue before the South Carolina Supreme Court in this appeal was a question of whether Appellant Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce (Chamber) was subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) due to its receipt and expenditure of certain funds designated for promoting tourism ("accommodation tax funds"). The Chamber's receipt and expenditure of these funds was pursuant to, and governed by, the Accommodations Tax (A-Tax) statute and Proviso 39.2 of the Appropriation Act for Budget Year 2012–2013. Respondent DomainsNewMedia.com, LLC (Domains) filed a declaratory judgment action, seeking a declaration and corresponding injunctive relief on the basis that the Chamber's receipt of these funds renders the Chamber a "public body" pursuant to FOIA, thus subjecting the Chamber to all of FOIA's requirements. The Chamber countered that FOIA did not apply, for the receipt, expenditure, and reporting requirements concerning these funds were governed by the more specific A-Tax statute and Proviso 39.2. The trial court held that the Chamber was a public body and, thus, was subject to FOIA's provisions. The Supreme Court, however, reversed, holding as a matter of discerning legislative intent, that the General Assembly did not intend the Chamber to be considered a public body for purposes of FOIA as a result of its receipt and expenditure of these specific funds. View "DomainsNewMedia.com v. Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce" on Justia Law

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The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) did not err in ruling that an injury suffered by Plaintiff that arose while she worked as a Public Health Educator IV for the State Department of Health (DOH) resulted from an “accident occurring while in the actual performance of duty at some definite time and place” and was therefore a covered injury under Haw. Rev. Stat. 88-336. Section 88-336 provides service-connected disability retirement benefits under the Employees’ Retirement System’s (ERS) Hybrid Plan to Class H public officers and employees, such as Petitioner. Petitioner submitted an application for service-connected disability retirement in connection with permanent incapacitating injuries she suffered to her elbow, arm, and hand. A hearing officer concluded that Petitioner’s excessive keyboarding over a period of time did not constitute an “accident” because it did not occur at a “specific time and place.” The ERS denied Petitioner’s application. The circuit court affirmed. The ICA vacated the circuit court’s decision and remanded to the circuit court with directions to vacate the ERS Board’s denial of disability retirement to Petitioner. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner’s injury occurred “while in the actual performance of duty at some definite time and place.” View "Pasco v. Board of Trustees of the Employees’ Retirement System" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission (Commission) declining to approve the agreement entered into Employer and Employee that Employer would make a lump sum payment to fully satisfy Employee’s award of permanent total disability benefits. Employee received a work-related injury and filed a workers’ compensation claim against Employer. A final award granted Employee permanent total disability benefits to be paid weekly. The parties later agreed that Employee would make a lump sum benefit to fully satisfy the award. The Commission declined to approve the agreement, concluding that the Commission had no authority to approve the agreement either as a settlement under Mo. Rev. Stat. 287.390 or as an application for a “commutation” under Mo. Rev. Stat. 287.530. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission did not have the authority to consider or approve the agreement under section 287.390; and (2) the Commission properly refused to approve a commutation pursuant to the agreement. View "Dickemann v. Costco Wholesale Corp." on Justia Law