Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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In this appeal, several Summerville residents and public interest groups (Petitioners) asked the South Carolina Supreme Court to invalidate approval granted by the Town of Summerville Board of Architectural Review (the Board) for construction of a proposed development project (the Project). Petitioners contended the Board violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and various Summerville ordinances. At some point during Petitioners' appeal of the Board's decision, Applegate & Co. (the Developer) decided not to go forward with the Project. Since there remained no actual controversy for the Supreme Court to decide, it vacated the court of appeals' decision and dismissed Petitioners' appeal as moot. View "Croft v. Town of Summerville" on Justia Law

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A Town of Cottageville police officer shot and killed the former town Mayor Bert Reeves. A federal jury awarded Reeves' estate $97,500,000 in damages. The South Carolina Municipal Insurance and Risk Financing Fund, which insured the town, paid $10,000,000 to settle the federal lawsuit and two other lawsuits. The Settlement Agreement provided for two questions to be submitted to the state courts: (1) whether the amount of indemnity coverage available under the policy was more than $1,000,000; and (2) whether the South Carolina Tort Claims Act applied to a bad faith action against the Fund. The South Carolina Supreme Court answered the first question "yes"; it declined to answer the second. View "Reeves v. South Carolina Municipal Insurance" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court affirming the decision of the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) reversing an order revoking Respondent's driving privileges for driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances and/or drugs with a blood alcohol content of .15 or higher, holding that the circuit court erred.In reversing the order revoking Respondent's driving privileges the OAH determined that the officer's failure to comply with Respondent's demands for a blood test violated Respondent's rights to due process under W. Va. Code 17C-5-9. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) in proceedings involving the revocation of a driver's license for DUI where a driver demands a blood test but the test is never given, a chemical analysis of the blood that is withdrawn is never completed, or the blood test results are lost, the trier of fact must consider three factors; and (2) this case must be remanded to the OAH for a new hearing that is to be conducted consistent with this opinion. View "Frazier v. Talbert" on Justia Law

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In the lawsuit underlying these consolidated writ proceedings, the People of the State of California, by and through the Santa Clara County Counsel, the Orange County District Attorney, the Los Angeles County Counsel, and the Oakland City Attorney, filed an action against defendants— various pharmaceutical companies involved in the manufacture, marketing, distribution, and sale of prescription opioid medications. The People alleged the defendants made false and misleading statements as part of a deceptive marketing scheme designed to minimize the risks of opioid medications and inflate their benefits. This scheme, the People alleged, caused a public health crisis in California by dramatically increasing the number of opioid prescriptions, the use and abuse of opioids, and opioid-related deaths. These proceedings pertained to a discovery dispute after several of the defendants served subpoenas on two nonparty counties, petitioners County of Los Angeles and County of Alameda, seeking records of patients in various county programs, including individual prescription data and individual patient records related to substance abuse treatment. After petitioners and the Johnson & Johnson defendants engaged in various informal and formal means to attempt to resolve the dispute, the superior court issued a discovery order granting the Johnson & Johnson defendants’ motions to compel production of the records. The Court of Appeal concluded petitioners established that the superior court’s order threatened a serious intrusion into the privacy interests of the patients whose records were at issue: the Johnson & Johnson defendants failed to demonstrate their interests in obtaining “such a vast production of medical information” outweighed the significant privacy interests that the nonparty petitioners identified. Accordingly, the Court granted petitioners’ writ petitions and directed the superior court to vacate its order compelling production of the requested documents, and to enter a new order denying Johnson & Johnson defendants’ motions to compel. View "County of Los Angeles v. Superior Ct." on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit dismissed, based on lack of jurisdiction, petitions for review of the SEC's order directing stock exchanges to submit a proposal to replace three plans that govern the dissemination of certain types of data with a single, consolidated plan. The exchanges specifically challenge provisions of the order requiring them to include three features relating to plan governance.The court concluded that the Commission has yet to decide whether the challenged features will make it into the new plan, and that section 25(a) of the Securities Exchange Act confers authority on the courts of appeals to review only final orders. In this case, although the Governance Order was definitive on the question whether the three challenged plan elements had to be included in the proposal, it was not a "definitive statement of position" on the question the Commission had initiated proceedings to answer—whether the three features should be included in the eventual plan. View "The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC v. Securities and Exchange Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the West Virginia Public Service Commission ruling that its jurisdiction under state law to regulate a company that was operating in West Virginia solely as a contractor for a federal agency was preempted by federal law, holding that there was no error in the Commission's determination.The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the federal agency in this case, was impelled to give the company, Community Pastor Care, LLC (CPC), the subject contract to meet a goal expressed by Congress in 38 U.S.C. 8127(a). Metro Tristate, Inc. filed this case asking that the Commission bar CPC from transporting VA passengers until it received a permit from the Commission. The Commission concluded that its jurisdiction to regulate CPC was preempted by federal law. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission correctly determined that its jurisdiction to regulate CPC was preempted by federal law. View "Metro Tristate, Inc. v. Public Service Commission of W. Va." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part the order of the circuit court concluding that a "subsistence allowance" provided by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) to Natural Resources Police Officers is "compensation" for purposes of the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), holding that the allowance was not compensation.Beginning in 1997, DNR reported the payments of the subsistence allowances to the Consolidated Public Retirement Board as part of the officers' "compensation," which is a key component in calculating the officers' retirement annuities under PERS. In 2014, the Board determined that the subsistence allowance was not compensation and that the error had led to the miscalculation of benefits paid to retired officers. Respondents - current and retired officers and their widowers and widows - appealed and requested declaratory relief with the Board, alleging that the Board's determination violated their vested pension rights. The Board denied relief, but the circuit court reversed. The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part, holding (1) the subsistence allowance was not compensation under PERS; and (2) the Board may not recover the excess retirement benefits already paid due to the error in treating the allowance as PERS compensation. View "W. Va. Consolidated Public Retirement Board v. Clark" on Justia Law

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Vestal was an IRS Agent and routinely had access to personally identifiable and other taxpayer information. She received annual “Privacy, Information Protection and Disclosure training.” In 2018, Vestal received a notice of proposed suspension for displaying discourteous and unprofessional conduct and for failing to follow managerial directives. In preparing her defense, she sent her attorney a record from a taxpayer’s file, which included personally identifiable and other taxpayer information. Vestal’s attorney was not authorized to receive such information. Vestal sent the record without obtaining authorization, without making redactions, and without relying on advice from legal counsel. Dubois, the deciding official, decided to remove Vestal from service, explaining in his removal letter “that a removal will promote the efficiency of the Service and that a lesser penalty would be inadequate.”The Merit Systems Protection Board and the Federal Circuit affirmed an administrative judge in sustaining her removal. The disclosure was “very serious,” and intentional. The agency’s table of penalties recommends removal for any first offense of intentional disclosures of taxpayer information to unauthorized persons. While Vestal stated that she incorrectly believed that attorney-client privilege protected the disclosure, the administrative judge explained that Vestal nevertheless did “act[] intentionally.” Vestal’s prior suspension was aggravating; her job performance and her 10 years of service were mitigating though also supporting that she had ample notice of the seriousness of unauthorized disclosures of taxpayer information. View "Vestal v. Department of the Treasury" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that social workers, and their approving supervisors, in the Department of Children and Families who attest to facts in sworn affidavits as part of care and protection proceedings commenced by the Department in the juvenile court pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 119, 24 are entitled to absolute immunity in these circumstances.Plaintiff brought an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 against a social worker with the Department, alleging that the social worker intentionally misrepresented facts in a sworn affidavit filed in support of a care and protection petition in the juvenile court. Plaintiff further alleged that the social worker's area supervisor (together, with the social worker, Defendants) was liable because she had approved the social worker's actions. Defendants filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that they were entitled to absolute immunity. A superior court judge allowed the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Defendants were entitled to absolute immunity under the circumstances of this case. View "C.M. v. Commissioner of Department of Children & Families" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of the circuit court in these consolidated cases, holding that the West Virginia Health Care Authority's interpretation of the State Health Plan Home Health Services Standards was not arbitrary or capricious and was entitled to judicial deference pursuant to Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. 467 U.S. 837 (1984).The Standards governed the Authority's consideration of applications from entities and individuals seeking to provide home health care services in a particular county. The Standards included a methodology for determining whether there was an unmet need for such services in the county. Petitioners argued that unmet need could not be established unless the evidence showed that at least 229 individuals in the subject county were in need of home health care services. Respondents countered that the Standards required the new applicant to demonstrate a need at or beyond the 229 average usage figure. The circuit court concluded that the Authority did not err. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Authority did not exceed its constitutional or statutory authority and its decision was not arbitrary or capricious. View "Amedisys West Virginia, LLC v. Personal Touch Home Care of W. Va., Inc." on Justia Law