Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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George Glassmeyer sent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the South Carolina Lottery Commission for information relating to million-dollar lottery winners. The Lottery Commission claimed the information sought was "personal" and "disclosure . . . would constitute unreasonable invasion of personal privacy." Instead, the Lottery Commission disclosed the hometown and state of each winner, the amount of each prize, the date of each prize, and the game associated with each prize. Glassmeyer responded that the Lottery Commission's disclosure did not satisfy his requests. The Lottery Commission then filed this lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment that the release of lottery winners' names, addresses, telephone numbers, and forms of identification would constitute an unreasonable invasion of personal privacy under subsection 30-4-40(a)(2) and could be withheld. The Lottery Commission also sought injunctive relief preventing Glassmeyer from obtaining the information. The circuit court granted the Lottery Commission's motion and declared the release of the lottery winners' personal identifying information as an unreasonably invasion of personal privacy, and also entered an injunction permanently restraining Glassmeyer from seeking the lottery winners' full names, addresses, telephone numbers, and forms of identification. The court of appeals reversed, by the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed: "a proper injunction could restrict Glassmeyer only from seeking this information from the Lottery Commission. The Lottery Commission had no right to request an injunction permanently restraining Glassmeyer from seeking this information from any source, and the circuit court had no authority to prevent Glassmeyer from doing so." View "South Carolina Lottery Commission v. Glassmeyer" on Justia Law

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Developers submitted an application for a Berkeley mixed-use development with 135 apartments over 33,000 square feet of retail space and parking, pursuant to Government Code section 65913.4, which provides for streamlined, ministerial approval of affordable housing projects meeting specified requirements. The site is the location of the West Berkeley Shellmound, “believed to have been one of the first of its kind at the Bay’s edge, built ca 3,700 B.C.,” part of a City of Berkeley Landmark. Shellmounds were “sacred burial sites for the average deceased mound-dweller,” slowly constructed over thousands of years from daily debris and artifacts. The city denied the application.The court of appeal ruled in favor of the developers. There is no evidence that the project “would require the demolition of a historic structure that was placed on a . . . historic register.” Remnants and artifacts could be disturbed, but that is not the issue under section 65913.4(a)(7)(C). With regard to tribal cultural resources, the project’s draft environmental impact report concluded impacts on the Shellmound would be reduced to “a less-than-significant level” by agreed-upon mitigation measures. Given the Legislature’s history of attempting to address the state’s housing crisis and frustration with local governments’ interference with that goal, and the highly subjective nature of historical preservation, the intrusion of section 65913.4 into local authority is not broader than necessary to achieve the legislation's purpose. View "Ruegg & Ellsworth v. City of Berkeley" on Justia Law

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Karen and Jerome Schirado appealed a judgment granting the City of Glen Ullin and the Glen Ullin Park District permanent injunctive relief and awarding the Park District attorney’s fees. The Schirados owned land near both Park District and City property. In 2013, the Park District sued the Schirados to enjoin them from fencing and allowing their horses to graze on Park District lots. The Park District was granted default judgment. In 2019, the Park District and the City sued again, alleging the Schirados violated the 2013 judgment. The suit contained claims similar to the 2013 suit, with additional claims involving the City’s streets and alleys which were not involved in the original action. The Schirados conceded they placed fencing on the properties and allowed their horses to graze, but alleged they were given permission by the City. The district court granted a preliminary injunction in favor of the City and the Park District. The court found the Schirados in contempt of court because of their violation of the 2013 judgment, and awarded attorney’s fees and costs to the City and the Park District. The North Dakota Supreme Court reversed the judgment in favor of the City, and reversed and remanded the fee award for the district court to explain its rationale for the award, including which amount is a sanction for contempt, and which portion is allocated to each plaintiff. On remand, the Schirados moved a new trial, claiming Karen Schirado possessed additional testimony and evidence “necessary to allow her to fully present her case.” The district court denied the motion for trial and concluded the Schirados had two opportunities to present evidence of an oral or written agreement to use the City property and failed to do so. The court granted the City’s motion for summary judgment, concluding the Schirados failed to present admissible evidence in resistance to the City and Park District’s motion for summary judgment. The court also granted the City and the Park District permanent injunctive relief and awarded the Park District $5,460.00 in attorney’s fees. The Schirados appeal from the amended judgment. Finding no reversible error in the amendment judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "City of Glen Ullin, et al. v. Schirado, et al." on Justia Law

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In March 2019, the North Dakota State Board of Chiropractic Examiners (the “Board”) issued an administrative complaint against Dr. Jacob Schmitz, a chiropractor licensed by the Board. The administrative complaint initiated an administrative proceeding against Schmitz, which resulted in the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) issuing a recommended order granting summary judgment to the Board. The ALJ declined recommending the disciplinary action that the Board should take against Schmitz. Instead, he noted six observations to aid the Board’s determination of disciplinary action against Schmitz. In April 2020, the Board noticed a special meeting, with Schmitz listed in the notice and agenda, including a footnote stating, "The governing body anticipates this topic may be discussed in Executive Session." Schmitz alleged the Board discussed and established sanctions against him in the executive session. In May 2020, the Board held a regular meeting. Soon after the meeting began, the Board went into executive session for approximately thirty-five minutes. After the executive session, the Board voted to confirm the sanctions against Schmitz. Schmitz requested the recording of this executive session, and was denied by the Board. Thereafter, Schmitz filed this lawsuit, alleging the Board violated the law on access to public records and meetings. The Board moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. After a hearing, the district court granted the Board’s motion and dismissed the complaint. Schmitz argued to the North Dakota Supreme Court that the trial court misapplied the law. The Supreme Court reversed, concluding the district court erred in its application of Rule 12(b)(6), and remanded for further proceedings. View "Schmitz v. State Board of Chiropractic Examiners" on Justia Law

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Defendant School Administrative Unit No. 55 (the SAU), appealed a superior court order denying its motion to dismiss the complaint filed by plaintiffs the Hampstead School District and Hampstead School Board (collectively, "Hampstead"), and granting Hampstead’s request for an order compelling the SAU to produce immediately an investigative report prepared by an attorney. In November 2018, the Hampstead School Board unanimously adopted a resolution “reject[ing] and disapprov[ing] . . . the inappropriate and unprofessional conduct and commentary engaged in by” Timberlane Regional School Board members regarding certain Hampstead School District representatives and SAU administrators. In the summer of 2019, a former SAU employee and a current SAU employee alleged that certain SAU board members had engaged in workplace harassment and/or had created a hostile work environment. The chair of the SAU board arranged for a lawyer to investigate the allegations. At a December 2019 public session, the SAU board chair stated that “[a]n independent, experienced employment attorney conducted an extensive investigation of a hostile work environment allegation,” and that the attorney had “found that the allegations had no merit.” Hampstead’s counsel subsequently requested to view the report pursuant to the New Hampshire Right-to-Know Law. The SAU declined the request, asserting the report was protected by attorney-client privilege. Hampstead then filed this suit, alleging that the report was a public document about public officials and, therefore, was subject to disclosure under RSA chapter 91-A. The New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the superior court, finding that the SAU’s contention that records protected by the attorney-client privilege or the work product doctrine were per se exempt from disclosure under the Right-to-Know Law rested upon "an understandable, but mistaken, interpretation of our precedent." View "Hampstead School Board et al. v. School Administrative Unit No. 55" on Justia Law

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In order to fund construction of an underground parking garage and other improvements in Balboa Park, the City of San Diego entered into a “lease revenue bond” transaction. This type of transaction was approved by the California Supreme Court in Rider v. City of San Diego, 18 Cal.4th 1035 (1998) and by the Court of Appeal court in San Diegans for Open Government v. City of San Diego, 242 Cal.App.4th 416 (2015) (SanDOG). After these cases, San Diego voters approved several amendments to the San Diego City Charter regarding bond issuance. Plaintiff San Diegans for Open Government (SanDOG) challenged the Balboa Park lease revenue bond transaction based on these amendments. In SanDOG’s view, one newly-amended provision restricted the ability of the City to use the Financing Authority to issue bonds without voter approval. The trial court disagreed, and the Court of Appeal affirmed the court’s judgment on this issue. "The provision in question reflects a limitation on City-issued bonds; it does not cover bonds issued by the Financing Authority. Moreover, even if the provision were not limited to City-issued bonds, it would not cover the lease revenue bonds contemplated here. The additional challenge asserted by SanDOG (regarding a cooperation agreement) was moot; accordingly, that portion of the judgment was reversed and remanded for the trial court to dismiss the challenge as moot. View "San Diegans for Open Gov. v. Pub. Facilities Financing etc." on Justia Law

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Morse served in the Navy, 1970-1972; including six months in Da Nang, Vietnam. In 1999, Morse filed a claim for compensation, listing several disabilities, including PTSD. A VA regional office granted him a nonservice-connected pension in 2001, based on joint disease. He later obtained Social Security disability benefits. In 2002, the regional office denied Morse’s claim of service connection for PTSD, finding "no credible evidence of verification of the claimed stressors.” In 2004, Morse sought to reopen his PTSD claim. The regional office received service department records in 2005, showing that in 1972 a psychiatrist reported that Morse appeared “moderately depressed” about personal problems. An examiner concluded that Morse was unable to provide convincingly relate symptoms to his reported military exposure. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals affirmed.In 2009, Morse sought to reopen his claim. A VA examiner diagnosed Morse as suffering from PTSD. The Joint Services Records Research Center (JSRRC) coordinator's memo noted that the events “reported by the veteran" are "consistent" with the conditions of service "even though we were unable to locate official records of the specific occurrence.” Morse was granted service connection for PTSD, effective in 2009. The Board in 2016 affirmed; because no additional service records had been obtained since the Board’s 2008 decision, the VA was not required to conduct another reconsideration. In 2018, the Board found that the 2010 JSRRC memorandum did not constitute an “official service department record”; Morse was “essentially attacking the merits of" the 2008 Board decision, "which is final.”The Veterans Court and Federal Circuit affirmed; the “VA’s obligation to reconsider the PTSD claim upon receipt of new service department records was exhausted in 2008.” The 2010 JSRRC memorandum did not constitute a service department record that triggered a renewed obligation to reconsider Morse’s claim. View "Morse v. McDonough" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing the claims brought by two unions, which represented public employees in Puerto Rico, and one of their members against the United States, the Financial Oversight and Management Board, and the Commonwealth, holding that Plaintiffs lacked standing.In their complaint, Plaintiffs raised a range of claims under federal constitutional and international law concerning the legal status of Puerto Rico. The district court dismissed Plaintiffs' claims for declaratory relief for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that Plaintiffs failed to allege concrete and particularized injuries that their requested relief could redress. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs did not meet their burden to satisfy the federal constitutional requirements for standing. View "UECFSE v. United States" on Justia Law

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The 1972 Shakman Decree enjoined the City of Chicago and county officials from governmental employment practices based in politics. A 1983 Decree enjoined those officials from conditioning hiring or promotions on any political considerations. After the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment’s prohibition against patronage-based firings extends to promotion, transfer, recall, or hiring decisions involving public employment for which party affiliation is not an appropriate requirement, the Clerk of Cook County entered a separate consent decree. In 1992 the Voters Organization joined the Shakman complaint. The court has dismissed some entities and officials, including Chicago and its Park District, as showing substantial compliance. In 2010 the Clerk and other defendants consented to a magistrate judge conducting further proceedings. A new magistrate and a new district judge were assigned in 2020.In 2019, plaintiffs moved for supplemental relief. The magistrate found that the Clerk violated the 1991 Decree, that the evidence strongly suggested that the Clerk’s policy of rotating employees was “instituted for the purpose" of evading the 1972 Decree, appointed a special master to oversee compliance within the Clerk’s Office, and refused the Clerk’s request to vacate the Decrees. The Seventh Circuit, noting that it lacked authority to review the appointment of the special master, affirmed the denial of the request to vacate. Sounding a “federalism concern,” the court noted the permitting a consent decree over an arm of state or local government to remain on a federal docket for decades is inconsistent with our federal structure. View "Shakman v. Clerk of Cook County" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion for attorneys' fees in this Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) action against the DOJ. The panel concluded that plaintiff obtained relief through a judicial order that changed the legal relationship between the parties, and thus he is eligible for a fee award under 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(4)(E)(ii)(I). In this case, plaintiff initially submitted a FOIA request for records related to the alleged electronic surveillance of President Trump and his advisors during the 2016 election. The DOJ responded with a Glomar response. After plaintiff filed suit, President Trump declassified a memorandum that divulged the existence of responsive records and the DOJ then agreed to turn over any newly revealed, non-exempt documents by a specific date.The panel explained that Congress passed the OPEN Government Act of 2007, which provided that a plaintiff may establish eligibility for FOIA attorneys' fees in one of two ways: (1) where the relief sought resulted from a judicial order or consent decree and (2) where a voluntary change in position afforded the plaintiff relief. The panel remanded to the district court to determine whether plaintiff is entitled to fees given the unique circumstances underlying the government's change of position. View "Poulsen v. Department of Defense" on Justia Law