Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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Defendant the City of Tulsa (City), passed an ordinance creating a tourism improvement district that encompassed all properties within City which had hotels or motels with 110 or more rooms available for occupancy. Plaintiff-appellee Toch, LLC owned Aloft Downtown Tulsa (Aloft) with 180 rooms. Toch petitioned for a declaratory judgment that the ordinance was invalid for a variety of reasons, including that the district did not include all hotels with at least 50 rooms available. The court granted summary judgment to Toch based on its determination that City exceeded the authority granted in title 11, section 39-103.1. The question before Oklahoma Supreme Court was whether section 39-103.1 granted authority to municipalities to limit a tourism improvement district to a minimum room-count of a number larger than 50. To this, the Court answered in the affirmative, reversed the trial court, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Toch, LLC v. City of Tulsa" on Justia Law

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The Pueblos of Jemez, Santa Ana, and Zia resided along the Jemez River at a time when their lands passed from Spanish to Mexican sovereignty, and finally to the United States. In 1983, the United States initiated a water-rights adjudication for the Jemez River Basin, claiming water rights on behalf of the Pueblos. The issue this case presented for the Tenth Circuit's review centered on whether the Pueblos' aboriginal water rights were extinguished by the imposition of Spanish authority "without any affirmative adverse act." No matter the method used, the sovereign’s intent to extinguish must be clear and unambiguous; “an extinguishment cannot be lightly implied in view of the avowed solicitude of the Federal Government for the welfare of its Indian wards.” Moreover, “if there is doubt whether aboriginal title has been validly extinguished by the United States, any ‘doubtful expressions, instead of being resolved in favor of the United States, are to be resolved in favor of’ the Indians.” The Tenth Circuit reversed the district court, finding that while "All conquering sovereigns possess authority over their land and resources ... not until the sovereign exercises this authority through clear and adverse affirmative action may it extinguish aboriginal rights." View "United States v. Abouselman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Board of Tax Appeals (BTA) and the court of appeals affirming the decision of the tax commissioner that gross receipts earned by Defender Security Company between January 2011 and December 2013 were Ohio-taxable receipts under the commercial activity tax (CAT) law, holding that Appellant was entitled to relief on its statutory claim.The receipts at issue consisted of payments made to Defender by ADT Security Services, Inc. Defender filed a refund claim seeking the return of $73,334 for commercial activity tax paid on gross receipts for approximately three years. The tax commission denied the refund claim. The BTA agreed with the tax commissioner's conclusion that the proper situs of ADT funding should be Ohio and affirmed. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, under Ohio Rev. Code 5751.033(I), the situs of ADT funding receipts is ADT's physical location outside Ohio. The Court remanded the case to the tax commissioner with instructions that he issue refunds in the amount set forth in the refund claim, plus interest. View "Defender Security Co. v. McClain" on Justia Law

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Williams and a friend began a 30-mile bicycle ride. As they biked down a hill on a road maintained by Sonoma County, they encountered a pothole measuring four feet long, three feet four inches wide, and four inches deep. Williams was traveling at least 25 miles per hour and, by the time she saw the pothole, was unable to avoid it. She was thrown to the pavement, incurring serious injuries. The pothole had been reported to the County more than six weeks earlier. Williams sued the County for the dangerous condition of public property (Gov. Code 835). A jury found for Williams, allocating 70 percent of the fault to the County and 30 percent to Williams. Williams was awarded about $1.3 million in damages.The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting the County’s argument that Williams’s claim was barred by the primary assumption of risk doctrine, which precludes liability for injuries arising from those risks deemed inherent in a sport. Because the County already owed a duty to other foreseeable users of the road to repair the pothole, the policy reasons underlying the primary assumption of risk doctrine support the conclusion that the County owes a duty not to increase the inherent risks of long-distance, recreational cycling. View "Williams v. County of Sonoma" on Justia Law

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The California Contractors’ State License Board (CSLB) sought revocation or suspension of Sieg’s contractor’s license and restitution. The Accusation alleged that Sieg failed to follow spacing and fastening requirements when installing a hardwood floor, departing from trade standards in violation of Business & Professions Code 7109(a), and failed to complete a construction project for the agreed contract price in violation of section 7113. Sieg filed a Defense and filed a civil lawsuit against the homeowners, which was subsequently dismissed. After a hearing, the ALJ issued a proposed decision recommending a 65-day suspension and a three-year probation term including payment of $27,884.21 restitution. The Registrar adopted the ALJ’s proposed decision but eliminated the 65-day suspension term and required Sieg to obtain a disciplinary bond of $30,000.00 (section 7071.8), for three years.The trial court denied Sief relief. The court of appeal affirmed the decision as supported by substantial evidence, rejecting a due process claim. Sieg had the opportunity to cross-examine each of the CSLB’s witnesses, to present witnesses of his own, and to testify on his own behalf. The court noted that private agreements to depart from statutorily imposed workmanship standards provide no defense to an alleged violation of section 7109(a), in disciplinary enforcement proceedings. View "Sieg v. Fogt" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff suffered serious injuries when he was struck by a semi-tractor trailer, he filed suit against C.H. Robinson, the freight broker that arranged for the trailer to transport goods for Costco. Plaintiff alleged that C.H. Robinson negligently selected an unsafe motor carrier.The Ninth Circuit agreed with the district court that plaintiff's claim is "related to" C.H. Robinson's services, but held that the district court erred in determining that the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994's (FAAAA) safety exception does not apply. The panel explained that, in enacting that exception, Congress intended to preserve the States’ broad power over safety, a power that includes the ability to regulate conduct not only through legislative and administrative enactments, but also though common-law damages awards. The panel also held that plaintiff's claim has the requisite "connection with" motor vehicles because it arises out of a motor vehicle accident. Therefore, the negligence claims against brokers, to the extent that they arise out of motor vehicle accidents, have the requisite "connection with" motor vehicles, and thus the safety exception applies to plaintiff's claims against C.H. Robinson. The panel reversed and remanded. View "Miller v. C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc." on Justia Law

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Mote served in the Air Force, 1961-1965, participating in missions to Vietnam, where Agent Orange was deployed. Mote later developed coronary artery disease and lung cancer. In 2010, Mote filed a disability claim based. In 2013, Mote filed his Notice of Disagreement with the denial of that claim. He died months later. Mrs. Mote substituted for his claim and filed a dependency-and-indemnity compensation claim. The VA denied Mrs. Mote’s claim in 2015; she filed her Notice of Disagreement and requested a Board of Veterans’ Appeals “Travel Board hearing.”Mote sought mandamus relief, 28 U.S.C. 1651, alleging unreasonable delay. The Veterans Court denied the petition, applying the “Costanza” standard. The government claimed, due to limited resources, it “could not predict how long” Mote might have to wait for a hearing. The Federal Circuit consolidated her appeal with others and held that the Veterans Court should use the Telecommunications Research & Action Center v. FCC (TRAC) standard to evaluate unreasonable-delay mandamus petitions rather than the Costanza standard. On remand, Mote requested a “reasoned decision” from the Board (within 45 days) and periodic progress reports. In March 2019. the Board scheduled her Travel Board hearing for May 2019. The Veterans Court dismissed Mrs. Mote’s mandamus petition without applying the TRAC standard. The Board subsequently remanded for further factual findings.The Federal Circuit again remanded, for a TRAC analysis, noting that Mote sought progress reports, in addition to a decision, and that the Veterans Court was not powerless to fashion other relief, such as a more lenient, specific, deadline. Whether a delay is so egregious as to justify the extraordinary writ depends on issues that are likely to arise frequently among veterans. The Veterans Court is uniquely well-positioned to address these issues first. View "Mote v. Wilkie" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court remanded this case to the district court with instructions to determine whether excusable neglect extended Plaintiff's time to file the petition for review of the decision of the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) concluding that Plaintiff's infection was not compensable, holding that the record did not reveal whether the district court considered the question of excusable neglect.Plaintiff scraped his knuckle on a locker as he was getting ready to leave a trona mine, where he worked. The scrape developed necrotizing fasciitis, causing serious injuries. The Department of Workforce Services, Workers' Compensation Division, deemed Plaintiff's injury compensable. The OAH served an order concluding that Plaintiff's injuries were not compensable. The district court reversed, concluding that Plaintiff's infection was compensable. Plaintiff's employer appealed, arguing that the district court lacked jurisdiction because the petition for judicial review was untimely filed. The Supreme Court remanded the case for the limited purpose of determining whether excusable neglect extended the time for filing a petition for review. View "Tata Chemicals Soda Ash Partners, Ltd v. Vinson" on Justia Law

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Lowndes County, Georgia sued the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (“DCA”) and members of the DCA board over DCA’s application of the Service Delivery Strategy Act (“SDS Act”). The SDS Act authorized and promoted coordination and comprehensive planning among municipal and county governments to “minimize inefficiencies resulting from duplication of services and competition between local governments and to provide a mechanism to resolve disputes over local government service delivery, funding equity, and land use.” Lowndes County and the cities within the County (“the Cities”) operated under a service delivery strategy agreement implemented in 2008. In November 2016, when DCA had not received communication from the County and Cities that they had agreed either to revise their Strategy Agreement or to extend the existing one, DCA notified the County and Cities that they would be ineligible for state-administered financial assistance, grants, loans, or permits until DCA could verify that Lowndes County and the Cities had done so. The County sued the mayors and councils of the Cities, DCA, and DCA commissioner Camila Knowles, seeking declaratory, injunctive, and mandamus relief, as well as specific performance, arguing the 2008 Strategy Agreement remained in effect, and that the County and Cities remained eligible for state-administered financial assistance. Knowles and the DCA board members moved to dismiss on the basis that sovereign immunity barred the claims for injunctive and declaratory relief. They argued that those claims actually sought to order Knowles and the DCA board members to take action in their official capacities. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Georgia Supreme Court found the Georgia Constitution allowed only the General Assembly to waive the State’s sovereign immunity. "But that rule requires waiver only for claims that sovereign immunity actually bars." The Court found that one narrow limitation on such claims was that the State could not be the “real party in interest.” The Court of Appeals held that the relief sought here by a Lowndes County would actually control the actions of the State and potentially affect state expenditures; the Court of Appeals thus concluded that the State was the real party in interest and that sovereign immunity barred the county’s claims for injunctive and declaratory relief against the state officials in their individual capacities. "But the real-party-in-interest limitation is not so broad; our case law has applied it primarily when the claimed relief would control or take the State’s real property or interfere with contracts to which the State is a party. No such relief is sought here, and applying the limitation as broadly as the State seeks would eviscerate Georgians’ well- established rights to seek redress against their government." The Court therefore reversed the Court of Appeals and held that sovereign immunity did not bar the claims at issue in this case. View "Board of Commissioners of Lowndes County v. Mayor & Council of City of Valdosta et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals and Workers' Compensation Board affirming the determination of the Chief Administrative Law Judge (CALJ) denying Appellant's motion to reopen his workers' compensation claim as time barred, holding that the CALJ correctly denied Appellant's motion to reopen as untimely.In 1996 and 1997, Appellant incurred work-related injuries to his right and left shoulders. Income benefits were paid for his right shoulder injury, but no mention of the left shoulder injury appeared in the settlement agreement. In 2018, Appellant moved to reopen the left shoulder claim, asserting that he was entitled to income benefits based on a recent surgery and resulting increased impairment. The CALJ denied the motion. The Board and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant's motion was untimely. View "Slaughter v. Tube Turns" on Justia Law