Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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Nicholas Reineke appeals a district court judgment affirming the administrative hearing officer’s decision to suspend his driver’s license for 365 days. Reineke was arrested for driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor. On May 5, 2019, a temporary operator’s permit was issued to Reineke. On May 15, Reineke requested an administrative hearing. The envelope containing Reineke’s request was returned undeliverable due to an incorrect mailing address for the Department of Transportation. Reineke argued he renewed the request for hearing when he resent the request to the correct mailing address on May 23, 2019. On May 31, an administrative proceeding occurred without providing Reineke notice and without him present. The hearing officer concluded the Department did not have jurisdiction to grant Reineke an administrative hearing because he did not request a hearing in time as required by statute. The hearing officer suspended his license for 365 days. The district court affirmed. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded Reineke’s untimely request for a hearing did not invoke the Department’s jurisdiction for a hearing. Therefore, the Department and the hearing officer did not have authority to hold the hearing. The only authority the Department had was to administratively revoke Reineke’s license as outlined in N.D.C.C. 39-20-05(1), after expiration of the temporary operator’s permit. Because the hearing officer did not follow the statute, the order was not in accordance with the law. The Supreme Court reversed the district court judgment, and vacated the hearing officer’s order. The Court rejected Reineke’s request to reverse the hearing officer’s decision and reinstate his driving privileges, and remanded for the Department to administer suspension of Reineke’s driving privileges according to law. View "Reineke v. N.D. Dept. of Transportation" on Justia Law

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Workforce Safety and Insurance (WSI) appealed a district court judgment reversing an Administrative Law Judge's (ALJ) confirmation of a prior order of WSI. In 2014, Ellis began receiving partial disability benefits. In 2016, Ellis underwent a functional capacity assessment and further review by WSI. WSI determined Ellis continued to be eligible to receive partial disability benefits, but at a reduced amount. WSI ordered his partial disability benefits be reduced by the greater of his actual wages or his retained earning capacity as had been determined by WSI. Ellis appealed the WSI order, triggering review by the ALJ. WSI contended the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Ellis’ appeal of the ALJ’s decision because his appeal to the district court was untimely. The North Dakota Supreme Court found the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Ellis failed to timely file his appeal of the ALJ's decision. The Court therefore ordered the district court judgment vacated, and reinstated the decision of the ALJ. View "Ellis v. WSI" on Justia Law

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Minn-Kota Ag. Products, Inc. appealed a district court order dismissing Minn-Kota’s appeal of findings of fact, conclusions of law and order issued by the North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC) for lack of standing and affirming an administrative law judge’s (ALJ) order denying Minn-Kota’s petition to intervene. In 2017, Minn-Kota began construction of a large, $20 million grain handling facility near the municipalities of Barney and Mooreton, North Dakota. During construction of the facility, Minn-Kota received proposals to provide electric power to the facility from Otter Tail Power Co., an electric public utility, and Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative, a rural electric cooperative. Minn-Kota determined Otter Tail would provide cheaper and more reliable electric service and chose Otter Tail as its preferred provider. Dakota Valley protested Otter Tail’s application and requested a hearing. Otter Tail and Dakota Valley were represented at the hearing, and each offered evidence and testimony. Minn- Kota was not a formal party represented at the hearing and, other than the testimony offered by Schuler, Minn-Kota did not contribute to the hearing. In December 2017, the PSC held a work session to contemplate and discuss Otter Tail’s application. The concerns expressed by the PSC at the work session made it clear the PSC was likely going to deny Otter Tail’s application. As a result, Minn-Kota submitted a petition to intervene, which an ALJ determined Minn-Kota submitted after the deadline to intervene had passed, and denied it. Minn-Kota argued it has standing to appeal the PSC’s decision because it participated in the proceedings before the PSC, and the PSC’s decision should be reversed because it was not supported by the facts or law. In the alternative, Minn-Kota argued the case should have been remanded to the PSC and it should have been allowed to intervene and introduce additional evidence into the record. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined Minn-Kota had standing, but did not provide a compelling argument on how Otter Tail did not adequately represent its interests at the administrative hearing or throughout the entirety of the proceedings. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and thus affirmed the PSC's order. View "Minn-Kota Ag Products, Inc. v. N.D. Public Service Commission, et al." on Justia Law

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During the 2009-2010 term, James was a senator in the Virgin Islands Legislature. The Legislature maintained a fund for Legislature-related expenses. James used a large portion of the checks issued to him by the fund for personal expenses and his re-election campaign. James obtained these checks by presenting invoices purportedly associated with work on a historical project. In 2015, James was charged with two counts of wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343 and one count of federal program embezzlement, 18 U.S.C. 666(a)(1)(A). The Third Circuit affirmed his convictions, upholding a ruling that allowed the prosecution to introduce evidence of acts outside the limitations period, 18 U.S.C. 3282(a), and the substitution of an excused juror with an alternate after the jury had been polled. The court rejected a claim of prosecutorial misconduct based on the prosecution calling two witnesses concerning an eviction dispute. The court had instructed the government not to discuss the eviction case in its opening; neither witness testified about the eviction case. The Third Circuit also upheld a ruling that permitted the use of a chart as a demonstrative aid to accompany the case agent’s testimony, with an instruction that the jury that it should consider the chart as a guide for testimony, not as substantive evidence. View "United States v. James" on Justia Law

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After the plaintiffs’ disability claims were denied by ALJs employed by the Social Security Administration (SSA), the Supreme Court held in Lucia v. SEC (2018), that ALJs in the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) exercised “significant discretion” in carrying out “important functions” and were required, under the Appointments Clause, to be appointed by the President, a court of law, or the head of a department. Because the SEC ALJs were not so appointed, the petitioner there was entitled to a new hearing. When Lucia was decided, the plaintiffs were already in the process of challenging the SSA’s denial of their claims in the district court and demanded new hearings on the ground that the SSA ALJs were unconstitutionally appointed. The Acting Commissioner of SSA quickly reappointed the administrative judges but argued that the plaintiffs were not entitled to relief because they had not previously presented their Appointments Clause challenges to their ALJs or the Appeals Council and had not exhausted those claims before the agency. The district court declined to require exhaustion, vacated the agency’s decisions, and remanded for new hearings. The Third Circuit affirmed. Both the characteristics of the SSA review process and the rights protected by the Appointments Clause favor resolution of these claims on the merits, so exhaustion is not required in this context. View "Cirko v. Commissioner Social Security" on Justia Law

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Baez-Sanchez, a citizen of Mexico, is removable. His conviction for aggravated ba]ery of a police officer renders him inadmissible, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I). He applied for a U visa, which is available to some admissible aliens who have been victims of crime in this country. An IJ granted a waiver of inadmissibility, 8 U.S.C. 1182(d)(3)(A)(ii). The BIA remanded with instructions to consider an additional issue. The IJ did so and reaffirmed. The BIA then concluded that the power to waive inadmissibility belongs to the Attorney General alone and may not be exercised by immigration judges. The Seventh Circuit held that 8 C.F.R. 1003.10(a) permits IJs to exercise all of the Attorney General’s powers, except those expressly reserved by some other regulation. The BIA concluded that the court's decision was incorrect and did not consider the issues remanded by the court. Baez-Sanchez filed another petition for review. The Seventh Circuit vacated, stating that it had “never before encountered defiance of a remand order.” Article III judicial power is not subject to disapproval or revision by another branch of government. The Attorney General, the Secretary, and the BIA are free to maintain, in another case, that the decision was mistaken but they are not free to disregard a mandate in the very case making the decision. An immigration judge has ruled in favor of Baez-Sanchez; all issues have been resolved. Baez-Sanchez may seek a U visa. View "Baez-Sanchez v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Jessica Wrigley brought a negligent investigation claim against the Washington Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) based on the placement of her son, A.A., with his biological father, Anthony Viles, during dependency hearings. Within three months of the placement, Viles killed A.A. The superior court dismissed Wrigley’s claim on summary judgment, finding the duty to investigate was never triggered. The Court of Appeals reversed, finding the “trigger” was Wrigley’s prediction that Viles would harm A.A. The Washington Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals, finding a report predicting future abuse absent evidence of current or past conduct of abuse or neglect did not invoke a duty to investigate under RCW 26.44.050. View "Wrigley v. Washington" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Lake County Board of Commissioners, sitting as the Lake County Drainage Board (Board), approving the application for permits filed by Steven Carmody and Edward Becker to install drain tile on their respective properties in Lake County, holding that the circuit court did not err when it affirmed the Board's decision to issue the drainage permits. James Carmody objected to both permits and appealed the Board's approval of the permits to the circuit court. The circuit court applied the abuse of discretion standard of review and affirmed the Board's approval of the drainage permits. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court (1) applied the correct standard of review and burden of proof to Carmody's appeal of the drainage permits; and (2) did not abuse its discretion when it affirmed the Board's decision to issue the drainage permits. View "Carmody v. Lake County Board Of Commissioners" on Justia Law

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Farid Hedayatzadeh (Hedayatzadeh) appealed following the trial court's summary judgment in favor of the City of Del Mar (the City) in his lawsuit arising out of the death of his 19-year-old son, who was struck by a train on an oceanfront bluff in Del Mar on property owned by North County Transit District (NCTD). Specifically, Hedayatzadeh argued the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on his single cause of action alleging a dangerous condition of public property based primarily on the City's failure to erect any barriers to prevent pedestrians from accessing NCTD's train tracks. On the night at issue, Javad Hedayatzadeh and his friends walked around the guardrail at the end of 13th Street, down an unimproved dirt embankment, and crossed the train tracks. The group then walked northbound on the west side of the tracks to a spot where they sat and smoked marijuana. They knew they were trespassing on NCTD property. At various points along the railroad right-of-way, NCTD has installed signs stating "No Trespassing," "Danger" and "Railroad Property." Javad noticed a freight train coming from the south and told his friends that he was going to use his phone to take a video "selfie" of himself next to the train. As Javad was near the train tracks taking the selfie, he was struck by the train and killed. After filing an unsuccessful claim under the Government Claims Act, Javad's father, Hedayatzadeh, filed this lawsuit against the City, NCTD, and BNSF Railway Company, which allegedly operated the freight train. The Court of Appeal concluded that, as a matter of law, the City's property at the end of 13th Street did not constitute a dangerous condition of public property even though the City did not take action to prevent pedestrians from accessing the train tracks on NCTD's adjacent right-of-way by walking around the guardrail at the end of the street. View "Hedayatzadeh v. City of Del Mar" on Justia Law

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Oklahoma Senate Bill 608 mandated that manufacturers of the top 25 brands of liquor and wine sell their product to all licensed wholesalers. Appellees, a group of liquor and wine wholesalers, manufacturers, retail liquor stores, and consumers, challenged Senate Bill 608 as unconstitutional, contending it was in conflict with Okla. Const. art. 28A, section 2(A)(2)'s discretion given to a liquor or wine manufacturer to determine what wholesaler sells its product. The district court agreed and ruled Senate Bill 608 unconstitutional. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held SB 608 was "clearly, palpably, and plainly inconsistent" with Article 28A, section 2(A)(2)'s discretion given to a liquor or wine manufacturer to determine what wholesaler sells its product. Furthermore, the Court ruled that SB 608 was not a proper use of legislative authority as Article 28A, section 2(A)(2) was not in conflict with the Oklahoma Constitution's anticompetitive provisions. The district court, therefore, did not err by granting Distributors' Motion for Summary Judgment and ruling SB 608 unconstitutional. View "Institute For Responsible Alcohol Policy v. Oklahoma ex rel. Alcohol Beverage Laws Enforcement Comm." on Justia Law