Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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Daisy Arias suffered sustained, egregious sexual harassment for most of the time she was employed by defendant-petitioner, Blue Fountain Pools & Spas, Inc. The primary culprit was defendant-petitioner, Sean Lagrave, a salesman who worked in the same office as Arias. Arias says Lagrave did everything from repeatedly asking her for dates to grabbing her and describing "his own sexual prowess." Arias complained about Lagrave’s conduct repeatedly over the course of her employment, but things came to a head on April 21, 2017: Lagrave yelled at Arias in front of coworkers, used gender slurs, and then physically assaulted her, bumping her chest with his own. Arias called the police and later left work. Arias told the owner, defendant-petitioner, Farhad Farhadian, she wasn’t comfortable returning to work with Lagrave. Farhadian did nothing initially, refused to remove Lagrave, then terminated Arias’s health insurance, and finally told Arias to pick up her final paycheck. Though Farhadian claimed Arias had quit, she says she was fired. Arias filed a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing and received a right to sue letter on August 14, 2017. She then filed this lawsuit alleging, relevant to this appeal, hostile work environment sex discrimination and failure to prevent sexual harassment. Petitioners moved for summary judgment, seeking, among other things, to have the hostile work environment claim dismissed as time-barred and the failure to prevent harassment claim dismissed as having an insufficient basis after limiting the allegations to the conduct that wasn’t time-barred. The trial court concluded Arias had created a genuine issue of material fact as to all her causes of action and denied the motion. Petitioners brought a petition for writ of mandate, renewing their statute of limitations argument, claiming Arias could not establish a continuing violation because she admitted she had concluded further complaints were futile. The Court of Appeal concluded Arias has shown she could establish a continuing violation with respect to all the complained of conduct that occurred during Farhadian’s ownership of the company. Further, the Court determined there was a factual dispute over whether and when Arias’s employer made clear no action would be taken and whether a reasonable employee would have concluded complaining more was futile: "that question must be resolved by a jury." The Court denied petitioners' request for mandamus relief and remanded the matter for further proceedings. View "Blue Fountain Pools and Spas Inc. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Four consolidated appeals presented a question of whether medical providers who provided services under California’s Medi-Cal program were entitled to reimbursement for the costs of providing in-house medical services for their own employees through “nonqualifying” self-insurance programs. Even for nonqualifying self-insurance programs, however, the Provider Reimbursement Manual allowed providers to claim reimbursement for reasonable costs on a “claim-paid” basis. Oak Valley Hospital District (Oak Valley) and Ridgecrest Regional Hospital (Ridgecrest) had self-insurance programs providing health benefits to their employees. Claims for in-house medical services to their employees were included in cost reports submitted to the State Department of Health Care Services (DHS). DHS allowed the costs when Oak Valley and Ridgecrest employees received medical services from outside providers but denied costs when the medical services were provided in-house. DHS determined claims paid to Oak Valley and Ridgecrest out of their self-insurance plan for in-house medical services rendered to their employees were not allowable costs. The trial court granted Oak Valley and Ridgecrest's the writ petitions on grounds that costs of in-house medical services were reimbursable so long as they were “ ‘reasonable’ ” as defined by the Provider Reimbursement Manual. DHS appealed in each case. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded Oak Valley’s and Ridgecrest’s self-insurance programs did not meet the requirements of a qualified plan under CMS guidelines and Provider Reimbursement Manual. The Court of Appeal rejected DHS’s contention that Oak Valley and Ridgecrest costs relating to in-house medical services for their employees were inherently unreasonable. To the extent DHS argued the cost reports were not per se unreasonable, but unreasonable under the circumstances of the actual treatments of Oak Valley and Ridgecrest employees, the Court determined the evidence in the record supports the trial court’s findings that expert testimony established Oak Valley and Ridgecrest incurred actual expenses in providing in-house medical services for their employees that were not otherwise reimbursed. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the trial court’s granting of the petitions for writs of administrative mandate. View "Oak Valley Hospital Dist. v. Cal. Dept. of Health Care Services" on Justia Law

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While in office, Courser, a former Republican member of the Michigan House of Representatives, had an affair with another representative, Gamrat. The defendants were legislative aides assigned to Courser and Gamrat. Worried that he and Gamrat eventually would be caught, Courser concocted a plan to get ahead of the story by sending out an anonymous email to his constituents accusing himself of having an affair with Gamrat, but including outlandish allegations intended to make the story too hard to believe. Courser unsuccessfully attempted to involve one of the defendants in the “controlled burn.” The defendants reported Courser’s affair and misuse of their time for political and personal tasks to higher-ups. In retaliation, Courser directed the House Business Office to them. After they were fired, the defendants unsuccessfully tried to expose the affair to Republican leaders, then went to the Detroit News. Courser resigned and pleaded no contest to willful neglect of duty by a public officer.Courser later sued, alleging that the defendants conspired together and with the Michigan House of Representatives to remove him from office. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of all of Courser’s claims: 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 1985; violation of the Fair and Just Treatment Clause of the Michigan Constitution; computer fraud; libel, slander, and defamation; civil stalking; tortious interference with business relationships; negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress; RICO and RICO conspiracy; intentional interference with or destruction of evidence/spoliation; and conspiracy. View "Courser v. Allard" on Justia Law

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Osen filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) seeking military investigation records from terrorist attacks that occurred in Iraq between 2004 and 2011. The district court applied the official disclosure doctrine and concluded that CENTCOM could not withhold certain classified images contained in those records because another component of the DOD had previously disclosed that information.The Second Circuit held that, although similar images from other, unrelated terrorist attacks have been produced in the past, no component of DOD has ever disclosed images of the attacks for which Osen seeks records in this case. Therefore, CENTCOM did not waive its right to withhold the images that Osen requested under the official disclosure doctrine. The court also held that it must give substantial weight to CENTCOM's position that disclosure of those classified images will pose a risk to national security, and thus CENTCOM properly withheld the images at issue under the first exemption from FOIA production. Accordingly, the court vacated in part and reversed the district court's decision, remanding to the district court. View "Osen LLC v. United States Central Command" on Justia Law

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The Randolph-Sheppard Act, 20 U.S.C. 107, requires government agencies to set aside certain contracts for sight-challenged vendors. States license the vendors and match them with available contracts. In 2010, Michigan denied Armstrong’s bid for a contract to stock vending machines at highway rest stops. A state ALJ ruled in Armstrong’s favor and recommended that she get priority for the next available facility/location. The state awarded Armstrong an available vending route later that year. Armstrong nonetheless requested federal arbitration, seeking nearly $250,000 in damages to account for delays in getting the license. The arbitrators ruled that Armstrong was wrongfully denied the location she sought and ordered Michigan to immediately assign Armstrong the Grayling vending route but declined to award damages, reasoning that her request was “too speculative.”The district court upheld the arbitration award and rejected Armstrong’s 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims, concluding that the Randolph-Sheppard Act created the sole statutory right to relief under federal law. Michigan subsequently granted her the Grayling license. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The unfavorable arbitration decision was not arbitrary or capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act. Armstrong may not sue under 42 U.S.C. 1983 to vindicate her rights under the Randolph-Sheppard Act. View "Armstrong v. Michigan Bureau of Services for Blind Persons" on Justia Law

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Mick and Cecilia Manns made unsuccessful applications for preference rights to purchase certain Alaska State land. The Mannses argued they were entitled to a preference right under AS 38.05.035(f) based on their business use of the land beginning in the mid­ 1970s. But this statute required the Mannses to establish business use beginning at least five years prior to State selection; in this case, the State selection occurred in 1972. The statute also required the Mannses to show some income reliance on the land for the five years preceding their application, but the Mannses did not submit any such evidence. The Alaska Supreme Court therefore affirmed the superior court’s decision affirming the decision of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to deny the Mannses’ application. View "Manns v. Alaska, Dept. of Nat. Rec., Div. of Mining, Land & Water" on Justia Law

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Kirby Vickers filed a grievance letter with Idaho Board of Veterinary Medicine (the Board”) against a veterinarian requesting that they take various disciplinary actions. After an investigation, the Board declined to take any action against the veterinarian. Vickers then filed suit in district court, seeking to compel the Board to hold a hearing. The district court dismissed his suit for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. On appeal, Vickers argued his letter to the Board initiated a contested action for which he was entitled to judicial review. To this, the Idaho Supreme Court disagreed, finding that a private citizen could not initiate a "contested case" with a grievance letter. Vickers points to the language in caselaw: “[t]he filing of a complaint initiates a contested case,”to argue that any public citizen could file a complaint pursuant to Idaho Rule of Administrative Procedure of the Attorney General (“IDAPA”) 04.11.01.240.02 and begin a contested case. However, the Supreme Court found both the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and the corresponding IDAPA rules, addressed only agency actions. "Vickers cannot apply these rules to his grievance letter, even if it was referred to as a “complaint” in correspondence from the Board, because it is not an agency action under the APA or IDAPA." The Court affirmed the district court's order dismissed this case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. View "Vickers v. Idaho Bd of Veterinary Medicine" on Justia Law

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On petition for rehearing en banc, the en banc court held that the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives has standing under Article III of the Constitution to seek judicial enforcement of its duly issued subpoena. This case arose when the Committee began an investigation into alleged misconduct by President Trump and his close advisors. The Committee requested that Donald F. McGahn, II turn over documents related to the President's alleged obstruction of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller's investigation. When McGahn, then no longer White House Counsel, declined these requests, the Committee issued a subpoena ordering McGahn to appear at a hearing to testify and to produce the requested documents.The en banc court held that the Committee, acting on behalf of the full House of Representatives, has shown that it suffers a concrete and particularized injury when denied the opportunity to obtain information necessary to the legislative, oversight, and impeachment functions of the House, and that its injury would be redressed by the order it seeks from the court. The court explained that the ordinary and effective functioning of the Legislative Branch critically depends on the legislative prerogative to obtain information, and constitutional structure and historical practice support judicial enforcement of congressional subpoenas when necessary. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court in part. View "Committee on the Judiciary of the United States House of Representatives v. McGahn" on Justia Law

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In May 2018, appellants Green Mountain Fireworks, LLC and its owner Matthew Lavigne, began selling fireworks from a retail store in Colchester, Vermont. As described in their complaint, the “intended purpose” for the store was “to sell retail fireworks to consumers.” In relation to the retail store, appellants obtained a license from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) as a “Type 53 - Dealer of Explosives.” They also got a building permit and a certificate of occupancy from the Town Zoning Administrator. These zoning permits were the only two permit applications appellants submitted to the Town. The issue this appeal presented for the Vermont Supreme Court's review centered on whether 20 V.S.A. 3132(a)(1) authorized municipalities to grant permits for the general retail sale of fireworks to consumers who do not hold valid permits to display those fireworks. Appellants appealed the superior court's dismissal of two actions: (1) their appeal of the Town of Colchester selectboard’s denial of their application for a permit to sell fireworks pursuant to 20 V.S.A. 3132(a)(1); and (2) their request for a declaratory judgment that, even without that distinct permit, they had “all possible and applicable permits” and were permitted under section 3132 to sell fireworks in the manner described in their complaint. The Supreme Court concluded that section 3132(a)(1) required a distinct permit for the sale of fireworks, but did not authorize a permit for the general retail sale of fireworks along the lines proposed by appellants. The only fireworks sales authorized by statute were sales to the holder of a display permit for the purpose of the permitted display. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgments. View "Green Mountain Fireworks, LLC, et al. v. Town of Colchester et al." on Justia Law

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Taxpayer Gabriel Martinez appealed a Property Valuation and Review Division (PVR) hearing officer's decision setting the fair market value of his property for purposes of the 2017 Town of Hartford grand list. Taxpayer argued the hearing officer erred in estimating fair market value based on sales of comparable properties because the value was conclusively established by the price taxpayer paid for the property in a contemporaneous arms-length transaction. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court held that, although the recent arms-length sale price constituted strong presumptive evidence of the fair market value of the property, the hearing officer did not commit legal error in considering other evidence of fair market value. In addition, the Court concluded the appraisal was rationally derived from the findings and evidence. View "Martinez v. Town of Hartford" on Justia Law