Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries
L.A. Waterkeeper v. State Water Resources Control Bd.
The Regional Water Quality Control Board, Los Angeles Region (Regional Board) renewed permits allowing four publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) to discharge millions of gallons of treated wastewater daily into the Los Angeles River and Pacific Ocean. The Regional Board issued the permits over the objections of Los Angeles Waterkeeper (Waterkeeper). Waterkeeper sought a review of the permits before the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board), and the State Board declined to review. Waterkeeper then filed petitions for writs of mandate against the State and Regional Boards (collectively, the Boards). Waterkeeper further alleged the Regional Board issued the permits without making findings required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The trial court issued four judgments and four writs of mandate directing the State Board to evaluate whether the discharges from each of the four POTWs were reasonable and to develop a factual record to allow for judicial review of whatever decision the State Board reached. The Second Appellate District affirmed the trial court’s judgments in favor of the Boards and reversed judgments and writs of mandate against State Board. The court agreed with the trial court that the Regional Board had no duty to evaluate the reasonableness of the POTWs’ discharges when issuing the permits. The Regional Board’s purview is water quality, not reasonable use, and the Legislature has not authorized the Regional Board to determine whether a POTW’s discharges could be put to better use. The court further held that Waterkeeper has not adequately pleaded entitlement to mandamus against the State Board, and the trial court should have sustained the State Board’s demurrer. View "L.A. Waterkeeper v. State Water Resources Control Bd." on Justia Law
Wolverine Pipe Line Co. v. United States Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
Wolverine transports refined petroleum products in its 700-mile pipeline system. These pipelines run from refineries in the Chicago area to terminals and other pipelines in and around Indiana and Michigan. Because Wolverine transports refined petroleum, a hazardous liquid, the company is subject to safety standards, 49 U.S.C. 60101, and falls into the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) regulatory orbit. A few years ago, PHMSA conducted a routine inspection of Wolverine’s records, procedures, and facilities and identified several issues. PHMSA sent Wolverine a Notice of Probable Violation, which acts as an informal charging document, and described nine potential violations of PHMSA’s regulations, including a dent with metal loss on the topside of a pipe segment, with respect to which Wolverine did not meet an “immediate repair” requirement. Wolverine missed a 180-day repair requirement for other deficiencies.The Sixth Circuit affirmed a $65,800 civil penalty. The court rejected Wolverine’s arguments that PHMSA’s action was arbitrary and violated its due process rights. Wolverine had adequate notice and, to the extent Wolverine believes another approach would better achieve PHMSA’s desired policy outcomes, its argument is one for resolution by PHMSA. View "Wolverine Pipe Line Co. v. United States Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration" on Justia Law
Tuluksak Native Community v. Dept. of Health & Soc. Srvs.
removed an Alaska Native child from his mother and placed him with a relative, the child experienced suicidal ideation and checked himself into a psychiatric facility. Following a period of seemingly voluntary care, OCS requested a hearing to place the child at an out-of-state secure residential psychiatric treatment facility. The child’s Tribe intervened and challenged the constitutionality of AS 47.10.087, the manner in which evidence was received, and alleged due process violations. The child joined in some of these objections. The superior court ordered the child placed at a secure residential psychiatric treatment facility per AS 47.10.087. The Tribe, but not the child, appealed the placement decision, contending primarily that the superior court erred in proceeding under AS 47.10.087 and in making its substantive findings, and plainly erred in authorizing placement pursuant to AS 47.10.087 without addressing the Indian Child Welfare Act’s (ICWA) placement preferences. The Alaska Supreme Court found no error in the court’s application of AS 47.10.087 or its substantive findings, and thus affirmed the superior court’s placement determination. The Court expressed concern that the trial court failed to make required inquiries and findings related to ICWA’s placement preferences. However, this did not amount to plain error. The Supreme Court did not reach the Tribe’s other arguments as the Tribe has either waived them or lacked standing to raise them. View "Tuluksak Native Community v. Dept. of Health & Soc. Srvs." on Justia Law
Sierra Club v. Stanek
The Supreme Court dismissed this case involving permits issued in 2017 and 2018 by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) to four different swine confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), holding that current circumstances rendered moot the legal challenges brought by Sierra Club.In 2017, Husky Hogs LLC formulated a plan to rebuild and expand its CAFO. As part of the plan, the rebuild planners formed Prairie Dog Pork, LLC, which was granted a portion of Husky Hogs' property. Thereafter, KDHE granted each LLC a permit. Subsequently, the same group of landowners created two additional LLCs to further their growing capacities and were given permits from KDHE. Sierra Club brought this lawsuit alleging that the permits issued to the four CAFOs violated the surface water setback requirements of Kan. Stat. Ann. 65-1,180. The district court held that the permits were unlawful. The CAFOs appealed, and while the appeal was pending KDHE issued four new permits to the CAFOs reflecting new legal descriptions of the four facilities. The court of appeals remanded the case with directions to reinstate the 2017 and 2018 permits, which were no longer operational. The Supreme Court dismissed the case, holding that there was no longer any actual controversy concerning the 2017 and 2018 permits. View "Sierra Club v. Stanek" on Justia Law
Board of Supervisors for Lowndes County v. Lowndes County School District
The Board of Supervisors for Lowndes County appealed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the Lowndes County School District. The Board argued that the trial court erred in its interpretation of Mississippi Code Section 37-57-107(1) (Rev. 2014) and that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to review the Board’s September 15, 2020 decision to exclude $3,352,0751 from the District’s requested ad valorem tax effort. The Mississippi Supreme Court found that the District appealed the decision of a county board of supervisors. As such, the District’s exclusive remedy was Section 11-51-75. Because the District failed to meet these requirements and because Section 11-51-75 was the District’s exclusive remedy, the chancery court was without jurisdiction to hear this matter and issue a declaratory judgment. Therefore, the trial court’s grant of summary judgment was reversed, and the matter remanded to the chancery court for it to enter an order dismissing the case for lack of jurisdiction. View "Board of Supervisors for Lowndes County v. Lowndes County School District" on Justia Law
State ex rel. DeBlase v. Ohio Ballot Bd.
In this action arising from an initiative petition proposing a constitutional amendment entitled "The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety" the Supreme Court held that Relators, registered Ohio voters, were not entitled to a writ of mandamus.The Ohio Ballot Board and its members determined that the initiative petition proposed a single constitutional amendment to the Ohio Constitution that would protect an individual's "right to make and carry out one's own reproductive decisions." Relators commenced this action ordering the Board to issue a determination that the petition contained more than one amendment. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that the ballot board did not abuse its discretion or disregard applicable law in determining that petition at issue contained a single constitutional amendment. View "State ex rel. DeBlase v. Ohio Ballot Bd." on Justia Law
Indigenous Lifeways v. N.M. Compilation Comm’n Advisory Comm.
A constitutional amendment proposed by the Legislature and approved by the electorate in the 2020 general election made a number of changes governing the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (Commission or PRC). Those changes included alterations to the selection, qualifications, and terms of Commission members, and revision to the PRC’s constitutionally assigned responsibilities. Petitioners were three nonprofit organizations who represented the rights of Native Americans. Petitioners asked the New Mexico Supreme Court to declare the ratification of the constitutional amendment a nullity and to issue a writ of mandamus directing Respondent Advisory Committee of the New Mexico Compilation Commission (Advisory Committee) to remove the amendment from the Constitution. The Advisory Committee responded that Petitioners’ challenge was untimely and improperly raised against the committee through a petition for writ of mandamus, but took no position on the merits. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, who was granted leave to intervene in these proceedings, joined the Advisory Committee’s timeliness arguments and additionally argued that the amendment was constitutional. After hearing oral arguments, the Supreme Court denied the petition for writ of mandamus, holding that the petition was timely, but that the amendment did not violate Article XIX, Section 1 of the New Mexico Constitution. View "Indigenous Lifeways v. N.M. Compilation Comm'n Advisory Comm." on Justia Law
Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice v. Oklahoma
Petitioners filed this original proceeding objecting to two pieces of legislation passed by the Oklahoma legislature during the 2022 legislative session: S.B. 1503 and H.B. 4327. Both acts prohibited abortion after certain cutoff points while providing for a civil enforcement mechanism; both acts prohibited enforcement by the State, its subdivisions, and its agents--instead, the bills created a cause-of-action maintainable by any person for performing, or aiding and abetting the performance of, an abortion in violation of the acts. Petitioners challenged the bills on many grounds, but the Oklahoma Supreme Court did not address them here. The Court held both bills were unconstitutional; the Court found it unnecessary to address the Petitioners' request for injunctive relief and/or writ of prohibition or Respondents' claims that Petitioners did not have a justiciable claim against them. Petitioners' request for injunctive relief and/or a writ of prohibition was denied. View "Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice v. Oklahoma" on Justia Law
South River Watershed Alliance, et al. v. DeKalb County, Georgia
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and Georgia Department of Natural Resources (“GDNR”) sued DeKalb County for violating the Clean Water Act (“CWA”). To resolve this suit, the parties agreed to a consent decree in 2011. Eight years later, South River Watershed Alliance, Inc. (“South River”) and J.E. sued DeKalb County for failing to follow the decree and violating the CWA. The CWA authorizes citizen suits for enforcement purposes, but such suits are not allowed when an “administrator or State has commenced and is diligently prosecuting a civil or criminal action . . . to require compliance with the standard, limitation, or order.” Thus, this case turned on whether the 2011 consent decree—along with the ongoing efforts of the EPA and GDNR to require compliance—constitutes diligent prosecution. The district court determined that South River’s suit was barred by the diligent prosecution bar. On appeal, South River argued for the opposite result and requests injunctive relief to ensure DeKalb County’s compliance. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that South River wants the current consent decree discarded in favor of a more muscular alternative. The fact that South River disagrees with the prosecution strategy undertaken by the EPA and GDNR, however, is not enough to prove that the EPA and GDNR have failed to diligently prosecute DeKalb County’s CWA violations. To the contrary, the record shows that the EPA and GDNR have been diligent, which means that South River’s suit is barred under 33 U.S.C. Section 1365(b)(1)(B). View "South River Watershed Alliance, et al. v. DeKalb County, Georgia" on Justia Law
CSHV 1999 Harrison, LLC v. County of Alameda
CalSTRS is a “unit of the Government Operations Agency” authorized to invest the assets of the Teachers’ Retirement Fund (Ed. Code, 22001, 22203). In 2016, CalSTRS formed two LLCs for the purpose of acquiring two properties in Oakland. Both LLC agreements state “The purpose of the Company is to implement the essential governmental function of the Member ([CalSTRS]) … No other person or entity may become a member of the Company.” “For Federal and relevant State income and/or franchise tax purposes and for no other purposes whatsoever, the Company shall be disregarded as an entity separate from [CalSTRS].” The LLCs paid documentary transfer taxes of $3,371,250 to Oakland, and $247,225 to Alameda County for the acquisition of one property and $161,250 to Oakland, and $11,825 to Alameda County in connection with the other property. The LLCs unsuccessfully sought refunds.The superior court ruled “[t]he LLCs are not governmental entities even if a governmental entity is the sole member of the LLC” and the ordinances do not “provide a textual basis for an exemption for transactions in which a business entity takes ownership of real property based on that entity’s ownership” by an exempt state agency. The court of appeal affirmed, finding that the competing interests at stake are a matter for the legislature. View "CSHV 1999 Harrison, LLC v. County of Alameda" on Justia Law