Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Department of Workforce Services, Unemployment Insurance Commission denying Jesse Gerber unemployment benefits, holding that the Commission correctly determined that Gerber was not eligible for employment benefits. The Commission determined that Gerber had left work voluntarily without good cause and did not qualify for the "returning to approved training" exception in Wyo. Stat. Ann. 27-3-311(a)(i)(B). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Gerber did not meet the conditions of the statutory exception, and therefore, the Commission's decision denying Gerber unemployment benefits conformed with the law. View "Gerber v. State ex rel., Department of Workforce Services" on Justia Law

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In 1996 Lee murdered an Arkansas family of three in pursuit of funds for a white supremacist organization. Lee was convicted of capital murder in aid of racketeering, 18 U.S.C. 1959(a)(1), and sentenced to death. His execution was scheduled for December 9, 2019, but was stayed by one district judge in connection with Lee’s 28 U.S.C. 2241 habeas petition, and another who was hearing a challenge to the federal execution protocol. In December 2019, the Seventh Circuit vacated the stay in the section 2241 proceeding. The D.C. Circuit vacated the injunction in the execution-protocol case in April 2020. Lee’s execution was rescheduled for July 13. On July 7, family members of the victims sought an injunction; they want to attend the execution although they oppose it. The Warden authorized them to be witnesses, but they object to carrying out the execution during the COVID-19 pandemic. They raise health concerns, citing age, underlying medical conditions, and the need to travel interstate to reach the Terre Haute prison. A district judge issued a preliminary injunction. The Seventh Circuit vacated that injunction, finding the Administrative Procedures Act claim frivolous. The challenged action—setting an execution date—may not be judicially reviewable; the Bureau of Prisons observed the minimal regulatory requirements and has the unconstrained discretion to choose an execution date. In addition, the plaintiffs have no statutory or regulatory right to attend the execution and are not “adversely affected or aggrieved,” 5 U.S.C. 702. View "Peterson v. Barr" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was injured while performing work in the Adult Offender Work Program (AOWP), he filed suit against the county for its failure to accommodate his preexisting physical disability and failure to engage in the interactive process under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the county. The court held that an individual sentenced to perform work activities in lieu of incarceration in the absence of any financial remuneration, is precluded, as a matter of law, from being an "employee" within the meaning of the FEHA. The court explained that, while remuneration alone is not a sufficient condition to establish an individual is an employee under the statute, it is an essential one. Because plaintiff earned no sufficient financial remuneration as a result of participation in the AOWP, he could not be deemed an employee under the FEHA. The court did not reach plaintiff's remaining arguments. View "Talley v. County of Fresno" on Justia Law

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In May 2020, the chairs of the California Assembly and Senate committees that consider election-related matters prepared a formal letter to Governor Gavin Newsom indicating they were working on legislation to ensure Californians could vote by mail in light of the emergency occasioned by COVID-19. The Governor issued Executive Order No. N-64-20 on May 8, 2020, which required all voters to be provided vote-by-mail ballots. That order affirmed, however, that the administration continued to work “in partnership with the Secretary of State and the Legislature on requirements for in-person voting opportunities and how other details of the November election will be implemented” and “[n]othing in this Order is intended, or shall be construed, to limit the enactment of legislation on that subject.” The order was signed on June 3, 2020. The issue presented for the Court of Appeal's review concerned an order of the Sutter County Superior Court, entered on June 12, 2020, granting a temporary restraining order against the Executive Order, finding it constituted “an impermissible use of legislative powers in violation of the California Constitution and the laws of the State of California.” The Court of Appeal determined there was no basis for the superior court to grant real parties in interest relief using ex parte procedures prescribed by California law. "The hearing on the ex parte application, conducted only one day after the underlying action was filed in superior court, was held without proper notice to the Governor or his appearance. Apart from these procedural deficiencies, real parties in interest also failed to make the requisite substantive showing for use of an ex parte proceeding. In short, the real parties in interest failed to present competent evidence establishing imminent harm from the Governor’s executive order requiring immediate action." View "Newsome v. Superior Court (Gallagher)" on Justia Law

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The Court of Chancery quashed a subpoena the Department of Finance, acting on behalf of the State Escheator, used to AT&T Inc. in its current form, holding that the State Escheator had the authority to issue the subpoena but that AT&T met its burden to show that the scope of the subpoena was so expansive that enforcement would constitute an abuse. The Escheat Law authorizes the State Escheator to conduct examinations of companies' books and records to determine whether they had complied with statutory requirements of the Escheat Law, 12 Del. C. 1130-1190. When the Department began examining the books and records of AT&T and AT&T refused to produce two categories of information, the Department issued an administrative subpoena for the missing information. AT&T refused to comply and filed a federal action alleging that the State Escheator and two other state officials took actions that violated federal law and the Constitution. The Department responded by bringing this action to enforce the subpoena. AT&T responded with a motion to modify or quash the subpoena. The Court of Chancery quashed the subpoena in its current form, holding that enforcing the subpoena as written would be an abuse of the court's process. View "State, Department of Finance v. AT&T, Inc." on Justia Law

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Allison Leigh broke her ankle when she slipped and fell in her employer’s icy parking lot. Following surgery she had a complicated recovery. Her employer began to controvert benefits related to the ankle about nine months after the injury. Three years after the injury, her employer requested that she sign a release allowing it to access all of her mental health records for the preceding 19 years because of her pain complaints. Leigh asked for a protective order from the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board. The Board’s designee granted the protective order, and the employer appealed that decision to the Board. A Board panel reversed the designee’s decision. Leigh petitioned the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Appeals Commission for review, but the Commission declined. The Alaska granted Leigh's petition for review and found that the statute permitted an employer to access the mental health records of employees when it was relevant to the claim, even if the employee did not make a claim related to a mental health condition. This matter was remanded back to the Board for further proceedings to consider reasonable limits on the release at issue here. View "Leigh v. Alaska Children's Services" on Justia Law

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The Bachner Company leased office space to the State of Alaska. The lease stipulated that the State would occupy 15,730 square feet of space but would not have to pay rent on 1,400 square feet of that space during the lease’s initial ten-year term. The lease further specified that if it was extended beyond the initial term the parties would negotiate a rate for the free space and the State would pay for it. Toward the end of the initial term the State exercised its first renewal option and opened negotiations with the company over the free space’s value. The parties retained an expert to value the space, but the State questioned his methods and conclusions. The State also resisted the company’s claim that the State should begin paying rent for additional space, not identified in the lease, that the company contended the State had been occupying. The parties failed to reach agreement, and the State did not pay rent for any of the extra square footage. Eventually the State executed a unilateral amendment to the lease based on the expert’s valuation and, ten months after the end of the lease’s initial term, paid all past-due rent for the formerly free space identified in the lease. The company filed a claim with the Department of Administration, contending that the State had materially breached the lease, the lease was terminated, and the State owed additional rent. A contracting officer rejected the claim, and on appeal an administrative law judge found there was no material breach, the lease had been properly extended, and the company had waived any claim regarding space not identified in the lease. The Commissioner of the Department of Administration adopted the administrative law judge’s findings and conclusions. The superior court affirmed the Commissioner’s decision except with regard to the space not identified in the lease; it directed the company to pursue any such claim in a separate action. Both parties appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the administrative law judge's findings were supported by substantial evidence, and because the lease did not terminate under the Supreme Court's interpretation of it, the Court affirmed the Commissioner's decision except with regard to the company's claim to rent for space not identified in the lease. The Court concluded that, to the extent it sought rent after the end of the initial term, it was not waived by the document on which the administrative law judge relied to find waiver. Only that issue was remanded to the Commissioner for further consideration. View "Bachner Company, Inc. v. Alaska Department of Administration" on Justia Law

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Office worker Sallyanne Butts (f/k/a Decastro) fell from her chair onto her hands and left knee. She initially suffered left knee symptoms and later developed right knee problems and lower back pain that she alleged arose from the fall. She argued the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board erred when it performed its presumption analysis and when it awarded compensation for her left knee and back for only a limited period of time following the accident. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded: the Board appropriately considered the knee injuries and the back injury as distinct injuries and applied the presumption analysis accordingly; that the Board properly relied on the conflicting medical evidence to make its own legal decision about which of Butts’s conditions were compensable; and that the Board was not required to award compensation for knee replacement surgeries performed five years after the accident. The Court therefore affirmed the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Appeals Commission’s decision affirming the Board. View "Butts v. Alaska Department of Labor & Workforce Development" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied a petition for review of orders related to FERC's efforts to remove existing barriers to the participation of electric storage resources (ESRs) in the Regional Transmission Organization and Independent System Operator markets (RTO/ISO markets), independent, nonprofit companies that manage segments of the federal grid. The court held that petitioners failed to show that Order Nos. 841 and 841-A run afoul of the Federal Power Act's jurisdictional bifurcation or that they are otherwise arbitrary and capricious. After determining that petitioners have standing to bring their claims and that the matters are ripe for review, the court held that because the challenged orders do nothing more than regulate matters concerning federal transactions – and reiterate ordinary principles of federal preemption – they do not facially exceed FERC's jurisdiction under the Act. The court also held that FERC's decision to reject a state opt-out was adequately explained. View "National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated petitions, petitioners challenged area designations promulgated by the EPA for the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) applicable to ground-level ozone, i.e., smog. The court found that at least one petitioner has standing to challenge each of the designations at issue. In this case, Government Petitioners have adequately demonstrated standing based on direct injuries rather than parens patriae status. On the merits, the court granted Jefferson County's petition and held that EPA has, without explanation, treated similarly situated areas—Jefferson and Boles—differently and drawn conflicting conclusions from the same data. Therefore, such inconsistent treatment is the hallmark of arbitrary agency action and requires further explanation from the EPA. The court also granted petitions for review for Monroe County, Ottawa County, Weld County, Door County, and Sheboygan County. The court denied Lake County's petition for review and granted EPA's motion to remand. View "Clean Wisconsin v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law