Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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For almost 60 years, Schnitzer has operated a scrap-metal shredding and recycling facility. The Department of Toxic Substances Control acquired regulatory authority over metal-shredding facilities in the 1980s and issued Schnitzer certification under Code of Regulations, title 22, section 66260.200 2 (an (f) letter)--a conditional nonhazardous waste classification, allowing Schnitzer to handle and dispose of its treated metal-shredder waste as nonhazardous although the material otherwise meets the state’s definition of hazardous waste. In 2014, the Hazardous Waste Control Law (HWCL) Health & Safety Code 25150.82, specifically addressed metal-shredding facilities.The trial court concluded that section 25150.82 imposed a mandatory duty on the Department to rescind the (f) letters, such that Schnitzer must handle its treated metal-shredder waste as hazardous. The court of appeal reversed. After the adoption of section 25150.82, the Department commissioned a study, addressing environmental problems associated with metal shredding. Based on that study, the Department initiated regulatory actions aimed at metal-shredding facilities and their untreated waste. Metal shredders must comply with the HWCL but the study confirmed that once metal-shredding waste has been appropriately treated, it can be safely handled and disposed of as non-hazardous. Schnitzer’s (f) letter authorizing this practice was issued under an HWCL regulation, and there is no basis for concluding it does not comply with the HWCL. View "Athletics Investment Group, LLC v. Department of Toxic Substances Control" on Justia Law

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California law requires notification to “a local law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction in which the theft or loss occurred” when a gun is lost or stolen. (Penal Code 25250(a)), within five days of the time when the owner or possessor knew or reasonably should have known that the firearm had been stolen or lost. Morgan Hill adopted its own missing firearm reporting requirement, requiring notification to the Police Department within 48 hours of discovering a gun is missing if the gun owner lives in Morgan Hill, or the loss occurs there.A Morgan Hill resident and the California Rifle & Pistol Association sued, asserting the ordinance is preempted by the state law's five-day reporting requirement. The trial court found no preemption and granted the city summary judgment. The court of appeal affirmed. Local governments are free to impose stricter gun regulations than state law. If it is possible to violate the ordinance without violating state law, as it is here, there is no duplication. The ordinance does not contradict state law. Given the significant local safety interests at stake, cities are allowed to impose more stringent firearm regulations than state law prescribes. View "Kirk v. City of Morgan Hill" on Justia Law

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This appeal arises from a legislative invocation given by an invited, guest speaker before the opening of a Jacksonville City Council meeting. A City Council member  Anna Brosche, and a then-mayoral candidate, invited Plaintiff to give the invocation at the March 12, 2019, City Council meeting. When Plaintiff transitioned to levying criticisms against the City’s executive and legislative branches, the president of the City Council at the time, A.B., interrupted Plaintiff and later cut off his microphone.  Plaintiff brought suit against both the City and A.B. in his personal capacity. In his first two counts, actionable under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, Plaintiff alleged that both the City and Mr. Bowman violated his First Amendment rights under the Free Exercise Clause (Count I) and the Free Speech Clause (Count II) of the United States Constitution. The district court granted the Defendants’ motion to dismiss in part and denied it in part.   The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court erred in deeming Plaintiff’s invocation to be private speech in a nonpublic forum, the court affirmed the district court’s orders on the alternative ground that the invocation constitutes government speech, not subject to attack on free speech or free exercise grounds. The court explained that he did not bring a claim under the Establishment Clause. And since his invocation constitutes government speech, his speech is not susceptible to an attack on free speech or free-exercise grounds. View "Reginald L. Gundy v. City of Jacksonville, Florida, et al" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming in part and reversing and remanding in part the judgment of the district court denying Energy Policy Advocates' motion to compel and dismissing its civil action against seeking production of certain documents under the Data Practices Act, holding that this Court formally recognizes the common-interest doctrine in Minnesota.Energy Policy submitted document requests under the Data Practices Act, Minn. Stat. 130.01 through 13.90, related to climate-change litigation to the Office of the Attorney General. At issue on appeal was the existence and scope of the applicability of the attorney-client privilege to internal communication among attorneys in public law agencies, the common-interest doctrine, and the section of the Data Practices Act governing Attorney General data. The Supreme Court held (1) the common-interest doctrine is formally recognized in Minnesota; (2) the attorney-client privilege may apply to protect the confidentiality of internal communications among attorneys in public law agencies; and (3) the Legislature's classification of Attorney General data under Minn. Stat. 13.65, subdivision 1 as "private data on individuals" even when the data do not pertain to "individuals" is upheld. View "Energy Policy Advocates v. Ellison" on Justia Law

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The Alaska Legislature created and funded the Higher Education Investment Fund (HEIF) to provide annual grants and scholarships to students pursuing post-secondary education in Alaska. The HEIF later was identified as potentially eligible for a sweep of its unappropriated funds. After the Legislature failed in 2021 to garner a supermajority vote required to prevent the sweep, a group of students (the Students) sued the Governor in his official capacity, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the Department of Administration (collectively the Executive Branch), alleging that the HEIF was not sweepable. The superior court agreed with the Executive Branch, and the Students appealed. Because a previous case interpreting the constitutional provision governing the Constitutional Budget Reserve (CBR) controlled, the Alaska Supreme Court declined to reject that precedent, and affirmed the superior court's determination that the HEIF was sweepable. View "Short, et al. v. Alaska Office of Management & Budget" on Justia Law

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Attorney David Graham represented Sandra Rusch and Brenda Dockter in separate proceedings against the same employer before the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board. Rusch injured her back working for the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) in Klawock. Dockter sustained a knee injury at work for SEARHC in Sitka. After litigation, the parties successfully settled most issues with the assistance of a Board mediator. The parties were unable to resolve the amount of attorney’s fees SEARHC would pay for Graham’s work, so that issue proceeded to hearings, which the Board heard jointly. The Board awarded far less in attorney’s fees than the claimants sought. The Alaska Supreme Court reversed the Commission’s decisions, resolving most but not all issues in favor of the claimants, and remanded the case to the Commission with instructions to remand the case to the Board for further proceedings. The Supreme Court instructed the Board to consider the factors from the Alaska Rules of Professional Conduct to determine reasonable fees. After the Supreme Court awarded attorney’s fees to the claimants for their appeal to the Court, the claimants sought fees for their work in the first appeal to the Commission, asking the Commission to adopt the modified lodestar approach to awarding fees. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court was whether the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Act authorized the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Appeals Commission to award enhanced attorney’s fees to successful claimants for their attorneys’ work in a Commission appeal. The Commission decided the Act did not. But because the Commission’s decision rested on an incorrect interpretation of the Act and because the Commission failed to consider the claimants’ evidence and arguments in favor of enhancement, the Supreme Court reversed the decision and remanded the case to the Commission for further proceedings. View "Rusch v. Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium" on Justia Law

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In 2017, the State of Alabama sued, among others, Epic Tech, LLC ("Epic Tech"); K.C. Economic Development, LLC, d/b/a VictoryLand ("KCED"); and Sheriff Andre Brunson, in his official capacity as sheriff of Macon County (referred to collectively as "the Macon County defendants"). At around that same time, the State sued, White Hall Enrichment Advancement Team d/b/a Southern Star Entertainment ("Southern Star") and White Hall (referred to collectively as "the Lowndes County defendants"). In each action, the State sought an order declaring the illegal gambling operations conducted by the defendants to be a public nuisance and related injunctive relief. The State's complaint in each action was also accompanied by a motion seeking the entry of an order preliminarily enjoining the defendants from engaging in illegal gambling operations. In case nos. 1200798 and 1210064, the State appealed Macon Circuit Court and Lowndes Circuit Court orders denying the State's requests for injunctive relief. In case no. 1210122, defendants/counterclaim plaintiffs White Hall Entertainment and the White Hall Town Council (referred to collectively as "White Hall"), cross-appealed the Lowndes Circuit Court's order dismissing their counterclaims against the State. The Alabama Supreme Court consolidated these appeals. In case no. 1200798, the Court reversed the Macon Circuit Court order denying the State's request for preliminary injunctive relief and remanded the matter for that court to enter, within 30 days, a preliminary injunction enjoining the defendants' gambling operations in Macon County; in case no. 1210064, the Court reversed the Lowndes Circuit Court order denying the State's request for permanent injunctive relief and remanded the matter for that court to enter, within 30 days, a permanent injunction enjoining the defendants' gambling operations in Lowndes County; and in case no. 1210122, the Court affirmed the Lowndes Circuit Court's order dismissing White Hall's counterclaims. View "White Hall Entertainment, et al. v. Alabama" on Justia Law

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This case arises from a regulatory dispute involving a hydroelectric project. The project aimed to boost a municipality’s water supply. To obtain more water, the municipality proposed to raise a local dam and expand a nearby reservoir. But implementation of the proposal would require amendment of the municipality’s license with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted a discharge permit to the municipality. A group of conservation organizations challenged the Corps’ decision by petitioning in federal district court. While the petition was pending, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission allowed amendment of the municipality’s license to raise the dam and expand the reservoir. The Commission’s amendment of the municipality’s license triggered a jurisdictional question: if federal courts of appeals had exclusive jurisdiction over petitions challenging decisions made by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, did this jurisdiction extend to challenges against the Corps’ issuance of a permit to allow discharges required for the modification of a hydroelectric project licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission? The district court answered yes, but the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. The conservation organizations were challenging the Corps’ issuance of a permit, not the Commission’s amendment of a license. So the statute didn’t limit jurisdiction to the court of appeals. View "Save The Colorado, et al. v. Spellmon, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant, Ocean Bay Mart, Inc. (“Ocean Bay”), owned a 7.71- acre parcel of real property in the City of Rehoboth Beach (“the City”). In June 2015, Ocean Bay submitted a Site Plan to the City proposing to develop the property into 63 residential condominium units. Under the plan, the 7.71 acres would remain a single, undivided parcel. The development would be known as “Beach Walk.” The submission of the Site Plan set into motion a chain of events over whether Beach Walk could be approved as a single, undivided parcel or whether the project had to be subdivided into individual lots corresponding to the residential units. The events included a decision by the City’s Building Inspector that the project could not be approved as a single, undivided parcel; a decision by the City’s Board of Adjustment overruling the Building Inspector’s decision; a decision by the City’s Planning Commission, rendered after the Board of Adjustment’s decision, that the Site Plan could not be considered unless it was resubmitted as a major subdivision application; a decision by the City Commissioners upholding the Planning Commission; an appeal of the Commissioners’ decision to the Superior Court, which reversed the Commissioners; and the City’s adoption of three amendments to its zoning code. Ocean Bay filed this action with the Delaware Court of Chancery, alleging that it had a vested right to have its Site Plan approved substantially in the form submitted without going through major subdivision approval, and that the City was equitably estopped from enforcing the zoning code amendments against Beach Walk. After a trial, the Court of Chancery ruled that Ocean Bay did not have a vested right to develop Beach Walk as laid out on the Site Plan and the City was not equitably estopped from enforcing its new zoning amendments. Ocean Bay appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed. View "Ocean Bay Mart, Inc. v. The City of Rehoboth Beach Delaware" on Justia Law

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Petitioners Javier Vasquez and his employer, Matosantos International Corporation (MIC), appealed a New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board (CAB) determination that it could not order respondent, The Hartford Insurance Company, to pay workers’ compensation benefits to Vasquez. The CAB concluded that the Department of Labor (DOL), and therefore the CAB, lacked jurisdiction under the New Hampshire Workers’ Compensation Law to interpret the workers’ compensation insurance policy that MIC had purchased from The Hartford. Because the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the CAB did have jurisdiction to consider and resolve the coverage dispute between MIC and The Hartford, it vacated the CAB’s decision and remanded for its consideration, in the first instance, of whether the policy purchased by MIC covered Vasquez when he was injured while working in New Hampshire. View "Appeal of Vasquez" on Justia Law