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Indiana’s blocked-crossing statute bars railroads from blocking railroad-highway grade crossings for more than 10 minutes, except in circumstances outside the railroads’ control. Ind. Code 8-6-7.5-1. Violations are Class C infractions and carry a minimum $200 fine. In one year, Norfolk Southern collected 23 blocked-crossing citations for violations near its Allen County trainyard. Norfolk argued that the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA), 49 U.S.C. 10101, and the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) expressly preempt Indiana’s statute. The trial court found that train-switching maneuvers, track congestion, and mechanical defects can all cause traffic blockages lasting more than 10 minutes, and that, to shorten blockages, Norfolk would have to run trains faster, run shorter trains, or “cut” trains into segments—an onerous process that requires more than 10 minutes of reassembly and brake tests. The court granted Norfolk summary judgment on all 23 citations. The Court of Appeals reversed. The Indiana Supreme Court reinstated the trial court decision. Indiana’s blocked-crossing statute is a remedy that directly regulates rail operations, so the ICCTA categorically preempts it. View "State of Indiana v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co." on Justia Law

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In these consolidated cases, plaintiffs alleged that their mortgage servicers, SLS and Caliber, breached plaintiffs' loan contracts, as well as an implied coverage of good faith and fair dealing, by charging inflated amounts for force-placed insurance. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the cases under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, holding that the filed-rate doctrine applied because plaintiffs challenged a rate filed with regulators. Therefore, plaintiffs' claims were barred because the filed-rate doctrine precluded any judicial action which undermined agency rate-making authority. View "Patel v. Specialized Loan Servicing, LLC" on Justia Law

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Hyatt is the named inventor on more than 70 patents and approximately 400 pending applications, all filed before June 1995. With numerous amendments, those pending applications contained approximately 115,000 total claims by 2015. Each application incorporates and claims priority from applications dating back to the early 1970s. By 2015, the Patent Office (PTO) dedicated 14 full-time patent examiners to Hyatt’s applications. In the mid-2000s, the PTO started issuing final rejections, prompting appeals to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB); the examiners never filed answers to Hyatt’s briefs, preventing PTAB from acquiring jurisdiction over his appeals. In 2013, the PTO issued formal “Requirements,” that Hyatt limit the number of claims from each patent family to 600 absent a showing that more were necessary, identify the earliest possible priority date and supporting disclosure for each selected claim, and present a copy of the selected claims to the PTO. The Federal Circuit upheld the "unique requirements." The PTO reopened prosecution of 80 previously-rejected applications. In 2014, Hyatt sued, alleging the PTO unreasonably delayed examination of his applications by reopening prosecution rather than letting PTAB hear his appeals. The PTO won summary judgment. Hyatt filed a petition (5 U.S.C. 553(e)) requesting that the PTO either repeal Manual of Patent Examining Procedure 1207.04 or declare it unenforceable. Section 1207.04 describes an examiner’s ability to, “with approval from the supervisory patent examiner, reopen prosecution to enter a new ground of rejection in response to appellant’s brief.” The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Hyatt’s 2016 suit challenging the denial of that petition. Hyatt’s claims are either time-barred or reliant on mistaken statutory interpretation. View "Hyatt v. United States Patent and Trademark Office" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Coalition for a Livable City (CLC) appealed the denial of its Public Records Act (PRA) and its request to the City of Burlington for an unredacted financial feasibility study provided by a private developer to a contractor hired by the City of Burlington to help the City assess the viability of the developer’s plans. The development plans included some public improvements to be financed with tax dollars. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded the redacted information fell under the PRA trade-secrets exemption, and as such, was exempt from disclosure. View "Long v. City of Burlington" on Justia Law

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Claimant Lionel Beasley appealed a decision of the Employment Security Board, which denied him unemployment compensation benefits because it found that he performed services for an educational institution and was considered to have a reasonable assurance to perform services in a similar capacity for the next regularly scheduled academic term under 21 V.S.A. 1343(c)(1). Claimant was first employed by Champlain College as an adjunct professor during the 2015-2016 academic year. He taught three classes during both the fall and spring terms. At the end of the spring 2016 term, claimant applied for unemployment compensation benefits. Although his claim was initially denied by a claims adjudicator, on appeal, an administrative judge reversed and granted benefits. In granting benefits, the administrative judge noted that because claimant had not received an employment offer letter for the upcoming academic term and had been notified that at least one of his classes may not be offered due to low enrollment, “the uncertainties for the upcoming term are sufficiently great that [claimant] cannot be said to have a reasonable assurance of returning to the same or similar work that he performed in the previous academic term.” However, at the end of the spring 2017 term, he again applied for unemployment compensation benefits and was denied. The claims adjudicator found he had a reasonable assurance of employment during the following term. The administrative judge agreed with the claims adjudicator that claimant had reasonable assurance to perform the same services during the next academic term and noted that claimant “and his attorney want[ed] to interpret the term ‘reasonable assurance’ as an absolute guarantee of employment, and that simply is not the correct interpretation.” The administrative judge commented that “the Department [of Labor] must only find that it is highly probable that the same job is available, and the credible facts in the record show[ed] that to be the case in this instance.” Claimant appealed the administrative judge’s decision to the Employment Security Board. After hearing and review, the Board issued a decision upholding the denial because it found the administrative judge’s conclusions “factually supported and legally correct.” Finding no reversible error in the Board's adjudication, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed denial of benefits. View "Beasley v. Department of Labor (Champlain College, Inc., Employer)" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant, S.A. (Mother), appealed the termination of her parental rights to N.G., a boy born in 2005. She argued the juvenile court erroneously failed to ensure that plaintiff-respondent, Riverside County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS), fully investigated N.G.’s paternal lineal ancestry and gave adequate notices of the proceedings to all federally recognized Cherokee tribes and to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and related California law. After review, the Court of Appeal agreed Mother’s claim had merit and conditionally reversed the judgment. The Court also concluded that DPSS had to be ordered to further investigate N.G.’s paternal lineal ancestry, and include any newly discovered information concerning N.G.’s paternal lineal ancestry in the ICWA notices to all federally recognized Cherokee tribes, the BIA, and all previously noticed tribes. DPSS was also ordered to inquire whether N.G. may have maternal lineal ancestry and, if so, send additional ICWA notices, as appropriate. View "In re N.G." on Justia Law

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The Lum family sued two police officers and the North Slope Borough for trespass and invasion of privacy after an allegedly unlawful entry into the Lums’ home. The superior court dismissed both claims on summary judgment, reasoning that the officers were protected by qualified immunity under state law because the Lums had not produced sufficient evidence that the officers acted in bad faith. The Alaska Supreme Court reversed the superior court’s decision because there were genuine issues of material fact as to whether they acted in bad faith. View "Lum v. Koles" on Justia Law

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A taxi driver injured in an accident while working filed a report with the Alaska Workers' Compensation Board. The nature of the relationship between the taxi company and the driver was disputed. The driver retained an attorney for a lawsuit against the other driver, and settled that claim with the other driver's insurance company without his taxi company's approval. Because the taxi company did not have workers' compensation insurance, the Alaska Workers' Compensation Benefits Guaranty Fund assumed responsibility for adjusting the workers' compensation claim. The Fund asked the Board to dismiss the taxi driver's claim because of the unapproved settlement. The Board dismissed the claim, and the Workers' Compensation Appeals Commission ultimately affirmed the Board's decision. The taxi driver appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the Commission's decision. View "Atkins v. Inlet Transportation & Taxi Service, Inc." on Justia Law

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William Hendrickson, Jr. worked as a fire safety inspector with the Department of Community Affairs. While on duty, he uttered an obscene and belittling remark about a female supervisor overheard by two of his colleagues. The DCA brought three disciplinary charges against Hendrickson. In September 2014, after a departmental hearing on the disciplinary charges, the DCA issued an order terminating Hendrickson’s employment. The ALJ held that Hendrickson uttered a gender slur in a workplace environment and therefore violated the State’s policy prohibiting gender discrimination and engaged in conduct unbecoming a public employee. Although the ALJ was troubled by Hendrickson’s failure to acknowledge his wrongdoing, she reasoned that removal was “too harsh” a punishment given Hendrickson’s lack of a disciplinary record in the fifteen months before and nine months after the incident. She instead ordered Hendrickson suspended for six months. The ALJ forwarded the decision to the Civil Service Commission, and both parties filed exceptions. Hendrickson argued that the discipline was too severe, and the DCA argued that termination was the appropriate punishment. Failing to reach a quorum, the ALJ's decision was deemed adopted by the Civil Service Commission. The Appellate Division reversed the ALJ’s decision and reinstated the DCA’s termination of Hendrickson’s employment, acknowledging the ALJ’s decision “was 'deemed-adopted’ as the Commission’s final decision. Nevertheless, the panel held that because the vacancies on the Commission disabled it from forming a quorum and acting, “the deemed-adopted statute does not require traditional deferential appellate review of the ALJ’s decision.” The New Jersey Supreme Court determined the Appellate Division erred in suggesting appellate review of a disciplinary sanction imposed by a judge was de novo and different from traditional appellate review of an agency determination. Consequently, and based on a deferential standard of review, the Supreme Court could not conclude the ALJ's decision was shocking to a sense of fairness, and affirmed the ALJ's decision. View "In the Matter of William R. Hendrickson, Jr., Department of Community Affairs" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit granted ANR's petition for review challenging FERC's decision refusing to allow ANR to charge market-based rates, as opposed to cost-based rates, for its natural gas storage services. The court held that FERC acted arbitrarily and capriciously because it did not provide any reasonable justification for allowing DTE affiliates but not ANR to charge market-based rates. Furthermore, FERC's market-power analysis was internally inconsistent. The court also held that ANR's remaining contentions lacked merit. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "ANR Storage Co. v. FERC" on Justia Law