Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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The Fifth Circuit denied Huawei's petition for review challenging an FCC rule barring the use of government subsidies to buy equipment from companies designated security risks to communications networks. As a preliminary matter, the court dismissed Huawei's claims related to the initial designation for lack of jurisdiction based on ripeness grounds.The court concluded that the FCC reasonably interpreted its authority under the Communications Act in formulating the rule. The court found that the agency reasonably interpreted the Act's "public interest" provisions (47 U.S.C. 254(c)(1)(D), in coordination with section 201(b)), to authorize allocation of universal service funds based on the agency's exercise of limited national security judgment. Furthermore, the agency reasonably interpreted the "quality services" provision in section 254(b)(1) to support that exercise. Therefore, the court deferred to the agency's interpretation under Chevron review and rejected Huawei's argument that the agency lacked statutory authority for the rule. The court also considered the companies' other challenges under the Administrative Procedure Act and the Constitution, finding that claims regarding adequacy of notice, arbitrary and capricious review, vagueness, and due process are unavailing. View "Huawei Technologies USA, Inc. v. Federal Communications Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals holding that the City of Waconia's ordinance was subject to the procedural requirements of Minn. Stat. 462.357 for municipal zoning, including notice and a public hearing.After Appellants began building a dock extending from their lakeshore property into the lake the City adopted an ordinance that prohibited the construction of the dock. When the construction was nearly complete the City filed a complaint seeking a permanent injunction under the new ordinance to halt further construction and require the dock's removal. The district court granted summary judgment for the City. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Appellants' appeal was timely; (2) the City's ordinance was subject to the procedural requirements of section 462.357; and (3) because the City failed to comply with the procedural requirements of section 462.357, the ordinance was void, and the permanent injunction against Appellants was also void. View "City of Waconia v. Dock" on Justia Law

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In this administrative appeal brought by the Kentucky Retirement Systems from the decision of the circuit court in two consolidated cases concerning application of Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.598 the Supreme Court held that the Retirement Systems improperly applied the statute to pay spikes to a certain extent.Section 61-598, commonly known as the pension spiking statute, identifies artificial increases in creditable compensation to public pension-member employees occurring in the last five years preceding retirement, effectively increasing the employee's retirement benefits. In both cases, the alleged spikes were partly due to a change in the Jefferson County Sheriff's office (JCSO) accounting method and partly due to the employees' accrual of overtime hours. The Retirement Systems assessed JCSO for payment increased actuarial costs attributable to the alleged pension spikes. The circuit court reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) an isolated transition in JCSO's new accounting method did not amount to an increase in compensation; (2) the Retirement Systems properly assessed the increased actuarial costs to the extent it was caused by regular overtime work and was not the result of a bona fide promotion or career advancement; and (3) the circuit court erred in reversing the Retirement System's original assignment of the burden of proving a bona fide promotion. View "Kentucky Retirement Systems v. Jefferson County Sheriff's Office" on Justia Law

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The County of Sacramento (County) filed an action to abate building and housing code violations at two properties owned or managed by Raj Singh and Kiran Rawat, individually and as trustee of the SitaRam Living Trust dated 2007 and the Sita Ram Trust. The trial court appointed a receiver under Health and Safety Code section 17980.7 to take control of and rehabilitate the properties upon the County’s motion. Singh appealed pro se the trial court’s order approving the receiver’s final account and report and discharging the receiver. The Court of Appeal addressed Singh's claims "as best as [the Court could] discern them." After careful consideration of Singh's claims, the Court found no reversible error and affirmed the trial court. View "County of Sacramento v. Rawat" on Justia Law

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T.W., the de facto parent of the minor, appealed a juvenile court’s order removing the minor from his and his wife’s care and placing the minor with her maternal relatives. He contended the juvenile court abused its discretion in entering the orders and that placement with the maternal relatives was not in the minor’s best interests. The respondent Sacramento County Department of Child, Family and Adult Services elected not to file an appellate brief, as its position was aligned with appellant’s position at the contested hearing giving rise to this appeal. The respondent minor, who argued in favor of placement with the maternal relatives, contended appellant did not have standing to raise the issue of placement in this appeal and, in any event, the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion in ordering placement with the maternal relatives. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded appellant lacked standing to contest the placement order, and dismissed the appeal. View "In re B.S." on Justia Law

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A mining company appealed the borough assessor’s valuation of its mine to the borough board of equalization. At a hearing the company presented a detailed report arguing the borough had improperly included the value of “capitalized waste stripping”when calculating the tax-assessed value of the mine. The assessor maintained its position that waste stripping was taxable, but reduced its valuation of the mine to better reflect the remaining life of the mine. The board approved the assessor’s reduced valuation of the mine and the superior court affirmed the board’s decision. The mine owners argued that waste stripping fell within a statutory exemption from taxation. The Alaska Supreme Court construed municipal taxing power broadly, and read exceptions to that power narrowly. The Court found waste stripping was not a “natural resource,” but an improvement that made it easier for miners to access natural resources. The Court concluded that the value of this improvement, like that of other improvements at the mine site, was subject to tax by the borough. The Court therefore affirmed the superior court’s decision affirming the board’s valuation. View "Fairbanks Gold Mining, Inc. vs. Fairbanks North Star Borough Assessor" on Justia Law

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Claimant John West appealed a Vermont Department of Labor decision concluding that the 2014 amendment to 21 V.S.A. 644(a)(6) did not apply retroactively. In March 2013, West fell fifteen to twenty feet while working in the course of his employment for North Branch Fire District. He was transported to the hospital and treated for extensive injuries. In September 2014, West relocated to Florida, and at some point thereafter, began working at the Freedom Boat Club. Between 2014 and 2016, several different physicians provided conflicting opinions on the level of West’s permanent impairment. In February 2016, Dr. Joseph Kandel conducted an independent medical examination (IME) at North Branch’s request. At a deposition in September 2018, Dr. Kandel testified that it would be accurate to say that “West suffered an injury to the skull resulting in [a] severe traumatic brain injury causing permanent and severe cognitive, physical, or psychiatric disabilities.” West filed a request for a formal hearing, asserting that he was permanently and totally disabled under section 644(a)(6). Between the date of West’s injury and his request for a formal hearing, the Vermont Legislature amended section 644(a)(6). In January 2019, North Branch filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that the pre-amendment version of 644(a)(6), which defined total and permanent disability as “an injury to the skull resulting in incurable imbecility or insanity,” applied to West’s claim because that was the law on the date of his injury in March 2013. Further, North Branch argued that the 2014 amendment did not apply retroactively because despite the Legislature’s stated purpose, the amendment created a substantive change in the law. In any event, because West was employed, North Branch maintained that he was not totally and permanently disabled under either version of 644(a)(6). West argued that, contrary to the Commissioner’s conclusion, the 2014 amendment to 644(a)(6) applied retroactively because it did not create any new substantive rights. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded the 2014 amendment applied retroactively and therefore reversed and remanded. View "West v. North Branch Fire District #1" on Justia Law

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A three-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Alameda County Superior Court (ACSC), the County, and the Sheriff’s Office governed court security services. The trial court held that the MOU did not obligate the Sheriff to provide a minimum level of court security services of 129 “FTEs” (full-time equivalents) after the MOU's expiration but rather entitled the County and the Sheriff to unilaterally reduce court security services if state funding was not sufficient to pay for 129 FTEs. The decision turned on the court's conclusion that MOU Exhibit C-3 permitted the Sheriff to reduce court security services during the last six months of the three-year MOU period and was the “deployment schedule” that remained in force after the MOU’s expiration.ACSC argued that Exhibit C-1, the deployment schedule that governed the level of court security during the first two years and required a minimum of 129 FTEs, was the only deployment schedule in the MOU, and remained in force after the MOU's expiration. The court of appeal reversed. Exhibit C-1’s provisions remained in force after the expiration of the MOU because Exhibit C-1 is the only portion of the MOU that meets the requirement of Government Code section 699261 that a court security MOU must specify an “agreed-upon level” of court security services. Exhibit C-3 did not satisfy that requirement. View "Superior Court v. County of Alameda" on Justia Law

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In this case involving the tragic crash of a sightseeing helicopter in Hawaii, at issue is whether communications between the NTSB and outside consultants must be disclosed to the public under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).The Fifth Circuit concluded that the outside parties solicited by the NTSB qualify as "consultants" under Exemption 5's corollary. The court explained that Department of the Interior v. Klamath Water Users Protection Association, 532 U.S. 1 (2001), does not stand for the broad principle that a consultant's "self-interest" always excludes it from Exemption 5. And, properly applied, the consultant corollary squarely covers the NTSB's communications with the non-agency parties here. The court further explained that subjecting the NTSB's communications with consultants to broad public disclosure would inhibit the agency's ability to receive candid technical input from those best positioned to give it. On remand, the district court will need to undertake the second facet of the Exemption 5 inquiry: determining whether the documents at issue are subject to a litigation privilege ordinarily available to a government agency. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Jobe v. National Transportation Safety Board" on Justia Law

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Petitioner challenged the EPA's 2019 withdrawal of its 2014 proposed determination to exercise its authority under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to restrict the ability of miners to operate in part of the Bristol Bay watershed in southwestern Alaska. The district court held that the EPA's decision was unreviewable pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 701(a)(2) and Heckler v. Chaney, 470 U.S. 821 (1985). The district court determined that neither the Clean Water Act nor the EPA's regulations include a meaningful legal standard governing the EPA's decision.Reviewing de novo, the panel held that (a) the Clean Water Act contains no meaningful legal standard in its broad grant of discretion to the EPA but that (b) the EPA's regulations do contain a meaningful legal standard. In particular, 40 C.F.R. 231.5(a) allows the EPA to withdraw a proposed determination only when an "unacceptable adverse effect" on specified resources is not "likely." Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's dismissal. The panel remanded for further proceedings to determine whether the EPA's withdrawal was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or contrary to law. View "Trout Unlimited v. Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp." on Justia Law