Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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The Ninth Circuit granted a petition for review challenging the EPA's Final 2019 Rule, which was a response to this court's 2017 Writ of Mandamus directing the EPA to respond to the need for updated lead-based paint hazard standards. Petitioners contend that the 2019 Rule violated statutory provisions of the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazardous Reduction Act (PHA) that are codified in Title IV of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), as well as rulings of this court in the Writ.The panel concluded that the current dust-lead hazard standards, lead-based paint definition, and soil-lead hazard standards do not identify all levels of lead that lead to adverse human health effects and therefore violate the TSCA. Furthermore, the EPA has continually refused to update the lead-based paint definition on the ground that it lacks sufficient information. The panel concluded that its failure to explain why such lack of data has persisted for more than a decade, in the face of mounting evidence of lead-based paint dangers, is arbitrary and capricious. The panel explained that the failure to update the soil-lead hazard standards is unjustified in the face of the now undisputed evidence that there is no safe level of lead exposure. Because the dust-lead clearance levels concern the lead content of dust after abatement of dust-lead hazards, the dust-lead hazard standards (DLHS) and the clearance levels are interrelated. Consistent with its holding that the EPA must reconsider the DLHS, the panel directed the EPA to reconsider the dust-lead clearance levels as well in the same proceeding. View "A Community Voice v. United States Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit filed an order (1) amending its December 29, 2020, opinion issued on remand from the United States Supreme Court; and (2) denying on behalf of the court a sua sponte request for rehearing en banc. The panel reaffirmed the district court's order granting the CFPB's petition to enforce Seila Law LLC's compliance with the Bureau's civil investigative demand (CID) requiring the firm to produce documents and answer interrogatories. The amendments reflected that two of the panel's citations were to the plurality portion of the Supreme Court opinion.The panel held that the CID was validly ratified, but that there was no need to decide whether the ratification occurred through the actions of Acting Director Mulvaney. After the Supreme Court's ruling, the CFPB's current Director, Kathleen Kraninger, expressly ratified the agency's earlier decisions. Furthermore, at the time that she ratified these decisions, Director Kraninger knew that the President could remove her with or without cause. Therefore, the ratification remedied any constitutional injury that Seila Law may have suffered due to the manner in which the CFPB was originally structured. Seila Law advances two arguments challenging the validity of Director Kraninger's ratification, neither of which the panel found persuasive. For the reasons given in its earlier decision, the panel rejected Seila Law's arguments challenging the CFPB's statutory authority to issue the CID. View "Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Seila Law LLC" on Justia Law

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This case involved the constitutionality of a 2019 Alabama local law that appropriated a large portion of Morgan County's proceeds from the Simplified Sellers Use Tax ("SSUT") to the county and city boards of education in Morgan County. The Morgan County Commissioners appealed a judgment upholding the local law and contend that the local law violated Ala. Const. 1901 (Off. Recomp)., art. IV, section 105, because, they say, it created a variance with -- and changes the result under -- preexisting general laws. Because the subject of the local law was not provided for by general law, the Alabama Supreme Court held that it did not violate section 105 and therefore affirmed. View "Barnett v. Jones" on Justia Law

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Cary Reagan, Jr., appealed a circuit court judgment dismissing his action against the Alabama Department of Revenue ("the Department"); the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board ("the Board"); the members of the Board, including its chairman; the administrator of the Board; and the City of Tuscaloosa. The defendants' motions to dismiss were based principally on the doctrine of sovereign or State immunity. Reagan claims that the Board and the Department have been improperly calculating and collecting sales taxes from customers of retail liquor stores operated by the Board. He asked the trial court to certify a class consisting of himself and other customers of the Board's stores and to direct the defendants to deposit the allegedly overpaid taxes into a court-approved account for the benefit of the class members, to be administered by the trial court and from which attorney fees presumably would be paid. The Alabama Supreme Court found Reagan failed to acknowledge that the TBOR provided the exclusive means of seeking a refund of taxes without violating principles of sovereign immunity. “And, he has not established that his request for a declaratory judgment is anything more than a claim for a refund of sales taxes and an attempt to mask the substance of the monetary relief he seeks. Thus, he has not demonstrated that the trial court erred by concluding that this action is barred by sovereign immunity,” and, therefore, the Court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Reagan v. Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board" on Justia Law

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In 2011, the Navy published a job announcement for an Event Forum Project Chief, a full-time, permanent, GS-13/14-grade position. Two candidates—Beck and Wible—were certified as qualified for the position. Captain Payton selected Wible. Beck, had been in active Navy service from 1984 until his retirement in 2005 and had been promoted through a series of jobs relevant to the posted position. In 2001, Beck earned a bachelor’s degree in business with a GPA of 3.91; he earned a master’s degree in Human Resource Management and Development in 2002. In 2006, Beck rejoined the Navy workforce as a civilian Special-Events Planning Officer (SEPO), a GS-13-1 grade position. Beck had trained Wible. Payton had apparently first shown animosity toward Beck during a meeting in 2010.Beck filed a formal EEO action alleging discrimination based on race, gender, age, and disability, which engendered a retaliatory and hostile work environment. Beck resigned and unsuccessfully eventually sought corrective action from the Merit Systems Protection Board under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994.The Federal Circuit reversed in part. Preselection of the successful candidate can buttress an agency’s personnel decision to hire a less qualified candidate only when the preselection is not tainted by an unlawful discriminatory intent. The Board erred in finding that Beck’s non-selection would have occurred regardless of his prior military service as required under 38 U.S.C. 4311(c)(1). View "Beck v. Department of the Navy" on Justia Law

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Kevin Johnson, APLC, Kevin Johnson, and Jeanne MacKinnon (collectively, the attorney defendants) filed a petition for writ of mandate and complaint on behalf of their clients Christian Clews (Christian), Barbara Clews (Barbara), and Clews Land & Livestock, LLC (CLL) (collectively, Clews Horse Ranch) challenging a decision of the City of San Diego (City) to approve the construction of a private secondary school adjacent to the Clews’ commercial horse ranch. The petition asserted the City’s approval of the project and adoption of a mitigated negative declaration for the project violated the California Environmental Quality Act, the San Diego Municipal Code, and the City’s land use plan. The trial court denied relief and, in Clews Land and Livestock, LLC v. City of San Diego, 19 Cal.App.5th 161 (2017), the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment. Jan Dunning, Cal Coast Academy RE Holdings, LLC, and North County Center for Educational Development, Inc. (collectively, Cal Coast), the developers of the project and real parties in interest in the CEQA Litigation, then filed this lawsuit against Clews Horse Ranch and the attorney defendants for malicious prosecution. Cal Coast asserted the defendants lacked probable cause and acted with malice when they pursued the CEQA Litigation. The attorney defendants filed a special motion to strike Cal Coast’s complaint under the anti-SLAPP statute, to which the Clews Horse Ranch joined. The trial court denied the motion after finding that Cal Coast established a probability of prevailing on its malicious prosecution claim. Clews Horse Ranch and the attorney defendants appealed the order denying the anti-SLAPP motion. The Court of Appeal concluded Cal Coast established a probability of prevailing on its malicious prosecution claim against Clews Horse Ranch, but not against the attorney defendants. Therefore, the Court affirmed the order denying the anti-SLAPP motion as to Clews Horse Ranch, and reversed the order denying the anti- SLAPP motion as to the attorney defendants. View "Dunning v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Rudy Alarcon filed a petition for writ of mandate seeking to invalidate hearing officer Robert Bergeson’s decision upholding the City of Calexico’s (City) termination of Alarcon’s employment as a City police officer. The City filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging Bergeson’s decision to award Alarcon back pay based on his finding that the City failed to provide Alarcon with sufficient predisciplinary notice of allegations that Alarcon had been dishonest during the investigation that led to his termination. The trial court consolidated the petitions and issued a written ruling that denied both petitions. As to Alarcon’s petition, the trial court determined that Alarcon had not met his burden to establish the charges against him were barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The trial court also found that the weight of the evidence demonstrated that Alarcon had “used force” and “discourteous language” during the arrest that led to his termination. With respect to the City’s petition, the trial court determined that “the hearing officer’s lengthy finding that the dishonesty charges were not properly noticed does not rise to the level of an abuse of discretion.” After review, the Court of Appeal found no reversible error in the trial court’s judgment with respect to Alarcon; the Court determined the City’s cross- appeal was untimely and should have been dismissed. View "City of Calexico v. Bergeson" on Justia Law

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The Louisiana Supreme Court granted this writ application to address the specific question of whether there was a cause of action for a writ of mandamus compelling a municipality to satisfy a judgment for back wages owed to its firefighter employees. Based on the ministerial nature of the statutorily and constitutionally mandated duty of the municipality to appropriate funds to satisfy the judgment, the Court found the lower courts erred in sustaining the exception of no cause of action. View "Lowther et al. v. Town of Bastrop" on Justia Law

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This case involved a defamation claim brought by the executive director of a public agency against the State of Louisiana and the Louisiana Legislative Auditor arising out of statements appearing in two audit reports and the summaries which accompanied the release of those audit reports. Plaintiff claimed the audits cast his conduct in connection with his duties at the agency in a defamatory light. The defendants moved for summary judgment, but the district court denied the motion, finding the existence of genuine issues of material fact. The court of appeal denied writs. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari, primarily to determine whether the lower courts erred in concluding that genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment. Finding there were no genuine issues of material fact, and that the questions presented were all questions of law, the Supreme Court further found that the statements were not actionable as a matter of law, but rather statements of opinion relating to matters of public concern that did not carry a provably false factual connotation. As such, the statements were entitled to full constitutional protection. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the judgments of the lower courts and granted summary judgment in favor of defendants. View "Johnson v. Purpera" on Justia Law

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New Vision sued SG in the federal district court in Nevada. SG then filed Patent Trial and Appeal Board petitions. The Board declined to respect the forum selection agreement in the parties’ license agreement, which referred to “exclusive” jurisdiction in the appropriate federal or state court in the state of Nevada, and proceeded to a final decision, finding the claims at issue as well as proposed substitute claims, patent-ineligible under 35 U.S.C. 101.The Federal Circuit vacated and remanded the Board’s decisions for consideration of the forum selection clause in light of its 2019 “Arthrex” decision. Because Arthrex issued after the Board’s final-written decisions and after New Vision sought Board rehearing, New Vision has not waived its Arthrex challenge by raising it for the first time in its opening brief. The Board’s rejection of the parties’ choice of forum is subject to judicial review; section 324(e) does not bar review of Board decisions “separate . . . to the in[stitu]tion decision.” View "New Vision Gaming & Development, Inc. v. SG Gaming, Inc." on Justia Law