Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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In December 2020, an Oklahoma district court granted summary judgment in favor of Fraternal Order of the Police, Bratcher/Miner Memorial Lodge, Lodge No. 122 on the Order's request for a declaratory judgment. After discussion of the city budget, and hearing from the public concerning possible reallocation of funds, City Council postponed adoption of the FYE 2021 Operating and Capital budgets until June 16th. At the special meeting, the first action occurred as stated on the agenda, and Council adopted the budget for the Norman Convention and Visitors Bureau. A councilmember then moved to adopt the FYE 2021 City of Norman Operating and Capital Budgets (city budget). But, instead of adopting or rejecting the city budget as listed on the agenda, Council proceeded to amend it numerous times. Eventually, Council passed the three disputed amendments in this case, "reallocating" $865,000 of funding. Plaintiff FOP argued that City violated the Open Meeting Act by enacting amendments at the special meeting that were not included on the posted agenda. City asserted that its posted agenda met the requirements of the Act because the budget affected by the disputed amendments was a subsidiary budget within the listed city budget. The question before the Oklahoma Supreme Court in this matter was whether defendant-appellant City of Norman complied with the statutory notice requirements of the Open Meeting Act for its June 16, 2020 special meeting. The Supreme Court concluded City's agenda did not provide sufficient notice of the June 16, 2020 special meeting as required by the Open Meeting Act. We find that the language used in the agenda was deceptively vague and likely to mislead regarding the meeting, and was therefore a wilful violation of the Act. Due to City's failure to post a valid notice under the Open Meeting Act, City's amendment of the city budget and subsequent approval of the amended budget was invalid. The Court found no disputes as to any material facts, and Plaintiff was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. View "Fraternal Order of Police v. City of Norman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and quashed in part the judgment of the superior court affirming a decision of the Town of Charlestown Zoning Board of Review denying a special-use permit and a dimensional variance, holding that there was insufficient evidence to support the denial of the special-use permit.New Castle Realty Company applied to the zoning board for a special-use permit and a dimensional variance to build a house and install a septic system on a preexisting nonconforming lot. The zoning board denied both requests. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and quashed in part the superior court's judgment, holding (1) substantial evidence did not exist in the record to support either the zoning board's decision to deny the special-use permit or the trial justice's ruling affirming the denial of the special-use permit; and (2) the trial justice correctly concluded that certain testimony was fatal to New Castle's request for a dimensional variance. View "New Castle Realty Co. v. Dreczko" on Justia Law

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After the Indian Health Service agreed to pay the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community to run a health program on the Swinomish Reservation, Swinomish filed suit under the Contract Disputes Act and Declaratory Judgment Act, claiming that it was owed additional sums in direct and indirect contract support for costs calculated as percentages of the money it received from insurers and spent on health services. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the government's motion for summary judgment, holding that the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act does not require Indian Health Service to pay for contract support costs on insurance money received by Swinomish. Neither does Swinomish's contract with Indian Health Service. View "Swinomish Indian Tribal Community v. Becerra" on Justia Law

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In 2018, an enforcement officer working for the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control pulled over a truck hauling municipal solid waste from the Pine Tree Corners Transfer Station. The truck’s owner-operator, Contractors Hauling, LLC, did not have a valid permit to transport solid waste, violating Delaware law. The Department subsequently determined that on numerous occasions between September 2017 and July 2018, vehicles belonging to Contractors Hauling transported solid waste from the Pine Tree Station without a valid permit. The Delaware Solid Waste Authority operated the Pine Tree Station subject to a Department-issued permit. In 2017, the Authority transferred operations of the station to a subcontractor, Greggo & Ferrera, Inc. (“G&F”). Later that year - and apparently without the Authority’s knowledge - G&F began using vehicles owned and operated by its affiliate entity, Contractors Hauling, to transport waste from the transfer station to waste disposal facilities. The Department determined that each of the three entities - the Authority, G&F, and Contractors Hauling - violated various requirements related to solid waste, and the Department assessed civil penalties and costs. Each entity filed a timely appeal with the Environmental Appeals Board. The Board reversed the Department’s assessments of fines and penalties. The Department appealed to the Superior Court. The court held: (1) the Department had the authority to impose the permit condition, but it was unconstitutionally vague; (2) the Authority was strictly liable for failing to provide a complete list of transporters; (3) the Board erred by setting aside the penalties assessed against G&F and Contractors Hauling; and (4) the Secretary’s cost assessments were not before the Board. Each of the parties appealed the Superior Court’s decision. After review, the Delaware Supreme Court held: (1) the Superior Court and the Board erred by holding that the permit condition was unlawful; (2) the Superior Court properly held that the Authority was strictly liable for failing to provide a complete list of transporters; (3) the Superior Court erred by overturning the Board’s determination that no penalty should have been assessed against G&F and Contractors Hauling; and (4) the Superior Court properly held that the Secretary’s ability to recover costs was not before the Board. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case back to the Superior Court for further proceedings. View "Delaware Solid Waste Authority v. Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control" on Justia Law

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The California State Air Resources Board, pursuant to Health and Safety Code 39613, imposed fees on manufacturers who sold consumer products and architectural coatings that emitted volatile organic compounds (VOCs) of 250 tons or more per year. The Board implemented the statute by adopting regulations that impose a uniform fee per ton on all affected manufacturers. Appellant American Coatings Association, Inc. (the Association) sought a declaration that the statute and regulations were unlawful and unenforceable, and a peremptory writ of mandate commanding the Board to vacate the regulations. The trial court denied the petition and complaint. On appeal, the Association contended the statute was a tax subject to Proposition 13, the fees imposed did not bear a reasonable relationship to the manufacturers’ regulatory burden, the statute unlawfully delegated revenue authority to the Board, and the statute’s regulations were arbitrary and capricious. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "American Coatings Association, Inc. v. State Air Resources Board" on Justia Law

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For decades, the U.S. Virgin Islands Government Employees Retirement System (GERS) experienced annual deficits between its assets and projected liabilities to participants. Its aggregate shortfall is now about three billion dollars. The Government of the Virgin Islands (GVI) has sometimes failed to remit to GERS all the employer contributions it is statutorily mandated to make. GERS sued GVI for these contributions, first in 1981, resulting in a consent judgment, and most recently in 2016, when GERS sought to enforce that judgment. GERS claimed that, as far back as 1991, GVI had contributed tens of millions of dollars less than required by the statutory percentages of employee compensation. GERS also claimed that independent of these fixed-percentage contributions, GVI must fund GERS to the point of actuarial soundness.The district court awarded GERS an amount calculated to reflect GVI’s historical percentage-based under-contributions. The Third Circuit affirmed that award of principal but vacated an enhancement of the award that applied late-arriving interest and penalty statutes, enacted in 2005, retroactively. The consent judgment does not require GVI to fund GERS for the gap between its assets and liabilities. Virgin Islands law apparently fails to obligate anyone to fund GERS when employee-compensation-based contributions and associated investment returns fall short of the assets required, based on actuarial assessments, to meet future pension commitments. The citizens of the Virgin Islands (population 106,4052) simply cannot pay the necessary billions. The cure for GERS’s chronic underfunding is legislative. View "Government Employees Retirement System of the Virgin Islands v. Government of the Virgin Islands" on Justia Law

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Homer, Alaska's Advisory Planning Commission (the Commission) approved a conditional use permit for the owners of a bicycle shop seeking to expand their entryway and install a covered porch. An objecting Homer resident appealed a superior court’s decision to affirm the permit approval, raising numerous procedural, legal, and factual issues. His main contentions were grouped into five general categories: (1) the Commission should have used a variance and not a conditional use permit; (2) the approval process violated various constitutional rights; (3) the Commission erred in its findings supporting the project; (4) the City Planner’s participation in the appeal was inappropriate; and (5) the judge was biased against him. The Alaska Supreme Court determined none of his arguments had merit. The Supreme Court concluded the Homer City Council, in an appropriate use of its legislative discretion, chose the conditional permitted use process to grant certain setback reductions. The Commission’s approval process and findings complied with applicable city code requirements and adequately protected the objecting resident’s rights. The City Planner’s participation in the appeals process was appropriate, and the judge displayed no disqualifying bias. Therefore, the decision to uphold the Commission’s approval of the conditional use permit was affirmed. View "Griswold v. Homer Advisory Planning Commission" on Justia Law

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The Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives, and the President of the Oregon State Senate, on behalf of the Oregon Legislative Assembly, informed the Oregon Supreme Court that the federal government would not meet its statutory deadline to produce federal decennial census data and, therefore, that neither the Legislative Assembly nor the Oregon Secretary of State (Secretary) would be able to meet the deadlines for decennial reapportionment of state legislative districts set out in Article IV, section 6, of the Oregon Constitution. Relators asked the Supreme Court to exercise its authority under Article VII (Amended), section 2, of the Oregon Constitution and issue a writ of mandamus requiring the Secretary to fulfill her constitutionally specified duties, and to do so on dates ordered by the court. Relators served their petition for writ of mandamus on the Secretary, and she appeared in opposition. The Court elected to exercise that authority to compel compliance with Article IV, section 6, according to a revised schedule set out in an appendix to its opinion in this case. The Court thus issued a peremptory writ to direct the Secretary to abide by that schedule. View "Oregon ex rel Kotek v. Fagan" on Justia Law

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CREW filed a citizen complaint with the Federal Election Commission against New Models, a now-defunct non-profit entity, alleging violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act’s (FECA) registration and reporting requirements for “political committees,” 52 U.S.C. 30109(a)(1). After an initial investigation, the Commission deadlocked 2–2 on whether to proceed; an affirmative vote of four commissioners is required to initiate enforcement proceedings. With only two votes in favor of an enforcement action against New Models, the Commission dismissed CREW’s complaint. Two Commissioners explained that New Models did not qualify as a “political committee” under FECA but stated they were also declining to proceed with enforcement in an "exercise of ... prosecutorial discretion,” given the age of the activity and the fact that the organization appears no longer active.The district court granted the Commission summary judgment, reasoning that a nonenforcement decision is not subject to judicial review if the Commissioners who voted against enforcement “place[] their judgment squarely on the ground of prosecutorial discretion.” The Commission’s “legal analyses are reviewable only if they are the sole reason for the dismissal of an administrative complaint.” The D.C. Circuit affirmed. While FECA allows a private party to challenge a nonenforcement decision by the Commission if it is “contrary to law,” this decision was based in part on prosecutorial discretion and is not reviewable. View "Citizens for Responsibility v. Federal Election Committee" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the circuit court's writ of mandamus and contempt orders in this case, holding that Wis. Stat. 6.50(3) does not place a positive and plain duty on the Wisconsin Elections Commission to change the registration status of eligible voters when receiving reliable information that the elector moved out of their municipality.Petitioners sought a writ of mandamus against the Commission and its commissioners to carry out the instructions set forth in section 6.50(3) and change the registration of electors who may have moved. The circuit court granted the writ and later found several commissioners in contempt after the Commission failed to comply. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the writ was erroneously granted. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court erred by issuing a writ of mandamus ordering the Commission to carry out the requirements of section 6.50(e) because the Commission has no statutory duty, and therefore, no plain and positive duty, to carry out the requirements of the statute. View "Zignego v. Wisconsin Elections Commission" on Justia Law