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The Ninth Circuit denied the government's petition for a writ of mandamus, asking the court to direct the district court to dismiss a case seeking various environmental remedies, or to stay all discovery and trial. The court denied the government's first mandamus petition, concluding that it had not met the high bar for relief at that stage of the litigation. The court held that no new circumstances justified the second petition where the government failed to satisfy the Bauman factors at this stage of the litigation, because the government's fear of burdensome or improper discovery did not warrant mandamus relief in the absence of a single specific discovery order; the government's arguments as to the violation of the Administrative Procedure Act and the separation of powers failed to establish that they would suffer prejudice not correctable in a future appeal; and the merits of the case could be resolved by the district court or in a future appeal. View "United States v. United States District Court for the District of Oregon" on Justia Law

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A commercial tenant breached its lease and owed unpaid rent. The landlord sued and obtained a writ of attachment against any funds owed the tenant from Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS). DHSS replied to the writ by stating it owed nothing to the tenant because a recent audit showed the tenant owed DHSS $1.4 million. Without responding to DHSS’s reply the landlord moved for a writ of execution against DHSS, which the superior court denied after finding there were no funds to attach. The court denied the landlord’s motion for reconsideration, as well as its request for a hearing to examine DHSS. The landlord appealed the denial of its motion for reconsideration and sought a remand for a hearing to examine DHSS. In affirming the superior court, the Alaska Supreme Court concluded the superior court was correct in denying reconsideration of its order regarding the writ of execution. View "Arcticorp v. C Care Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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Property Owners appealed special assessments that the Anchorage Municipal Assembly levied on their lots to pay for recently constructed road, water, and sewer improvement projects benefiting the lots. The Property Owners claimed the special assessments improperly included nearly $1 million in costs from another municipal utility project unrelated to the improvements built for the benefit of their lots. They also claimed the special assessments exceeded limits set by ordinance and that the assessed costs were disproportionate to the benefits provided by the improvements, violating municipal ordinance, charter, and state law. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court concluded the Assembly’s allocation of costs among these projects was supported by substantial evidence and that the ordinance limit the Property Owners relied on did not apply to these assessments. Furthermore, the Court concluded the Property Owners did not rebut the presumption of correctness that attached to the Assembly’s proportionality decisions. Therefore, the Court affirmed the superior court’s decision affirming the Assembly’s special assessment determinations. View "Fink v. Municipality of Anchorage" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit previously ruled that the Due Process Clause does not allow Amtrak to use an arbitration process to impose its preferred metrics and standards on its competitors, notwithstanding their opposition and that of the Federal Railroad Administration. In this case, the court held that severing the arbitration provision in Section 207(d) of the 2008 Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act was the proper remedy. The court reasoned that, without an arbitrator's stamp of approval, Amtrak could not unilaterally impose its metrics and standards on objecting freight railroads; no rule would go into effect without the approval and permission of a neutral federal agency; and that brought the process of formulating metrics and standards back into the constitutional fold. View "Association of American Railroads v. DOT" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from consolidated actions alleging negligence and malicious conduct by the United States related to the development and maintenance of Albert Pike. In 2010, an intense storm system caused rapid and serious flooding of the river and resulted in the death of 20 campers. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the United States's motion to dismiss based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). Applying the Arkansas Recreational Use Statute, the court held that the campsite fee the Park Service charged was not an admission fee, and charging the fee did not disqualify the Park Service from claiming immunity under the statute. Furthermore, camping within a 100-year floodplain was not an uncommon recreational activity in Arkansas and the activity was of common usage. Therefore, the statute's immunity would extend to a private land owner facing this claim and the government could claim the immunity. View "Moss v. United States" on Justia Law

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Horvath has been a Secret Service special agent since 2010. To compensate for his availability and overtime hours, Horvath receives a 25% enhancement to his base salary, Law Enforcement Availability Pay (LEAP), 5 U.S.C. 5545a(h)(1). Horvath is additionally entitled to overtime compensation for some––but not all––of the overtime hours he works. For scheduled overtime, employees receiving LEAP are compensated for work in excess of 10 hours on a day during such investigator’s basic 40-hour workweek; or on a day outside such investigator’s basic 40-hour workweek. All other overtime––scheduled or unscheduled––is considered to be compensated by LEAP rather than by additional hourly wages. There is an exception for performing certain duties, including the protective services, for which employees are compensated for all scheduled overtime. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) regulations add: the exception applies only if “[t]he investigator performs on that same day at least 2 consecutive hours of overtime work that are not scheduled in advance of the administrative workweek and are compensated by availability pay,” 5 C.F.R. 550.111(f)(2)(ii). Horvath sued, seeking back pay. Horvath asserted that the OPM regulations improperly required that certain overtime hours be worked consecutively in order to trigger compensation. The Claims Court found that it lacked jurisdiction to consider some claims and that others failed to state a claim. The Federal Circuit reversed in part, finding that the challenged regulations are contrary to the unambiguous meaning of the statute, but otherwise affirmed. View "Horvath v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs owned approximately 0.3 acres on the shore of Lake Waukewan in New Hampton. Per the town’s zoning ordinance, the property was subject to a twenty-foot side yard setback and a thirty-five-foot front setback along the road. It was also subject to a fifty-foot setback along the lake shore pursuant to the Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act. The property was sloped and contained a house, a deck, and three plastic, movable sheds used to store various home and recreational items. Plaintiffs sought to replace the plastic sheds with a ten-by-sixteen-foot permanent shed, which they planned to construct on the western side of the property. The proposal would have placed the permanent shed within the twenty-foot side setback. Accordingly, plaintiffs sought a variance from the side setback requirement. They appealed when the Superior Court upheld the denial of their requested variance by the Town of New Hampton Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA). They argued the proposed shed would not alter the essential character of the neighborhood because several other properties in the neighborhood had outbuildings within the setbacks. They maintained the existence of these outbuildings on neighboring properties, along with the lack of objection from the western abutters and the town fire chief, demonstrated the proposed shed posed no threat to the public health, safety, or welfare. The superior court concluded that the ZBA’s denial of plaintiffs’ variance on the public interest and spirit of the ordinance criteria was not unreasonable or unlawful. Given the evidence before the ZBA, and the considerable deference reflected in its standard of review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court could not find the superior court erred in concluding that the ZBA acted reasonably and lawfully in finding that plaintiffs’ requested variance would violate the spirit of the ordinance and would be contrary to the public interest. View "Perreault v. Town of New Hampton" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from a dispute between the parties as to how the County may tax Time Warner's possessory interests in using public rights-of-way. The trial court found that the Assessor may tax the possessory interests only on the franchise fee because anyone can obtain an identical franchise for five percent of television revenue. The Court of Appeal held that there was no legal restriction on the County valuing the possessory interests in providing television, broadband, and telephone services. The court agreed with the trial court that the Assessor's valuation was not supported by substantial evidence; that the County erred in taxing the entire five percent of revenue rather than the value of the possessory interests alone; and that substantial evidence supported the Los Angeles County Assessment Appeals Board's finding that the reasonably anticipated term of possession of Time Warner's rights-of-way was 10 years. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Time Warner Cable Inc. v. County of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeking records related to the suicide of Admiral J.M. Boorda. Specifically, plaintiff sought six pages of handwritten notes regarding official business found in the backseat of Adm. Boorda's official vehicle and the suicide note to Adm. Boorda's wife. The Eleventh Circuit held that the Navy improperly withheld the backseat notes because it withheld the responsive records when plaintiff asked for them. The court also held that FOIA contained nothing that would allow an agency to withhold records simply because it had previously given them to the requester, and the court rejected the Navy's argument that plaintiff's claim as to the backseat notes was precluded by the parties' prior litigation. The court also held that the suicide note was subject to protection under exemption 7(c), which covers records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes if their production could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Sikes v. United States Department of the Navy" on Justia Law

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AK Steel operated a steel mill within the Ford Rouge Manufacturing complex in Dearborn, Michigan. The steel mill was subject to air pollution control and permitting requirements under the federal Clean Air Act, and the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA). South Dearborn Environmental Improvement Association, Inc. (South Dearborn) and several other environmental groups petitioned for judicial review of a decision of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to issue a permit to install (PTI) for an existing source under NREPA. In 2006, the DEQ issued Severstal Dearborn, LLC (the mill's prior owner) a PTI that authorized the rebuilding of a blast furnace and the installation of three air pollution control devices at the steel mill. In the years that followed, the permit was revised twice; each successive permit modified and replaced the preceding permit. Emissions testing performed in 2008 and 2009 revealed that several emission sources at the steel mill exceeded the level permitted. The DEQ sent Severstal a notice of violation, and after extended negotiations, they entered into an agreement, pursuant to which Severstal submitted an application for PTI 182- 05C, the PTI at issue in this case. The DEQ issued the permit on May 12, 2014, stating that the purpose of PTI 182-05C was to correct inaccurate assumptions about preexisting and projected emissions and to reallocate emissions among certain pollution sources covered by the PTI. On July 10, 2014, 59 days after PTI 182-05C was issued, South Dearborn and several other environmental groups appealed the DEQ’s decision in the circuit court. The issue for the Michigan Supreme Court's review reduced to how long an interested party has to file a petition for judicial review of a DEQ decision to issue a permit for an existing source of air pollution. The Supreme Court held MCL 324.5505(8) and MCL 324.5506(14) provided that such a petition must be filed within 90 days of the DEQ’s final permit action. Therefore, the circuit court correctly denied AK Steel Corporation’s motion to dismiss pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(1) because the petition for judicial review was timely filed 59 days after the final permit action in this case. View "South Dearborn Environmental Improvement Assn. v. Dept. of Env. Quality" on Justia Law