Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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Citizen groups challenged the Bureau of Land Management’s (“BLM”) environmental assessments (“EAs”) and environmental assessment addendum analyzing the environmental impact of 370 applications for permits to drill (“APDs”) for oil and gas in the Mancos Shale and Gallup Sandstone formations in the San Juan Basin of New Mexico. These challenges came after a separate but related case in which the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals remanded to the district court with instructions to vacate five EAs analyzing the impacts of APDs in the area because BLM had failed to consider the cumulative environmental impacts as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”). BLM prepared an EA Addendum to remedy the defects in those five EAs, as well as potential defects in eighty-one other EAs that also supported approvals of APDs in the area. Citizen Groups argued these eighty-one EAs and the EA Addendum violated NEPA because BLM: (1) improperly predetermined the outcome of the EA Addendum; and (2) failed to take a hard look at the environmental impacts of the APD approvals related to greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions, water resources, and air quality. BLM disagreed, contending the challenges to some of the APDs were not justiciable because the APDs had not yet been approved. The district court affirmed the agency action, determining: (1) Citizen Groups’ claims based on APD’s that had not been approved were not ripe for judicial review; (2) BLM did not unlawfully predetermine the outcome of the EA Addendum; and (3) BLM took a hard look at the environmental impacts of the APD approvals. The Tenth Circuit agreed with BLM and the district court that the unapproved APDs were not ripe and accordingly, limited its review to the APDs that had been approved. Turning to Citizen Groups’ two primary arguments on the merits, the appellate court held: (1) BLM did not improperly predetermine the outcome of the EA Addendum, but, even considering that addendum; (2) BLM’s analysis was arbitrary and capricious because it failed to take a hard look at the environmental impacts from GHG emissions and hazardous air pollutant emissions. However, the Court concluded BLM’s analysis of the cumulative impacts to water resources was sufficient under NEPA. View "Dine Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, et al. v. Haaland, et al." on Justia Law

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Sevec filed for disability social security benefits, alleging an onset of disability in 2014. At the time of her hearing, Sevec was 60 years old and suffered from knee pain caused by osteoarthritis. Sevec stated that she worked as a registered nurse until 2014, doing narcotics counts, answering call lights and bed alarms, assisting patients to the bathroom; administering IV medications, doing breathing treatments; and taking care of feeding tubes. After leaving that job, she provided care for a neighbor. A vocational expert (VE) stated Sevec’s work as an RN was “level 7, medium in its physical demand, medium as performed. And then we also have home health nurse … also, level 6. Medium in its physical demand; light as performed.” The ALJ asked whether “any of the past work [would] be available?” The VE replied, “Possibly the home health being as performed at a light level, not per the [Dictionary of Occupational Titles], though, but as performed.”The ALJ concluded that Sevec was not disabled. The Appeals Council and the district court agreed. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The VE’s testimony is not well grounded in the record, and is not sufficient, standing alone, to support the ALJ’s determination. The record does not contain evidence from which the ALJ could determine, with any degree of confidence, that Sevec is capable of performing her past work; the ALJ specified that her “past work” did not include "home health nurse." View "Sevec v. Kijakazi" on Justia Law

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The New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) appealed a circuit court order dismissing its neglect petitions against respondent, mother of H.B. and G.B. (Mother). DCYF argued the trial court erred when it dismissed the petitions because DCYF did not meet its burden of proving that any deprivation of parental care or control, subsistence, or education identified in RSA 169-C:3, XIX(b) was “not due primarily to the lack of financial means” of the parents. RSA 169-C:3, XIX(b) (2022). To this, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concurred, vacated the decision, and remanded for further proceedings on whether H.B. and G.B. were neglected. View "In re H.B.; In re G.B." on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed a judgment of the district court committing him to the custody of the Attorney General for medical care and treatment under 18 U.S.C. Section 4246. The court found that Defendant presently suffered from a mental disease or defect as a result of which his release from custody posed a substantial risk of bodily injury to another person or serious damage to the property of another.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the findings underlying the commitment were not clearly erroneous. The court explained that the district court’s finding that Defendant posed a substantial risk to persons or property was adequately supported in the record. The court relied on the unanimous recommendation of the experts. The experts observed that the most reliable predictor of future violence is past violence, and they detailed Defendant’s history of random and unpredictable violent actions. The court further found that the parties have not made a sufficient showing to justify sealing the briefs in this appeal. View "United States v. Dewayne Gray" on Justia Law

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Suspecting that Troconis-Escovar was involved in the illegal drug business, the DEA searched his vehicle. Agents found $146,000 in cash, which they believed represented drug proceeds. DEA notified Troconis-Escovar that it intended to effect an administrative forfeiture of the funds (to declare them to be government property). Illegal drug proceeds are eligible for civil forfeiture under 21 U.S.C. 881(a)(6), subject to the procedural safeguards of the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act, 18 U.S.C. 983. Troconis-Escovar’s attorney tried to contest the forfeiture, but filed the wrong form—a “petition for remission” rather than a “claim.” Only a claim may be used to challenge a proposed forfeiture. After the mistake was discovered, DEA gave Troconis-Escovar an extra 30 days to supplement his petition for remission. Troconis-Escovar did not do so and lost the money. He filed a Motion for the Return of Property under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(g).The district court dismissed his lawsuit, finding that it lacked jurisdiction. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The dismissal was correct, but not because jurisdiction was lacking. Troconis-Escovar does not explain why he should be able to obtain relief outside section 983 when Congress expressly conditioned relief from civil forfeiture on circumstances that do not apply to him. He did not explain his argument about the untimeliness or sufficiency of the DEA’s notice. View "Troconis-Escovar v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the circuit court denying Appellants' petitions for removal from the Missouri sex offender registry, holding that the circuit court did not err.Appellants Brock Smith and Gary Ford separately appealed two circuit court judgments denying their separately-filed petitions for removal from the Missouri sex offender registry. Smith argued that because he was a tier I sex offender, Mo. Rev. Stat. 589.400.1(7) did not mandate that he remain on the registry for his lifetime. Ford argued that the lower court misstated and misapplied the law in denying his petition. The Supreme Court affirmed in both cases, holding that the circuit court did not err in concluding that Appellants were not entitled to removal from the Missouri sex offender registry. View "Smith v. St. Louis County Police" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, employees at the Maid-Rite meatpacking plant, were exposed to COVID-19 in 2020. Maid-Rite issued masks and face shields but allegedly forced workers to work shoulder-to-shoulder. Plaintiffs sent OSHA an inspection request on May 19. Two days later, OSHA requested a response from Maid-Rite within a week, treating the inspection request as “non-formal,” so that it initially proceeded through document exchange. On May 27, Plaintiffs asserted that they continued to face an imminent danger of COVID-19; they also contacted OSHA on June 2, requesting Maid-Rite’s response and reasserting that conditions had not changed. They sent OSHA another letter on June 29th. On July 8, OSHA informed Maid-Rite that OSHA would inspect the plant the following day. OSHA acknowledged that advance notice of an inspection was not “typical,” but cited the need “to protect [OSHA’s] employees” from COVID-19. Plaintiffs claimed the notice allowed Maid-Rite to direct its employees to change their conduct and created the appearance of compliance with mitigation guidance. OSHA determined that the plant's conditions did not constitute an imminent danger and did not seek expedited relief.Plaintiffs sued under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, 29 U.S.C. 662(d), limited private right of action. While OSHA’s motion to dismiss was pending, OSHA concluded its standard enforcement proceedings and declined to issue a citation. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint, holding that the Act mandated the dismissal of the claim once enforcement proceedings were complete. View "Doe v. Scalia" on Justia Law

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Members of the Metlakatlan Indian Community (“the Community”) and their Tsimshian ancestors have inhabited the coast of the Pacific Northwest and fished in its waters. In 1891, Congress passed a statute (the “1891 Act”) recognizing the Community and establishing the Annette Islands Reserve as its reservation. In 2020, in response to Alaska’s attempt to subject the Metlakatlans to its limited entry program, the Community sued Alaskan officials in federal district court. The Community contended that the 1891 Act grants to the Community and its members the right to fish in the off-reservation waters where Community members have traditionally fished. The district court disagreed, holding that the Act provides no such right.   The Ninth Circuit filed (1) an order amending its opinion, denying a petition for panel rehearing, and denying a petition for rehearing en banc; and (2) an amended opinion reversing the district court’s dismissal of the Metlakatlan Indian Community’s suit against Alaskan officials. The panel applied the Indian canon of construction, which required it to construe the 1891 Act liberally in favor of the Community and to infer rights that supported the purpose of the reservation. At issue was the scope of that right. The panel concluded that a central purpose of the reservation, understood in light of the history of the Community, was that the Metlakatlans would continue to support themselves by fishing. The panel, therefore, held that the 1891 Act preserved for the Community and its members an implied right to non-exclusive off-reservation fishing for personal consumption and ceremonial purposes, as well as for commercial purposes. View "METLAKATLA INDIAN COMMUNITY V. MICHAEL DUNLEAVY, ET AL" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court setting aside Resolution 2077, which was adopted by the Campbell County Board of Commissioners in 2021, holding that there was no error.Resolution 2077 "revoked and superseded" previous resolutions approving Petitioners - Wyoming Horse Racing, LLC and Wyoming Downs, LLC - to conduct simulcast operations under Wyo. Stat. Ann. 11-25-102(a)(vii)(B) and placed conditions on all future approvals. Petitioners filed a petition for judicial review, arguing that the resolution exceeded the statutory authority of Campbell County under the Wyoming Pari-Mutuel Act, Wyo. Stat. Ann. 11-25-101 et seq. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the County had authority under the Pari-Mutuel Act to revoke its prior approvals of Petitioners' simulcast operations. View "Campbell County Bd. of Commissioners v. Wyo. Horse Racing, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 lawsuit stemming from her son’s death while under the supervision of employees at an Arkansas jail. She alleged that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to her son’s serious medical needs. The district court denied Defendants’ motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity.   The Eighth Circuit reversed. The court explained that it disagreed with the district court’s opinion that a layperson would recognize seizure-like activity as a serious medical need that one of the Defendant’s deliberately ignored. The court reasoned that a reasonable jury could not conclude from this description of events that Defendant was aware of a serious medical need. Second, a reasonable officer would not necessarily infer that seizure-like activity in these circumstances required him to take additional action. The decedent was behaving normally at booking, though very thirsty and reportedly under the influence of methamphetamine. It isn't unreasonable to believe that whatever medical episode he experienced during transport (if he actually experienced one) had fully resolved itself by the time Defendant encountered him.   Further, the court explained that in these circumstances, Defendants can't be faulted for presuming that the medical staff best knows the quantity and quality of information needed for assessments. And even though the decedent was obviously sick, recognizing that someone is sick is not the same as knowing that he is receiving inadequate care from a trained medical professional. View "Donna Reece v. S. Williams" on Justia Law