Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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The Mississippi Department of Revenue (MDOR) and the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Mississippi filed suit against Wine Express, Inc., Gold Medal Wine Club, and Bottle Deals, Inc., in Mississippi Chancery Court. In early 2017, the Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Division of the Mississippi Department of Revenue and the Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement Division of the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office investigated the shipment of wine and other alcoholic beverages into the state. The investigation revealed that most Internet retailers made it “impossible” to place an order for alcoholic beverages once it was disclosed that the shipment would be to a location in Mississippi. This, however, was not so for the Defendants’ websites. In December 2017, the State sued the Defendants for injunctive relief to enforce the provisions of the “Local Option Alcoholic Beverage Control Law.” The State sought injunctive relief, disgorgement, monetary relief, attorneys’ fees, and punitive damages. Defendants moved for dismissal claiming that Mississippi courts lack personal jurisdiction over Defendants. After a hearing on the matter, the trial court granted Defendants’ motion. The State appealed. The Mississippi Supreme Court found that the trial court erred by finding that it lacked personal jurisdiction over the Defendants. View "Fitch v. Wine Express Inc." on Justia Law

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In 1979, the Superintendent of Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese of San Juan created a trust to administer a pension plan for Catholic school employees. In 2016, active and retired school employees filed suit, alleging that the Trust had terminated the plan, eliminating the employees’ pension benefits. They named as defendants the “Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church of Puerto Rico” (Church), which they claimed was a legal entity with supervisory authority over all Catholic institutions in Puerto Rico, the Archdiocese, the Superintendent, three schools, and the Trust. Following a remand, the Puerto Rico Supreme Court reinstated orders requiring payment. The court held that the Treaty of Paris recognized the “legal personality” of “the Catholic Church” in Puerto Rico, and that the only defendant with separate legal personality, and the only entity that could be ordered to pay the pensions, was the Church. The U.S. Supreme Court vacated, declining to address issues under the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses. The Court of First Instance lacked jurisdiction to issue the payment and seizure orders. After the remand, the Archdiocese removed the case to federal court, arguing that the Trust had filed for bankruptcy and that this litigation was sufficiently related to the bankruptcy to give rise to federal jurisdiction. The Bankruptcy Court dismissed the Trust’s bankruptcy proceeding before the Court of First Instance issued the relevant payment and seizure orders but the district court did not remand the case to the Court of First Instance until five months later. Once a notice of removal is filed, the state court loses all jurisdiction over the case. The orders were void. View "Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Juan v. Feliciano" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning a "race to permit" dispute between the parties in this case, both of whom held mineral interests in certain drilling and spacing units and both of whom wanted to be the "operator" of those units, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court granting Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that the district court and not the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission was the proper forum to resolve this case. Defendant won the race to permit and obtained operator status over the lands at issue. Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that Defendant violated Wyo. Stat. Ann. 40-27-101, which prohibits a party from trespassing on private lands to unlawfully collect resource data. The district court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss, concluding that the Commission had primary jurisdiction to resolve the dispute and that Plaintiff failed to exhaust its administrative remedies. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiff sufficiently pleaded standing under section 40-27-101 and the Declaratory Judgments Act; (2) the district court abused in dismissing the complaint for failure to exhaust administrative remedies because the Commission did not have jurisdiction to consider Plaintiff's civil trespass claim; and (3) the court abused its discretion in relying on the primary jurisdiction doctrine. View "Devon Energy Production, LP v. Grayson Mill Operating, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court vacating a Department of Health and Human Services hearing officer's decision requiring AngleZ Behavioral Health Services to pay $392,603.31 in MaineCare reimbursements because of billing errors, holding that the superior court erred by finding that the Department did not submit proper evidence in support of some of its recoupment claims. After auditing the claims submitted by AngleZ between February 13, 2013 and July 20, 2013 The Department issued a notice of violation applying an error rate to all of AngleZ's claims during that time period. The Department ultimately sought a total recoupment of $392,603.31. A hearing officer concluded that the Department was correct in seeking 392,603.31 in recoupment, and the Department's acting commissioner adopted the recommendation. The superior court vacated the Commissioner's decision, concluding that the hearing officer's decision was not supported by substantial evidence. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the superior court's judgment, holding that the hearing officer's decision was supported by substantial evidence and was neither arbitrary nor capricious. View "AngleZ Behavioral Health Services v. Department of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the Board's approval of an ordinance to streamline the permitting process for new oil and gas wells and certification of an environmental report (EIR) as compliant with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The trial court found that the EIR inadequately analyzed the project's environmental impacts to rangeland and from a road paving mitigation measure, and rejected the other CEQA claims. In the published portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal addressed CEQA violations involving water, agricultural land, and noise. In regard to water supplies, the court held that the mitigation measures for the project's significant impacts to water supplies inappropriately deferred formulation of the measures or delayed the actual implementation of the measures. Furthermore, the EIR's disclosures about the mitigation measures were inadequate and thus the adoption of a statement of overriding considerations did not render harmless these failures to comply with CEQA. The court also held that the project's conversion of agricultural land would be mitigated to a less than significant level is not supported by substantial evidence. Finally, in regard to the project's noise impacts, the court held that the EIR did not include an analysis, supported by substantial evidence, explaining why the magnitude of an increase in ambient noise need not be addressed to determine the significance of the project's noise impact. View "King and Gardiner Farms, LLC v. County of Kern" on Justia Law

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The Small Business Act requires that many federal agencies set aside contracts to be awarded to certain categories of small businesses, including service-disabled-veteran-owned (SDVO) small businesses, 15 U.S.C. 644(g)(1)(B). For a limited liability company (LLC) to qualify as SDVO, one or more SDVs must directly and unconditionally own at least 51% of each class of member interest. For an LLC to be controlled by SDVs, one or more SDVs must control the company’s long-term decision making, conduct its day-to-day management and administration of business operations, hold the highest officer position, serve as managing members, have “control over all decisions” of the LLC and “meet all supermajority voting requirements,” XOtech LLC, previously organized with Marullo (an SDV) as its only manager, became a multiple-manager company with four “Members” as owners. The Army issued a Request for Proposals seeking an SDVO contractor to provide logistics support for Army Reserve facilities. XOtech was awarded the contract. The Director of the SBA’s Office of Government Contracting determined that XOtech did not qualify for SDVO status and sustained a protest, finding that, although Marullo owned XOtech, he lacked sufficient control over XOtech’s operations because he required the vote of at least one non-SDV to make management decisions. The Claims Court and the Federal Circuit affirmed, finding that service-disabled veterans do not control “all decisions” of XOtech as required by 13 C.F.R. 125.13(d). View "XOTech, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Attorney General was statutorily authorized to impose all three challenged immigration-related conditions on Byrne Criminal Justice Assistance grant applications. The conditions require grant applicants to certify that they will (1) comply with federal law prohibiting any restrictions on the communication of citizenship and alien status information with federal immigration authorities; (2) provide federal authorities, upon request, with the release dates of incarcerated illegal aliens; and (3) afford federal immigration officers access to incarcerated illegal aliens. The Second Circuit held that the Certification Condition (1) is statutorily authorized by 34 U.S.C. 10153(a)(5)(D)'s requirement that applicants comply with "all other applicable Federal laws," and (2) does not violate the Tenth Amendment's anticommandeering principle; the Notice Condition is statutorily authorized by section 10153(a)(4)'s reporting requirement, section 10153(a)(5)(C)'s coordination requirement, and section 10155's rule‐making authority; and the Access Condition is statutorily authorized by section 10153(a)(5)(C)'s coordination requirement, and section 10155's rule‐making authority. The court also held that the Attorney General did not overlook important detrimental effects of the challenged conditions so as to make their imposition arbitrary and capricious. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's award of partial summary judgment to plaintiffs; vacated the district court's mandate ordering defendants to release withheld 2017 Byrne funds, as well as its injunction barring defendants from imposing the three challenged immigration‐related conditions on such grants; and remanded for further proceedings. View "New York v. United States Department of Justice" on Justia Law

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U.S. Border Patrol Agent Mesa, standing on U.S. soil shot and killed Hernández, a 15-year-old Mexican national, who was on Mexican soil, after having run back across the border after entry onto U.S. territory. Mesa contends that Hernández was part of an illegal border crossing attempt. Hernández’s parents claim he was playing a game with his friends that involved running across the culvert. The Department of Justice concluded that Mesa had not violated Customs and Border Patrol policy or training, and declined to bring charges. The government denied Mexico’s request for Mesa to be extradited. Hernández’s parents sought damages under "Bivens," alleging that Mesa violated Hernández’s Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. On remand from the Supreme Court for reconsideration in light of "Ziglar," the Fifth Circuit again affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed. Bivens does not extend to claims based on a cross-border shooting. Its expansion to recognize causes of action not expressly created by Congress is “a disfavored’ judicial activity.” While Hernández’s Bivens claims are based on the same constitutional provisions as claims in cases in which damages remedies have been recognized, the context—a cross-border shooting—is significantly different and involves a “risk of disruptive intrusion by the Judiciary into the functioning of other branches.” The Court noted that foreign relations are “so exclusively entrusted to the political branches . . . as to be largely immune from judicial inquiry” and noted the risk of undermining border security. Congress has repeatedly declined to authorize the award of damages against federal officials for injury inflicted outside U. S. borders. When Congress has provided compensation for such injuries, it has done so by empowering Executive Branch officials to make payments under appropriate circumstances. View "Hernandez v. Mesa" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Secretary in an action brought by Hendrick challenging Medicare payments it received for the 2015 federal fiscal year. The court held that the district court did not err by dismissing Hendrick's appeal, because the Board's determination that it did not have jurisdiction over Hendrick's appeal for failure to exhaust administrative remedies was correct. In this case, Hendrick received notice via the Federal Register but failed to request correction of its wage data by the published deadline in accordance with the established process under the statute. View "Hendrick Medical Center v. Azar" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs' challenges to HHS's 2019 Final Rule, implementing Title X of the Public Health Service Act, failed in light of Supreme Court approval of the 1988 regulations and the Ninth Circuit's broad deference to agencies' interpretations of the statutes they are charged with implementing. Section 1008 of Title X prohibits grant funds from being used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning. Specifically, plaintiffs challenged the "gag" rule on abortion counseling, where a counselor providing nondirective pregnancy counseling "may discuss abortion" so long as "the counselor neither refers for, nor encourages, abortion." The Final Rule also requires providers to physically and financially separate any abortion services from all other health care services. The panel held that the Final Rule is a reasonable interpretation of Section 1008; it does not conflict with the 1996 appropriations rider or other aspects of Title X; and its implementation of the limits on what Title X funds can support does not implicate the restrictions found in Section 1554 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The panel also held that the Final Rule is not arbitrary and capricious because HHS properly examined the relevant considerations and gave reasonable explanations; because plaintiffs will not prevail on the merits of their legal claims, they are not entitled to the extraordinary remedy of preliminary injunction; and thus the district courts' preliminary injunction orders are vacated and the cases are remanded for further proceedings. View "California v. Azar" on Justia Law