Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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In light of the surging community spread of COVID-19, California's public health and epidemiological experts have crafted a complex set of regulations that restrict various activities based on their risk of transmitting the disease and the projected toll on the State's healthcare system. California permits unlimited attendance at outdoor worship services and deems clergy and faith-based streaming services "essential," but has temporarily halted all congregate indoor activities, including indoor religious services, within the most at-risk regions of the state.South Bay challenges this restriction, along with others, under provisions of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the United States and California Constitutions. South Bay argues that the current restrictions on indoor services prohibit congregants' Free Exercise of their theology, which requires gathering indoors. The district court concluded that California's restrictions on indoor worship are narrowly tailored to meet its compelling—and immediate—state interest in stopping the community spread of the deadly coronavirus.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of South Bay's request to enjoin California's temporary prohibition on indoor worship under the Regional Stay at Home Order and Tier 1 of the Blueprint. The panel concluded that, although South Bay has demonstrated irreparable harm, it has not demonstrated that the likelihood of success, the balance of the equities, or the public interest weigh in its favor. The panel stated that California has a compelling interest in reducing community spread of COVID-19, and the Stay at Home Order is narrowly tailored to achieve the State's compelling interest in stemming the recent case surge. The panel also concluded that South Bay has not demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits with respect to its challenge to California's state-wide ban on indoor singing and chanting. In this case, the State's ban on these activities is rationally related to controlling the spread of COVID-19. The panel could not, however, conclude that the 100- and 200-person attendance caps on indoor worship under Tiers 2 and 3 of the Blueprint survive strict scrutiny. The panel explained that the State has not shown that less restrictive measures, such as basing attendance limits on the size of the church, synagogue or mosque would cause any greater peril to the public. The panel remanded to the district court with instructions to enjoin the State from imposing the 100- and 200-person caps under Tiers 2 and 3 of the Blueprint. View "South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit denied a petition for review of the MSHA's final rule entitled "Examinations of Working Places in Metal and Nonmetal Mines," which enhances mine operators' obligations with an aim toward augmenting miner safety. The court held that the Mine Act does not contain the "significant risk" threshold requirement that petitioners would import from the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970; the Final Rule satisfies the requirement that any rule "improve" upon the prior standard; the pre-shift examination requirement, the notification requirement, and the recording requirements in the Final Rule are not arbitrary and capricious; and MSHA sees the examination requirement, the notification requirement, and the recordkeeping requirement as operating collectively to spur more timely corrections of hazardous conditions. The court rejected petitioner's remaining contentions as lacking merit. View "National Mining Ass'n v. U.S. Department of Labor" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was a preliminary injunction prohibiting the County of San Diego, its public health officer Wilma Wooten, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), and Governor Gavin Newsom from enforcing COVID-19-related public health restrictions against any business offering restaurant service in San Diego County, subject to safety protocols. Two San Diego businesses that offer live nude adult filed suit claiming the State and County restrictions on live entertainment violated their First Amendment right to freedom of expression. The State and County eventually loosened their restrictions on live entertainment, but as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, they imposed new restrictions on restaurants. These new restaurant restrictions severely curtailed the adult entertainment businesses’ operations. But these new restrictions were unrelated to live entertainment or the First Amendment. Despite the narrow scope of the issues presented, the trial court granted expansive relief when it issued the injunction challenged here. "It is a fundamental aspect of procedural due process that, before relief can be granted against a party, the party must have notice of such relief and an opportunity to be heard." The Court of Appeal determined that because restaurant restrictions were never part of the adult entertainment businesses’ claims, the State and County had no notice or opportunity to address them. The trial court therefore erred by enjoining the State and County from enforcing COVID-19-related public health restrictions on restaurants. Because the procedure used by the trial court was improper, the trial court’s actions left the Court of Appeal unable to address the substance of this challenge to restaurant restrictions. View "Midway Venture LLC v. County of San Diego" on Justia Law

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In 1997, Kelley Maves was convicted of two sexual assaults in Colorado. He moved to Alaska in 2015, where the Department of Public Safety required him to register for life as a sex offender under the Alaska Sex Offenders Registration Act (ASORA). Maves appealed the Department’s decision to the superior court, arguing that one of the two convictions could not be used as the basis for a lifetime registration requirement because it had been set aside; with one conviction he would be required to register for only 15 years. His argument on appeal included a challenge to a 1995 departmental regulation that defined “conviction” as including those that had been set aside. The superior court affirmed the Department’s decision requiring the Maves to register for life. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the 1994 version of ASORA was not plainly intended to apply to offenders whose convictions have been set aside, and that the 1995 regulation extending the Act’s reach to those convictions was not necessary to carry out the Act’s purposes. The Court therefore reversed the superior court’s decision upholding the requirement that Maves register under ASORA for life. View "Maves v. Department of Public Safety" on Justia Law

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Two attorneys filed a complaint to recover fees they billed in the course of representing indigent defendants in criminal cases, and sought to certify several classes of plaintiffs. Specifically, they asserted that State officials improperly refused to pay bills for fees that exceeded statutory payment caps. The trial court entered a class-certification order, and the State officials appealed. Because State immunity barred the attorneys' request for retrospective monetary relief, and because the attorneys lacked standing to bring a constitutional challenge on behalf of indigent defendants, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed and remanded. View "Butler v. Parks" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's pro se complaint filed under the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act alleging that the Wyoming Department of Corrections (WDOC) inmate classification policies are invalid rules, holding that the WDOC's inmate classification policy is not a rule required to be filed with the Wyoming Secretary of State.Plaintiff pled guilty to kidnapping and first-degree sexual assault and was sentenced to two concurrent life sentences. In his complaint for declaratory judgment Plaintiff alleged that the failure to file WDOC policies and procedures with the Secretary of State rendered them, and any actions taken pursuant to them, void. Therefore, Plaintiff claimed that his recent inmate classification was void. The district court dismissed the complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the WDOC was not required to file the inmate classification policy at issue with the Secretary of State's office, and therefore, Plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. View "Bird v. Lampert" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied a petition for review challenging FERC's determination that fuel transported by pipeline to Orlando's airport—after being delivered to the Port of Tampa—moves intrastate. The court upheld the ALJ's finding, under the three Northville factors, that the stop in Tampa broke the continuity of interstate transportation, and so the jet fuel moved intrastate through the Central Florida Pipeline. Therefore, FERC lacked jurisdiction to regulate the pipeline rates. The court rejected petitioners' claims that FERC misapplied the Northville factors; the Northville factors are inadequate to make the determination; the Commission misinterpreted the teachings of old Supreme Court cases: Texas & New Orleans R.R. Co. v. Sabine Tram Co., 227 U.S. 111 (1913); Carson Petrol. Co. v. Vial, 279 U.S. 95 (1929); United States v. Erie R.R. Co., 280 U.S. 98 (1929); and the Airlines' overarching intent to transport the fuel from ships through Tampa to Orlando means the pipeline movement is interstate in nature. View "Aircraft Service International, Inc. v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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Moore, a tenured teacher since 1994, was advised by her students that another student had ingested some pills. Other school personnel immediately became involved in responding to the incident. Chicago Public Schools later approved dismissal charges against Moore, (105 ILCS 5/34-85), alleging failure to appropriately respond, failure to supervise, failure to perform certain duties, and failure to comply with Board policies and the state ethical and professional standards. Moore was suspended without pay pending the outcome of the dismissal hearing.On September 7, 2018, the hearing officer issued findings that Moore had alerted the administration to the student’s overdose and that she had not lied during the investigation and concluded that the Board’s evidence failed to establish cause for Moore’s dismissal. The Board found that Moore failed to act in a prudent and responsible manner, failed to check on the well-being of the student, and failed to notify her colleagues in a timely fashion. The Board determined that Moore’s negligent behavior did not warrant her dismissal but issued a warning resolution, required her to attend training, and imposed a 90-day reduction in her back pay.The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the Board’s decision. The appellate court erred when it held that section 34-85 precluded the Board from suspending a teacher without pay following a dismissal hearing; a 2011 amendment did not diminish the Board’s implied authority to issue a suspension once a determination is made that the conduct does not warrant dismissal. Sections 34- 18 and 34-85 govern different disciplinary sanctions (dismissals and suspensions) and are not in conflict. The Board articulated its findings and analysis supporting the sanctions. View "Board of Education of the City of Chicago v. Moore" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former alien detainee, filed suit alleging that CoreCivic's work programs are not voluntary. Plaintiff claimed that CoreCivic forced her to clean detention facilities, cook meals for company events, engage in clerical work, provide barber services for fellow detainees, maintain landscaping, and other labors. Furthermore, if she refused, CoreCivic would impose more severe living conditions, physical restraints, and deprivation of basic human needs.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of CoreCivic's motion to dismiss under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), 18 U.S.C. 1589(a). The court concluded that sections 1589(a) and 1595 impose civil liability on "[w]hoever knowingly provides or obtains the labor or services of a person by any one of, or by any combination of" four coercive methods. The court rejected CoreCivic's contention that this language does not capture labor performed in work programs in a federal immigration detention setting. The court explained that nothing in the text supports this claim; CoreCivic is clearly an entity covered by the term "whoever;" and it has clearly "obtain[ed]" the labor of these alien detainees. The court rejected CoreCivic's remaining claims to the contrary and declined to apply the rule of lenity. Because on its face section 1589 unambiguously protects labor performed in work programs in federal immigration detention facilities, the court concluded that the "judicial inquiry is complete." View "Gonzalez v. CoreCivic, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted certiorari review in this matter to determine whether the Department of Transportation (PennDOT) was precluded from suspending an individual’s driving privileges based on a DUI conviction, where there was a lengthy delay between the conviction and the time the driver was notified of the suspension. Under the facts of this case, the Court concluded the trial court’s finding – that Appellee would suffer prejudice if the suspension were to be imposed at this juncture – was supported by competent evidence of record, and moreover, it demonstrated that prejudice would follow from the fact of the delay itself. Additionally, there was no dispute that Appellee did not accrue any additional Vehicle Code violations after his predicate DUI conviction. The Court therefore agreed with the Commonwealth Court majority that a suspension at this late date will have lost much of its effectiveness with regard to its underlying legislative purposes, result in prejudice which can be attributed to the delay, and ultimately deny fundamental fairness. View "PennDOT Bureau of Driver Lic. v. Middaugh" on Justia Law