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Sung-Hee Chung (neighbor) appealed the Environmental Division’s grant of summary judgment to Lori and Richard Mathez (applicants). The appeal concerned whether the District Commission exceeded its authority by issuing a second notice for a final Act 250 permit when, due to applicants’ failure, neighbor did not receive notice of the permit before it became final, and neighbor failed to timely appeal. Applicants sought an Act 250 permit to build a 75’ by 100’ steel building for a commercial vehicle repair and body shop, a “minor application” under the Act. Finding that the Environmental Division had jurisdiction over the appeal, and that the District Commission had no authority to issue a second notice of a final permit, the Vermont Supreme Court concluded the court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of applicants. View "In re Mathez Act 250 LU Permit (Sung-Hee Chung, Appellant)" on Justia Law

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Grievant Edward von Turkovich appealed a Vermont Labor Relations Board decision denying his motion to enlarge the time for him to file a notice of appeal. Grievant filed an employment grievance with the Board in January 2017. Grievant’s employer filed an answer and a motion to dismiss the next month. Grievant filed a memorandum in opposition to the motion to dismiss in late March 2017. On the same day, the attorney representing grievant (attorney) moved offices. Prior to the move, attorney’s law firm notified the United States Postal Service (USPS) that it should forward the firm’s mail to the new address, but attorney did not update the firm’s address with the Board, as required by Board rule. On June 13, 2017, the Board dismissed the grievance. That same day, the Board mailed the order dismissing the grievance to the address attorney had provided, which was attorney’s former address. The Board’s envelope read “return service requested,” which led the USPS to return the order to the Board rather than forwarding it to attorney. The USPS took thirty-four days to do so, returning the mail on July 17, 2017. It is unknown what caused the delay in returning the mail. When returning the mail, the USPS provided the Board with attorney’s forwarding address. The Board mailed the order to attorney a second time on July 18, 2017, this time to the current address, as provided by the USPS, and attorney received it on July 20, 2017. The Board also posted the decision on its website three days after it issued the order. The Board denied the request, concluding there was no showing of excusable neglect or good cause, and therefore there was no basis to permit an extension of time. Attorney conceded he made a mistake and could not show good cause. Therefore, the only issue on appeal was whether the Board erred in finding the failure to file was not due to excusable neglect. The Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the denial: "The delayed notice was within attorney’s control and is analogous to a breakdown in internal office procedures, which we repeatedly have found is not excusable neglect." View "In re Grievance of Edward Von Turkovich" on Justia Law

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Claimant Joanne Perrault appealed the Commissioner of Labor’s decision on summary judgment denying her workers’ compensation benefits. On appeal, claimant argued she was an employee of defendant Chittenden County Transportation Authority (CCTA) for the purposes of workers’ compensation and, therefore, was entitled to benefits. Claimant applied to be a driver in CCTA’s volunteer program in 2014. Once through the application process, a volunteer driver was governed by CCTA’s volunteer manual. This manual, in addition to explaining certain restrictions and requirements, also stated that the manual should not be understood to mean that any employment contract existed between CCTA and the volunteer driver. Drivers received money from CCTA based on the miles driven in a given period and calculated at the federal mileage rate. The CCTA manual referred to this monetary payment as reimbursement, and stated that CCTA would perform random checks to verify the accuracy of mileage submissions. This was the only monetary or other exchange between CCTA and drivers in the volunteer program. CCTA provided insurance on drivers’ vehicles on a secondary basis and encouraged drivers to carry more than the minimum required insurance and to name CCTA as an additional insured on their personal vehicle insurance policies. Drivers in the program were required to meet standards set by CCTA and were subject to certain restrictions, which were similar to the restrictions governing CCTA’s regular drivers. On December 1, 2015, claimant had an automobile accident. At the time of the accident, she was driving a CCTA rider to an appointment. Claimant sustained significant injuries in the accident, including a broken neck at the third and fourth vertebrae, a fractured spine, and broken ribs. She subsequently sought workers’ compensation benefits. The Vermont Supreme Court held that, because claimant did not receive wages, she could not be considered a statutory employee as that term was defined for the application of workers’ compensation. View "Perrault v. Chittenden County Transportation Authority" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Yvonne Reid and Serena Wong sued defendants the City of San Diego (City) and the San Diego Tourism Marketing District (TMD) in a putative class action complaint, challenging what they allege is "an illegal hotel tax." The trial court sustained Defendants' demurrer without leave to amend on statute of limitations and other grounds. The Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding some of the causes of action were time-barred and the remainder failed to state facts constituting a cause of action. View "Reid v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal based on lack of standing of an action under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), alleging that the Department failed to turn over documents requested by one of its members, on behalf of the organization. The panel disagreed with the government's argument that the submitted form did not adequately identify the organization as the requester. The panel held that the submitted form's unambiguous reference to A Better Way, confirming correspondence, and common sense make clear that A Better Way was the requester and consequently had standing to sue. View "A Better Way for BPA v. U.S.D.O.E." on Justia Law

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The trial court granted the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors’ and the City of Brookhaven, Mississippi’s motions to dismiss Samuel Wilcher, Jr.’s personal injury suit, finding both governmental entities enjoyed discretionary-function immunity. In doing so, the judge employed the Mississsippi Supreme Court’s recently created test announced in Brantley v. City of Horn Lake, 152 So.3d 1106 (Miss. 2014). On appeal, the Court faced "head on one of the unintended but predicted consequences of Brantley—that the test forces parties and judges to wade through an ever-deepening quagmire of regulations and ordinances to locate 'ministerial' or 'discretionary' duties, overcomplicating the process of litigating and deciding claims involving governmental entities." Unfortunately, this methodology had proved unworkable. "Instead of trying to retool the Brantley test to somehow make it workable, we concede this short-lived idea, which was meant to be a course correction, has ultimately led this Court even farther adrift." The Court found it best to return to its original course of applying the widely recognized public-policy function test—the original Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA) test first adopted by the Court in 1999. Applying the latter test to this case, the Supreme Court held that Wilcher’s claim that County and City employees negligently left an unfinished culvert installation overnight, without warning drivers they had removed but not yet replaced a bridge, was not barred by discretionary-function immunity. "Wilcher is not trying to second-guess a policy decision through tort. He is seeking to recover for injuries caused by run-of-the-mill negligence." Because, from the face of the complaint, the County and City were not immune, the Court reversed the grant of their motions to dismiss. View "Wilcher, Jr. v. Lincoln County Board of Supervisors" on Justia Law

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The California Table Grape Commission’s advertisements and related messaging represent government speech, as opposed to private speech, and the Ketchum Act’s (Cal. Food & Agric. Code 65500) scheme providing that the Commission’s activities are funded by assessments on shipments of California table grapes does not violate Plaintiffs’ rights under Cal. Const. art. I, 2. Plaintiffs, five growers and shippers of California table grapes, brought suit arguing that the collection of assessments under the Act to subsidize promotional speech on behalf of California table grapes as a generic category violates their right to free speech under Cal. Const. art. I, 2(a). Plaintiffs claimed specifically that the table grapes they grow and ship are exceptional and that the assessment scheme requires them to sponsor a viewpoint that they disagree with. The Supreme Court held that Plaintiffs failed to advance a viable claim under article I, section 2. Specifically, the Court held that there was sufficient government responsibility for and control over the messaging at issue for the communications to represent government speech that Plaintiffs can be required to subsidize without implicating their article I, section 2 rights. View "Delano Farms Co. v. California Table Grape Commission" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the issue presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court's consideration was whether the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) required disclosure of the names and addresses of successful bidders at a public auction of government property. An auction was held at the Bergen County Law and Public Safety Institute to sell sports memorabilia seized by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office. There were thirty-nine successful bidders. Plaintiff William Brennan submitted a request to the Prosecutor’s Office, based on OPRA and the common law, for “[r]ecords of payment received from all winning bidders” and “[c]ontact information for each winning bidder.” The Prosecutor’s Office offered redacted copies of receipts that did not include the buyers’ names or addresses. The Office explained that it had sent the buyers letters to ask if they would consent to disclosure of their personal information. For buyers who consented, the Office represented it would provide unredacted receipts. The trial court directed defendants to release the requested information under OPRA. The Supreme Court determined courts were not required to analyze the "Doe" factors each time a party asserts that a privacy interest exists. "A party must first present a colorable claim that public access to records would invade a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy." Here, defendants could not make that threshold showing. "It is not reasonable to expect that details about a public auction of government property -- including the names and addresses of people who bought the seized property -- will remain private. Without a review of the Doe factors, we find that OPRA calls for disclosure of records relating to the auction." The Court reversed the judgment of the Appellate Division. View "Brennan v. Bergen County Prosecutor's Office" on Justia Law

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Between 1853 and 1995, the Port Gamble Bay facility in Kitsap County, Washington operated as a sawmill and forest products manufacturing facility by Pope & Talbot and its corporate predecessors. Close to four decades after Puget Mill Co., predecessor to Pope & Talbot, began operating the sawmill, the legislature authorized the disposal of certain occupied state-owned aquatic lands, including the tidal lands within Port Gamble Bay. The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued the first lease for Pope & Talbot's use of the Port Gamble Bay submerged lands in 1974. In 1985, Pope & Talbot transferred 71,363 acres of its timberlands, timber, land development, and resort businesses in the State of Washington to Pope Resources, LP, which in turn leased the mill area to Pope & Talbot. Pope & Talbot ceased mill operations in 1995. Pope sought to develop their Port Gamble holdings for a large, high-density community with a marina. However, the Port Gamble site was contaminated, in part from the operation of sawmill buildings to saw logs for lumber, operation of chip barge loading facilities and a log-transfer facility, particulate sawmill emissions from wood and wood waste burning, in-water log rafting and storage, and creosote treated pilings placed throughout the bay to facilitate storage and transport of logs and wood products. After entering into a consent decree with the Washington Department of Ecology in 2013 for remediation of portions of the site exposed to hazardous substances, Pope/OPG filed a complaint in 2014 seeking a declaration that DNR was liable for natural resources damages and remedial costs, and for contribution of costs. The Superior Court granted summary judgment in favor of DNR in 2016. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that DNR was an "owner or operator" with potential liability under the Washington Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA). DNR appealed, and the Washington Supreme Court reversed, finding DNR was neither an "owner" nor an "operator" of the Port Gamble Bay facility for purposes of MTCA. View "Pope Res., LP v. Dep't of Nat. Res." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the circuit court’s dismissal of Appellant’s pro se petition for declaratory judgment and writ of mandamus challenging the Arkansas Department of Correction’s (ADC) calculation of his parole eligibility. In his petition, Appellant alleged that the ADC incorrectly included certain felony convictions in its calculation of his multiple-offender classification and therefore misclassified him as a fourth offender for purposes of parole eligibility. In addition, Appellant argued that including his 1981 convictions for burglary and robbery resulted in an ex post facto violation. The circuit court ruled that Appellant had failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted because the ADC had not erred in its calculation as to either issue. The Supreme Court held (1) there was no ex post facto violation; but (2) the ADC incorrectly included Appellant’s perjury conviction in its calculation of Appellant’s status as a habitual offender. View "Davis v. Kelley" on Justia Law