by
The Division of Recycling within the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) granted Carolina Poncio a probationary certificate to run a recycling center. CalRecycle revoked her probationary certificate after Poncio’s husband attempted to bribe a CalRecycle employee assigned to audit Poncio’s recycling center. After a CalRecycle hearing officer upheld the revocation, Poncio filed a petition for writ of administrative mandamus under Code of Civil Procedure section 1094.5. Poncio included in her petition an assertion that she was entitled to a traditional writ of mandamus under Code of Civil Procedure section 1085. However, because she sought review of a quasi-judicial adjudication, her exclusive remedy was a petition for writ of administrative mandamus under Code of Civil Procedure section 1094.5. The trial court denied the petition. On appeal to the Court of Appeal, Poncio argued: (1) the hearing officer and the trial court misapplied Public Resources Code section 14591.2 (the statute providing for disciplinary action against certificate holders); (2) CalRecycle violated Poncio’s constitutional and statutory due process rights; and (3) the evidence of the attempted bribe was insufficient to revoke Poncio’s probationary certificate for dishonesty. Concluding that each contention lacked merit, the Court affirmed judgment. View "Poncio v. Dept. of Resources Recycling & Recovery" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of an action brought by conservationist groups to enjoin the federal government's participation in the killing of gray wolves in Idaho pending additional analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). The panel held that the conservationist groups had Article III standing because declarations from members described how USDA Wildlife Services's wolf-killing activities threatened their aesthetic and recreational interests. Therefore, the members established that the interests fell within the scope of NEPA's protections and they established an injury-in-fact. The panel noted that causation was established under the relaxed standard for procedural injuries. Finally, the panel held that the district court erred in finding that plaintiffs' injuries were not redressable and in relying on an unpublished opinion that lacked precedential value. View "Western Watersheds Project v. Grimm" on Justia Law

by
The DC Circuit denied the States' petition for review of the EPA's decision to refuse to expand the Northeast Ozone Transport Region to include the upwind States of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia, and the remaining portions of Virginia. The court held that EPA's denial of the States' petition complied with the Clean Air Act and was a reasonable exercise of the agency's discretion. The court held that many of the States' arguments against EPA's denial derive from a fundamental misunderstanding of the scope of EPA's discretion; even if the States were correct that EPA's other Clean Air Act tools will not on their own completely solve the interstate ozone transport problem, this would not make enlargement of the transport region mandatory; EPA adequately explained the facts and policy concerns it relied on, recounted its historical use of the good-neighbor provision and the ongoing downward trend in ozone pollution, and therefore had a sufficient basis in the record for predicting that improvement would continue under the current regulatory scheme; and, with respect to the Northeast Region, EPA did not find equity irrelevant, as the States contend, but rather determined that any equitable concerns could not alone dictate the disposition of the petition. View "State of New York v. EPA" on Justia Law

by
The DC Circuit denied petitions for review of the FAA's decision that payments of the Portland International Airport's utility charges for off-site stormwater drainage and Superfund remediation did not constitute diversion of airport revenues or violate the Anti-Head Tax Act. The court held that Congress expressly authorized the use of airport revenues for "operating costs . . . of the airport" and the FAA has properly determined that the general expenses of a utility are such "operating costs." Therefore, the court rejected petitioner's contention that the FAA's decision was based on erroneous statutory interpretations and that the FAAs findings were not supported by substantial evidence. View "Air Transport Association of America v. FAA" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed two orders of the Public Service Commission (PSC) interpreting and applying regulations it adopted to give effect to the federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), 16 U.S.C. 2601 et seq., holding that there was no error in the PSC's decision. In the orders at issue, the PSC interpreted its PURPA-based regulations as applying to ad agreement between a small power plant and a traditional electric utility and applied the regulations to find that the agreement, with modification, was "just and reasonable" to the electric utility's consumers. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the PSC's decision was not contrary to the evidence, without evidence to support it, or arbitrary and that the PSC's approach was within the bounds of PURPA's requirement. View "Sierra Club v. Public Service Commission of West Virginia" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of the Court of Appeals and the Kansas Board of Workers Compensation concluding that Kan. Stat. Ann. 44-523(f)(1) unambiguously requires a claimant to move for extension within three years of filing an application for hearing for the claim to survive a proper motion to dismiss, holding that the statute unambiguously prohibits an ALJ from granting an extension unless a motion for extension has been filed within three years of filing the application for hearing. Appellant filed an application for hearing with the Kansas Division of Workers Compensation asserting that he fell and injured himself while working for Employer. Approximately three years later, Employer filed an application for dismissal, arguing that the ALJ should dismiss Appellant's claim under section 44-523(f) because Appellant had failed to move the claim toward a hearing or settlement within three years of filing his application for hearing. The ALJ granted Employer's application to dismiss. The Board and Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Court of Appeals' interpretation of the statute was correct. View "Glaze v. J.K. Willliams, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the decision of the Kansas Workers Compensation Board (Board) affirming an ALJ's denial of Helen Knoll's application for hearing with the Kansas Division of Workers Compensation (Division), holding that Kan. Stat. Ann. 44-523(f)(1) controlled Knoll's claim and required its dismissal. More than five years after Knoll filed her application with the Division, Employer moved to have Knoll's claim dismissed under section 44-523(f)(1) because the claim had not proceeded to a final hearing within three years of the filing of an application for hearing. The ALJ concluded that Knoll's motion for extension was timely and entered an award of compensation. The Board affirmed the ALJ's denial of the motion to dismiss. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that dismissal was appropriate because Knoll did not file a motion for extension within three years of filing her application for hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) if a workers compensation claimant filed an application for hearing under Kan. Stat. Ann. 44-534 after Kan. Stat. Ann. 44-523(f)(1) took effect in 2011, the 2011 statute governs the claim; and (2) because Knoll filed her application for hearing six months after the 2011 amendments became effective, section 44-523(f)(1) controlled her claim. View "Knoll v. Olathe School District No. 233" on Justia Law

by
This case arose when a member of the House of Representatives asked the House-appointed Chaplain, Father Patrick J. Conroy, to invite Daniel Barker—a former Christian minister turned atheist—to serve as guest chaplain and deliver a secular invocation. After Conroy denied the request, Barker filed suit alleging that Conroy unconstitutionally excluded him from the guest chaplain program because he is an atheist. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Barker's Establishment Clause claim. The court held that, although Barker had Article III standing to challenge his exclusion from the program, he failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The court held that Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783 (1983), and Town of Greece v. Galloway, 572 U.S. 565, 570 (2014), leave no doubt that the Supreme Court understands our nation's longstanding legislative-prayer tradition as one that, because of its "unique history," can be both religious and consistent with the Establishment Clause. The court noted that, although the Supreme Court has warned against discriminating among religions or tolerating a pattern of prayers that proselytize or disparage certain faiths or beliefs, it has never suggested that legislatures must allow secular as well as religious prayer. Therefore, in the sui generis context of legislative prayer, the court held that the House does not violate the Establishment Clause by limiting its opening prayer to religious prayer. View "Barker v. Conroy" on Justia Law

by
The Adams County, Mississippi Board of Supervisors (Board) designated Mount Airy Plantation Road as a public road, placing it on the official county road register in 2000. John Seyfarth petitioned the Board to abandon the portion of the road that dead ended into his property. He alleged that people were using the road to reach his property and trespass on it. The Board declined to abandon the road, denied Seyfarth’s request for damages, and did not address his requests that the Board take action to abate the nuisances he experienced. Seyfarth appealed to the circuit court, which affirmed the Board’s decisions not to abandon the road and not to award damages. But the circuit court ordered the Board to reasonably abate any nuisances to Seyfarth. Seyfarth appealed the circuit court’s ruling to affirm the Board’s decision not to abandon the road and not to award damages, and the Board cross-appealed the order that it abate any nuisances. Because Seyfarth had no remedy on the record before the Mississippi Supreme Court, it affirmed the circuit court’s judgment affirming the Board’s decisions declining to abandon the road and declining to award damages. But because, on this record, the Board had no legal authority to abate any nuisance in the manners suggested, the Supreme Court reversed and rendered the circuit court’s order mandating that the Board abate any nuisance. View "Seyfarth v. Adams County Board of Supervisors" on Justia Law

by
Genesis Hospice LLC provided outpatient hospice care to Medicaid beneficiaries in the Mississippi Delta. Claims Genesis submitted outside the norm, prompting a Mississippi Division of Medicaid audit. A statistical sample of 75 of the 808 billed claims were reviewed, and of that 75, 68 claims were not substantiated by the patients’ records and thus not eligible for payment. The auditing physicians specifically found that the patient records for the 68 rejected claims lacked sufficient documentation to support the given terminal-illness diagnosis and/or lacked documentation of disease progression. Medicaid’s statistician extrapolated that 68 of 75 unsupported claims represented a total overpayment of $1,941,285 for the 808 claims Genesis billed during the relevant time period. And Medicaid demanded Genesis repay this amount. Medicaid’s decision has been affirmed in an administrative appeal before Medicaid and by the Hinds County Chancery Court, sitting as an appellate court. On further appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court, Genesis essentially argued Medicaid unfairly imposed documentation requirements not found in the federal or state Medicaid regulations. Genesis insisted the only requirement was a physician’s certification that in his or her subjective clinical judgment the patient was terminally ill, which Genesis provided. The Supreme Court found the regulations were clear: a physician’s certification of terminal illness is indeed required, but so is documentation that substantiates the physician’s certification. Because Genesis’ records failed to support 90 percent of its hospice claims, Medicaid had the administrative discretion to demand these unsupported claims be repaid. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Genesis Hospice Care, LLC v. Mississippi Division of Medicaid" on Justia Law