Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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In May 2020, the chairs of the California Assembly and Senate committees that consider election-related matters, prepared a formal letter to the Governor indicating they were working on legislation to ensure Californians could vote by mail in light of the emergency occasioned by COVID-19. The committee chairs encouraged the Governor to issue an executive order allowing all Californians to vote by mail. On June 3, 2020, the Governor signed the order at issue here, Executive Order No. N-67-20. The Executive Order identified statutory provisions that were displaced pursuant to its provisions. At the time the Governor issued the Executive Order, two bills pending in the Legislature addressed the substance of the Governor’s Executive Order: Assembly Bill No. 860 (2019-2020 Reg. Sess.), which would ensure all California voters were provided ballots in advance of the election to vote by mail, and Senate Bill No. 423 (2019-2020 Reg. Sess.), which would govern those remaining aspects of the election that were yet to occur. In June, real parties filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief seeking a declaration that the Executive Order “is null and void as it is an unconstitutional exercise of legislative powers reserved only to the Legislature, nor is it a permitted action” under the Emergency Services Act and an injunction against the Governor implementing the Executive Order. The complaint also sought an injunction. In Newsom v. Superior Court, 51 Cal.App.5th 1093 (2020), the Court of Appeal granted the Governor’s petition challenging a temporary restraining order suspending the Executive Order that the superior court issued in an expedited, “ex parte” proceeding. The Court held that there was no basis for the superior court to grant real parties’ ex parte application at a hearing conducted one day after the action was filed, without proper notice to the Governor or his appearance, and without the substantive showing required for an ex parte proceeding. Following the earlier Newsom decision, the case was reassigned to a different judge who conducted a trial and entered a judgment granting declaratory relief that the Executive Order was void as unconstitutional, and that the California Emergency Services Act did not authorize the Governor to issue the Executive Order. In this case, the Court of Appeal granted the Governor’s petition and directed the superior court to dismiss as moot real parties’ claim for declaratory relief: the Executive Order was superseded by legislation and was directed only at the November 3, 2020 general election, which had occurred before the judgment was entered. However, the Court found the declaratory relief and accompanying permanent injunction regarding executive orders issued under the Emergency Services Act raised matters of great public concern regarding the Governor’s orders in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic emergency. The Court ruled the superior court erred in interpreting the Emergency Services Act to prohibit the Governor from issuing quasi-legislative orders in an emergency. The Court concluded the issuance of such orders did not constitute an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power. View "Newsom v. Superior Ct." on Justia Law

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In 2002, at the age of seven, Sanchez, a citizen of Mexico, entered the U.S. without inspection. In 2012, he obtained Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status; DHS periodically granted him renewals. In 2019, Sanchez was charged in New Jersey with sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child. USCIS revoked Sanchez’s DACA status. DHS took him into custody and charged him as being present without having been admitted or paroled, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(B)(ii).Sanchez applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and for relief under the Convention Against Torture. The IJ denied asylum, finding that Sanchez failed to meet the one-year filing deadline or show extraordinary circumstances; denied withholding of removal, finding the proposed social group was not cognizable; and denied his CAT claim, finding he did not demonstrate at least a 50 percent chance he would be tortured upon his return to Mexico. Two weeks after the IJ ordered Sanchez’s removal, his state criminal charges were dismissed.The BIA denied remand, citing then-Attorney General Sessions’ 2018 Castro-Tum holding that, under the regulations governing the Executive Office of Immigration Review, IJs and the BIA do not have the general authority to indefinitely suspend immigration proceedings by administrative closure unless a regulation or a previous judicially approved settlement expressly authorizes such an action. The Third Circuit vacated and remanded. The relevant regulations confer the general authority to administratively close cases to IJs and the BIA. View "Sanchez v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

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El Dorado County voters adopted Measure E in June 2016. Measure E’s stated purpose was to end the practice of “paper roads.” Prior to Measure E, if a project requiring discretionary approval would increase traffic beyond certain thresholds, the project could be approved so long as the developer contributed its proportional share of traffic impact fees to cover the cost of future road improvements, and so long as the necessary traffic-mitigating improvements were included in the County’s 10- or 20-year (depending on the project type) Capital Improvement Program. Measure E sought to end the practice of developments going forward, while traffic-mitigating road improvements remained on paper. Soon after Measure E passed, plaintiff-appellant Alliance For Responsible Planning petitioned for a writ of mandate as well as declaratory and injunctive relief, seeking to have Measure E declared invalid. Alliance argued, among other things, that Measure E violated the unconstitutional conditions doctrine. Defendants Sue Taylor et al. (Taylor) appealed a judgment granting in part Alliance’s petition for a writ of mandate. On appeal, Taylor contended the trial court erred in: (1) prematurely considering the facial challenge; (2) granting Alliance’s petition as to certain policies implemented by Measure E; and (3) granting Alliance’s petition as to Measure E’s eighth implementation statement. Finding no reversible error in the trial court’s decision, the Court of Appeal affirmed judgment. View "Alliance For Responsible Planning v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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The issue presented for the New Mexico Supreme Court’s review centered on the executive branch’s authority to impose business restrictions during a pandemic. Specifically, the Court was asked to address: (1) whether Petitioners were authorized to restrict or close businesses when necessary for the protection of public health; and (2) whether the renewed temporary closure of indoor dining at restaurants and breweries, mandated by a July 13, 2020, emergency public health order (July Order), was arbitrary and capricious. With respect to the first question the Supreme Court held, consistent with its opinion in Grisham v. Reeb, 2020-NMSC-___, (S-1-SC-38336, Nov. 5, 2020), that Petitioners were so authorized. With respect to the second question, the Court held that the July Order’s temporary closure of indoor dining was not arbitrary and capricious. View "Lujan Grisham v. Romero" on Justia Law

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Petitioner filed a whistleblower-retaliation complaint under 42 U.S.C. 5851 after the NRC rejected his applications for promotions. Petitioner is an NRC employee who made disclosures to Congress and the NRC's Inspector General regarding health and safety risks at a nuclear power plant. The ALJ dismissed the case because the United States had not waived sovereign immunity for such whistleblower actions against the NRC, and the ARB affirmed.After determining that it had jurisdiction over the petition, the Fourth Circuit denied the petition for review, agreeing with the ARB that Congress has not waived sovereign immunity for complaints against the NRC. In this case, petitioner failed to make the necessary affirmative showing of waiver with the required unequivocal expression. The court explained that the lesson in its recent decision in Robinson v. U.S. Dep't of Educ., 917 F.3d 799 (2019), is that the substantive and remedial provisions of a statute may not be coextensive. The court concluded that there is no doubt that the NRC is bound by the prohibitions of section 5851, but that fact alone is simply insufficient to form the basis of an unequivocal waiver of sovereign immunity. View "Peck v. U.S. Department of Labor" on Justia Law

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In Dow v. Lassen Irrigation Co. 216 Cal.App.4th 766 (2013, "Dow I"), the Court of Appeal resolved an ambiguity as to the “or” in the a portion of paragraph 21 of the 1940 Susan River Water Right Decree (decree) : “except further, that Lassen Irrigation Company shall be entitled to divert, or store up to the present capacity of its reservoirs, estimated at 31,500 acre-feet, from the natural flow of Susan River between March 1 and July 1 of each year when the flow of said Susan River is in excess of 20 cubic feet per second . . . .” The Court concluded the “or” was intended to function as a disjunctive connector. In this case, the Court was again called on to resolve a second ambiguity created by the same “or.” Jay Dow, as trustee for the Dow-Bonomini 2013 Family Trust, appealed the trial court’s denial of the trust’s motion challenging the decision of Honey Lake Valley Resources Conservation District, serving as the watermaster administering the decree, finding Lassen Irrigation Company could simultaneously exercise its rights to divert and store water, as provided in the paragraph 21 exception. The trust argued the watermaster’s and trial court’s interpretation of the paragraph 21 exception conflicted with the principles of law espoused in Dow I and was unreasonable given the plain language of the decree, resulting in absurdity and unfairness. The trust believed the “or” had to be read in the exclusive sense such that the Irrigation Company could exercise only one of its rights at a time. The Court of Appeal concluded the “or” in the paragraph 21 exception was appropriately interpreted to apply in the inclusive sense. Thus, the Court affirmed. View "Dow v. Honey Lake Valley Resource Conservation Dist." on Justia Law

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A national political organization engaged an Alaska media consultant to reserve over $1 million worth of television advertising time prior to the 2018 gubernatorial primary race. The national organization did not register with the Alaska Public Office Commission, and did not report the reservations to the agency. The Commission concluded that this conduct violated a statute requiring all entities to register before making any “expenditures,” including promises or agreements to transfer something of value, to influence an election. The superior court affirmed the Commission’s decision on appeal. The national organization appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court, arguing that the Commission defined “expenditures” too broadly. The Supreme Court concluded the Commission reasonably interpreted the campaign finance statute to include agreements to purchase television advertising, even when these agreements were not legally binding. The Court therefore affirmed the superior court’s decision affirming the Commission’s order. View "Republican Governors Association v. Alaska Public Offices Commission" on Justia Law

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After the Department of Corrections (DOC) investigated an allegation that a probation officer was providing special treatment in return for sexual favors and found it to be unsubstantiated, the probation officer sought the investigation records. DOC denied his request and the probation officer appealed to the superior court, which reversed the denial and ordered the records released because the allegation had not been substantiated. DOC appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court reversed the superior court’s order because the records were shielded from disclosure by the invasion of privacy exemption to the Public Records Act. View "Alaska Department of Corrections v. Porche" on Justia Law

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Jefferson County ("the county") filed a complaint against Wilbert of Birmingham, LLC ("Wilbert"), Lisa D. Turner, and Marvin Lands ("the taxpayers") seeking an order requiring the taxpayers to pay various taxes and license fees they allegedly owed to the county. The circuit court ruled in favor of the county and ordered the taxpayers to pay to the county $112,728.96 plus accrued interest and court costs. The taxpayers appealed. The merits of the circuit court's ruling were not actually before the Alabama Supreme Court in this appeal. Instead, the issue raised in the taxpayers' brief was whether the circuit court obtained jurisdiction over the matter pursuant to the Alabama Taxpayers' Bill of Rights and Uniform Revenue Procedures Act, 40-2A-1 et seq., Ala. Code 1975 ("the TBOR"). The Supreme Court found the taxpayers demonstrated that, by failing to schedule a conference with the taxpayers concerning the preliminary assessments, the county's department of revenue did not strictly comply with the procedural requirements of the TBOR. That failure to strictly comply with the procedural requirements of the TBOR deprived the circuit court of jurisdiction over the county's action against the taxpayers, and, thus, the order entered in favor of the county was void. Therefore, the Supreme Court dismissed the taxpayers' appeal and instructed the circuit court to vacate its judgment in favor of the county and to dismiss the case. View "Wilbert of Birmingham, LLC, et al. v. Jefferson County" on Justia Law

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Wife Becky Baldauf, in both her personal capacity and as administrator of her deceased husband’s estate, appealed the superior court’s order dismissing her claims against the Vermont State Treasurer and the Vermont State Employees’ Retirement System (VSERS) (collectively, the State). Wife argued she was entitled to receive a retirement allowance on account of her husband’s death while in active service under 3 V.S.A. 465. She also argued the State failed to adequately inform husband about his retirement allowance before his death, and accordingly, husband’s estate was entitled to relief under breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and negligent misrepresentation theories. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded Wife failed to state claims for which relief can be granted, and affirmed. View "Estate of Ronald Baldauf v. Vermont State Treasurer et al." on Justia Law