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The superior court terminated a father’s parental rights to his son, finding that the child was in need of aid because of abandonment, neglect, and the father’s incarceration and that the Office of Children’s Services (OCS) had satisfied its statutory obligation to make reasonable efforts to reunify parent and child. The father appealed, arguing these findings were unsupported by the evidence. The Alaska Supreme Court agreed with the father: the record showed he initiated efforts to visit the child, who was already in OCS custody, as soon as he learned of his possible paternity; that during the father’s subsequent incarceration he had visitation as often as OCS was able to provide it; and that OCS never created a case plan to direct the father’s efforts toward reunification. The Supreme Court concluded it was clear error to find that the child was in need of aid and that OCS made reasonable efforts toward reunification, and reversed the termination decision. View "Duke S. v. Alaska, Dept. of Health & Social Services, Office of Children's Services" on Justia Law

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Steven Levi appealed a superior court decision affirming a Department of Labor and Workforce Development order requiring him to repay several months of unemployment insurance benefits plus interest and penalties because he under-reported his weekly income while receiving benefits. Based on a Department handbook, Levi argued he was not required to report his wages unless he earned more than $50 per day. The Alaska Supreme Court determined Levi’s reading of the handbook was unreasonable. Nonetheless, the governing statute required a reduction in benefits whenever a claimant’s wages were more than $50 per week. Levi made other arguments, but the Court found no merit to any of them. The Court affirmed the superior court’s decision. View "Levi v. State, Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development" on Justia Law

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Winter wheat farmers could purchase insurance to protect against below-average harvests. The policies at issue here offered yield protection. On July 1, 2014, the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (“FCIC”) published an interim rule to implement the 2014 Farm Bill. In that interim rule, the FCIC warned that the APH yield exclusion “may not be implemented upon publication” because “[p]roduction data availability and intensive data analysis may limit FCIC’s ability to authorize exclusions of yields for all APH crops in all counties.” Therefore, the FCIC amended the Common Crop Insurance Policy (CCIP) Basic Provisions (the actual terms of the insurance policy offered for sale) “to allow the actuarial documents to specify when insureds may elect to exclude any recorded or appraised yield.” The revised CCIP Basic Provisions stated that farmers “may elect” the APH yield exclusion “[i]f provided in the actuarial documents.” The deadline for winter wheat farmers to purchase insurance for the 2015 crop year was September 30, 2014. When Plaintiffs purchased insurance, they elected to use the APH yield exclusion. But in a letter dated October 31, 2014, the USDA notified insurance providers that the APH Yield Exclusion would not be available for winter wheat for the 2015 crop year. The letter stated that insurance providers could respond to farmers’ elections by pointing them to the USDA’s “actuarial documents,” which did not yet “reflect that such an election is available.” Plaintiffs sought review of this denial through the USDA’s administrative appeals process. An administrative judge determined that she lacked jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ challenge because the October 2014 letter to insurance providers was not an adverse agency decision. Plaintiffs then appealed to the Director of the National Appeals Division. The Director found that the October 2014 letter was an adverse agency decision, but affirmed the FCIC’s decision not to make the APH yield exclusion available to winter wheat farmers for the 2015 crop year. Plaintiffs appealed the Director’s decision to the United States District Court for the District of Colorado. The district court reversed the Director’s decision and remanded the case to the FCIC with instructions to retroactively apply the APH yield exclusion to Plaintiffs’ 2015 crop year insurance policies, reasoning the applicable statute unambiguously made the APH yield exclusion available to all farmers on the day the 2014 Farm Bill was enacted. Finding no reversible error in the district court’s judgment, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Ausmus v. Perdue" on Justia Law

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In 1996, California voters adopted Proposition 218 (as approved by voters Gen. Elec. Nov. 5, 1996, eff. Nov. 6, 1996 [as of Nov. 14, 2018], archived at ) (Proposition 218) to add article XIII C to the California Constitution by which they expressly reserved their right to challenge local taxes, assessments, fees, and charges by initiative. At issue in this case was whether section 3 of article XIII C to the California Constitution silently repealed voters’ right to challenge by referendum the same local levies for which they expressly preserved their power of initiative. The City of Dunsmuir (City) rejected a referendum measure submitted by one its residents, Leslie Wilde. The City rejected the referendum even though there was no dispute Wilde gathered sufficient voter signatures to qualify the referendum for the ballot to repeal Resolution 2016-02 that established a new water rate master plan. The City’s concluded its resolution establishing new water rates was not subject to referendum, but only voter initiative. Wilde petitioned for a writ of mandate in superior court to place the referendum on the ballot. At the same time, Wilde gathered sufficient voter signatures to place an initiative on the ballot to establish a different water rate plan. The trial court denied Wilde’s petition, and the City’s voters rejected Wilde’s initiative, Measure W. On appeal, Wilde contended the trial court erred in refusing to order the City to place her referendum on the ballot. The Court of Appeal concluded this appeal was not moot, and that the voters’ rejection of Wilde’s initiative water rate plan did not establish that the voters would necessarily have rejected Wilde’s referendum on the City’s water rate plan. On the merits, the Court concluded the voters’ adoption of Proposition 218 did not abridge voters’ right to challenge local resolutions and ordinances by referendum. The trial court erred in finding the City’s water rate plan was an administrative decision not subject to voter referendum. The resolution adopting an extensive water upgrade project funded by a new water rate plan was legislative in nature and therefore subject to voter referendum. View "Wilde v. City of Dunsmuir" on Justia Law

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This case involved challenges by the High Sierra Rural Alliance (High Sierra) to the Plumas County’s general plan update and the final environmental impact report (EIR). All of High Sierra’s challenges related to these documents’ treatment of possible growth outside of the County’s planning areas. Specifically, High Sierra contended: (1) the County’s general plan update violated the California Timberland Productivity Act of 1982 (Timberland Act) by determining a residence or structure on a parcel zoned as a timberland production zone is necessarily compatible with timber operations; (2) the general plan update violated Government Code section 51104; (3) the County violated CEQA by failing to properly address the potentially significant impacts of allowing construction of multiple buildings covering up to two acres on a single parcel without any discretionary review or mitigation policies to protect the environment; (4) the County’s EIR was defective because it did not properly describe or disclose the potentially significant impacts of allowing new clustered subdivision development in rural areas under general plan update policy number LU1.1.4; and (5) the County should be required to recirculate the final EIR because the County added significant information regarding development after the close of the public comment period. The Court of Appeal concluded the County’s general plan update did not violate the Timberland Act by failing to recite the statutory language in Government Code section 51104. And the County’s EIR is not deficient for lack of study regarding the effects of section 51104 on the construction of residences and structures in timberland production zone parcels. The Court also concluded the EIR adequately analyzed reasonably foreseeable development within the County, including impacts that could be expected outside the planning areas. The Court agreed with the trial court that the County reasonably crafted the EIR as “a first-tier environmental document that assesses and documents the broad environmental impacts of a program with the understanding that a more detailed site-specific review may be required to asses future projects implemented under the program.” View "High Sierra Rural Alliance v. County of Plumas" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Enable Oklahoma Intrastate Transmission, LLC (“Enable”), appealed the district court’s dismissal of its case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to join an indispensable party. Enable also challenged the amount of attorney fees the court awarded to the landowner defendants. Because the Tenth Circuit’s decision in Public Service Company of New Mexico v. Barboan, 857 F.3d 1101 (10th Cir. 2017), was dispositive of the subject matter jurisdiction issue, the Court affirmed the district court’s order dismissing the action. View "Enable Oklahoma Intrastate v. 25 Foot Wide Easement" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit denied in part and dismissed in part Petitioner’s petition for judicial review of a Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) decision affirming an immigration judge’s (IJ) denial of his requests for asylum, for withholding of removal, and for protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT), holding (1) the BIA did not err in upholding the IJ’s determination that Petitioner did not provide adequate corroboration for his claims; and (2) this Court lacked jurisdiction as to Petitioner’s claims regarding past persecution, ineffective assistance of counsel, and protection under the CAT. Specifically, the Court held (1) there was substantial evidence for the IJ’s determination that Petitioner did not provide adequate corroboration reasonably available to him for crucial elements of his claims; and (2) Petitioner’s remaining claims were waived to due a failure to exhaust administrative remedies. View "Avelar Gonzalez v. Whitaker" on Justia Law

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When Tammy Webster completed her National Guard training, she requested the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) renew her contract as a part-time dispatcher. When MDWFP refused to rehire her, Webster filed a Uniformed Services Employment and Remployment Rights Act (USERRA) claim in state court, successfully proving MDWFP violated her federal statutory right to reemployment. Though the prevailing party, Webster appealed, challenging both her compensation award of one year’s worth of lost part-time wages, and her attorney-fee award. The Mississippi Supreme Court held the trial court did not err in limiting Webster’s compensation to one year of lost wages: Webster had been employed under yearly contracts that were not automatically renewable, and MDWFP was under no statutory obligation to employ her indefinitely. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the remainder of the judgment because: (1) the trial court failed to rule on Webster’s liquidated-damages claim, even though Webster presented evidence MDWFP’s USERRA violation was “willful,” as that term is used in the statute; (2) the trial court arbitrarily assigned $2,800 as a reasonable attorney fee, without considering the time spent by or hourly rate of Webster’s counsel or any other relevant factor; and (3) the trial court taxed Webster her respective court costs, even though USERRA prohibits claimants from being taxed with costs. View "Webster v. Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a petition for review of the OMB's decision denying plaintiff's Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) petition. The PRA authorizes individuals to petition the OMB for a determination of whether they must provide information requested by or for a government agency. Where such a petition does not challenge an OMB decision "to approve or not act upon a collection of information contained in an agency rule," the subsequent determination is subject to judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act. The panel held that the denial of the petition was not statutorily precluded, because the petition did not involve a decision subject to the PRA's prohibition. Therefore, the panel held that the district court erred in determining that the OMB's denial of the petition was not a final agency action and the district court had jurisdiction to review the OMB's decision denying plaintiff's petition. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Hyatt v. Office of Management and Budget" on Justia Law

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Kerr was employed by the federal agency since 1980. Following adverse personnel actions, Kerr alleged sex and religious discrimination and retaliation before the agency’s Equal Employment Opportunity office. Kerr subsequently challenged her 2006 removal and the earlier adverse personnel actions before the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), citing Title VII and retaliation under the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA), 5 U.S.C. 1201. The MSPB indicated that it lacked jurisdiction over the less-serious personnel decisions and gave Kerr the opportunity to present her removal-related claims to the agency’s EEO office or have the MSPB decide them. Kerr chose the EEO office. The MSPB dismissed Kerr’s appeal without prejudice. The EEO office rejected Kerr’s discrimination claims and concluded that the WPA claim was not within its jurisdiction, telling Kerr that she could not appeal the constructive discharge claim to the EEOC, but could either appeal to the MSPB or file suit. Kerr filed suit. On remand from the Ninth Circuit, the government first argued that the court lacked jurisdiction over Kerr’s WPA claim because she failed to exhaust her administrative remedies by MSPB review. The district court dismissed the WPA claim. A jury returned a defense verdict on the discrimination claim. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court denied certiorari. The MSPB rejected Kerr’s request to reopen, concluding that there was neither good cause nor equitable tolling for the untimely filing. The Federal Circuit reversed. Kerr did have a reasonable basis for thinking that the district court was an appropriate forum for all of her claims. The court noted the language of 5 U.S.C. 7702, Tenth Circuit precedent, and that the government did not warn Kerr she would waive her claim by failing to file at the MSPB. Kerr has demonstrated reasonable diligence and there is no prejudice to the agency. View "Kerr v. Merit Systems Protection Board" on Justia Law