Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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The State petitioned to commit Nicholas Needham California under the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA). Preparing for trial on the petition, the district attorney retained a psychological expert to evaluate Needham and testify at trial that he qualified as an SVP. Needham moved to exclude the expert’s testimony at trial, but the trial court denied his motion. Needham appealed, seeking a declaration that the SVPA did not permit the State to call a privately retained expert to testify at trial. The Court of Appeal granted relief: “[G]iven the obvious dangers to essential liberty interests inherent in the SVPA, it must be carefully implemented and applied only where there is a high degree of certainty that it is warranted.” The Court found the statutory scheme deliberately limited when an SVP petition could be filed and brought to trial, as well as the evidence available to the prosecution. In light of this system, the Court concluded the expert-witness provisions of the Civil Discovery Act did not apply and that the State had no right to retain an expert witness to testify at trial. View "Needham v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court concluding that the retroactivity rule from two Seventh Circuit opinions - United States v. Leach, 639 F.3d 769 (7th Cir. 2011), and Vasqez v. Foxx, 895 F.3d 515 (7th Cir. 2018) - controlled and that, therefore, a disputed ordinance applied prospectively, holding that the ordinance was retroactive.The ordinance at issue was passed by the Village of Hartland, Wisconsin and placed a moratorium against any new sex offenders residing there either temporarily or permanently. Plaintiff, a registered sex offender, brought this action against the Village, alleging that the ordinance violated the Ex Post Facto Clause of U.S. Const. art. I, 10. Under the Leach-Vasquez rule, a law is not retroactive and cannot violate the Ex Post Facto Clause if it applies "only to conduct occurring after its enactment." The district court only considered the retroactivity prong of the two-part analysis because, under Leach-Vasquez, the ordinance operated only prospectively. The Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded the case, holding (1) this Court overturns the Leach-Vasquez rule governing the retroactivity inquiry of the Ex Post Facto Clause, and instead, the critical question is whether the law attaches new legal consequences to events completed before its enactment; and (2) the subject ordinance applies retroactively. View "Koch v. Village of Hartland" on Justia Law

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The Sixth Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing this ERISA action for lack of jurisdiction on the grounds that no contract bound the parties, holding that the presence of a live contract goes to the merits of this action, not the district court's jurisdiction to hear it.A group of employee benefits funds sued Defendant in a federal district court alleging breach of contract for late contributions under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Defendant responded that no contract existed and that the presence of a live contract was a jurisdictional prerequisite to Plaintiffs' ERISA suit, meaning that the claim should have been brought under the National Labor Relations Act and that the National Labor Relations Board had exclusive jurisdiction to hear Plaintiffs' grievances. The district court dismissed the suit without prejudice, holding that it lacked jurisdiction to hear Plaintiffs' claim. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that the presence of a live contract is not an essential jurisdictional fact in an action brought under section 515 of ERISA. Rather, the presence of a live contract goes to the merits of Plaintiffs' ERISA claim. View "Operating Engineers' Local 324 Fringe Benefits Funds v. Rieth-Riley Construction Co." on Justia Law

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Donna Fisher lived in a mobilehome located in The Groves mobilehome residential community in Irvine, California. In 2011, Fisher filed a verified assessment appeal application with the Assessment Appeals Board No. 3 (the Board) for the County of Orange (the County) contesting the County Assessor’s assessment of the value of the land upon which her mobilehome was sitting for the 2011-2012 fiscal year. She argued the property had suffered a decline in value. Following extensive hearings, the Board issued its findings of fact and determination denying Fisher’s application. Fisher filed suit against the County to challenge the Board’s decision and sought a refund for overpayment of taxes in the amount of $739 for the underlying real property of her mobilehome. Following trial, the trial court issued a statement of decision rejecting Fisher’s challenges to the Board’s findings of fact and determination and entered judgment in favor of the County. Fisher again appealed, but the Court of Appeal affirmed, finding no reversible error. View "Fisher v. County of Orange" on Justia Law

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Cisco Systems, Inc. hired “John Doe” in September 2015 to work as an engineer. Doe was required to sign an arbitration agreement as a condition of his employment. Under the agreement, Cisco and Doe had to arbitrate “all disputes or claims arising from or relating to” Doe’s employment, including claims of discrimination, retaliation, and harassment. Several years after signing the agreement, Doe filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, alleging Cisco discriminated against him because of ancestry or race. He reported that two supervisors denied him opportunities and disparaged him because, under the traditional caste system of India, he was from the lowest caste and they are from the highest. Doe also accused Cisco of retaliating when he complained about being treated unfavorably because of his caste. The Department notified Cisco of Doe’s complaint, investigated it, and decided it had merit. Attempts at informal resolution were unsuccessful. The Department then filed a lawsuit against Cisco and the two supervisors. The Department alleged five causes of action alleging multiple violations of FEHA, and sought a permanent injunction preventing Cisco from committing further violations, and mandatory injunctive relief requiring Cisco to institute policies to prevent employment discrimination. The complaint also requested an order that Cisco compensate Doe for past and future economic losses. Cisco moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the agreement Doe signed. The trial court denied the motion. On appeal, Cisco argued the Department was bound by the terms of Doe’s arbitration agreement. The Court of Appeal affirmed, finding the Department acts independently when it exercises the power to sue for FEHA violations. “As an independent party, the Department cannot be compelled to arbitrate under an agreement it has not entered.” View "Dept. of Fair Employment and Housing v. Cisco Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation (“PEDF”) challenged for the third time, the use of proceeds from oil and gas leasing on the Commonwealth’s forest and park lands as violative of Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, also known as the Environmental Rights Amendment. (“Section 27” or “ERA”). In previous trips before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, PEDF challenged several 2009-2025 budgetary provisions enacted challenging the use of proceeds from oil and gas leasing on the Commonwealth’s forest and park lands as violative of Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, also known as the Environmental Rights Amendment. (“Section 27” or “ERA”). In the first two cases, PEDF challenged several 2009-2015 budgetary provisions enacted in the wake of dramatic increases in oil and gas revenue resulting from Marcellus Shale exploration in Pennsylvania. Applying trust principles, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the budgetary provisions violated Section 27 by utilizing the oil and gas revenue for non-trust purposes via transfers to the General Fund. PEDF v. Commonwealth, 161 A.3d 911 (Pa. 2017) (“PEDF II”); PEDF v. Commonwealth, 255 A.3d 289 (Pa. 2021) (“PEDF V”). The underlying case here was one for a declaratory judgment, and named the Commonwealth and Governor as parties. Here, PEDF raised numerous constitutional challenges to provisions of the General Appropriations Act of 2017 and 2018, as well as the 2017 Fiscal Code amendments, all of which were enacted after the Supreme Court’s decision in PEDF II. After review , the Supreme Court affirmed the Commonwealth Court, whilst rejecting that court;s analysis derived from PEDF III. View "PA Enviro Defense Fdn, Aplt. v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Alaska Department of Revenue audited a non-resident corporation doing business in Alaska. The Department issued a deficiency assessment based in part on an Alaska tax statute requiring an income tax return to include certain foreign corporations affiliated with the taxpaying corporation. The taxpayer exhausted its administrative remedies and then appealed to the superior court, arguing that the tax statute the Department applied was facially unconstitutional because: (1) it violated the dormant Commerce Clause by discriminating against foreign commerce based on countries’ corporate income tax rates; (2) it violated the Due Process Clause by being arbitrary and irrational; and (3) it violated the Due Process Clause by failing to provide notice of what affiliates a tax return must include, and therefore is void for vagueness. The superior court rejected the first two arguments but ruled in the taxpayer’s favor on the third argument. The Department appealed, claiming the superior court erred by concluding that the statute was void for vagueness in violation of the Due Process Clause. The taxpayer cross-appealed, asserting that the court erred by concluding that the statute did not violate the Commerce Clause and was not arbitrary. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court reversed the superior court’s decision that the statute was facially unconstitutional on due process grounds, and affirmed the court’s decision that it otherwise was facially constitutional. View "Alaska Dept. of Revenue v. Nabors International Finance, Inc. et al." on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Supreme Court granted Omar Humphrey’s petition for certiorari review of a Court of Appeals decision that dismissed his case. Humphrey’s complaint alleged that neither Steve Holts, police chief of Senatobia, nor John Champion, district attorney for the Seventeenth Circuit Court District, had responded to his letters requesting evidence and documents that related to his conviction made pursuant to the Public Records Act. Humphrey’s complaint alleged the same basis for his claims against both Holts and Champion and made very little, if any, distinction between the two other than referencing the individual letters sent to each defendant. The Court of Appeals dismissed the case for want of an appealable judgment. The Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the was, in fact, a final, appealable judgment and that the Court of Appeals should have decided Humphrey’s case on the merits. View "Humphrey v. Holts, et al." on Justia Law

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Robert Procive appealed when a district court dismissed his appeal of an Administrative Law Judge’s order that denied his claim for Workforce Safety and Insurance (“WSI”) benefits. Procive submitted his first claim in 2020, alleging he suffered carpal tunnel syndrome due to injuries to both wrists, elbows, and shoulders resulting from repetitive digging, hammering and driving stakes, steel posts, and iron rods into the ground. He claimed his original injury occurred in western North Dakota, and he notified his employer of his injury in November 2004 and October 2016. WSI accepted liability for Procive’s right carpal tunnel injury, but denied for the left. Later WSI issued its order reversing its acceptance of liability for the right carpal tunnel, finding Procive willfully made false statements about whether he had prior injuries or received treatment. WSI ordered Procive to repay past benefits he received. After a hearing the ALJ affirmed WSI’s decisions denying coverage. Procive appealed to the district court in Stutsman County. WSI moved to dismiss the appeal, arguing the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Procive was required to file his appeal in the county where the injury occurred or the county where he resided. To this, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, finding the district court did not have jurisdiction. View "Procive v. WSI" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approving the application of Crowned Ridge Wind, LLC for a permit to construct a wind energy farm in northeast South Dakota, holding that the PUC acted within its discretion in this case.After a contested hearing, the PUC issued a written decision approving the permit. Two individuals who lived in rural areas near the project and had intervened to oppose Crowned Ridge's application sought review. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) neither of the Intervenors' evidentiary claims were sustainable; and (2) even if the Intervenors' claims were preserved for appeal, the PUC acted within its discretion when it denied the Intervenors' challenges to certain testimony. View "Christenson v. Crowned Ridge Wind, LLC" on Justia Law