Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Arkansas Supreme Court
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In this action challenging the decision of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission disqualifying Carpenter Farms Medical Group, LLC's application for a marijuana-cultivation facility the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and dismissed in part the judgment of the circuit court denying the State's motion to dismiss based on sovereign immunity, holding that the complaint may go forward only under Ark. Code Ann. 25-15-207 and the declaratory judgment action alleging an equal protection violation. In its complaint, Carpenter Farms asserted (1) it was the only 100 percent minority-owned applicant and that the Commission singled out its application for disparate treatment in violation of equal protection guarantees; and (2) the Commission violated the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to adopt certain rules and improperly applying the rules it did adopt. The circuit court denied the State's motion to dismiss based on sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed in part, holding (1) the lawsuit cannot proceed regarding the Commission's application of its own rules or as an administrative appeal; and (2) Carpenter Farms can go forward with it claim that the Commission failed to adopt model rules and with its declaratory judgment action alleging an equal protection violation. View "Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration v. Carpenter Farms Medical Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the vacated the opinion of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission affirming and adopting the findings of the administrative law judge (ALJ) awarding an additional-benefits claim to Bruce Menser, holding that Menser's additional-benefits claim was time barred by the statute of limitations. At the time Menser requested a hearing before the Commission, he was receiving workers' compensation benefits. The ALJ found that Menser sustained compensable brain and neuropathy injuries during the course and scope of his employment and that the statute of limitations did not bar Menser's claim for additional medical benefits because it had been tolled. The Commission affirmed and adopted the ALJ's decision. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Commission erred in determining that Menser's claim for additional medical benefits sufficiently tolled the statute of limitations, and to the extent that Arkansas case law does not comport with this holding, those cases are overruled. View "White County Judge v. Menser" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission concluding that parent companies of a direct employer are immune from tort liability under the exclusive remedy statute, Ark. Code Ann. 11-9-105(a), holding that the Commission's decision was supported by substantial evidence. Plaintiff filed a wrongful death suit against the parent companies of her deceased husband's employer. The Commission concluded that the parent companies were statutory employers as principals and stockholders of the direct employer under section 11-9-105(a). The Commissioner further held that the parent companies' statutory entitlement to immunity was consistent with Ark. Const. art. V, 32. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that article 5, section 32 permits workers' compensation laws to extend only to "actual" employers. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission's finding that the parent companies were immune under the exclusive remedy provision was supported by substantial evidence in the record; and (2) section 11-9-105(a) is constitutional because the parent companies had an employment relationship with Plaintiff's deceased husband. View "Meyers v. Yamato Kogyo Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's order granting summary judgment to the Arkansas State Police (ASP) based on sovereign immunity and dismissing Appellants' suit for declaratory and injunctive relief alleging that the ASP policy prohibiting individuals with felony convictions from placement on the ASP Towing Rotation List is illegal, holding that sovereign immunity barred Appellants' suit. On appeal, Appellants argued that sovereign immunity did not bar their suit because ASP, an agency of the state, was acting illegally. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that Appellants failed to show that ASP was acting illegally, and therefore they could not overcome sovereign immunity. View "Steve's Auto Center of Conway, Inc. v. Arkansas State Police" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC) denying Appellant's petition to proceed in forma pauperis in a civil action requesting judicial review, holding that Appellant failed sufficiently to raise a constitutional question. In his civil action, Appellant asserted that prison officials initiated and conducted disciplinary proceedings against him in violation of his constitutional rights. The circuit court concluded that Appellant failed to state a colorable cause of action and that ADC officials were entitled to sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's denial of Appellant's petition, holding that Appellant did not state sufficient allegations entitling him to judicial review of ADC's administrative procedures. View "Muntaqim v. Kelley" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court dismissing Appellant's petition for judicial review of an administrative decision by the director of the Arkansas State Police, holding that the circuit court erred in concluding that the petition was barred by the State's sovereign immunity from suit. Appellant, a California resident, submitted an application to the state police to become licensed as a private investigator in Arkansas. The application was denied, and Appellant filed an administrative appeal. Colonel William J. Bryant, in his capacity as the director of the state police, found that Appellant was ineligible to receive a license due to his prior convictions. The circuit court concluded that Appellant's petition for judicial review was barred by the State's sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the State's sovereign immunity from suit did not apply to this proceeding. View "Hackie v. Bryant" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court granting Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and finding that the City of Fort Smith and its directors violated the open-meeting provisions of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) when three of the city directors and the city administrator exchanged emails relating to city business, holding that the email communication did not violate the open-meeting provisions set forth in Ark. Code Ann. 25-19-106. Specifically, the Court held (1) FOIA's open-meeting provisions apply to email and other forms of electronic communication between governmental officials just as they apply to in-person or telephonic conversations; but (2) the emails in this case were only background information and non-decisional information sharing, and therefore, there was no violation of the of the open-meeting provisions. View "City of Fort Smith v. Wade" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed as moot a direct appeal challenging the circuit court's order declaring the Arkansas State Plant Board's dicamba cutoff rule as void and dismissed in part and reversed in part the cross appeal challenging the same order dismissing with prejudice certain farmers' complaint on the basis of the Board's sovereign immunity, holding that the Farmers' constitutional claims were not subject to the sovereign immunity defense. In 2017, the Board voted to ban the in-crop use of dicamba-based herbicides after April 15, 2018. The Farmers sought declaratory and injunctive relief alleging that the process by which Board members were appointed was unconstitutional. Thereafter, the new rule took effect, and the Board filed a motion to dismiss the Farmers' complaint. The circuit court granted the Board's motion to dismiss on the basis of sovereign immunity. However, the court determined that the Board's sovereign immunity violated the Farmers' due process rights, thus holding that the Board's rule was void ab initio and null and void as to the Farmers. The Supreme Court held (1) the Board's appeal was of the portion of the circuit court's order declaring the Board's rule establishing the cutoff date for the application of dicamba herbicides was moot; but (2) the Farmers' constitutional claims could proceed. View "Arkansas State Plant Board v. McCarty" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court mooted in part and reversed and remanded in part the decision of the circuit court dismissing Monsanto Company's amended complaint against the Arkansas State Plant Board and its members (collectively, the Plant Board) on the basis of sovereign immunity, holding that portions of this matter were moot and, as to the remainder, sovereign immunity was inapplicable. In 2017, the Plant Board promulgated a rule that would prohibit in-crop use of dicamba herbicides during the 2018 growing season. Monsanto filed a complaint setting forth seven alleged claims against the Plant Board. Each of Monsanto's claims sought injunctive or declaratory relief for alleged illegal or unconstitutional activity by the Plant Board and did not seek an award of monetary damages in any respect. The circuit court granted the Plant Board's motion to dismiss based on sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the portions of the complaint that relate exclusively to the 2016 and 2017 promulgations were moot because the Plant Board has since promulgated a new set of regulations on pesticide use; and (2) Monsanto's claims were sufficiently developed as to properly allege ultra vires conduct, and under the circumstances, the Plant Board must address the merits of Monsanto's claims. View "Montsanto Co. v. Arkansas State Plant Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting a motion to dismiss filed by the Arkansas State Highway Commission and the Arkansas Department of Transportation and its director in this challenge to a contract entered into between the Department and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), holding that the circuit court correctly found that the complaint failed to state facts upon which relief could be granted. Under the contract in this case the Department would cede certain property to USFWS in exchange for a fifty-acre easement over land in the Cache River and White River Wildlife Refuges in order to build a new bridge on Highway 79. The agreement further required the Department to convey additional land to USFWS and to demolish three bridges. Appellants filed a motion for preliminary injunction and complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief, arguing that the contract was unconscionable, entered into under duress, and constituted a windfall to USFWS. The circuit court dismissed the complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the complaint lacked sufficient facts to state a claim for an illegal exaction. View "Prince v. Arkansas State Highway Commission" on Justia Law