Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Business Law
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The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) is subject to the Right to Know Law’s record-disclosure mandates. The PIAA is a non-profit corporation and voluntary-member organization which organizes interscholastic athletics and promotes uniform standards in interscholastic sports. In 2020, Simon Campbell, a private citizen, filed a records request under the Right to Know Law seeking eight categories of records from the PIAA. The PIAA objected, asserting it is not a Commonwealth authority or entity subject to the Right to Know Law, and noted its intent to litigate the issue. The court found that the inclusion of PIAA in the definition of a state-affiliated entity, a subset of the definition of a Commonwealth agency, indicates that the General Assembly intended to subject PIAA to the Right to Know Law's record-disclosure scheme. Furthermore, the court found that the General Assembly did not mean the phrase "Commonwealth entity" to be strictly limited to official government agencies. Instead, the Assembly intended the phrase to include organizations that perform some role associated with statewide governance. View "Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, Inc. v. Campbell" on Justia Law

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In 2016, Venezuela's state-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), offered a bond swap whereby its noteholders could exchange unsecured notes due in 2017 for new, secured notes due in 2020. PDVSA defaulted in 2019, and the National Assembly of Venezuela passed a resolution declaring the bond swap a "national public contract" requiring its approval under Article 150 of the Venezuelan Constitution. PDVSA, along with its subsidiaries PDVSA Petróleo S.A. and PDV Holding, Inc., initiated a lawsuit seeking a judgment declaring the 2020 Notes and their governing documents "invalid, illegal, null, and void ab initio, and thus unenforceable." The case was taken to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which certified three questions to the New York Court of Appeals.The New York Court of Appeals, in answering the first question, ruled that Venezuelan law governs the validity of the notes under Uniform Commercial Code § 8-110 (a) (1), which encompasses plaintiffs' arguments concerning whether the issuance of the notes was duly authorized by the Venezuelan National Assembly under the Venezuelan Constitution. However, New York law governs the transaction in all other respects, including the consequences if a security was "issued with a defect going to its validity." Given the court's answer to the first certified question, it did not answer the remaining questions. View "Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. v MUFG Union Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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In the State of Delaware, a lawsuit was brought by two non-profit organizations against multiple public officials, including tax collectors in Delaware's three counties. The organizations sought increased funding for Delaware’s public schools. The Court of Chancery held that the organizations were entitled to attorneys’ fees and expenses. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Delaware held that the Court of Chancery erred in its application of the "common benefit doctrine" and its expansion of a precedent case, Korn v. New Castle County, beyond taxpayer suits. The Supreme Court affirmed the Chancery Court's award of expenses, but reversed the award of attorneys' fees. The Supreme Court held that the litigation brought by the organizations was to compel the defendant county governments to comply with the law, a benefit that did not warrant an exception to the "American Rule" which states that each party bears its own attorneys' fees, absent certain exceptions. The Court also held that, even if this case were a taxpayer suit, it does not meet the standard set forth in Korn because there was not a quantifiable, non-speculative monetary benefit for all taxpayers. View "In re Delaware Public Schools Litigation" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled in a case brought by the State of Missouri against several Chinese entities, including the government of the People's Republic of China, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and others. Missouri accused the defendants of negligence in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, alleging that they allowed the virus to spread worldwide, engaged in a campaign to keep other countries from learning about the virus, and hoarded personal protective equipment (PPE). The court decided that most of Missouri's claims were blocked by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which generally protects foreign states from lawsuits in U.S. courts. However, the court allowed one claim to proceed: the allegation that China hoarded PPE while the rest of the world was unaware of the extent of the virus. The court held that this claim fell under the "commercial activity" exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, as it involved alleged anti-competitive behavior that had a direct effect in the United States. The case was remanded for further proceedings on this claim. View "The State of Missouri v. The Peoples Republic of China" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed and vacated parts of a judgment against EOX Holdings, L.L.C., and Andrew Gizienski ("Defendants") in a case initiated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission ("CFTC"). The CFTC had accused the defendants of violating a rule that prevents commodities traders from "taking the other side of orders" without clients' consent. The court ruled that the defendants lacked fair notice of the CFTC's interpretation of this rule. The case revolved around Gizienski's actions while working as a broker for EOX, where he had discretion to make specific trades on behalf of one of his clients, Jason Vaccaro. The CFTC argued that Gizienski's actions violated the rule because he was making decisions to trade opposite the orders of other clients without their knowledge or consent. The court, however, ruled that the CFTC's interpretation of the rule was overly broad, as it did not provide sufficient notice that such conduct would be considered taking the other side of an order. The court reversed the penalty judgment against the defendants, vacated part of the injunction against them, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Commodity Futures v. EOX Holdings" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Missouri reversed the circuit court's ruling and held that the Truly Agreed and Finally Passed House Bill 1606 (2022) (“TAFP HB 1606”) violated the single subject requirement of article III, section 23 of the Missouri Constitution. The bill was initially proposed to reduce the amount of information certain counties had to publish in their financial statements. However, the bill underwent several modifications, including the addition of section 67.2300, which imposed restrictions on the expenditure of state funds for combating homelessness and made unauthorized sleeping and camping on state-owned lands a class C misdemeanor. The appellants, including a group of individuals and a non-profit organization, argued that the addition of section 67.2300 altered the bill's original purpose, introduced a second subject to the bill, and rendered the bill's title unclear, thereby violating the single subject, clear title, and original purpose requirements of the Missouri Constitution. The court agreed, finding that the provisions of section 67.2300 did not fairly relate to or have a natural connection with the bill's general subject of "political subdivisions," but rather related to the completely different subject of homelessness. Consequently, the court declared TAFP HB 1606 invalid in its entirety. View "Byrd v. State of Missouri" on Justia Law

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This case revolves around the filed rate doctrine and its applicability in instances where rates approved by a municipal board are questioned. The plaintiffs, a group of customers, sued Recology, a waste management company, alleging that the company violated the Unfair Competition Law and other laws by bribing a city official to facilitate the approval of Recology’s application for increased refuse collection rates. The trial court ruled in favor of Recology, holding that the claims were barred by the filed rate doctrine. The Court of Appeal of the State of California First Appellate District Division Three reversed the decision, stating that the California version of the filed rate doctrine does not bar this action because the purposes underlying the doctrine – “nondiscrimination” and “nonjusticiability” strands – are not implicated by plaintiffs’ claims. The court also concluded that the judgment in the prior law enforcement action does not pose a res judicata bar to this putative class action. The court remanded the case for the trial court’s consideration of Recology’s remaining challenges in the first instance. View "Villarroel v. Recology" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Minnesota Tax Court affirming the assessment of the Commissioner of Revenue assessing tax on an apportioned share of Cities Management, Inc.'s (CMI) income from the sale of the S corporation, holding that the income from the corporation's sale was apportionable business income.CMI, which did business in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and its nonresidential partial owner filed Minnesota tax returns characterizing the sale of CMI's goodwill as income that was not subject to apportionment by the State under Minn. Stat. Ann. 290.17. The Commissioner disagreed and assessed tax on an apportioned share of the corporation's income from the sale. The tax court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that CMI's income did not constitute "nonbusiness" income under section 290.17, subd. 6 and may be constitutionally apportioned as business income. View "Cities Management, Inc. v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Shelbyville Post Office is the closest one to Ellison’s home and the largest in that area of Indiana. Ellison keeps a P.O. box at Shelbyville or her non-profit organization, which educates the public about accessibility for people with disabilities. Ellison cannot enter the Shelbyville Post Office because it has only one customer entrance: at the top of its front steps. Ellison can ask for help from the loading dock or from a van-accessible parking space, use the Postal Service’s website, or visit wheelchair-accessible locations in surrounding towns. After multiple complaints about the inconvenience of those options, the City of Shelbyville offered to pay for a ramp at the front entrance. The Postal Service declined, citing a policy of refusing donations for exterior physical improvements.In a suit under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794(a), the district court entered summary judgment, concluding that Ellison could meaningfully access the program through its website and three wheelchair-accessible locations within a 15-minute drive of her home. The Seventh Circuit vacated and remanded for consideration of whether Ellison’s proposed accommodation (a ramp) is reasonable. The Shelbyville Post Office does not provide a significant level of access, and the alternative locations are further away and open for fewer hours than Shelbyville. View "Ellison v. United States Postal Service" on Justia Law

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The Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health (the Division) issued a citation to Granite Construction Company/Granite Industrial, Inc. (Granite Construction) for allegedly violating three regulations relevant here. One was that the company required its employees to wear masks without first providing a medical evaluation to determine their fitness to wear them. And the Division alleged the company violated two other regulations because it exposed its employees to dust containing a harmful fungus— namely, Coccidioides, the fungus that causes Valley fever—and failed to implement adequate measures to limit this exposure. After Granite Construction disputed these allegations, an administrative law judge (ALJ) rejected the Division’s claims. The ALJ reasoned that no credible evidence showed that Granite Construction required its employees to wear masks and no reliable evidence showed that Coccidioides was present at the worksite. But after the Division petitioned for reconsideration, the Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board (the Board) reversed on these issues and ruled for the Division. The trial court later denied Granite Construction’s petition for writ of administrative mandate seeking to set aside the Board’s decision. The Court of Appeal reversed: the Court agreed insufficient evidence showed its employees were exposed to Coccidioides. But the Court rejected its additional claim that it allowed (rather than required) its employees to wear masks, finding sufficient evidence supported the Board’s contrary ruling on this point. View "Granite Construction Co. v. CalOSHA" on Justia Law