Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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WasteXperts, Inc. (WasteXperts) filed a complaint against Arakelian Enterprises, Inc. dba Athens Services (Athens) and the City of Los Angeles (City) in June 2022. WasteXperts alleged that Athens, which holds a waste collection franchise from the City, sent a cease and desist letter to WasteXperts, arguing that WasteXperts was not legally permitted to handle Athens’s bins. WasteXperts sought judicial declarations regarding the City’s authority and Athens’s franchise rights, and also asserted tort claims against Athens for interference with contract, interference with prospective economic advantage, unfair competition, and trade libel.The Superior Court of Los Angeles County granted Athens’s anti-SLAPP motion to strike the entire complaint, finding that the claims were based on Athens’s communications, which anticipated litigation and were therefore protected activity. The court also held that the commercial speech exemption did not apply and that WasteXperts had no probability of prevailing on the merits of its claims. WasteXperts’s request for limited discovery was denied.The California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Four, reversed the trial court’s order. The appellate court concluded that the declaratory relief claim did not arise from protected activity, as it was based on an existing dispute over the right to move waste collection bins, not on the prelitigation communications. The court also found that the commercial speech exemption applied to Athens’s communications with WasteXperts’s clients, removing those communications from the protection of the anti-SLAPP statute. Consequently, the tort claims did not arise from protected activity. The appellate court did not address the probability of WasteXperts prevailing on the merits or the request for limited discovery. View "Wastexperts, Inc. v. Arakelian Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

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The case involves Lion Elastomers, a synthetic rubber manufacturer, and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Lion Elastomers had been found guilty of unfair labor practices by the NLRB for threatening, disciplining, and discharging an employee, Joseph Colone, for engaging in protected activities. The NLRB applied the Atlantic Steel standard to assess whether Colone's behavior lost its protected status. However, before the appeal of the Board’s decision had been briefed, the NLRB issued a new interpretation of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in a case called General Motors, which overruled Atlantic Steel. The NLRB then sought a remand to apply this new interpretation to the Lion Elastomers case.The case was remanded to the NLRB by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, instead of applying the new interpretation from General Motors as expected, the NLRB used the remand proceeding to overrule General Motors and return to the Atlantic Steel standard. Lion Elastomers argued that the NLRB exceeded the scope of the remand and violated its due-process rights during the remand proceeding.The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Lion Elastomers. The court found that the NLRB had exceeded the scope of the remand by not applying the General Motors standard as expected. The court also found that the NLRB had violated Lion Elastomers's due-process rights by not giving the company an opportunity to be heard before deciding to overturn General Motors. The court vacated the NLRB's decision and remanded the case back to the NLRB, instructing it to apply the General Motors standard to this case. View "Lion Elastomers v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Benjamin Ramirez, who, on behalf of a putative class, sued the Director and the Treasurer of the Missouri Department of Revenue in their official capacities. Ramirez had resolved criminal charges against him by pleading guilty and paying court costs, including certain mandatory surcharges. These surcharges were then paid to various funds, as authorized by Missouri statute. Ramirez alleged that the Director and the Treasurer received payment of, collected, and deposited the surcharges in and otherwise managed these funds. He claimed a single count of unjust enrichment and asserted the statutes authorizing the surcharges violate a section of the Missouri Constitution.The Director and the Treasurer moved for summary judgment, asserting that Ramirez’s suit is barred by sovereign immunity and the statutes authorizing the surcharges do not violate the Missouri Constitution. The circuit court sustained the motion, concluding the statutes authorizing the surcharges do not violate the Missouri Constitution. Ramirez appealed this decision.The Supreme Court of Missouri affirmed the circuit court's judgment. The court held that sovereign immunity, a common law judicial doctrine barring suit against a government or public entity, applied to Ramirez's claim for unjust enrichment. The court noted that sovereign immunity is the default rule in all suits against the state and applies to non-tort claims. The court found that the state had not waived its sovereign immunity through express statutory consent or a recognized common law exception. Therefore, Ramirez's unjust enrichment suit against the Director and the Treasurer was barred by sovereign immunity. View "Ramirez vs. Missouri Prosecuting Attorneys' & Circuit Attorneys' Retirement System" on Justia Law

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The case involves Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company, LLC (Transco), a natural gas company that sought to abandon and expand its pipeline facilities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To do so, Transco needed a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which it obtained. However, the certificate was subject to conditions, including that Transco receive three additional permits from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP). After receiving these permits, Transco began its pipeline project. However, three environmental advocates filed an administrative appeal with the Environmental Hearing Board (EHB) challenging PADEP's issuance of the permits. In response, Transco initiated a lawsuit in the District Court seeking to enjoin the administrative appeal, arguing that the Natural Gas Act preempts the state law allowing the appeal.The District Court rejected Transco's preemption arguments and denied its motion for a preliminary injunction. Transco appealed this decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's decision, finding that none of the theories of preemption advanced by Transco or the state agency applied in this case. The Court held that the Natural Gas Act does not expressly preempt administrative appeals to the EHB, nor does it field preempt such appeals. The Court also found that the possibility of multiple challenges in different fora to PADEP permitting decisions under the Clean Water Act for interstate natural gas pipelines does not impose an obstacle to the purposes of the Natural Gas Act. Therefore, the Court concluded that Transco's motion for a preliminary injunction was correctly denied. View "Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co LLC v. Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Evergreen Shipping Agency (America) Corp. and its affiliates, who were charged by the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) for imposing "unjust and unreasonable" detention charges on TCW, Inc., a trucking company. The charges were for the late return of a shipping container. The FMC argued that the charges were unreasonable as they were levied for days when the port was closed and could not have accepted a returned container. Evergreen contested this decision, arguing that the FMC's application of the interpretive rule was arbitrary and capricious, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.The FMC had previously ruled in favor of TCW, Inc. in a small claims program. The Commission then reviewed the decision, focusing on the application of the interpretive rule on demurrage and detention. The FMC upheld the initial decision, stating that no amount of detention can incentivize the return of a container when the terminal cannot accept the container. The Commission dismissed Evergreen's arguments that failing to impose detention charges during the port closure would have disincentivized the return of the container before the closure.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reviewed the case and found the FMC's decision to be arbitrary and capricious. The court noted that the FMC failed to consider relevant factors and did not provide a reasoned explanation for several aspects of its decision. The court also found that the FMC's application of the incentive principle was illogical. The court concluded that a detention charge does not necessarily lack any incentivizing effect because it is levied for a day on which a container cannot be returned to a marine terminal. The court granted the petition for review, vacated the Commission’s order, and remanded the matter to the agency for further proceedings. View "Evergreen Shipping Agency (America) Corp. v. Federal Maritime Commission" on Justia Law

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The case involves the Sandpiper Residents Association and other residents of Sandpiper Cove, a privately owned apartment complex in Texas, subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under its Section 8 project-based rental assistance program. The residents sued HUD, alleging that the agency failed to ensure that Sandpiper Cove was maintained in a habitable condition. They sought to compel HUD to issue Tenant Protection Vouchers, which would allow them to receive rental payment assistance for use at other properties.The District Court dismissed the residents' claims for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, reasoning that their claims had been mooted by the sale of Sandpiper Cove to a new owner who had not received a Notice of Default. The residents appealed this decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that the District Court erred in dismissing the residents' claims as moot. The court found that the question of whether the residents were legally entitled to relief after the sale of Sandpiper Cove went to the merits of their case, not mootness. However, the court affirmed the District Court’s dismissal of the residents' complaint because they failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The court held that the residents had not shown that the new owner of Sandpiper Cove had received a Notice of Default, a condition necessary for the issuance of Tenant Protection Vouchers under the relevant statute. View "Sandpiper Residents Association v. Housing and Urban Development" on Justia Law

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The case involves Dr. S. Stanley Young and Dr. Louis Anthony Cox, who were not appointed to the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They sued the EPA, alleging violations of the Federal Advisory Committee Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. The plaintiffs claimed that the EPA's selection process was biased, favoring candidates who supported stricter air quality standards, and that the EPA failed to adequately explain its compliance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act.The case was first heard in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, which awarded summary judgment to the EPA. The plaintiffs then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.The Court of Appeals found that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the suit. The court noted that the plaintiffs had not demonstrated an Article III injury with any of the theories presented. The court found no evidence that the EPA's process was biased against the plaintiffs. The court also noted that the plaintiffs had not raised an Equal Protection claim or any claim based on race or sex discrimination. Furthermore, the court found that the plaintiffs had not demonstrated a loss of benefits enjoyed by committee members, as they conceded that they had no individual right to serve on the committee. The court vacated the district court's order resolving the counts on the merits and remanded with instructions to dismiss both for lack of standing. View "Young v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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This case involves a qui tam action under the False Claims Act (FCA) and the Iowa False Claims Act (IFCA) brought by Stephen Grant, a sleep medicine practitioner, against Steven Zorn, Iowa Sleep Disorders Center, and Iowa CPAP. Grant alleged that the defendants had knowingly overbilled the government for initial and established patient visits and violated the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law by knowingly soliciting and directing referrals from Iowa Sleep to Iowa CPAP. The district court found the defendants liable for submitting 1,050 false claims to the United States and the State of Iowa and imposed a total award of $7,598,991.50.The district court had rejected the defendants' public disclosure defense and awarded summary judgment to the defendants on the Anti-Kickback Statute and Stark Law claim. After a bench trial, the district court found the defendants liable on several claims, including that Iowa Sleep had violated the anti-retaliation provisions of the FCA and IFCA by firing Grant. The district court also concluded that the defendants had overbilled on initial patient visits but not on established patient visits.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. The court held that the public disclosure bar was inapplicable because Grant’s complaint did not allege “substantially the same allegations” contained in the AdvanceMed letters. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting expert testimony on extrapolation and overbilling. However, the court found that the district court erred in its determination of damages and civil penalties, violating the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause. The court vacated the punitive sanction and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Grant v. Zorn" on Justia Law

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In April 2018, Benjamin Evans was shot and killed by Police Deputy Brian Krook in Lake Elmo, Minnesota, after Evans knelt in a crosswalk with a loaded gun pointed at his own head. Following a criminal trial, Krook was acquitted of a second-degree manslaughter charge. Subsequently, Evans' father, William O. Evans, Jr., filed a civil lawsuit against Krook under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Krook sought summary judgment based on qualified immunity, a defense unavailable when an officer uses deadly force against someone who does not pose an immediate threat of serious physical harm to another.The District Court for the District of Minnesota denied Krook's motion for summary judgment, citing genuine factual disputes over whether Evans' gun was ever pointed at the officers and whether Evans posed an immediate threat to them. Krook appealed this decision, challenging the denial of qualified immunity.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, in reviewing the case, first addressed the question of jurisdiction. The court noted that it did not have jurisdiction to review the district court's determination regarding evidence sufficiency, i.e., what facts a party may or may not be able to prove at trial. The court's jurisdiction was limited to the purely legal question of whether the conduct that the district court found was adequately supported in the record violated a clearly established federal right.The court found that the availability of qualified immunity in this case hinged on whether Krook acted reasonably under the circumstances by shooting Evans because Evans either pointed his gun at another or otherwise wielded his gun in a menacing fashion. The court concluded that the inconclusive nighttime videos of Evans' actions did not clearly contradict the district court's factual determinations. Therefore, resolving the underlying factual dispute was beyond the court's limited review. As such, the court dismissed the appeal, stating it lacked the jurisdiction to resolve it. View "Evans v. Krook" on Justia Law

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In a case involving the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania was asked to determine whether the PLCB is a "person" under Section 8303 of the Judicial Code and, if so, whether sovereign immunity bars mandamus damages sought under that provision. The case arose from the PLCB's failure to implement procedures to facilitate the direct shipment of special orders to customers, as required by law. The Commonwealth Court had issued a declaratory judgment to that effect and a writ of mandamus compelling the PLCB to comply. The Wine Vendors and Log Cabin subsequently applied for mandamus damages under Section 8303, which the PLCB contested, arguing that it was not a "person" under the statute and that sovereign immunity barred such damages.The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that the PLCB is a "person" within the meaning of Section 8303 and that sovereign immunity does not bar mandamus damages available under that provision. The court also held that attorneys’ fees awarded in relation to Section 8303 are not barred by sovereign immunity. The court affirmed the holdings of the Commonwealth Court and remanded for further proceedings. View "MFW WINE CO., LLC v. PENNSYLVANIA LIQUOR CONTROL BOARD" on Justia Law