Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Procedure
Pueblo of Jemez v. United States, et al.
The Pueblo of Jemez filed a quiet title action against the United States relating to lands comprising the Valles Caldera National Preserve (“Valles Caldera”), which the United States purchased from private landowners in 2000. In an earlier appeal, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed the district court’s ruling dismissing the case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Court reversed and remanded, finding that an 1860 federal grant of title to private landowners would not extinguish the Jemez Pueblo’s claimed aboriginal title. Upon remand, the Jemez Pueblo could establish that it once and still had aboriginal title to the lands at issue. After a twenty-one-day trial, the district court ruled that the Jemez Pueblo failed to establish ever having aboriginal title to the entire lands of the Valles Caldera, failing to show that it ever used the entire claimed land to the exclusion of other Indian groups. The Jemez Pueblo moved for reconsideration under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). But rather than seek reconsideration of its complaint’s QTA claim to the entire Valles Caldera, the Jemez Pueblo shrunk its QTA claim into claims of title to four discrete subareas within the Valles Caldera: (1) Banco Bonito, (2) the Paramount Shrine Lands, (3) Valle San Antonio, and (4) the Redondo Meadows. The district court declined to reconsider all but Banco Bonito, on grounds that the Jemez Pueblo hadn’t earlier provided the government notice of these claims. Even so, being thorough, the court later considered and rejected those three claims on the merits. Of the issues raised by the Jemez Pueblo on appeal, we primarily address its challenge to the district court’s ruling that the Jemez Pueblo lost aboriginal title to Banco Bonito. The Tenth Circuit concluded the district court erroneously interpreted "Jemez I" in ruling that the Jemez Pueblo lost aboriginal title to Banco Bonito. So in accordance with longstanding Supreme Court precedent, and by the district court’s findings, the Court held the Jemez Pueblo still had aboriginal title to Banco Bonito. The Court reversed in part the denial of the Jemez Pueblo’s motion for reconsideration, and vacated in part and remanded with instructions to the district court. The Court affirmed in all other respects. View "Pueblo of Jemez v. United States, et al." on Justia Law
Jason Payne v. Joseph Biden, Jr.
On November 22, 2021—the day federal employees were required to be vaccinated—Appellant filed suit in District Court, challenging the mandate’s constitutionality. Characterizing Appellant’s suit as a “workplace dispute involving a covered federal employee,” the District Court found Appellant’s claims were precluded under the CSRA and dismissed the suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. On appeal, Appellant insisted that he challenges the vaccine mandate’s constitutionality, as opposed to contesting a workplace dispute under the CSRA. According to his complaint, however, he alleged that the vaccine mandate is unconstitutional—at least in part—because it requires that he obtain the vaccine to avoid adverse employment action. The DC Circuit affirmed. The court explained that all attempts to characterize his argument as anything but a challenge to adverse employment action fail for jurisdictional purposes because Appellant himself admitted that his standing to challenge the vaccine mandate is rooted in the looming disciplinary action he now faces as a result of his continued noncompliance. In other words, Appellant challenges the vaccine mandate to maintain his employment while continuing to defy the mandate that he views as unlawful. And while his constitutional arguments are relevant to the merits, they do not change the fact that one of Appellant’s interests in this suit is to avoid the impending adverse employment action. Appellant’s claims are not wholly collateral because challenges to adverse employment actions are the type of claims that the MSPB regularly adjudicates. Thus, the court found that should Appellant choose to continue challenging the vaccine mandate, he must do so through the CSRA’s scheme. View "Jason Payne v. Joseph Biden, Jr." on Justia Law
Richardson v. Blaine County
Appellants were residents of Blaine County, Idaho (the “County”) who opposed a modified conditional use permit that the County granted to Idaho Power to install above-ground power lines. After the County denied Petitioners’ motion to reconsider as untimely, Petitioners sought judicial review of the permit in district court. Intervenor, Idaho Power Company, filed a motion to dismiss the petition, which the County joined, arguing that Petitioners’ underlying motion to reconsider was untimely, thereby precluding the district court from exercising its jurisdiction over the petition. The district court granted the motion to dismiss and concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the petition because the Local Land Use and Planning Act (LLUPA) required aggrieved parties to file a timely motion to reconsider prior to seeking judicial review. The district court further held that no exception to the exhaustion of administrative remedies doctrine applied. Petitioners timely appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court to resolve the question of whether the LLUPA required a timely motion to reconsider to be filed in advance of a petition for judicial review. The Supreme Court concluded the act does require the filing of a timely motion to reconsider in advance of a petition for judicial review, and, therefore, affirmed the district court's order. View "Richardson v. Blaine County" on Justia Law
Western Watersheds Project v. Interior Board of Land Appeals, et al.
In 2019, Western Watersheds Project sued to challenge the issuance of permits that expired in 2018. The district court dismissed the case for lack of Article III standing. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with that decision: Western Watersheds Project’s claims were brought against expired permits that had already been renewed automatically by 43 U.S.C. § 1752(c)(2). And the timing of a new environmental analysis of the new permits was within the Secretary’s discretion under 43 U.S.C. § 1752(i). Western Watersheds Project, therefore, lacked Article III standing because its claims were not redressable. View "Western Watersheds Project v. Interior Board of Land Appeals, et al." on Justia Law
Environmental Law Foundation v. State Water Resources Control Bd.
Some of the practices that have made California's Central Valley an "agricultural powerhouse" have also adversely impacted the region’s water quality and environmental health. Respondents State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) and Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Central Valley Water Board) are responsible for regulating waste discharges from irrigated agricultural operations in the Central Valley. The State Water Board adopted order WQ 2018-0002 (Order) in February 2018. Environmental Law Foundation (Foundation), Monterey Coastkeeper (Coastkeeper), and Protectores del Agua Subterranea (Protectores) (collectively, appellants) brought petitions for writs of mandate challenging various aspects of the Order. The trial court consolidated the cases and granted a motion for leave to intervene by the East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition (Coalition) and others (cumulatively, the Coalition). Following a hearing on the merits, the trial court denied the petitions. Appellants appealed, advancing numerous claims of error. Ultimately, the Court of Appeal rejected these arguments and affirmed the judgments. View "Environmental Law Foundation v. State Water Resources Control Bd." on Justia Law
LYDIA OLSON, ET AL V. STATE OF CALIFORNIA, ET AL
Individuals Plaintiffs, Uber, Inc. (Uber) and Postmates, Inc. (Postmates, and collectively Plaintiffs) appealed the district court’s orders denying their motion for a preliminary injunction and dismissing their Second Amended Complaint. Plaintiffs filed this action to enjoin the State of California and the Attorney General of California (Defendants), from enforcing California Assembly Bill 5, 2019 Cal. Stats. Ch. 296 (A.B. 5), as amended by California Assembly Bill 170, 2019 Cal. Stats. Ch. 415 (A.B. 170) and California Assembly Bill 2257, 2020 Cal. Stats. Ch. 38 (A.B. 2257, and collectively A.B. 5, as amended), against them. A.B. 5, as amended, codified the “ABC test” adopted by the Supreme Court of California in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, 4 Cal. 5th 903 (2018).1 A.B. 5, as amended, however, incorporated numerous exemptions into its provisions. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part district court orders dismissing Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint and denying Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction and remanded. The panel first held that, even under the fairly forgiving rational basis review, Plaintiffs plausibly alleged that A.B. 5, as amended, violated the Equal Protection Clause for those engaged in app-based ride-hailing and delivery services. Thus, Plaintiffs plausibly alleged that the primary impetus for the enactment of A.B. 5 was the disfavor with which the architect of the legislation viewed Uber, Postmates, and similar gig-based business models. The panel held that the district court correctly dismissed Plaintiffs’ due process claims because Plaintiffs failed to plausibly allege that A.B. 5, as amended, completely prohibited them from exercising their “right to engage in a calling.” View "LYDIA OLSON, ET AL V. STATE OF CALIFORNIA, ET AL" on Justia Law
Murey v. City of Chickasaw, et al.
Carlos Fernando Reixach Murey, as administrator of the estate of Carlos Lens Fernandez, deceased, appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in two separate actions in favor of defendants the City of Chickasaw, Michael Reynolds, Cynthia Robinson Burt, Arellia Taylor, and George Taylor. In May 2016 at approximately 2:00 A.M., a Chickasaw police officer discovered an automobile on the shoulder of the on-ramp to an interstate highway. Carlos Lens Fernandez ("Lens") was passed out inside the automobile, and the automobile's engine was running. After he failed to complete various field sobriety tests, Lens acknowledged that he was intoxicated. Lens was arrested for DUI and transported to jail. Lens did not advise Sgt. Taylor or any other person that he had any medical issues or that he needed medical attention. According to both Sgt. Taylor and Sgt. Burson, Lens appeared to be intoxicated, and nothing about their encounter with Lens indicated to them that Lens needed medical attention. The jailers/dispatchers on duty when Lens was brought in noted Lens' condition and apparent inability to answer questions, but neither fully completed a medical-screening form for Lens. Hours after his arrival, the jailers monitored Lens through a video-monitoring system. Lens did not respond to oral commands; officers physically checked him, found no pulse, attempted to revive him, but Lens was pronounced dead at 9:14 A.M. that morning. The autopsy report listed the cause of death as "hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease." The Alabama Supreme Court concluded Murey could not establish the officers, City nor jailers were not immune from liability for their actions surrounding Lens' death. Accordingly, judgment in favor of the government defendants was affirmed. View "Murey v. City of Chickasaw, et al." on Justia Law
Wells et al. v. Spera
Brothers Newton and Jason Wells (plaintiffs) and their mother Beverly Wells, filed suit in September 2017 seeking to partition real property they held as tenants in common with defendant Pall Spera in Stowe, Vermont. The court granted plaintiffs’ summary-judgment motion on the question of whether they were entitled to partition as a matter of law, and issued an order of appointment of commissioners and order of reference by consent of the parties. The order appointed three commissioners and directed them to determine whether the property could be divided, assigned to one of the parties, or sold. They were ordered to determine the fair market value of the property and each person’s equitable share. Neither party reserved the right to object to the commissioners’ report. Ultimately, the commissioners concluded that physical division would cause great inconvenience to the parties. Finding division inequitable, the commissioners awarded defendant first right of assignment due to his ability to buy out plaintiffs’ interest immediately, while plaintiffs required a loan to do so, and because partition would constitute the dissolution of the partnership agreement, which defendant had wished to continue. Plaintiffs filed a motion objecting to the report, citing Vermont Rule of Civil Procedure 53(e)(2)(iii). Plaintiffs’ main argument was that the commissioners exceeded their mandate as provided by the order of reference in concluding that partition would result in zoning violations, and the commissioners erred on that question as a matter of law. In the alternative, they argued the equities favored assigning the property to them. The court denied the motion, including plaintiffs’ request for a hearing, and adopted the report without qualification. It reasoned that plaintiffs had not reserved their right to object to the report as required by the plain language of Civil Rule 53(e)(2)(iii). Finding no reversible error in this decision, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Wells et al. v. Spera" on Justia Law
Vitale et al. v. Bellows Falls Union High School et al.
Plaintiffs were three sets of parents of schoolchildren who resided in school districts which maintained a public school for at least some grades and did not provide the opportunity for children to attend the public or independent school of their parents’ choice for all grades at the state’s expense. They raised a facial constitutional challenge to Vermont statutes that allowed school districts to choose whether to maintain a public school, permit children to attend an out-of-district public school or an independent school at the state’s expense, or some combination of both. The civil division dismissed parents’ complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Finding no reversible error in that decision, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Vitale et al. v. Bellows Falls Union High School et al." on Justia Law
Yuriy Mikhaylov v. Dept. of Homeland Security
Petitioner, an employee of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of the Department of Homeland Security (“ICE” or “Agency”), petitions for review of the final judgment of the Merit Systems Protection Board (the “Board”), which rejected Petitioner’s claim that the Agency suspended him for two days in retaliation for his disclosures of misconduct. The Fourth Circuit denied the petition. The court explained that after conducting a hearing and considering the evidence, the administrative judge denied the corrective action sought by Petitioner, concluding that Petitioner’s protected disclosures were not contributing factors to the discipline imposed and, alternatively, that the Agency proved by clear and convincing evidence that it would have taken the action even in the absence of the disclosures. The court denied the petition explaining that the administrative judge committed no legal error and his factual findings are supported by substantial evidence. View "Yuriy Mikhaylov v. Dept. of Homeland Security" on Justia Law