Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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Plaintiff TransFarmations, Inc. appealed a superior court decision to uphold the Town of Amherst Planning Board's (Town) decisions to deny TransFarmations' two successive applications for a conditional use permit (CUP). In May 2019, TransFarmations requested a “Conceptual Meeting” with the Town’s planning board (Board) concerning its proposed development of an approximately 130-acre property known as the Jacobson Farm. It stated that the “development will be designed to meet many of the desired attributes the Town . . . has articulated in [its] Master Plan and [Integrated] Innovative . . . Housing Ordinance (IIHO),” including workforce housing and over-55 housing. TransFarmations subsequently submitted a CUP application under the IIHO for a planned residential development containing 64 residential units. In its challenge to the decisions, TransFarmations argued both that the decisions failed to adequately state the ground for denial and that the Board acted unreasonably because the second CUP application was materially different from the first. The trial court concluded that the Board adequately provided the reason for its first decision on the record because “the Board members discussed, in detail, their reasons for concluding that no material differences [between the first and second applications] existed.” The court also concluded that “the Board acted reasonably and lawfully in reaching [that] decision.” Accordingly, the court affirmed both of the Board’s decisions. TransFarmations contended the trial court erred in affirming the Board’s decision not to accept the second application because TransFarmations submitted that application “at the Board’s invitation and with the information the Board requested.” The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded TransFarmations’ second application supplying the requested information was “materially different from its predecessor, thus satisfying Fisher.” Because the trial court’s decision concluding otherwise misapplied Fisher v. Dover, it was legally erroneous. Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court’s order as to the second CUP decision and remanded. View "TransFarmations, Inc. v. Town of Amherst" on Justia Law

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The federal district court for the District of North Dakota certified five questions regarding N.D.C.C. § 38-08-08(1) and North Dakota Industrial Commission pooling orders. The litigation before the federal court involved allocation of mineral royalties in the case of overlapping oil and gas spacing units. Allen and Arlen Dominek owned oil and gas interests in Williams County, North Dakota. In 2011, the North Dakota Industrial Commission pooled the interests in Section 13 on the Dominek property with the interests in Section 24 in a 1280-acre spacing unit (the “Underlying Spacing Unit”). In 2016, the Commission pooled the interests in Sections 11, 12, 13, and 14 in a 2560-acre spacing unit (the “Overlapping Spacing Unit). The "Weisz" well terminated in the southeast corner of Section 14. The Defendants (together “Equinor”) operated the Weisz well. The Domineks sued Equinor in federal district court to recover revenue proceeds from the Weisz well. The parties agreed production from the Weisz well should have been allocated equally to the four sections comprising the Overlapping Spacing Unit. Their disagreement was whether the 25% attributable to Section 13 should have been shared with the interest owners in Section 24 given those sections were pooled in the Underlying Spacing Unit. In response to the motions, the federal district court certified five questions to the North Dakota Court. Responding "no" to the first: whether language from N.D.C.C. § 38-08-08(1) required production from Section 13 to be allocated to Section 24, the Supreme Court declined to answer the remaining questions because it found they were based on an assumption that the Commission had jurisdiction to direct how production was allocated among mineral interest owners. "Questions concerning correlative rights and the Commission’s jurisdiction entail factual considerations. ... An undeveloped record exposes this Court 'to the danger of improvidently deciding issues and of not sufficiently contemplating ramifications of the opinion.'” View "Dominek, et al. v. Equinor Energy, et al." on Justia Law

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The State of Texas appeals the district court’s decision that Plaintiffs’ federal Taking Clause claims against the State may proceed in federal court. Because we hold that the Fifth Amendment Takings Clause as applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment does not provide a right of action for takings claims against a state.   The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court’s decision for want of jurisdiction and remanded with instructions to return this case to the state courts. The court explained that the Supreme Court of Texas recognizes takings claims under the federal and state constitutions, with differing remedies and constraints turning on the character and nature of the taking; nothing in this description of Texas law is intended to replace its role as the sole determinant of Texas state law. View "Devillier v. State of Texas" on Justia Law

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The defendants (collectively, the “New Mexico Courts”) appealed a district court’s entry of a preliminary injunction in favor of plaintiff, Courthouse News Service (“Courthouse News”). Courthouse News was a news service that reports on civil litigation in state and federal courts across the country. The focus of the litigation here was on timely access to newly filed, non-confidential civil complaints in the state district courts of New Mexico. On July 30, 2021, Courthouse News filed a motion for preliminary injunction against the New Mexico Courts, seeking to “prohibit[] them preliminarily . . . from refusing to make newly-filed nonconfidential civil petitions available to the public and press until after such petitions are processed or accepted, and further directing them to make such petitions accessible to the press and public in a contemporaneous manner upon receipt.” The district court concluded that Courthouse News was entitled to a preliminary injunction enjoining the New Mexico Courts from withholding press or public access to newly filed, non-confidential civil complaints for longer than five business hours, but not to a preliminary injunction that provides pre-processing, on-receipt, or immediate access to such complaints. On appeal, the New Mexico Courts argued the district court erred in granting in part Courthouse News’ motion for preliminary injunction. After its review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. Specifically, the Court affirmed the district court’s memorandum opinion and order to the extent that the district court: (1) declined to abstain from hearing this case; and (2) concluded that the First Amendment right of access attaches when a complaint is submitted to the court. However, the Court concluded the district court erred in imposing a bright-line, five-business-hour rule that failed to accommodate the state’s interests in the administration of its courts. Accordingly, the district court’s entry of a preliminary injunction was reversed, the preliminary injunction vacated, and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Courthouse News Service v. New Mexico Administrative Office of the Courts, et al." on Justia Law

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In late 2012, 16-year-old Shane McGuire and a group of his friends smashed pumpkins and stacked bricks on the doorstep of a home in McGuire’s neighborhood. The teens were still on the property when the homeowner, City of Pittsburgh Police Officer Colby Neidig, arrived home with his wife and children. McGuire watched the family’s reaction to the vandalism and then banged on the front door and ran away, accidentally tripping over his own brick boobytrap in the process. Neidig saw McGuire running, and gave chase, catching McGuire, knocking him to the ground and punching McGuire in the face. Neidig was not wearing his police uniform at the time, nor did he identify himself as a police officer. Neidig called 911 and restrained McGuire until Officer David Blatt, an on-duty City of Pittsburgh police officer, arrived. Two years later, McGuire filed a federal lawsuit against Neidig, Blatt, and the City of Pittsburgh, asserting excessive use of force in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 19833 and state law assault and battery claims. Ultimately, the jury returned a verdict in McGuire’s favor, finding that Neidig used unreasonable force against McGuire while acting under color of state law under Section 1983, and that Neidig was liable for McGuire’s assault and battery claims as well. The issue this case presented for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's review involved whether the City of Pittsburgh had a statutory duty to indemnify one of its police officers for the judgment entered against him in a federal civil rights lawsuit. The Supreme Court rejected the argument that a federal jury’s finding that a police officer acted “under color of state law” for purposes of Section 19831 necessarily constituted a “judicial determination” that he also acted within the “scope of his office or duties” for purposes of the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act. Thus, the judgment was affirmed. View "McGuire v. City of Pittsburgh" on Justia Law

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A qui tam plaintiff alleged that two banks violated the California False Claims Act (CFCA) by failing to report and deliver millions of dollars owing on unclaimed cashier’s checks to the State of California as escheated property. The trial court denied the banks’ motions to dismiss. The banks sought writ relief.The court of appeal denied relief, upholding the denial of the motions to dismiss. The court rejected the banks’ argument that a qui tam plaintiff may not pursue a CFCA action predicated on a failure to report and deliver escheated property unless the California State Controller first provides appropriate notice to the banks under Code of Civil Procedure section 1576. For pleading purposes, the complaints adequately allege the existence of an obligation as required under the CFCA: the plaintiff adequately alleged that the banks were obligated to report and deliver to California the money owed on unredeemed cashier’s checks, Allowing this action to proceed does not violate the banks’ due process rights. View "JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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This appeal concerned a particular rate known as a “base rate,” which State Compensation Insurance Fund (State Fund) used to calculate premiums for its insureds. California Insurance Code section 11664(e)(6)(A) stated: “[i]f the premium rate in the governing classification for the insured is to be increased 25 percent or greater and the insurer intends to renew the policy, the insurer shall provide a written notice of a renewal offer not less than 30 days prior to the policy renewal date.” In a matter of first impression, the Court of Appeal found State Fund was not obligated to provide notice to cross-complainant Cover Right Roofing (Cover Right) under this statute. The increase at issue was not due to any change in the premium rate of Cover Right’s governing classification. Rather, a third party changed the applicable governing classification criteria, which caused Cover Right to be assigned a new governing classification with a higher premium rate. The statute did not require notice in such circumstances. Thus, the Court found the trial court correctly granted State Fund’s motion for summary judgment and affirm the judgment. View "Cover Right Roofing, Inc. v. State Compensation Ins. Fund" on Justia Law

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Pakistan International Airlines (“PIA”) failed to transport the body of N.B. to Pakistan for burial due to a miscommunication by employees of Swissport USA, PIA’s cargo loading agent. N.B.’s family members sued PIA and Swissport in New York state court under state law; PIA removed the action to the district court. Following cross-motions for summary judgment and an evidentiary hearing, the district court held that Plaintiffs’ claims are preempted by the Montreal Convention and dismissed the suit. On appeal, Plaintiffs argued that the Montreal Convention, which preempts state-law claims arising from delayed cargo, does not apply because human remains are not “cargo” for purposes of the Montreal Convention and because their particular claims are not for “delay.”   The Second Circuit affirmed. The court explained that human remains are cargo for purposes of the Montreal Convention; and on the facts found by the district court, the claims arise from delay. The claims are therefore preempted by the Montreal Convention. The court further wrote that it was Plaintiffs who cut off PIA’s ability to perform under the terms of the waybill. That decision was understandable given the need to bury N.B. quickly, and it cannot be doubted that Plaintiffs found themselves in a hard situation. But their only recourse against PIA and Swissport was a claim under the Montreal Convention, a claim which they have consistently declined to assert. View "Badar v. Swissport USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this case's previous trip to the Court of Appeal, the Court reversed the trial court’s judgment overturning a cleanup order issued by the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Central Valley Region (Regional Board). The cleanup order directed Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) to remediate hazardous waste associated with an abandoned mine in Plumas County. The mine was owned by the Walker Mining Company, a subsidiary of ARCO’s predecessors in interest, International Smelting and Refining Company and Anaconda Copper Mining Company (International/Anaconda). The Court of Appeal held the trial court improperly applied the test articulated in United States v. Bestfoods, 524 U.S. 51 (1998) for determining whether a parent company is directly liable for pollution as an operator of a polluting facility owned by a subsidiary. On remand, the trial court entered judgment in favor of the Regional Board, concluding “[t]he record supported a determination of eccentric control of mining ‘operations specifically related to pollution, that is, operations having to do with the leakage or disposal of hazardous waste.’ ” ARCO appealed, contending: (1) the trial court improperly applied Bestfoods to the facts of this case, resulting in a finding of liability that was unsupported by substantial evidence; (2) the Regional Board abused its discretion by failing to exclude certain expert testimony as speculative; (3) the Regional Board’s actual financial bias in this matter required invalidation of the cleanup order for violation of due process; and (4) the cleanup order erroneously imposed joint and several liability on ARCO. Finding no reversible error to this order, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court. View "Atlantic Richfield Co. v. California Regional Water Quality etc." on Justia Law

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Believing Texas intends to enforce its abortion laws to penalize their out-of-state actions, Plaintiffs sued Texas Attorney General (Petitioner). Petitioner moved to dismiss the suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiffs then issued subpoenas to obtain Petitioner’s testimony. Petitioner moved to quash the subpoenas, which the district court initially granted. On reconsideration, however, the district court changed course, denied the motion, and ordered Petitioner to testify either at a deposition or evidentiary hearing. Petitioner petitioned for a writ of mandamus to shield him from the district court’s order.   The Fifth Circuit granted the writ, concluding that the district court clearly erred by not first ensuring its own jurisdiction and also by declining to quash the subpoenas. The court explained that the district court committed a “clear abuse of discretion” by finding that exceptional circumstances justified ordering Petitioner to testify. Petitioner has therefore shown a clear and indisputable right to relief. The court further found that the errors are ones that cannot be rectified as the case progresses. Petitioners compelled testimony cannot be undone or corrected by the district court or a reviewing court once it occurs. Accordingly, the court was satisfied that, under the circumstances, it should exercise its discretion to issue the writ. View "In Re: Ken Paxton" on Justia Law