Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
by
Genesis Healthcare was a healthcare provider participating in the federal “340B Program,” which was designed to provide drugs to qualified persons at discounted prices. Under the Program, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) enters into agreements with drug manufacturers to sell drugs at discounted prices to entities such as Genesis Healthcare, which could, in turn, sell the drugs to their patients at discounted prices. After Genesis Healthcare purchased the covered drugs from the manufacturers, it dispensed them to patients through its wholly owned pharmacies or contract pharmacies. After the Health Resources and Services Administration (“HRSA”) conducted an audit of Genesis Healthcare in June 2017 for Program compliance, HRSA removed Genesis Healthcare from the 340B Program. The audit report found, among other things, that Genesis Healthcare dispensed 340B drugs to individuals who were ineligible because they were not “patients” of Genesis Healthcare. HRSA rejected Genesis Healthcare’s challenges; Genesis Healthcare, in turn, filed suit seeking a declaration it did not violate the requirements of the Program, and injunctive relief requiring HRSA to reinstate it into the Program and to retract any notifications that HRSA had provided to manufacturers stating that Genesis Healthcare was ineligible under the Program. In response to the lawsuit, HRSA ultimately: (1) notified Genesis Healthcare by letter that it “ha[d] voided” all audit findings and that Genesis Healthcare “ha[d] no further obligations or responsibilities in regard to the audit” and (2) filed a motion to dismiss Genesis Healthcare’s action as moot based on the letter. The district court granted HRSA’s motion, finding that the action was moot. The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's finding the case was moot: Genesis Healthcare continued to be governed by a definition of “patient” that, Genesis maintained, was illegal and harmful to it. Therefore, there remained a live controversy between the parties. View "Genesis HealthCare, Inc. v. Becerra" on Justia Law

by
A nonprofit organization called California River Watch claimed that the City of Vacaville, California was violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”). River Watch claimed the City’s water wells were contaminated by a carcinogen called hexavalent chromium. That carcinogen, River Watch says, was in turn transported to the City’s residents through its water-distribution system. River Watch’s argument on appeal was that because the hexavalent chromium originated from the Wickes site, it was “discarded material” under RCRA, and thus the City was liable for its transportation through its water-distribution system. The parties cross-moved for summary judgment. The district court granted the City’s motion and denied River Watch’s motion because, as it explained, River Watch hadn’t demonstrated how the City’s water-processing activities could qualify as discarding “solid waste” under RCRA. Thus, the district court explained, RCRA’s “fundamental requirement that the contaminant be ‘discarded’” was not satisfied. River Watch appealed. The Ninth Circuit was satisfied that hexavalent chromium met RCRA's definition of "solid waste." However, the Court found RCRA’s context makes clear that mere conveyance of hazardous waste cannot constitute “transportation” under the endangerment provision. Under the facts presented, the Court found the City did not move hexavalent chromium in direct connection with its waste disposal process. Under River Watch’s theory of liability, hexavalent chromium seeped through groundwater into the City’s wells and the City incidentally carried the waste through its pipes when it pumps water to its residents. The Court concluded City did not have the necessary connection to the waste disposal process to be held liable for “transportation” under § 6972(a)(1)(B) of the Act. Because the City could not be held liable under RCRA, the district court’s grant of summary judgment for the City was affirmed. View "California River Watch v. City of Vacaville" on Justia Law

by
A sheriff’s deputy sexually abused J.T.H.’s 15-year-old son. J.T.H., who also worked in law enforcement, threatened to sue for the abuse. Before long, Spring Cook, a child-welfare investigator, showed up at his door after someone had apparently called the child-abuse hotline and accused J.T.H. (and his wife) of neglect. The parents asked for the case to be reassigned to an investigator from another county, but Cook kept it for herself. Cook ultimately issued a preliminary written finding of neglect. Unsatisfied with the outcome, the parents requested a formal administrative review. Cook was the circuit manager, so she reviewed and upheld her own finding. The second step required Cook, the parents, and their attorney to appear before Missouri’s Child Abuse and Neglect Review Board. Following that meeting, the Board concluded that Cook’s findings of “neglect were unsubstantiated.” The parents sued Cook for allegedly retaliating against them for exercising their First Amendment rights. The magistrate judge, acting by consent of the parties, concluded that neither absolute nor qualified immunity applied. The Eighth Circuit reversed: "the availability of absolute immunity depends on 'the nature of the function performed,' not the type of claim brought. ... So even if there is a general right to be free of retaliation, the law is not clearly established enough to cover the 'specific context of the case': retaliatory investigation. Cook is entitled to qualified immunity for both investigative acts." View "J.T.H. v. Cook" on Justia Law

by
In February 2021, the Vermont State Auditor of Accounts, Douglas Hoffer, filed a complaint alleging that defendant OneCare Accountable Care Organization, LLC, had breached various provisions in its contract with the Department for Vermont Health Access (DVHA) by denying the Auditor’s requests for OneCare’s employee payroll and benefits records for fiscal years (FY) 2019 and 2020. The civil division granted OneCare’s motion to dismiss, concluding that the Auditor lacked contractual or statutory authority to demand the records, and the Auditor appealed. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed. View "Hoffer v. OneCare Accountable Care Organization, LLC, d/b/a OneCare Vermont" on Justia Law

by
This appeal arose from conflicting interpretations of the statutory provisions that govern the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho (“PERSI”) and the administration of employer contributions to the Firefighters’ Retirement Fund (“FRF”). Under Idaho Code sections 59-1391 and 59-1394, a city or fire district that “employs” firefighters participating in the FRF on October 1, 1980, was considered an “employer” and required to make additional contributions to ensure the FRF remains solvent. Having employed only a single firefighter who received funds from the FRF, Kuna Rural Fire District (“KRFD”) argued it was not an employer under the code and not required to contribute to the fund because that employee retired in 1985 and received a lump-sum benefit. KRFD notified PERSI of its intent to cease contributions, but PERSI denied this request. KRFD filed a notice of appeal to the PERSI Retirement Board (“Board”). A hearing officer issued a recommended decision concluding KRFD had to continue contributing under section 59-1394. The Board adopted this decision. KRFD petitioned for judicial review under the Idaho Administrative Procedure Act (“IDAPA”) with the district court, which affirmed the Board’s decision. KRFD timely appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court. Finding no error, the Supreme Court also affirmed the Board's decision. View "Kuna Rural Fire District v. PERSI" on Justia Law

by
Crowley Government Services, Inc. sued the General Services Administration and its Administrator (collectively, GSA), seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to halt the GSA’s purported practice of interfering with payments owed to Crowley under its contract with the United States Transportation Command (TRANSCOM). Crowley argued the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and the general federal question statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, conferred subject matter jurisdiction on the district court to review the GSA’s alleged violation of the Contract Disputes Act of 1978, and the Transportation Act of 1940. The question this case presented for the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia's review was whether Crowley’s suit against the GSA, whichwasis not a party to Crowley’s contract with TRANSCOM, was “at its essence” contractual, including whether Crowley “in essence” sought more than $10,000 in monetary relief from the federal government such that it was subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States Court of Federal Claims (Claims Court) pursuant to the Tucker Act. The district court answered affirmatively and dismissed Crowley’s complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals disagreed: Crowley’s action against the GSA in district court was not “at its essence” contractual because Crowley did not seek to enforce or recover on the contract with TRANSCOM. Nor did Crowley “in essence” seek monetary relief from the federal government in district court. Rather, it requested declaratory and injunctive relief that, if granted, would have considerable value independent of (and not negligible in comparison to) any monetary recovery Crowley may ultimately attain in other proceedings. Accordingly, judgment was reversed and remanded to the district court for further proceedings. View "Crowley Government Services, Inc. v. GSA" on Justia Law

by
In September 2016, Christopher Strickland, Jr., a sophomore at Northwest Rankin High School, was at Choctaw Trails in Clinton, Mississippi, preparing to run a cross- country meet. Before the race, a wasp stung Christopher on the top of his head. According to Christopher, a lump began to form and his head felt tight, like it was swelling. Christopher told one of his coaches. According to affidavits submitted by the Rankin County School District (RCSD), two coaches and a registered nurse, who was there to watch her son race, examined Christopher’s head and found no evidence of a sting or adverse reaction. And Christopher assured them he was fine and wanted to run the race. But Christopher recalled only one coach examining him. And this coach told him to “man up” and run the race. Christopher ran the race. According to one of his coaches, she checked in on him at the mile marker. He responded that he was “okay, just hot.” According to Christopher, after the mile marker he began to feel dizzy. Then he fell, hitting his head. The same nurse attended to him. So did her husband, who was a neurologist. Christopher appeared to recover and rejoined his team after the race. But he later went to a doctor, who discovered injuries to his brain and spine. In January 2017, Christopher’s father, Christopher Strickland, Sr. (Strickland), sued RCSD on Christopher’s behalf. He alleged various breaches of duties in how RCSD employees acted both (1) after the wasp sting but before the race and (2) after Christopher’s fall. Specifically, Strickland alleged that, after the fall, RCSD employees failed to follow the district’s concussion protocol. The Mississippi Supreme Court surmised "much legal analysis has been aimed at whether the actions of two cross-country coaches were discretionary policy decisions entitled to immunity from suit under Mississippi Code Section 11-46-9(1)(d) (Rev. 2019)." But on certiorari review, the Court found this question to be moot: the alleged actions of the coaches do not establish any triable claim for negligence. For that reason, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the Rankin County School District. View "Strickland v. Rankin County School District" on Justia Law

by
G.V. (Father) appealed a juvenile court’s judgment terminating his parental rights as to his newborn daughter (E.V.) and selecting adoption as the permanent plan. He argued the court and the Orange County Social Services Agency (SSA) failed to adequately inquire into the child’s Indian ancestry under the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 SSA conceded there were two errors with respect to duties under ICWA, but they were harmless. Alternatively, SSA moved the Court of Appeal to receive additional new evidence (that was not previously presented to the juvenile court) that allegedly rendered the appeal moot, or at least demonstrated any inquiry errors as to ICWA had to be deemed harmless. The Court denied the motion, and found that under In re A.R., 77 Cal.App.5th 197 (2022), all cases where the ICWA inquiry rules were not followed mandated reversal. Judgment was conditionally reversed and the matter remanded for compliance with ICWA. View "In re E.V." on Justia Law

by
In 2003, the Alabama Legislature and the citizens of Greene County voted to allow nonprofit organizations in that county to operate bingo games for fundraising purposes. Greenetrack, Inc. ("Greenetrack"), which was not a nonprofit organization, almost immediately began offering live and electronic bingo games at its gambling facility. From 2004 to 2008, Greenetrack reaped vast profits under the guise that its whole casino-style bingo operation was constantly being leased and operated by a revolving slate of local nonprofit organizations, whose nominal role earned them a tiny fraction of the bingo proceeds. Eventually, the Alabama Department of Revenue ("the Department") audited Greenetrack, found that its bingo activities were illegal, and concluded that it owed over $76 million in unpaid taxes and interest. Following a decade of litigation, the Alabama Tax Tribunal voided the assessed taxes on the threshold ground that Greenetrack's bingo business (regardless of its legality) was tax-immune under a statute governing Greenetrack's status as a licensed operator of dog races. The Department appealed, and the Alabama Supreme Court reversed, rejecting the statutory analysis offered by the Tax Tribunal and circuit court. Judgment was rendered in favor of the Department. View "Alabama Department of Revenue v. Greenetrack, Inc." on Justia Law

by
David Sole brought an action against the Michigan Economic Development Corporation under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeking the disclosure of information regarding the tax credits that defendant had allowed General Motors LLC (GM) to claim under the Michigan Economic Growth Authority Act (the MEGA Act), which gave defendant the authority to award businesses tax credits through the Michigan Strategic Fund. Defendant had provided plaintiff with a 2016 agreement between GM and defendant regarding the tax credits, but it had redacted the amount of the “tax credit cap,” which defendant claimed was exempt from disclosure under the Michigan Strategic Fund Act. The Court of Claims granted summary judgment in favor of defendant on the basis that the information was exempt from disclosure under MCL 125.2005(9). The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Michigan Supreme Court found that while the “tax credit cap” fit within the terms of MCL 125.2005(9), it was nonetheless subject to disclosure under MCL 125.2005(11). Accordingly, the Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ judgment to the contrary. View "Sole v. Michigan Economic Development Corp." on Justia Law