Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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Approximately 30 years after Arellano’s honorable discharge from the Navy, a VA regional office granted Arellano service-connected disability benefits for his psychiatric disorders. Applying the default rule in 38 U.S.C. 5110(a)(1), the VA assigned an effective date of June 3, 2011—the day that it received Arellano's claim—to the award. Arellano argued that the effective date should be governed by an exception in section 5110(b)(1), which makes the effective date the day following the date of the veteran’s discharge or release if the application “is received within one year from such date of discharge or release.” Alleging that he had been too ill to know that he could apply for benefits, Arellano maintained that this exception’s one-year grace period should be equitably tolled to make his award effective the day after his 1981 discharge.The Board of Veterans’ Appeals, Veterans Court, Federal Circuit, and Supreme Court disagreed. Section 5110(b)(1) is not subject to equitable tolling. Equitably tolling one of the limited exceptions would depart from the terms that Congress “specifically provided.” The exceptions do not operate simply as time constraints, but also as substantive limitations on the amount of recovery due. Congress has already considered equitable concerns and limited the relief available, aware of the possibility that disability could delay an application for benefits. View "Arellano v. McDonough" on Justia Law

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In May 2020, Koballa died of COVID-19. Hudak, the executrix of Koballa’s estate, sued, asserting negligence and related state-law claims against Elmcroft, an assisted-living facility. Elmcroft removed the case to federal court under the general removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1441(a), and the federal-officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1442(a)(1), based on arguments it made under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP), 42 U.S.C. 247d-6d.The district court found that the PREP Act did not provide grounds for removal under either removal statute and remanded the case to state court for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Hudak does not allege that Elmcroft engaged in willful misconduct in the administration or use of a covered COVID-19 countermeasure, so the PREP Act does not “provide[] the exclusive cause of action for the claims” and does not completely preempt Hudak’s state-law claims. Hudak’s state-law claims do not arise under federal law and could not be removed. Elmcroft is not a "federal officer"; it operated a facility that came under significant federal regulation as part of the federal government’s COVID-19 response but did not have an agreement with the federal government, did not produce a good or perform a service on behalf of the government, and has not shown that the federal government exercised control over its operations to such a degree that the government acted as Elmcroft’s superior. View "Hudak v. Elmcroft of Sagamore Hills" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, six individuals employed by the County of Imperial, and the three unions representing them (the Imperial County Sheriff’s Association (ICSA), the Imperial County Firefighter’s Association (ICFA), and the Imperial County Probation and Corrections Peace Officers’ Association (PCPOA)), brought a class action lawsuit against the County of Imperial, the Imperial County Employees’ Retirement System, and the System’s Board alleging that the defendants were systematically miscalculating employee pension contributions. After two years of failed mediation, plaintiffs moved for class certification under Code of Civil Procedure section 382. The trial court denied the motion, finding that the conflicting interests of two primary groups of employees, those hired before the effective date of the Public Employee Pension Reform Act and those hired after, precluded the court from certifying a class. The court found that because the employees hired before PEPRA took effect were entitled to an enhanced pension benefit unavailable to those hired after, the two groups’ interests were antagonistic and the community of interest among the proposed class members required for certification could not be met. The trial court also concluded the proposed class representatives had failed to show they could adequately represent the class. On appeal, plaintiffs contended insufficient evidence supported the trial court’s finding that there was an inherent conflict among the class members that precluded class certification and that the court’s legal reasoning on this factor was flawed. The plaintiffs also argued they should have been given an opportunity to show they could adequately represent the interests of the class. The Court of Appeal disagreed with the trial court’s reasoning concerning the community of interest among the proposed class, and agreed with plaintiffs they should be provided an opportunity to demonstrate their adequacy. Accordingly, the order denying class certification was reversed and the matter remanded to the trial court with directions to allow the proposed class representatives to file supplemental declarations addressing their adequacy to serve in this role. Thereafter, if the trial court approves of the class representatives, the court was directed to grant plaintiffs’ motion for class certification, including the creation of the subclasses identified by the Court. View "Imperial County Sheriff's Assn. v. County of Imperial" on Justia Law

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In 2018, City of Montpelier voters approved a proposed amendment to the city’s charter that would allow noncitizens to vote in its local elections. The Legislature authorized the amendment in 2021, overriding the Governor’s veto. Plaintiffs included two Montpelier residents who were United States citizens and registered to vote in Montpelier, eight Vermont voters who were United States citizens and resided in other localities in the state, the Vermont Republican Party, and the Republican National Committee. They filed a complaint in the civil division against the City and the City Clerk in his official capacity, seeking a declaratory judgment that Montpelier’s new noncitizen voting charter amendment violated Chapter II, § 42 of the Vermont Constitution, and an injunction to prevent defendants from registering noncitizens to vote in Montpelier. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded that the complaint alleged facts to establish standing at the pleadings stage for plaintiffs to bring their facial challenge to the statute. However, the Supreme Court concluded that the statute allowing noncitizens to vote in local Montpelier elections did not violate Chapter II, § 42 because that constitutional provision did not apply to local elections. The Court accordingly affirmed the trial court’s grant of the City’s motion to dismiss. View "Ferry, et al. v. City of Montpelier" on Justia Law

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Ed Davis sued the City of Montevallo ("the City") claiming that the City was in breach of contract because, in terminating his employment with the City, it failed to follow certain discharge procedures set out in an employee handbook it had issued to him. The City responded by arguing it was not required to follow the handbook's procedures because Davis was an at-will employee. After entertaining motions for summary judgment from both sides, the trial court ruled in favor of the City. Davis appealed. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed the trial court's summary judgment in favor of the City. "The Handbook was an offer for a unilateral contract, which Davis accepted by continuing his employment with the City. Because the Handbook constitutes a unilateral contract, we reverse the trial court's denial of Davis's motion for partial summary judgment and direct the trial court on remand to determine whether, in fact, the City violated the Handbook's terms." View "Davis v. Montevallo" on Justia Law

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Delaura Norg called 911 seeking emergency medical assistance for her husband, Fred. She gave the 911 dispatcher her correct address, which the dispatcher relayed to emergency responders from the Seattle Fire Department (SFD). The Norgs’ apartment building was three blocks away from the nearest SFD station, but it took emergency responders over 15 minutes to arrive. This delay occurred because the SFD units failed to verify the Norgs’ address and, instead, went to a nearby nursing home based on the mistaken assumption that the Norgs lived there. The Norgs sued the City for negligence, alleging that SFD’s delayed response aggravated their injuries. The City pleaded the public duty doctrine as an affirmative defense and both parties moved for summary judgment on the question of duty. The trial court granted partial summary judgment in the Norgs’ favor and struck the City’s affirmative defense. The Court of Appeals affirmed on interlocutory review. The Washington Supreme Court held that the trial court properly granted partial summary judgment to the Norgs on the question of duty. In doing so, the Court expressed no opinion on the remaining elements of the Norgs’ claim (breach, causation, and damages). The Supreme Court thus affirmed the Court of Appeals and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Norg v. City of Seattle" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff is a U.S. citizen and a U.S. national, as that term is defined in 22 U.S.C. Section 6023(15). He claims to be the “rightful owner of an 82.5% interest in certain commercial waterfront real property in the Port of Santiago de Cuba,” identified by the Cuban government as La Marítima and Terminal Naviera. According to the complaints, the knowing and intentional conduct of Carnival and Royal Caribbean constitutes trafficking under Section 6023(13)(A). As a result, Plaintiff—who provided the cruise lines with written notice by certified mail of his intent to commence an action under Title III—claims that he is entitled to damages under Section 6082.   The Eleventh Circuit granted the petition for panel rehearing and vacated our prior opinion. The court held that Plaintiff has standing to assert his Title III claims, but that those claims fail on the merits. The court explained that the Cuban government confiscated La Marítima prior to March 12, 1996, and because Plaintiff acquired his interest in the property through inheritance after that date, his claims failed. The court, therefore, affirmed the district court’s grant of judgment on the pleadings in favor of Carnival and Royal Caribbean. View "Javier Garcia-Bengochea v. Carnival Corporation" on Justia Law

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Government agencies can issue Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity Multiple Award (IDIQ) contracts to multiple companies, which then compete for subsequent task orders. The Army solicited proposals for the RS3 IDIQ Contract. The solicitation was not set aside for small businesses but allowed the Army to restrict task orders to small businesses. In 2019, the Army awarded Century an RS3 IDIQ contract. In 2015, when Century submitted its proposal, it was a small business. A 2020 Task Order Request for Proposals required a contractor submitting a bid to represent whether it was a small business for purposes of the task order. Century was no longer a small business but represented that it had been a small business at the time of its original RS3 IDIQ proposal. The Army issued the task order to Century, Other companies filed size protests. The Small Business Association found that Century was “other-than-small” for purposes of the Task Order. The Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) affirmed. The Army terminated the award.Century filed a Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. 1491(b)(1), bid protest. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. OHA’s size determination was made in connection with the issuance of a task order, so the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994, 10 U.S.C. 3406(f), barred the Claims Court from exercising jurisdiction. A claim based on improper contract termination falls under the Contract Disputes Act, 41 U.S.C. 7101–09; Century failed to present its claim to the contracting officer as required by that statute. View "22nd Century Technologies, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Port of Corpus Christi Authority of Nueces County, Texas (a governmental entity), sued The Port of Corpus Christi, L.P.(a private entity) and Kenneth Berry in state court. The claims were for trespass and encroachment on its submerged land that resulted from dredge operations occurring in a ship channel. Defendants removed the case, but the district court remanded, holding there was no basis for removal either under the federal officer removal statute or due to a federal question.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in denying removal on the basis of the federal officer removal statute. Further, the court explained that it agreed with the district court that the Port Authority’s complaint “disclaims any issue regarding permit compliance, stating its claim exclusively in terms of Texas state law: common law trespass.” The Port Authority did not allege a violation of either the Clean Water Act or the Rivers and Harbors Act. View "Port of Corpus v. Port of Corpus" on Justia Law

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The City of Costa Mesa (“City”) began amending its zoning code to reduce the number and concentration of sober living homes in its residential neighborhoods. Two of its new ordinances—Ordinances 14-13 and 15-11 (“Ordinances”)—made it unlawful to operate sober living homes without a permit. Appellants SoCal Recovery, LLC (“SoCal”) and RAW Recovery, LLC (“RAW”) (together, “Appellants”) operate sober living homes in Costa Mesa, California, for persons recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. Appellants alleged that two new City ordinances and the City’s enforcement practices discriminated against them on the basis of disability under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Granting the City’s motions for summary judgment, the district court found that Appellants did not establish that residents in their sober living homes were actually disabled, or that the City regarded their residents as disabled.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s summary judgment. The panel held that Appellants and other sober living home operators can satisfy the “actual disability” prong of the ADA, FHA, or FEHA on a collective basis by demonstrating that they serve or intend to serve individuals with actual disabilities; they need not provide individualized evidence of the actual disability of their residents. Rather, they can meet their burden by proffering admissible evidence that they have policies and procedures to ensure that they serve or will serve those with actual disabilities and that they adhere or will adhere to such policies and procedures. prong of the disability definition. View "SOCAL RECOVERY, LLC, ET AL V. CITY OF COSTA MESA, ET AL" on Justia Law