Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Class Action
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This case involved claims against King County, Washington regarding jury selection and compensation. In 2016, petitioners filed a class action complaint in Pierce County, Washington Superior Court. They contended: (1) they had standing to file suit under the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act; (2) jurors were employees entitled to minimum wage under Washington's Minimum Wage Act; and (3) RCW 2.36.080(3) created an implied cause of action for increased juror reimbursement based on economic status. Petitioners alleged that low rates of expense reimbursement have a greater impact on low-income jurors and asserted that this causes many jurors to seek excusal on the basis of financial hardship or to simply not respond to summons. Petitioners Nicole Bednarczyk and Catherine Selin sought reversal of a Court of Appeals decision affirming the superior court’s summary judgment dismissal of their declaratory relief, minimum wage, and disparate impact claims regarding jury service in King County. The Washington Supreme Court found standing was satisfied, but that jurors were not employees entitled to minimum wage, and there was no implied cause of action for requiring increased pay for jurors under RCW 2.36.080(3). "While we do not reach the inherent authority arguments, we take this opportunity to comment that low juror reimbursement is a serious issue that has contributed to poor juror summons response rates. The concerns raised by amici and petitioners as to the impact of low juror reimbursement on juror diversity, low-income jurors, and the administration of justice as a whole are valid points. While we should continue to cooperate with the other branches of government in an effort to address the long-standing problems identified by petitioners and amici, these concerns are best resolved in the legislative arena." View "Rocha v. King County" on Justia Law

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Respondents, individually and as members of a putative class, brought a declaratory judgment action against the South Carolina Department of Revenue seeking refunds of amounts garnished from their wages by the Department to satisfy delinquent debts they allegedly owed to other governmental entities. The sole issue on appeal centered on the circuit court's grant of Respondents' motion to strike one defense from the Department's answer to Respondents' second amended complaint: that South Carolina Revenue Procedures Act (RPA) subsection 12-60-80(C) prohibited this action from proceeding as a class action against the Department. The Department appealed the circuit court's order to the court of appeals, and the Supreme Court certified the Department's appeal pursuant to Rule 204(b) of the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules. After review, the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court and held this case could not proceed as a class action against the Department. View "Aiken v. So. Carolina Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law

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In 1962, the United States began constructing various structures in and around the Catahoula Basin pursuant to a congressionally-approved navigation project under the River and Harbor Act of 1960 to promote navigation on the Ouachita and Black Rivers. In conjunction with that project, the State of Louisiana signed an “Act of Assurances,” which obligated the State to provide the federal government with all lands and property interests necessary to the project free of charge, and to indemnify the federal government from any damages resulting from the project. In 2006, plaintiffs Steve Crooks and Era Lea Crooks filed a “Class Action Petition to Fix Boundary, For Damages and For Declaration [sic] Judgment.” The Crookses alleged they represented a class of landowners in the Catahoula Basin whose property was affected by increased water levels from the project. Ultimately, the trial court certified the plaintiffs as one class, but subdivided that class into two groups – the “Lake Plaintiffs” and the “Swamp Plaintiffs” – depending on the location of the properties affected. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case to determine whether the plaintiffs’ inverse condemnation claims for compensation against the State were prescribed under La. R.S. 13:5111 and/or 28 U.S.C. 2501. The lower courts relied on the decision in Cooper v. Louisiana Department of Public Works, 870 So. 2d 315 (2004), to conclude the one-year prescriptive period for damage to immovable property found in La. C.C. art. 3493 governed, and the continuing tort doctrine applied to prevent the running of prescription on the plaintiffs’ claims. The Supreme Court found the lower courts erred in relying on Cooper and held that the three-year prescriptive period for actions for compensation for property taken by the state set forth in La. R. S. 13:5111 governed and the plaintiffs’ inverse condemnation claims were prescribed. View "Crooks v. Dept. of Natural Res." on Justia Law

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Kenneth and Angela Hensley filed suit against the South Carolina Department of Social Services on behalf of their adopted minor child BLH and a class of approximately 4000 similarly situated adopted children. The central allegation of the lawsuit was that DSS breached an Adoption Subsidy Agreement with the parents of each member of the class by reducing each parent's adoption subsidy by $20 a month, beginning in 2002. The circuit court issued an order finding the Hensleys satisfied the requirements of Rule 23(a) of the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure, and certifying the proposed class. The court of appeals reversed. The South Carolina Supreme Court found the circuit court's order was not immediately appealable, and vacated the court of appeals' opinion and dismissed the appeal. View "Hensley v. SCDSS" on Justia Law

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Ten children in the Arizona foster care system filed a class action against the directors of the Arizona Department of Child Safety and the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, alleging that Arizona's state-wide policies and practices deprived them of required medical services, among other things, and thus subjected them to a substantial risk of harm. After the district court certified a class of all children who are or will be in the Department of Child Safety's custody, along with two subclasses, the agencies appealed.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's certification of the General Class and held that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion in its rulings on standing, commonality, typicality, and uniform injunctive relief. The panel also affirmed the district court's certification of the Non-Kinship Subclass, but vacated the Medicaid Subclass. The panel held that the district court abused its discretion by certifying the Medicaid Subclass based on an apparent misconception of the legal framework for such a claim. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "B.K. v. Snyder" on Justia Law

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In these joint appeals from putative class actions, the Supreme Court reversed the orders of the Appellate Division rejecting the New York State Department of Labor's (DOL) interpretation of the DOL's Miscellaneous Industries and Occupations Minimum Wage Order (Wage Order), holding that DOL's interpretation of its Wage Order did not conflict with the promulgated language, nor did DOL adopt on irrational or unreasonable construction.Under the Wage Order, an employer must pay its home health care aid employees for each hour of a twenty-four-hour shift. At issue in this case was DOL's interpretation of its Wage Order to require payment for at least thirteen hours of a twenty-four-hour shift if the employee is allowed a sleep break of at least eight hours and actually receives five hours of uninterrupted sleep and three hours of meal break time. Supreme Court refused to adopt DOL's interpretation and determined that class certification was appropriate. The Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that DOL's interpretation was neither rational nor reasonable because it conflicted with the plain language of the Wage Order. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Appellate Division failed to afford adequate deference to DOL's interpretation of the Wage Order. View "Andryeyeva v. New York Health Care, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals in this class action, holding that the surcharge imposed by Maricopa County on car rental agencies to fund a stadium and other sports and tourism-related ventures violated neither the dormant Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution nor the anti-diversion provision of the Arizona Constitution.Plaintiff, which rented vehicles in Maricopa County and paid the car rental surcharges, sued the Arizona Department of Revenue seeking refunds and injunctive relief for all similarly situated car rental companies. The tax court certified the class and granted summary judgment for Plaintiff, concluding that the surcharge did not violate the dormant Commerce Clause but did violate the anti-diversion provision. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the surcharge did not violate the anti-diversion provision. The Supreme Court affirmed, concluding that the Arizona Constitution’s anti-diversion clause, which requires that revenues derived from taxes relating to the operation of motor vehicles must be allocated for public highways, does not apply to a tax relating to the operation of motor vehicles. View "Saban Rent-a-Car LLC v. Arizona Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Deborah Barnhart, Brooke Balch, and Vickie Henderson, current and former officers of the Alabama Space Science Exhibit Commission ("the Commission") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for mandamus relief. The Commission sought to have the circuit court dismiss the claims asserted against them in the underlying class action or, in the alternative, to vacate the order certifying those claims for class-action treatment. The Commission is required by law to maintain records of its revenue and expenditures and to periodically make those records available for audit by the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts ("DEPA"). After an audit, DEPA determined the Commission had not complied with Alabama law (1) in its payment of annual longevity bonuses to Commission employees and (2) in the manner it compensated Commission employees for working on certain State holidays. The Commission disagreed with the results of the audit; none of the recommended changes were made, and as a result, several former Commission employees sued the Commission and the Commission officers, alleging that the plaintiffs, as well as other past and present Commission employees, had not received all the compensation to which they were entitled during their tenures as Commission employees. The Supreme Court determined the Commission did not establish the named plaintiffs’ retrospective relief and declaratory relief claims were barred by the doctrine of State immunity, and the trial court did not err by dismissing those claims for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. However, the individual-capacities claims were barred inasmuch as those claims were essentially claims against the State regardless of the manner in which they have been asserted, and the trial court accordingly erred by not dismissing those claims for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Further, the named plaintiffs met their burden for class certification, and the trial court did not exceed its discretion by certifying their retrospective-relief and declaratory-relief claims for class-action treatment. Accordingly, the trial court's order certifying this action for class treatment was reversed insofar as it certified the individual-capacities claims; in all other respects it was affirmed. View "Barnhart v. Ingalls" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Yvonne Reid and Serena Wong sued defendants the City of San Diego (City) and the San Diego Tourism Marketing District (TMD) in a putative class action complaint, challenging what they allege is "an illegal hotel tax." The trial court sustained Defendants' demurrer without leave to amend on statute of limitations and other grounds. The Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding some of the causes of action were time-barred and the remainder failed to state facts constituting a cause of action. View "Reid v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed three orders of the district court that directed Southwest Montana Building Industry Association (SWMBIA) to transfer funds from the impact fee payer class refund account (refund account) to the City of Bozeman, to submit an accounting of the refund account, and for contempt of court. The Court held (1) the district court did not exceed its authority when it ordered SWMBIA to transfer the funds remaining in the refund account to Bozeman; (2) the district court’s order regarding the transfer of the remaining refund account funds was enforceable; (3) the district court did not err when it did not dispose of the remaining refund account funds in accordance with Mont. R. Civ. P. 23(i)(3); (4) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it ordered SWMBIA to provide an accounting of the refund account; and (5) SWMBIA cannot obtain relief from the district court’s contempt order. View "Southwest Montana Building Industry Ass’n v. City of Bozeman" on Justia Law