Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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In March 2020, New Jersey Governor Murphy responded to the spread of COVID-19; Executive Order 107 prohibited in-person gatherings and ordered New Jersey residents to “remain home or at their place of residence,” except for certain approved purposes, such as an “educational, political, or religious reason.” EO 107 excepted businesses deemed “essential,” including grocery and liquor stores, which could continue to welcome any number of persons (consistent with social distancing guidelines). Violations of EO 107 were subject to criminal prosecution for “disorderly conduct.” The order granted the Superintendent of the State Police, “discretion to make clarifications and issue [related] orders[.]” He exercised that power, declaring (Administrative Order 2020-4) that gatherings of 10 or fewer persons were presumptively permitted. Neither EO 107 nor AO 2020-4 contained an exception for religious worship gatherings or other First Amendment activity.Two New Jersey-based, Christian congregations, believing that the Bible requires them to gather for in-person worship services, violated the Orders and were cited. Less than a week after the filing of their complaint, challenging the Orders, Governor Murphy raised indoor gathering limits to 50 persons or 25 percent of room capacity (whichever was less), allowing outdoor religious gatherings without any gathering limits. The district court denied the congregations’ motion for a preliminary injunction. The Third Circuit dismissed an appeal as moot. View "Clark v. Governor of New Jersey" on Justia Law

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The Northwestern Illinois Area Agency on Aging (NIAAA), sought mandamus relief against the Department on Aging. The Department had designated NIAAA as a regional administrative agency (RAA) for administering programs created by the Adult Protective Services Act. NIAAA had filed petitions for administrative hearings; the Department rejected both petitions, finding that neither presented a “contested case” for which an administrative hearing is required. The first petition requested a recall of a new Protective Act Program Services Manual. NIAAA claims that the Department retaliated by terminating its grant and its position as RAA. NIAAA requested the Department to adopt administrative rules for “contested case” hearings and to compensate NIAAA for the lost funding. In its second petition, NIAAA requested a hearing on the Department’s rejection of NIAAA’s designation of Protective Act providers.The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the dismissal of the mandamus complaint. The Department has adopted the requested administrative rules, so those allegations are moot. The Illinois Administrative Procedure Act, 5 ILCS 100/1-1 does not require hearings on the other allegations. Nothing in the relevant statutes and regulations provides that the Department's decision regarding funding and service provider designations are to be made only after an opportunity for a hearing. Under the U.S. and Illinois Constitutions, procedural due process protections are triggered only when a constitutionally protected liberty or property interest is implicated. NIAAA does not have a constitutionally protected interest in the funding or its service provider designation. View "Nyhammer v. Basta" 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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The Supreme Court held that Ariz. Rev. Stat. 23-1043.01(B), which limits workers' compensation claims for mental illnesses to those that arise from an "unexpected, unusual or extraordinary stress" situation, does not violate Ariz. Const. art. XVIII, 8 or equal protection guarantees under Ariz. Const. art. II, 13.Plaintiff, an officer with the Tucson Police Department, filed an industrial injury claim arising from an incident in June 2018, claiming that it exacerbated his preexisting post-traumatic stress disorder. An administrative law judge found Plaintiff's claims for mental injuries non-compensable because the June 2018 incident was not an "unexpected, unusual or extraordinary stress" situation under section 23-1043.01(B). The court of appeals affirmed the denial of benefits. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 23-1043.01(B) does not unconstitutionally limit recovery for stress-related workplace injuries. View "Matthews v. Industrial Comm'n" on Justia Law

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The California Legislature has required school children to be vaccinated for 10 diseases; COVID-19 was not yet among them. The issue here was whether a school district could require students to be vaccinated for COVID-19 as a condition for both: (1) attending in-person class; and (2) participating in extracurricular activities. The superior court determined there was a “statewide standard for school vaccination,” leaving “no room for each of the over 1,000 individual school districts to impose a patchwork of additional vaccine mandates.” On independent review, the Court of Appeal reached the same conclusion and affirmed the judgment. View "Let Them Choose v. San Diego Unified School Dist." on Justia Law

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The Fox and Puchlak filed purported class actions, alleging that Michigan counties seized property to satisfy property-tax delinquencies, sold the properties, and kept the difference between the sales proceeds and the tax debts.. The suits assert that the counties committed takings without just compensation or imposed excessive fines in violation of the Michigan and federal constitutions. Genesee County’s insurance, through Safety, precludes coverage for claims “[a]rising out of . . . [t]ax collection, or the improper administration of taxes or loss that reflects any tax obligation” and claims “[a]rising out of eminent domain, condemnation, inverse condemnation, temporary or permanent taking, adverse possession, or dedication by adverse use.”Safety sought a ruling that it owed no duty to defend or to indemnify. The district court entered summary judgment, finding no Article III case or controversy between Safety and Fox and Puchlak. The court also held that Safety owes Genesee County no duty to defend. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Safety lacks standing to sue Fox and Puchlak over its duty to defend and its claim for the duty to indemnify lacks ripeness. Safety owes no duty to defend; the alleged tax-collection process directly caused the injuries underlying each of Fox’s and Puchlak’s claims. View "Safety Specialty Insurance Co. v. Genesee County Board of Commissioners" on Justia Law

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This appeal centered whether Section 6 of the California Constitution required the state to reimburse the defendant local governments (collectively permittees or copermittees) for costs they incurred to satisfy conditions which the state imposed on their stormwater discharge permit. Defendant-respondent Commission on State Mandates (the Commission) determined that six of the eight permit conditions challenged in this action were reimbursable state mandates. They required permittees to provide a new program. Permittees also did not have sufficient legal authority to levy a fee for those conditions because doing so required preapproval by the voters. The Commission also determined that the other two conditions requiring the development and implementation of environmental mitigation plans for certain new development were not reimbursable state mandates. Permittees had authority to levy a fee for those conditions. On petitions for writ of administrative mandate, the trial court upheld the Commission’s decision in its entirety and denied the petitions. Plaintiffs, cross-defendants and appellants State Department of Finance, the State Water Resources Board, and the Regional Water Quality Board, San Diego Region (collectively the State) appealed, contending the six permit conditions found to be reimbursable state mandates were not mandates because the permit did not require permittees to provide a new program and permittees had authority to levy fees for those conditions without obtaining voter approval. Except to hold that the street sweeping condition was not a reimburseable mandate, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Dept. of Finance v. Commission on State Mandates" on Justia Law

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The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) is a federal law that nationalizes governance of the thoroughbred horseracing industry. To formulate detailed rules on an array of topics, HISA empowers a private entity called the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (the “Authority”), which operates under Federal Trade Commission oversight. Soon after its passage, HISA was challenged by various horsemen’s associations, which were later joined by Texas and the state’s racing commission. Plaintiffs argued HISA is facially unconstitutional because it delegates government power to a private entity without sufficient agency supervision. The district court acknowledged that the plaintiffs’ “concerns are legitimate,” that HISA has “unique features,” and that its structure “pushes the boundaries of public-private collaboration.” Nonetheless, the court rejected the private non-delegation challenge.   The Fifth Circuit declared that the HISA is unconstitutional because it violates the private non-delegation doctrine. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court’s decision and remanded. The court explained that while acknowledging the Authority’s “sweeping” power, the district court thought it was balanced by the FTC’s “equally” sweeping oversight. Not so. HISA restricts FTC review of the Authority’s proposed rules. If those rules are “consistent” with HISA’s broad principles, the FTC must approve them. And even if it finds an inconsistency, the FTC can only suggest changes. What’s more, the FTC concedes it cannot review the Authority’s policy choices. The Authority’s power outstrips any private delegation the Supreme Court or the Fifth Circuit has allowed. Thus the court declared HISA facially unconstitutional. View "National Horsemen's Benevolent v. Black" on Justia Law

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Respondent has long struggled with mental illness and a proclivity to violent outbursts. In 2017, Williams assaulted a security guard in Portland, Oregon—a federal crime because it happened at a Social Security office. Respondent pleaded guilty and was sentenced to just over four years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Federal prisoners on the cusp of being released may be civilly committed if they are “presently suffering from a mental disease or defect as a result of which [their] release would create a substantial risk” to the person or property of others. Here, the primary question is whether—in making such a risk assessment—a court must consider any terms of supervision that would govern the prisoner’s conduct post-release.   The Fourth Circuit held that a court must consider any terms of supervision that would govern the prisoner’s conduct post-release. Thus, because the record offers no assurances the district court appropriately considered the terms of Respondent’s supervised release before ordering him committed, the Fourth Circuit vacated the district court’s order and remanded for further proceedings. View "US v. Nathaniel Williams" on Justia Law