Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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Out of concern about the increasing use of drones and the effect they have on airspace, the FAA passed the Remote ID rule, which drones in flight to emit publicly readable radio signals reflecting certain identifying information, including their serial number, location, and performance information. Petitioners, a drone user and drone retailer, challenged the FAA Remote ID rule on several grounds, including under the Fourth Amendment.The D.C. Circuit denied petitioners' petition for review, finding that the Remote ID rule does not violate the Fourth Amendment because it does not authorize warrantless searches in violation of a reasonable expectation of privacy. View "Tyler Brennan v. Stephen Dickson" on Justia Law

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Grant Bauserman, Karl Williams, and Teddy Broe, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, brought a putative class action in the Michigan Court of Claims against the Unemployment Insurance Agency, alleging that the Agency violated their due-process rights, and that the Agency also engaged in unlawful collection practices. Plaintiffs, who were all recipients of unemployment compensation benefits, specifically alleged defendant had used an automated fraud-detection system, the Michigan Integrated Data Automated System (MiDAS), to determine that plaintiffs had received unemployment benefits for which they were not eligible and then garnished plaintiffs’ wages and tax refunds to recover the amount of the alleged overpayments, interest, and penalties that defendant had assessed without providing meaningful notice or an opportunity to be heard. Among other remedies for this constitutional violation, plaintiffs sought monetary damages. Although the Michigan Supreme Court had never specifically held that monetary damages were available to remedy constitutional torts, the Court now held that they were. “Inherent in the judiciary’s power is the ability to recognize remedies, including monetary damages, to compensate those aggrieved by the state, whether pursuant to an official policy or not, for violating the Michigan Constitution unless the Constitution has specifically delegated enforcement of the constitutional right at issue to the Legislature or the Legislature has enacted an adequate remedy for the constitutional violation. Because enforcement of Const 1963, art 1, § 17 has not been delegated to the Legislature and because no other adequate remedy exists to redress the alleged violations of plaintiffs’ rights, we agree that plaintiffs have alleged a cognizable constitutional-tort claim for which they may recover money damages and we agree with the lower courts that defendant was properly denied summary disposition.” View "Bauserman v. Unemployment Insurance Agency" on Justia Law

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Robert Bolinske appealed the dismissal of his claims against former Supreme Court Justice Dale Sandstrom and former District Court Judge Gail Hagerty (“State Defendants”) and awarding them attorney’s fees. In October 2016, Bolinske alleged in a press release that the State Defendants conspired to misfile or hide a petition for supervisory writ that he submitted in a prior case and thus tampered with public records. A few days after this press release, Rob Port published an article on his “Say Anything” blog regarding Bolinske’s press release. The article stated Port contacted Sandstrom and quoted Sandstrom as having said Bolinske’s press release was “bizarre and rather sad” and that “[a]lthough I’ve been aware of his mental health problems for years, I don’t recall ever having seen anything in his email before.” Three days after the article was published, Hagerty filed a grievance complaint against Bolinske, alleging he violated the North Dakota Rules of Professional Conduct. Based on the complaint, a disciplinary action was brought against Bolinske. The Inquiry Committee found Bolinske violated the Rules of Professional Conduct and issued him an admonition. The Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court affirmed, and the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, concluding his procedural due process rights were not violated. The Supreme Court affirmed dismissal of Bolinske’s complaint in part, concluding the district court properly dismissed Bolinske’s claims of procedural and substantive due process, civil conspiracy, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, governmental bad faith, and tortious outrage. The Supreme Court reversed in part, concluding the district court erred by dismissing the defamation claim under the statute of limitations. The award of attorney’s fees was vacated and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Bolinske v. Sandstrom, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was removed from a political rally and arrested for violating a St. Louis, Missouri ordinance that prohibits disturbing the peace. After Plaintiff was acquitted of that charge in state court, he brought claims against, as pertinent to this appeal, three St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department officers. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the officers, and Plaintiff appealed.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed holding that it was objectively reasonable for the officers to mistakenly believe, under the totality of the circumstances that Plaintiff was engaged in acts or conduct inciting violence or intended to provoke others to violence. The court explained that two of the officers had arguable probable cause to arrest and then initiate prosecution against Plaintiff meaning that it was not clearly established that doing so would violate Plaintiff’s right to be free from unlawful seizure, malicious prosecution, or First Amendment retaliation. Thus, the court affirmed the district court’s grant of qualified immunity to those officers. Further, the court wrote that the district court properly granted qualified immunity to the remaining officer because it was not clearly established that initiating prosecution against Plaintiff would violate his Fourth Amendment right to be free from malicious prosecution or his corresponding right under Missouri law. View "Rodney Brown v. Matthew T. Boettigheimer" on Justia Law

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In this case arising out of a child welfare investigation, the Seventh Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court entering summary judgment in favor of Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) case workers on the grounds of qualified immunity, holding that the facts were too disputed to allow the Court to reach any legal conclusions with confidence.When DCS learned from a social worker that Plaintiffs may not have been providing their infant daughter prescribed medication to control epileptic seizures DCS case workers took the child to the hospital for a blood draw to clarify whether that was so. The results showed that the infant had started the prescription a few days earlier. Plaintiffs filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the investigation and demand for a blood test violated their constitutional rights as parents under the Fourteenth Amendment and their daughter's rights under the Fourth Amendment. The district court entered summary judgment for the DCS defendants on the grounds of qualified immunity. The Seventh Circuit vacated the summary judgment and remanded the case, holding that the facts were so contested as to limit what the Court could do on appeal. View "Jerger v. Blaize" on Justia Law

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The Janesville Wisconsin Police Department created a “no‐preference tow list” to simplify its response to traffic accidents in which a vehicle owner expressed no preference as to which tow company towed their car. Smith is Black and owns Flying A.J.’s Towing Company, which operates in the area. Flying A.J.’s was added to the list. Less than two months later, the Police Department removed the company from its tow list, citing the company’s unresponsiveness and complaints related to one particular tow job.Smith and Flying A.J.’s claim that their removal was due to Smith’s race and in retaliation because, in 2010, Smith had successfully sued the town of Beloit after experiencing racial discrimination by the police department. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of those claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 1981. Smith had failed to put forth sufficient evidence to allow a jury to determine that Smith’s race or former complaints caused the decision to remove Flying A.J.’s from the tow list. Smith claimed that a tow company owned by a white man had received a lesser penalty but the situations leading to the two complaints are too dissimilar for any reasonable jury to conclude that the factor leading to any perceived disparate treatment was race. View "Smith v. City of Janesville" on Justia Law

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Under New Castle County, Delaware's Unified Development Code, heavy industrial uses were permitted as of right on land zoned for heavy industry or HI. On August 27, 2019, New Castle County Council adopted Ordinance 19-046 amending the Code, then stating that property owners with HI-zoned property had to obtain a special use permit from the County before expanding Heavy Industry use of their property. Croda, Inc. filed a complaint in the Court of Chancery to enjoin enforcement of Ordinance 19-046, claiming, among other things, that Ordinance 19-046 was invalid because the Ordinance title did not put Croda and the public on notice of the substance of the zoning amendment in violation of state and county law and federal due process guarantees. The Court of Chancery dismissed Croda’s state law claims as untimely under the state sixty-day statute of repose and rejected its constitutional claims because Croda did not have a vested right in a zoning category. On appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court, Croda claimed the Court of Chancery erred because the alleged lack of proper notice tolled the statute of repose, and it did not have to show a vested right to state a procedural due process claim. The Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Chancery’s judgment: the statute of repose was not subject to tolling. "And while our reasoning is different than that of the Court of Chancery, Croda’s procedural due process claim fails because those protections do not apply to the County’s legislative acts adopting the Ordinance." View "Croda Inc. v. New Castle County" on Justia Law

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Soon after the Mississippi Supreme Court appointed counsel to represent death-row inmate Alberto Garcia in post-conviction proceedings before it challenging his death sentence, the Attorney General preemptively filed in the trial court a “Motion for Notice of and an Opportunity to Be Heard on Requests for Litigation Expenses.” Relying on Mississippi Rule of Appellate Procedure 22(c)(3), the Attorney General asserted her office was entitled to notice and an opportunity to be heard on Garcia’s requests for litigation expenses. Even though Garcia’s counsel had made no such request, the trial court granted the motion. The Supreme Court vacated this ruling: "Under Rule 22(c)(3), the Attorney General is not entitled to notice and an opportunity to be heard on a request for litigation expenses that was never made—and will never be made—because Garcia’s appointed attorneys are not compensated and reimbursed through court-approved expenses but rather through their state employer. ... So the Attorney General’s request was not only premature; it was inapplicable. Thus, the trial court lacked authority to grant the Attorney General’s motion." View "Garcia v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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The then-president’s 2018 decision, following the resignation of Jeff Sessions, to rely on his authority under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, 5 U.S.C. 3345-3349d, to bypass the Department of Justice’s order of succession and to select an employee (Whitaker) rather than a Presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed officer to oversee the Department of Justice raised significant and largely unresolved constitutional and statutory questions. Kajmowicz sued Whitaker; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the Director of ATF, the United States of America, and the Attorney General of the United States, contending that Whitaker’s unlawful service as Acting Attorney General rendered a rule he promulgated concerning the scope of the term “machinegun” under the Gun Control Act of 1968 invalid.The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit without addressing the legality of Whitaker’s designation as Acting Attorney General. Attorney General William Barr ratified the rule at issue; as long as he did so effectively, the rule may stand even if Whitaker served in violation of the Vacancies Reform Act or the Appointments Clause. The ratification forecloses Kajmowicz’s challenge. View "Kajmowicz v. Whitaker" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review centered on the Department of Natural Resources' ("DNR") land management strategies applicable to certain federal land grants (“state lands”) and county land grants (“forest board lands”), which involves harvesting timber from these lands to generate revenue for state institutions and counties. The petitioners, a group of individuals and nonprofit organizations (collectively Conservation NW), challenged DNR’s land management strategies on the grounds they violated the mandate under Washington Constitution article XVI, section 1 that “[a]ll the public lands granted to the state are held in trust for all the people.” Conservation NW argued DNR’s strategies prioritized maximizing revenue from timber harvests and undercut its obligation to manage granted lands for the broader public interest, which would have been better served by prioritizing conservation and efforts to mitigate climate change, wildfires, and land erosion. DNR contended it had a trustee obligation to manage the state and forest board lands specifically for the state institutions enumerated in the Enabling Act and the county beneficiaries. DNR acknowledged its land management strategies generated revenue but not “at the expense of forest health.” The trial court dismissed Conservation NW’s lawsuit against DNR pursuant to County of Skamania v. Washington, 685 P.2d 576 (1984), establishing DNR as a trustee under the Enabling Act. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's dismissal of the case. View "Conservation Northwest v. Commissioner of Public Lands" on Justia Law