Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Education Law
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Plaintiff States’ requested to preliminarily enjoin the United States Secretary of Education (“Secretary”) from implementing a plan to discharge student loan debt under the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003(“HEROES Act”). The States contend the student loan debt relief plan contravenes the separation of powers and violates the Administrative Procedure Act because it exceeds the Secretary’s authority and is arbitrary and capricious. The district court denied the States’ motion for a preliminary injunction and dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction after determining none of the States had standing to bring the lawsuit.   The Eighth Circuit granted the Emergency Motion for Injunction Pending Appeal. The court concluded that at this stage of the litigation, an injunction limited to the plaintiff States, or even more broadly to student loans affecting the States, would be impractical and would fail to provide complete relief to the plaintiffs. MOHELA is purportedly one of the largest nonprofit student loan secondary markets in America. It services accounts nationwide and had $168.1 billion in student loan assets serviced as of June 30, 2022. Here the Secretary’s universal suspension of both loan payments and interest on student loans weighs against delving into such uncertainty at this stage. View "State of Nebraska v. Joseph Biden, Jr." on Justia Law

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From August 2018 through January 2019, plaintiffs were six-year-old first grade students who attended Maple Elementary School (Maple) within the Hesperia Unified School District (the District). Pedro Martinez worked at Maple as a janitor. Martinez’s position as a janitor did not require him to have any one-on-one contact with the students. Martinez engaged in a variety of activities with the students that plaintiffs characterized as “‘grooming’ activities” that were “designed to lure minor students, including [p]laintiffs, into a false sense of security around him.” Plaintiffs alleged that numerous District employees who were mandated reporters under the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA), witnessed Martinez’s behavior and did not report it to school officials or to law enforcement, in violation of the District’s policies. In January 2019, the State charged Martinez with numerous felonies involving his alleged sexual abuse of minors. In February 2019, plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the District and Martinez, alleging numerous claims arising from Martinez’s alleged sexual abuse of plaintiffs. The trial court was persuaded by the District's argument, concluding that plaintiffs did not adequately plead a negligence cause of action against the District, because they failed to state any facts “establishing that [the] District knew of any prior acts of sexual abuse by Martinez and/or that the District had actual or constructive knowledge that Martinez was abusing [p]laintiffs so as to impose liability upon [the] District.” One month after plaintiffs sought reconsideration, the trial court entered judgment against plaintiffs. Plaintiffs argued on appeal that they were not required to plead facts demonstrating that the District had actual knowledge of past sexual abuse by Martinez, and that they otherwise pled sufficient facts to state negligence causes of action against the District. The Court of Appeal agreed with plaintiffs on all of those points. The Court disagreed with plaintiffs' contention that the trial court erred by dismissing their sex discrimination claims under Title IX and California Education Code section 220: plaintiffs’ allegations are insufficient to constitute actual notice of a violation of Title IX or Education Code section 220. The judgment of dismissal was reversed, the order sustaining the demurrer to the third amended complaint was vacated, and the trial court was directed to enter a new order sustaining the demurrer without leave to amend as to the causes of action under Title IX, Education Code section 220, and the Unruh Civil Rights Act but otherwise overruling the demurrer. View "Roe v. Hesperia Unified School Dist." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted a writ of prohibition prohibiting enforcement of a preliminary injunction against the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (WVSSAC) in favor of Heather B. as legal guardian of A.B., holding that WVSSAC showed that it was entitled to the writ.In issuing the preliminary injunction the circuit court concluded that the WVSSAC applied its "waiver rule," W. Va. C.S.R. 127-2-2, in an arbitrary and capricious manner and that its "residence-transfer rule," W. Va. C.S.R. 127-2-7.2a, was facially unconstitutional. The Supreme Court granted a writ prohibiting enforcement of the injunction, holding (1) the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to review A.B.'s as-applied challenge to the WVSSAC's waiver rule; and (2) the circuit court clearly erred in finding the residence-transfer rule to be facially unconstitutional. View "State ex rel. W. Va. Secondary School Activities Comm'n v. Cuomo" on Justia Law

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Appellants, two police officers, arrested Plaintiff, a student, at a school basketball game. The district court denied summary judgment based on qualified immunity, finding a dispute of material fact regarding the events surrounding Plaintiff's arrest. The officers filed an interlocutory appeal challenging the district court’s decision.The Fifth Circuit dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The issues raised by Plaintiff create factual disputes that meet the required threshold to overcome Appellant's qualified immunity defense at this stage. View "Byrd v. Cornelius" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs K.M., H.R., and M.L. sued the Grossmont Union High School District (the District) for negligence based on alleged sexual abuse by their high school drama teacher, James Chatham. They also asserted sexual harassment claims under California Civil Code section 51.9, to which the District successfully demurred. The District made Code of Civil Procedure section 998 offers, which Plaintiffs did not accept. The case proceeded to a jury trial, where the trial court excluded certain evidence and mistakenly included Plaintiffs in an oral jury instruction regarding apportionment of fault. Plaintiffs prevailed, and the jury assigned 60 percent of fault to Chatham, and 40 percent to the District, with resulting damage awards lower than the section 998 offers. The parties moved to tax each other’s costs. The trial court ruled the offers were invalid, granted Plaintiffs’ motion, and denied the District’s motion in pertinent part. Both parties appealed. The California Legislature later enacted Assembly Bill No. 218 which amended Code of Civil Procedure section 340.1, to reduce procedural barriers for childhood sexual abuse claims, and to allow treble damages for a claim involving a prior cover- up of abuse. Plaintiffs sought a new trial, contending they were entitled to pursue treble damages, and that the trial court erred by sustaining the demurrers to their sexual harassment claims, excluding certain evidence, and giving the erroneous oral jury instruction. The District argued the trial court wrongly determined its Code of Civil Procedure section 998 offers were invalid. The Court of Appeal concluded the treble damages provision in Code of Civil Procedure section 340.1 was neither retroactive, nor applicable to public school districts. The Court further concluded Plaintiffs did not establish they could pursue sexual harassment claims against the District under Civil Code section 51.9. The parties do not establish reversible error on the other asserted grounds, either. Therefore, the Court affirmed the trial court's judgment and postjudgment orders. View "K.M. v. Grossmont Union High School Dist." on Justia Law

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The City of Helena ("Helena") appealed the issuance of a preliminary injunction by the Shelby Circuit Court in favor of the Pelham Board of Education ("the Board") and its officers and/or members, in their official capacities (collectively, "the Board defendants"). In June 2021, the Board purchased approximately 52 acres of undeveloped land located within the corporate limits of Helena. The land has not been annexed by the City of Pelham or the Board. Helena collects property taxes on the land, and the land was zoned for single-family residential use under a Helena zoning ordinance. After purchasing the land, the Board began clearing the land for the purpose of constructing one or more athletic fields and a parking lot as part of the Pelham High School campus. Pelham High School was located adjacent to the land but lied within the corporate limits of the City of Pelham. The athletic-field project was originally scheduled to be completed on or before January 17, 2022, but it was delayed by Helena's attempts to enforce its zoning ordinance, which was an issue in this case. Helena asserted in its complaint, among other things, that the Board has no statutory authority to construct the athletic-field project within the corporate limits of Helena. The Board defendants counterclaimed, seeking sought declaratory and injunctive relief based on their position that the athletic-field project served a governmental purpose and, therefore, was not subject to Helena's zoning ordinance. Finding that the trial court did not follow the mandatory requirements of Rule 65(d)(2), the preliminary injunction was dissolved and the order issuing the injunction was, therefore, reversed and the case remanded. View "City of Helena v. Pelham Board of Education, et al." on Justia Law

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The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (Commission) and the Committee of Credentials of the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (Committee) appealed a judgment and peremptory writ of prohibition directing them to discontinue certain investigative proceedings against present and former public school administrators Kathy Little, Simone Kovats, and Debra Sather (together, the administrators). The Committee commenced an initial review of the administrators’ fitness to continue as credential holders in 2019. Nonparty John Villani was a special education teacher employed by the District between 2011 and 2014. Villani sued the District in 2016 alleging the District unlawfully retaliated against him after he reported that a teacher-aide, David Yoder, was “grooming” and paying inappropriate attention to some of the minor students in his care. Yoder was subsequently charged and convicted of several felony sex offenses against minors, including an offense against one of the aforementioned students. As relevant here, Villani’s lawsuit also alleged the administrators ignored his concerns about Yoder. The Commission learned about Villani’s lawsuit from a news article; the Commission thereafter launched its investigation. The administrators objected to the manner in which the Commission had obtained documents and information from Villani and argued the Committee had not established jurisdiction to review their credentials. The administrators demanded the Commission cease the investigation and the Committee drop the scheduled meetings. The Commission and Committee argued the trial court erred in ruling the administrators were excused from exhausting administrative remedies and misinterpreted Education Code section 44242.5, which defined the scope of the Committee’s jurisdiction. Finding no error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment and writ. View "Little v. Com. on Teacher Credentialing" on Justia Law

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Jones County School District (JCSD) alleged Covington County School District (CCSD), the custodial district, failed to share sixteenth-section income as required by statute for a period of eighteen years or more. JCSD requested, among other things, an accounting going back to 1997. The chancellor ultimately ordered what JCSD called a “partial” accounting, lacking some requested details and going back only to 2003, when the two districts began exchanging lists of educable students as required by statute. JCSD then petitioned the Mississippi Supreme Court for permission to file an interlocutory appeal, which the Court granted. JCSD contended on appeal that certain statutes prescribing time periods relating to the distribution of sixteenth-section incomes were statutes of limitation, which the Mississippi Constitution prohibited from being enforced against political subdivisions of the State. This appeal also presented questions of statutory interpretation regarding how income from shared townships is to be managed. The Supreme Court concluded that the statute conditioning the annual payment of sixteenth-section funds on the exchanging of lists of educable children was a constitutional exercise of the Legislature’s authority to decide the method and procedure for allocating funds. The statute giving the noncustodial district one year to contest the sufficiency of the payments (in those years in which lists of educable students were exchanged) was likewise not a statute of limitations. The Court recognized there might still be a need for an accounting, as the custodial district is required to pay a pro-rata share of the interest derived from the principal fund associated with each of the sixteenth-section lands to the noncustodial district on an annual basis. "Maintenance of the principal fund is potentially subject to an action in equity for an accounting." The Court vacated the chancery court's accounting order and remanded for that court to consider a new claim for accounting, if JCSD pursues one, in light of the Supreme Court's holding here. View "Jones County School District v. Covington County School District, et al." on Justia Law

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Petitioners, a school district and the school district's superintendent, filed suit o stop the Oklahoma State School Board from taking actions against the school district in the meetings of the Board. The Board continued with its meetings and petitioners filed requests for a restraining order, preliminary injunction, and declaratory judgment to prevent further State Board actions until both the school district and its superintendent obtained administrative individual proceedings. The district court denied the petitioners' requests and they appealed. The State Board continued with its meetings, placed the school district on probation and required an interim superintendent as a condition of probation. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held the Superintendent failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits of his claim that a due process violation occurred, or a likelihood of success on the merits of his claim that his administrative remedy was inadequate, and failed to show he was entitled to a preliminary injunction. The Supreme Court held the School District failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits on a claim the State Board lacked authority to place the school district on probation with a condition requiring an interim superintendent, and failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits of a claim the school district was entitled to an administrative individual proceeding prior to the school district being placed on probation, and school district failed to show it was entitled to a preliminary injunction. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court's order. View "Western Heights Independent Sch. Dist. v. Oklahoma" on Justia Law

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The Alaska Legislature created and funded the Higher Education Investment Fund (HEIF) to provide annual grants and scholarships to students pursuing post-secondary education in Alaska. The HEIF later was identified as potentially eligible for a sweep of its unappropriated funds. After the Legislature failed in 2021 to garner a supermajority vote required to prevent the sweep, a group of students (the Students) sued the Governor in his official capacity, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the Department of Administration (collectively the Executive Branch), alleging that the HEIF was not sweepable. The superior court agreed with the Executive Branch, and the Students appealed. Because a previous case interpreting the constitutional provision governing the Constitutional Budget Reserve (CBR) controlled, the Alaska Supreme Court declined to reject that precedent, and affirmed the superior court's determination that the HEIF was sweepable. View "Short, et al. v. Alaska Office of Management & Budget" on Justia Law