Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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The United States Government seized $69,940.50 in cash from Plaintiff’s car. Plaintiff and his girlfriend challenged the seizure, claiming that the cash was not subject to forfeiture. To forfeit the seized cash, the Government bore the burden of establishing a connection between the cash and the illegal activity—in this case, illegal drug trafficking. The district court, in granting summary judgment, found that the facts painted a picture that definitively established that the cash was drug money.   The Fourth Circuit reversed finding that the record is unclear regarding whether a reasonable jury might well decide that the painting of these facts shows the cash came from drug trafficking. The court explained that summary judgment in a forfeiture proceeding is like summary judgment in any other civil case. Applying those standards correctly ensures that the Government must prove its case before depriving citizens of their private property based on an allegation of wrongdoing. Here, the Government has the burden of proof. The Government lacks any direct evidence of a drug transaction or involvement in the drug trade beyond Plaintiff’s possession of a single marijuana blunt and medical marijuana cards. The Government would have the court rely on its own inferences from its circumstantial evidence, which the court may not do. View "US v. Dereck McClellan" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit denied Petitioners' petition for review in this action challenging a final rule promulgated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that set the framework through which applicants may register to lawfully manufacture and cultivate cannabis for research purposes, holding that Petitioners were not entitled to relief on their claims.Petitioners - Dr. Lyle Craker, a botany professor, and Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI), a clinical research company - brought this action raising two perceived procedural defects with the DEA's notice of proposed rulemaking that would demand that the final rule be set aside. The First Circuit denied relief, holding (1) Petitioners were not entitled to relief on their claim that the APA required the DEA to include more detail about the legal basis of the proposed rule; (2) the proposed rule did not exceed the DEA's rulemaking authority; (3) Petitioners' challenge to the DEA's definition of "medicinal cannabis" was unavailing; and (4) the DEA's new regulatory framework for registrations was not arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise contrary to law. View "Craker v. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court issuing a permanent writ of mandamus in favor of Jim Swoboda, holding that the circuit court's decision was erroneous because Swoboda failed to establish that he was entitled to mandamus relief.Swoboda filed a charge of discrimination with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights against his employer and Armstrong Teasdale, LLP (the Law Firm), alleging retaliation, disability, and aiding and abetting as types of discrimination he faced in retaliation for participating in a discrimination case brought by another officer. The Commission determined that it lacked jurisdiction over the matter because there was no employer-employee relationship between Swoboda and the Law Firm. The circuit court issued a writ of mandamus finding that the Commission erred in dismissing the charge without first taking certain steps. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the issuance of mandamus relief was foreclosed where, rather than seeking to enforce a previously delineated right, Swoboda attempted to adjudicate whether his claim was permissible under applicable statutes. View "State ex rel. Swoboda v. Missouri Commission on Human Rights" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for review of the judgment of the Department of Labor's Administrative Review Board (ARB) affirming an administrative law judge's (ALJ) determination that BNSF Railway Company had a valid same-action affirmative defense to Plaintiff's retaliation claim, holding that substantial evidence supported the decision.Plaintiff, a train engineer, brought an administrative complaint with the Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) alleging that BNSF, his employer, violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act by retaliating against him for raising safety concerns and refusing to engage in unsafe practices. OSHA dismissed the complaint. A Department of Labor ALJ denied Plaintiff's claim based on the statutory same-action affirmative defense. The ARB affirmed. The Seventh Circuit denied review, holding that substantial evidence supported the ARB's decision that the same-action defense applied to BNSF's discipline of Plaintiff. View "Brousil v. U.S. Dep't of Labor, Administrative Review Board" on Justia Law

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The Jefferson County, Idaho Board of Commissioners (“the County”) granted Appellant Tina Gilgen a conditional use permit that allowed her to place a mobile home on real property she owned with her husband, Kelly Gilgen. The Gilgen property fell within the City of Ririe’s area of impact (“AOI”). The City of Ririe (“the City”) petitioned for judicial review, claiming the County erroneously approved Gilgen’s application by applying Jefferson County zoning ordinances within the AOI instead of City ordinances, which would have resulted in a denial of Gilgen’s application. The City relied on an area of impact agreement between Jefferson County and the City of Ririe, in which the County specifically agreed to apply the City’s ordinances to property located within the AOI (“AOI Agreement”). After the County filed a notice of non-objection, the district court entered an order granting the City’s petition, reversing the County’s original decision, and remanding the matter to the County. On remand, the County issued an amended decision that denied Gilgen’s application for a conditional use permit. Several months later, Gilgen filed three motions for reconsideration of the district court’s order remanding the case, alleging the district court did not have jurisdiction to consider the City’s petition. Each of the motions was denied. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the City did not have standing to petition the district court for review of the County’s decision. The trial court’s judgment was vacated. View "City of Ririe v. Gilgen" on Justia Law

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Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means (“the Chairman”) invoked Section 6103(f)(1) in a writing to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue (“the 2019 Request”). The Chairman requested the federal income tax returns of then-President Donald J. Trump and that of his related companies and organizations (collectively “the Trump Parties”). The Department of the Treasury responded that it did not intend to comply with the 2019 Request because it was not supported by a legitimate legislative purpose. Later the Treasury informed the district court and the Trump Parties that it intended to comply with the 2021 Request and provide the Committee with the requested materials. The Trump Parties alleged that Section 6103(f)(1) is facially unconstitutional and that compliance with the Request would be a violation of the First Amendment.The DC Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the 2021 Request seeks information that may inform the United States House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means as to the efficacy of the Presidential Audit Program, and therefore, was made in furtherance of a subject upon which legislation could be had. Further, the Request did not violate the separation of powers principles under any of the potentially applicable tests primarily because the burden on the Executive Branch and the Trump Parties is relatively minor. Finally, Section 6103(f)(1) is not facially unconstitutional because there are many circumstances under which it can be validly applied, and Treasury’s decision to comply with the Request did not violate the Trump Parties’ First Amendment rights. View "Committee on Ways and Means, United States House of Representatives v. TREA" on Justia Law

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The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF” or the “Bureau”) promulgated a rule classifying “bump stocks” as machine guns. The Bureau’s new rule instructed individuals with bump stocks to either destroy them, abandon them at the nearest ATF facility, or face criminal penalties. Plaintiffs initially moved for a preliminary injunction to stop the rule from taking effect, which the District Court denied, and a panel of this Court affirmed. At the merits stage, the District Court again rejected Plaintiffs’ challenges to the rule under the Chevron framework. See Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984).The central question on appeal was whether the Bureau had the statutory authority to interpret “machine gun” to include bump stocks and the DC Circuit affirmed. In employing the traditional tools of statutory interpretation, the court found that the disputed rule is consistent with the best interpretation of “machine gun” under the governing statutes. The court explained that it joins other circuits in concluding that these devices, which enable such prodigious rapid-fire capability upon a pull of the trigger, fall within the definition of “machine gun” in the National Firearms Act and Gun Control Act. View "Damien Guedes v. ATF" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that the interim relief statute does not preclude a second removal action while a first removal action is still pending when the second action cures a procedural deficiency in the first action.The Department of the Treasury initiated a removal action against Petitioner charging him with misuse of government property. Treasury sustained the charge and removed Petitioner. A Board administrative judge (AJ) reversed based on a due process defect in the action. Treasury and Petitioner both petitioned for review. While that petition was pending, Treasury initiated a second removal action based on the same charge and specifications that cured the procedural deficiency in the first removal action. Treasury then removed Petitioner. An AJ upheld the second removal action, and that decision became the Board's decision. The Federal Circuit affirmed, holding that Treasury was not precluded from initiating the second action while the first action was still pending. View "Coy v. Dep't of Treasury" on Justia Law

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The State petitioned to commit Nicholas Needham California under the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA). Preparing for trial on the petition, the district attorney retained a psychological expert to evaluate Needham and testify at trial that he qualified as an SVP. Needham moved to exclude the expert’s testimony at trial, but the trial court denied his motion. Needham appealed, seeking a declaration that the SVPA did not permit the State to call a privately retained expert to testify at trial. The Court of Appeal granted relief: “[G]iven the obvious dangers to essential liberty interests inherent in the SVPA, it must be carefully implemented and applied only where there is a high degree of certainty that it is warranted.” The Court found the statutory scheme deliberately limited when an SVP petition could be filed and brought to trial, as well as the evidence available to the prosecution. In light of this system, the Court concluded the expert-witness provisions of the Civil Discovery Act did not apply and that the State had no right to retain an expert witness to testify at trial. View "Needham v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court concluding that the retroactivity rule from two Seventh Circuit opinions - United States v. Leach, 639 F.3d 769 (7th Cir. 2011), and Vasqez v. Foxx, 895 F.3d 515 (7th Cir. 2018) - controlled and that, therefore, a disputed ordinance applied prospectively, holding that the ordinance was retroactive.The ordinance at issue was passed by the Village of Hartland, Wisconsin and placed a moratorium against any new sex offenders residing there either temporarily or permanently. Plaintiff, a registered sex offender, brought this action against the Village, alleging that the ordinance violated the Ex Post Facto Clause of U.S. Const. art. I, 10. Under the Leach-Vasquez rule, a law is not retroactive and cannot violate the Ex Post Facto Clause if it applies "only to conduct occurring after its enactment." The district court only considered the retroactivity prong of the two-part analysis because, under Leach-Vasquez, the ordinance operated only prospectively. The Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded the case, holding (1) this Court overturns the Leach-Vasquez rule governing the retroactivity inquiry of the Ex Post Facto Clause, and instead, the critical question is whether the law attaches new legal consequences to events completed before its enactment; and (2) the subject ordinance applies retroactively. View "Koch v. Village of Hartland" on Justia Law