Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government Contracts
by
Petitioner Green Development, LLC (Green Development) sought interconnection with the distribution system of Narragansett Electric Company (Narragansett), a public utility. Accommodation of the increased flows of electricity required certain upgrades to the transmission system owned by Respondent-Intervenor New England Power Company d/b/a National Grid (NE Power). NE Power assigned the costs of the transmission system upgrades directly to Narragansett. The newly assigned costs were reflected in a revised transmission service agreement (TSA) that NE Power and Narragansett filed for approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Commission or FERC). Green Development protested the revised TSA. The Commission denied Green Development’s protest.  Green Development petitions for review contending that the Commission (1) erroneously concluded that Green Development’s arguments in the underlying section 205 proceeding operated as a “collateral attack” on the Complaint Order; (2) improperly applied the governing seven-factor test; (3) misinterpreted the Tariff’s definition of “direct assignment facilities”; and (4) erroneously failed to apply the filing procedures of Schedule 21-Local Service of the Tariff.   The DC Circuit denied the petitions. First, the court held that Commission has cured any purportedly erroneous ruling that Green Development’s section 205 protest constituted a collateral attack on the Complaint Order. The court rejected Green Development’s fourth claim. The court wrote that the issue with Green Development’s contention is that it presumes that the procedures in Schedule 21-Local Service are “mandatory processes” that applied to the filing of the TSA. But, the SIS and associated technical arrangements “pertain to initiating transmission service” and “do not demonstrate that Narragansett as an existing transmission customer was required to request new transmission service” under the Tariff. View "Green Development, LLC v. FERC" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the appellate court affirming the judgment of the superior court dismissing for lack of jurisdiction High Watch Recovery Center, Inc.'s administrative appeal challenging the decision of the Department of Public Health approving a certificate of need application submitted by Birch Hill Recovery Center, LLC, holding that the appellate court erred.Birch Hill submitted a certificate of need application to the Office of Health Care Access requesting public approval to establish a substance abuse treatment facility in Kent. The Department and Birch Hill entered into an agreed settlement constituting a final order wherein the Department approved Birch Hill's application subject to certain conditions. High Watch, which operated a nonprofit substance abuse treatment facility, intervened and appealed the final order. The superior court dismissed the appeal on the grounds that the Department's decision was not a final decision in a contested case and that High Watch was not aggrieved by the decision. The appellate court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the appellate court did not err in determining that High Watch's petition requesting intervenor status in the public hearing on Birch Hill's certificate of need application was not a legal sufficient request for a public hearing for the purposes of Conn. Gen. Stat. 19a-639a(e). View "High Watch Recovery Center, Inc. v. Dep't of Public Health" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court vacated the order of the district court finding that the city council of the City of Fremont (Council) and the City of Fremont (City) lacked reasonable sufficient evidence to terminate a contract with the Dodge County Humane Society for animal control, holding that the district court lacked petition in error jurisdiction to review the decision.At a regularly scheduled meeting, the Council approved a motion authorizing Fremont's mayor to terminate the contract for animal control. The Humane Society later filed a petition in error alleging that the Council and the City had no cause to terminate the contract. Thereafter, the district court entered a temporary injunction / temporary restraining order in favor of the Humane Society. The County and City moved to dismiss, asserting that the Council's decision to authorize the mayor to send a letter was not an action that could support a petition in error. The district court sustained the petition in error and ordered the contract to be reinstated. The Supreme Court vacated the order below, holding (1) the Council did not exercise a judicial or quasi-judicial function in voting on the motion to send the disputed letter to the Humane Society; and (2) therefore, the district court lacked jurisdiction to review this action. View "Dodge County Humane Society v. City of Fremont" on Justia Law

by
The Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians is a federally recognized tribe in northwestern Wisconsin. In 2013 the Tribe’s Community Health Center hired Mestek as the Director of Health Information. In 2017 the Health Center implemented a new electronic health records system. Mestek soon raised questions about how the new system operated, expressing concern to management that the Center was improperly billing Medicare and Medicaid. An eventual external audit of the Center’s billing practices uncovered several problems. After receiving the audit results in 2018, Bae, the head of the Health Center, called Mestek into her office to ask if she was “loyal.” Mestek answered yes, but persisted in her efforts to uncover billing irregularities. A month later, Mestek learned that she was being fired in a meeting with the Medical Director and the HR Director. Mestek sued the Health Center and six individuals (in both their personal and official capacities) under the False Claims Act’s anti-retaliation provision, 31 U.S.C. 3730(h). The district court dismissed.The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity precluded Mestek from proceeding; the Health Center is an arm of the Tribe. The individual employee defendants also properly invoked the Tribe’s immunity because Mestek sued them in their official capacities. View "Mestek v. Lac Courte Oreilles Community Health Center" on Justia Law

by
The Monte Vista Villas Project, on the site of the former Leona Quarry, has been in development since the early 2000s. The developers planned to close the 128-acre quarry site, reclaim it, and develop the land into a residential neighborhood with over 400 residential units, a community center, a park, pedestrian trails, and other recreational areas. In 2005, the developers entered into an agreement with Oakland to pay certain fees to cover the costs of its project oversight. The agreement provided that the fees set forth in the agreement satisfied “all of the Developer’s obligations for fees due to the City for the Project.” In 2016, Oakland adopted ordinances that imposed new impact fees on development projects, intended to address the effects of development on affordable housing, transportation, and capital improvements, and assessed the new impact fees on the Project, then more than a decade into development, when the developers sought new building permits.The trial court vacated the imposition of the fees and directed Oakland to refrain from assessing any fee not specified in the agreement. The court of appeal reversed, finding that any provision in, or construction of, the parties’ agreement that prevents Oakland from imposing the impact fees on the instant development project constitutes an impermissible infringement of the city’s police power and is therefore invalid. View "Discovery Builders, Inc. v. City of Oakland" on Justia Law

by
The False Claims Act (FCA) imposes civil liability on those who present false or fraudulent claims for payment to the federal government, 31 U.S.C. 3729–3733, and authorizes private parties (relators) to bring “qui tam actions” in the name of the government. A relator may receive up to 30% of any recovery. The relator must file his complaint under seal and serve a copy and supporting evidence on the government, which has 60 days to decide whether to intervene. As a “real party in interest,” the government can intervene after the seal period ends, if it shows good cause.Polansky filed an FCA action alleging Medicare fraud. The government declined to intervene during the seal period. After years of discovery, the government decided that the burdens of the suit outweighed its potential value, and moved under section 3730(c)(2)(A) (Subparagraph (2)(A)), which provides that the government may dismiss the action notwithstanding the objections of the relator if the relator received notice and an opportunity for a hearing.The Third Circuit and Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The government may move to dismiss an FCA action whenever it has intervened, whether during the seal period or later. It may not move to dismiss if it has never intervened. A successful motion to intervene turns the movant into a party; it can assume primary responsibility for the case’s prosecution, which triggers the Subparagraph (2)(A) right to dismiss, consistent with the FCA’s government-centered purposes. The government’s motion to dismiss will satisfy FRCP 41 in all but exceptional cases. The government gave good grounds for believing that this suit would not vindicate its interests. Absent extraordinary circumstances, that showing suffices for the government to prevail. View "United States ex rel. Polansky v. Executive Health Resources, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff sought judicial review of the Merit Systems Protection Board’s (MSPB) final decision affirming his removal from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) but filed his complaint in the district court one day after the statutory deadline prescribed in 5 U.S.C. Section 7703(b)(2). The district court dismissed his complaint as untimely. The district court held in the alternative that Plaintiff had not presented facts to warrant equitable tolling.   The DC Circuit affirmed the dismissal on the alternative ground that Robinson failed to show that he was entitled to equitable tolling. The court explained that in light of the combined weight of intervening United States Supreme Court authority and the decisions of the other circuits interpreting section 7703(b)(2) as a non-jurisdictional claims-processing rule since King, the court now holds that section 7703(b)(2)’s thirty-day filing deadline is a non-jurisdictional claims-processing rule. As such, the record shows that Plaintiff chose to mail his complaint by standard mail four days before the statutory filing deadline and assumed the risk his complaint would arrive late. On these facts, Plaintiff’s decision to use standard mail is a 14 “garden variety claim of excusable neglect” insufficient to warrant equitable tolling. View "Adam Robinson v. DHS Office of Inspector General" on Justia Law

by
After submitting the winning bid, Eagle Rock Timber, Inc. (“Eagle Rock”), contracted with Teton County, Idaho to reconstruct a stretch of road known as “Chapin Lane.” During the course of the project, Eagle Rock claimed it discovered unsuitable base material under portions of the road. Eagle Rock maintained that Teton County’s agent, Darryl Johnson, directed Eagle Rock to remove the material and said that the county would “make it right.” However, when Eagle Rock attempted to recover an amount in excess of the original Contract Price, Teton County denied Eagle Rock’s request, stating that it had not authorized any changes to the Contract. When the parties could not resolve this dispute over the amount owed, Eagle Rock filed suit. Teton County twice moved for summary judgment. The district court denied the first motion, concluding that genuine issues of material fact existed concerning whether Johnson orally waived the writing requirement and whether Johnson had authorized Eagle Rock to remove the unsuitable base material, which could support an equitable remedy. In the County's second motion, the district court granted it, ruling that since Teton County’s agent did not have actual or apparent authority to bind Teton County, the claims asserted by Eagle Rock failed as a matter of law. Eagle Rock appealed, asserting that the district court erred because there were still genuine issues of material fact that should be resolved by a jury. Further, Eagle Rock claimed the district court’s refusal to grant leave to amend its complaint to assert a separate cause of action against Johnson personally was an abuse of discretion. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment and denial of leave to amend. However, the Court affirmed the district court in not considering the ratification issue because it was beyond the scope of the pleadings at the time it was presented. View "Eagle Rock Timber, Inc. v. Teton County" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff worked at Huntington Ingalls Incorporated as a sheet-metal mechanic. After leaving the company, Plaintiff complained of hearing loss. Plaintiff selected and met with an audiologist. An administrative law judge denied Plaintiff’s Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). Plaintiff appealed this decision to the Department of Labor’s Benefits Review Board. The Board reversed its initial decision on whether Plaintiff could choose his own audiologist. The Company timely petitioned for review. The question is whether audiologists are “physicians” under Section 907(b) of LHWCA.   The Fifth Circuit denied the Company’s petition for review. The court reasoned that based on the education they receive and the role that they play in identifying and treating hearing disorders, audiologists can fairly be described as “skilled in the art of healing.” However, audiologists are not themselves medical doctors. Their work complements that of a medical doctor. But, the court wrote, Optometrists, despite lacking a medical degree, are able to administer and interpret vision tests. And based on the results of those tests, optometrists can prescribe the appropriate corrective lenses that someone with impaired vision can use to bolster his or her ability to see. Audiologists are similarly able to administer hearing tests, evaluate the resulting audiograms, and then use that information to fit a patient with hearing aids that are appropriately calibrated to the individual’s level of auditory impairment. Because the plain meaning of the regulation includes audiologists, and because that regulation is entitled to Chevron deference, audiologists are included in Section 907(b) of the LHWCA’s use of the word “physician.” View "Huntington Ingalls v. DOWCP" on Justia Law

by
The Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) contracted with Eagle for construction work in Yellowstone National Park, to be completed by October 2018. The contract required Eagle to submit a schedule detailing how it would complete the project on time. By late January 2017, FHWA had rejected Eagle’s eight formal schedule submissions as not complying with the contract. In February 2017, the contracting officer terminated the contract for default, concluding that Eagle was insufficiently likely to complete the project on time.Eagle challenged the termination for default under the Contract Disputes Act of 1978 (CDA), 41 U.S.C. 7101–7109, before the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals, which ruled that the termination for default was improper. The Board converted the termination to one for the convenience of the government, relying heavily, though not exclusively, on its view of deficiencies in the contracting officer’s reasoning, rather than on de novo findings about whether the record developed before the Board showed that standard for termination for default was met. The Federal Circuit vacated and remanded for the Board to adjudicate the case de novo. The Board’s evaluation of the contracting officer’s reasoning exceeded the limited scope of the threshold inquiry. The Board also failed to separate that threshold analysis from its de novo evaluation of the evidence. View "Department of Transportation v. Eagle Peak Rock & Paving, Inc." on Justia Law