Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Government Law
State ex rel. Parraz v. Diamond Crystal Brands, Inc.
Claimant was terminated from her employment for violating the written attendance policy in her union contract after she was injured at work. Thereafter, Claimant filed for temporary-total-disability (TTD) compensation for her work-related injury. The Industrial Commission concluded that, per State ex rel. Louisiana-Pacific Corp. v. Indus. Comm., Claimant’s termination was a voluntary abandonment that barred payment of TTD compensation. Claimant then filed a complaint for a writ of mandamus. The court of appeals denied the writ, concluding that the evidence supported the Commission’s finding of voluntary abandonment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Claimant failed to establish that the Commission abused its discretion when it denied her request for TTD compensation.View "State ex rel. Parraz v. Diamond Crystal Brands, Inc." on Justia Law
Bd. of Educ. of Webster County v. Hanna
Dawn Hanna worked for the Board of Education of Webster County as a teacher from 1989 until 2012. After fundraiser proceeds went missing, Hanna was informed that she would be charged with felony embezzlement but that she could avoid prosecution by resigning from her position and paying back the missing funds. Pursuant to this discussion, Hanna resigned from her position. Hanna subsequently applied for unemployment benefits. The Board of Review of WorkForce West Virginia concluded that Hanna was disqualified from receiving unemployment compensation benefits because she voluntarily quit her job. The circuit court reversed, finding that Hanna acted under duress and that her decision to resign was not voluntary. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that WorkForce was not clearly wrong when it found that Hanna resigned voluntarily, and therefore, the circuit court erred in reversing WorkForce’s findings.View "Bd. of Educ. of Webster County v. Hanna" on Justia Law
Comcast Corp. v. Dept. of Rev.
This case was a direct appeal of an Oregon Tax Court Regular Division decision to set aside an Opinion and Order issued by the Director of the Department of Revenue. The primary issue this case presented to the Supreme Court was whether either Comcast's cable television service or internet access service qualified as "communication" under ORS 308.515(1)(h) and was, therefore, subject to central assessment by the department. In this case, whether Comcast's cable television service or internet access service qualified as a "communication" service or business depended on whether either service was a "data transmission service." The Tax Court concluded that Comcast's internet access service, but not its cable television service, was a data transmission service. Furthermore, the Tax Court concluded that Comcast's cable television service was the primary use of the property that Comcast uses for both. Consequently, pursuant to ORS 308.510(5), the Tax Court determined that the property that Comcast used for the two services was not subject to central assessment for the 2009-2010 tax year, contrary to the department's determination. Both parties appealed. The Supreme Court held that both the cable television and internet access services qualified as data transmission services and were, therefore, communication services subject to central assessment under ORS 308.515(1)(h). View "Comcast Corp. v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law
Doyle v. City of Medford
The issues this case presented for the Supreme Court were whether ORS 243.303(2) (which requires local governments to make available to retired employees, "insofar as and to the extent possible," the health care insurance coverage available to current officers and employees of the local government,) created a private right of action for the enforcement of that duty; or, if not, whether the Court should (under its common-law authority) provide such a right of action. The Court of Appeals held that the statute did not expressly or impliedly create a private right of action, and it considered that conclusion to be dispositive of plaintiffs' claim for relief. The Supreme Court also concluded that the statute did not expressly or impliedly create a private right of action for its enforcement. However, where a statute imposes a legal duty, but there is no indication that the legislature intended to create (or not to create) a private right of action for its enforcement, courts must (if such relief is sought) determine whether the judicial creation of a common-law right of action would be consistent with the legislative provision, appropriate for promoting its policy, and needed to ensure its effectiveness. Analyzing the duty imposed on local governments by ORS 243.303(2) under that standard, the Court declined to create an additional common-law right of action for its enforcement because: (1) plaintiffs failed to identify a cognizable common-law claim for relief whose creation is appropriate and necessary to effectuate the legislature's purpose; (2) a declaratory judgment and supplemental relief were adequate to enforce the statutory duty; and (3) a significant change in existing law would result from judicial creation of a tort claim permitting the recovery of noneconomic damages in the circumstances here, and there is no other need to create a common-law tort claim. View "Doyle v. City of Medford" on Justia Law
Gearhart v. PUC
At issue in this case was an order of the Public Utility Commission (PUC) that addressed Portland General Electric's (PGE) recovery of its capital investment in the Trojan nuclear generating facility after that facility was retired from service. To determine whether a legal error that the PUC had made in an earlier rate case had affected rates that the PUC had authorized PGE to charge, the PUC reexamined those earlier rates. In that reexamination, the PUC determined that PGE had been required to recover its capital investment over time, and that the rates therefore should have included interest to account for the time value of money. Despite the legal error, the rates that the PUC authorized for 1995 to 2000 were just and reasonable, but that to make the post-2000 rates just and reasonable, it was required to order a refund to the post-2000 ratepayers. In affirming the PUC order, the Court of Appeals concluded the PUC had not erred in making those three determinations. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed both the Court of Appeals and the PUC's order.View "Gearhart v. PUC" on Justia Law
Nelson v. Megginson
Madeline Nelson and 25 other individuals formerly employed as nontenured teachers or probationary classified employees in the Mobile County Public School System appealed the dismissal of their action against the members of the Board of School Commissioners of Mobile County -- Ken Megginson, Judy P. Stout, Reginald A. Crenshaw, Levon C. Manzie, and William Foster -- and against the superintendent of the school system, Martha Peek. In 2009, the plaintiffs filed an action against the Board of School Commissioners of Mobile County which was voluntarily dismissed without prejudice three years later in light of the Supreme Court's decision in "Board of School Commissioners of Mobile County v. Weaver," (99 So. 3d 1210 (Ala. 2012)). In 2012, the plaintiffs refiled their action , alleging that their employment was terminated "pursuant to a reduction-in-force implemented by Defendants in response to alleged financial constraints." The plaintiffs further alleged that the failure to rehire them by the conclusion of the following school year was a violation of a written policy of the school system. The circuit court granted defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint: "[t]his action was brought more than three (3) years from the date of accrual. All of the Plaintiffs' claims for mandamus, declaratory or injunctive relief would be barred by the two (2) year statute of limitations set out in 6-2-38(l). Finally, any of the Plaintiffs' claims for backpay or other monetary relief would be barred by the same two (2) [year] statute of limitations under 6-2-38(m)." On appeal to the Supreme Court, plaintiffs primarily contended that the circuit court erred in concluding that their claims were barred by the applicable statute of limitations because they stated a breach-of-contract claim, which had a six-year statute of limitations. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the plaintiffs stated a claim of breach of contract and that therefore their claim was subject to a six-year, rather than a two-year, statute of limitations. Accordingly, the circuit court's dismissal was reversed, and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Nelson v. Megginson" on Justia Law
Tulsa Industrial Authority v. City of Tulsa
This appeal was the second appeal in a dispute between Taxpayer-appellant J. Clark Bundren, M.D. and appellees City of Tulsa and Tulsa Hills, LLC. The two issues in that case were: (1) whether Taxpayer should have been allowed to intervene in a declaratory judgment proceeding to determine the legality of certain public expenditures and financing; and (2) whether the appeal was moot because the appellees, Tulsa Industrial Authority, City of Tulsa Oklahoma, and Tulsa Hills, L.L.C. (TIA, City, and TH, respectively), obtained a declaratory judgment after Taxpayer was prohibited by the trial court from intervening. The Supreme Court denied the motion to dismiss the appeal for mootness and held that Taxpayer's claim for equitable relief presented by a motion to intervene was not made moot by the judgment rendered during the appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's order that denied Taxpayer's motion to intervene as a qui tam plaintiff, but reversed the trial court's order denying a motion to intervene in which Taxpayer sought equitable relief. The case what then remanded for further proceedings. On remand, the trial court ordered Taxpayer to file his "Petition in Intervention" on or before August 16, 2012. On August 15, 2012, Taxpayer complied with the order by filing the petition. On September 14, 2012, the appellees each filed separate motions to dismiss, and asserted that the bondholders were necessary parties. Several months later, the trial court granted the motions to dismiss and allowed Taxpayer twenty days to file an amended petition. The court included the requirement that if Taxpayer filed an amended petition seeking to enjoin the City from making payments to the bondholders who purchased the bonds used to finance the underlying transaction, then the Taxpayer must provide notice of the amended petition to the bondholders and file proof of such notice with the court. Taxpayer filed an amended petition, and the appellees responded with separate motions to dismiss. The trial court again dismissed Taxpayer's petition on the basis that Taxpayer did not provide notice to bondholders as necessary parties to the lawsuit, and that Taxpayer did not state a claim on which relief could be granted. The trial court found that the bondholders were necessary parties to the action and if not joined, the present parties to the action would face a substantial risk of incurring multiple and potentially inconsistent obligations. The court again dismissed without prejudice the causes of action for declaratory and injunctive relief for failure to comply with the court's prior order and for failure to join all parties necessary "to a just adjudication of this matter." The court allowed Taxpayer twenty days to file an amended petition, and ordered that if Taxpayer did not amend the petition within that time, the action would be dismissed with prejudice to all the claims. Instead of amending the petition, Taxpayer filed an Application to Assume Original Jurisdiction and Petition for Writ of Prohibition and Mandamus to the Supreme Court. The trial court entered a final order of dismissal. The dispositive issue of this matter was whether Taxpayer had to include bondholders as necessary parties to this case. The Supreme Court concluded he did, and affirmed the trial court. View "Tulsa Industrial Authority v. City of Tulsa" on Justia Law
Henebema v. South Jersey Transportation Authority
In this case, a jury determined that two New Jersey public entities, South Jersey Transportation Authority and the New Jersey State Police, were liable for injuries sustained by plaintiff as a result of a multi-vehicle pile-up on the Atlantic City Expressway during a 2005 heavy snowstorm. Plaintiff alleged that the public entities were negligent in failing to adhere to standard operating procedures with respect to competing 9-1-1 calls for motorist assistance. The jury found no negligence on the part of plaintiff or the owners or drivers of the other vehicles involved in the several collisions. On appeal, the Appellate Division reversed the liability verdict against the public-entity defendants based on errors in the jury instructions with respect to the liability of the public entities for discretionary versus ministerial acts. The Appellate Division determined the trial court erred in failing to allow the jury to determine predicate facts that resolved whether ministerial or discretionary acts were involved. The Appellate Division remanded the matter for retrial only with respect to the liability of the public-entity defendants. The public-entity defendants argued on appeal to the Supreme Court that, at the retrial, the second jury should decide anew the liability of all parties. The Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed the Appellate Division's decision. View "Henebema v. South Jersey Transportation Authority" on Justia Law
Lane v. Comm’r of Envtl. Prot.
The Department of Environmental Protection (Department), acting through its office of Long Island Sound Programs (Office), ordered Plaintiffs, Gail and Thomas Lane, to remove a boardwalk and dock from their property because they had been installed without the statutorily required permits. The Office then denied Plaintiffs’ application for a certificate of permission to retain and maintain the structures and to install a new boardwalk pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 22a-363b(a)(2). The Department upheld the Office’s rulings. The trial court dismissed Plaintiffs’ administrative appeal. The Appellate Court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Appellate Court properly interpreted section 22a-363b(a) in concluding that the trial court properly dismissed Plaintiffs’ administrative appeal.View "Lane v. Comm’r of Envtl. Prot." on Justia Law
Bovaird v. New Hampshire Department of Administrative Services
The New Hampshire Department of Administrative Services appealed a superior court order granting the cross-motion for summary judgment filed by petitioner William Bovaird, and denying the Department's motion. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) employed petitioner as an Operations Officer I, Labor Grade 20, until it laid him off in 2009. The Department then placed petitioner on its statewide reduction in force list (RIF List). At the time, Chapter 144:65, Laws 2009 (the 2009 Law) governed the rehiring of laid-off state employees. The Department used the RIF List to place qualified laid-off employees into state positions as they became vacant. After petitioner was laid off, a Supervisor III, Labor Grade 23 position became available. According to the Department, no laid-off employees on the RIF List were eligible for the Supervisor III position; therefore, the Department released the position back to DHHS to be filled by an open-recruitment process. Petitioner applied for, and was eventually hired to fill, the Supervisor III position. In August 2012, petitioner requested that the Department restore his previously accumulated and unused sick leave, his prior seniority date, and his leave accrual rates, and that it reinstate his longevity pay. The Department denied the request. Petitioner then filed a petition for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief to require the Department to recognize him as a "recalled employee," rather than as a new hire, and to award him his benefits. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. On appeal, the parties disagreed about whether the petitioner was "recalled" or "rehired" into the Supervisor III position. Petitioner argued that, because he "returned to work performing his prior duties with the same employer," there was "no rational reason to find that he was not" recalled and, thus, entitled to the benefits of a recalled employee. The Department argued that petitioner was not recalled because there are "no facts in the record regarding recalling" the petitioner and because he was not hired into the same classification. The parties also disputed the trial court's interpretation of the 2009 Law. The Supreme Court agreed with the Department that petitioner was rehired and not recalled. To be recalled, petitioner would have had to return to a position in the same classification as the position he held prior to his lay off: Operations Officer I, Labor Grade 20, instead of Supervisor III, Labor Grade 23. With such differences, petitioner did not return to the same classification, and, therefore, he was not recalled. With regard to the 2009 Law, the Supreme Court surmised that if the legislature had disagreed with the Department's longstanding interpretation, it could have altered the language of the 2009 Law. Such a change did not occur. Therefore, under the 2009 Law, the Department was not required to rehire laid-off employees from the RIF List into promotions, even if the employees meet the minimum qualifications for the position. Petitioner contended the legislative history of the 2009 Law mandated the opposite conclusion. Because the Supreme Court determined that the 2009 Law did not require the Department to rehire laid-off employees into promotions, it also conclude that the trial court erred in determining that petitioner was entitled to his previously accumulated and unused sick leave, an adjustment of his seniority date, and the other aforementioned benefits. View "Bovaird v. New Hampshire Department of Administrative Services" on Justia Law