Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Health Law
Osage Creek Cultivation, LLC v. Ark. Dep’t of Finance & Administration
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court dismissing Appellants' complaint alleging that the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission had granted a marijuana cultivation license to a corporate entity that had been dissolved, holding that the circuit court correctly dismissed this appeal on the merits.Appellants, existing cultivation license holders, challenged the Commission's decision to allegedly grant a license to a dissolved corporate entity, arguing that the circuit court erred by holding that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction and wrongly held that Appellants lacked standing. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court (1) erred by not finding that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction and that Appellants lacked standing; but (2) properly dismissed the complaint because it failed to allege facts sufficient to mount the State's sovereign immunity defense. View "Osage Creek Cultivation, LLC v. Ark. Dep't of Finance & Administration" on Justia Law
Wrigley v. Romanick, et al.
North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley, on behalf of the State of North Dakota (“the State”), sought a supervisory writ to vacate a district court’s order granting a preliminary injunction enjoining enforcement of N.D.C.C. § 12.1-31-12. The injunction was granted in Access Indep. Health Servs., Inc., et al. v. Wrigley, et al., Burleigh Co. Court No. 2022-CV- 01608. The State argued the district court abused its discretion in granting the injunction because Access Independent Health Services, Inc., d/b/a Red River Women’s Clinic (“RRWC”) and the other plaintiffs failed to prove: (1) they had a substantial likelihood of success on the merits; (2) they would suffer irreparable injury; (3) there would be harm to other interested parties; and (4) the effect on the public interest weighed in favor of granting a preliminary injunction. The North Dakota Supreme Court found that while the regulation of abortion was within the authority of the legislature under the North Dakota Constitution, RRWC demonstrated likely success on the merits that there was a fundamental right to an abortion in the limited instances of life-saving and health-preserving circumstances, and the statute was not narrowly tailored to satisfy strict scrutiny. The Court granted the requested review, denied the relief requested in the petition, and left in place the order granting a preliminary injunction. View "Wrigley v. Romanick, et al." on Justia Law
Owens v. Ada County Board of Commissioners
Stephanie Owens appealed a district court’s order affirming the findings of fact and conclusions of law made by the Ada County Board of Commissioners (the “Board”) in which it determined that Owens was an “applicant” under the Medical Indigency Act (the “Act”) and, therefore, required to pay reimbursement for the medical expenses incurred by her two children at public expense. In 2017, Owens’s children were involved in a serious car accident and suffered substantial injuries, which later resulted in the death of one of the children. Because the children’s father, Corey Jacobs, was unable to pay for the children’s medical bills, he filed two applications for medical indigency with the Board. Owens and Jacobs were never married and did not have a formal custody agreement for their children. At the time of the accident, the children resided with their father. The Board determined that Owens and her children met the statutory requirements for medical indigency. Although Jacobs filed the applications for medical indigency, the Board concluded that Owens was also an “applicant” under the Act and liable to repay the Board. As a result, the Board “recorded notices of statutory liens” against Owens’s real and personal property and ordered Owens to sign a promissory note with Ada County to repay the medical bills. Owens refused to sign the note and instead challenged the sufficiency of her involvement with the applications via a petition for reconsideration with the Board and a subsequent petition for judicial review. Both the Board and the district court ultimately concluded that Owens was an “applicant” and liable for repayment of a portion of the children’s medical bills. Owens timely appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court reversed: because she never signed the medical indigency applications for her children and she did not affirmatively participate in the application process, Owens was not an "applicant" as defined by the Act. As a result, the Board acted outside its authority when it ordered Owens to reimburse Ada County for its expenses and when it placed automatic liens on her property. View "Owens v. Ada County Board of Commissioners" on Justia Law
Ciraci v. J.M. Smucker Co.
Smucker’s is a federal contractor that supplies food items to the federal government. In 2021, by Executive Order, President Biden directed all federal contractors to “ensure that all [their] employees [were] fully vaccinated for COVID-19,” unless such employees were “legally entitled” to health or religious accommodations. The order made contractors “responsible for considering, and dispositioning, such requests for accommodations.” In September 2021, Smucker’s notified its U.S. employees that it would “ask and expect” them to “be fully vaccinated.” A month later, in the face of “deadlines in the federal order,” Smucker’s announced a formal vaccine mandate with exemptions based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.”The plaintiffs unsuccessfully sought religious exemptions, then sued Smucker's under the First Amendment's free-exercise guarantee. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. When Smucker’s denied the exemption requests, it was not a state actor. Smucker’s does not perform a traditional, exclusive public function; it has not acted jointly with the government or entwined itself with it; and the government did not compel it to deny anyone an exemption. That Smucker’s acted in compliance with federal law and that Smucker’s served as a federal contractor, do not by themselves make the company a government actor. View "Ciraci v. J.M. Smucker Co." on Justia Law
Ascension Borgess Hospital v. Xavier Becerra
Ascension Borgess Hospital and forty-four other hospitals appeal the grant of summary judgment to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) dismissing challenges of certain reimbursements for uncompensated care. The Hospitals challenged the “disproportionate share hospital” (“DSH”) payments. The Provider Reimbursement Review Board (“PRRB”) dismissed the complaint for lack of jurisdiction pursuant to the statutory bar on administrative and judicial review of challenges to the methodology for calculating those payments. The Hospitals contend that HHS was required to promulgate its audit instructions by notice and comment rulemaking before using audited data from each hospital’s Worksheet S-10 to estimate the Hospitals’ proportionate shares of the national total of uncompensated care. They maintain that they do not challenge the Secretary’s estimate but seek only an order directing fulfillment of HHS’s notice and comment obligations. The DC Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment to the Secretary. The court held that t the Hospitals’ framing of their challenge as purely procedural under the Medicare Act’s notice and comment requirement does not save their appeal, notwithstanding the “strong presumption in favor of judicial review of final agency action.” Even if, as the Hospitals contend, the alleged procedural violation is reviewable, the Hospitals have failed to identify any standard required to be set by rule that was not. Although neither DCH nor Florida Health addresses whether notice and comment rulemaking is required for protocols or procedures used to modify providers’ raw uncompensated care data before calculating DSH payment estimates, routine audit instructions to Medicare contractors ordinarily fall outside of section 1395hh’s rulemaking requirement. View "Ascension Borgess Hospital v. Xavier Becerra" on Justia Law
Lisa Hill Leonard, et al. v. The Alabama State Board of Pharmacy, et al.
Based in Auburn, Alabama, Plaintiff and her pharmacy were one of the thousands of businesses that answered the call to provide Covid-19 tests to the public. However, the Alabama Board of Pharmacy (the Board) concluded that Plaintiff’s administration of these tests fell short of the medical safety standards required under Alabama law. When the Board instituted an administrative enforcement proceeding against Plaintiff, she sought to avail herself of the legal immunity provided by the Secretary’s PREP Act Declaration. Plaintiff filed a federal suit, seeking to enjoin the Board from even considering the charges against her. The district court exercised its discretion to abstain under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971) and declined to intervene in the Board’s proceedings. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision to abstain under Younger. The court concluded that Plaintiff has not established that she lacks an adequate opportunity to present her federal claims to the Alabama Board of Pharmacy or an adequate opportunity to obtain judicial review of her claims in Alabama’s courts, and so Younger abstention is warranted. The court wrote that it did not decide today whether Plaintiff is immune from the Board’s charges or if they are, in fact, preempted by the PREP Act. All the court concluded is that this is not one of the “extraordinary circumstances” that would justify federal intervention in a state proceeding that is adequate to hear Plaintiff’s claims. View "Lisa Hill Leonard, et al. v. The Alabama State Board of Pharmacy, et al." on Justia Law
Shelley C. v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration
Plaintiff appealed the district court’s order affirming the Social Security Administration’s (“SSA”) denial of her application for Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”). In her application, she alleged major depressive disorder (“MDD”), anxiety disorder, and attention deficit disorder (“ADHD”). Following a formal hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) determined that Plaintiff suffered from severe depression with suicidal ideations, anxiety features and ADHD, but he nonetheless denied her claim based on his finding that she could perform other simple, routine jobs and was, therefore, not disabled. Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred by (1) according to only little weight to the opinion of her long-time treating psychiatrist (“Dr. B”) and (2) disregarding her subjective complaints based on their alleged inconsistency with the objective medical evidence in the record. The Fourth Circuit reversed and remanded with instructions to grant disability benefits. The court agreed with Plaintiff that the ALJ failed to sufficiently consider the requisite factors and record evidence by extending little weight to Dr. B’s opinion. The ALJ also erred by improperly disregarding Plaintiff’s subjective statements. Finally, the court found that the ALJ’s analysis did not account for the unique nature of the relevant mental health impairments, specifically chronic depression. The court explained that because substantial evidence in the record clearly establishes Plaintiff’s disability, remanding for a rehearing would only “delay justice.” View "Shelley C. v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration" on Justia Law
In the Matter of the Necessity for the Hospitalization of: Tonja P.
A woman who suffered from schizophrenia appealed court orders authorizing her involuntary commitment and administration of psychotropic medication. She argued the superior court erred by relying on a cursory report from the court visitor and by failing to make specific findings that involuntary medication was in her best interests. She also contended it was error to commit her to a psychiatric hospital instead of to a less restrictive facility. Finding no reversible error, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s orders. View "In the Matter of the Necessity for the Hospitalization of: Tonja P." on Justia Law
Wash. Food Indus. Ass’n v. City of Seattle
Six months after United States and global health authorities declared COVID-19 a public health emergency, the city of Seattle (City) passed an ordinance (Seattle Ordinance 126094) authorizing hazard pay for certain workers who delivered food to consumers’ homes. By that time, Governor Inslee had issued stay-at-home orders requiring Washingtonians to leave home only for the most essential of trips. Among some of the conditions in the ordinance were that food delivery network companies could not reduce workers’ compensation or otherwise limit their earning capacity as a result of the ordinance, and they were prohibited from reducing the areas of the City they served or to pass on the cost of the premium pay to customers’ charges for groceries. The Washington Food Industry Association and Maplebear Inc., d/b/a Instacart, challenged the ordinance, seeking a declaration invalidating the ordinance on statutory and state and federal constitutional grounds. The trial court dismissed the statutory claim under chapter 82.84 RCW but permitted all remaining claims to proceed. After review of the limited record, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part: (1) affirming dismissal of the 82.84 RCW claim; (2) reversing dismissal of the equal protection claim; and (3) reversing the trial court’s dismissal of the privileges and immunities claim. The Court affirmed in all other respects and remanded for further proceedings. View "Wash. Food Indus. Ass'n v. City of Seattle" on Justia Law
Stone v. Alameda Health System
Under Health and Safety Code 101850, Alameda, a hospital authority was created as “a public agency for purposes of eligibility with respect to grants and other funding and loan guarantee programs.” The plaintiffs worked for Alameda and claim Alamed “automatically deducted ½ hour from each workday” to account for a meal period, although employees “were not allowed or discouraged from clocking out for meal periods.” The trial court dismissed their sis class action Labor Code claims, reasoning that Alameda was a “statutorily created public agency” beyond the reach of the Labor Code and Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) Wage Order invoked in the complaint. The court held that a Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) claim would not lie because Alameda is not a “person” within the meaning of section 18, there was no underlying statutory violation from which the PAGA claim could derive, and Alameda’s “public agency” status exempted it from punitive damages.The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the fourth claim but otherwise reversed. Alameda lacks many of the hallmarks of sovereignty. Subjecting Alameda to liability would not infringe upon any sovereign governmental powers. Alameda is not a “municipal corporation.” but is not excluded from the category of “governmental entit[ies].” There are at least some Labor Code violations for which a PAGA suit against Alameda may proceed. View "Stone v. Alameda Health System" on Justia Law