Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil
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Petitioner Sherri Ybarra, the Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction, petitioned the Idaho Supreme Court for a declaratory judgment, writ of mandamus, or writ of prohibition to remedy various alleged constitutional violations by the Idaho Legislature and the Idaho State Board of Education related to the funding and supervision of eighteen employees currently working in the Idaho Department of Education. During the 2020 legislative session, the Idaho Legislature passed two appropriation bills - Senate Bills 1409 and 1410 - which transferred supervision of eighteen full-time job positions within the Department’s Technology Group to the Board along with approximately $2.7 million in funding for those positions. The Superintendent argues that “by splitting eighteen employees away from three other workers and eliminating all funding for the office space, rent, and the maintenance and upgrading of the Department’s computers, this line item appropriation decentralizes and damages operations.” She also claimed these bills were the Legislature’s attempt to “strip the Superintendent of her authority through the budget process,” in retaliation for her failure to support a 2019 revised school funding formula. To effectuate such relief, the Superintendent invoked the Supreme Court's original jurisdiction, seeking a declaratory judgment that the Appropriation Bills were unconstitutional. The Superintendent sought a writ of mandamus and/or prohibition that would allow SB 1409's funding appropriation to the Board remain intact, but would restore the Superintendent's full management authority over the Technology Group. The Supreme Court found the Appropriations Bills constitutional, thereby declining to address requests for writs of mandamus and/or prohibition. View "Ybarra v. Legislature of the State of Idaho" on Justia Law

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Travelers Insurance Co. appealed a district court decision to affirm a final order of the Idaho Department of Insurance in favor of Ultimate Logistics, LLC (“Ultimate”). The Department of Insurance’s final order upheld a hearing officer’s determination that two mechanics working for Ultimate were improperly included in a premium-rate calculation made by Travelers. In its petition for review, Travelers argued the Department of Insurance acted outside the scope of its statutory authority in determining that the mechanics could not be included in the premium-rate calculation. The district court rejected this argument. Finding no reversible error in the district court's order, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Travelers Insurance v. Ultimate Logistics, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Noell Industries, Inc. sold its interest in a limited liability company for a net gain of $120 million. Noell Industries reported the income to Idaho, but paid all of the resulting tax on the gain to the Commonwealth of Virginia, its commercial domicile. Following an audit, the Idaho Tax Commission concluded the net gain was “business income” pursuant to Idaho Code section 63-3027(a)(1) and, thus, apportionable to Idaho. Noell Industries sought judicial review before the Ada County District Court pursuant to Idaho Code section 63-3049(a). The district court ruled that the Commission erred when it: (1) determined that Noell Industries paid insufficient taxes in 2010; and (2) assessed additional tax and interest against it. The Commission appealed. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Noell Industries v. Idaho Tax Commission" on Justia Law

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After Christine Nelson quit her job at Franklin Building Supply in Pocatello, Idaho, due to what she described as a hostile and demeaning work environment, she filed for unemployment benefits with the Department of Labor. The Department denied Nelson’s request for benefits, concluding that she quit her job without good cause because “reasonable alternatives were not exhausted prior to quitting.” Nelson mailed her protest via the U.S. Postal Service (“USPS”) from Pocatello, Idaho. Her letter arrived at the Department’s offices in Boise on March 7, one day past the deadline. Because the postmark did not indicate the date of mailing, Nelson’s protest was dismissed by the Department for being untimely. After a hearing, an appeals examiner concluded that although there was a USPS postmark stamped on the envelope, the red ink “blend[ed] with the red stamps,” obscuring the date. Thus, while the distribution center could be discerned from the postmark, “the remainder of the postmark [was] illegible.” Because the envelope lacked a date on the postmark, the appeals examiner concluded that the envelope should be treated as if it had no postmark at all, thereby making the date of filing the date received, which was March 7, 2019 - one day too late. Nelson timely appealed the decision of the appeals examiner to the Industrial Commission, arguing that the letter was mailed by March 1 and that she had no control over its late arrival or the absence of a legible postmark. The Commission concurred with the appeal's examiner. The Department of Labor nor the Industrial Commission considered Nelson's reason for appealing in the first place: that she lacked good cause to leave her employment. Focusing instead on the timeliness of her appeal, the Idaho Supreme Court determined the Department and Commission were mistaken in holding Nelson's filing was too late: "since once a letter is deposited for mailing it is entirely within the control of the USPS, the obscured date on the postmark stamp could only have been a result of USPS error. Thus, by the application of reason and common sense, the delivery of this letter on March 7—even with an illegible date on the postmark—conclusively proves that Nelson must have deposited her appeals letter into USPS custody on or before the March 6 filing deadline." The decision in this matter was reversed and remanded for consideration of the merits of Nelson's case. View "Nelson v. IDOL and Franklin Group" on Justia Law

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Nampa Highway District No. 1 (NHD) brought this action seeking to quiet title to a thirty-three-foot-wide strip of land constituting the south half of West Orchard Avenue in Canyon County, Idaho. NHD claimed that a 1941 deed conveyed the land to NHD. Appellants (defendants-below) argued that because the deed was not recorded until 1989, it did not affect their interests pursuant to the “Shelter Rule,” which protected a purchaser with notice if their predecessor in interest was an innocent purchaser. The district court granted summary judgment in NHD’s favor. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed, finding the district court erred in granting summary judgment when there was a genuine issue of material fact as to what a reasonable investigation by Appellants' predecessors in interest would have revealed. The Supreme Court vacated the district court's declaration that NHD was the fee simple titleholder of the right-of-way, and the matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Nampa Hwy Dist #1 v. Knight" on Justia Law

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Nine-year-old girl Shaeley Noel was seriously injured while playing on playground equipment owned by the City of Rigby (City) and located in the City’s South Park. Shaeley and her parents (collectively the Noels) filed suit in district court alleging willful and wanton conduct by the City in the construction and/or maintenance of its playground equipment. The City claimed the park was closed for winter at the time Shaeley was injured. A jury rendered a verdict in favor of the City when it found that the City did not owe a duty to Shaeley. The Noels filed a motion for a new trial, which the district court granted. The City appealed the district court’s decision to grant a new trial, as well as the district court’s decisions to deny the City’s motion for a directed verdict and the City’s motion to exclude the Noels’ expert witness. The Noels cross-appealed, arguing the trial court erred by: (1) rejecting of evidence of Shaeley’s unadjusted medical bills; (2) preventing the Noels’ expert witness from testifying regarding the City’s purported willful and wanton conduct; (3) allowing a jury instruction regarding comparative negligence; and (4) admitting of evidence regarding the seasonal closure of the park. The Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court decisions with regard to: (1) the City’s motion for a directed verdict; (2) the Noels’ motion for a new trial; (3) the Noels’ expert testifying; (4) the jury instruction; and (5) admission of evidence of the park closure. Additionally, the Court reversed the district court with respect to: (1) the Noels introducing Shaeley’s unadjusted medical bills; and (2) preclusion of the Noels’ expert from testifying that the City engaged in willful and wanton conduct. As a result, the matter was remanded for a new trial. View "Noel v. City of Rigby" on Justia Law

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Brett Woolley appealed an Idaho Industrial Commission (“Commission”) decision that found him ineligible for unemployment benefits. The Commission determined that Woolley was ineligible for benefits because he was a corporate officer whose claim for benefits was based on wages from a corporation in which he had an ownership interest. The Commission also determined Woolley willfully made a false statement by saying he had not received wages or performed services as a corporate officer. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the Commission’s determination that Woolley was ineligible for benefits due to his status as a corporate officer because it was supported by substantial and competent evidence. However, the Court found Woolley did not willfully misrepresent his status as a corporate officer, "The statute makes no mention of a claimant’s performance of services as a corporate officer. To compound the confusion, IDOL provides no information in the unemployment handbook or on its website to explain why it is necessary for claimants to report their corporate officer status when filing a claim for benefits. To serve as the basis for a willful failure to report a material fact, the question to be answered by a claimant must be accurately grounded in the legal requirements of the statute." View "Woolley v. Idaho Dept. of Labor" on Justia Law

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The issue this appeal presented for the Idaho Supreme Court's review centered on whether Sky Down Skydiving, LLC, improperly designated its tandem skydiving instructors and parachute packers as independent contractors, rather than as employees, thereby eliminating the need for worker’s compensation insurance. After notifying the company that it was in violation of Idaho Code section 72-301, the Industrial Commission filed a civil law suit against Sky Down for penalties and injunctive relief. Following a bench trial, the magistrate court concluded that the instructors and parachute packers were independent contractors. The magistrate court then dismissed the Commission’s complaint with prejudice. After the case was dismissed, a witness contacted the Industrial Commission’s counsel to recant his earlier testimony. The Commission then filed a motion for a new trial, which was denied by the magistrate court. The Commission filed an intermediate appeal with the district court, which affirmed the magistrate court’s decision. The Commission then timely appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court, which reversed and remanded because both lower courts erred by failing to apply the proper test, and the district court erred in concluding there was substantial and competent evidence to support the magistrate court’s findings. View "Idaho ex rel. Industrial Commission v. Sky Down Sky Diving" on Justia Law

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Employers Resource Management Company (“Employers”) returned to the Idaho Supreme Court in a second appeal against the Idaho Department of Commerce. In 2014, the Idaho Legislature passed the Idaho Reimbursement Incentive Act (“IRIA”). The Economic Advisory Council (“EAC”), a body created under IRIA to approve or deny tax credit applications, granted a $6.5 million tax credit to the web-based Illinois corporation Paylocity, a competitor to Employers Resource Management Company. Employers claimed Paylocity’s tax credit created an unfair economic advantage. Paylocity, however, had yet to receive the tax credit because it did not satisfy the conditions in the Tax Reimbursement Incentive agreement. Having established competitor standing in Employers Res. Mgmt. Co. v. Ronk, 405 P.3d 33 (2017), Employers argued the Idaho Reimbursement Incentive Act was unconstitutional under the separation of powers doctrine. The district court dismissed Employers’s case upon finding the Act constitutional. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Employers Resource Mgmt Co v. Kealy" on Justia Law

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The Department of Environmental Quality (“DEQ”) brought a civil enforcement action under the Environmental Protection and Health Act against David Gibson and VHS Properties, LLC, (“VHS”), for illegally operating a composting facility. After a three-day bench trial, the district court determined that Gibson was operating a “Tier II Solid Waste Processing Facility” without prior approval from DEQ. The district court assessed a civil penalty and issued an injunction. On appeal, Gibson raised a number of issues regarding DEQ’s authority to regulate compost and its inspection of the property. DEQ argued Gibson’s appeal was partially time-barred. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court held that although Gibson’s appeal was not time-barred, he failed to show error. Therefore, it affirmed the district court. View "DEQ v. Gibson" on Justia Law