Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil
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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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John Doe (Father) appealed a magistrate court’s decision to terminate his parental rights to his three children: John Doe I (age 12), Jane Doe (age 11), and John Doe II (age 7). The children and their biological mother (Mother) lived in Idaho when the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (the Department) petitioned to terminate Mother’s parental rights. Mother eventually voluntarily stipulated to the termination of her rights. Father resided in Tennessee during these proceedings and could not be located by the Department for several months. The Department amended its original petition in Idaho to establish jurisdiction over Father. The Department then moved to obtain authorization to serve the petition on Father by publication in the Tennessee city where Father resided. The magistrate court granted the Department’s request. Ultimately, Father was located in Tennessee and accepted personal service. The Department then filed petitioned to terminate his parental rights. Father participated in the termination trial via Zoom from Tennessee. Throughout the proceeding, Father’s internet connection proved to be unreliable, and he was repeatedly disconnected from the proceeding. Father rejoined the proceeding when the connection was reestablished. Father moved to continue the trial because of the connectivity issue, which the magistrate court denied, noting that it had given the parties the option of joining the proceedings remotely, but that they were required to ensure they had a reliable internet connection. Following the trial, the magistrate court terminated Father’s parental rights based on the grounds of abandonment, neglect, and the inability to discharge parental responsibilities. Father appealed. Finding no reversible error in the magistrate court's judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed it. View "IDHW v. John Doe" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from conflicting interpretations of the statutory provisions that govern the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho (“PERSI”) and the administration of employer contributions to the Firefighters’ Retirement Fund (“FRF”). Under Idaho Code sections 59-1391 and 59-1394, a city or fire district that “employs” firefighters participating in the FRF on October 1, 1980, was considered an “employer” and required to make additional contributions to ensure the FRF remains solvent. Having employed only a single firefighter who received funds from the FRF, Kuna Rural Fire District (“KRFD”) argued it was not an employer under the code and not required to contribute to the fund because that employee retired in 1985 and received a lump-sum benefit. KRFD notified PERSI of its intent to cease contributions, but PERSI denied this request. KRFD filed a notice of appeal to the PERSI Retirement Board (“Board”). A hearing officer issued a recommended decision concluding KRFD had to continue contributing under section 59-1394. The Board adopted this decision. KRFD petitioned for judicial review under the Idaho Administrative Procedure Act (“IDAPA”) with the district court, which affirmed the Board’s decision. KRFD timely appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court. Finding no error, the Supreme Court also affirmed the Board's decision. View "Kuna Rural Fire District v. PERSI" on Justia Law

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In 2017, Appellant Shoshone County assessed properties owned by Respondents S&W OPS, LLC; POWDER, LLC; H2O, LLC; GOLF, LLC; APARTMENT, LLC; F&B, LLC; and VILLAGE MANAGEMENT, LLC (collectively “Taxpayers”). Taxpayers disputed the valuation and sought review by the Board of Equalization, and subsequently the Board of Tax Appeals (“BTA”). The BTA reduced the assessed value, and the County appealed to the district court. After a four-day bench trial, the district court upheld the BTA decision, determining that the County’s appraisal evidence was more credible than Taxpayers’ evidence; however, the district court ultimately held the County had not satisfied its burden of showing how the BTA decision was erroneous by a preponderance of the evidence. The County appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court, arguing that the district court applied the wrong standard of review by requiring the County to prove “how or why” the BTA decision was erroneous instead of simply concluding that the market value of the property was different than what was found by the BTA. After review, the Supreme Court agreed with the County’s position. The district court’s decision was reversed, the judgment was vacated, and the case was remanded with instructions for the district court to consider whether the BTA’s decision on valuation was erroneous given the evidence submitted during the de novo trial. If that decision on valuation was erroneous, the district court, as the fact-finder, had to set the valuation. View "Shoshone County v. S&W OPS, LLC" on Justia Law

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Patricia Allen appealed the Idaho Industrial Commission’s (the “Commission”) decision denying unemployment benefits. Allen was employed by Partners in Healthcare, Inc., doing business as North Canyon Medical Center (“NCMC”), between February 5, 1999, and May 8, 2020. On May 8, 2020, the CEO of NCMC and the HR director met with Allen to discuss her job performance. Allen was presented with a performance improvement plan (“PIP”), which outlined examples of Allen’s poor job performance and identified expectations for improving her performance. It was explained to Allen that if she wanted to forego the PIP, she could sign a severance agreement. Allen was then presented with a proposed severance agreement. Allen asked if she could discuss her options with her husband, but was pressed to make her decision then and there. The CEO told Allen that he thought it was in her best interest to take the severance package. Allen decided to forgo the PIP and took the severance agreement. After separating from NCMC, Allen filed an unemployment claim with the Idaho Department of Labor (“IDOL”). NCMC’s response to the Idaho Department of Labor was prepared by the Idaho Hospital Association (“IHA”), NCMC’s third-party administrator. IHA’s human resources director identified Allen’s reason for separation as “Fired/Discharged” and indicated Allen did not receive any compensation after her separation. IDOL determined Allen was eligible for unemployment benefits. NCMC’s HR director appealed the IDOL decision; IDOL sent NCMC and Allen a hearing notice on whether Allen quit voluntarily and, if so, whether she quit for good cause or was discharged for misconduct in connection with her employment. Following the hearing, the appeals examiner issued a written decision that denied Allen unemployment benefits. The examiner also found that Allen did not follow the grievance procedures to report her issues with her supervisor prior to quitting. In reversing the Commission’s decision, the Idaho Supreme Court concluded the Commission erred in failing to analyze whether the PIP was a viable option that would have allowed Allen to continue working. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Allen v. Partners in Healthcare, Inc." on Justia Law

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Daniel Sharp suffered an injury to his lower back from an accident at work in 2015. After surgery, he was repeatedly advised to lose weight by the medical providers treating his injury. However, Sharp gained considerable weight instead. The Industrial Commission found that Sharp’s functional ability had diminished between 2016, when he reached maximal medical improvement (MMI) after surgery, and 2019, when his permanent disability hearing was held. The Commission attributed the worsening of Sharp’s condition to his weight gain, which it held to be a superseding cause of any increase in Sharp’s disability post-MMI. Accordingly, the Commission evaluated Sharp’s disability based on his condition at MMI, despite the Idaho Supreme Court's opinion in Brown v. Home Depot, 272 P.3d 577 (2012), requiring that a claimant’s disability be evaluated based on circumstances at time of the hearing. After review in this case, the Supreme Court held that the Commission erred by departing from "Brown," by applying an incorrect standard to determine that Sharp was not entitled to compensation due to the aggravation of his injury, and by reaching certain factual conclusions not supported by substantial and competent evidence. Therefore, the Commission’s decision was vacated and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Sharp v. Thomas Bros Plumbing" on Justia Law

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This appeal centered around the Idaho Department of Water Resources' (“IDWR”) denial of Application 83160, brought by Jeffrey and Chana Duffin (“Duffin”), to transfer the licensed ground water right 35-7667 to a different parcel of land. During the appeal of this case, 3G AG LLC (“the LLC”) “purchased from Duffin the property where water right 35-7667 - the water right subject to Transfer No. 8316 which is the subject of this appeal - is located.” As a result of the transfer of ownership, the LLC sought to substitute itself for Duffin. Because there was no objection to the substitution, it was allowed. IDWR denied the transfer because, among other reasons, approving it would cause an “enlargement” in the use of water as proscribed by Idaho Code section 42-222(1). On judicial review, the district court agreed with the denial and affirmed. Finding no error in the district court's judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court. View "3G AG LLC v. IDWR" on Justia Law

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S Bar Ranch owned approximately 3000 acres of land in rural Elmore County, Idaho. S Bar purchased the land in 2015. There were very few structures on S Bar’s property, save for an airplane hangar that included a five-hundred square-foot apartment. S Bar’s address was listed in Sun Valley, Idaho, and its principal, Chris Stephens, used the property for recreational purposes. Cat Creek Energy, LLC, an Idaho company managed by John Faulkner, owned and managed more than 23,000 acres of land in Elmore County near Anderson Ranch reservoir. Faulkner, on behalf of his other companies, leased land to Cat Creek to develop the project at issue in this dispute. In late 2014 and early 2015, Cat Creek began the process of obtaining conditional use permits (“CUPs”) for a proposed alternative energy development (“the project”) in Elmore County. As initially proposed, the project had five components: a 50,000 acre-foot reservoir with hydroelectric turbines, up to 39 wind turbines, approximately 174,000 photovoltaic solar panels, electrical transmission lines, and an onsite power substation. Cat Creek sought to build the project on approximately 23,000 acres of land that it had leased near Anderson Ranch Reservoir. In 2019, the district court issued a Memorandum Decision and Order, affirming the Board’s decisions with respect to the CUPs. The district court found that S Bar only had standing to challenge the CUPs relating to wind turbines, electric transmission lines, and the on-site substation. The district court also reiterated its prior oral ruling that a 2017 CUP Order was a final agency action and that S Bar’s petition for judicial review of that order was untimely. With regard to the development agreement and a 2018 CUP Amendment, the district court concluded that the Board did not err in a manner specified by Idaho Code section 67-5279 and that S Bar had not shown that its substantial rights had been prejudiced. S Bar appealed, but finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed judgment in favor of Cat Creek. View "S Bar Ranch v. Elmore County" on Justia Law

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After a 21-year career as a firefighter with the City of Pocatello, Richard Nelson was diagnosed with leukemia. Nelson brought a workers’ compensation claim against the City. The Industrial Commission determined that the City failed to rebut a statutory presumption of causation with substantial and competent evidence. The City appealed, arguing there was substantial evidence to rebut the presumption that Nelson’s cancer was caused by his employment. The City also argued Idaho Code section 72-438(14)(b) unconstitutionally discriminated between the employers of firefighters who had cancer and the employers of other employees who claim to have contracted an occupational disease. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the Industrial Commission. View "Nelson v. City of Pocatello" on Justia Law

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Curt and Dara Von Lossberg filed this suit against the State of Idaho and the Idaho State Police after their son, Bryan Von Lossberg, ended his life with an unlawfully purchased handgun. The Von Lossbergs alleged that this purchase stemmed from failures in Idaho’s electronic case management system to properly report his mental health status. The district court dismissed the Von Lossbergs’ claims for negligence and wrongful death, concluding that the government defendants were immune from tort liability under the immunity provisions of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (“Brady Act”). On appeal, the Von Lossbergs argued their case should not have been dismissed because: (1) the Brady Act’s immunity provision did not apply to the State of Idaho; and (2) the Brady Act’s immunity provision was not preserved by the Idaho Tort Claims Act. The Idaho Supreme Court concurred that the Brady Act did not grant immunity to the State and its agencies. Accordingly, judgment was reversed, and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Von Lossberg v. Idaho" on Justia Law