Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil
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Connie Schoeffel worked for Thorne Research, Inc. (“Thorne”) as a kitchen manager. In 2016, Thorne announced that it would be moving its operations from Idaho to South Carolina. For those employees who would not be relocating to South Carolina, Thorne offered an employee retention program to encourage them to continue working at the Idaho facility until the South Carolina facility was ready. As part of this program, Thorne prepared a “Release of Claims Agreement” (“the Agreement”) providing that Thorne would pay participating employees “bargained-for compensation” in exchange for giving up certain rights, including the right to quit before their positions were eliminated. Schoeffel signed this Agreement approximately six weeks before her last day of work. After her separation, Schoeffel filed for unemployment benefits without reporting the retention payments as income. Around the time Schoeffel received her fourth benefit payment, the Department learned of the payments that Thorne owed Schoeffel under the Agreement. The Department determined that those payments constituted reportable “severance pay” under Idaho Code section 72-1367(4). Consequently, the Department determined that Schoeffel was receiving severance pay and was required to repay the unemployment benefits she had received. Schoeffel appealed to the Department’s Appeals Bureau, which initially ruled in her favor but affirmed the Department’s decision on reconsideration. Schoeffel then appealed to the Industrial Commission which affirmed the Appeals Bureau’s decision. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the payments were reportable severance pay, applying Parker v. Underwriters Labs, Inc., 96 P.3d 618 (2004). "[B]ecause the primary purpose of the Agreement was to secure the relinquishment of Schoeffel’s right to quit, rather than to compensate her for her past service to Thorne, they were not made 'as a result of' severance under Idaho Code section 72-1367(4). Therefore, the retention payments do not constitute reportable severance pay." The Commission's decision was reversed. View "Schoeffel v. Idaho Dept. of Labor" on Justia Law

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Appellant Derrick Lingnaw, a registered sex offender, sought declaratory relief from the district court asking whether he could legally reside on his property. The district court found Lingnaw’s residence was within five hundred feet of property on which a school was located, as that term was used in Idaho Code section 18-8329(1)(d). The court thus denied Lingnaw’s request to enjoin the Custer County Sheriff, Stuart Lumpkin, from interfering with Lingnaw’s ability to reside on his property. The court also denied Sheriff Lumpkin’s request for attorney fees and costs. On appeal, the parties mainly disputed the district court’s finding that Lingnaw’s residence was within five hundred feet of a school. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court's ruling that Lingnaw's property was within five hundred feet of property on which a school was located. Lingnaw raised a question of fact as to whether the building, ruled as a "school," was simply a gymnasium and building leased by the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”); Lingnaw argued the plain meaning of “school” required some form of traditional educational instruction. The trial court found “that the gymnasium, as contemplated by the statute, is a school building utilized by the school for school functions on a regular basis . . . for sporting events and other school activities. And children are coming and going from that building on a regular basis.” Because it was “clear from the evidence” that Lingnaw’s property fell “well within” five hundred feet or the buildings’ property line, the district court found that Lingnaw lived within five hundred feet of a school. To this, the Supreme Court concurred. The district court's judgment was affirmed in all other respects. View "Lingnaw v. Lumpkin" on Justia Law

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The Idaho Department of Finance ("Department") filed a civil enforcement action against appellant appellant, Sean Zarinegar, Performance Realty Management LLC ("PRM") and other nominal defendants, alleging Zarinegar and PRM committed securities fraud. The Department moved for summary judgment; Zarinegar and PRM responded with their own motion for partial summary judgment and a motion to strike several documents submitted by the Department in support of its motion for summary judgment. A few days before the district court was set to hear arguments on the motions, counsel for Zarinegar and PRM moved the district court for leave to withdraw as counsel of record. At the hearing, the district court preliminary denied the motion to withdraw, entertained the parties’ arguments, and took all matters under advisement. The district court later issued a memorandum decision and order denying, in part, Zarinegar’s, and PRM’s motions to strike. The district court also denied Zarinegar’s and PRM’s motion for partial summary judgment. The district court granted summary judgment for the Department after finding Zarinegar and PRM had misrepresented and omitted material facts in violation of Idaho Code section 30-14-501(2) and fraudulently diverted investor funds for personal use in violation of section 30-14-501(4). The district court then granted the motion to withdraw. The district court entered its final judgment against Zarinegar and PRM September 30, 2019. Zarinegar, representing himself pro se, appealed the judgment, arguing: (1) the district court lacked jurisdiction to enter judgment against him; (2) the district court violated his constitutional right to a jury trial and right to proceed pro se; (3) the district court’s denial of Zarinegar’s motions to strike as to certain documents was an abuse of discretion; and (4) the district court erroneously granted summary judgment for the Department. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Idaho v. Zarinegar" on Justia Law

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Kirby Vickers filed a grievance letter with Idaho Board of Veterinary Medicine (the Board”) against a veterinarian requesting that they take various disciplinary actions. After an investigation, the Board declined to take any action against the veterinarian. Vickers then filed suit in district court, seeking to compel the Board to hold a hearing. The district court dismissed his suit for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. On appeal, Vickers argued his letter to the Board initiated a contested action for which he was entitled to judicial review. To this, the Idaho Supreme Court disagreed, finding that a private citizen could not initiate a "contested case" with a grievance letter. Vickers points to the language in caselaw: “[t]he filing of a complaint initiates a contested case,”to argue that any public citizen could file a complaint pursuant to Idaho Rule of Administrative Procedure of the Attorney General (“IDAPA”) 04.11.01.240.02 and begin a contested case. However, the Supreme Court found both the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and the corresponding IDAPA rules, addressed only agency actions. "Vickers cannot apply these rules to his grievance letter, even if it was referred to as a “complaint” in correspondence from the Board, because it is not an agency action under the APA or IDAPA." The Court affirmed the district court's order dismissed this case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. View "Vickers v. Idaho Bd of Veterinary Medicine" on Justia Law

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The United States District Court for the District of Idaho certified a question of law to the Idaho Supreme Court. Plaintiff was a prisoner in the custody of the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC), currently incarcerated at the Idaho State Correctional Institution (ISCI). He asserts that he, and all IDOC prisoners, have a state-created liberty interest in being employed, arising from Idaho Code [section] 20-209. Plaintiff asserted the statute contained a "very specific, clear, and unambiguous" mandate that the Board of Correction must provide all inmates with employment during incarceration. The federal court asked the Idaho Supreme Court for guidance on plaintiff's contention: whether Idaho Code section 20-209 required the state board of correction to provide employment for all prisoners, and, if so, what was the minimum the board must do to implement the statute’s mandate? The Supreme Court responded, finding 20-209 required the Board to make employment available for all prisoners in the form of: (1) labor assignments as prescribed by the Board’s rules and regulations; and/or (2) implementation of statutory work programs managed by the Board in accordance with its rules and regulations. The Board retained discretion to manage these prisoner employment opportunities pursuant to its broad control over the correctional system. Section 20-209 did not create a right to paid or unpaid work during a prisoner’s period of incarceration or establish an employer-employee relationship between the Board and the prisoner. At a minimum, the Board must comply with legislation controlling its responsibilities managing prisoner employment and with its own rules and regulations. View "Goodrick - Certified Question of Law" on Justia Law

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In 2015, the Kenworthys began construction on a two-story boat garage on Lake Coeur d’Alene. The Newtons’ property overlooked the location of the Kenworthys’ boat garage. The new structure was much larger than the original boat garage and had a second floor. After construction began, the Newtons took issue with the size of the new structure, and sued the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) and the Kenworthys’ related family entities (the LLC Respondents), asserting claims of public and private nuisance and requesting injunctive relief to mandate the removal of the offending structure. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The district court held that the Newtons failed to establish that the boat garage was illegal and that their nuisance claims failed as a matter of law. The district court subsequently entered judgments in favor of IDL and the LLC Respondents. After the district court denied the Newtons’ motion for reconsideration, the Newtons appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Newton v. MJK/BJK MBK Lake" on Justia Law

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This appeal involved a dispute between a homeowners’ association and the City of Eagle (“the City”) over the public’s right to use a parking lot located on land owned by a homeowners’ association. T.R. Company, LLC (“T.R.”) was the developer of a subdivision. In November 2002, the City held a public hearing on T.R.’s request for certain concessions from the City associated with the subdivision. The City argued that T.R. offered to dedicate an easement for public parking on Lot 35 at that hearing, and that the offer was accepted when, a few months later, the City approved T.R.’s design review application showing the specific location and design of the parking lot. Respondent Two Rivers Subdivision Homeowners Association, Inc. (“the Association”) argued that no dedication occurred because T.R.’s intent to dedicate was not clear and unequivocal. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Association. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court vacated the district court’s judgment, reversed the district court’s decision on summary judgment, and remanded with instructions to enter judgment in favor of the City and to consider whether the City was entitled to any injunctive relief. View "City of Eagle v. Two Rivers Subdivision HOA" on Justia Law

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A guardian ad litem (GAL) for two minor children appealed after a magistrate court determined the children should have been placed with their biological father in Mexico. Jane Doe I (Daughter) and John Doe II (Son) were removed from the care of their mother (Mother) along with another half-sibling on after a preliminary investigation revealed the children were homeless and living in a car. At the time Daughter and Son were taken into foster care, the specific whereabouts of their biological father, John Doe (Father), were unknown, other than that he had been deported to Mexico in December 2014. Father had last seen the children at that time. In addition, his paternity had not yet been established and he had not had any contact with his children since his deportation. A little more than a year after the proceedings had begun, Father’s paternity was established. Shortly after the Department filed an amended petition, it sought a case plan for Father. The Department also attempted to obtain a home study for Father but faced difficulty accomplishing this task because he lived in Mexico. The children’s GAL opposed placing the children with Father without more information about him and his living situation. Ultimately, the magistrate court ordered that the children be placed with Father as soon as possible without a home study being conducted, apparently relying on In re Doe, 281 P.3d 95 (2012). On motions to reconsider filed by the Department and the GAL, newly-discovered evidence was presented that Father was a registered sex offender who had previously pleaded guilty to failing to register as such. Nevertheless, the magistrate court denied the motions to reconsider. The GAL appealed. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed the magistrate court, holding that while it continued "to recognize that the biological parent’s presumption of fitness is and should be very strong. However, it is not irrefutable. . . . Where the legislature has unequivocally placed a duty on the court and the Department to consider its primary concern 'the health and safety of the child,' it is incumbent on a court to ensure that diligent investigation occurs regarding questions pertaining to children’s safety." View "IDHW & John Doe v. GAL & 4th Judicial District Casa" on Justia Law

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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