Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in New Mexico Supreme Court
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GandyDancer, LLC, and Rock House CGM, LLC, were business competitors, and both provided railway construction and repair services to BNSF Railway Company. BNSF awarded contracts to Rock House to provide goods and services in New Mexico. GandyDancer filed a complaint with the New Mexico Construction Industries Division (CID) in 2015 that alleged Rock House violated the Construction Industries Licensing Act (CILA), by performing unlicensed construction work in New Mexico. GandyDancer thereafter filed a complaint in district court against Rock House, alleging theories of competitive injury, and including a claim that Rock House engaged in unfair methods of competition to obtain contracts with BNSF contrary to the UPA. GandyDancer alleged Rock House’s acts amounted to an “unfair or deceptive trade practice” under Section 57-12-2(D) of the New Mexico Unfair Practices Act (UPA). The district court certified for interlocutory review whether the UPA supported supports a cause of action for competitive injury. The Court of Appeals accepted interlocutory review and held that a business may sue for competitive injury based on a plain reading of the UPA. The New Mexico Supreme Court reversed, because the Legislature excluded competitive injury from the causes of action permitted under that statute. Furthermore, the Court observed that Gandydancer relied upon dicta in Page & Wirtz Construction Co. v. Soloman, 794 P.2d 349. Therefore, the Court formally disavowed reliance on Page & Wirtz or prior New Mexico case law that conflicted with its opinion here. View "GandyDancer, LLC v. Rock House CGM, LLC" on Justia Law

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Following the death of Patricia Lewis (Worker), her widower Michael Lewis (Petitioner) was awarded death benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act. The Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) based the award on the finding that Worker, while employed with Albuquerque Public Schools (Employer), contracted allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) which proximately resulted in Worker’s death. Employer appealed the award to the Court of Appeals. Pertinent here, the appellate court concluded: (1) the WCJ correctly rejected Employer’s argument that Petitioner’s claim for death benefits was time-barred; and (2) he WCJ erred in excluding from evidence certain medical testimony and records which Employer contended related to Worker’s cause of death. The Court of Appeals therefore remanded the case for retrial on whether Worker’s ABPA “‘proximately result[ed]’” in her death. On the first issue, the New Mexico Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals that Petitioner’s claim for death benefits was not time-barred, and affirmed. On the second issue concerning the WCJ’s exclusion of medical testimony and evidence on Worker’s cause of death, the Supreme Court held the Court of Appeals erred in its interpretation of Section 52-1-51(C), but agreed based on the Supreme Court's own interpretation of Section 52-1-51(C) that the case had to be remanded for further proceedings. In all other respects, the opinion of the Court of Appeals was affirmed. View "Lewis v. Albuquerque Public Schools" on Justia Law

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New Energy Economy (NEE) appealed a New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (Commission or PRC) order approving Public Service Company of New Mexico’s (PNM) renewable energy procurement plan (Plan) for the year 2018. In its application, PNM sought to demonstrate its compliance with Renewable Energy Act requirements and obtain the Commission’s approval of renewable energy procurements, among other items. NEE challenged the Commission’s approval of PNM’s 2018 Plan by arguing that PNM’s proposed procurement of solar energy generating facilities relied on an unfair request for proposal (RFP) process. NEE contended PNM designed its RFP to limit the universe of potential bidders and select its predetermined, preferred type of renewable energy bid. After review, the New Mexico Supreme Court concluded NEE did not meet its burden of proving that the Commission’s approval of the solar energy procurement was unreasonable or unlawful because evidence in the record supported the Commission’s determination that the challenged provisions of the RFP were reasonable under the facts and circumstances of this case. The Court, therefore, affirmed the Commission's final order approving PNM's 2018 Plan. View "N.M. Indus. Energy Comm'n v. N.M. Pub. Regulation Comm'n" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from the final order of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (Commission) granting part, but not all, of the increase in retail electric rates sought by the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM). The Commission’s final order was appealed by PNM and cross-appealed by the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority (ABCWUA), New Energy Economy (NEE), and the New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers (NMIEC). On appeal, PNM, NEE, ABCWUA, and NMIEC all raised numerous issues with the Commission’s final order. In this opinion the New Mexico Supreme Court addressed challenges made to the Commission’s decisions regarding Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, the installation of balanced draft technology at San Juan Generating Station, the new coal supply agreement at Four Corners Power Plant, the inclusion of Rate 11B in rate banding, PNM’s prepaid pension asset, and the adoption of Method A. The Supreme Court rejected each of the arguments on appeal except one: the Court concluded that, by denying PNM any future recovery for its nuclear decommissioning costs related to the Palo Verde capacity at issue in this case, the Commission denied PNM due process of law. Therefore, the Court declared all other aspects of the Commission’s final order to be lawful and reasonable, yet annulled and vacated the final order in its entirety pursuant to NMSA 1978, Section 62-11-5 (1982). The matter was remanded to the Commission for further proceedings as required and the entry of an order consistent with the Court’s opinion. View "Public Serv. Co. of N.M. v. N.M. Pub. Regulation Comm'n" on Justia Law

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While the parties in this case litigated contempt proceedings over the course of seven years, the children at the center of the case aged out of the system and became peripheral to a nearly $4,000,000 judgment in favor of Respondents Janet and James Mercer-Smith, who pleased no contest to allegations of abuse against their two minor daughters Julia and Rachel. This case began in 2001 as an abuse and neglect proceeding and turned into a dispute over whether Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) had violated the district court's decision and Julia and Rachel could not be placed with former employees of a group home where they had been residing. After protracted litigation, the district court held CYFD in contempt for violating its placement decision and, almost four years later, imposed the sanction for the violation, ordering CYFD to pay the Mercer-Smiths more than $1,600,000 in compensatory damages and more than $2,000,000 in attorney fees and costs. The award was based on the district court’s determination that the violation of the placement decision resulted in the loss of the Mercer-Smiths' chance of reconciliation with Julia and Rachel. The New Mexico Supreme Court held that the purpose for which the district court exercised its contempt power was not remedial in nature and therefore could not be upheld as a valid exercise of civil contempt power. Accordingly, the Court reversed the contempt order and vacated the award in its entirety. View "New Mexico ex rel. CYFD v. Mercer-Smith" on Justia Law

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In Moses v. Skanders (Moses II), the New Mexico Supreme Court considered whether using public funds to lend textbooks to private school students violated Article XII, Section 3. In Moses II, the Court held the plain meaning and history of Article XII, Section 3 forbade such lending. The U.S. Supreme Court subsequently vacated the New Mexico Court's judgment and remanded the case for further consideration in light of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, 137 S.Ct. 2012 (2017). On remand, the New Mexico Court concluded its previous interpretation of Article XII, Section 3 raised concerns under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. To avoid constitutional concerns, the Court held that the textbook loan program, did not result in use of public funds in support of private schools as prohibited by Article XII, Section 3. The Court also held the textbook loan program was consistent with Article IV, Section 31 of the New Mexico Constitution, which addressed appropriations for educational purposes, and Article IX, Section 14 of the New Mexico Constitution. View "Moses v. Ruszkowski" on Justia Law

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Casey Baker (Worker) appealed a Workers’ Compensation Administration decision denying his request that Endeavor Services, Inc. and Great West Casualty Company (Employer) pay 100% of Worker’s attorney fees pursuant to the fee-shifting provision set forth in NMSA 1978, Section 52-1-54(F)(4) (2003, amended 2013). At issue was whether Worker made an offer of judgment that was sufficient to trigger the fee-shifting provision. The New Mexico Supreme Court found Worker’s offer of judgment put Employer on notice that Worker was proposing an unambiguous partial settlement and that Worker intended to invoke the fee-shifting statute. Therefore, Worker made a valid offer under Section 52-1-54(F) (2003) and the workers’ compensation judge erred as a matter of law by declining to apply the mandatory fee-shifting provision. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Baker v. Endeavor Servs." on Justia Law

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The New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department (the Department) appealed a Court of Appeals decision to reverse the district court’s termination of Father’s parental rights with regard to Child. Mother and Father reported that Father had been standing and rocking Child when he accidentally dropped her on the carpet. Child was in critical condition, having sustained multiple fractures, including twenty-three rib fractures and four skull fractures in various stages of healing, facial bruising, liver lacerations, brain bleeding, and a possible detached retina. Doctors determined that the “volume, distribution, and severity of [Child’s] injuries [were] not consistent with a short fall in the home” and instead evidenced multiple incidents of blunt force trauma to Child’s head and body. Child was severely physically and mentally impaired as a result of the injuries. The Court of Appeals concluded that the Department failed to make reasonable efforts to assist Father in remedying the conditions and causes of neglect and abuse that rendered Father unable to properly care for Child. The New Mexico Supreme Court granted certiorari to review whether the district court’s determination that the Department made reasonable efforts to assist Father was supported by substantial evidence. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals opinion and affirmed the district court order terminating Father’s parental rights. View "New Mexico ex rel. CYFD v. Keon H." on Justia Law

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In September 2013, the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission (Commission) adopted the Copper Mine Rule, 20.6.7 NMAC (Copper Rule). Petitioners argued the Copper Rule violates the Water Quality Act (WQA) because it was premised on an impermissible construction of the statutory phrase “place of withdrawal of water for present or reasonably foreseeable future use.” Petitioners asserted that, as a consequence of this impermissible construction of the statutory phrase, the Copper Rule permitted rather than prevented groundwater contamination at open pit copper mining facilities. The New Mexico Supreme Court rejected these arguments, concluding that the Copper Rule was premised on a permissible construction of the statutory phrase, and affirmed the Commission’s decision to adopt the Copper Rule. View "Gila Res. Info. Project v. N.M. Water Quality Control Comm'n" on Justia Law

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New Energy Economy, Inc. (NEE) appealed a final order issued by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC). NEE contended the PRC violated New Mexico law by approving a contested stipulation granting the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) certificates of public convenience and necessity (CCNs) to acquire new generation resources and by filing a notice proposing to dismiss the protests to PNM’s 2014 integrated resource plan (IRP). The New Mexico Supreme Court determined NEE’s arguments were predicated on a mistaken understanding of the law, and NEE asked the Court to accept factual assertions that were rejected in earlier proceedings. The Court affirmed the PRC’s final order. View "New Energy Econ. v. N.M. Pub. Regulation Comm'n" on Justia Law