Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in New Mexico Supreme Court
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The issue presented in this appeal for the New Mexico Supreme Court's review centered on whether contested proceedings were not susceptible to summary judgment in the face of disputed issues of material fact. The Supreme Court found the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (the Commission) ignored this blackletter principle when it summarily dismissed the complaint brought by Resolute Wind 1, LLC (Resolute Wind). The Commission’s summary dismissal violated the procedural due process rights of Resolute Wind and was at a minimum arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion. The Commission also erred in relying on a federal agency’s determination in an earlier, unrelated matter to dismiss the complaint. "The Commission’s procedural and substantive missteps, whether considered separately or together, require us to annul and vacate the final order appealed from and remand the matter to the Commission for further proceedings so as to afford all parties an opportunity to present evidence in support of their respective positions." View "Resolute Wind 1, LLC v. N.M. Pub. Regul. Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Citizens for Fair Rates and the Environment and New Energy Economy, Inc., two organizations that represented energy consumers (collectively, "New Energy"), intervened in the administrative proceedings before the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission. New Energy raised several issues for the New Mexico Supreme Court's review, most of which attacked the Energy Transition Act ("ETA") on constitutional grounds. In addition to these constitutional challenges, New Energy also raised a single claim of error in the findings of the Commission relating to the requirement that Public Service Company of New Mexico’s ("PNM") submit a “memorandum . . . from a securities firm” in support of its application for a financing order. The Supreme Court declined to reach two of New Energy’s issues because they were not properly before the Court and were not essential to the disposition of this appeal. The Court further declined to address New Energy’s arguments regarding an invasion of judicial powers under Section 62-18-8(B) and Section 62-18- 22. With respect to the issues it deemed properly presented, the Court rejected New Energy’s constitutional challenges to the ETA, and concluded the Commission’s final order was based on a reasonable construction of Section 62-18- 4(B)(5) and was supported by substantial evidence. View "Citizens for Fair Rates et al. v. NMPRC" on Justia Law

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The parties’ pleadings centered on a single issue: the constitutionality of a June 9, 2020, directive promulgated by the New Mexico Legislative Council (the Council). The directive, among other things, banned in-person attendance at a then-impending special legislative session that was called to address COVID-19-related and other issues. Petitioners invoked Article IV, Section 12 of the New Mexico Constitution and general notions of due process as prohibiting the “closing” of the special session, and argued the Council’s directive exceeded constitutional limits. Having denied the petition in a prior order issued after oral argument, the New Mexico Supreme Court wrote to explain the reasoning and rationale for its ruling. View "Pirtle v. Legis. Council" on Justia Law

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The issue presented for the New Mexico Supreme Court's review centered on whether the State’s public health orders (PHOs) could support a claim for just compensation under either Article II, Section 20 of the New Mexico Constitution or Section 12-10A-15 of the Public Health Emergency Response Act (PHERA) (2003, as amended through 2015). With respect to the constitutional question, the Court held that the PHOs could not support a claim for a regulatory taking requiring compensation. With respect to the statutory question, it Court held the PHOs’ restrictions on business operations regarding occupancy limits and closures could not support a claim for just compensation. Furthermore, claimants for just compensation under the PHERA had to exhaust the administrative remedies set forth in Section 12-10A-15(B), (C) before seeking judicial relief. View "New Mexico v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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Twenty-seven New Mexico county clerks sought an emergency writ to compel Respondent, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, to mail absentee ballots directly to all registered voters in lieu of conducting in-person voting in the June 2020 primary election. They requested this extraordinary relief because the primary election was scheduled amidst a global pandemic and national and statewide public health emergency: COVID-19, a novel, potentially fatal, viral disease that was spreading unchecked throughout the population. Petitioners alleged that in-person voting could not be conducted safely under those circumstances, and they urged the New Mexico Supreme Court to hold that the requested relief was necessary to protect the health of election workers, voters, and the general public. Respondent stipulated to the petition. The Supreme Court concluded the Election Code did not permit the Secretary of State to mail absentee ballots directly to voters without a prior request from the voter. However, the Election Code permitted the Secretary to mail absentee ballot applications to voters to encourage and facilitate absentee voting. Furthermore, the Court concluded that, under the circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the "clear and present risk to public health presented by mass gatherings and the executive orders mandating that all branches of government take all lawful steps to mitigate that risk," the Secretary of State had a duty to exercise her power to the fullest extent of the law to promote the safety of election workers and voters while conducting the June 2020 primary election. Therefore, the Supreme Court issued a writ of mandamus ordering the Secretary of State to mail absentee ballot applications to eligible voters to encourage absentee voting and minimize the health risk to the public. This remedy "promotes the public health goals mandated by the Governor while not infringing on the Legislature’s plenary power to establish election procedures." The Court issued this opinion to explain its reasoning. View "New Mexico ex rel. Riddle v. Toulouse Oliver" on Justia Law

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The issue presented for the New Mexico Supreme Court’s review centered on the executive branch’s authority to impose business restrictions during a pandemic. Specifically, the Court was asked to address: (1) whether Petitioners were authorized to restrict or close businesses when necessary for the protection of public health; and (2) whether the renewed temporary closure of indoor dining at restaurants and breweries, mandated by a July 13, 2020, emergency public health order (July Order), was arbitrary and capricious. With respect to the first question the Supreme Court held, consistent with its opinion in Grisham v. Reeb, 2020-NMSC-___, (S-1-SC-38336, Nov. 5, 2020), that Petitioners were so authorized. With respect to the second question, the Court held that the July Order’s temporary closure of indoor dining was not arbitrary and capricious. View "Lujan Grisham v. Romero" on Justia Law

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The Harding County, New Mexico Board of County Commissioners, the Mosquero Municipal Schools Board of Education, and the Roy Municipal Schools Board of Education (collectively, Petitioners) petitioned for a writ of mandamus to compel the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department and the department’s Secretary Stephanie Schardin Clarke (collectively, the Department) to establish values for two high-voltage transmission lines in Harding County and report those values to the Harding County Assessor (Assessor) so that property taxes could be assessed on the lines. A district court issued the writ, and a dispute arose over whether the Department complied as ordered. Petitioners moved for an order to show cause, and requested fees associated with petitioning for the writ. After full briefing and a hearing, the district court held the Department in contempt for failing to comply with the district court’s order and awarded Petitioners their costs and fees related to the order to show cause. The Department appealed and sought review of the Peremptory Writ, the contempt holding, and the award of costs and fees. The Court of Appeals declined to review the merits of the Peremptory Writ, concluding that the Department failed to timely appeal that final order. However, the Court of Appeals reviewed the “issues relating to the Contempt Order and the Order for Fees and Costs” and affirmed the district court. The Department petitioned the New Mexico Supreme Court for certiorari review pursuant to Rule 12-502 NMRA. The Court granted certiorari, and finding no reversible error, affirmed the Court of Appeals. View "Harding Cnty. Bd. of Comm'rs v. N.M. Tax'n & Revenue Dep't" on Justia Law

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Anastacia Morper sought preprimary designation as a candidate for the office of United States Representative from New Mexico’s Third Congressional District at the 2020 Republican Party Pre-Primary Convention. The Secretary of State invalidated forty-four of Morper’s nominating petitions because those petitions omitted the heading “2020 PRIMARY NOMINATING PETITION,” which the Secretary deemed to be critical information required by law. By extension, the Secretary invalidated the signatures on those forty-four nominating petitions. In doing so, the Secretary invalidated over seven hundred signatures, leaving only forty-three signatures on the five nominating petitions the Secretary did not invalidate. The Secretary informed Morper that she had not received the “minimum number of signatures required” to be “qualified as a candidate” for the preprimary convention. Morper appealed the Secretary’s decision to the district court. The district court upheld the Secretary’s decision concluding that “the Secretary of State has the right to reject . . . nominating petitions that were not on the form prescribed by law.” The Supreme Court reversed. "We appreciate that the reviewing official at the Secretary’s office may have been required to give the nominating petitions that Morper filed more than a cursory glance to ascertain that the petitions were in the form that Section 1-8-30(C) prescribes, contained the information that Section 1-1-26(A) requires, and were identical to the Secretary’s Form except for the omitted heading. However, this additional attention does not justify the Secretary’s argument that allowing her to invalidate any form that omitted the heading that she approved—regardless of whether the remainder of the form is identical to the Secretary’s Form—protects the integrity and fairness of the elective franchise." View "Morper v. Oliver" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Andrew Jones appealed the grant of summary judgment to the Department of Public Safety (DPS), dismissing Jones’s Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) enforcement action. Jones argued the district court misconstrued Section 14-2-1(A)(4) and incorrectly allowed DPS to withhold requested public records solely because the records related to an ongoing criminal investigation. Jones further argued the Court of Appeals was incorrect to hold that he acquiesced to the district court’s interpretation of Section 14-2-1(A)(4), was incorrect to hold that his lawsuit was moot, and wrongly dismissed his appeal. After review, the New Mexico Supreme Court concluded Jones was correct. The Court of Appeals was reversed, and the district court's grant of summary judgment to DPS was too, concluding that the district court’s interpretation of Section 14-2-1(A)(4) was overbroad and contrary to the plain language of the statute. "That misinterpretation also led the district court to incorrectly deny summary judgment to Jones at an earlier point in the case. Accordingly, we reverse that judgment as well." View "Jones v. N.M. Dep't of Public Safety" on Justia Law

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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