Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court affirming the decision of the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) reversing an order revoking Respondent's driving privileges for driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances and/or drugs with a blood alcohol content of .15 or higher, holding that the circuit court erred.In reversing the order revoking Respondent's driving privileges the OAH determined that the officer's failure to comply with Respondent's demands for a blood test violated Respondent's rights to due process under W. Va. Code 17C-5-9. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) in proceedings involving the revocation of a driver's license for DUI where a driver demands a blood test but the test is never given, a chemical analysis of the blood that is withdrawn is never completed, or the blood test results are lost, the trier of fact must consider three factors; and (2) this case must be remanded to the OAH for a new hearing that is to be conducted consistent with this opinion. View "Frazier v. Talbert" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the West Virginia Public Service Commission ruling that its jurisdiction under state law to regulate a company that was operating in West Virginia solely as a contractor for a federal agency was preempted by federal law, holding that there was no error in the Commission's determination.The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the federal agency in this case, was impelled to give the company, Community Pastor Care, LLC (CPC), the subject contract to meet a goal expressed by Congress in 38 U.S.C. 8127(a). Metro Tristate, Inc. filed this case asking that the Commission bar CPC from transporting VA passengers until it received a permit from the Commission. The Commission concluded that its jurisdiction to regulate CPC was preempted by federal law. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission correctly determined that its jurisdiction to regulate CPC was preempted by federal law. View "Metro Tristate, Inc. v. Public Service Commission of W. Va." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part the order of the circuit court concluding that a "subsistence allowance" provided by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) to Natural Resources Police Officers is "compensation" for purposes of the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), holding that the allowance was not compensation.Beginning in 1997, DNR reported the payments of the subsistence allowances to the Consolidated Public Retirement Board as part of the officers' "compensation," which is a key component in calculating the officers' retirement annuities under PERS. In 2014, the Board determined that the subsistence allowance was not compensation and that the error had led to the miscalculation of benefits paid to retired officers. Respondents - current and retired officers and their widowers and widows - appealed and requested declaratory relief with the Board, alleging that the Board's determination violated their vested pension rights. The Board denied relief, but the circuit court reversed. The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part, holding (1) the subsistence allowance was not compensation under PERS; and (2) the Board may not recover the excess retirement benefits already paid due to the error in treating the allowance as PERS compensation. View "W. Va. Consolidated Public Retirement Board v. Clark" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of the circuit court in these consolidated cases, holding that the West Virginia Health Care Authority's interpretation of the State Health Plan Home Health Services Standards was not arbitrary or capricious and was entitled to judicial deference pursuant to Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. 467 U.S. 837 (1984).The Standards governed the Authority's consideration of applications from entities and individuals seeking to provide home health care services in a particular county. The Standards included a methodology for determining whether there was an unmet need for such services in the county. Petitioners argued that unmet need could not be established unless the evidence showed that at least 229 individuals in the subject county were in need of home health care services. Respondents countered that the Standards required the new applicant to demonstrate a need at or beyond the 229 average usage figure. The circuit court concluded that the Authority did not err. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Authority did not exceed its constitutional or statutory authority and its decision was not arbitrary or capricious. View "Amedisys West Virginia, LLC v. Personal Touch Home Care of W. Va., Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court vacating the finding of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources of maltreatment by Respondent as to her son, holding that the circuit court correctly determined that the conduct engaged in by the lay representative of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) constituted the unauthorized practice of law.The circuit court concluded (1) the decision of the administrative law judgment upholding the DHHR's finding of maltreatment was erroneous because it was not supported by a witness with personal knowledge and was based upon inadmissible DHHR records; and (2) the administrative hearing before DHHR's board of review was conducted in an unlawful manner because DHHR's non-lawyer representative engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in concluding that the administrative proceedings were based upon unlawful procedure brought about by DHHR's lay representative engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. View "W. Va. Department of Health and Human Resources v. C.P." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Petitioner's complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief seeking to prohibit Respondents from enforcing any policy restricting the use of devices to make a recording of public documents, holding that the circuit court erred.Respondents in this case were Grant County Circuit Clerk Angela Van Meter, the Grant County Circuit Clerk's Office, and the Grant County Commission. Petitioner planned to photograph several documents in the public file at the Grant County Circuit Clerk's Office, but he was instructed that he would be required to pay a one dollar fee per page for each photograph. Petitioner then brought this action. The circuit court ruled that W. Va. Code 59-1-11(b)(2) permitted the circuit clerk's office to impose the fee for photographs taken of public documents. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the clear language of the statute limits limits the imposition of the statutory per-page fee to papers made by the clerk and does not apply to photographs taken by an individual member of the public. View "Smith v. Van Meter" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court dismissing the underlying eminent domain action, holding that the sua sponte dismissal of this action without notice and an opportunity to be heard required reversal of the circuit court's order.In 1990, Respondent, the Wheeling Creek Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Commission, filed a condemnation proceeding against Petitioners' property. In 1991, Respondent received right of entry and Petitioners received Respondent's statement of just compensation. The matter lay dormant until 2018 when Petitioners filed a motion for further proceedings to determine just compensation. The circuit court (1) concluded that estoppel, laches, and applicable statutes of limitation or repose prevented Petitioners from resurrecting the matter; and (2) sua sponte found that Petitioners' withdrawal of Respondent's estimate of just compensation without further proceedings until now was sufficient proof of accord and satisfaction. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erred by failing to notify the parties of its intent to dispose of the matter and provide them a meaningful opportunity to respond and be heard; and (2) none of the doctrines espoused by the circuit court to preclude further prosecution prevented Petitioners from resurrecting this matter. View "Scherich v. Wheeling Creek Watershed Protection & Flood Prevention Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying Petitioners' motion for summary judgment, holding that Petitioners were immune from Respondent's lawsuit pursuant to the litigation privilege and the Noerr-Pennington doctrine.Petitioners executed an oil and gas lease to a company that assigned 2,300 acres of Petitioners' tract to Respondent for a storage project. Respondent then applied to FERC for a certificate of public convenience and necessity to construct and operate a storage field. Petitioners intervened in the FERC proceeding. FERC eventually granted Respondent's request. When Respondent did not complete construction of the storage facility within the required amount of time it sought a three-year extension. Petitioners opposed the extension, and FERC denied Respondent's request to extend the timeframe. Thereafter, Petitioners filed suit against Respondent alleging breach of contract and seeking declaratory judgment. Respondent filed a counterclaim alleging, inter alia, breach of contract. Petitioners filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that they were immune from suit pursuant to the litigation privilege and the Noerr-Pennington doctrine. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the litigation privilege and Noerr-Pennington doctrine provided Petitioners with immunity from all of Respondent's counterclaims. View "Smith v. Chestnut Ridge Storage, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied Governor James Conley Justice's request for a writ of prohibition seeking relief from the circuit court's writ of mandamus compelling him to reside in Charleston under the political question doctrine and corresponding separation of powers principles, holding that Governor Justice failed to meet the standard for issuance of a writ of prohibition.W. Va. Const. art. VII, 1 provides that the Governor of West Virginia must "reside at the seat of government" during his term of office. Respondent filed a petition for writ of mandamus directing Governor Justice to reside in Charleston in accordance with this constitutional provision. The circuit court rules that mandamus was available to compel Governor Justice to comply with the provision. Governor Justice then brought this action seeking a writ of prohibition. The Supreme Court denied the requested writ to prohibit enforcement of the circuit court's order, holding that the circuit court had jurisdiction to issue a writ of mandamus, did not exceed its legitimate powers, and did not clearly err in denying the Governor's motion to dismiss the petition for writ of mandamus. View "State ex rel. Justice v. Honorable Charles King" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court reversing the decision of the Public Employees Grievance Board (PEGB) determining that Petitioners, employees of the Lincoln County Board of Education, did not qualify as Executive Secretaries under W. Va. 18A-4-8(i)(45), holding that the circuit court did not err.Petitioners filed grievances with the PEGB seeking reclassification from Secretary III to Executive Secretary. The PEGB found that Petitioners did not meet section 18A-4-8(i)(45)'s definition of Executive Secretary but that they were entitled to reclassification because they met the Board's definition of Executive Secretary. The circuit court affirmed the PEGB's determination that Petitioners did not qualify as Executive Secretaries under the Code but reversed the decision granting Petitioners' requested classification, concluding that the Board's definition of Executive Secretary contravened state law because it conflicted with section 18A-4-8(i)(45). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Board's definition of the Executive Secretary title was unquestionably contrary to the law. View "Owens v. Lincoln County Board of Education" on Justia Law