Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's order affirming the ALJ's denial of plaintiff's application for disability benefits. The court held that the ALJ's error in failing to provide good reason for giving plaintiff's treating psychiatrist's opinion limited weight was not harmless error. In this case, the failure to comply with SSA regulations is more than a drafting issue, it is legal error. Furthermore, the court cannot determine whether the ALJ would have reached the same decision denying benefits, even if the ALJ had followed the proper procedure for considering and explaining the value of the psychiatrist's opinion. Accordingly, the court remanded for further administrative proceedings and for reconsideration of plaintiff's claims. View "Lucus v. Saul" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Ozark in an action brought by plaintiff under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), and the Arkansas Civil Rights Act of 1993 (ACRA). The court assumed without deciding that plaintiff satisfied her burden at step one of the McDonnell Douglas framework in establishing a prima facie case of age and sex discrimination, and held that Ozark articulated a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for plaintiff's termination. In this case, Ozark satisfied its burden by presenting evidence that the decisionmaker terminated plaintiff because of her "rudeness and insubordination which culminated in a meeting in which she behaved abominably." Finally, plaintiff failed to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact exists regarding pretext. The court also held that the fact that plaintiff's successor is male and twenty-two years younger than her cannot, by itself, create an inference that plaintiff was terminated based on her sex and age. View "Main v. Ozark Health, Inc." on Justia Law

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SPP, a Regional Transmission Organization (RTO), is authorized by the Commission to provide electric transmission services across a multi-state region. Pursuant to SPP's license-plate rate design, SPP is divided into different zones, and customers in each zone pay rates based on the cost of transmission facilities in that zone. The Eighth Circuit denied a petition for review brought by NPPD of FERC's approval of SPP's placement of Tri-State into Zone 17. The court held that substantial evidence supported the Commission's finding that Tri-State's placement into Zone 17 was just and reasonable. In this case, because the Commission stated plausible and articulable reasons for why the costs and benefits were comparable in this case, the court could not say that its cost-causation analysis was arbitrary and capricious. Furthermore, the Commission did not act arbitrarily and capriciously in deciding that Tri-State's placement into Zone 17 was just and reasonable. View "Nebraska Public Power District v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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After Cody Franklin died in police custody, his father, as administrator of his estate, sued the police officers who struggled with Franklin the night he died, and against the municipalities who employed them. The elder Franklin asserted claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for excessive force, and claims under state law for battery and wrongful death. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of the municipalities and all but two of the officers. Those officers filed an interlocutory appeal, arguing they were entitled to qualified immunity on all claims. After review, the Eighth Circuit agreed with the officers with respect to the federal claims, and remanded. With respect to the state claims, the Court remanded for further proceedings, including a determination whether to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over those claims. View "Franklin v. Franklin County, Arkansas" on Justia Law

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Marion Carter sued the Pulaski County Special School District for race discrimination under Arkansas state and federal laws. Carter taught at the Joe T. Robinson High School in the School District. She also coached the cheer and dance teams. In 2017, the school's principal recommended to the District Superintendent that Carter's cheer and dance duties not be renewed for the 2017-2018 school year, and that she be offered a teaching contract only. The principal cited: (1) lack of student participation in cheer and dance in the previous two years; (2) inappropriate cheer routines at sporting events; and (2) inappropriate behavior of cheerleaders during out-of-town travel. After a hearing, the District's School Board accepted the recommendation not to renew Carter's cheer and dance contract. The District filled the cheer position with an African-American woman, and eliminated all dance teams district-wide. The Eighth Circuit concurred with the district court's grant of summary judgment to the District on all claims. The Court found Carter's allegations were insufficient to defeat summary judgment. View "Carter v. Pulaski CO Special School Dist" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, health care providers and their patients, filed suit against Iowa's Department of Public Health and its Health Facilities Council, alleging that Iowa's Certificate of Need laws violate the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process, Equal Protection, and Privileges and Immunities Clauses. The Eighth Circuit held that plaintiffs' Privileges and Immunities Clause claim was foreclosed by the Slaughter-Houses cases. Applying rational basis review to the Certificate of Need (CON) regime and capital expenditures exemption, the court held that Iowa's CON requirement is rationally related to a legitimate state interest in full-service hospital viability. Furthermore, Iowa's decision to exempt competitors who are non-hospital CON-holders is rationally related to its interest in protecting the viability of full-service hospitals. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's orders dismissing plaintiffs' Privileges and Immunities claim and granting summary judgment in favor of the state defendants on the remaining claims. View "Birchansky v. Clabaugh" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit granted a petition for review of the ARB's final decision ruling that CP violated the whistleblower retaliation provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) when it suspended a locomotive engineer for his untimely reporting of a "work-related personal injury" or a "hazardous safety or security condition." The court agreed with CP's argument that the ARB's analysis of the contributing factor element of the employee's prima facie case used a legal causation standard contrary to controlling Eighth Circuit precedents. The court held that the ARB's reasoning was both contrary to the court's governing precedents and fatally flawed; the FRSA prohibits a rail carrier from discriminating against an employee for engaging in protected activity; the employee does not have to conclusively prove retaliatory motive but must show more than temporal proximity between the protected activity and the adverse action; and the court expressly rejected the contention that, when an employer learns about an employee's conduct warranting discipline in a protected injury report, the report and the discipline are "inextricably intertwined" and this factual connection is "sufficient to establish the contributing-factor element of his prima facie case." Because the ARB did not attempt to apply the appropriate Eighth Circuit legal standard, the court remanded to the ARB with instructions. View "Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad Corp. v. U.S. Department of Labor Administrative Review Board" on Justia Law

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MHA filed suit challenging the part of DSH's 2017 Rule defining "costs incurred" as "costs net of third-party payments, including, but not limited to, payments by Medicare and private insurance." The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for MHA, holding that the statute did not delegate to the Secretary unfettered discretion to determine "costs incurred;" the terms "costs incurred" and "net of payments" have plain, unambiguous meanings; and MHA's interpretation of "costs" and "payments" was not plainly mandated by the structure of the statute. Therefore, the court held that the Secretary's interpretation was reasonable in light of the statute's purpose and design. Under Missouri's plan, the court explained that the State redistributes overpayments above a particular hospital's DSH annual limit proportionately among other DSH hospitals that are below their hospital-specific limits, redistributions that should benefit the most imperiled DSH members of the MHA. View "Missouri Hospital Assoc. v. Azar" on Justia Law

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Kearney sought judicial review of the Board's decision denying its application to participate in the Medicare program. Although the facility later received approval, the initial denial prevented Kearney from participating in Medicare and receiving reimbursements for 87 days during 2014. The Eighth Circuit held that the Board failed adequately to explain the legal standard that it applied in resolving Kearney's administrative appeal. In this case, the court was unable to discern what meaning the Board attributed to 42 U.S.C. 1395x(e)(1) and the definition of "hospital." Furthermore, without an adequate explanation for what time period the agency considered in determining whether Kearney was primarily engaged in providing care to inpatients, the court was unable to resolve whether the Board's decision correctly applied the relevant legal standards. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Department and remanded with directions. View "Kearney Regional Medical Center, LLC v. US Department of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

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Suits over oil and gas leases on allotted trust lands are governed by federal law, not tribal law, and the tribal court lacks jurisdiction over the nonmember oil and gas companies. This appeal involved a dispute over the practice of flaring natural gas from oil wells, and at issue was the scope of Native American tribal court authority over nonmembers. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction enjoining the tribal court plaintiffs and tribal court judicial officials and held that the district court correctly rejected the tribal court officials' argument that this suit was barred by tribal sovereign immunity. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the preliminary injunction because the oil and gas companies are likely to prevail on the merits. In this case, the district court correctly concluded that the oil and gas companies exhausted their tribal court remedies by moving to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction and appealing the issue to the MHA Nation Supreme Court; the district court correctly concluded that the tribal court lacked jurisdiction over the oil and gas companies; and the balance of the remaining preliminary injunction factors, along with the oil and gas companies' strong likelihood of success on the merits, showed that the district court did not abuse its discretion by granting the preliminary injunction. View "Kodiak Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. v. Burr" on Justia Law