Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
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During a search of plaintiff's home, police seized a large number of coins and gave them to the IRS where an IRS agent deposited the coins at their face value into an IRS account and later remitted the amount to plaintiff. Plaintiff filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) for conversion, contending that the coins were collectors' items. The district court agreed with plaintiff and awarded her $94,880.The Eighth Circuit reversed and concluded that the district court erred when it concluded that the FTCA had waived the government's sovereign immunity to suit in the current circumstances. The court concluded that the agent's decision to deposit the coins for processing rather than preserve them was a discretionary decision and the agent was not required to first investigate whether the coins had collectors' value. Furthermore, the agent's choice to treat the coins as ordinary currency was based on relevant policy considerations. Therefore, the discretionary function exception applies and the government has not waived its sovereign immunity. View "Willis v. United States" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case are two provisions of North Dakota Senate Bill 2231. The first prohibits air ambulance providers from directly billing out-of-network insured patients for any amount not paid for by their insurers (the payment provision). The second prohibits air ambulance providers or their agents from selling subscription agreements (the subscription provision).Guardian Flight filed a declaratory judgment action claiming that both provisions are preempted under the Airlines Deregulation Act (ADA). Defendants responded that, even if preempted, the provisions were saved under the McCarran-Ferguson Act. The district court concluded that although the ADA preempted both provisions, the McCarran-Ferguson Act saved the subscription provision.The Eighth Circuit agreed with the district court's ADA preemption analysis and concluded that the ADA preempts both the payment provision and the subscription provision. However, the court held that the McCarran-Ferguson Act does not apply because the provisions were not enacted "for the purpose of regulating the business of insurance." Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded with instructions. View "Guardian Flight LLC v. Godfread" on Justia Law

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Henin began working Canadian Pacific (CP) in 2003. CP terminated Henin’s employment in 2015, citing rule violations. Henin filed a complaint with the Department of Labor, alleging violation of the Federal Railroad Safety Act. After investigating, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration dismissed Henin’s complaint in a Decision, dated January 11, 2019. Henin received the Decision on January 22. On January 28, Henin filed with the Administrative Review Board a petition for review. On February 5, the Clerk issued a notice indicating acceptance of Henin’s petition. On February 26, the Board dismissed Henin’s petition as untimely. In his motion for reconsideration, Henin explained that he did not receive the Decision until 11 days after its issuance; that before the Decision, there had been no case activity since 2017; and that between December 22, 2018, and January 25, 2019, the federal government experienced a “shutdown.”The Board reinstated Henin’s claim as timely but immediately dismissed it, citing a complaint that Henin filed in federal court under 49 U.S.C. 20109(d)(3), which grants federal district courts jurisdiction to review employee claims de novo if, like here, the Secretary of Labor does not issue a “final” decision within 210 days of the complaint’s filing date. The Eighth Circuit denied CP’s petition for review. The Board properly granted reconsideration and appropriately utilized its equitable powers to control its own docket and to recognize the record’s incongruities and the 11-day delay in service. View "Soo Line Railroad Co. v. Administrative Review Board United States Department of Labor" on Justia Law

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Sarasota filed suit against the Officials, seeking prospective relief, alleging that Missouri's liquor control laws, by preventing out-of-state retailers from shipping directly to Missouri consumers, discriminate against interstate commerce and citizens of other States in violation of the dormant Commerce Clause and the Privileges and Immunities Clause.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Sarasota's amended complaint. The court concluded that, although plaintiffs have standing to challenge the Missouri Liquor Control Act, the district court did not err in dismissing the action for failure to state viable claims under the dormant Commerce Clause and the Privileges and Immunities Clause. The court agreed with the Sixth Circuit that the Supreme Court in Granholm v. Heald, 544 U.S. 460, 476-86 (2005), and Tenn. Wine & Spirits Retailers Ass'n v. Thomas, 139 S. Ct. 2449, 2462-70 (2019), did not decide that essential elements of the three-tiered system are subject to frontal attack under the dormant Commerce Clause or the Privileges and Immunities Clause. The court explained that those seeking a more consumer-oriented organization of alcohol industries must turn to state-by-state political action on behalf of consumers who are hurt by these laws. View "Sarasota Wine Market, LLC v. Schmitt" on Justia Law

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The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) removed sovereign immunity from suits for “injury or loss of property, or personal injury or death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission” of a federal employee acting within the scope of his employment, 28 U.S.C. 1346(b)(1)). The FTCA generally exempts intentional torts, which remain barred by sovereign immunity. The “law-enforcement proviso” allows plaintiffs to file claims arising “out of assault, battery, false imprisonment, false arrest, abuse of process, [and] malicious prosecution” that are the result of “acts or omissions of investigative or law enforcement officers of the United States Government” and defines investigative or law enforcement officer as “any officer of the United States who is empowered by law to execute searches, to seize evidence, or to make arrests for violations of Federal law.”Iverson went through security at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, walking with the aid of crutches. Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) performed a pat-down search; Iverson was allowed to place his hands on his crutches but had to stand on his own power. Iverson alleges that a TSO pulled him forward and then abruptly let go, causing Iverson to fall and be injured. The TSA denied an administrative claim. Iverson sued, asserting battery and negligence. The Eighth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the case, finding that TSOs satisfy the FTCA’s definition of an investigative or law enforcement officer. View "Iverson v. United States" on Justia Law

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POET petitioned for review of a letter from the Assistant Administrator of the EPA, contending that the letter embodies the EPA's final decision to deny POET's application to generate D3 Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) by producing cellulosic ethanol from corn-kernel fiber at its facility in Hudson, South Dakota.The Eighth Circuit held that the controversy regarding the EPA's alleged denial of the application is moot and dismissed the petition. In this case, POET has since filed a new, non-identical application to generate D3 RINs at its Hudson facility, which is currently pending for the EPA's review. View "POET Biorefining - Hudson, LLC v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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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