Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
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Mount Rushmore played host to Fourth of July fireworks shows. Unfortunately, visitor safety and fire-danger concerns put the practice on hold. The Park Service later changed course and granted a permit that said it was for the “year 2020 and [did] not mean an automatic renewal of the event in the future.” South Dakota tried again. This time, the Park Service denied the request, citing COVID-19 risks, concerns about tribal relationships, effects on other Mount Rushmore visitors, a then-in-progress construction project, and ongoing monitoring of water-contamination and wildfire risks. The denial led South Dakota to sue the agency on two grounds. South Dakota asked the court to convert its order denying a preliminary injunction into a final judgment. Despite having doubts about whether the continuing dispute over the permit denial was still live (given that the Fourth of July had already passed), the court went ahead and granted the request because the non-delegation issue presented a “non-moot appealable issue.   On appeal, the Eighth Circuit vacated the district court’s judgment and dismissed the appeal. The court explained that it cannot change what happened last year, and South Dakota has not demonstrated that deciding this otherwise moot case will impact any future permitting decision. The court explained that the problem for South Dakota is redressability. The declaration it seeks is that “the statutes granting [the Park Service] permitting authority are unconstitutional for want of an intelligible principle.” But it cannot identify how the “requested relief will redress [its] alleged injury,” which is not being able to hold a Fourth of July fireworks show at Mount Rushmore. View "Kristi Noem v. Deb Haaland" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was removed from a political rally and arrested for violating a St. Louis, Missouri ordinance that prohibits disturbing the peace. After Plaintiff was acquitted of that charge in state court, he brought claims against, as pertinent to this appeal, three St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department officers. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the officers, and Plaintiff appealed.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed holding that it was objectively reasonable for the officers to mistakenly believe, under the totality of the circumstances that Plaintiff was engaged in acts or conduct inciting violence or intended to provoke others to violence. The court explained that two of the officers had arguable probable cause to arrest and then initiate prosecution against Plaintiff meaning that it was not clearly established that doing so would violate Plaintiff’s right to be free from unlawful seizure, malicious prosecution, or First Amendment retaliation. Thus, the court affirmed the district court’s grant of qualified immunity to those officers. Further, the court wrote that the district court properly granted qualified immunity to the remaining officer because it was not clearly established that initiating prosecution against Plaintiff would violate his Fourth Amendment right to be free from malicious prosecution or his corresponding right under Missouri law. View "Rodney Brown v. Matthew T. Boettigheimer" on Justia Law

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Missouri challenged the Secretary of the Treasury’s implementation of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), Pub. L. No. 117-2, 135 Stat. 4. Missouri argues that the Secretary’s “erroneously broad interpretation” of a provision in ARPA—the “Offset Restriction”—is unconstitutional. The district court dismissed the case, finding that Missouri lacked standing and that Missouri’s claims were not ripe for adjudication.   On appeal, Missouri identifies five specific ways it has been injured: (1) the broad interpretation of the Offset Restriction punishes Missouri for exercising its constitutional right to set taxes; (2) the Secretary’s “embrace of the broad interpretation” has harmed Missouri’s interest in the offer Congress provided to the State; (3) Treasury’s regulations make ARPA’s requirement more onerous, leading to greater compliance costs; (4) under the broad interpretation, there is an increased chance Missouri will lose ARPA funds; and (5) under the pre-enforcement test, Missouri has alleged an intention to engage in conduct arguably affected with a constitutional interest, but proscribed by statute, with a credible threat of enforcement hanging over it.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed, finding that Missouri has not alleged an injury in fact. The court explained that Missouri has only alleged a “conjectural or hypothetical” injury, not one that is actual or imminent. It has also not alleged a future injury that is “certainly impending” or even likely to occur. Instead, Missouri asked the court to declare, in the abstract, what a statute does not mean. It asked the court to enjoin a hypothetical interpretation of the Offset Restriction that the Secretary has explicitly disclaimed, without alleging any concrete, imminent injury from the Secretary’s actual interpretation. View "State of Missouri v. Janet Yellen" on Justia Law

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A sheriff’s deputy sexually abused J.T.H.’s 15-year-old son. J.T.H., who also worked in law enforcement, threatened to sue for the abuse. Before long, Spring Cook, a child-welfare investigator, showed up at his door after someone had apparently called the child-abuse hotline and accused J.T.H. (and his wife) of neglect. The parents asked for the case to be reassigned to an investigator from another county, but Cook kept it for herself. Cook ultimately issued a preliminary written finding of neglect. Unsatisfied with the outcome, the parents requested a formal administrative review. Cook was the circuit manager, so she reviewed and upheld her own finding. The second step required Cook, the parents, and their attorney to appear before Missouri’s Child Abuse and Neglect Review Board. Following that meeting, the Board concluded that Cook’s findings of “neglect were unsubstantiated.” The parents sued Cook for allegedly retaliating against them for exercising their First Amendment rights. The magistrate judge, acting by consent of the parties, concluded that neither absolute nor qualified immunity applied. The Eighth Circuit reversed: "the availability of absolute immunity depends on 'the nature of the function performed,' not the type of claim brought. ... So even if there is a general right to be free of retaliation, the law is not clearly established enough to cover the 'specific context of the case': retaliatory investigation. Cook is entitled to qualified immunity for both investigative acts." View "J.T.H. v. Cook" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff alleged that a Sheriff of Harrison County, Missouri, forced her into a sexual relationship that included giving her drugs, directing her to sell them, and protecting her from prosecution. After Doe ended the relationship, the Sheriff pursued criminal charges against her, resulting in felony convictions. Defendant was Doe’s probation officer. According to Doe, Defendant invited the Sheriff to her probation meetings, where the Sheriff threatened  Doe not to disclose the relationship. Doe asserted a state claim against Defendant for intentional infliction of emotional distress (in addition to claims against the Estate of the Sheriff, who died in 2020). Defendant moved to dismiss based on official immunity and a “statutory” immunity under Revised Statutes of Missouri section 105.711.5. For her defense of statutory immunity, Defendant asserted that subsection 105.711.5 bars individual-capacity claims against state employees, such as herself. The district court held that section 105.711 “applies to final judgments”   The Eighth Circuit affirmed and held that by its plain text, section 105.711 does not create a new immunity. The word “immunity” does not appear in section 105.711. Further, the 2005 amendment also amended section 105.726 to add: “Sections 105.711 to 105.726 do not waive the sovereign immunity of the State of Missouri.” Construing the additions to subsection 105.711.5 and subsection 105.726.1 together, the 2005 amendment preserves immunities already in place for the State and its employees, and it does not create a new, statutory immunity. View "Jane Doe v. Lisa Worrell" on Justia Law

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City Union Mission is a Kansas City, Missouri nonprofit organization located near Margaret Kemp Park that provides food, shelter, employment, and a Christian discipleship program to poor and homeless individuals. A Missouri law prohibits persons convicted of certain sex offenses (Affected Persons) from being present in or loitering within 500 feet of any public park containing playground equipment. After the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office informed City Union Mission that the statute prohibited some of its guests from being present within 500 feet of the park, even when receiving City Union Mission’s charitable services, City Union Mission filed suit, bringing 12 claims against the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Jackson County, and the Sheriff in his official capacity (collectively, the County), as well as one claim against the Sheriff in his individual capacity. The State of Missouri (the State) intervened, and the district court dismissed City Union Mission’s 12 claims against the County and granted summary judgment on City Union Mission’s claim against Sheriff Sharp in his individual capacity, finding that Sheriff Sharp was entitled to qualified immunity.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed and concluded that City Union Mission’s claims seeking broad injunctive relief prohibiting Sheriff Sharp and Jackson County from “enforcing or threatening to enforce” Section 566.150 against City Union Mission or Affected Persons are moot. Further, City Union Mission did not direct the court to any case that clearly establishes its constitutional right to provide services to Affected Persons within 500 feet of a park with playground equipment. View "City Union Mission, Inc. v. Mike Sharp" on Justia Law

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The United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) adopted a rule eliminating processing-line-speed limits in pork plants. Unions representing pork-processing-plant workers sued to vacate the rule as arbitrary and capricious. The district court granted summary judgment for the unions and vacated the rule. Two months later, Appellants—pork-processing companies affected by the rule and vacatur—moved to intervene. The district court denied the motion as untimely, noting that Appellants had participated in the summary judgment briefing eight months earlier. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained to assess the timeliness of a motion to intervene courts consider four factors: “(1) the extent the litigation has progressed at the time of the motion to intervene; (2) the prospective intervenor’s knowledge of the litigation; (3) the reason for the delay in seeking intervention; and (4) whether the delay in seeking intervention may prejudice the existing parties.”Here, Appellants sought to intervene over a month after the court entered summary judgment and the full vacatur the unions had sought. Next, Appellants had knowledge of the case and proposed relief well before the court entered summary judgment. Appellants’ reason for delay is unpersuasive. Their proffered reason—that USDA’s interests in defending NSIS aligned with theirs—fails because USDA’s interests did not align. Appellants’ core concern is having the district court return them to the HIMP waiver system. But neither the unions nor the USDA ever pursued this. Appellants suffered little prejudice because all four of their relevant plants received line-speed permits. This factor also weighed against intervention. View "United Food and Commercial Workers Union v. Quality Pork Processors, Inc." on Justia Law

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In June 2019, Plaintiffs submitted a FOIA request to the IRS seeking disclosure of the terms of a third-party authentication process set forth within IRM Sec. 21.1.3.3, pertaining to the tax professional authentication process. in August 2019, the IRS denied Plaintiffs' request citing the material was properly withheld pursuant to 5 U.S.C. Sec. 552(b)(7)(E), and then plaintiffs filed an action in federal court.The district court granted the IRS’s motion for summary judgment, rejecting Plaintiffs' request for an in-camera review of the documents.The Eighth Circuit reversed, remanding for the district court to conduct an in-camera inspection of the documents. To meet its burden under 5 U.S.C. Sec. 552(b)(7)(E), the IRS must prove the withheld material was “compiled for law enforcement purposes." Here, to effectively determine whether the IRS meets the requirements of 5 U.S.C. Sec. 552(b)(7)(E), an in-camera review is necessary. Thus, the district court erred in failing to hold an in-camera review. View "T. Keith Fogg v. Internal Revenue Service" on Justia Law

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Kansas City Officer (“Officer”) shot and killed the victim during a foot chase. Family members of the victim filed suit and the district court concluded that the Officer was entitled to both qualified and official immunity. In addition to contesting the grant of summary judgment on appeal, Plaintiffs argued they should receive a trial on their claims against the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners and the other municipal officials named in their complaint.   In evaluating the family’s excessive-force claim against the Officer, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision. The court explained that the key issue requires answering whether the officer’s actions violated a constitutional right and then whether the right was clearly established. The court reasoned that the Supreme Court has explained that “the focus” of the clearly-established-right inquiry “is on whether the officer had fair notice that [his] conduct was unlawful.” Kisela v. Hughes, 138 S. Ct. 1148 (2018). Here, “judged against the backdrop of the law at the time of the conduct,” a reasonable officer would not have had “fair notice” that shooting the victim under these circumstances violated the Fourth Amendment.     Additionally, to prevail in this case under Kisela, the family would need to establish “the right’s contours were sufficiently definite that any reasonable official in the defendant’s shoes would have understood that he was violating it.” Here, the family failed to show that the Officer acted in bad faith or with malice. Finally, there is not enough evidence to find that the municipal defendants liable under a deliberate indifference theory. View "N.S. v. Kansas City Board of Police" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, garbage haulers and processors, sued Goodhue County, Minnesota. (“County”) and state-owned plant in Red Wing, Minnesota (the “City Plant”). Plaintiffs argued that an ordinance requiring all garbage to be deposited at the City Plant violated the Commerce Clause by benefitting an in-state company (Xcel) at the expense of out-of-state haulers and processors. The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling affirming summary judgment holding that the ordinance did not implicate the dormant Commerce Clause. The court explained that the Commerce Clause of the Constitution grants Congress the power to “regulate Commerce . . . among the several States.” U.S. Const. Art. I, Section 8, cl. 3. “The dormant Commerce Clause is the negative implication of the Commerce Clause: states may not enact laws that discriminate against or unduly burden interstate commerce.”  The Commerce Clause was “never intended to cut the States off from legislating on all subjects relating to the health, life, and safety of their citizens, though the legislation might indirectly affect the commerce of the country.”  Here, Plaintiffs do not allege that they are able to convert the garbage into refuse-derived fuel, nor do they allege that they have the ability to burn refuse-derived fuel to create electricity. Thus, the Defendants, therefore, are not competitors with either the City Plant or Xcel. View "Paul's Industrial Garage, Inc. v. Goodhue County" on Justia Law