Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
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Defendants Kim Reynolds, Governor of Iowa, and Ann Lebo, Director of the Iowa Department of Education, appealed the district court’s entry of a preliminary injunction completely barring enforcement of Iowa’s facial covering statute, Code Section 280.31. The Eighth Circuit vacated the district court’s entry of preliminary injunction completely barring enforcement of Iowa Code Section 280.31 as moot.   The court reasoned that the issue surrounding the preliminary injunction is moot because the current conditions differ vastly from those prevailing when the district court addressed it. The court reasoned that COVID-19 vaccines are now available to children and adolescents over the age of four, greatly decreasing Plaintiffs’ children’s risk of serious bodily injury or death from contracting COVID-19 at school. Further, when Plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction, delta was the dominant variant, producing high transmission rates and caseloads throughout the country. Now, omicron has become dominant and subsided, leaving markedly lower transmission rates and caseloads throughout Iowa and the country. The court noted that to the extent that the case continues, the Court emphasized that the parties and district court should pay particular attention to Section 280.31’s exception for “any other provision of law.” Iowa Code Section 280.31. This exception unambiguously states that Section 280.31 does not apply where “any other provision of law” requires masks. The word "any” makes the term “provision of law” a broad category that does not distinguish between state or federal law. View "The Arc of Iowa v. Kimberly Reynolds" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, described as “political candidates, political associations, and individuals who engage in political activities relating to political elections and campaigns in Minnesota”, brought a case under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 to assert a pre-enforcement First Amendment challenge to Minn. Stat. Section 211B.02. Plaintiffs sued four Minnesota county attorneys with the authority to criminally prosecute violations of 211B.02. Plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction to enjoin the county attorneys from enforcing 211B.02 pending the district court’s entry of final judgment. The district court denied the motion.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction holding that Defendants had not enforced the statute and had not threatened to do so and were entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity. The court reasoned that the record showed that after the motion-to-dismiss stage and in response to Plaintiffs’ preliminary-injunction motion, the four county attorneys filed substantially similar affidavits providing that they had “no present intention” to prosecute anyone for violating 211B.02. Further, because county officials’ affidavits all show that they have not enforced or threatened to enforce 211B.02 the Ex parte Young exception to Eleventh Immunity is inapplicable. View "Minnesota RFL Caucus v. Mike Freeman" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs did not purchase flood insurance for their house after the sellers told them that the property was not in a FEMA flood zone. Within weeks the area flooded, the home was destroyed and Plaintiffs sued the property sellers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and private contractors.   Plaintiffs alleged that either FEMA or the Strategic Alliance for Risk Reduction (“STARR”) made the 2010 Change to the 100-year flood-line estimate and SFHA designation. They alleged that STARR is a joint venture by Defendants Stantec Consulting Services, Inc., Dewberry Engineers, Inc., and Atkins North America, Inc., but do not name STARR itself as a defendant. Atkins and Stantec filed a Motion to Dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), extending the federal-contractor defense. The district court granted the motion.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision granting Defendant’s motion to dismiss. The court held that Plaintiffs fail to state a claim because their complaint does not contain sufficient factual matter to show they are entitled to relief from Defendants. The court reasoned that Plaintiff’s complaint does not state how Atkins, Stantec and Dewberry work within STARR or which entity was responsible for any acts through STARR. Further, the complaint fails to state a claim for negligent misrepresentation against Atkins, Dewberry, and Stantec because the Plaintiffs provide “only naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement” for three elements. Finally, the complaint similarly failed to state a claim for fraudulent misrepresentation because it does not plead which defendant made what representation. View "Derek Christopherson v. Robert Bushner" on Justia Law

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Counties sued to quiet title to section line rights-of-way within the Little Missouri National Grassland, a section of the Dakota Prairie Grasslands, and six roads located in McKenzie County. The State also sought to quiet title to section line rights-of-way in the Little Missouri grassland and two other parts of the Dakota Prairie Grasslands. The district court granted the government’s motion to dismiss all of the State’s claims and the Counties’ claim as to the Little Missouri National Grassland, and Plaintiffs appealed.The court found the statute of limitations began to run as to the Counties when they “knew or should have known” of the government’s claim. The statute of limitations would not begin to run as to the State until the government issued “public communications” that were “sufficiently specific as to be reasonably calculated” to give the State notice. Here, the Travel Plans and Public Notices were sufficient notice of the government’s exclusive claim to the 33 feet on either side of the section lines within the Dakota Prairie Grasslands over which Plaintiffs claim a right-of-way.Plaintiffs also argue that if the court finds that the Travel Plans and Public Notices did put Plaintiffs on notice, any such notice was only as to the section lines that fall within the specific areas where motor vehicle access was restricted. The court found that the Travel Plans and Public Notices made an adverse claim as to all the national grasslands within North Dakota, including areas over which USFS chose not to restrict travel. View "North Dakota v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Army Corps of Engineers denied a permit to build student housing on the Russellville property, next to Arkansas Tech University. The land is bordered by two waterways. Downstream from the tract, the Corps maintains the Russellville Dike and Prairie Creek Pumping Station to protect Russellville from flooding by pumping water into the backwaters of the Arkansas River, away from the city. Upstream from the station is a sump, 730 acres of low-lying land that holds water that then flows toward the pumping station, The Corps purchased flowage easements giving it the right to flood the land subject to those easements to a certain elevation. Part of the tract at issue lies within the sump and is subject to an easement, "that no structures for human habitation shall be constructed." The owner proposed four apartment buildings on land subject to the easement.The Eighth Circuit upheld the denial of a permit. It is unlawful for anyone "in any manner whatever [to] impair the usefulness of any . . . work built by the United States . . . to prevent floods" unless the Corps permits it, 33 U.S.C. 408(a). The proposed construction would impair the usefulness of the Corps's pumping station. The Corps found that the structures would result in water velocities and depths that would be "a significant hazard that can deny escape," and "may threaten the lives and security of the people and property in Russellville.” View "Russellville Legends LLC v. United States Army Corps of Engineers" on Justia Law

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After plaintiffs filed suit for various torts in Iowa state court against a radiologist at the Veterans Health Administration's Medical Center, the case was removed to federal court under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The district court substituted the United States as defendant and subsequently dismissed the case.The Eighth Circuit agreed with the district court that an evidentiary hearing was unnecessary and that defendant acted within the scope of his employment such that the government was properly substituted as the defendant in this case. Applying Iowa law, the court concluded that the radiologist's conduct was largely authorized by the VHA; responses from VHA management reinforce the normalcy of the radiologist's conduct; the VHA had strong reason to foresee conduct like the radiologist's; the time and place of his conduct also places it within the scope of his employment; and his purpose, without more, does not render his acts a substantial deviation from his scope of employment. View "Kearns v. United States" on Justia Law

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Debtor, licensed under North Dakota’s pari-mutuel wagering system, filed for bankruptcy in 2004. Ten years later, the district court ruled that the state was not authorized to collect certain taxes from the Debtor. North Dakota agreed to pay the estate $15 million. Creditors asserted claims. Although the state constitution provides that “the entire net proceeds of such games of chance are to be devoted to educational, charitable, patriotic, fraternal, religious, or other public-spirited uses,” North Dakota did not raise the rights of any charities.In 2018, the bankruptcy court ruled on the claims. North Dakota filed a new proof of claim. The court concluded that the state lacked parens patriae authority to assert claims on behalf of charities. The Eighth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel (BAP) remanded. On remand, the state attempted to add a breach of contract claim. The bankruptcy court denied that motion and concluded that the contract claim had no merit. The court also rejected a constitutional-statutory claim.The BAP affirmed, rejecting arguments that North Dakota law requires that charities, not Debtor, recover the remaining tax settlement funds and that the court erred when it disallowed the contract claim. The state constitution concerns the legislature and does not govern the actions of private parties such as Debtor. Debtor paid the taxes originally; the reimbursement of those improperly-paid taxes should inure to the benefit of Debtor after distribution under the bankruptcy priority scheme. View "North Dakota v. Bala" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, relatives of individuals who worked at the Tyson Foods pork processing facility that contracted COVID-19 and later died, filed suit alleging claims for fraudulent misrepresentation and gross negligence. Plaintiffs contend that Tyson's actions in March and April of 2020 caused their relatives' deaths. Tyson removed the cases to federal court and then the district court remanded to state court.The Eighth Circuit affirmed and concluded that Tyson has failed to show that it was performing a basic governmental task or operating pursuant to a federal directive in March and April of 2020. Therefore, Tyson was not acting under a federal officer at the time that plaintiffs' relatives contracted COVID-19 and is not eligible for removal under the federal officer removal statute. The court also concluded that Tyson has abandoned the federal question argument concerning removal by failing to brief it, either in its initial brief or by supplemental brief, after the Supreme Court decided BP P.L.C. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, 141 S.Ct. 1532 (2021), permitting alternative arguments against remand to be raised. View "Buljic v. Tyson Foods, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Regional's declaratory judgment claims alleging that defendants' procedures in suspending Regional's Medicare payments and forcing it out of business without notice, a hearing, or an opportunity to appeal violated its Fifth Amendment rights to procedural and substantive due process. The court concluded that no actual controversy exists between Regional and defendants within the meaning of the Declaratory Judgment Act. The court explained that, having abandoned any claim for damages, Regional seeks nothing more than a judicial pronouncement that its constitutional rights were violated. Therefore, the possibility of Regional re-establishing a business that is certified to receive Medicare reimbursements, again submitting documentation insufficient to meet Medicare requirements for billed services, and again having Medicare payments suspended is too conjectural or hypothetical to pose a real and immediate threat of injury sufficient to confer subject matter jurisdiction in federal court. View "Regional Home Health Care, Inc. v. Becerra" on Justia Law

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The Hospitals filed suit to enjoin the OPTN's new policy, which significantly changes the method for allocating donated kidneys to kidney transplant patients, as unlawful under the Transplant Act and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the Hospitals' motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. Examining the district court's balancing of the Dataphase factors, the court concluded that the district court did not err in concluding that the Hospitals failed to show that their procedural APA claim is likely to succeed on the merits. The court also agreed with the district court that the Hospitals failed to demonstrate that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that adoption of the Fixed Circle Policy was arbitrary and capricious agency action. Furthermore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the Hospitals' one-year delay refuted their allegations of irreparable harm, and the balance of the equities and public interest weigh in favor of denying the requested preliminary injunction. View "Adventist Health System v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law