Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Utah Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court reversed the determination of the court of appeals that Claimant's long drive in a commercial truck was not an unusual or extraordinary activity in comparison to the ordinary activities people perform in their nonworking, everyday lives and vacated the conclusion that there was substantial evidence to support the ALJ's finding that Claimant's "super obesity" was a preexisting condition, holding that Claimant was entitled to benefits.At the end of a three-day drive from Utah to California, Claimant was diagnosed with a blood clot in his left leg, which caused blood clots in his lungs. Claimant could not return to work and sought workers' compensation. Employer disputed the claim, arguing that his injuries were caused by his "super obesity" and that super obesity should be considered a preexisting condition under the circumstances. The ALJ granted benefits, concluding that Claimant had satisfied the Allen v. Industrial Comm'n, 729. P.2d 15 (Utah 1986), test for legal causation. The Labor Commission Appeals Board reversed, concluding that Claimant's work activities were not unusual or extraordinary under Allen. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Claimant's drive to California was an unusual activity; and (2) therefore, Claimant showed legal causation. View "JBS Carriers v. Hickey" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals upholding the decision of the Utah Procurement Policy Board to dismiss ICS Corrections, Inc.'s appeal of the decision of the Utah Division of Purchasing and General Services to award a multi-year telecommunications contract to another bidder, holding that the Board neither clearly erred nor acted arbitrarily or capriciously in dismissing ICS's appeal on the basis that it failed to attach a copy of the protest decision to its notice of appeal within the appeal deadline.In declining to disturb the Board's decision, the court of appeals held that the statutory requirements outlined in the pertinent provision of the Utah Procurement Code compelled strict compliance with their terms. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Legislature has unequivocally required the Board to dismiss an appeal where the appellant has failed to attach a copy of the protest decision to its notice of appeal within the appeal deadline; and (2) therefore, ICS's appeal must be dismissed. View "ICS Corrections, Inc. v. Procurement Policy Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Labor Commission Appeals Board dismissing Appellant's interlocutory objection to the appointment of the medical panel assigned to resolve this dispute, holding that the actual bias standard applied by the Board to resolve Appellant's conflict of interest objection did not comport with the statutory requirements.Appellant sought workers' compensation benefits after he injured his back in a work-related accident. The administrative law judge assigned to the case appointed a medical panel to resolve the dispute and appointed Dr. Jeremy Biggs, an occupational medicine physician, to serve as the panel chair. Appellant moved for interlocutory review, arguing that Dr. Biggs should be disqualified because he had a conflict of interest. The Board rejected Appellant's objections and concluded that the accident had not caused permanent injury. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) where a medical panelist's impartiality could be reasonably questioned the requirement of an impartial medical evaluation has not been met; and (2) remand was required on this basis. View "Gamez v. Utah Labor Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals finding that Northern Monticello Alliance (NMA) had a due process right to participate in the hearing leading to the San Juan County Planning and Zoning Commission's decision not to revoke a wind farm's conditional use permit (CUP), holding that NMA did not possess such a right.NMA complained to the Planning Commission that the wind farm was not fulfilling the conditions of its CUP. After a hearing at which NMA was not allowed to participate, the Planning Commission voted not to revoke the CUP. The San Juan County Commission ultimately upheld the Planning Commission's decision not to revoke the CUP. The district court affirmed. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that NMA members had due process rights granted by the County Land Use, Development, and Management Act and the San Juan County Zoning Ordinance and the San Jan County Zoning Ordinance. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that NMA did not have a protectable due process interest in the enforcement of the CUP or in participation in the revocation hearing. View "Northern Monticello Alliance v. San Juan County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing on summary disposition the denial of Appellant's appeal from the denial of unemployment benefits, holding that following the plain language of Utah Code 35A-4-403 in requiring a claimant who has obtained a work-search deferral to be nonetheless able and available to accept full-time employment does not produce an absurd result.Appellant sought unemployment benefits after he was temporarily laid off from his job. The Department of Workforce Services denied benefits because Appellant had indicated on his application that he was unavailable to accept full-time work because he would be returning to his former employer. The Department deferred the requirement that Appellant actively seek employment while receiving benefits but still required him to be able and available to accept full-time work under section 35A-4-403. The ALJ and the workforce appeals board denied Appellant's appeal. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that interpreting the statute to require a claimant who had obtained a work-search deferral to nonetheless be able and available to accept full-time employment worked an absurd result. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Department properly denied Appellant's claim for unemployment. View "Arnold v. Department of Workforce Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the district court's dismissal of this complaint brought by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) alleging that the San Juan County Commission violated SUWA's rights under Utah's Open and Public Meetings Act, Utah Code 52-4-101 to 52-4-305, holding that SUWA's complaint was sufficient to survive dismissal.The district court dismissed the complaint on the grounds that SUWA failed to allege that the participants in the disputed meetings had discussed a matter over which the Commission had jurisdiction or advisory power. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) SUWA had standing to bring a challenge under the Act; and (2) the district court erred in dismissing SUWA's claims because the pleadings in SUWA's complaint were sufficient even if this Court were to adopt a proposed interpretation of the Act proffered by the Commission. View "Southern Utah Wilderness v. San Juan County Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing this complaint brought by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) alleging that the Kane and Garfield County Commissions violated Utah's Open and Public Meetings Act (the Act), Utah Code 52-4-101 to 52-4-305, holding that the district court erred.The dispute leading to this litigation was whether the Commissions violated the Act when they failed to provide public notice or allow attendance at certain Commission members had with the United States Secretary of the Interior. The district court dismissed SUWA's complaint for lack of standing and concluded that the Act did not apply to the meetings at issue. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) SUWA had standing to bring these claims; and (2) the court erred in concluding that the Act did not apply because, even under the district court's interpretation of the Act, the allegations in SUWA's complaint were sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. View "Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance v. Kane County Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Labor Commission awarding Appellant permanent partial disability under the Workers' Compensation Act (WCA), Utah Code 34A-2-101 to -1005, holding that the Commission's process for determining permanent partial disability benefits is constitutional and that the administrative law judge (ALJ) was not permitted to increase the amount of the award based on Appellant's subjective pain.Based on Commission guidelines, the ALJ based the amount of Appellant's award on a report provided by an assigned medical panel. Appellant argued on appeal that the process for determining permanent partial disability benefits was unconstitutional and that the ALJ erred in failing to augment the medical panel's impairment rating by three percent, resulting in an increased compensation award. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the adjudicative authority of ALJs has not been unconstitutionally delegated to medical panels; and (2) the Commission expressly precludes ALJs from augmenting an impairment rating based on a claimant's subjective pain. View "Ramos v. Cobblestone Centre" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court denying the Utah State Tax Commission's motion to dismiss Gail and Margaret Christensens' petition seeking judicial review of an order of an administrative law judge (ALJ) requiring Gail to pay income tax and interest on income he earned while working in the Republic of Angola, holding that the Christensens did not exhaust their administrative remedies prior to seeking judicial review.Gail did not file Utah tax returns for the three years he was working in Angola. The Auditing Division of the Commission ordered Gail to pay his taxes, along with interest and penalties. Gail challenged that decision, and an ALJ ordered him to pay taxes and interest but not a penalty. Gail did not request a formal hearing before the Commission but, instead, sought review of the order, along with his wife, in the district court. The Commission moved to dismiss the petition on the grounds that the district court lacked jurisdiction. The district court denied the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, by failing to request a formal hearing, the Christensens did not exhaust their administrative remedies, as required by the Utah Administrative Procedures Act. View "Christensen v. Utah State Tax Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that when a Utah prison inmate must register as a sex or kidnap offender the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole need not afford the inmate the due process protections required by Neese v. Utah Board of Pardons and Parole, 416 P.3d 663 (Utah 2017).Kevin Blanke was serving a prison sentence for attempted child kidnapping and kidnapping. Because of his conviction for attempted child kidnapping Blanke was considered a sex offender under Utah's sex offender registration statute. At the time he was sentenced for kidnapping, Blanke further admitted to having sexual intercourse with a fifteen-year-old, conduct that would place him, if he were convicted, on the sex offender registry. The Parole Board declined to set a parole date for Blanke because he refused to participate in the prison sex offender treatment program. Blanke filed a petition for extraordinary relief under Utah R. Civ. P. 65B(d), arguing that the Parole Board had violated due process by conditioning his parole on completion of sex offender treatment even though he had not committed a sex offense. The district court granted summary judgment for the Parole Board. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the procedural protections in Neese did not apply. View "Blanke v. Utah Board of Pardons & Parole" on Justia Law