Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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In 2003, the Alabama Legislature and the citizens of Greene County voted to allow nonprofit organizations in that county to operate bingo games for fundraising purposes. Greenetrack, Inc. ("Greenetrack"), which was not a nonprofit organization, almost immediately began offering live and electronic bingo games at its gambling facility. From 2004 to 2008, Greenetrack reaped vast profits under the guise that its whole casino-style bingo operation was constantly being leased and operated by a revolving slate of local nonprofit organizations, whose nominal role earned them a tiny fraction of the bingo proceeds. Eventually, the Alabama Department of Revenue ("the Department") audited Greenetrack, found that its bingo activities were illegal, and concluded that it owed over $76 million in unpaid taxes and interest. Following a decade of litigation, the Alabama Tax Tribunal voided the assessed taxes on the threshold ground that Greenetrack's bingo business (regardless of its legality) was tax-immune under a statute governing Greenetrack's status as a licensed operator of dog races. The Department appealed, and the Alabama Supreme Court reversed, rejecting the statutory analysis offered by the Tax Tribunal and circuit court. Judgment was rendered in favor of the Department. View "Alabama Department of Revenue v. Greenetrack, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Third Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for review challenging his expedited removal by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) based on Petitioner's Pennsylvania conviction for receiving stolen property, holding that Petitioner's state conviction was an aggravated felony under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(G).In 2020, DHS initiated expedited removal proceedings against Petitioner, a native and citizen of Mexico, alleging that Petitioner was charged with being deportable under the INA as an alien "convicted of an aggravated felony" because he had been convicted of receiving stolen property. Petitioner requested withholding of removal, arguing that his Pennylvania receiving stolen property conviction was not an aggravated felony under the INA. DHS disagreed, and the immigration judge (IJ) upheld the determination. The Third Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for review, holding that the Pennsylvania offense was sufficient to constitute an aggravated felony under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(G). View "Jacome v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

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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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In 2019, the Department of Homeland Security implemented the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP): certain non-Mexican nationals arriving by land from Mexico were returned to Mexico to await the results of their removal proceedings. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) section 1225(b)(2)(C) provides: “In the case of an alien ... who is arriving on land ... from a foreign territory contiguous to the United States, the [Secretary] may return the alien to that territory pending a proceeding under section 1229a.” The Biden administration later suspended the program. The Fifth Circuit affirmed an order enjoining the termination of MMP.The Supreme Court reversed. The rescission of MPP did not violate INA section 1225. The contiguous-territory return authority in section 1225(b)(2)(C) is discretionary and remains discretionary notwithstanding any violation of section 1225(b)(2)(A), which provides for mandatory detention of such aliens. Since its enactment, every Presidential administration has interpreted section 1225(b)(2)(C) as discretionary, notwithstanding the consistent shortfall of funds to comply with section 1225(b)(2)(A). Interpreting section 1225(b)(2)(C) as a mandate imposes a significant burden upon the Executive’s ability to conduct diplomatic relations with Mexico. The availability of parole as an alternative means of processing applicants for admission (section 1182(d)(5)(A)), additionally makes clear that the Court of Appeals erred.The Court of Appeals also erred to the extent it understood itself to be reviewing an abstract decision apart from the specific agency actions contained in memoranda in which the Secretary of Homeland Security terminated MMP. View "Biden v. Texas" on Justia Law

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In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promulgated the Clean Power Plan rule, which addressed carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants, citing Section 111 of the Clean Air Act,” 42 U.S.C. 7411(d). Although the states set the enforceable rules governing existing sources, EPA determines the emissions limit with which they have to comply by determining the “best system of emission reduction” (BSER). In the Clean Power Plan, EPA determined that the BSER for existing coal and natural gas plants included “heat rate improvements” at coal-fired plants and “generation-shifting,” i.e., a shift in electricity production from existing coal-fired to natural-gas-fired plants and from both coal and gas plants to renewables (wind and solar). An operator could reduce the regulated plant’s production of electricity, build or invest in new or existing equipment, or purchase emission allowances as part of a cap-and-trade regime. No existing coal plant could achieve the emissions performance rates without generation-shifting.The Supreme Court stayed the Clean Power Plan in 2016. It was later repealed when EPA determined that it lacked authority “of this breadth.” EPA then promulgated the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, mandating equipment upgrades and operating practices. The D.C. Circuit held that EPA’s repeal of the Clean Power Plan rested on a mistaken reading of the Clean Air Act and vacated the ACE rule.The Supreme Court reversed. Congress did not grant EPA the authority to devise emissions caps based on the Clean Power Plan's generation-shifting approach. Restructuring the nation’s mix of electricity generation cannot be the BSER under Section 111. Under the major questions doctrine, an agency must point to “clear congressional authorization” for such an unprecedented exercise of authority. On EPA’s view of Section 111(d), Congress implicitly tasked it alone with balancing vital considerations of national policy. Issues of electricity transmission and distribution are not within EPA’s traditional expertise. The Clean Power Plan “conveniently enabled" EPA to enact a program, cap-and-trade, that Congress rejected numerous times. View "West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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In 2017, Appellant Shoshone County assessed properties owned by Respondents S&W OPS, LLC; POWDER, LLC; H2O, LLC; GOLF, LLC; APARTMENT, LLC; F&B, LLC; and VILLAGE MANAGEMENT, LLC (collectively “Taxpayers”). Taxpayers disputed the valuation and sought review by the Board of Equalization, and subsequently the Board of Tax Appeals (“BTA”). The BTA reduced the assessed value, and the County appealed to the district court. After a four-day bench trial, the district court upheld the BTA decision, determining that the County’s appraisal evidence was more credible than Taxpayers’ evidence; however, the district court ultimately held the County had not satisfied its burden of showing how the BTA decision was erroneous by a preponderance of the evidence. The County appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court, arguing that the district court applied the wrong standard of review by requiring the County to prove “how or why” the BTA decision was erroneous instead of simply concluding that the market value of the property was different than what was found by the BTA. After review, the Supreme Court agreed with the County’s position. The district court’s decision was reversed, the judgment was vacated, and the case was remanded with instructions for the district court to consider whether the BTA’s decision on valuation was erroneous given the evidence submitted during the de novo trial. If that decision on valuation was erroneous, the district court, as the fact-finder, had to set the valuation. View "Shoshone County v. S&W OPS, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing orders of the circuit court dismissing challenges brought by the Friends of the Black River Forest and Claudia Bricks (collectively, the Friends) to a land exchange between J. Kohler Company and the Department of Natural Resources, holding that Friends lacked standing to challenge the land transfer decision.Friends filed an action challenging the Board's decision approving an agreement between the Department and Kohler for the land exchange. The circuit court granted Kohler's motion to dismiss, concluding that Friends lacked standing because the alleged injuries did not flow directly from the land swap decision. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Friends alleged sufficient injuries to satisfy standing under Wis. Stat. 227.52 and 227.53. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that none of the statutes or regulations cited by Friends protected any legally protected, recognized, or regulated interests of Friends that would permit them to challenge the Board's decision as aggrieved persons. View "Friends of the Black River Forest v. Wis. Department of Natural Resources" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court declining to decide whether a letter from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) constituted an unpromulgated rule, deferring instead to the Tax Appeals Commission to first decide that question, holding that the circuit court erroneously exercised its discretion.Wisconsin, Manufactures and Commerce, Inc. (WMC) sent a letter to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) articulating its view that machinery, patterns and tools that are not used in manufacturing are exempt from tax under Wis. Stat. 70.111(27)(b) even if that property is "located on manufacturing property." DOR sent a letter in return explaining that the exemption does not apply to manufacturers. WMC filed a declaratory judgment action claiming that DOR's letter was an invalid umpromulgated rule and that DOR's interpretation of the exemption violated the state and federal Constitutions. The circuit court dismissed all claims under the primary jurisdiction doctrine. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that deference to the Tax Appeals Commission was not warranted under the primary jurisdiction doctrine. View "Wis. Property Tax Consultants, Inc. v. Wis. Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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David Sole brought an action against the Michigan Economic Development Corporation under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeking the disclosure of information regarding the tax credits that defendant had allowed General Motors LLC (GM) to claim under the Michigan Economic Growth Authority Act (the MEGA Act), which gave defendant the authority to award businesses tax credits through the Michigan Strategic Fund. Defendant had provided plaintiff with a 2016 agreement between GM and defendant regarding the tax credits, but it had redacted the amount of the “tax credit cap,” which defendant claimed was exempt from disclosure under the Michigan Strategic Fund Act. The Court of Claims granted summary judgment in favor of defendant on the basis that the information was exempt from disclosure under MCL 125.2005(9). The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Michigan Supreme Court found that while the “tax credit cap” fit within the terms of MCL 125.2005(9), it was nonetheless subject to disclosure under MCL 125.2005(11). Accordingly, the Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ judgment to the contrary. View "Sole v. Michigan Economic Development Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs were tenants at Arbor Court, a Houston apartment complex that received subsidies from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”). After flooding that occurred during Hurricane Harvey, Arbor Court’s owner failed to maintain the property in decent, safe, and sanitary condition. Accordingly, HUD approved a transfer of the complex’s subsidy to a different property, offering Arbor Court tenants a choice between moving at no cost to the new property or receiving housing vouchers that they could use at new housing of their choice. After choosing the latter option, Plaintiffs sued HUD, seeking relocation assistance under the Uniform Relocation Act (“URA”). The district court dismissed the complaint.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal. The court held that Plaintiffs are not entitled to relocation assistance under the URA. The court explained, as required by statute, Plaintiffs have not pled that they moved from Arbor Court “as a direct result of a written notice of intent to acquire or the acquisition of such real property [i.e. Arbor Court] in whole or in part for a program or project undertaken by a Federal agency or with Federal financial assistance.” Plaintiffs argued that under the applicable Department of Transportation (“DOT”) regulations, the Section 8(bb) subsidy transfer from Arbor Court to Cullen Park qualifies as “such other displacing activity.” However, this regulation merely defines the phrase “program or project.” It does not prescribe any “displacing activit[ies]” that cause one to become a “displaced person” under the URA. View "Jackson v. HUD" on Justia Law