Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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This appeal stemmed from Alfred Brown’s lawsuit under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. secs. 701–796l, against his former employer, the Defense Health Agency. In April 2010, the Agency hired Brown as a healthcare fraud specialist (HCFS) assigned to the Program Integrity Office (PIO) in Aurora, Colorado. Shortly after joining the Agency, Brown told his supervisors that he had been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder and other panic and anxiety disorders related to his military service. When Brown’s symptoms worsened in September 2011, he was hospitalized and received in-patient treatment for one week. The Agency approved Brown’s request for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The district court granted summary judgment for the Agency, determining that there were no triable issues on Brown’s claims that the Agency failed to accommodate his mental-health disabilities and discriminated against him based on those disabilities. Brown appealed, challenging the district court’s rulings that: (1) his requests for telework, weekend work, and a supervisor reassignment were not reasonable accommodations; and (2) he failed to establish material elements of his various discrimination claims. The Tenth Circuit found no reversible error: (1) granting Brown’s telework and weekend-work requests would have eliminated essential functions of his job, making those requests unreasonable as a matter of law; (2) Brown did not allege the limited circumstances in which the Agency would need to consider reassigning him despite the fact that he performed the essential functions of his position with other accommodations; (3) the Court declined Brown’s invitation to expand those limited circumstances to include reassignments that allow an employee to live a “normal life;” and (4) Brown did not allege a prima facie case of retaliation, disparate treatment, or constructive discharge. Summary judgment for the Agency was affirmed. View "Brown v. Austin, et al." on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit considered for the second time the Wikimedia Foundation's contentions that the government is spying on its communications using Upstream, an electronic surveillance program run by the NHS. In the first appeal, the court found that Wikimedia's allegations of Article III standing sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss and vacated the district court's judgment to the contrary. The district court dismissed the case on remand, holding that Wikimedia did not establish a genuine issue of material fact as to standing and that further litigation would unjustifiably risk the disclosure of state secrets.The court concluded that the record evidence is sufficient to establish a genuine issue of material fact as to Wikimedia's standing, and thus the district court erred in granting summary judgment to the government on this basis. However, the court concluded that the state secrets privilege prevents further litigation of this suit. Furthermore, Wikimedia's other alleged injuries do not support standing. View "Wikimedia Foundation v. National Security Agency/Central Security Service" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit granted in part and denied in part the United States' motion for a stay pending appeal of the district court's nationwide preliminary injunction preventing the United States from relying on immigration enforcement priorities outlined in memos from DHS and ICE. On Inauguration Day, January 20, 2021, the Acting Secretary of DHS issued a memo announcing that the Department would undergo a comprehensive review of enforcement policies, announcing DHS's interim enforcement priorities, and directing an immediate 100-day pause on removals. ICE issued a memo on February 18, 2021 that incorporates the same three interim priorities.The court did not see a strong justification for concluding that the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 detention statutes override the deep-rooted tradition of enforcement discretion when it comes to decisions that occur before detention, such as who should be subject to arrest, detainers, and removal proceedings. Therefore, the United States has shown a likelihood of prevailing on appeal to the extent the preliminary injunction prevents officials from relying on the memos' enforcement priorities for nondetention decisions. The court also concluded that the remaining factors also support a partial stay.The court stated that the injunction will go into effect to the extent it prevents DHS and ICE officials from relying on the memos to refuse to detain aliens described in 8 U.S.C. 1226(c)(1) against whom detainers have been lodged or aliens who fall under section 1231(a)(1)(A) because they have been ordered removed. The court stayed the injunction pending appeal in all other respects including the reporting requirements. View "Texas v. United States" on Justia Law

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About 50 businesses that offer live adult entertainment (nude or nearly nude dancing) sought loans under the second round of the Paycheck Protection Program enacted to address the economic disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Congress excluded plaintiffs and other categories of businesses from the second round of the Program, 15 U.S.C. 636(a)(37)(A)(iv)(III)(aa), incorporating 13 C.F.R. 120.110. Plaintiffs asserted that their exclusion violated their rights under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.The district court issued a preliminary injunction, prohibiting the Small Business Administration (SBA) from denying the plaintiffs eligibility for the loan program based on the statutory exclusion. The Seventh Circuit granted the government’s stay of the preliminary injunction and expedited briefing on the merits of the appeal. The SBA satisfied the demanding standard for a stay of an injunction pending appeal, having shown a strong likelihood of success on the merits. Congress is not trying to regulate or suppress plaintiffs’ adult entertainment. It has simply chosen not to subsidize it. Such selective, categorical exclusions from a government subsidy do not offend the First Amendment. Plaintiffs were not singled out for this exclusion, even among businesses primarily engaged in activity protected by the First Amendment. Congress also excluded businesses “primarily engaged in political or lobbying activities.” View "Camelot Banquet Rooms, Inc. v. United States Small Business Administration" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Sharon Curcio, formerly a teacher with the Fontana Unified School District (the district), learned her personnel file included derogatory statements about her. When the district refused to allow Curcio to obtain or review those statements, she sought assistance from her union, the Fontana Teachers Association (FTA), and from the California Teachers Association (CTA). When the union didn't help, Curcio initiated proceedings before the Public Employees Relations Board (the board), claiming FTA and CTA breached their duties of fair representation and engaged in unfair practices in violation of the Educational Employment Relations Act (the Act). When the board decided not to issue a complaint, Curcio filed this lawsuit and appealed when the superior court sustained FTA and CTA’s demurrer, without leave to amend, to Curcio’s second amended petition for writ of mandate. The demurrer was grounded on FTA and CTA’s claims that the board had the exclusive jurisdiction to decide whether Curcio had or had not stated an unfair practice and, therefore, the superior court lacked jurisdiction. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Curcio v. Fontana Teachers Assn. CTA/NEA" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment declaring that the Honorable Patrick S. Flynn did not have authority, as the presiding judge of the 45th Judicial Circuit, to suspend Karla Allsberry, the circuit clerk of Lincoln County within the 45th Judicial Circuit, holding that the circuit court erred.At issue was whether Judge Flynn had the power under his general administrative authority as the presiding judge to suspend Allsberry, an elected circuit clerk, when the suspension was indefinite and had the effect of removing her from office, and whether the court had the authority to grant Allsberry injunctive relief. The Supreme Court held (1) the presiding judge is not authorized to take any action that has the practical effect of removing an elected circuit clerk from office; and (2) the circuit court erred in concluding that one circuit judge cannot order injunctive relief against another circuit judge. View "Allsberry v. Flynn" on Justia Law

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This appeal challenged the validity of a possessory interest tax imposed by the County of Riverside, California (the county) upon lessees of federally owned land set aside for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians (Agua Caliente tribe) or its members. A subset of the more than 450 plaintiffs in this appeal also challenged the validity of voter-approved taxes funding the Desert Water Agency, Coachella Valley Water District, Palm Springs Unified School District, Palo Verde School District, and Desert Community College District. A small minority of the plaintiffs claimed to hold a possessory interest in land set aside for the Colorado River Indian tribe (CRIT), but they argued the challenged taxes were invalid for the same reasons asserted by the other plaintiffs. A trial court upheld the validity of the challenged taxes and plaintiffs’ appeal, arguing the challenged taxes were preempted by federal law. The question of whether the county could impose a possessory interest tax on lessees of land set aside for the Agua Caliente tribe or its members was the subject of repeated litigation in both federal and state courts, and the validity of the county’s possessory interest tax in this context has been repeatedly upheld. During the pendency of this appeal, the Court of Appeal issued its decision in Herpel v. County of Riverside, 45 Cal.App.5th 96 (2020), again upholding the validity of the county’s possessory interest tax under almost identical circumstances as those presented here. Although plaintiffs claim that the Herpel decision was not controlling because it did not consider many of the arguments presented here, the Court concluded the facts and arguments presented in this case did not materially differ from those already considered in Herpel, and plaintiffs did not present any persuasive reason for the Court to depart from that recent decision. View "Albrecht v. County of Riverside" on Justia Law

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A drug manufacturer cannot distribute a drug in interstate commerce without obtaining the FDA’s approval for the uses listed on the drug’s official label, 21 U.S.C. 355(a). The Act does not prohibit doctors from prescribing FDA-approved drugs for “off-label” use but leaves the regulation of doctors to the states. Hydroxychloroquine is approved to treat malaria, lupus, and arthritis but not to treat COVID-19. In 2020, the FDA relied on then-available data and issued an Emergency Use Authorization, permitting hydroxychloroquine in the federal government’s strategic stockpile to be distributed to treat COVID-19 patients in limited circumstances.The Association, a nonprofit organization with physician members, sued, challenging restrictions barring use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 except for hospitalized patients. The Association alleged that these restrictions violated the implied equal-protection guarantee in the Fifth Amendment; violated the First Amendment right to associate by limiting access to medication useful for meeting in groups; and violated the Administrative Procedure Act. The Association alleged an injury to itself: it was considering canceling a conference purportedly due to the restrictions. It also invoked associational standing on behalf of its physician members who could not prescribe hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19.The district court held that none of these injuries plausibly pleaded the Association’s standing to challenge the Authorization. The court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Associaiton failed to plausibly plead that any member has been injured by the FDA’s actions. View "Association of American Physicians & Surgeons v. United States Food & Drug Administration" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Department of Public Safety to disqualify Appellant's commercial driver's license (CDL) for one year after he pled guilty to driving under the influence (DUI) and received a suspended imposition of sentence, holding that the Department properly disqualified Appellant's CDL.On appeal, Appellant argued that the Department violated the doctrine of separation of powers under the state constitution by unconstitutionally infringing upon the judiciary's sentencing authority and that the Department no longer had the statutory authority to disqualify Appellant's CDL once his case was dismissed and discharged. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellant failed to show that South Dakota's CDL disqualification statutes violate the separation of powers doctrine in article II of the state constitution; and (2) the Department properly considered Appellant's 2016 DUI conviction for the purpose of CDL disqualification under S.D. Codified Laws 32-12A-32. View "Jans v. Department of Public Safety" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that the Commissioner of Correction's exercise of the "commissioner's certification" provision in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 18(a) to retain K.J. at Bridgewater State Hospital violated article 30 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights.K.J., an adult man who faced criminal charges in the district court and the superior court, was committed involuntarily to Bridgewater. The commitment was subsequently extended. This appeal concerned the medical director of Bridgewater's most recent petition to have K.J. again recommitted for one year under section 18(a). The judge found that K.J. did not require strict custody and therefore, as required by section 18(a), issued an order committing K.J. to a lower security Department of Mental Health (DMH) facility. Despite that order, the Commissioner exercised the "commissioner's certification" provision in section 18(a) to retain K.J. at Bridgewater. The Supreme Judicial Court ordered that K.J. be transferred to a DMH facility, holding (1) the commissioner's certification provision of section 18(a) violates article 30; and (2) the remainder of section 18(a) is capable of separation. View "K.J. v. Superintendent of Bridgewater State Hospital" on Justia Law