Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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Appellant Ventura29, LLC purchased property (the Property) in the City of San Buenaventura (City). Appellant filed a complaint against the City alleging that Appellant “is in the process of developing a multi-unit townhome project” on the Property. The first cause of action is for inverse condemnation. Appellant claims City’s modification of an approved grading plan for the Property “resulted in an unconstitutional taking for which [it] is entitled to just compensation.” The trial court entered a judgment of dismissal after the trial court had sustained a demurrer to Appellant’s second amended complaint (complaint). Appellant contends the complaint states causes of action for private nuisance, trespass, and negligence based on the City’s dumping of uncertified fill on the Property in 1977.   The Second Appellate District affirmed the judgment of dismissal. The court concluded that these causes of action are barred by the statute of limitations. The court reasoned that Appellant’s “action on the case” theory is based on its claim that the primary injury to its property was not caused by the dumping of the uncertified fill. Instead, it was caused by the consequences of the dumping. Therefore, Appellant argued, the statute of limitations on the causes of action began to run when the City Engineer made the modification. The “action on the case” theory is of no assistance to Appellant. The theory, in effect, restates the first cause of action for inverse condemnation. Appellant forfeited its right to object to the modification of the grading plan because it had complied with the modification without exhausting its administrative remedies. View "Ventura29 v. City of San Buenaventura" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was electrocuted by a powerline owned and operated by the City of Sibley, Iowa. Plaintiff sued the City, in relevant part, for negligence and negligence per se. Plaintiff’s wife also brought a loss of consortium claim. The district court granted summary judgment.   The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment as to negligence and affirmed as to negligence per se. The court reinstated the loss of consortium claim. Plaintiff alleged that the City violated the Iowa Administrative Code, specifically (1) its adopted NESC standards and (2) Iowa Administrative Code 199- 25.4(1). The City argued that the NESC, as adopted by Iowa regulations, establishes the standard of care. But it hasn’t pointed to any authority stating that compliance with Iowa regulations is conclusive of the standard of care in ordinary negligence actions. The court reasoned that compliance with Iowa regulations is not dispositive of the standard of care for negligence. Because a jury could find that the City breached its duty, Plaintiff’s negligence claim has genuine issues of fact for trial. Further, the court held that the public-duty doctrine does not bar Plaintiff’s negligence claim because it involves City misfeasance. View "Victor Maldonado v. City of Sibley" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Project (“ACLU”) brought a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) suit in district court to compel Defendant, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), to produce agency records in the form of electronic spreadsheet data pertaining to five stages of the immigration enforcement and deportation process. ICE produced 21 spreadsheets of responsive data but did not comply with ACLU’s request to replace exempt Alien Identification Numbers (“A-Numbers”) on such spreadsheets with anonymized unique identifiers (“Unique IDs”). ACLU submits that such Unique IDs could be any combinations of numbers, letters, or symbols that, while meaningless in themselves, would allow ACLU to track datapoints pertaining to individual (but unidentified) aliens across ICE databases. The district court granted ICE’s motion for summary judgment, ruling that ACLU’s requested substitution effectively required ICE to create new records.   The Second Circuit reversed the award of summary judgment to ICE and remanded. The court reasoned that by redacting A-Numbers from the spreadsheets, it produced conveying datapoints by event rather than by person, ICE not only shielded the FOIA-exempt personal identifying information (“PII”) documented by the A-Numbers but also effectively deprived the public of access to nonexempt records in the same person-centric manner available to the agency. The court explained that the substitution of Unique IDs for A-Numbers does not create any new agency records and is a reasonable step to shield the exempt content of A-Numbers while preserving the function necessary to afford public access to non-exempt records in the same person-centric form or format available to the agency. View "ACLU Immigrants' Rts. Project v. ICE" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs own a beach house in Dare County, North Carolina. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dare County banned nonresident property owners from entering the county. As a result, Plaintiffs could not reach their beach house for forty-five days. In response, they sued Dare County, alleging that their property was taken without compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment. After the district court found that the ban was not a Fifth Amendment taking and dismissed Plaintiffs’ suit for failure to state a claim, Plaintiffs appealed.   The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The court held that the ban did not physically appropriate Plaintiffs’ beach house. And though it restricted their ability to use the house, compensation is not required under the ad hoc balancing test that determines the constitutionality of most use restrictions. The court further explained that Dare County’s order is neither a physical appropriation, a use restriction that renders the property valueless, nor a taking under Penn Central. The effects of the order were temporary, Plaintiffs had a chance to occupy their property before it took effect, and while the order was operative they could still exercise significant ownership rights over their property. View "Joseph Blackburn, Jr. v. Dare County" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting the motion for summary judgment brought by Calvert County, Maryland and dismissing the claims brought by Petitioners, four Calvert County residents, against the Board of County Commissioners of Calvert, holding that there was no error.Petitioners brought an action against the County Commissioners and County seeking a declaratory judgment that the Calvert County Comprehensive Plan was illegally passed because one of the Commissioners had a conflict of interest in the legislation and did not recuse himself and requesting that the circuit court void the plan in light of the conflict. The circuit court granted the County's motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court correctly entered summary judgment in favor of the County. View "Dzurec v. Bd. of County Commissioners Calvert County" on Justia Law

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The South Carolina workers' compensation commission dismissed an appeal to its appellate panel because the attorney filing the appeal missed a deadline for his brief. The commission refused to reinstate the appeal even after the attorney explained he made an innocent calendaring mistake, and then the commission refused to reconsider its decision. In all three instances, the commission gave no explanation of its decision; it simply issued a form order with blanks checked indicating the commission's action. The South Carolina Supreme Court found that because the commission offered no explanation for its decision, it did not act within its discretion in refusing to reinstate the appeal. "The failure to accurately calendar a filing deadline will not constitute good cause for reinstating an appeal in every instance. We have reviewed the record in this case, however, and we find Proffitt demonstrated good cause." The commission's decision refusing to reinstate the appeal was reversed and the case remanded to the appellate panel for consideration of the appeal on the merits. View "Morris v. BB&T Corporation" on Justia Law

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This case concerns rules and regulations issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) governing two types of pilot credentials: airline transport pilot (ATP) certificates, which enable pilots to fly for airlines, and type ratings, which authorize pilots to command complex, “type-rated” aircraft. Flight Training International, Inc. (FTI), a provider of flight training courses, wants to offer a course that uses type-rated aircraft but culminates in the issuance of an ATP certificate without a type rating. A rule (Rule) issued by the FAA in 2020 prohibits it from doing that, so FTI petitioned us to set aside the rule. FTI argued that the rule effectively amends portions of 14 C.F.R. pt. 61, and, therefore, should have been promulgated only after notice and comment in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).   The Fifth Circuit agreed and granted the petition. The court explained that the Must-Issue Rule is a legislative rule, but it was not promulgated after notice and comment as required by the APA. Because the Rule was issued “without observance of procedure required by law,” FTI’s petition must be granted, and the Rule set aside. In light of this disposition, the court did not reach FTI’s alternative argument that the Rule is “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law.” View "Flt Training Intl v. FAA" on Justia Law

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In 1993 the Village of Channahon approved the plat of a residential subdivision lying within the DuPage River Special Flood Hazard Area. The Village subsequently issued permits for the construction of houses in this subdivision, all of which experience flooded basements when the river is at high water. The current owners of these houses contend that the Village violated the Constitution either by granting the permits to build or by failing to construct dykes to keep water away.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of their suit, noting the plaintiffs do not contend that the Village required them to build where they did or dig basements, or took any steps after the houses’ construction that made flooding worse. The Constitution establishes rights to be free of governmental interference but does not compel governmental intervention to assist persons. Even if the Village violated a local ordinance and a federal regulation, 44 C.F.R. §60.3(c)(7), by granting the applications without insisting that the houses be built higher, the Constitution does not entitle private parties to accurate enforcement of local, state, or federal law. The Village did not take anyone’s property, either by physical invasion or by regulation that prevented the land’s use. The river, which did invade their basements, is not a governmental body. Government-induced flooding of limited duration may be compensable but the -plaintiffs have not plausibly alleged that the water in their basements is “government-induced.” View "Billie v. Village of Channahon" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the Public Utilities Commission denying the petition of Maine Coalition to Stop Smart Meters for reconsideration of a previous order approving revised terms and conditions for the smart-meter opt-out program created by Central Maine Power (CMP), holding that there was no abuse of discretion.The revised terms and conditions of the smart-meter opt-out program at issue allowed CMP to install solid-state meters, which are smart meters with the transmitting function disabled, instead of electromechanical (analog) meters for opt-out customers. The Coalition filed a petition for reconsideration. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission's finding that solid-state meters are safe was not supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the Commission's decision to approve the revised terms was not arbitrary or unreasonable, unjust, or unlawful and was supported by competent evidence in the record. View "Maine Coalition to Stop Smart Meters v. Public Utilities Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued the government pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), asserting multiple negligent and intentional tort causes of action after being sexually assaulted by an employee of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The government moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The district court granted the government’s motion. Plaintiff appealed the district court’s determination that the assault occurred outside the scope of the employee’s employment.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the FTCA makes clear that the scope-of-employment test is defined by state law, not the employer. Plaintiff argued that the district court erred in concluding that the provider’s duties were restricted to providing battlefield acupuncture therapy (BFA). The court explained that initially, the provider denied sexually assaulting or massaging Plaintiff. He later admitted to the sexual assault and admitted that it was inappropriate for him to massage a patient. He also failed to document anything that occurred after the BFA therapy, including the massage. This is consistent with the finding that the massage and subsequent sexual assault exceeded the scope of his treatment authority. The court explained that in light of the pleadings and undisputed evidence, the district court did not err, determining that the provider acted outside the scope of his employment. View "Jane Doe v. United States" on Justia Law