Saturday, September 10, 2011

Decisions of interest involving Government and Administrative Law


Decisions of interest involving Government and Administrative Law
Source: Justia September 9, 2011

Court: U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 10-2347
September 8, 2011
Judge: Motz
Areas of Law: Constitutional Law, Government & Administrative Law, Health Law, Tax Law
Plaintiffs brought this suit to enjoin, as unconstitutional, enforcement of two provisions of the recently-enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Pub. L. No. 111-148, 124 Stat. 119. The challenged provisions amended the Internal Revenue Code by adding: (1) a "penalty" payable to the Secretary of the Treasury by an individual taxpayer who failed to maintain adequate health insurance coverage and (2) an "assessable payment" payable to the Secretary of the Treasury by a "large employer" if at least on of its employees received a tax credit or government subsidy to offset payments for certain health-related expenses. The court held that because this suit constituted a pre-enforcement action seeking to restrain the assessment of a tax, the Anti-Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. 2283, stripped the court of jurisdiction. Accordingly, the court vacated the judgment of the district court and remanded the case with instructions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.
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Court: U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 11-1058, 11-1057
September 8, 2011
Judge: Motz
Areas of Law: Constitutional Law, Government & Administrative Law, Health Law
The Commonwealth of Virginia brought suit against the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, challenging one provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Pub. L. No. 111-148, 124 Stat. 119, as an unconstitutional exercise of congressional power. Virginia maintained that the conflict between this provision and a newly-enacted Virginia statute provided it with standing to pursue this action. The court held that Virginia, as the sole plaintiff here, lacked standing to bring this action because the challenged provision, the individual mandate, imposed no obligation on Virginia and the Virginia statute did not confer on Virginia a sovereign interest in challenging the individual mandate. Accordingly, the court vacated the judgment of the district court and remanded with instructions to dismiss the case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.
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Court: U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 10-16797
September 6, 2011
Judge: Schroeder
Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Government & Administrative Law, Health Law, Insurance Law, Labor & Employment Law
The State of Arizona appealed the district court's order granting a preliminary injunction to prevent a state law from taking effect that would have terminated eligibility for healthcare benefits of state employees' same-sex partners. The district court found that plaintiffs demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits because they showed that the law adversely affected a classification of employees on the basis of sexual orientation and did not further any of the state's claimed justifiable interests. The district court also found that plaintiffs had established a likelihood of irreparable harm in the event coverage for partners ceased. The court held that the district court's findings and conclusions were supported by the record and affirmed the judgment.
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Court: U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 10-35592, 10-35611, 10-35458
September 8, 2011
Judge: Paez
Areas of Law: Agriculture Law, Environmental Law, Government & Administrative Law, Injury Law
Plaintiffs, 134 farmers whose crops suffered as a result of the federal Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) use of the herbicide Oust, sued the federal government and Oust's manufacturer (DuPont). Both the jury and the district court allocated 60% of the fault to DuPont and 40% to the federal government. Both the government and DuPont appealed: the court resolved the government's appeal in this opinion and DuPont's appeal in a memorandum disposition filed simultaneously with this opinion. The court held that it lacked subject mater jurisdiction over plaintiffs' Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 2402, claims because plaintiffs filed their lawsuit one day after the FTCA's statute of limitations had run. Therefore, the court held that the district court erred by not dismissing the claims against the federal government.
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Court: U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 10-6184
September 7, 2011
Judge: Matheson
Areas of Law: Constitutional Law, Environmental Law, Government & Administrative Law, Government Contracts, Zoning, Planning & Land Use
Tarrant Regional Water District ("Tarrant"), a Texas state agency, applied to the Oklahoma Water Resources Board ("the OWRB") for permits to appropriate water at three locations in Oklahoma for use in Texas. Just before filing its applications, Tarrant sued the nine members of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board in the district court for the Western District of Oklahoma and sought a declaratory judgment to invalidate certain Oklahoma statutes that govern the appropriation and use of water and an injunction preventing OWRB from enforcing them. Tarrant alleged that the Oklahoma statutes restricted interstate commerce in water and thereby violated the dormant Commerce Clause as discriminatory or unduly burdensome. Tarrant further alleged that Congress did not authorize Oklahoma through the Red River Compact ("Compact") to enact such laws. OWRB responded that Congress did authorize Oklahoma to adopt these statutes by consenting to the Compact. Tarrant also claimed that the Compact preempted the Oklahoma statutes insofar as the Compact applied to Tarrant’s application to appropriate water located in the Red River Basin. The district court granted summary judgment for OWRB on both the dormant Commerce Clause and Supremacy Clause claims. After that decision, Tarrant took steps to export to Texas Oklahoma water that was not subject to the Compact. Tarrant negotiated a contract with property owners in Stephens County, Oklahoma to export groundwater to Texas and also entered a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Apache Tribe concerning the Tribe’s potential water rights. In court Tarrant then reasserted its dormant Commerce Clause challenge based on these transactions. The district court dismissed the Stephens County matter for lack of standing and the Apache Tribe matter as not ripe. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the grants of summary judgment on the dormant Commerce Clause and preemption issues, and the dismissals based on standing and ripeness: [w]e hold that the Red River Compact insulates Oklahoma water statutes from dormant Commerce Clause challenge insofar as they apply to surface water subject to the Compact."
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Court: U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 10-3092
September 7, 2011
Judge: Ebel
Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Government & Administrative Law, Injury Law
Plaintiff-Appellant Christie Helm appealed a district court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of the State of Kansas (the State) on her claim for sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Helm sued the State after she was allegedly sexually harassed over a period of almost ten years by Judge Frederick Stewart, a State district judge for whom Helm served as an administrative assistant. The district court determined that the State was entitled to summary judgment because Helm fell within the "personal staff" exemption to Title VII’s definition of "employee" and thus did not qualify for the protections afforded by the statute. Alternatively, the court ruled that summary judgment for the State was proper on the basis of the "Faragher/Ellerth" affirmative defense to employer liability for a supervisor’s sexual harassment of a subordinate. In September 1998, Helm was hired to fill an administrative-assistant position. Judge Stewart began sexually harassing Helm shortly after she was hired. Upon review of the trial court record, the Tenth Circuit held that the "Faragher/Ellerth" defense precluded vicarious liability against the State of Kansas for Judge Stewart’s alleged actions. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the judgment of the district court without reaching the question whether the "personal staff" exemption removed Helm from the purview of Title VII.
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Court: U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 10-9527
September 7, 2011
Judge: Tymkovich
Areas of Law: Government & Administrative Law, Immigration Law
Minta del Carmen Rivera Barrientos suffered an attack at the hands of gang members in her native country of El Salvador. She escaped to the United States and sought asylum. She contended she was eligible for asylum under 8 U.S.C. 1158 because she faced past persecution on account of her political opinion (opposition to gangs) and her membership in a particular social group (young females) who have resisted gang recruitment. The BIA argued that the attack was not on account of her political opinion and that she was not a member of a cognizable social group. Because the Tenth Circuit concluded the BIA’s interpretation of the applicable statute was not unreasonable, the Court concluded the agency did not abuse its discretion in finding that Rivera-Barrientos was ineligible for asylum.
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Court: U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 10-7043
September 7, 2011
Judge: Murphy
Areas of Law: Constitutional Law, Environmental Law, Government & Administrative Law, Government Contracts, Zoning, Planning & Land Use
The City of Hugo, Oklahoma, and the Hugo Municipal Authority, a public water trust, (collectively "Hugo") contracted with the City of Irving, Texas, ("Irving") for the sale of water Hugo has been allocated or sought to be allocated under permits issued by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board ("Board"). Hugo and Irving brought suit against the nine members of the Board for a declaration that certain Oklahoma laws governing the Board’s water allocation decisions were unconstitutional under the dormant Commerce Clause and an injunction prohibiting their enforcement. The district court granted summary judgment for the Board, and Hugo and Irving appealed. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that Hugo, as a political subdivision of Oklahoma, lacked standing to sue the Board under the dormant Commerce Clause. Irving, whose injury was solely premised on a contract it entered into with Hugo, likewise could not demonstrate standing because any injury to Irving cannot be redressed. Concluding no plaintiff had the necessary standing, the Court vacated the district court’s order and remanded the case back the district court to dismiss for lack of federal jurisdiction.
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Court: U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 10-5159
September 6, 2011
Judge: Garland
Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Government & Administrative Law
Plaintiffs brought this action against the Department of Justice under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 552, seeking to obtain documents relating to the government's use of cell phone location data in criminal prosecutions. The district court directed the release of certain specified documents and upheld the Department's decision to withhold others. The court affirmed the district court's order requiring the release of the specified documents. The court held, however, that because there were too many factual uncertainties regarding the remaining documents, the court vacated the balance of the district court's decision and remanded the case for further development of the record.
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Court: Kansas Supreme Court
Docket: 99609
September 2, 2011
Judge: Biles
Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Government & Administrative Law, Real Estate & Property Law, Tax Law
Property owners appealed a special tax assessment the Board of County Commissioners levied against real property for cleanup costs the County claimed it incurred while removing dangerous structures and unsightly conditions on that property. The district court found subject matter jurisdiction lacking and granted the County's summary judgment motion. The court of appeals affirmed. At issue on appeal was whether the property owners' claims could be brought on direct review under Kan. Stat. Ann. 60-907(a), which provides injunctive relief against an illegal levy or enforcement of any tax, charge, or assessment. The Supreme Court affirmed and in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the property owners satisfied the jurisdictional burdens under section 60-907(a) on two of its three issues; and (2) because the district court went beyond the jurisdiction question and found for the County on the merits and the court of appeals stopped short of considering the merits of any claims when it found the entire case was jurisdictionally barred, the court of appeals erred in part in its jurisdictional ruling. Remanded to the court of appeals to determine whether the district court properly granted summary judgment as to the remaining claims.
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Court: Louisiana Supreme Court
Docket: 2010-C-2776
September 7, 2011
Judge: Johnson
Areas of Law: Business Law, Government & Administrative Law, Zoning, Planning & Land Use
Plaintiff Silver Dollar Liquor, L.L.C. ("Silver Dollar") owns the Silver Dollar Liquor Store located within District 6 of Red River Parish. Silver Dollar filed a declaratory judgment action against Defendant Red River Parish Police Jury ("Police Jury"), seeking to have Section 3-18 declared invalid because there has never been a local option election in District 6 pursuant to La. R.S. 51:191. The Police Jury answered that it had authority under La. R.S. 26:493 to regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages. Relying on La. R.S. 26:493, the appellate court found in favor of the Police Jury, holding Section 3-18 to be valid. Finding the appellate court's decision created a split in the circuits, the Supreme Court granted Silver Dollar's certiorari application to resolve the split. Upon review, the Court surmised the heart of this case involved the interpretation and applicability of La. R.S. 51:191, which requires a local-option election in order to authorize a Sunday-closing law; and La. R.S. 26:493, which delegates to political subdivisions the power to regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages. After review, the Court affirmed the appellate court's decision.
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Court: Mississippi Supreme Court
Docket: 2010-CA-01949-SCT
September 8, 2011
Judge: Pierce
Areas of Law: Constitutional Law, Election Law, Government & Administrative Law
In November 2008, P. Leslie Riley and an organization known as "Personhood Mississippi" filed an initiative, now known as Measure 26, with the Office of the Secretary of State. The initiative was qualified by the Secretary of the State to be placed on the general election ballot. Thereafter, Deborah Hughes and Cristen Hemmins ("Plaintiffs") filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief in Hinds County Circuit Court against Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, challenging Measure 26 as a violation of Article 15, Section 273(5)(a) of the Mississippi Constitution. On August 10, 2010, Plaintiffs filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings. The Secretary of State replied with a response to that motion. Then, on September 30, 2010, the trial court entered and approved an Agreed Order, allowing Riley and Personhood Mississippi to intervene. In that same order, all parties agreed that this case was "based on questions of law" and "should be resolved by way of judgment on the pleadings." Subsequently, after considering the motion and responses, having heard oral argument, and being otherwise fully advised in these matters, the trial court denied Plaintiffs' motion for judgment on the pleadings, finding that they had not carried their heavy burden in attempting to restrict the citizenry's right to amend the Constitution. Thereafter, the trial court entered an additional order, titled "Final Judgment." The trial court ruled that the denial of Plaintiffs' motion for judgment on the pleadings disposed of the case. Additionally, the trial court ruled that "final judgment is hereby entered in favor of the" Secretary of State and the Intervenors. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded Measure 26 was not ripe for review. Thus, the Court vacated the trial court's final judgment in favor of Intervenors and Secretary Hosemann. The Supreme Court finally dismissed Plaintiffs' complaint without prejudice.
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Court: Mississippi Supreme Court
Docket: 2011-CA-01106-SCT
September 8, 2011
Judge: Lamar
Areas of Law: Constitutional Law, Election Law, Government & Administrative Law
David Waide filed an Initiative with Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, and Hosemann approved it for placement on the November, 2011 general election ballot. Plaintiff Leland Speed filed a complaint against Hosemann in the Hinds County Circuit Court, along with a Motion for Expedited Declaratory and Injunctive Relief, asking the Supreme Court to declare Initiative 31 unconstitutional and to enjoin Hosemann from placing it on the ballot. Speed argued that Initiative 31 "violates Section 273(5)(a) because that section prohibits use of the initiative process for the proposal, modification or repeal' of any portion' of the Constitution's Bill of Rights." Speed argued that Initiative 31 was a "proposal, modification or repeal' of the Bill of Rights . . . and more specifically of its Section 17, which governs taking of private property for a public use." After Hosemann and Waide responded to Speed's pleadings, Speed filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, in which he argued that the case "involve[d] a pure issue of law with no material facts in dispute" and asked the court to enter judgment in his favor under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). The trial judge both denied Speed's motion for judgment on the pleadings and ruled on the merits, finding that Speed's complaint should be dismissed with prejudice and ordering that Hosemann be allowed to proceed in placing Initiative 31 on the ballot. On appeal, Speed asked the Supreme Court to reverse the trial judge, declare that Initiative 31 violates Section 273(5) of the Mississippi Constitution, and "keep Initiative 31 off the November ballot." Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the issue presented in this appeal (the constitutionality of proposed Initiative 31) was not ripe for adjudication by the Court, such that any opinion thereon would be improperly advisory. Accordingly, the Court vacated the trial court's decision and dismissed the case.
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Court: Mississippi Supreme Court
Docket: 2010-IA-00341-SCT, 2010-IA-00342-SCT
September 8, 2011
Judge: Dickinson
Areas of Law: Criminal Law, Government & Administrative Law, Injury Law
In July 2001, eight-year-old Jane Doe and thirteen-year-old Lisa Roe were playing unsupervised at the Presidential Hills Park, a public park built, operated, and maintained by the City of Jackson (the City). While playing in the park, the two children were approached by Andrew Lawson, a convicted sex offender, who fondled Lisa Roe and sexually battered Jane Doe. Lawson was convicted for his criminal acts against the girls. Two girls sued the City. The City moved for summary judgment, arguing that it was immune from suit. The trial court denied the motion. Because the City's operation of the park was a discretionary function, the Supreme Court granted the City's petition for interlocutory appeal and reversed the trial court and rendered judgment for the City.
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Court: Ohio Supreme Court
Docket: 20111387
September 7, 2011
Judge: Per Curiam
Areas of Law: Government & Administrative Law, Zoning, Planning & Land Use
The South Euclid City Council enacted an ordinance that amended the zoning for certain property. Relators, city residents, filed a referendum petition seeking submission of the ordinance to the city's electorate. The city council denied the petition because Relators had not filed a certified copy of the ordinance with the city's finance director. Relators then filed the present action, seeking a writ of mandamus to compel the city council clerk to determine the referendum petition was valid, to compel the clerk to communicate that determination to the city council, and to compel the city council to repeal the ordinance or submit it to the electors. The Supreme Court granted the writ, holding that Relators established their entitlement to the requested relief as (1) the clerk of council and city council abused their discretion and disregarded Ohio Rev. Code 731.32 by determining that Relators had not complied with the statute by filing a copy of the ordinance with the clerk of council instead of the city's director of finance; and (2) the ordinance was not exempt from referendum even though it contained an emergency declaration.
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Court: Oklahoma Supreme Court
Docket: 109652
September 1, 2011
Judge: Taylor
Areas of Law: Constitutional Law, Election Law, Government & Administrative Law
Petitioner State Senator Jim Wilson sought review of the State Senate Redistricting Act of 2011, pursuant to Section 11C, Article V of the Oklahoma Constitution. Petitioner alleged the Act does not comply with the apportionment formula in Section 9A, Article V of the Oklahoma Constitution. Specifically, Petitioner alleged the Act does not pass constitutional muster because it "fails to create Senate districts which as nearly as possible provide for compactness, political units, historical precedents, economic and political interests." Senator Wilson did not explicitly identify every district in the Redistricting Act that he contended was not in compliance with Section 9A but claimed that he identified such districts by the maps provided in the appendix of his petition. Upon review of the arguments submitted by the parties, the Supreme Court found that Petitioner failed to show that the State Senate Redistricting Act of 2011 does not comply with the provisions of Section 9A of the Oklahoma Constitution.
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Court: South Dakota Supreme Court
Docket: 25933-r-GAS
September 7, 2011
Judge: Severson
Areas of Law: Government & Administrative Law, Real Estate & Property Law, Zoning, Planning & Land Use
Appellants, ranchers, owned property in Alto Township separated by a section-line highway. Appellants historically fenced across the highway to join the adjacent pastures and installed gates at the highway. The township requested an injunction requiring Appellants to remove the fences that extended across the highway. Meanwhile, the county board of commissioners passed a resolution authorizing Appellants to erect and maintain fences across the section-line highway if the fences and gates met certain criteria. The trial court then enjoined Appellants from erecting and maintaining fences or gates across the highway unless they met the criteria of the resolution. After Appellants installed cattle guards and gates, the township brought a motion for contempt citation against Appellants, alleging they willfully and contumaciously failed to comply with the trial court's order. The county board of commissioners subsequently determined Appellants had complied with the resolution. The trial court found Appellants in contempt of court. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court's finding of contempt was clearly erroneous because a reasonable person could conclude that Appellants complied with the trial court's order.
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