Justia Daily Opinion Summaries

Government & Administrative Law
September 1, 2023

Table of Contents

Calhoun v. Collier

Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Government & Administrative Law

US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

In Re Jefferson Parish

Civil Procedure, Class Action, Environmental Law, Government & Administrative Law

US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Ingram v. Wayne County, Michigan

Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Government & Administrative Law, Real Estate & Property Law

US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Federal Trade Commission v. Credit Bureau Center, LLC

Consumer Law, Government & Administrative Law, Internet Law

US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

The Satanic Temple v. City of Belle Plaine

Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Government & Administrative Law

US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

AIRLINES FOR AMERICA V. CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO

Aviation, Contracts, Government & Administrative Law, Government Contracts, Labor & Employment Law

US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

HOWARD ITEN V. COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES

Civil Procedure, Contracts, Government & Administrative Law, Landlord - Tenant

US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

American Petroleum, et al. v. U.S. Department of Interior, et al.

Energy, Oil & Gas Law, Government & Administrative Law

US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

Ascendium Education Solutions, Inc. v. Miguel Cardona

Business Law, Education Law, Government & Administrative Law, Government Contracts

US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Fontem US, LLC v. FDA

Government & Administrative Law, Health Law

US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

A.S. v. Palmdale Sch. Dist.

Civil Procedure, Government & Administrative Law, Personal Injury

California Courts of Appeal

Carr v. City of Newport Beach

Government & Administrative Law, Personal Injury

California Courts of Appeal

Housing Auth City of Calexico v. Multi-Housing Tax Credit Partners

Arbitration & Mediation, Civil Procedure, Government & Administrative Law

California Courts of Appeal

Kerman Telephone Co. v. Public Utilities Commission

Communications Law, Constitutional Law, Government & Administrative Law

California Courts of Appeal

Krug v. Board of Trustees of the Cal. State Univ.

Civil Rights, Government & Administrative Law, Labor & Employment Law

California Courts of Appeal

People v. Moyer

Criminal Law, Government & Administrative Law, White Collar Crime

California Courts of Appeal

Comm'r of Mental Health & Addiction Services v. Freedom of Information Comm'n

Communications Law, Government & Administrative Law

Connecticut Supreme Court

Baltimore Police Dep't v. Open Justice Baltimore

Communications Law, Government & Administrative Law

Maryland Supreme Court

Bennett v. Harford County

Education Law, Election Law, Government & Administrative Law, Labor & Employment Law

Maryland Supreme Court

Robinhood Financial LLC v. Secretary of the Commonwealth

Business Law, Government & Administrative Law, Securities Law

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

State ex rel. Barr v. Wesson

Communications Law, Criminal Law, Government & Administrative Law

Supreme Court of Ohio

State ex rel. Kidd v. Industrial Commission

Government & Administrative Law, Labor & Employment Law, Real Estate & Property Law

Supreme Court of Ohio

State ex rel. Youngstown Civil Service Commission v. Sweeney

Civil Procedure, Government & Administrative Law, Labor & Employment Law

Supreme Court of Ohio

Daufuskie v. SC Office of Regulatory Staff

Civil Procedure, Government & Administrative Law, Utilities Law

South Carolina Supreme Court

Jonah Energy LLC v. Wyo. Dep't of Revenue

Contracts, Energy, Oil & Gas Law, Government & Administrative Law, Tax Law

Wyoming Supreme Court

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Government & Administrative Law Opinions

Calhoun v. Collier

Court: US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Docket: 22-50634

Opinion Date: August 30, 2023

Judge: James E. Graves, Jr.

Areas of Law: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Government & Administrative Law

The issue before the court is whether Plaintiff, an inmate incarcerated in Gatesville, Texas, has a right to be heard before the prison decides whether to approve or deny her request to transfer money from her inmate trust account to an outside bank account. The district court answered no and granted summary judgment to the Appellees.
 
The Fifth Circuit vacated and reversed. The court wrote that Plaintiff provided evidence that her procedural due process rights were violated, which precludes summary judgment. The court explained that Plaintiff’s property interests were undoubtedly at stake, and, considering the evidence that was before the district court, it cannot be said as a matter of law that the procedures were adequate, there were alternative safeguards, or that the administrative burden would be too great. It is up to a factfinder to determine whether Plaintiff can prove her case. Accordingly, the court held that the district court erred in not vacating the judgment and granting Plaintiff leave to amend her pleadings.

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In Re Jefferson Parish

Court: US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Docket: 23-30243

Opinion Date: August 24, 2023

Judge: Jennifer Walker Elrod

Areas of Law: Civil Procedure, Class Action, Environmental Law, Government & Administrative Law

Several collections of residents near Jefferson Parish Landfill sued the landfill’s owner (Jefferson Parish) and its operators (four companies). This mandamus action arises out of the Eastern District of Louisiana’s case management of two of those lawsuits: the Ictech-Bendeck class action and the Addison mass action. The Ictech-Bendeck class action plaintiffs seek damages on a state-law nuisance theory under Louisiana Civil Code articles 667, 668, and 669. The Addison mass action plaintiffs seek damages from the same defendants, although they plead claims for both nuisance and negligence. The district court granted in part and denied in part Petitioners’ motion for summary judgment against some of the Addison plaintiffs. Then on April 17 the district court adopted a new case management order drafted by the parties that scheduled a September 2023 trial for several of the Addison plaintiffs.
 
The Fifth Circuit denied Petitioners' petition for mandamus relief. The court explained that mandamus is an extraordinary form of relief saved for the rare case in which there has been a “usurpation of judicial power” or a “clear abuse of discretion.” The court explained that mandamus relief is not for testing novel legal theories. The court wrote that Petitioners’ theory is not merely new; it is also wrong. Rule 23 establishes a mechanism for plaintiffs to pursue their claims as a class. It does not cause the filing of a putative class action to universally estop all separate but related actions from proceeding to the merits until the class-certification process concludes in the putative class action, after years of motions practice.

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Ingram v. Wayne County, Michigan

Court: US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Docket: 22-1262

Opinion Date: August 31, 2023

Judge: John K. Bush

Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Government & Administrative Law, Real Estate & Property Law

Three individuals filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that Wayne County has a policy or practice of seizing vehicles and their contents without probable cause, simply because of the vehicle’s location in an area generally associated with crime. Wayne County impounds the vehicles and their contents until the owner pays a redemption fee: $900 for the first seizure, $1,800 for the second, and $2,700 for the third, plus towing and storage fees. The owner's only alternatives are to abandon the vehicle or to wait for prosecutors to decide whether to initiate civil forfeiture proceedings. Before a forfeiture action is brought, there are multiple pretrial conferences involving the owner and prosecutors, without a judge; prosecutors attempt to persuade the owner to pay the fee by pointing out that storage fees accrue daily. Missing just one conference results in automatic forfeiture. It takes at least four months, beyond any previous delays to arrive before a neutral decisionmaker. The seizure proceedings are conducted under Michigan’s Nuisance Abatement statute, the Controlled Substances Act, and the Omnibus Forfeiture Act, which do not protect plaintiffs from the pre-hearing deprivation of their properties.

The Sixth Circuit held that Wayne County violated the Constitution when it seized plaintiffs’ personal vehicles—which were vital to their transportation and livelihoods— with no timely process to contest the seizure. Wayne County was required to provide an interim hearing within two weeks to test the probable validity of the deprivation.

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Federal Trade Commission v. Credit Bureau Center, LLC

Court: US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Docket: 21-2945

Opinion Date: August 30, 2023

Judge: Diane S. Sykes

Areas of Law: Consumer Law, Government & Administrative Law, Internet Law

Brown’s credit-monitoring business used a “negative option feature” on its websites, offering visitors a free credit report but automatically enrolling them in a $29.94 monthly subscription when they applied for that report. Information about the monthly membership was buried . Brown’s contractors created website traffic by posting Craigslist advertisements for fake rental properties and directing applicants to the websites for a “free” credit score. The FTC sued under Federal Trade Commission Act (FTCA) section 13(b), which authorizes restraining orders and permanent injunctions to enjoin conduct that violates its prohibition of unfair or deceptive trade practices. On its face, section 13(b) authorizes only injunctive relief but the Commission long interpreted it to permit restitution awards—an interpretation adopted by the Seventh Circuit and others.

The district court entered a permanent injunction and ordered Brown to pay more than $5 million in restitution. The Seventh Circuit overruled its precedent and held that section 13(b) does not authorize restitution awards.

The Supreme Court granted certiorari and held that section 13(b) does not authorize equitable monetary relief. On remand, the Commission argued that the Court’s decision had significantly changed the law and successfully requested the reimposition of the restitution award under the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act and FTCA section 19. The Seventh Circuit modified the new judgment. Its direction that any funds remaining after providing consumer redress shall be “deposited to the U.S. Treasury as disgorgement” exceeds the remedial scope of section 19, which is limited to redressing consumer injuries.

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The Satanic Temple v. City of Belle Plaine

Court: US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

Docket: 21-3079

Opinion Date: August 30, 2023

Judge: KOBES

Areas of Law: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Government & Administrative Law

The City of Belle Plaine, Minnesota, designated Veterans Memorial Park as a limited public forum and granted permits to two groups to place monuments there. Before the Satanic Temple could place its monument, the City closed the Park as a limited public forum and terminated both permits. The Satanic Temple sued the City. The district court dismissed its claims, except for promissory estoppel. When the Satanic Temple moved to amend its complaint, a Magistrate Judg2denied its motion. The Satanic Temple filed a second suit, reasserting the dismissed claims and adding new ones. The district court held that res judicata bars the second suit and granted summary judgment to the City on the promissory estoppel claim from the first suit.
 
The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the Satanic Temple failed to plausibly allege that closing the Park as a limited public forum was unreasonable or viewpoint discriminatory. The court further explained that the Satanic Temple asserted that the City violated its free exercise rights. The court explained that although the Enacting and Recession Resolutions were facially neutral, facial neutrality is not a safe harbor if the City’s actions targeted the Satanic Temple’s religious conduct. However, the Satanic Temple failed to plausibly claim that its display was targeted. Moreover, the Satanic Temple has not plausibly alleged that it and the Veterans Club were similarly situated or that it was treated differently. The City gave a permit to both groups, had no control over the fact that the Veterans Club placed its statue first, and closed the Park as a limited public forum to everyone.

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AIRLINES FOR AMERICA V. CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO

Court: US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Docket: 22-15677

Opinion Date: August 29, 2023

Judge: Callahan

Areas of Law: Aviation, Contracts, Government & Administrative Law, Government Contracts, Labor & Employment Law

The City and County of San Francisco (the City) owns and operates San Francisco International Airport (SFO or the Airport). Airlines for America (A4A) represents airlines that contract with the City to use SFO. In 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City enacted the Healthy Airport Ordinance (HAO), requiring the airlines that use SFO to provide employees with certain health insurance benefits. A4A filed this action in the Northern District of California, alleging that the City, in enacting the HAO, acted as a government regulator and not a market participant, and therefore the HAO is preempted by multiple federal statutes. The district court agreed to the parties’ suggestion to bifurcate the case to first address the City’s market participation defense. The district court held that the City was a market participant and granted its motion for summary judgment. A4A appealed.
 
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment. The court concluded that two civil penalty provisions of the HAO carry the force of law and thus render the City a regulator rather than a market participant. The court wrote that because these civil penalty provisions result in the City acting as a regulator, it need not determine whether the City otherwise would be a regulator under the Cardinal Towing two-part test set forth in LAX, 873 F.3d at 1080

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HOWARD ITEN V. COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES

Court: US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Docket: 22-55480

Opinion Date: August 30, 2023

Judge: Bybee

Areas of Law: Civil Procedure, Contracts, Government & Administrative Law, Landlord - Tenant

In early 2020, following the outbreak of COVID-19, Los Angeles County passed the “Resolution of the Board of Supervisors of the County of Los Angeles Further Amending and Restating the Executive Order for an Eviction Moratorium During Existence of a Local Health Emergency Regarding Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)” (the “Moratorium”). The Moratorium imposed temporary restrictions on certain residential and commercial tenant evictions. It provided tenants with new affirmative defenses to eviction based on nonpayment of rent, prohibited landlords from charging late fees and interest, and imposed civil and criminal penalties to landlords who violate the Moratorium. Id. Section V (July 14, 2021). Plaintiff, a commercial landlord, sued the County, arguing that the Moratorium impaired his lease, in violation of the Contracts Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The district court found that Plaintiff had not alleged an injury in fact and dismissed his complaint for lack of standing.
 
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal. The panel held that Plaintiff had standing to bring his Contracts Clause claim. Plaintiff’s injury for Article III purposes did not depend on whether Plaintiff’s tenant provided notice or was otherwise excused from doing so. Those questions went to the merits of the claim rather than Plaintiff’s standing to bring suit. Plaintiff alleged that the moratorium impaired his contract with his tenant because it altered the remedies the parties had agreed to at the time they entered into the lease. The panel held that these allegations were sufficient to plead an injury in fact and to state a claim under the Contracts Clause, and remanded to the district court.

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American Petroleum, et al. v. U.S. Department of Interior, et al.

Court: US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

Docket: 21-8076

Opinion Date: August 25, 2023

Judge: Moritz

Areas of Law: Energy, Oil & Gas Law, Government & Administrative Law

After the Department of the Interior amended regulations in 2016, the American Petroleum Institute (API) challenged several of the regulations that governed the calculation of royalties for oil and natural gas produced on federal lands. The district court rejected these challenges at summary judgment, and API appealed. Because API did not show that the agency acted arbitrarily and capriciously in enacting the challenged provisions of the 2016 regulations, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.

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Ascendium Education Solutions, Inc. v. Miguel Cardona

Court: US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Docket: 22-5104

Opinion Date: August 29, 2023

Judge: PAN

Areas of Law: Business Law, Education Law, Government & Administrative Law, Government Contracts

Ascendium Education Solutions (“Ascendium”) is a Program guarantor that previously charged debt-collection costs to defaulting Program borrowers who entered loan rehabilitation agreements. Ascendium challenged the Department of Education’s Rule, 34 C.F.R. Section 682.410(b)(2)(i), under the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), arguing that the Department of Education and its Secretary (collectively, the “Department”) did not have statutory authority to promulgate the Rule because the Rule conflicts with the Act. The district court ruled that Ascendium lacked standing to challenge the Rule as it applies to borrowers who enter repayment agreements. But the district court held that the Rule exceeded the Department’s authority under the Act with respect to borrowers who enter rehabilitation agreements. Both Ascendium and the Department appealed.
 
The DC Circuit reversed in part and affirmed in part. The court concluded that Ascendium has standing to challenge the entirety of the Rule, that the Rule is consistent with the Act and therefore is lawful, and that the Rule is not arbitrary or capricious. The court explained that the Rule prohibits a guarantor from charging collection costs to a borrower who enters a repayment plan or a rehabilitation agreement during the initial default period: It implicitly deems such costs “unreasonable” under the circumstances. The court concluded that the Rule is consistent with the Act’s requirement that “reasonable” collection costs must be passed on to borrowers. Further, the court explained that the Department’s response to Ascendium’s comment adequately refuted Ascendium’s assumption that the purpose of the Rule should be to incentivize guarantors to enter rehabilitation agreements by allowing them to charge collection costs.

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Fontem US, LLC v. FDA

Court: US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Docket: 22-1076

Opinion Date: August 29, 2023

Judge: RAO

Areas of Law: Government & Administrative Law, Health Law

After the FDA promulgated regulations applying the Act to vaping products, Fontem US, LLC, submitted numerous applications to market its flavored and unflavored vaping products. The FDA denied all of them, concluding Fontem had not shown its products were “appropriate for the protection of the public health.” Fontem petitioned for review, arguing the denial was unlawful.
 
The DC Circuit denied the petition for review as to Fontem’s flavored products and granted the petition for review with respect to the unflavored products. The court explained that as to Fontem’s flavored products, the FDA reasonably found a lack of evidence that the benefits of such products to adult smokers sufficiently outweighed the potential risks to young non-smokers. The court wrote that as to Fontem’s unflavored products, however, the FDA acted unlawfully by failing to engage in the holistic public health analysis required by the statute. The court concluded that the agency did not take into account the potential benefits of unflavored products or weigh those benefits against risks to public health. Instead, the agency identified highly granular deficiencies but failed to evaluate the potential effects of such deficiencies on public health or to weigh these deficiencies against the potential benefits of Fontem’s products.

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A.S. v. Palmdale Sch. Dist.

Court: California Courts of Appeal

Docket: B318012(Second Appellate District)

Opinion Date: August 28, 2023

Judge: STRATTON

Areas of Law: Civil Procedure, Government & Administrative Law, Personal Injury

After an elementary school teacher grabbed and twisted A.S.’s arm, his mother (and guardian ad litem) filed a complaint form with the Palmdale School District (District) on his behalf. They then filed a lawsuit for damages against the District, its superintendent, the assistant superintendent, the elementary school principal, and the teacher. The trial court sustained the District’s demurrer to Appellant’s third amended complaint on the ground Appellant failed to file a claim with the District in compliance with Government Code section 910.2 Appellant appealed from the subsequent judgment of dismissal.
 
The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that Appellant specified several administrative actions that he wanted the District to take but did not state he was seeking monetary damages and made no attempt at all to estimate, even roughly, an amount of damages or state whether or not the claim would be a limited civil case. Accordingly, the court held that the complaint form does not substantially comply with section 910. Further, the court explained that even if it assumes that all of the elements of equitable estoppel were initially present, the law recognizes that circumstances may change and render estoppel no longer appropriate. Here, Appellant’s counsel is charged with the knowledge that Appellant needed to file a claim for damages with the District and with the knowledge of what was required for such a claim. Given that counsel possessed the relevant facts about the incident, had the original complaint form, and was actually aware of the statutory requirements for suing a governmental entity, this was ample time.

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Carr v. City of Newport Beach

Court: California Courts of Appeal

Docket: G061277(Fourth Appellate District)

Opinion Date: August 29, 2023

Judge: Delaney

Areas of Law: Government & Administrative Law, Personal Injury

Plaintiff Brian Carr appealed a trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the City of Newport Beach (the City) an action arising from injuries plaintiff sustained after diving headfirst into shallow harbor waters. The court concluded the City was immune from liability pursuant to Government Code section 831.7, which concerned hazardous recreational activities. It also found no triable issue of fact as to plaintiff’s claim alleging a dangerous condition of public property. Plaintiff contended the decision was error because there are triable issues of fact regarding the City’s claimed immunities and his dangerous condition claim. The Court of Appeal affirmed, finding record evidenced otherwise. "As a matter of law, the hazardous recreational activity immunity insulates the City from the alleged liability, so thus affirm the judgment."

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Housing Auth City of Calexico v. Multi-Housing Tax Credit Partners

Court: California Courts of Appeal

Docket: D079967(Fourth Appellate District)

Opinion Date: August 28, 2023

Judge: Kelety

Areas of Law: Arbitration & Mediation, Civil Procedure, Government & Administrative Law

Housing Authority of the City of Calexico (the Housing Authority) and AMG & Associates, LLC (collectively, the plaintiffs) appealed a superior court confirming an arbitration award, declining to undertake a review of the award on the merits for errors of fact or law (review on the merits) and declining to grant their petition to partially reverse or vacate the award. They contended the superior court should have undertaken a review on the merits because the parties had agreed to such a review. They further contended that, had the superior court undertaken such a review, it would have concluded that no substantial evidence supported the award and that the award was contrary to law. Additionally, plaintiffs contended that, in denying their motion to partially reverse or vacate the award, the superior court left in place a finding by the arbitrator that not only exceeded the arbitrator’s powers but worked as a forfeiture against the Housing Authority. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the superior court erred in declining to undertake a review on the merits. "[I]n instances in which the parties have agreed that an arbitration award may be subjected to judicial review, it is the superior court and not the Court of Appeal that has original jurisdiction to undertake that review in the first instance, that the superior court is without power to yield that original jurisdiction to the Court of Appeal, and that the superior court should thus have performed the review."

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Kerman Telephone Co. v. Public Utilities Commission

Court: California Courts of Appeal

Docket: F083940(Fifth Appellate District)

Opinion Date: August 24, 2023

Judge: SNAUFFER

Areas of Law: Communications Law, Constitutional Law, Government & Administrative Law

This original proceeding involves a protracted legal battle between several rural telephone companies and the Public Utilities Commission (“Commission”). Petitioners are telephone corporations that provide telephone service in rural areas. After the Rural Telephone Bank (“RTB”) had just dissolved and redeemed all shares of stock it had issued. Many telephone companies, including Petitioners, owned RTB stock. The Commission had clarified in a 2006 decision that all gains on the sale of public utility company assets that were never in rate base accrue to company shareholders. Relying on this decision, the companies that never had stock in rate base so stated in the application and did not disclose any of their redemption proceeds. The Commission penalized the companies in the amount of $2,752,000 for violating Rule 1.1. The companies challenged the decision in an administrative appeal, but the Commission denied rehearing.
 
The Fifth Appellate District annulled penalty decision and the decision denying rehearing. The court agreed that Petitioners lacked fair notice of their obligation to disclose their redemption proceeds in the 2007 application. The court explained that Petitioners’ redemption proceed amounts were irrelevant to a ratemaking determination because Petitioners’ shares were never in rate base. All gains or losses on the redemption accrued to Petitioners’ shareholders, not the ratepayers. No other allocation was legally allowed. The Commission should have instructed Petitioners to disclose their redemption proceeds in the Application if that is what the Commission wanted from Petitioners. But the Commission did not give fair notice to Petitioners of this disclosure requirement and penalized them for essentially failing to intuit the disclosure requirement.

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Krug v. Board of Trustees of the Cal. State Univ.

Court: California Courts of Appeal

Docket: B320588(Second Appellate District)

Opinion Date: August 29, 2023

Judge: CHANEY

Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Government & Administrative Law, Labor & Employment Law

When the Covid pandemic struck, the California State University (CSU) directed that instruction be provided remotely. To provide such instruction, Plaintiff, a biology professor at CSU-Los Angeles, incurred expenses that CSU refused to reimburse for a computer and other equipment. Plaintiff sued CSU’s board of trustees on behalf of himself and similarly situated faculty, alleging Labor Code section 2802 obligated CSU to reimburse employees for necessary work-related expenses. CSU demurred, arguing that as a department of the state, it enjoys broad exemption from Labor Code provisions that infringe on its sovereign powers. Plaintiff appealed from a judgment of dismissal entered after the trial court sustained CSU’s demurrer without leave to amend.
 
The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that absent express words or positive indicia to the contrary, a governmental agency is not within the general words of a statute. The court further wrote that although this exemption is limited to cases where the application of the statute would impair the entity’s sovereignty, subjecting CSU to Labor Code section 2802, in this case, would do so because it would infringe on the broad discretion CSU enjoys under the Education Code to set its own equipment reimbursement policies. Further, the court noted that because CSU did not violate section 2802, Plaintiff is not an aggrieved employee for purposes of PAGA. His PAGA claim therefore fails with his section 2802 claim.

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People v. Moyer

Court: California Courts of Appeal

Docket: H049408(Sixth Appellate District)

Opinion Date: August 25, 2023

Judge: Bromberg

Areas of Law: Criminal Law, Government & Administrative Law, White Collar Crime

The Penal Code authorizes but does not require, county sheriffs to issue licenses to carry concealed weapons. The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office rarely issued CCW licenses; the office would not even process a CCW application absent a special instruction Sung, who apparently ran Sheriff Smith’s 2018 re-election campaign and subsequently became the undersheriff, could issue such instructions and could place applications on hold even after licenses were signed by the sheriff. Sung abused that authority to extract favors.

Apple executives, concerned about serious threats, met with Sung, who asked whether they would support Sheriff Smith’s re-election. Apple would not give anything of value in exchange for CCW licenses but two executives personally donated $1,000, the maximum allowable amount, to Smith’s campaign. After the election, the applicants were fingerprinted and completed their firearm range qualification tests. Sheriff Smith signed the CCW licenses but they were not handed over. Although Apple had no program for donating products to law enforcement agencies, after a meeting with Sung, an Apple executive (Moyer) emailed an inquiry about donating iPads or computers to the sheriff’s office's “new training facility,” not mentioning Apple’s pending CCW applications. The Office was not setting up a new training center but asked for 200 iPads, worth $50,0000-$80,000. Apple’s team then received their CCW licenses, Apple terminated the promised donation.

The court of appeal reversed the dismissal of a bribery charge against Moyer. A public official may be bribed with a promise to donate to the official’s office.

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Comm'r of Mental Health & Addiction Services v. Freedom of Information Comm'n

Court: Connecticut Supreme Court

Docket: SC20686

Opinion Date: August 29, 2023

Judge: Ecker

Areas of Law: Communications Law, Government & Administrative Law

The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the trial court ordering the disclosure of a redacted version of a police report created by the police department at the Whiting Forensic Division of Connecticut Valley Hospital documenting the police department's investigation into the death of a Whiting patient after a medical event, holding that the report, with minimal redaction, must be disclosed pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-200 et seq.

After the trial court ordered the disclosure of a redacted version of the police report the Freedom of Information Commission appealed, arguing that the report should be released in its entirety under FOIA because it was not exempt for disclosure by the psychiatrist-patient communications privilege set forth in Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-146d(2) and 52-146e(a), as well as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), 42 U.S.C. 1320d et seq., as implemented by the Privacy Rule, 45 C.F.R. 160.101 et seq. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the police report was not a communication or record exempt from disclosure under FOIA; and (2) because the report included identifiable patient information, the report should be redacted in the manner described in this opinion.

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Baltimore Police Dep't v. Open Justice Baltimore

Court: Maryland Supreme Court

Docket: 20/22

Opinion Date: August 31, 2023

Judge: Biran

Areas of Law: Communications Law, Government & Administrative Law

The Supreme Court held that the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) arbitrarily and capriciously denied Open Justice Baltimore's (OJB) request for a fee waiver in relation to the production of closed files relating to certain use of force investigations and remanded the case to BPD to reconsider OJB's requested fee waiver in light of the factors set forth in this opinion, as well as other relevant factors.

OJB, an organization seeking to investigate and publicize reports of police misconduct, filed several requests under the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) for records relating to citizen and administrative complaints of police misconduct. OJB asked BPD to waive the approximately $245,000 in fees it would cost to produce the files, asserting that a fee waiver would be in the public interest. BPD denied the fee waiver request in its entirety. The circuit court upheld the fee waiver denial. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding that BPD's fee waiver denial was arbitrary and capricious because BPD failed meaningfully to consider all relevant factors in deciding whether to grant the requested fee waiver.

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Bennett v. Harford County

Court: Maryland Supreme Court

Docket: 38/22

Opinion Date: August 30, 2023

Judge: Fader

Areas of Law: Education Law, Election Law, Government & Administrative Law, Labor & Employment Law

The Supreme Court held that Jacob Bennett was not barred from serving on the Harford County Council because of his employment as a schoolteacher by the Harford County Board of Education, thus reversing the contrary order and declaratory judgment of the circuit court.

After Bennett was elected to the Council in the November 2022 general election a dispute arose between Bennett and Harford County concerning whether he was precluded from serving simultaneously as a member of the Council and as an employee of the Board by either section 207 of the Harford County Charter or the common law doctrine of incompatible positions. The circuit court ruled in favor of the County on the basis that the Board should be treated as a County for purposes of Charter 207. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that neither Charter 207 nor the doctrine of incompatible positions barred Bennett from simultaneously serving as a member of the Council and an employee of the Board.

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Robinhood Financial LLC v. Secretary of the Commonwealth

Court: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Docket: SJC-13381

Opinion Date: August 25, 2023

Judge: Wendlandt

Areas of Law: Business Law, Government & Administrative Law, Securities Law

The Supreme Judicial Court held that the Secretary of the Commonwealth did not overstep the bounds of the authority granted to him under the Massachusetts Uniform Securities Act (MUSA), Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 110A, by promulgating the "fiduciary duty rule."

The Secretary brought an administrative enforcement proceeding alleging that Plaintiff Robinhood Financial LLC violated the prohibition in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 110A, 204(a)(2)(G) against "unethical or dishonest conduct or practices in the securities, commodities or insurance business" by dispensing ill-suited investment advice to unsophisticated investors. The Secretary defined the phrase in section 204(a)(2)(G) to require broker-dealers that provide investment advice to retail customers to comply with a statutorily-defined fiduciary duty. Thereafter, Plaintiff brought the instant action challenging the validity of the fiduciary duty rule. The superior court concluded that the Secretary acted ultra vires to promulgating the rule. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) the Secretary acted within his authority under MUSA; (2) the fiduciary rule does not override common-law protections available to investors; (3) MUSA is not an impermissible delegation of legislative power; and (4) the fiduciary rule is not invalid under the doctrine of conflict preemption.

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State ex rel. Barr v. Wesson

Court: Supreme Court of Ohio

Citation: 2023-Ohio-3028

Opinion Date: August 31, 2023

Judge: Per Curiam

Areas of Law: Communications Law, Criminal Law, Government & Administrative Law

The Supreme Court granted Harry Barr a limited writ of mandamus, holding that Barr was entitled to relief on his request for certain inmate records predating State ex rel. Mobley v. Ohio Dep't of Rehabilitation & Correction, 201 N.E.3d 853 (Ohio 2022).

Barr, an inmate, sought certain documents from James Wesson, the institutional public information officer at Grafton Correctional Institution (GCI), pursuant to Ohio's Public Records Act, Ohio Rev. Code 149.43. Wesson produced some records and, as to the remaining, claimed that Barr failed sufficiently to specify which records he wanted and that Barr's requests predated Mobley, thus rendering them unenforceable. The Supreme Court granted Barr a limited writ of mandamus as to prison-kite logs predating Mobley, ordered Wesson to produce the email messages that Barr requested if they exist, denied the writ as to Barr's request for a list of cross-gender employees, dismissed his complaint for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, and denied his motion to strike a certain affidavit, holding that Barr demonstrated that he had a clear legal right to access the prison-kite logs and specified email messages if they existed.

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State ex rel. Kidd v. Industrial Commission

Court: Supreme Court of Ohio

Citation: 2023-Ohio-2975

Opinion Date: August 29, 2023

Judge: Per Curiam

Areas of Law: Government & Administrative Law, Labor & Employment Law, Real Estate & Property Law

The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Tenth District Court of Appeals granting Donna Kidd's request for a writ of mandamus ordering the Industrial Commission of Ohio to vacate its order denying Kidd's application for permanent-total-disability (PTD) compensation, holding that the Commission did not abuse its discretion in denying Kidd's application for PTD compensation.

In denying Kidd's application for PTD compensation the commission concluded that Kidd was capable of sustained remunerative employment at a sedentary level. The Tenth District granted Kidd's request for a writ of mandamus, concluding that the Commission exceeded its discretion by relying on a medical report that outlined limitations on Kidd's capabilities that were "seemingly inconsistent" with the definition of "sedentary work" in Ohio Adm.Code 4121-3-34(B)(2)(a). The Supreme Court reversed and denied the writ, holding that the commission did not abuse its discretion by considering "prevalent workplace accommodations to determine whether Kidd could return to 'sustained remunerative employment' with her medical restrictions."

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State ex rel. Youngstown Civil Service Commission v. Sweeney

Court: Supreme Court of Ohio

Citation: 2023-Ohio-3006

Opinion Date: August 30, 2023

Judge: Per Curiam

Areas of Law: Civil Procedure, Government & Administrative Law, Labor & Employment Law

The Supreme Court declined to issue a writ of prohibition sought by Youngstown Civil Service Commission, the City of Youngstown and Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown (collectively, Youngstown) to prevent Mahoning County Court of Common Pleas Judge Maureen Sweeney from exercising jurisdiction over an administrative appeal commenced by Michael Cox and to require her to vacate all orders issued in the appeal, holding that Youngstown was not entitled to the writ.

Youngstown commenced this action seeking a writ of prohibition prohibiting Judge Sweeney from exercising any judicial authority over the underlying action and vacating all orders and journal entires issued in that case.
As grounds for the writ, Youngstown argued that Judge Sweeney patently and unambiguously lacked jurisdiction over it because the pending underlying action was an untimely administrative appeal. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that Judge Sweeney did not patently and unambiguously lack jurisdiction over the matter at issue.

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Daufuskie v. SC Office of Regulatory Staff

Court: South Carolina Supreme Court

Docket: 28176

Opinion Date: August 30, 2023

Judge: John W. Kittredge

Areas of Law: Civil Procedure, Government & Administrative Law, Utilities Law

Daufuskie Island Utility Company (DIUC) again appealed decisions by the Public Service Commission (PSC) regarding DIUC's 2015 application for ratemaking. In the PSC's first two decisions, it granted only part of the 109% rate increase requested by DIUC. DIUC appealed both decisions, and both times, the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed and remanded to the PSC for further consideration. On the final remand, the parties entered a settlement agreement allowing DIUC to recover rates equivalent to the 109% rate increase it initially requested in 2015. However, the parties continued to disagree over the propriety of DIUC's additional request to retroactively recover the 109% rate increase from the date of the PSC's first order, rather than from the date of the PSC's acceptance of the settlement agreement. The PSC rejected DIUC's request for the "reparations surcharge," finding it would amount to impermissible retroactive ratemaking. The propriety of the reparations surcharge was the only matter at issue in this appeal. The Supreme Court found the General Assembly did not authorize the PSC to grant utilities relief via a reparations surcharge, and the PSC therefore correctly rejected DIUC's request. The Court found DIUC chose not to avail itself of South Carolina Code section 58-5-240(D)'s statutory remedy prior to this final appeal. Accordingly, the PSC's decision was affirmed and the Court "end[ed] this lengthy ratemaking process."

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Jonah Energy LLC v. Wyo. Dep't of Revenue

Court: Wyoming Supreme Court

Citation: 2023 WY 87

Opinion Date: August 29, 2023

Judge: Kautz

Areas of Law: Contracts, Energy, Oil & Gas Law, Government & Administrative Law, Tax Law

The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Board of Equalization upholding the final determinations of the Department of Revenue (DOR) increasing the taxable value of Jonah Energy LLC's natural gas liquids (NGL) production for 2014 through 2016, holding that Jonah was not entitled to relief on its allegations of error.

On appeal, Jonah argued that the Board misinterpreted the NGL purchase agreement between Jonah and the purchaser of its NGL, Enterprise Products Operating LLC, by refusing to account for deficiency fees Jonah paid to Enterprise in determining the NGL's taxable value. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Board did not misinterpret the NGL purchase agreement at issue; and (2) the Board did not err by failing to take the facts and circumstances surrounding execution of the purchase agreement into account when interpreting it because there was no basis for losing outside the four corners of the purchase agreement to determine its meaning.

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