Justia Civil Procedure Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
Grace at Fairview Lakes, LLC v. IDHW
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s (“the Department”) cited Grace at Fairview Lakes, LLC (“Grace”), a residential assisted living and memory care facility, for failing to provide a safe living environment for residents and for inadequate training in relation to COVID-19 infection control measures. Grace requested administrative review of the enforcement action, which was affirmed by a Department administrator. Grace then filed an administrative appeal challenging the action, which was affirmed by a hearing officer. Grace then filed a petition for judicial review to the district court. The district court denied all the relief sought by Grace. On appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court, Grace argued the district court erred because the hearing officer’s decision was not supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. The Supreme Court found no error in the district court’s decision because there was substantial evidence in the record to support the hearing officer’s order. View "Grace at Fairview Lakes, LLC v. IDHW" on Justia Law
George Weidner, III v. Commissioner of Social Security
Plaintiff appealed the district court’s affirmance of the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) denial of his claim for disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income (SSI) following the Appeals Council’s remand. He argued that the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) erred on remand by reconsidering a prior finding of Plaintiff’s residual functional capacity (RFC) after the prior decision had been vacated, in violation of the law-of-the-case doctrine and the mandate rule. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the mandate rule, which is “a specific application” of the law-of-the-case doctrine, binds a lower court to execute the mandate of the higher court without further examination or variance. The court wrote that even assuming the law-of-the-case doctrine and mandate rule apply, the ALJ was free to reconsider Plaintiff’s RFC because the 2018 Decision was vacated. The court reasoned that the district court order made no findings about how the ALJ erred in his determination on Plaintiff’s disability. Instead, the district court remanded the case on a motion from the Commissioner without making specific factual findings, including whether or not the ALJ properly determined Plaintiff’s RFC. As a result, the Appeals Council had no factual findings in the remand order from which it could deviate. Additionally, the Appeals Council explained that Plaintiff filed a new SSI claim in 2019, and it consolidated that claim with his initial claims, which stemmed from the same disabilities. The SSA regulations allow an ALJ to consider any issues relating to the claim, whether or not they were raised in earlier administrative proceedings. View "George Weidner, III v. Commissioner of Social Security" on Justia Law
MIRANDA WALLINGFORD, ET AL V. ROBERT BONTA, ET AL
Plaintiffs’ neighbor petitioned for a civil harassment restraining order against Plaintiffs and was granted a temporary restraining order. As a result of the TRO, Plaintiff was ordered to surrender his firearms to a California licensed firearms dealer. Certain California laws make it unlawful for any person subject to a “civil restraining order” issued by a California state court (including temporary restraining orders) to possess firearms or ammunition. Plaintiffs claim these laws violate the Second Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution as applied to them. Though Plaintiffs were subject to civil restraining orders when they filed their suit, the orders against them have expired, and in January 2023, a California court denied the latest request to extend them. The Ninth Circuit dismissed Plaintiffs’ action as moot. The panel rejected Plaintiffs’ argument that, although they were no longer subject to any firearm restrictions, the case fell within the “capable of repetition, yet evading review” exception to mootness. The panel noted that this doctrine is to be used sparingly, in exceptional situations, and generally only where (1) the challenged action is in its duration too short to be fully litigated prior to cessation or expiration, and (2) there is a reasonable expectation that the same complaining party will be subject to the same action again. The panel held that this case was moot because the relevant restraining orders have expired, a three-year-long restraining order is not too brief to be litigated on the merits, and there was no reasonable expectation that Plaintiffs will be subject to the same action again View "MIRANDA WALLINGFORD, ET AL V. ROBERT BONTA, ET AL" on Justia Law
United States ex rel. Kenneth Kraemer v. United Dairies, L.L.P.
Kenneth Kraemer and Kraemer Farms, LLC (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) commenced this qui tam action under the False Claims Act (“FCA”), against United Dairies, other dairy farms, and their partners and agents (“Defendants”) alleging that they knowingly filed false crop insurance claims. Plaintiffs’ FCA Complaint alleged that Defendants (1) fraudulently obtained crop insurance payments by falsely reporting a silage-use-only variety of corn as grain and using that false statement to obtain the payments, and (2) were unjustly enriched by receiving the payments. The district court held that Defendants submitted materially false claims but denied Plaintiffs FCA relief because they failed to prove that Defendants knowingly defrauded the United States. However, the court found that certain Defendants had been unjustly enriched and awarded damages to the United States. The United States then filed a post-trial motion urging the district court to vacate or amend its judgment because Plaintiffs do not have standing to seek common law unjust enrichment relief on behalf of the United States. The district court granted the motion and vacated its judgment for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ FCA claims must be affirmed even if Plaintiffs are correct that the district court erred in ruling that any violations were not knowing. The court wrote that because it concludes that Defendants in submitting Acreage Reporting Forms supporting their crop insurance applications did not submit materially false claims for crop insurance payments, Plaintiffs contention -the district court applied the wrong legal standard in denying FCA relief on other grounds is of no moment. View "United States ex rel. Kenneth Kraemer v. United Dairies, L.L.P." on Justia Law
Woodland v. Dept. of Rev.
Taxpayer Walter Woodland appealed the Oregon Department of Revenue’s assessment of $116 in interest for unpaid estimated taxes in 2019. During the pendency of that appeal, the department invalidated the assessment and agreed that taxpayer did not owe that interest. The Regular Division of the Oregon Tax Court accordingly dismissed taxpayer’s appeal as moot. The Oregon Supreme Court affirmed. View "Woodland v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law
Center for Biological Diversity v. EPA, et al.
In a May 2022 final rule, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved a revision to Colorado’s State Implementation Plan (SIP) certifying Colorado’s existing, EPA-approved Nonattainment New Source Review (NNSR) permit program regulating new or modified major stationary sources of air pollution in the Denver Metro-North Front Range area met the requirements for attaining the 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone. The Center for Biological Diversity challenged the final rule on procedural and substantive grounds. Procedurally, the Center argued the EPA violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by failing to include the state regulations that comprised Colorado’s permit program in the rulemaking docket during the public-comment period. And substantively, the Center argued the EPA acted contrary to law when it approved Colorado’s SIP revision because Colorado’s permit program excluded all “temporary emissions” and “emissions from internal combustion engines on any vehicle” in determining whether a new or modified stationary source was “major” and therefore subject to the permit process. The Tenth Circuit found the EPA’s notice of proposed rulemaking was adequate under the APA, but agreed with the Center that the EPA acted contrary to law in allowing Colorado to exclude all temporary emissions under its permit program. The Court found the federal regulation the EPA relied on in approving this exclusion plainly did not authorize such an exclusion. But the Center identified no similar problem with the EPA allowing Colorado to exclude emissions from internal combustion engines on any vehicle. The Court therefore granted the Center’s petition in part, vacated a portion of the EPA’s final rule, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. EPA, et al." on Justia Law
Bracken v. City of Ketchum
This appeal was about whether an aggrieved applicant could bring a direct action against a city, its administrators, and its mayor for alleged misconduct pertaining to the granting of a conditional use permit without first exhausting administrative remedies and seeking judicial review. The answer is almost always “no,” but based on the unique facts in this case the Idaho Supreme Court held that the applicant was excused from exhausting administrative remedies. View "Bracken v. City of Ketchum" on Justia Law
Walton v. City of Verona
The Verona Police Department twice arrested L.B. for his connection to violent shootings. Both times, however, he was released while his charges were pending. Just five months after his second arrest, L.B. drove to Annie Walton’s house and opened fire—killing Annie Walton and injuring her grandson, Aliven Walton. Annie Walton’s wrongful death beneficiaries (collectively, Plaintiffs ) believe the City of Verona and the Verona Chief of Police, J.B. Long, are responsible for the shooting at Annie Walton’s home, so they sued under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 and the Mississippi Tort Claims Act. At summary judgment, the district court initially dismissed all claims. But Plaintiffs filed a motion for reconsideration, and the district court reversed course—finding the City of Verona was not entitled to sovereign immunity under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act. Plaintiffs and the City of Verona subsequently filed interlocutory appeals. The Fifth Circuit dismissed Plaintiffs appeal for lack of jurisdiction and reversed the district court’s finding against the City regarding sovereign immunity. The court explained that Long had no special duty to protect Plaintiffs besides his general duty to keep the public safe as the City’s Chief of Police. The court explained that the only evidence that demonstrates Long had knowledge of any connection between L.B. and Plaintiffs comes from Long’s investigative file, where there is a copy of a trespassing complaint that Annie filed against L.B. in 2016. Accordingly, the court held Long did not owe a duty to protect Plaintiffs from L.B.’s drive-by shooting. Thus, Plaintiffs cannot sustain their negligence claims or their MTCA claims against the City. View "Walton v. City of Verona" on Justia Law
City of Jacksonville v. Jacksonville Hospitality Holdings, L.P., et al
After eight years of litigation involving ten different parties, Continental Holdings, Inc. (Continental) appealed the district court’s denial of its November 2015 motion to voluntarily dismiss Houston Pipe Line Company, L.P. and HPL GP, LLC (collectively, Houston) from the case pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(2). Continental argues that we should reverse the district court’s Rule 41(a)(2) decision and vacate all of the subsequent orders governing its dispute with Houston. The Eleventh Circuit dismissed the appeal. The court explained that over the course of this litigation, many parties filed motions pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(ii) in an attempt to voluntarily dismiss their claims against another party. For each motion, fewer than all parties involved in the litigation provided a signature. Yet, Rule 41(a)(1)(A)(ii) only permits a plaintiff to dismiss an action without a court order by filing “a stipulation of dismissal signed by all parties who have appeared. The court explained that because multiple motions made under this Rule were not signed by all parties who appeared in the lawsuit, they were ineffective, and the claims they purported to dismiss remain pending before the district court. Consequently, there has not been a final judgment below, and the court explained that it lacks jurisdiction to consider the merits of this appeal. View "City of Jacksonville v. Jacksonville Hospitality Holdings, L.P., et al" on Justia Law
EARTH ISLAND INSTITUTE V. CICELY MULDOON, ET AL
The National Park Service adopted a comprehensive plan for fire management in Yosemite National Park. In 2021 and 2022, the National Park Service approved two projects to thin vegetation in Yosemite in preparation for controlled burns. Those projects comported with the fire management plan except for minor alterations. The Earth Island Institute sued under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), arguing that it was unlawful for the National Park Service to approve the projects without conducting a full review of their expected environmental impacts. The Institute then moved for a preliminary injunction to halt parts of the projects. The district court denied the motion for a preliminary injunction holding that the National Park Service had sufficiently evaluated the environmental impact of the projects. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. Applying the arbitrary and capricious standard, the panel upheld the Agency’s determination that the projects fell under a categorical exclusion called the “minor-change exclusion” that exempted them from the requirement that the Agency prepare an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement. The projects fell under that categorical exclusion because they were “changes or amendments” to the 2004 Fire Management Plan that would cause “no or only minimal environmental impact.” The panel held that the projects were consistent with the Fire Management Plan, contributing to its goals and using its methods, with only minor modifications. The panel acknowledged that even if a proposed project fits within a categorical exclusion, an agency may not rely on that exclusion if there are “extraordinary circumstances in which a normally excluded action may have a significant effect” on the environment. View "EARTH ISLAND INSTITUTE V. CICELY MULDOON, ET AL" on Justia Law