Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
by
In 2016, Nucor Steel Louisiana, LLC submitted a tax refund claim to St. James Parish School Board and the St. James Parish Tax Agency (collectively the “Collector”). The claim alleged an overpayment of sales and use tax paid pursuant to a full contract price that was rebated. In 2018, the Collector issued a written denial of Nucor’s refund claim. Following the redetermination hearing, the Collector sent Nucor another letter denying the refund claim. Then, on May 24, 2018, just over two years after the Collector received the refund claim, Nucor appealed the denial to the Board of Tax Appeal (“BTA”). The Collector responded by filing peremptory exceptions of prescription, peremption, and res judicata, asserting that Nucor failed to timely appeal under La. R.S. 47:337.81(A)(2). The BTA granted the Collector’s exceptions, finding Paragraph (A)(2) provides “two alternative prescriptive periods for a taxpayer to appeal refund denial.” Because the Collector failed to render a decision within one year of Nucor’s refund claim being filed, Nucor had 180 days, or until July 26, 2017, to appeal. Thus, the BTA found Nucor’s May 24, 2018 appeal untimely. Nucor appealed. The court of appeal reversed, finding that Nucor’s appeal within 90 days of that decision was timely. The court of appeal also found the Collector’s statement to Nucor that it had “ninety (90) calendar days” to appeal amounted to a representation that Nucor relied upon to its detriment. Using the standard set forth in Suire v. Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government, 04-1459 (La. 4/12/05), 907 So.2d 37, which only required a reasonable reliance on a representation, the court found the Collector estopped from arguing prescription. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted the Collector’s writ application to determine the proper interpretation of the appeal periods in La. R.S. 47:337.81 and to determine the proper standard for evaluating the estoppel and detrimental reliance claims. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeal and reinstated the trial court’s ruling on the exceptions. View "Nucor Steel Lousiana, LLC v. St. James Parish School Board et al." on Justia Law

by
The federal government may deny admission or adjustment of status to a noncitizen “likely at any time to become a public charge, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(4)(A). For decades, “public charge” was understood to refer to noncitizens “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either (i) the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or (ii) institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.” In 2019, the Department of Homeland Security expanded the meaning of “public charge” to disqualify a broader set of noncitizens from benefits. The Rule immediately generated extensive litigation.In 2020, the district court vacated the 2019 Rule under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 701. In 2021, the federal government dismissed appeals defending the 2019 Rule in courts around the country. Several states subsequently sought to intervene in the proceedings, hoping to defend the 2019 Rule; they also moved for relief from judgment under Rule 60(b). The district court denied the motions, finding each untimely. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The district court did not abuse its discretion with respect to timeliness. The court declined to address other issues. View "Cook County, Illinois v. State of Texas" on Justia Law

by
This termination of parental rights case concerned the “active efforts” required under the Indian Child Welfare Act (“ICWA”) to provide remedial services and rehabilitative programs to assist a parent in completing a court-ordered treatment plan. A division of the Colorado court of appeals reversed a juvenile court’s judgment terminating Mother’s parent-child legal relationship with her two Native American children, holding that the Denver Department of Human Services (“DHS”) did not engage in the “active efforts” required under ICWA to assist Mother in completing her court-ordered treatment plan because it did not offer Mother job training or employment assistance, even though Mother struggled to maintain sobriety and disappeared for several months. The Colorado Supreme Court held that “active efforts” was a heightened standard requiring a greater degree of engagement by agencies, and agencies must provide a parent with remedial services and resources to complete all of the parent’s treatment plan objectives. The Court was satisfied the record supported the juvenile court’s determination that DHS engaged in active efforts to provide Mother with services and programs to attempt to rehabilitate her and reunited the family. The appellate court’s judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for that court to address Mother’s remaining appellate contentions. View "Colorado in interest of My.K.M. and Ma. K.M." on Justia Law

by
Zelda Sheppard appealed a superior court’s affirmance of an Industrial Accident Board (“IAB” or “Board”) decision granting Allen Family Foods’ (“Employer”) Petition for Review (“Petition”). The IAB determined that Sheppard’s prescribed narcotic pain medications were no longer compensable. Sheppard sought to dismiss the Petition at the conclusion of Employer’s case-in-chief during the IAB hearing, arguing that the matter should have been considered under the utilization review process. After hearing the case on the merits, the IAB disagreed, holding that Employer no longer needed to compensate Sheppard for her medical expenses after a two-month weaning period from the narcotic pain medications. On appeal, Sheppard argued the IAB erred as a matter of law when it denied Sheppard’s Motion to Dismiss Employer’s Petition because Employer failed to articulate a good faith change in condition or circumstance relating to the causal relationship of Sheppard’s treatment to the work injury. Accordingly, Sheppard argued that the Employer was required to proceed with the utilization review process before seeking termination of her benefits. The Delaware Supreme Court determined the IAB’s decision was supported by substantial evidence, therefore the superior court’s decision was affirmed. View "Sheppard v. Allen Family Foods" on Justia Law

by
North Carolina amended its Constitution to require photographic identification for in-person voting. S.B. 824 was enacted to implement the amendment. In a federal constitutional challenge, the Board of Elections was defended by the state’s attorney general, a former state senator who had opposed an earlier voter identification law. Legislative leaders moved to intervene, arguing that important state interests would not be adequately represented, given the Governor’s opposition to S.B. 824, the Board’s allegiance to the Governor, the Board’s tepid defense of S.B. 824 in state-court proceedings, and the attorney general’s opposition to earlier voter-ID efforts. The Fourth Circuit ruled that the legislative leaders were not entitled to intervene.The Supreme Court reversed. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a)(2) provides that a court must permit anyone to intervene who timely claims an interest in the subject of the action unless existing parties adequately represent that interest. States possess a legitimate interest in the enforcement of their statutes. When a state allocates authority among different officials who do not answer to one another, different interests and perspectives, all important to the administration of state government, may emerge. Federal courts should rarely question that a state’s interests will be practically impaired if its authorized representatives are excluded from participating in federal litigation challenging state law. Permitting participation by lawfully authorized state agents promotes informed federal-court decision-making. North Carolina law explicitly provides that the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate “shall jointly have standing to intervene on behalf of the General Assembly as a party in any judicial proceeding challenging a North Carolina statute” or constitutional provision. View "Berger v. North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP" on Justia Law

by
James Township, Michigan filed a nuisance action against Daniel Rice , alleging Rice violated the township’s blight ordinance as well as the Michigan Residential Code by having junk cars, unpermitted construction, and fences of an improper height on his property. Rice moved to dismiss the portions of the citation related to the improper height of his fence and the unpermitted construction, arguing that, under the Right to Farm Act (RTFA), the township was prohibited from enforcing against farms or farm operations local ordinances governing those structures. The township opposed the motion, arguing that the property was not protected by the RTFA because it had not previously been used for farming. Following a hearing, the district court, found that Rice’s use of the property constituted a “farm” or “farm operation” for purposes of the RTFA and that the RTFA was an affirmative defense to those portions of the civil citation. The district court dismissed the specified portions of the citation and denied the parties’ individual requests for costs and fees. Rice moved for reconsideration, arguing that, under MCL 286.473b, he was entitled to costs and expenses, as well as reasonable and actual attorney fees; the district court denied the motion. The district court later dismissed the remaining portions of the citation and dismissed the action with prejudice. Rice appealed and the circuit court affirmed the district court’s order. The Court of Appeals denied Rice’s application for leave to appeal the circuit court’s order. In lieu of granting leave to appeal, the Michigan Supreme Court remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for consideration as on leave granted. On remand, in an unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court’s legal conclusions, holding that an award of costs , expenses, and fees was not mandatory under MCL 286.473b, but the Court of Appeals remanded the case to the district court for articulation of the district court’s reasons for the discretionary denial. The Michigan Supreme Court found no such discretion under the RTFA, and Rice was entitled to his fees. The appellate court’s judgment was reversed. View "Township of James v. Rice" on Justia Law

by
The City of Coronado, City of Imperial Beach, City of Lemon Grove, and City of Solana Beach (collectively “the Cities”) filed a combined petition for writ of administrate mandate and complaint for injunctive and declaratory relief against the San Diego Association of Governments and its board of directors (The Board) (collectively SANDAG). In their petition/complaint, the Cities maintained that SANDAG denied them a fair hearing when deciding the Cities’ administrative appeals of SANDAG’s regional housing needs assessment (RHNA): (1) by unfairly using a “weighted vote” procedure in which member jurisdictions cast votes based on their respective populations rather than a “tally vote” in which each member jurisdiction has a single, evenly-weighted vote; and (2) certain members of the Board were biased against the Cities and that their decision to deny the Cities’ administrative appeals was “predetermined,” thereby “rendering the decision on the [a]ppeals invalid.” In their prayer for relief, the Cities requested that the trial court enter a judgment “rescind[ing],” the “Final RHNA allocation.” The trial court sustained SANDAG’s demurrer without leave to amend, and entered judgment in its favor. On appeal, the Cities contend that the trial court erred in concluding that City of Irvine v. Southern California Assn. of Governments, 175 Cal.App.4th 506 (2009) precluded their action. The Cities also argued the Legislature’s 2004 deletion of the prior provision authorizing judicial review of an RHNA allocation was “not determinative” as to the court’s jurisdiction to entertain the Cities’ challenge to the fairness of the RHNA process in this case. The Court of Appeal concurred with the trial court that City of Irvine controlled, and barred the Cities' action. View "City of Coronado v. San Diego Assn. of Governments" on Justia Law

by
In 2008, the City of Gulfport undertook a project to replace the infrastructure associated with its water and sewer systems relating to damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The repair project involved federal, state, and local agencies and ultimately cost approximately $85 million to complete. The original design of the Area 3B project, the sewer infrastructure that crossed the Cowan Road property located north of U.S. Highway 90 and east of Highway 605 were to be replaced, and the new infrastructure was to be installed within the City’s existing easements across the properties. The Cowan Road property at issue was located in the Area 3B geographic zone. Robert “Kris” Riemann, P.E., then-director of the City’s department of public works, was notified that John Felsher had inquired about relocating the sewer infrastructure in Area 3B. Based on an agreement with Felsher to relocate the utilities, the City had the Area 3B design drawings redrafted to move the utilities. The City's project manager was notified that the discovery of underground telephone lines and other utilities required that the sewer line being relocated had to cut the northwest corner of the property. Cowan Road filed a complaint in the Chancery Court of Harrison County, Mississippi, advancing a claim for inverse condemnation against the City. The chancery court transferred the case to the Special Court of Eminent Domain in Harrison County. Due to the jurisdictional limits of county court, the case ended up in Harrison County Circuit Court. The circuit court entered an order granting the motion for partial summary judgment filed by the City on the issue of the date of the taking. The parties eventually settled the reverse condemnation claim, and the City agreed to pay $100,000 to Cowan Road & Hwy 90, LLC, for the improper and unlawful taking of its property. The issue before the Mississippi Supreme Court centered on the circuit court's grant of attorneys' fees and expenses: Gulfport argued that Cowan Road should not have been allowed to recover attorneys’ fees under Section 43-37-9. Finding that the statute applied and fees were appropriate, the Supreme Court affirmed. However, the Court found the trial judge abused his discretion by disallowing requests for postjudgment interest. View "City of Gulfport v. Cowan Road & Hwy 90, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

by
Petitioner Bruce Querbach sought to overturn a final order of the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) which determined that reports to DHS that petitioner had abused two children were “founded.” The circuit court, reviewing the order as an order in other than a contested case, assumed that the “reasonable cause to believe” standard in that rule was a “probable cause” standard. After holding a trial to develop the record for review, as required by Norden v. Water Resources Dept., 996 P2d 958 (2000), the circuit court concluded that only two of DHS’s four “founded” determinations could be sustained under that standard. On petitioner’s appeal and DHS’s cross-appeal, the Court of Appeals rejected the circuit court’s application of a “probable cause” standard and, instead employing the “reasonable suspicion” standard that it had used in an earlier, similar case, concluded that not just two, but three of DHS’s “founded” determinations had to be sustained. Appealing to the Oregon Supreme Court, petitioner argued that “probable cause” was the correct standard for determining that a report of abuse is founded and that none of DHS’s “founded” determinations hold up when the record on review was considered under that standard. Petitioner also argued that, given that the circuit court found that the DHS investigation and analysis into the reported abuse was incomplete and flawed in various respects, the “founded” determinations had to be set aside. The Supreme Court rejected those arguments and affirmed the Court of Appeals’ conclusion that three of the four “founded” dispositions were supported by substantial evidence. View "Querbach v. Dept. of Human Services" on Justia Law

by
While residing in a nursing home, Hill died of COVID-19. Her estate sued in state court under the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act, The defendant removed the suit to federal court, asserting that Martin’s suit necessarily rests on federal law, 28 U.S.C.1441(a), and that it was “acting under” a federal officer under 28 U.S.C.1442(a)(1).The district judge remanded to state court. The Seventh Circuit affirmed,. The nursing home is subject to extensive federal regulation (especially for Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement), and CDC orders during the pandemic have increased that regulatory burden but regulation does not turn a private entity into a public actor. The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, 42 U.S.C. 247d, forbids liability under state law for injuries caused by use of a “covered countermeasure”, and creates a federal claim for injuries caused by “willful misconduct” in connection with covered countermeasures (payable from a federal fund), but does not preempt any other kind of claim nor occupy the field of health safety. The estate’s claims are not even arguably preempted. The principal disputes in this suit are likely to be whether the nursing home allowed members of the staff to work while ill or failed to isolate residents who contracted COVID-19, which are unrelated to federal law. View "Martin v. Petersen Health Operations, LLC" on Justia Law