Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment deferring to an insurance policy interpretation made by the FCIC and a determination regarding the FCIC's authority made by the RMA. The court held that the clear language of the Federal Crop Insurance Act indicated that Congress intended the Corporation to have extensive and broad authority; given the FCIA's broad grant of authority to the Corporation, and the specific authority over the provisions of insurance and insurance contracts found in 5 U.S.C. 1505 and 1506, substantial deference was given to the FCIC's interpretation of the special provision; and, considering the plain language of the insurance contract and the deference given to the RMA in its role of supervisor of the FCIC, the RMA's determination that the FCIC was required to provide an interpretation of the special provision to the arbitrating parties was not clearly erroneous. View "Bottoms Farm Partnership v. Perdue" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit granted Bussen's petition for review of the MSHA's issuance of a citation to Bussen. In this case, the Secretary claimed that Bussen violated federal regulation 30 C.F.R. 56.15005, which requires the use of certain fall-protection equipment at surface metal and nonmetal mines when working where there is a danger of falling. The court held that there was no evidence to support a conclusion that any miner approached the highwall edge when moving the pump cart or were otherwise working without safety belts and lines where there was a danger of falling. Therefore, substantial evidence did not support the ALJ's finding that Bussen violated section 56.15005. View "Bussen Quarries, Inc. v. Acosta" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from the DOL's investigation of possible violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act by La Piedad. The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of the DOL's motion to hold La Piedad in civil contempt for failing to produce documents identifying other businesses owned by La Piedad's shareholders. The court held that the DOL failed to meet its burden to introduce evidence that would support a subpoena to produce documents not in La Piedad's possession, custody, or control. View "Hugler v. La Piedad Corp." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed on remand the district court's conclusion that Exemption 4 of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) did not apply to SNAP redemption information. The court rejected the USDA's claim that release of the relevant information would cause competitive injury among the covered grocery retailers and held that the claim was speculative. In this case, evidence showed that the contested data—which was nothing more than annual aggregations of SNAP redemptions—lacked the specificity needed to gain material insight into an individual store's financial health, profit margins, inventory, marketing strategies, sales trends, or market share. Furthermore, there was no meaningful evidence that retailers would end their SNAP participation if the contested data were released. View "Argus Leader Media v. Food Marketing Institute" on Justia Law

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The Tribe filed suit alleging that the Corps violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) in issuing permit and exemption determinations to a real property owner. The permits and exemptions allowed the owner to construct a road by dredging and filling portions of Enemy Swim Lake. With one exception, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Tribe's claims. The court held that the 2010 letter issued by the Corp did not constitute a final agency action for purposes of the permit and exemption determinations, and that the Tribe's recapture claim was a nonjusticiable enforcement action; the Tribe was not eligible for equitable tolling in this case; the Corps did not act arbitrarily and capriciously by determining that the owner's 2009 project qualified for a nationwide permit; and the court did not have appellate jurisdiction to address the lawfulness of the Corps's NHPA regulations. View "Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation v. U.S. Corps of Engineers" on Justia Law

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The City of Kennett, Missouri, sued the Environmental Protection Agency, challenging the EPA’s approval of a total maximum daily load for Buffalo Ditch. Buffalo Ditch was a stream that ran southwest into Arkansas from the City. The City’s Wastewater Treatment Plant was a point source of pollutants into it. Parts of Buffalo Ditch had been on Missouri’s EPA-approved list of impaired waters since 1994, due to low levels of dissolved oxygen (DO), which supported aquatic life. The final total maximum daily load” (TMDL) set wasteload allocations for pollutants from the Treatment Plant. These wasteload allocations were more stringent than the limited in the City’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. The City’s permit was to expire in 2015; in its “Implementation Plan” for point sources, the TMDL stated if it was determined the current water quality criterion for dissolved oxygen was appropriate, the wasteload allocations from the TMDL would be implemented. If not appropriate, and a new dissolved oxygen criterion was promulgated, then new wasteload allocations would be calculated and implemented. Despite this intention, the DO criterion and the TMDL did not change. The City sued, alleging: (1) the EPA exceeded its authority in approving the TMDL; (2) the EPA acted arbitrarily and capriciously; (3) the EPA failed to provide the required notice and comment. The Eighth Circuit determined the City waived a claim by failing to mention or argue for summary judgment on that claim, and by failing to respond to the EPA's motion for summary judgment on the claim. With respect to its remaining claims and the issue of standing, the City established injury in fact as it would incur costs in complying with any new limits on pollution discharge from its waste water plant. Similarly, because the injury was impending, the City also established redressability, and it had standing to bring this action. Further, the Court determined the case was ripe, and the district court erred in granting the EPA summary judgment based on a lack of standing and ripeness. The EPA argued the City waived its remaining claims by failing to raise them in the administrative process; because it would be beneficial to permit the district court to address this issue in the first instance, the matter was remanded for further proceedings on this question and, if necessary, the merits of those issues. View "City of Kennett v. Env. Prot. Agency" on Justia Law

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A public employee cannot be terminated for making protected statements during a campaign for public office where that speech has no demonstrated impact on the efficiency of office operations. The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity in an action alleging that defendant terminated plaintiff's employment as a deputy in the Sheriff's Office for statements plaintiff made during an election campaign. The court held that plaintiff's statements were made as a citizen on matters of public concern; defendant failed to show an adequate justification for his actions, and thus plaintiff's speech was protected by the First Amendment; and defendant was not entitled to qualified immunity where defendant's termination of plaintiff violated a right secured by the First Amendment and that right was clearly established at the time of the termination. View "Morgan v. Robinson" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit dismissed petitioners' challenge to the FMCSA's final rule entitled "Medical Examiner’s Certification Integration." Petitioners are the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and an OOIDA member. Petitioners alleged that the new administrative rule means that OOIDA members were being subjected to more onerous sleep apnea tests, which in turn has led to delays, or worse, denials of medical certification to drive commercial motor vehicles. The court held that petitioners have not provided any evidence to support the second element of standing: causation. The court found that the two affidavits submitted by petitioners to prove that they have standing either contained generalized allegations or were not fairly traceable to the final rule. View "Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assoc. v. U.S. Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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Clyde Carter, Jr. injured his shoulder and neck while working as a carman at BNSF Railway Company’s yard in Kansas City, Kansas. Carter immediately reported the injury to BNSF. The following year, he filed a Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) damage action, alleging that BNSF’s negligence caused his injury. BNSF’s discovery in defending the FELA lawsuit included a July 2009 deposition of Carter. In January 2012, as trial approached, a BNSF manager reviewed discovery materials provided by BNSF’s attorneys. He discovered discrepancies between Carter’s deposition testimony and information provided on his employment application and medical questionnaire submitted to BNSF in 2005. Thompson initiated a disciplinary investigation into potentially dishonest statements. Later, BNSF opened a second disciplinary investigation to determine if Carter signed a false statement that he arrived at work on time on February 5, 2012. The investigations culminated in two "on-property" evidentiary hearings, the conclusions of which found Carter committed dishonesty violations and recommended discipline in accordance with BNSF’s Policy for Employee Performance Accountability (PEPA). It was recommended Carter be terminated for dishonesty, a "stand alone" violation that could result in dismissal without regard to an employee's prior disciplinary history. Following termination, Carter filed an FRSA complaint with the Department of Labor, alleging that BNSF initiated the investigations leading to his dismissal in retaliation for Carter reporting the August 2007 work-related injury. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration dismissed Carter’s complaint, finding he committed the violations, and BNSF proved by clear and convincing evidence that "other employees who had not engaged in protected activity have been dismissed from service for dishonesty." Carter filed objections. After an evidentiary hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that BNSF violated 49 U.S.C. 20109(a)(4) and awarded reinstatement, back pay, attorneys’ fees, and $50,000 punitive damages. BNSF filed an administrative appeal. The Secretary’s Administrative Review Board (ARB) affirmed the ALJ. BNSF appealed. The Eighth Circuit found the ALJ's reasoning was based on a flawed interpretation of the FRSA; though the Administrative Review Board did not rely on the ALJ's chain-of-events causation theory, it affirmed based on findings which were either non-existent or insufficient to support the Board's contributing factor and affirmative defense rulings. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded with instructions. View "BNSF Railway Co. v. LABR" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of summary judgment to Bi-State in a False Claims Act (FCA), action brought by a private actor. Bi-State is an interstate compact entity that owns and operates public transportation services. After determining that the Barket factors point in two different directions, the court turned to the "Eleventh Amendment's twin reasons for being" as its "prime guide" in determining whether Bi-State was more like an arm of the state or a local government entity. In this case, the twin reasons for being, respect for the dignity of the states as sovereigns and the prevention of federal-court judgments that must be paid out of a State's treasury, weigh in favor of finding that Bi-State was more like a local government entity. Therefore, Bi-State does not enjoy the special constitutional protection of the States themselves and was not entitled to Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity. View "United States ex rel Fields v. Bi-State Development Agency" on Justia Law