Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal based on lack of standing of an action under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), alleging that the Department failed to turn over documents requested by one of its members, on behalf of the organization. The panel disagreed with the government's argument that the submitted form did not adequately identify the organization as the requester. The panel held that the submitted form's unambiguous reference to A Better Way, confirming correspondence, and common sense make clear that A Better Way was the requester and consequently had standing to sue. View "A Better Way for BPA v. U.S.D.O.E." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order dismissing an action brought by the United States and the Walker River Paiute Tribe against the Walker River Irrigation District and others over water rights in the Walker River basin. In 2015, without briefing or argument on the issue, the district court sua sponte dismissed all of the Tribe's and the United States' counterclaims on res judicata or jurisdictional grounds. The panel held that the district court had continuing jurisdiction over the counterclaims and that it erred in dismissing the claims on res judicata or jurisdictional grounds without giving the parties an opportunity to brief the issue. On remand, the panel ordered the reassignment of this case to another district judge. View "United States v. Walker River Irrigation District" on Justia Law

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Farmers filed suit alleging injury to their water rights after the Nevada State Engineer and the California State Water Resources Control Board approved change applications for a voluntary water rights leasing program managed by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in the Walker River Basin. The Ninth Circuit principally held that the Decree court failed to defer to the findings and conclusions of the state agencies and, to the extent the Decree court entered its own findings, those findings were clear error. In this case, the Engineer properly found that a transfer to the Foundation limited to the consumption portion would avoid conflict and injury to other existing water rights, the findings were supported by substantial evidence, and the Engineer applied the correct legal rule. The panel also held that the export restriction of the Walker River Decree did not prohibit delivering water to Walker Lake because Walker Lake was part of the Walker River Basin. View "United States v. U.S. Board of Water Commissioners" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit certified to the Supreme Court of Nevada the following question: Does the public trust doctrine apply to rights already adjudicated and settled under the doctrine of prior appropriation and, if so, to what extent? View "Mineral County v. Walker River Irrigation District" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction enjoining California Department of Public Health officials from enforcing the California Medical Waste Management Act (MWMA). The preliminary injunction enjoined Department officials from enforcing the Act on Daniels for the manner in which it disposed of medical waste at facilities outside of the State of California. The panel held that Daniels will likely succeed on the merits of its dormant Commerce Clause claim. Furthermore, the panel held that Department officials were entitled to qualified immunity because Daniels' constitutional rights under the dormant Commerce Clause were not clearly established at the time of the violation. Therefore, the panel reversed the denial of Department officials' motion to dismiss on the basis of qualified immunity. View "Daniels Sharpsmart, Inc. v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Jose Maria Garcia-Martinez was a lawful permanent resident at the time of his convictions, and the BIA found him removable, under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(ii), for having been convicted of two or more crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMT), not arising out of a single scheme of criminal misconduct. He was granted review of a Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) decision, arguing the BIA erred in concluding that Garcia’s Oregon theft convictions were CIMTs. The Ninth Circuit noted that the Oregon theft offenses for which Garcia was convicted did not require a permanent taking of property. Therefore, the panel concluded that, at the time Garcia committed the offenses, they were not crimes involving moral turpitude because for many decades the BIA had required a permanent intent to deprive in order for a theft offense to be a crime involving moral turpitude. "In short, Garcia’s thefts were not CIMTs, and his removal order must be set aside. ... the BIA has changed or updated or revised its rule for the future. Nevertheless, that rule should not be applied to Garcia, who pled and was convicted while the old rule was extant." View "Garcia-Martinez v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and intervenor Newhall Land and Farming in an action challenging the Corps’ issuance of a permit, pursuant to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, to Newhall Land, authorizing the discharge of materials into the Santa Clara River as part of the Newhall Ranch project in Los Angeles County near Santa Clarita, California. The Court rejected challenges under the Clean Water Act to the Corp’s permit issuance. The Court concluded that the Corps complied with its obligations under the Clean Water Act because the Corps properly considered practicability as required under the Section 404(b) Guidelines. Furthermore, the Court concluded concluded that the Corps complied with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) because its determination that Southern California steelhead would not be affected by the Project, and its corresponding decision not to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service, were not arbitrary and capricious. For similar reasons, the panel concluded that the Corps reasonably assessed the Project’s potential impacts to the steelhead and provided sufficient discussion to satisfy its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) obligations. View "Friends of the Santa Clara River v. US Army Corps of Engineers" on Justia Law

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The question before the Ninth Circuit was "simple:" could an employer justify a wage differential between male and female employees by relying on prior salary? Based on the text, history, and purpose of the Equal Pay Act, the Court determined the answer was clearly "no." Prior to the Court's decision here, the law was unclear whether an employer could consider prior salary, either alone or in combination with other factors, when setting its employees’ salaries. The Ninth Circuit took this case en banc in order to clarify the law, and held prior salary alone or in combination with other factors could not justify a wage differential. "To hold otherwise - to allow employers to capitalize on the persistence of the wage gap and perpetuate that gap ad infinitum - would be contrary to the text and history of the Equal Pay Act, and would vitiate the very purpose for which the Act stands." The Fresno County Office of Education (“the County”) did not dispute that it paid Aileen Rizo (“Rizo”) less than comparable male employees for the same work. However, it argued this wage differential was lawful under the Equal Pay Act. The County contended that the wage differential was based on a fourth, "catchall exception: a 'factor other than sex.'” The Ninth Circuit surmised this would allow the County to defend a sex-based salary differential on the basis of the very sex-based salary differentials the Equal Pay Act was designed to cure. Because the Court concluded that prior salary did not constitute a “factor other than sex,” the County failed as a matter of law to set forth an affirmative defense. The Court affirmed the district court’s denial of summary judgment to the County and remanded for further proceedings. View "Rizo v. Yovino" on Justia Law

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Three federal agencies and intervenor-defendants challenged injunctions issued by the district court to protect salmon and steelhead species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544. The Ninth Circuit held that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) did not bar plaintiffs' January 2017 injunction motions; the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the spring spill injunction; the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the PIT tag monitoring injunction; and the district court's National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321-4347, disclosure was not properly before the panel. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting injunctive relief to plaintiffs. The panel dismissed intervenor-defendants' appeal of the district court's NEPA disclosure order. View "National Wildlife Federation v. NMFS" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the Forest Service's motion to dissolve an injunction enjoining the Lonesome Wood 2 Project. The Project was designed to reduce the threat of wildfire in a populated area of the Gallatin National Forest in Montana. The panel declined to overrule the Forest Service's determination that a thesis outlining important predictors for overall lynx reproductive success did not require the Forest Service to reevaluate its approval of the project. The panel rejected the argument that the Forest Service failed to comply with the obligation to ensure species viability and that the Forest Service failed to comply with its Gallatin Forest Plan obligation to monitor population trends for two management indicator species. Finally, the panel held that the Forest Service took a "hard look" at the project and did not act arbitrarily or capriciously. View "Native Ecosystems Council v. Marten" on Justia Law