Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the district court reversing the decision of the Moab City Council denying Mary and Jeramey McElhaney’s application for a conditional use permit to operate a bed and breakfast in their residential neighborhood, holding that the district court erred by refusing to send the matter back to the Council for the entry of more detailed findings of fact and conclusions of law. After determining that the Council had not generated findings sufficient to support its decision, the district court overturned the Council’s decision to deny the McElhaneys’ application. The Supreme Court remanded the case for further proceedings, holding (1) on an appeal of a district court’s review of an administrative decision, the court reviews the district court’s decision and not the Council’s; and (2) the district court erred in overturning the Council’s decision without remanding to permit the Council to craft findings of fact and conclusions of law capable of appellate review. View "McElhaney v. City of Moab" on Justia Law

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Petitioner waived its challenge to the decision of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (UDEQ) to issue a “permit by rule” to U.S. Oil Sands Inc. for a bitumen-extraction project. Petitioner, which appeared before the Supreme Court for a second time to challenge the permit, failed to argue that UDEQ’s Executive Director erred in concluding that Living Rivers v. U.S. Oil Sands, Inc., 344 P.3d 568 (Living Rivers I), barred its requests for agency action. The Supreme Court affirmed the executive Director’s decision on the ground that Petitioner failed adequately to challenge an alternative ground for the Executive Director’s decision. View "Rivers v. Executive Director of Utah Department of Environmental Quality" on Justia Law

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In this splintered opinion, two justices would affirm in part and reverse in part the final order of the Labor Commission, two justices would affirm, and one justice would vacate and remand. Therefore, the order the Commission stood as issued. Appellee claimed workers’ compensation benefits against her employer for injuries she sustained while working. Appellee’s employer and its insurers initially paid Appellee’s benefits but later concluded that Appellee’s condition did not constitute a compensable accident under the Workers’ Compensation Act but was rather an occupational disease under the Occupational Disease Act. An administrative law judge (ALJ) disagreed and found in favor of Appellee, concluding that the employer was subject to ongoing liability for Appellee’s injuries, which were caused by a workplace accident under a theory of “cumulative trauma.” The Commission upheld the ALJ’s decision in its final order. In dispute in this opinion was the effect of the 1991 amendments to the Occupational Disease Act on the Workers’ Compensation Act. View "Rueda v. Utah Labor Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals, which set aside the order of the Labor Commission concluding that Respondent had failed to make out a permanent total disability claim against her former employer, the University of Utah Huntsman Cancer Hospital. The Commission reversed the order of an administrative law judge (ALJ), which awarded Respondent permanent total disability benefits. In denying Respondent’s application for permanent total disability benefits, the Commission concluded that Respondent had failed to show that she was limited in her ability to do basic work activities. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Respondent was not limited in her ability to perform basic work activities because her impairments did not “reasonably” limit her. The Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed the Commission’s order denying Respondent’s application for permanent total disability benefits, holding (1) both the court of appeals and the Commission misstated the burden of proof on the “other work reasonably available” element of a permanent total disability claim; and (2) the court of appeals erred in reversing the Commission’s determination that Respondent was limited in her ability to do basic work activities. View "Quast v. Utah Labor Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the order of the Labor Commission denying Respondent’s application for permanent total disability benefits under Utah Code 34A-2-413, the permanent total disability portion of the Workers’ Compensation Act. The Commission denied the application based on Respondent’s failure to prove two elements of a permanent total disability claim. The Supreme Court held (1) the court of appeals erred in its interpretation of section 34A-2-413(1)(c)(ii); (2) the court of appeals misallocated the burden of proof and improperly considered information not contained in the record in reversing the Commission’s determination that Respondent failed to prove the “essential functions” element of a permanent total disability claim; and (3) the Commission correctly denied Respondent’s application for permanent total disability benefits. View "Oliver v. Utah Labor Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reaffirmed its decision in Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment v. Executive Director of Utah Department of Environmental Quality, 391 P.3d 148 (Utah 2016) (Utah Physicians I) and dismissed the petition for review in this case for reasons set forth in the court’s decision in that case. In both cases the Director of the Utah Division of Air Quality approved a permit for a new project at an oil refinery, and the Executive Director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality affirmed the issuance of the permit. In both cases, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and others (collectively, Petitioners) sought to challenge the Executive Director’s final action in a judicial proceeding. In Utah Physicians I, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition on procedural grounds because Petitioners failed to identify specific parts of the Executive Director’s final order they believed were incorrect. Because Petitioners made the same error in this case, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition for review. View "Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment v. Executive Director of Utah Department of Environmental Quality" on Justia Law

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Friends of Great Salt Lake (Friends) challenged the decision of the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands (Division) granting a mining lease covering a small portion of the Great Salt Lake. Friends made three simultaneous attempts to halt the lease in requests and petitions submitted to the Division or to the Utah Department of Natural Resources (Department). The Division and Department issued a single agency order denying all three. Friends appealed and sought leave to amend its complaint to raise additional constitutional and statutory arguments. The district court affirmed the rejection of Friends’ requests and petitions, denied in part Friends’ attempt to amend its complaint, and subsequently dismissed Friends’ remaining arguments on summary judgment. Friends appealed and, alternatively, sought extraordinary relief. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed in large part and denied Friends’ request for extraordinary relief; and (2) reversed to a limited extent, holding that the Division was required to engage in “site-specific planning” under the applicable provisions of the Utah Administrative Code. Remanded to allow the Department to decide on the appropriate remedy for the failure to perform such planning. View "Friends of Great Salt Lake v. Utah Department of Natural Resources" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the Director of the Utah Division of Air Quality’s (UDAQ) approval of certain changes at Tesoro Refining and Marketing Company’s Salt Lake City Refinery. Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club (collectively, Petitioner) filed a request for agency action challenging the permit allowing the changes at the refinery, arguing that the Director of UDAQ conducted a legally insufficient analysis by approving Tesoro’s changes. Upon completion of permit review adjudicative proceedings, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) recommended that Petitioners’ challenge be dismissed. The Executive Director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality adopted the ALJ’s findings of fact, conclusions of law, and proposed disposition and dismissed each of Petitioners’ arguments. The Supreme Court dismissed Petitioners’ appeal, holding that because Petitioners did not address alleged deficiencies in the Executive Director’s final order in their opening brief, they failed to meet their burden of persuasion on appeal. View "Utah Physicians for a Health Environment v. Executive Director of Utah Department of Environmental Quality" on Justia Law

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Rocky Mountain Power is required by governing regulations to provide “indicative pricing” to a producer seeking to pursue a power purchase agreement. In 2012, Ellis-Hall Consultants, which is involved in the development of wind power projects and sought to sell power to PacifiCorp through its Rocky Mountain Power division, received an indicative pricing proposal. Rocky Mountain Power later rescinded that proposal and refused to proceed with negotiations on a power purchase agreement under its earlier indicative pricing because the Utah Public Service Commission had since adopted new pricing methodology. The Commission concluded that Ellis-Hall was not entitled to continue to rely on the methodology used in Rocky Mountain Power’s indicative pricing proposal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Ellis-Hall was entitled to proceed in reliance on the methodology set forth in the indicative pricing proposal it received from Rocky Mountain Power. View "Ellis-Hall v. Pub. Serv. Comm’n" on Justia Law

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Rent-A-Center West, Inc. leases and sells a variety of consumer goods. Customers may opt to participate in a liability waiver program for an extra fee. Rent-A-Center charges sales tax on rental payments but not on the liability waiver fee. In 2010, the Utah State Tax Commission issued a statutory notice to Rent-A-Center imposing taxes and interest on the amounts Rent-A-Center charged for the liability waiver fee. In a formal hearing, the Commission found the waiver fee taxable. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the liability waiver fee is not subject to sales and use tax under the plain text of the Utah Tax Code. View "Rent-A-Center v. Tax Comm’n" on Justia Law