Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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Appellants, who owned residential property located entirely in St. Louis County, argued that Jefferson and Franklin counties systematically undervalued property in those counties, causing Appellants to bear a disproportionate share of the cost of operating multi-county taxing districts. After exhausting their administrative remedies, Appellants filed a petition in the circuit court challenging their 2011-12 property tax assessments. The circuit court dismissed the petition for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of Appellants’ administrative claims for review and their claim for declaratory relief, holding (1) Appellants failed to assert a violation of the uniformity clause in article X, section 3 of the Missouri Constitution; and (2) the State Tax Commission lacked jurisdiction to hear Appellants’ claims of inter-county discrimination on appeal from the St. Louis County Board of Equalization. View "Armstrong-Trotwood, LLC v. State Tax Commission of Missouri" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed an action challenging the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules’ (JCAR) authority to disapprove the “geographic sourcing” provisions of a 2010 rule promulgated by the Public Service Commission (PSC). Defendants argued that the case was moot because the PSC voluntarily withdrew the geographic sourcing provisions before the 2010 rule was published. The trial court initially granted the PSC’s motion for summary judgment. After Plaintiffs appealed, the PSC promulgated a 2015 rule that never contained geographic sourcing provisions. The circuit court subsequently dismissed the motion as moot because the 2015 rule did not have geographic souring provisions and the 2010 had been superseded and was no longer in effect. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, in light of the adoption of the 2015 rule, no purpose would be served by addressing JCAR’s actions regarding a superseded prior rule. View "State ex rel. Missouri Coalition for the Environment v. Joint Committee on Administrative Rules" on Justia Law

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Missouri American Water Company (MAWC) filed a petition to charge an infrastructure system replacement surcharge to its St. Louis County customers. The Public Service Commission (PSC) approved the petition. The Office of the Public Counsel appealed, arguing that the PSC lacked the authority to grant the petition because St. Louis County did not meet Mo. Rev. Stat. 393.1000-393.1006’s threshold population requirement at the time PSC approved the surcharge. The Office of the Public Counsel appealed. While the appeal was pending, MAWC and PSC reached an agreement establishing a new rate base that incorporated the costs of the MAWC projects for all then-existing surcharges. The Supreme Court dismissed this case as moot, holding (1) because the surcharge is no longer in effect and no effective relief may be granted, the issue as to whether MAWC can utilize the surcharge provisions of section 393.1003 is moot; and (2) the issues presented on appeal did not meet the requirements for an exception to the mootness doctrine. View "In re Petition of Missouri-American Water Company for Approval to Change its Infrastructure System Replacement Surcharge" on Justia Law

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In 2013, TracFone Wireless, Inc. sought refunds of the difference between the sales tax it paid on its sales to Missouri residents and the use tax it believes it should have paid, arguing that it qualified for the “in commerce” exemption from sales tax set out in section 144.030.1. The Director of Revenue denied the requested refunds. The Administrative Hearing Commission upheld the decision, finding that TracFone’s sales were subject to sales tax under Mo. Rev. Stat. 144.020.1(4) and that TracFone was not entitled to claim the “in commerce” sales tax exemption because the true object of the transactions was the sale of access to telecommunications services in Missouri, and the equipment was merely incidental to the sale of access to those services in Missouri. TracFone filed a petition for review, asserting that, while the sales at issue may be retail sales under section 144.020.1, they qualified for the “in commerce” exemption set out in section 144.030.1. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the transactions at issue did not qualify for the exemption set out in section 144.030.1 for sales “in commerce” between states. View "TracFone Wireless, Inc. v. Director of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The State Board of Nursing entered a disciplinary order imposing discipline on the nursing license of Karen Carpenter, including a three-year probationary period with numerous conditions and restrictions. The circuit court reduced the probationary period to one year and eliminated almost all conditions and restrictions imposed by the Board, concluding that the Board’s disciplinary order was arbitrary, unreasonable, and excessive. The circuit court then rejected Carpenter’s motion for attorney’s fees, concluding that Carpenter was not a “prevailing party” because she was still subject to discipline. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Carpenter “prevailed” when she petitioned, successfully, to have the probationary period on her license reduced to one year and to eliminate almost all of the conditions and restrictions imposed by the Board; but (2) Carpenter was not entitled to attorney’s fees under Mo. Rev. Stat. 536.087.1 because the Board did not take a position as to the discipline to be imposed on Carpenter’s license. View "Carpenter v. State" on Justia Law

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Gate Gourmet, Inc. owns and operates a facility near the Lambert-St. Louis International airport from which it sells frozen meals to various commercial airlines. Gate Gourmet filed sales tax returns for the tax years 2008-2010 in which it reported sales of frozen meals to its airline customers at the reduced sales tax rate of one percent as provided in Mo. Rev. Stat. 144.014. After an audit, the Director of Revenue issued sales tax assessments to Gate Gourmet totaling $296,357, concluding that the sale of airline meals should have been taxed at four percent under Mo. Rev. Stat. 144.020. The Administrative Hearing Commission upheld the Director’s determination. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission’s decision was based upon a proper construction of the law and was supported by competent and substantial evidence. View "Gate Gourmet, Inc. v. Dir. of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Appellant, who was employed by the Missouri Department of Corrections as a corrections officer, was involved in a workplace accident. Appellant filed a claim for workers’ compensation seeking reimbursement from the Department for medical expenses. The Labor and Industrial Relations Commission denied Appellant’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits, finding that Appellant was involved in a workplace accident but that Appellant did not prove that the accident was the “prevailing factor” causing his medical condition. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Appellant proved by substantial and competent evidence that his workplace accident was the prevailing factor causing his medical condition. View "Malam v. State, Dep’t of Corr." on Justia Law

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The Missouri Real Estate Appraisers Commission denied Funk’s application for certification as a state-certified appraiser. The Administrative Hearing Commission (AHC) granted the application and, after judicial review, awarded Funk attorney fees (RSMo 536.0871) based on its determination that the Commission’s appeal was not substantially justified because a court is required to defer to the AHC’s factual and credibility findings. The circuit court reversed that award; the Missouri Supreme Court affirmed. A prevailing party in an agency proceeding normally must apply for attorney’s fees from that agency within 30 days of its decision; the request is held in abeyance until final disposition of the case. Because Funk represented himself before the AHC, he did not incur attorney’s fees at the agency level, however, and that requirement had no application. He should have applied for fees with the court of appeals, the first forum in which he prevailed while represented by an attorney. Because Funk wrongly submitted his application to the AHC within 30 days of the final decision by the court of appeals, and only requested attorney’s fees from the court of appeals after the deadline for seeking fees from that court had expired, his request was untimely. The court further stated thatCommission’s position in the original proceeding was reasonably based on fact and law and was substantially justified. The AHC erred in considering evidence that was not before the Commission when it made the decision to deny Funk’s application. View "Mo. Real Estate Appraisers Comm'n v. Funk" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs believed that Arnold police department employees had accessed their confidential records in the “Regional Justice Information System” database and filed a complaint. The department completed an internal affairs investigation. Pursuant to Missouri’s Sunshine Law, RSMo 610.010, plaintiffs sought parts of the report “for the purpose of investigating civil claims.” The city’s attorney replied that there had been no criminal investigation, but only an internal affairs investigation, and that the resulting report and other requested documents were closed because they contain personnel information. Plaintiffs again demanded the documents, citing section 610.100.4, which refers to obtaining records "for purposes of investigating a civil claim.” Plaintiffs filed suit, claiming that, whatever the original motivation for the investigation, someone who “intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access, and thereby obtains … information from any protected computer” commits a crime, 18 U.S.C. 1030(a)(2). On remand, the trial court ordered disclosure of the report with redaction of employees’ timesheets. Plaintiffs moved, under RSMo 610.027, for attorney’s fees and a fine for a purposeful or knowing violation. The court denied the motion. The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed. To prove a “knowing” violation, a party must do more than show that the city knew that it was not producing the report; section 610.027.2 requires proof that the public entity knew that its failure to produce the report violated the Sunshine Law. The court upheld a finding that the city’s failure to disclose the investigative internal affairs report was neither knowing nor purposeful. View "Laut v. City of Arnold" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs the Missouri Municipal League, the City of Springfield, and Richard Sheets appealed a circuit court's judgment for the State on plaintiffs' challenge to the constitutional validity of two bills passed by the General Assembly. In 2013, the General Assembly passed House Bill 331 and House Bill 345, which repealed and enacted in lieu thereof numerous sections dealing with local government control over telecommunications infrastructure permitting and public right-of-way. Later that year, a circuit court ruled H.B. 331 and H.B. 345 were enacted in violation of procedural requirements of the Missouri Constitution. The State appealed the circuit court's judgment to the Missouri Supreme Court. With the State's appeal still pending, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 649 and Senate Bill 650 in early 2014. S.B. 649 and S.B. 650 repealed and enacted in lieu thereof some of the same sections as had H.B. 331 and H.B. 345 and, in doing so, set forth the text of H.B. 331 and H.B. 345 as the then-existing law for the relevant sections with proposed changes noted. Two days before S.B. 649 and S.B. 650 became effective (and two days before the Supreme Court dismissed the State's appeal in the H.B. 331 and H.B. 345 case), plaintiffs brought suit challenging S.B. 649 and S.B. 650 under the Missouri Constitution. Plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief, claiming: (1) the contents of the bills violated article I, section 13's prohibition against retrospective laws; article III, section 40(28)'s prohibition on special laws, and article X, section 21's prohibition on unfunded mandates; and (2) the bills were enacted in violation of article III, section 28. The State moved to dismiss the substantive claims, and both sides moved for a judgment on the pleadings for the enactment claims. The circuit court sustained the State's motions, and plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the State was entitled to judgment on the pleadings on this claim. View "Missouri Municipal League v. Missouri" on Justia Law