Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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In these consolidated appeals requiring the Supreme Court to interpret various provisions of the West Virginia Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation Rule (WVSCMRR), W.Va. CSR 38-2-1, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the circuit court. The Supreme Court held that the circuit court (1) did not err in finding that the WVSCMRR does not require a coal company, in its application for modification of its mining permit, to demonstrate compliance with the Utility Protection Standard found at W.Va. 38-2-14.17; (2) did not err in ruling that the permit application sufficiently described how the coal operator would comply with the Utility Protection Standard; but (3) erred in finding that the WVSCMRR applied regardless of a coal operator’s common law property rights. View "Texas Eastern Transmission v. W. Va. Department of Environmental Protection" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting mandamus relief to Lieutenant Gregory Scolapio and finding that Scolapio was entitled to a hearing before the Harrison County Civil Service Commission for Deputy Sheriffs regarding the decision of Robert Matheny, Sheriff of Harrison County, to terminate his employment. The court held (1) the circuit court did not err in determining that Scolapio was entitled to receive both a pre-disciplinary hearing before the hearing board and a de novo evidentiary hearing before the Commission; and (2) the circuit court did not err in permitting the Sheriff to intervene in the proceedings. View "Matheny v. Scolapio" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court issued a writ of prohibition requested by the Fairmont State University Board of Governors (Fairmont State) prohibiting the circuit court from hearing a lawsuit against it and the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC), holding that venue was not proper in the Circuit Court of Marion County. Some faculty members at Fairmont State sued the Board of Governors and the HEPC in Marion County Circuit Court, alleging, among other things, that Fairmont State violated the West Virginia Open Meetings Act and that it did not fully comply with Plaintiffs’ Freedom of Information Act request. Fairmont State and the HEPC filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit based on improper venue, asserting that lawsuits against state agencies must be filed in Kanawha County. The circuit court denied the motions to dismiss. In response, Fairmont State filed this petition for a writ of prohibition. The Supreme court granted the writ, holding that the lawsuit against Fairmont State and the HEPC must be filed in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County. View "State ex rel. Fairmont State University Board of Governors v. Honorable Patrick N. Wilson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court upholding the decision of the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) affirming the order of the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) revoking Petitioner’s driver’s license, despite a nearly two-year delay between Petitioner’s arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) and the license revocation. On appeal, Petitioner argued that the procedural delays were so unreasonably excessive that they violated his constitutional rights to due process. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the circuit court correctly found that Petitioner demonstrated no prejudice by either the delay of the DMV in issuing the revocation order or the delay in the OAH’s issuing its final order. View "Straub v. Reed" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court concluding that a large inventory of jet engine repair parts were not exempt from ad valorem property taxation. Petitioner maintained a vast inventory of jet engine repair parts at its West Virginia facility. Petitioner argued that the repair parts were exempt from ad valorem taxation pursuant to the Freeport Amendment contained in the West Virginia Constitution. The county assessor determined that the repair parts were not exempt from ad valorem taxation. The state tax commission upheld the determination. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the inventory of repair parts did not fall within the Freeport Amendment exemption. View "Pratt & Whitney Engine Services v. Steager" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court upholding the finding of just cause for Petitioner’s discharge made by the Mason County Civil Service Commission for Deputy Sheriffs. Petitioner was discharged from employment with the Mason County Sheriff’s Department based on two separate incidents. The Commission concluded that just cause existed for Petitioner’s discharge. The Circuit court affirmed the Commission’s decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Petitioner was not denied procedural due process; (2) the Commission’s practices and procedures were not flawed; and (3) The Commission’s finding of just cause not not clearly wrong or a misapplication of the law, was not arbitrary or capricious, and was not contrary to the evidence. View "Fruth v. Powers" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court upholding the order of the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) rescinding George Zipf’s driver’s license revocation. Zipf was arrested at a sobriety checkpoint for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). Consequently, the Department of Motor Vehicles revoked his driver’s license. The OAH found insufficient evidence that the DUI arrest was lawful and rescinded the driver’s license revocation. The circuit court upheld the OAH’s order. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that there was sufficient evidence that Zipf’s DUI arrest was lawful, and therefore, the circuit court erred in upholding the OAH’s order. View "Reed v. Zipf" on Justia Law

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The circuit court erred in granting a writ of mandamus in favor of the Nicholas County Board of Education (Board) requiring the West Virginia Board of Education and the State Superintendent of Schools (collectively, the WVBOE) to approve the Board’s amended consolidated educational facilities plan (CEFP), which constituted a prerequisite to the Board’s efforts to consolidate four Nicholas County schools and its Career and Technical Education Center. The circuit court found (1) the WVBOE lacks the authority to reject a county board’s CEFP if the county complies with certain regulatory requirements; and (2) the WVBOE’s stated reasons for rejecting the CEFP amendment were arbitrary and capricious. The Supreme Court held (1) the WVBOE is vested with authority to exercise its discretion in accepting or rejecting an amended CEFP, and mere procedural compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements does not entitle a county board of education to approval of its proposed plan; and (2) the reasons adopted by the WVBOE for rejection of the plan were neither arbitrary nor capricious. View "West Virginia Board of Education v. Board of Education of the County of Nicholas" on Justia Law

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When a child is born alive, the presence of illegal drugs in the child’s system at birth constitutes sufficient evidence that the child is an abused and/or neglected child, as those terms are defined by W. Va. Code 49-1-201, to support the filing of an abuse and neglect petition pursuant to W. Va. Code 49-4-601 The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources filed an abuse and neglect petition against Father alleging that Child was an abused and/or neglected child. The allegations of Father’s misconduct included his failure to protect Child from Mother’s drug use - both prenatal and ongoing after Child’s birth - and his continuing association with Mother. Father filed a motion to dismiss the petition claiming that because an abuse and neglect proceeding could not be brought to protect a child who has not yet been born, a parent could not be charged with injuries in utero. The circuit court agreed to certify a question to the Supreme Court insofar as it was deemed to be determinative of Father’s motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court answered the question as reformulated. View "In re A.L.C.M." on Justia Law

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An inmate injured while working at a work release center is not entitled to workers' compensation benefits. William Crawford sought workers’ compensation benefits for a severe injury he sustained during his period of confinement at the Charleston Work Release Center. The claims administrator rejected Crawford’s application for benefits based upon its determination that he did not suffer an injury in the course of and resulting from his employment because Crawford was an inmate and not an employee as defined under W. Va. Code 23-4-1(a). The office of judges and Workers’ Compensation Board of Review affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Board did not err in ruling that Crawford was not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits pursuant to W. Va. Code 23-4-1e(b); and (2) there was no violation of Crawford’s equal protection rights. View "Crawford v. West Virginia Department of Corrections - Work Release" on Justia Law