Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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Carla Sparks appealed an Idaho Industrial Commission decision, which affirmed an Idaho Department of Labor (“IDOL”) finding that she was not entitled to unemployment benefits after being discharged by her employer, Laura Drake Insurance and Financial Services, Inc. (“Drake Insurance”). The appeals examiner held a telephonic hearing to determine Sparks’ unemployment benefit eligibility, but Sparks failed to appear. As a result, Laura Drake’s sworn testimony about the details of Sparks’ termination was undisputed. The appeals examiner found that Sparks was terminated for cause and thus was not entitled to unemployment benefits. The Commission affirmed, and Sparks appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court. The Supreme Court determined Sparks was properly found ineligible for unemployment benefits and the hearing officer/Commission’s denial of her request to provide additional evidence after the initial hearing was not an abuse of discretion. View "Sparks v. Idaho Dept of Labor" on Justia Law

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This litigation followed an earlier dispute between Val Westover and Jase Cundick, the Franklin County Assessor. That dispute came before the Idaho Supreme Court, where Westover advanced claims for slander of title and intentional interference with existing or potential economic relations and sought writs of mandate and prohibition. After Westover voluntarily dismissed the slander of title and tortious interference claims, the district court denied his requests for extraordinary writs and dismissed the action. Westover appealed, and the Supreme Court affirmed. Westover then brought this action, seeking a declaration that the existence of the Idaho Counties Risk Management Program (ICRMP) violated Idaho law. Westover appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of ICRMP. The district court held that Westover did not have standing to pursue his claim. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court again affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Westover v. Idaho Counties Risk Mgmt Program" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Idaho Supreme Court's review centered on the guardianship of a ten-year-old child, Jane Doe II (“Jane”). Both of Jane’s parents passed away in 2017. Thereafter, a family friend with whom Jane and her mother had been living, (“Friend”), petitioned for guardianship. Jane’s father’s twin sister (“Aunt”) also petitioned for guardianship. During proceedings the magistrate court appointed a local attorney, Auriana Clapp-Younggren, to serve as both the attorney and the guardian ad litem for Jane. After trial, the magistrate court followed Clapp-Younggren’s recommendation and awarded temporary guardianship to Friend so that Jane could finish the school year, but appointed Aunt as Jane’s permanent guardian. Friend appealed the magistrate court decision. The Supreme Court determined the magistrate court abused its discretion by failing to conduct a reasonable inquiry into whether Jane possessed sufficient maturity to direct her own attorney. Here, the magistrate court checked two boxes on the form order appointing Clapp- Younggren: one box appointed her as the attorney for Jane and the other appointed her as Jane’s guardian ad litem. Friend later filed a motion for the magistrate court to appoint an attorney for Jane under Idaho Code section 15-5-207(7). This motion was accompanied by an affidavit of a psychotherapist who testified that Jane possessed sufficient maturity to direct her own attorney. However, the judge denied the motion simply stating “I’m denying the motion. Ms. Clapp-Younggren is going to represent [Jane’s] interests in the case.” The magistrate court judge gave no explanation for why he was denying the request. The record also reflects that the magistrate court made no effort to determine Jane’s maturity level. The final decree appointing Aunt as Jane’s permanent guardian is vacated and the case is remanded so that the magistrate court can conduct a hearing to determine whether Jane possesses sufficient maturity to direct her own attorney prior to the new trial. View "In the Interest of Jane Doe II (under 18 years)" on Justia Law

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On July 11, 2013, the Idaho Department of Labor (“IDOL”) mailed an eligibility determination for unemployment benefits (the “2013 determination”) to William Wittkopf. This determination found Wittkopf underreported his wages for several weeks, which resulted in an overpayment in unemployment benefits. As a result, Wittkopf was: (1) ordered to repay the overpayment; (2) ineligible for any unemployment benefits for a fifty-two week period; and (3) assessed a civil penalty. Additionally, Wittkopf was told that he would remain ineligible for unemployment benefits until all amounts were repaid. Pursuant to Idaho Code section 72– 1368(3) the last day for Wittkopf to file a protest to the 2013 determination was July 25, 2013, which he failed to do. IDOL attempted to collect on the 2013 determination over the next year without success. Subsequently in early 2016, Wittkopf filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The debt he owed to the state of Idaho was included in his bankruptcy and was discharged by order of the Bankruptcy Court. In September 2016, Wittkopf began filing new claims for unemployment benefits with IDOL because he worked a seasonal job and was not receiving any income in the winter months. After not receiving benefits for several weeks, Wittkopf called IDOL which informed him he was ineligible for unemployment benefits because he had failed to pay back his overpayment, civil penalty, and interest he owed IDOL, even though those amounts were discharged in bankruptcy. Wittkopf mailed a letter to IDOL protesting the denial of his unemployment benefits. Wittkopf claimed in this letter that he was eligible for unemployment benefits because his bankruptcy discharged any amount he owed to IDOL. An Appeals Examiner construed Wittkopf’s 2016 letter as a protest of the 2013 determination. Two days later the Appeals Examiner issued a written decision finding there was no jurisdiction to hear Wittkopf’s protest because it was not filed within fourteen days of when it was issued on July 25, 2013, as required by Idaho Code section 72-1368. On November 3, 2016, Wittkopf appealed the Appeals Examiner’s decision to the Industrial Commission. On January 27, 2017, the Industrial Commission affirmed the Appeals Examiner’s decision. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the Industrial Commission erred in affirming the examiner without having determined first whether: (1) the bankruptcy discharge voided IDOL's 2013 determination; (2) whether the discharge operated as an injunction against any effort to collect, recover or offset the 2013 debt; and if yes, (3) why the Department's denial of current benefits on the basis of the 2013 debt wasn't a violation of the injunction. The matter was remanded back to the Industrial Commission for further proceedings. View "Wittkopf v. Idaho Dept of Labor" on Justia Law

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The City of Idaho Falls (“Idaho Falls”) appealed an order dismissing its breach of contract and waste claims against H-K Contractors, Inc. (“H-K”). In 2005, H-K entered into a written contract requiring it to convey a parcel of property to Idaho Falls. The contract required that H-K initially grant Idaho Falls a storm drainage easement “over and across” the parcel. H-K was also required to convey fee title to the parcel at a future date, in no event later than March 1, 2010. H-K failed to convey the property to Idaho Falls as required. In 2016, Idaho Falls sent a letter to H-K requesting conveyance of title. H-K responded by refusing to convey title to the property, claiming that in 2009 a city official had orally informed H-K that Idaho Falls was no longer interested in the property. Based on that alleged representation, H-K decided to invest in the property to make it profitable. Idaho Falls filed a complaint against H-K for breach of contract and waste. H-K moved to dismiss the complaint based on the limitation found in Idaho Code section 5-216, alleging Idaho Falls’ claims were time barred because they were not brought within the five-year statute of limitations governing contract actions. Idaho Falls countered that the statute of limitations did not apply to it as a subdivision of the State of Idaho. On January 3, 2017, the district court dismissed Idaho Falls’ complaint as time barred. Idaho Falls timely appealed, claiming the district court erred in enforcing the five-year limitation set forth in section 5-216. The Idaho Supreme Court vacated the district court's judgment, finding it erred when it determined the term “state” in Idaho Code section 5- 216 did not include Idaho’s municipalities. Because Idaho Falls was the “state,” the district court erred when it found its contract claims against H-K were not “for the benefit of the state.” View "City of Idaho Falls v. H-K Contractors" on Justia Law

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The Idaho Supreme Court reversed the magistrate court in an expedited appeal regarding the termination of John Doe (2017-32)'s parental rights. John Doe is the father of minor children KB and AB (the “Children”). The Children entered the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s (“IDHW”) custody in December 2014 after the Twin Falls Police declared them to be in imminent danger. The Children were in their mother’s (“Mother”) care when the police arrested her for possession of a controlled substance. Law enforcement described the condition of Mother’s home at this time as “filthy, cluttered, and containing numerous safety hazards, including raw sewage being present in the basement.” An Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) case plan, filed January 2015, included number of enumerated tasks for both Doe and Mother to complete in order for them to reunite with the Children. The case plan sought to provide Doe and Mother a framework to address “stable housing, sanitary living conditions, the need to obtain controlled substance abuse treatment, to remain clean/sober, and [to] stay out of jail.” Mother relapsed within weeks of a December 2016 order and was arrested for felony possession, kicked out of Drug Court, and went to prison. IDHW sought to terminate Doe and Mother’s parental rights. Doe had not completed his required drug treatment regimen by a first trial, he became more actively involved in his treatment plan by the time of a second trial. Doe showed other encouraging signs between the first and second trial as well, including significant progress on his case plan. However, the magistrate court noted that, despite progress, Doe still had not completed his case plan nor reunified with his children in the intervening period between the first and second trial. The court issued a Memorandum Decision granting termination of Doe and Mother’s parental rights on October 2, 2017, and entered a corresponding judgment ten days later on October 12, 2017. Mother did not appeal, but Doe timely filed his notice of appeal. The Supreme Court found the magistrate court’s December 2016 order stating that termination was not in the Children’s best interest was irreconcilable with IDHW’s first official recommendation following that order that termination “remains” in the Children’s best interest. The magistrate court’s October 2017 decision following the second trial highlighted Doe’s failure to reunify with the Children as a substantial factor in his ultimate decision to terminate. The magistrate court’s procedural error in not entering judgment for Doe and dismissing the petition upon finding that termination was not in the Children’s best interest affected Doe’s fundamental rights in this case. View "Dept. of Health & Welfare v. John Doe (2017-32)" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Idaho Supreme Court’s review centered on whether and to what extent an uphill landowner could send irrigation wastewater across a downhill landowner’s property. This case began when Lemhi County filed suit against the owners of both ranches seeking to relieve flooding along one of its roads. Phillip Moulton owned and operated a ranch that was on higher ground than the adjacent ranch that Verdell Olson operated. Surface and irrigation water that began on Moulton’s ranch made its way to the Lemhi River through various channels. The one at issue in this case was a steep draw that sent water across a county road and through the downhill ranch that Olson operated. Lemhi County reached a settlement with Olson, and the remaining issue for the district court was whether an easement or a natural servitude permitted Moulton to send water down the draw. The district court held that both an easement and natural servitude permit Moulton to send up to 3.25 cubic feet per second of water down the draw. Olson appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court to the extent it provided for an easement and natural servitude, but remanded for specification of the location of the drainage basin on Olson’s property. View "Olson v. Moulton" on Justia Law

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John Doe (2017-27) (“the father”) and Jane Doe (2017-27) (“the mother”) appealed magistrate court judgments terminating their parental rights to their daughters (“Z.W.” and “N.W.”). The magistrate court terminated the mother and father’s parental rights on the grounds of neglect, abuse, inability to discharge parental responsibilities, and chronic abuse and/or neglect, and also found termination was in the best interest of the children. The mother only challenged the termination of her parental rights as to N.W., while the father challenged the termination of his parental rights as to both of the children. The sole issue the father argued on appeal was that the magistrate court did not have substantial and competent evidence to find terminating his parental rights was in the best interest of both children. Finding no abuse of discretion in judgments against either parent, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the magistrate court. View "Idaho Dept. of Health & Welfare v. John & Jane Doe" on Justia Law

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Charles Hartgrave appealed an Idaho Industrial Commission (the Commission) order. Hartgrave sustained injuries to his left knee while working for the City of Twin Falls (the City) on February 3, 2009, and August 23, 2012. Although Hartgrave’s left knee injuries and corresponding treatments were covered by Idaho’s Workers Compensation Act, Hartgrave argued the left knee injuries aggravated preexisting degenerative joint disease in his right knee and ultimately required a total knee arthroplasty (TKA) in his right knee. The Commission rejected Hartgrave’s position and ruled that Hartgrave’s right TKA was not compensable. Finding no reversible error in the Commission's order, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hartgrave v. City of Twin Falls" on Justia Law

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Gary and Glenna Eden sought to file a late notice of claim for their Water Right No. 37-864 which was not claimed during the pendency of the Snake River Basin Adjudication (“SRBA”), and therefore was decreed disallowed. In the SRBA, the Edens alleged that the SRBA’s Final Unified Decree and the Closure Order should have been set aside as void because they did not receive sufficient notice of the SRBA proceedings to satisfy due process. Further, the Edens argued they were not personally served with the required notice of default pursuant to Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2). Furthermore, the Edens claimed that unique and compelling circumstances justify relief from the final judgment under Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6). The SRBA court disagreed and denied the Edens’ relief on any of these grounds. Finding no reversible error in the SRBA court's judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Eden v. Idaho" on Justia Law