Justia Idaho Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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Mother Jane Doe appealed a magistrate court’s termination of her parental rights to her minor son, A.V. The magistrate court concluded that the Department proved by clear and convincing evidence that Mother and John Doe (“Father”) neglected A.V. and that termination was in A.V.’s best interests (Father’s termination was the subject of a separate appeal (Dkt. No. 47200)). A.V. went into foster care in November 2017, when he was approximately two-and-a-half years old. The child was malnourished; health care providers testified the child was four to six months developmentally delayed. November 2017 was his second trip to foster care; social workers found A.V. weighed less than he had in his first trip a year before, "the size and weight of a twelve-month-old." In response to a question about why she thought A.V. was losing weight in the time period before he was placed into care in November of 2017, Mother testified that she was dealing with a very big loss—the death of her mother by suicide—and unfortunately she let it get in the way of her life and the lives of her children. She did not ask for help because she did not want people feeling sorry for her. However, after A.V. was placed in foster care, she realized that all of this could have been avoided if she had just reached out for help. A Department social worker developed a case plan for Mother and Father. Both parents were present at the case plan meeting in which the case plans were designed. The magistrate court determined, however, by clear and convincing evidence the Department had established statutory grounds for termination under Idaho Code section 16-2002(3)(b), neglect through failure to complete a case plan, and under section 16-1602(31), neglect through conduct or omission of the parents. The magistrate court also determined that termination was in A.V.’s best interests. A final judgment and a decree were entered, terminating both Mother’s and Father’s parental relationship with A.V. Mother’s main argument on appeal was that the magistrate court erred in terminating her parental rights because her disabilities prevented her from completing her case plan. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the magistrate court’s decree terminating Mother’s parental rights. View "DHW v. Jane Doe" on Justia Law

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Father John Doe appealed a magistrate court's judgment granting the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s (“the Department”) petition to terminate his parental rights to his son, A.V. The magistrate court concluded the Department proved by clear and convincing evidence that Father and Jane Doe (“Mother”) neglected A.V. and that termination was in A.V.’s best interests (Mother’s termination was the subject of a separate appeal (Dkt. No. 47190)). Father’s main argument on appeal was that the magistrate court erred in terminating his parental rights because it was not in A.V.’s best interests to be separated from his siblings. A.V., the child at issue in this case, went into foster care in November 2017, when he was approximately two-and-a-half years old. The child was malnourished; health care providers testified the child was four to six months developmentally delayed. November 2017 was his second trip to foster care; social workers found A.V. weighed less than he had in his first trip a year before, "the size and weight of a twelve-month-old." Father testified that he was aware that A.V. was malnourished and not developing as he should have been while he was in Father’s care, and that he did not obtain services to help A.V. with walking and talking. However, Father did not realize that A.V. had lost weight when he came back into their care. One Department social worker testified that Father feels that it is his responsibility to work and provide financially for the family, and it is Mother’s responsibility to ensure the children are getting their medical and emotional needs met and to feed and care for them during the day. She further testified that she had talked with Father about his observing A.V. being underweight or not gaining weight, and Father said that he told Mother she needed to take care of it. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the magistrate court did not err in concluding termination was in A.V.'s best interests, even though termination would result in A.V. being separated from his siblings. The Court determined it was not error for the magistrate court finding Father was also responsible for A.V.'s neglect. Accordingly, the magistrate court was affirmed. View "DHW v. John Doe" on Justia Law

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Father John Doe appealed a magistrate court's termination of his parental rights to his minor children “B.L.S.” and “A.C.S.” On Christmas Eve, 2017, the Department received a referral when A.C.S. was born prematurely. Mother’s amniotic fluid had ruptured prematurely due to drug use. Tests confirmed that A.C.S. was prenatally exposed to methamphetamine. Shortly after her birth, A.C.S. was life-flighted to Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, Washington for treatment. Mother explained that she and Father had been in an on-and-off relationship for the past 20 years. At the time of the meeting, Mother and Father lived together in a camper on his family’s farm near Kendrick, Idaho. Mother disclosed that she actively used methamphetamine and had used methamphetamine while pregnant with A.C.S. She also explained that she and Father used methamphetamine together in their camper, sometimes with their children present. Mother described frequent incidents of domestic violence that occurred in the home: when the couple fought, it could become violent, where they would yell and throw appliances and other objects at each other. After an adjudicatory hearing where Father and Mother again stipulated to jurisdiction and custody, the Department worked with the parents to develop a case plan. At a review hearing in October 2018, the Department requested an early permanency hearing on the grounds that both parents had made little progress on their case plans. Agreeing that the parents had made very little progress up to that point, the magistrate court moved the permanency hearing up from December 2018, to November 26, 2018. At the permanency hearing, the magistrate court approved a permanency plan that sought termination of parental rights and relative adoption with the foster parents as the primary goal for each child. The Idaho Supreme Court determined Father failed to preserve his argument that Idaho Code section 16-1622(2)(g)(i) caused the magistrate court to violate his right to due process by moving the date of the permanency hearing from December to November. Further, the Supreme Court determined the magistrate court's decision to termination Father's parental rights was supported by substantial, competent evidence. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the magistrate court’s order terminating Father’s parental rights to B.L.S. and A.C.S. View "DHW v. John Doe" on Justia Law

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Mother Jane Doe appealed a magistrate court’s termination of her parental rights to her minor children “B.L.S.”, “X.V.S.”, and “A.C.S.” Mother’s amniotic fluid had ruptured prematurely due to drug use. Tests confirmed that A.C.S. was prenatally exposed to methamphetamine. Shortly after her birth, A.C.S. was life-flighted to Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, Washington for treatment. Mother explained that she and Father had been in an on-and-off relationship for the past 20 years. At the time of the meeting, Mother and Father lived together in a camper on his family’s farm near Kendrick, Idaho. Mother disclosed that she actively used methamphetamine and had used methamphetamine while pregnant with A.C.S. She also explained that she and Father used methamphetamine together in their camper, sometimes with their children present. Mother described frequent incidents of domestic violence that occurred in the home: when the couple fought, it could become violent, where they would yell and throw appliances and other objects at each other. After an adjudicatory hearing where Father and Mother again stipulated to jurisdiction and custody, the Department worked with the parents to develop a case plan. At a review hearing in October 2018, the Department requested an early permanency hearing on the grounds that both parents had made little progress on their case plans. Agreeing that the parents had made very little progress up to that point, the magistrate court moved the permanency hearing up from December 2018, to November 26, 2018. At the permanency hearing, the magistrate court approved a permanency plan that sought termination of parental rights and relative adoption with the foster parents as the primary goal for each child. Mother argued on appeal that the magistrate court abused its discretion by holding the permanency hearing 11 months after the children were placed in the Department's custody, and that the decision to terminate was not supported by substantial, competent evidence. Finding no abuse of discretion or other reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed termination of parental rights. View "DHW v. Jane Doe" on Justia Law

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The East Side Highway District (the District) and Gregory and Ellen Delavan (the Delavans) disputed the location of their common boundary relating to a portion of a road, Boothe Park Road, which included a boat ramp located on the shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene. The District asserted a claim to the disputed property under two theories: (1) a boundary by agreement that was established by the location of a fence that was erected by the Delavans’ predecessor in interest; and (2) Boothe Park Road and the boat ramp at its termination was a public highway pursuant to Idaho Code section 40-202(3). In response, the Delavans claimed the boat ramp was on their property, and its use by the public has always been, and remained, permissive. Further, the Delavans claimed the fence which was erected by their predecessor in interest was intended to act as a barrier, not a boundary. After two bench trials, the trial court ruled in favor of the Delavans, finding that the public’s use of the boat ramp had been permissive. As a result, the trial court ruled that the District did not have a right to a public easement based on Idaho Code section 40-202(3). Further, the trial court found that the fence had been erected as a barrier, not a boundary. Instead, the trial court found that the intention of the parties at the time the disputed property was conveyed to the Delavans demonstrated that the Delavans owned the property in dispute. The District appealed. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court held there was substantial and competent evidence to support the trial court’s findings that there was no boundary by agreement and that the Delavans owned the property in dispute. However, the Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of the Delavans because there was no hostility requirement in Idaho Code section 40-202(3). Accordingly, the case was remanded to determine whether the District had a public easement under Idaho Code section 40-202(3). View "Eastside Hwy Dist v. Delavan" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of the termination of Ryan and Lanie Berrett (“the Berretts”) from their jobs with Clark County School District No. 161 (the “School District”), and raised issues regarding the “law of the case” doctrine, the Idaho Protection of Public Employees Act (“Whistleblower Act”), and wrongful termination in violation of public policy. The Berretts sued the School District, alleging that both of their terminations were in retaliation for Ryan Berrett reporting a building code violation to the School District’s board of trustees (the “board”). The district court granted the School District’s motion for summary judgment, finding that Ryan Berrett did not engage in a protected activity under the Whistleblower Act, and that Idaho’s public policy did not extend to protect Lanie Berrett in a termination in violation of public policy claim. The district court also denied the Berretts’ motion for reconsideration. The Berretts timely appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court concluded after review the law of the case doctrine did not preclude the district court from considering the School District’s motion for summary judgment, however, the Court erred in granting summary judgment on Ryan Berrett’s Whistleblower Act claim; the Court found genuine issues of material fact regarding whether Ryan Berrett engaged in a protected activity and causation. The trial court did not err in granting summary judgment on Lanie Berrett’s termination in violation of public policy claim. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Berrett v. Clark County School District" on Justia Law

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Lamont Bair Enterprises, Inc. (“LBE”) was an Idaho corporation based in Idaho Falls that owned residential rental units. One of LBE’s rental units was a four-plex rental property at 547 South Skyline Drive (“the Property”), served by municipal water lines owned and maintained by the City of Idaho Falls (“the City”). On December 28, 2015, a municipal water main broke, causing water to flow beneath the Property’s driveway, crack the concrete basement floor, and flood the basements of all four rental units. The City received an emergency call for assistance in shutting off the water. Believing the incident to be a service line leak (as opposed to a water main break), the City’s response crew first closed the water service line and waited for confirmation that the water flow had stopped. After the crew received notice that water continued to flow into the basement, they isolated the leak to the water main and began repairing the main line. The water was turned back on the following day, and the road and curb were filled back in. None of LBE’s rental units ever experienced flooding from the city’s water lines prior to this flooding incident at the Property. LBE contended the water main “ruptured” due to negligent care (that “the City neglected its water system to the point that literally miles of pipe became past their design life and in need of replacement”) thus failing to exercise reasonable care in maintaining the water supply system. The district court ruled the City was immune from liability under the Idaho Tort Claims Act’s discretionary function exception. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the district court did not err in holding that the City is immune from suit pursuant to the discretionary function exception set forth in Idaho Code section 6-904(1). The Court did not reach the merits of the other issues LBE raised on appeal. View "Lamont Bair Enterprises v. City of Idaho Falls" on Justia Law

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Peter Nemeth and his wife Mary Nemeth (deceased), and Peter Nemeth acting as trustee of the Peter and Mary Nemeth Family Trust (collectively, “the Nemeths”), petitioned Shoshone County, Idaho, to validate a public right-of-way across federal land pursuant to Idaho Code section 40-204A and United States Revised Statute 2477 (“R.S. 2477”). The right-of-way followed a road which crossed federal land that Nemeths claimed historically provided access to their property and patented mining claims. When the County failed to act on the petition, the Nemeths filed a declaratory judgment action seeking validation of the right-of-way pursuant to Idaho Code section 40- 208(7). On a motion from the County, the district court dismissed the complaint pursuant to I.R.C.P. 12(b)(6) on grounds that because the Road traversed federal land, only a federal court had jurisdiction to hear the claim, which had to be brought under the federal Quiet Title Act (QTA), 28 U.S.C. section 2409a. The Nemeths appealed, arguing that state courts had jurisdiction to validate rights-of- way on federal land pursuant to R.S. 2477 and that the QTA did not preempt Idaho law that provided for such validation. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed, because the district court erred in dismissing the Nemeths’ action on the basis it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. View "Nemeth v. Shoshone County" on Justia Law

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Three cases were consolidated by the Idaho Supreme Court for the purposes of appeal. The cases involved three separate actions: one brought by First Security Corporation and two others brought by Richard Fosbury to quiet title to their purported ownership of irrigation water rights to land owned by Belle Ranch, LLC. All parties agreed that partial decrees for the water rights were issued in the Snake River Basin Adjudication (SRBA) in the name of South County Estates, LLC. As South County’s successors in interest, First Security and Fosbury argued their interests in the water rights are senior and therefore superior to the interest of Belle Ranch, LLC. Notwithstanding these claims, the district court quieted title to the water rights in question to Belle Ranch, LLC. First Security and Fosbury appeal. The Idaho Supreme Court determined First Security and Fosbury’s claims were precluded by res judicata: the claims were the same claims that were adjudicated in the SRBA. The Supreme Court found it was appropriate for the district court to quiet title in favor of Belle Ranch, LLC, because Belle Ranch, LLC, filed a notice of a change in ownership during the pendency of the SRBA. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court’s judgment. View "First Security v. Belle Ranch" on Justia Law

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Dale Johnson maintained roller coasters for Silverwood, Inc. Among rising contentions and a dispute with Silverwood’s new director of construction and maintenance, Johnson resigned his position on June 8, 2015. He subsequently applied for unemployment benefits, but his claim was denied. Johnson challenged the denial with the Appeals Bureau of the Idaho Department of Labor, and a hearing was held on August 5, 2015. When denied again, Johnson appealed to the Industrial Commission. While the appeal was pending, Johnson learned that his hearing’s recording was lost. The Industrial Commission remanded the case to the Appeals Bureau for a new hearing. Ultimately, after two additional hearings and a second appeal to the Industrial Commission, Johnson won his claim for benefits with the Commission finding that Johnson was eligible for benefits. Johnson subsequently filed suit against the Department of Labor for unnecessary delays and other alleged improprieties in the handling of his claim. The district court dismissed the case for failure to file a notice of tort claim pursuant to the Idaho Tort Claims Act and then denied Johnson’s post-judgment motions. Finding no reversible error in the district court’s judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Johnson v. Idaho Dept of Labor" on Justia Law