Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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Dustin Nelson filed an application for a conditional-use permit to construct and operate a concentrated animal-feeding operation in Grant County. The Grant County Board of Adjustment voted to approve the application. Geraldine and Barth Adolph petitioned the circuit court for a writ of certiorari to review the legality of the Board’s decision. The circuit court affirmed. The Adolphs appealed, arguing (1) the Board’s decision was illegal because Nelson’s proposed project violates the Zoning Ordinance for Grant County; and (2) Nelson presented a new waste-disposal plan at the public hearing, denying them an opportunity for meaningful participation. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) although the Board regularly pursued its authority in most respects, it erroneously believed that past environmental violations of a prospective applicant are never relevant in considering whether to approve an application; (2) the Adolphs were not denied due process during the public hearing; and (3) the Board did not exhibit bias requiring a new hearing. View "Adolph v. Grant County Board of Adjustment" on Justia Law

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Black Hills Power, Inc. (BHP), a public utility in South Dakota, filed an application to increase electric rates with the South Dakota Public Utility Commission. Black Hills Industrial Intervenors (BHII) filed a motion to intervene in BHP’s rate-increase application, which the Commission granted. The parties agreed to a settlement stipulation regarding the increase in December 2014. BHP, however, sought to amend the stipulation in February 2015. The Commission granted the amended settlement stipulation and approved the rate increase. BHII appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission properly ruled that BHP could submit adjustments to the settlement stipulation after the filing of the initial application; (2) the Commission did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in its consideration of pension expenses; and (3) the evidence was sufficient to support the Commission’s inclusion of portions of BHP’s incentive-compensation plan. View "In re Application of Black Hills Power, Inc." on Justia Law

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Mark Black was hired as an agent of the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) in 2005. Approximately one decade later, DCI terminated Black’s employment after a series of incidents and disciplinary actions. The Civil Service Commission (CSC) found that DCI had just cause to terminate Black’s employment. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) CSC did not err in finding that DCI had just cause to terminate Black’s employment; and (2) DCI complied with the applicable rules and regulations and afforded Black due process of law. View "Black v. Division of Criminal Investigation" on Justia Law

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James Mordhorst was injured while working for Fischer Furniture. Almost one year later, Dakota Truck Underwriters and Risk Administration Services (collectively, Insurers) terminated all workers’ compensation benefits. The South Dakota Department of Labor subsequently ordered Insurers to pay all past medical bills and interest as well as future medial expenses. Mordhorst then filed an action seeking punitive damages for an alleged bad-faith denial of workers’ compensation benefits. The circuit court granted Insurers’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action upon which relief could be granted. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred by granting Insurers’ motion to dismiss because Mordhorst asserted facts that, if true, state a claim for bad faith denial of a workers’ compensation claim and that Insurers’ reliance on an independent medical examiner’s report to deny benefits was not per se reasonable. View "Mordhorst v. Dakota Truck Underwriters" on Justia Law

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Westside Gilts RE, LLC submitted an application to the Beadle County Planning Commission for a conditional use permit (CUP) to construct and operate a concentrated animal feeding operation. The Planning Commission recommended approval of the CUP. The Beadle County Board of Adjustment (Board) approved the CUP. Petitioners appealed, arguing that the Board was without authority to issue the CUP because the county zoning ordinances passed in 2011 (Ordinances), which authorized the Board to grant the permit, were improperly enacted. The circuit court reversed the Board’s decision granting the CUP, concluding that the Ordinances were improperly enacted. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the circuit court’s ruling reversing the Board’s decision to grant the CUP, holding that the Ordinances were invalid because the Planning Commission failed to comply with S.D. Codified Laws 11-2-18, and therefore, the Board lacked jurisdiction to grant a CUP; but (2) reversed the circuit court’s order declaring the Ordinances invalid, as the order exceeded the options available to the court under its limited scope of review on certiorari. View "Wedel v. Beadle County Comm’n" on Justia Law

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A county Board of Adjustment granted Developer a conditional use permit for a concentrated animal feeding operation. Petitioners challenged the Board’s decision, arguing that the Board did not have jurisdiction to grant the permit because the county had failed to validly enact the ordinance authorizing the Board to issue permits. The circuit court affirmed the Board’s decision. In so doing, the court refused to consider whether the county validly enacted the ordinance, deciding that such review would be outside the scope of Petitioners’ writ challenging the Board’s decision. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Petitioners had standing to appeal the Board’s decision; and (2) the circuit court erred when it refused to consider the validity of the ordinances enacted by the county, as review in this case was not beyond the scope of the writ. View "Lake Hendricks Improvement Ass’n v. Brookings County Planning & Zoning Comm’n" on Justia Law

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The Department of Revenue subjected several corporations owned by North American Truck & Trailer, Inc. (collectively, Taxpayers) to a sales-and-use-tax audit, which uncovered errors regarding Taxpayers’ reporting of use tax. Thereafter, the Department assessed Taxpayers for unpaid use taxes. Taxpayers paid the assessment under protest and requested an administrative hearing. At the hearing, Taxpayers argued that the shop supplies assessed were exempt from use tax and offered exhibits in support of their position. The hearing examiner declined to consider a sales invoice offered by Taxpayers demonstrating a typical transaction that involved the cost of supplies because Taxpayers submitted it more than sixty days after the audit began, in violation of S.D. Codified Laws 10-59-7. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the hearing examiner did not err when it (1) affirmed the Department’s refusal to consider the sales invoice; and (2) affirmed the Department’s certificate of assessment of use tax due and owing on transactions where shop supplies, purchased without payment of sales tax, were used and consumed. View "Black Hills Truck & Trailer, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Dewey County Commission (the Commission) granted an application to erect a power distribution line in a section line right-of-way bordering Margaret Upell’s property. Upell filed a notice of appeal of the Commission’s decision with the circuit court. Upell served her notice of appeal by mail on counsel for Coop and on the Dewey County State’s Attorney. But she did not serve a member of the board of county commissioners as required by SDCL 7-8-29. She appealed to the circuit court which dismissed her appeal for lack of jurisdiction. She then appealed to the South Dakota Supreme Court. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal. View "Upell v. Dewey Cty. Comm'n" on Justia Law

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James Leach, a South Dakota attorney who represents clients in workers’ compensation cases, petitioned the Department of Labor for a declaratory ruling regarding the application of a statute under which the Department excludes discretionary bonuses from the earnings used to calculate an injured worker’s average weekly wage. The Department issued a declaratory ruling that discretionary bonuses may not be included in the wage calculation. Leach appealed. The circuit court sua sponte dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, ruling that, in the absence of an actual case, the Department was without subject matter jurisdiction to issue the declaratory ruling. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Department and the circuit court had jurisdiction to consider Leach’s petition for a declaratory ruling. Remanded to consider the appeal on the merits. View "In re Petition for Declaratory Ruling" on Justia Law

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Developers obtained a conditional use permit to build a dairy on Owner’s property in Brookings County. The City of Hendricks and others (collectively, City) filed a petition for writ of certiorari in circuit court challenging the permit. The circuit court affirmed the grant of the permit. City appealed. Developers filed a notice of review to challenge City’s standing but did not serve their notice of review on Owner. City moved to dismiss Developers’ notice of review/cross-appeal, arguing that Owner was a party required to be served with the notice of review. The affirmed, holding (1) Owner was a party required to be served with Developers’ notice of review, and Developers’ failure to serve Owner required dismissal of their notice of review/cross-appeal; and (2) neither S.D. Codified Laws 15-6-5(a) nor Developers’ alleged alignment of interests with Owner excused Developers’ failure to serve Owner. View "Lake Hendricks Improvement Ass’n v. Planning & Zoning Comm’n" on Justia Law