Justia Government Contracts Opinion Summaries

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In February 2021, the Vermont State Auditor of Accounts, Douglas Hoffer, filed a complaint alleging that defendant OneCare Accountable Care Organization, LLC, had breached various provisions in its contract with the Department for Vermont Health Access (DVHA) by denying the Auditor’s requests for OneCare’s employee payroll and benefits records for fiscal years (FY) 2019 and 2020. The civil division granted OneCare’s motion to dismiss, concluding that the Auditor lacked contractual or statutory authority to demand the records, and the Auditor appealed. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed. View "Hoffer v. OneCare Accountable Care Organization, LLC, d/b/a OneCare Vermont" on Justia Law

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Crowley Government Services, Inc. sued the General Services Administration and its Administrator (collectively, GSA), seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to halt the GSA’s purported practice of interfering with payments owed to Crowley under its contract with the United States Transportation Command (TRANSCOM). Crowley argued the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and the general federal question statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, conferred subject matter jurisdiction on the district court to review the GSA’s alleged violation of the Contract Disputes Act of 1978, and the Transportation Act of 1940. The question this case presented for the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia's review was whether Crowley’s suit against the GSA, whichwasis not a party to Crowley’s contract with TRANSCOM, was “at its essence” contractual, including whether Crowley “in essence” sought more than $10,000 in monetary relief from the federal government such that it was subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States Court of Federal Claims (Claims Court) pursuant to the Tucker Act. The district court answered affirmatively and dismissed Crowley’s complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals disagreed: Crowley’s action against the GSA in district court was not “at its essence” contractual because Crowley did not seek to enforce or recover on the contract with TRANSCOM. Nor did Crowley “in essence” seek monetary relief from the federal government in district court. Rather, it requested declaratory and injunctive relief that, if granted, would have considerable value independent of (and not negligible in comparison to) any monetary recovery Crowley may ultimately attain in other proceedings. Accordingly, judgment was reversed and remanded to the district court for further proceedings. View "Crowley Government Services, Inc. v. GSA" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of the cities of Pella and Oskaloosa regarding the validity of an agreement between the cities and Mahaska County to establish a regional airport authority, holding that Landowners had standing to challenge the agreement.Landowners brought this action seeking a judgment that the agreement at issue was illegal and an injunction to prevent the transaction. The district court held that Landowners lacked standing to bring the suit and granted summary judgment in favor of the Cities. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) by entering into the agreement, the County's Board of Supervisors bound future board to a particular course of legislative action, in violation of the Iowa Constitution; (2) the agreement violated precedent regarding delegation of a municipality's legislative power; and (3) therefore, the district court erred in declaring the agreement to be valid and ordering specific performance by the County of its obligations under the agreement. View "Site A Landowners v. South Central Regional Airport Agency" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals upholding the decision of the Utah Procurement Policy Board to dismiss ICS Corrections, Inc.'s appeal of the decision of the Utah Division of Purchasing and General Services to award a multi-year telecommunications contract to another bidder, holding that the Board neither clearly erred nor acted arbitrarily or capriciously in dismissing ICS's appeal on the basis that it failed to attach a copy of the protest decision to its notice of appeal within the appeal deadline.In declining to disturb the Board's decision, the court of appeals held that the statutory requirements outlined in the pertinent provision of the Utah Procurement Code compelled strict compliance with their terms. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Legislature has unequivocally required the Board to dismiss an appeal where the appellant has failed to attach a copy of the protest decision to its notice of appeal within the appeal deadline; and (2) therefore, ICS's appeal must be dismissed. View "ICS Corrections, Inc. v. Procurement Policy Board" on Justia Law

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In 2015, defendants AWi Builders, Inc. (AWi), Construction Contractors Corporation, Zhirayr Robert Mekikyan, Anna Mekikyan, and Tigran Oganesian (collectively, the AWI defendants) were under criminal investigation by the Orange County District Attorney's Office (OCDA) and the Riverside County District Attorney's Office (RCDA) in connection with AWi's involvement in certain public works projects. Pursuant to search warrants jointly obtained by OCDA and RCDA, a large amount of AWI' s property was taken into OCDA's custody. In 2017, OCDA decided not to pursue criminal charges against the AWI defendants and reassigned the matter to Orange County Deputy District Attorney Kelly Ernby for civil prosecution. In 2018, Ernby filed a civil complaint, on behalf of the State and against the AWI defendants, for violations of the unfair competition law. The AWI defendants were provided with a copy of OCDA's full investigative file, minus privileged documents, and returned documents seized during the criminal investigation to the AWI defendants. In 2020, the AWI defendants filed a motion seeking an order recusing and disqualifying from this case Ernby and the entire OCDA, arguing OCDA had engaged in misconduct by, amongst other things, improperly handling property seized during the criminal investigation that was protected by the attorney-client privilege and the work product doctrine. The AWI defendants also argued that in the UCL action, Ernby had wrongfully threatened one of the AWI defendants, their counsel, and a paralegal with criminal prosecution, a claim Ernby categorically denied. The motion to recuse was denied, and the Court of Appeal affirmed denial: he AWI defendants did not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the trial court's findings. The Court found the trial court did not err by denying the motion to recuse because the evidence showed that no conflict of interest existed that would render it unlikely that the AWI defendants would receive a fair trial. View "California v. AWI Builders, Inc." on Justia Law

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An applicant for a federal license to operate a hydroelectric facility must seek a State certification that the facility’s discharges will comply with the water quality standards specified in federal law. The State may grant the applicant’s request outright, or it may grant the request subject to conditions relating to water quality, or it may deny the request, or it may fail to act.The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) decides whether to license hydroelectric projects subject to federal jurisdiction. Two hydroelectric facilities (“Districts”) filed certification requests for both projects with the California State Water Resources Control Board. The Districts object to the conditions that the California Board imposed in granting their requests for certification. FERC denied the Districts’ petition for a declaratory orderThe DC Circuit denied the petitions for judicial review. The court found that because section 401 requires only action within a year to avoid waiver, FERC also rejected the Districts’ argument that the California Board’s denials were “invalid” as a matter of federal law because they were “on non-substantive grounds” and not “on the technical merits of the certification requests.” The court wrote that it agreed with FERC that the California Board did not waive its certification authority under section 401(a)(1) and that FERC’s ruling is not contrary to Hoopa Valley. The court explained that unlike in Hoopa Valley, here the Districts’ requests were not complete and they were not ready for review. The Board’s denials were “without prejudice,” but those rulings still had the legal effect under section 401 of precluding FERC from issuing licenses to the Districts. View "Turlock Irrigation District v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review involved the award of a construction contract by the Mississippi State Port Authority at Gulfport (the MSPA) to the low-bidder, W.C. Fore Trucking, Inc. (Fore). Eutaw Construction Company, Inc. (Eutaw), another bidder, challenged that award, and the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County reversed the MSPA’s decision to award the contract to Fore. The MSPA appealed. The Supreme Court found after review that Fore's errors involved instances in which the error was minor, and the intended correct bid was evident on the face of the bid. Also, Fore’s corrected bid was a decrease in price. For these reasons, the MSPA properly followed Rule 3.106.12.4 in allowing Fore to correct its bid. Its decision was not arbitrary and capricious. The record reflected that the MSPA clearly articulated Fore’s errors, the rules that allowed for the correction of those errors, and the MSPA’s reasons for allowing the corrections. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s decision and rendered judgment in favor of the MSPA. View "Mississippi State Port Authority at Gulfport v. Eutaw Construction Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the circuit court dismissing Jefferson County Foundation, Inc.'s suit seeking a declaration that a series of transactions were an unlawful "de facto tax abatement," holding that there was no error.After the West Virginia Economic Development Authority (WVEDA) adopted a resolution to undertake a series of transactions with Roxul USA, Inc. (Rockwool) to finance the construction of a manufacturing plant the Foundation filed a complaint seeking a declaration that the transactions were a de facto tax abatement for Rockwool that violates both statute and the West Virginia Constitution. The business court dismissed the suit with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) WVEDA was statutorily authorized to engaged in the transactions; (2) the transactions were not an exemption from tax; (3) the West Virginia Economic Development Act does not conflict with W. Va. Code 11-3-9; and (4) the transactions did not violate W. Va. Const. art. X, 1. View "Jefferson County Foundation, Inc. v. W. Va. Economic Development Authority" on Justia Law

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The Bergen County Improvement Authority (BCIA) issued a request for qualification (RFQ) for a redeveloper to act as general contractor in the rehabilitation of the Bergen County Courthouse. Nine companies, including plaintiff Dobco, Inc., submitted proposals in response to the RFQ. The BCIA notified four firms that they were selected to proceed, and it notified Dobco and the other firms not selected for the short list. Dobco and plaintiff Hossam Ibrahim, the vice president and a shareholder of Dobco, and a resident and taxpayer of Bergen County, immediately filed separate, but essentially identical, complaints alleging that defendants’ actions violated the Local Public Contracts Law (LPCL) and were arbitrary and capricious. The trial court dismissed plaintiffs’ complaints with prejudice for failure to state a claim, concluding that the project was “not subject to the LPCL because it has been designated a redevelopment project” under the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law (LRHL). The judge determined that plaintiffs were barred from seeking equitable relief because Dobco responded to the RFQ and Ibrahim had not challenged the procurement process or the RFQ prior to filing his complaint. The Appellate Division affirmed the dismissal of Dobco’s complaint, finding “that Dobco is estopped from now complaining that a process in which it willingly participated violated the law.” The Appellate Division, however, reversed as to Ibrahim, determining that he could proceed with his suit as a taxpayer and remanding to the trial court to enter an order permanently restraining the BCIA from proceeding with the procurement process contemplated by the RFQ. The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Division substantially for the reasons expressed the appellate court's opinion. The Court required that, going forward, a plaintiff claiming taxpayer standing in an action challenging the process used to award a public contract for goods or services had to file a certification with the complaint. As to the merits of this appeal, the Court departed from the Appellate Division’s decision in only one respect: the Court did not rely on the leasing and financing arrangements contemplated by the BCIA and defendant County of Bergen. View "Dobco, Inc. v. Bergen County Improvement Authority " on Justia Law

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TVA, wholly owned by the U.S. government, 16 U.S.C. 831, operates Tennessee's Kingston Fossil Fuel Plant. A containment dike that retained coal-ash sludge failed in 2008, causing 5.4 million cubic yards of coal-ash sludge to spill to adjacent property. TVA and the EPA responded under the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan. TVA, as the lead agency, engaged Jacobs as its “prime contractor providing project planning, management, and oversight,” including evaluating potential hazards to human health and safety. Jacobs submitted a Safety and Health Plan. More than 60 of Jacobs’s former employees sued, claiming that they were exposed to coal ash and particulate “fly ash” during this cleanup. The suits were consolidated.The district court denied Jacobs’s motions seeking derivative discretionary-function immunity, reasoning that Jacobs would be entitled to immunity only if it adhered to its contract and there were genuine disputes of material fact as to whether Jacobs acted within the scope of its authority. A jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs but did not designate any particular theory, as listed in the jury instructions, for which Jacobs could be held liable, broadly finding that Jacobs “failed to adhere to the terms of its contract," or the Plan. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Jacobs is immune from suit only if TVA is immune; TVA would not have been immune from suit on the grounds that the plaintiffs’ claims raise either “inconsistency” or “grave-interference” concerns. View "Greg Adkisson v. Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc" on Justia Law