Justia Oklahoma Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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Plaintiffs filed an action challenging rules adopted by the Oklahoma Board of Tests for Alcohol and Drug Influence at one of its meetings. Those rules were subsequently used by the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety in actions to revoke plaintiffs' driver's licenses. The district court held an evidentiary hearing and concluded: (1) the Board violated the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act; and (2) rules adopted by the Board at its meeting were invalid. Defendants appealed and the Court of Civil Appeals concluded a willful violation of the Open Meeting Act did not occur and reversed the district court. Plaintiffs petitioned for certiorari review, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Civil Appeals: the evidence was insufficient to make a prima facie case that the Board's Director willfully violated the Open Meeting Act when he failed to send the email notice of the special meeting to the Secretary of State. "The evidence showed a single event of an official's forgetfulness and omission when he sent an email notice to many individuals and failed to include the Secretary of State's address on the email, and additional evidence showed this omission was not a willful violation of the Act." View "Bailey, et al. v. Oklahoma ex rel. Bd. of Tests for Alcohol & Drug Influence" on Justia Law

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The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority petitioned the Oklahoma Supreme Court to approve the issuance of ratepayer-backed bonds pursuant to the February 2021 Regulated Utility Consumer Protection Act, 74 O.S.2021, ch. 110A-1, sections 9070-9081. The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority sought to issue bonds to cover the debt incurred by Summit Utilities Oklahoma from unprecedented fuel costs during a February 2021 winter weather event. Summit Utilities’ ratepayers would then fund the bond payments through a monthly charge. The ratepayer-backed bonds would allow customers to pay their utility bills at a lower amount over a longer period of time. No protestants challenged the proposed bonds. The Supreme Court assumed original jurisdiction and held that the ratepayer-backed bonds were properly authorized under the Act and were constitutional. View "In the Matter of the Application of the Oklahoma Development Finance Authority" on Justia Law

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The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority petitioned the Oklahoma Supreme Court to approve the issuance of ratepayer-backed bonds pursuant to the February 2021 Regulated Utility Consumer Protection Act, 74 O.S.2021, ch. 110A-1, sections 9070-9081. The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority sought to issue bonds to cover the debt incurred by Public Service Company of Oklahoma from unprecedented fuel costs during a February 2021 winter weather event. Public Service Company of Oklahoma's ratepayers would then fund the bond payments through a monthly charge. The ratepayer-backed bonds would allow customers to pay their utility bills at a lower amount over a longer period of time. No protestants challenged the proposed bonds. The Supreme Court assumed original jurisdiction and held that the ratepayer-backed bonds were properly authorized under the Act and were constitutional. View "In the Matter of the Application of the Oklahoma Development Finance Authority" on Justia Law

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The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority petitioned the Oklahoma Supreme Court to approve the issuance of ratepayer-backed bonds pursuant to the February 2021 Regulated Utility Consumer Protection Act, 74 O.S.2021, ch. 110A-1, sections 9070-9081. The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority sought to issue bonds to cover the debt incurred by Oklahoma Natural Gas Company from unprecedented fuel costs during a February 2021 winter weather event. Oklahoma Natural Gas Company's ratepayers would then fund the bond payments through a monthly charge. The ratepayer-backed bonds would allow customers to pay their utility bills at a lower amount over a longer period of time. Protestants challenged the proposed bonds on several grounds, focusing on the constitutionality of the bonds. The Supreme Court assumed original jurisdiction and held that the ratepayer-backed bonds were properly authorized under the Act and were constitutional. View "In the Matter of the Application of the Oklahoma Development Finance Authority" on Justia Law

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The mother of a child injured while visiting a cemetery when a headstone fell sued the Town of Granite, the operator of the cemetery, for negligence. The district court granted Town's motion for summary judgment, holding that Town did not owe a duty to the child. The mother appealed. The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals reversed the district court's judgment, holding Town owed a duty to the child regarding dangerous defects. After certiorari review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court concluded the Town did not own or control the headstone, and therefore owed no duty to the child regarding the maintenance of the headstone. View "Kamphaus v. Town of Granite" on Justia Law

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In February 2021, the State of Oklahoma endured record cold temperatures. The severe cold weather resulted in a shortage of the natural gas supply and in turn extraordinary natural gas costs for regulated utilities operating in Oklahoma. The cost of natural gas for the Oklahoma utilities during the two weeks of extreme cold exceeded their entire fuel acquisition cost in 2020. As a result, the Oklahoma Legislature enacted the February 2021 Regulated Utility Consumer Protection Act, 74 O.S.2021, ch. 110A-1, sections 9070-9081, to provide financing options to lower the economic impact on the utility customers. Most Oklahomans could not afford a one-time, cost recovery payment imposed by the utility, and the Legislature provided a new mechanism to spread the fuel cost recovery over a longer period to minimize the financial impact on utility customers. The Act authorized the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (Commission) to approve the recovery of costs through securitization. The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority requested that the Oklahoma Supreme Court assume original jurisdiction and approve the issuance of ratepayer-backed bonds pursuant to the Act. The Supreme Court assumed original jurisdiction and held the ratepayer-backed bonds were properly authorized under the Act and were constitutional. View "In re: Application of OK Dev. Finance Auth." on Justia Law

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Corporate taxpayer Raytheon Company's 2012 income tax return was due on March 15, 2013. Raytheon filed its return on September 27, 2013, after securing an authorized extension of the deadline. Raytheon later discovered that the return overstated the company's annual income based upon the inadvertent inclusion of Arizona property sales. The company filed an amended 2012 return on September 27, 2016, claiming a refund of $321,444.00. The Oklahoma Tax Commission denied the refund claim, reasoning taxpayer submitted its demand more than three years after paying the taxes. An administrative law judge found the claimed refund was time barred under 68 O.S.2011, section 2373, and the Commissioners affirmed this finding. The company appealed, and after review the Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed, finding the taxpayer timely brought the claim for refund, having paid taxes to the Oklahoma Tax Commission upon filing its amended original return with a proper extension. View "In the matter of the Income Tax Protest of Raytheon Company" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Magnum Energy, Inc. appealed a Board of Adjustment for the City of Norman (Board) decision denying Plaintiff's application for a variance from the City's business licensing requirement that oil and gas operators maintain two million dollars in umbrella liability coverage. The trial court granted summary judgment in Plaintiff's favor, finding that the requirement conflicted with State law and was therefore unenforceable. The Board appealed the trial court's order; the Court of Civil Appeals reversed the order, finding no conflict between the requirement and State law. The Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed the appellate court, finding the requirement conflicted with 52 O.S.Supp.2015 section 137.1, rendering the requirement invalid and unenforceable. View "Magnum Energy v. Bd. of Adjustment for the City of Norman" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-appellees Ronda Owens, Darryl Hubbard, Selena Freymiller, Shanika Crowley, Valerie Killman, Michael Lee Pitts, Ebony Warrior, John Ball, Michelle Bullock, Logan Bellew, Sondia Bell, Tumeeka Baker, and Jay Reid (collectively "Citizens") filed the underlying lawsuit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. Citizens claimed that Oklahoma Governor J. Kevin Stitt and Defendant-appellant Shelley Zumwalt, in her official capacity as Executive Director of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, acted without authority and violated 40 O.S.2011 section 4-313 of the Oklahoma Employment Security Act by terminating agreements with the U.S. Department of Labor to administer COVID-related unemployment programs. The trial court entered a preliminary injunction ordering Zumwalt to immediately reinstate and administer the programs. Zumwalt appealed, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court stayed the trial court's order pending appeal. The Supreme Court found 40 O.S. 4-313 did not create a private right of action and, therefore, the trial court abused its discretion by granting a preliminary injunction. View "Owens, et al. v. Zumwalt" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-appellants, Craig Immel, Terry Young, Herb Beattie, and Ray Pearcey (collectively, "Taxpayers"), sought a declaratory judgment that Defendants-appellees, Tulsa Public Facilities Authority (TPFA) and the City of Tulsa (City), could not sell 8.8 acres of park land to a private developer for the construction of a commercial shopping center because the land was held in a public trust expressly as a park for the people. All parties moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted the TPFA and the City's joint motion for summary judgment as to all claims. Taxpayers appealed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held: (1) Taxpayers had standing; (2) the TPFA and the City could not sell the 8.8 acres of park land to a private developer for construction of a commercial shopping center because the land was indeed held in a public trust for the people, unless it was abandoned and/or was no longer fit for its intended use as a public park; (3) there were disputed material facts as to whether the TPFA and the City lawfully abandoned the 8.8 acres of park land; and (4) there were disputed material facts as to whether the expenditure met the public purpose requirement under the Oklahoma Constitution. The trial court's order granting the TPFA and the City's joint motion for summary judgment was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Immel et al. v. Tulsa Public Facilities Authority" on Justia Law