Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
by
A California-based psychologist, Dr. Rick Q. Wilson, was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for potential violations of the Controlled Substances Act. The DEA issued an administrative subpoena to obtain Wilson's medical, prescription, and billing records. Wilson challenged the subpoena on statutory, constitutional, and privacy grounds.The district court initially dismissed the United States' petition to enforce the subpoena, finding it violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Fourth Amendment. However, upon reconsideration, the court granted the United States' motion to amend the petition and enforce a narrowed version of the subpoena.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that the modified subpoena complied with HIPAA, was not unreasonably burdensome under the Fourth Amendment, and did not violate Wilson's Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination due to the required-records exception. The court held that the subpoena was issued within the DEA's authority, was relevant to the DEA's investigation, and was not unreasonably broad or burdensome. The court also found that the records requested fell within the required-records exception to the Fifth Amendment's privilege against self-incrimination. View "United States v. Wilson" on Justia Law

by
The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed a lower court's ruling regarding a veteran, Bruce Hay, who was convicted of ten counts of stealing government property and six counts of wire fraud. The case centered around Hay's alleged exaggeration of his disability to gain benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA conducted a six-year investigation, even installing a pole camera that recorded Hay's daily activities outside his house for 68 days.Hay appealed his conviction on three grounds: insufficient evidence supporting his conviction, violation of his Fourth Amendment rights by the VA's installation of the pole camera, and wrongful admission of evidence by the district judge. The court rejected all three arguments.First, the court ruled that Hay's fraudulent acquisition of government property constituted "stealing" under 18 U.S.C. § 641 and that sufficient evidence was presented at trial to support his conviction for stealing government property and wire fraud.Second, the court held that the use of the pole camera did not constitute a search under the Fourth Amendment as it only captured his activities in public view.Lastly, the court rejected Hay's claim that evidence post-dating the charging period was improperly admitted, finding that the district court acted within its discretion.In conclusion, the court affirmed the district court's denial of a judgment of acquittal and the admission of contested evidence. View "United States v. Hay" on Justia Law

by
The case revolves around a dispute over the management plan for the Rio Grande National Forest (RGNF) in Colorado, particularly its impact on the Canada lynx, a species listed as threatened. The United States Forest Service (USFS), tasked with managing the RGNF, revised its Land Management Plan in response to a significant spruce beetle epidemic. The revised plan was assessed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), as required by the Endangered Species Act (ESA), to consider the plan's effects on the Canada lynx. FWS issued a Biological Opinion in 2021 concluding that the plan would not likely jeopardize the lynx's continued existence. The Defenders of Wildlife contested this conclusion, arguing that the Biological Opinion violated the ESA and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and that USFS improperly relied on the opinion in preparing the plan.The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed the lower court's dismissal of the Defenders’ petition. The Court held that FWS did not violate the ESA or the APA in its assessment, and that USFS appropriately relied on FWS's conclusions. The Court noted that the FWS had reasonably considered all relevant data, including information about the Canada lynx subpopulation in Colorado, and had made a reasoned decision based on this data. The Court also found that the FWS adequately addressed the potential impact of the plan on both low-use and high-use lynx habitats. The Court concluded that because the FWS's actions were not arbitrary, capricious, or contrary to law, the USFS did not act arbitrarily in relying on the Biological Opinion. View "Defenders of Wildlife v. United States Forest Service" on Justia Law

by
The case involves a dispute over rights-of-way on federal land in Utah. Kane County and the State of Utah (collectively, "Kane County") have filed multiple lawsuits seeking to establish title to hundreds of these roads under an old statute known as Revised Statute (R.S.) 2477. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and several other environmental groups (collectively, "SUWA") have sought to intervene in these lawsuits to oppose Kane County's claims and to argue for a narrow interpretation of any rights-of-way that are recognized.In this appeal, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the district court incorrectly denied SUWA's motion to intervene on the issue of "scope," which concerns the use and width of any recognized rights-of-way. The court held that SUWA's interests in this issue were not adequately represented by the United States, which also opposed Kane County's claims but had broader responsibilities and interests to balance. However, the court affirmed the district court's denial of SUWA's motion to intervene on the issue of "title" (i.e., whether Kane County has a valid claim to the roads under R.S. 2477), because SUWA's interests on this issue were adequately represented by the United States. The case was sent back to the lower court for further proceedings consistent with the appeals court's decision. View "Kane County v. United States" on Justia Law

by
A company named Coreslab Structures was found to have violated several provisions of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. The court affirmed the National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) findings that Coreslab had engaged in unfair labor practices, including unilateral changes to its pension and profit-sharing plans, discrimination against union members, interference with an employee's right to speak with union representatives, and withdrawal of recognition from the union.Coreslab, which produces bridge components and other structural materials at its facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma, had recognized the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 627, AFL-CIO (the Union) as the bargaining representative of the company’s production and maintenance employees from 2004 until 2019. Starting in 2011, Coreslab made pension contributions only for hours worked by unit employees who were members of the Union, while providing annual profit-sharing payments to non-Union bargaining unit employees.The court held that substantial evidence supported the Board's findings that the Union lacked knowledge of the pension contribution/profit-sharing scheme until Coreslab informed the Union in September 2019. The court further held that Coreslab violated the NLRA by discriminating against union members and failing to bargain collectively with the Union. It also found that Coreslab's withdrawal of recognition from the Union was unlawful.However, the court found that the Board exceeded its statutory authority by ordering back-payments without offset and requiring Coreslab to retain the unlawfully-created profit-sharing program. The court remanded the case to the Board for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. View "Coreslab Structures v. NLRB" on Justia Law

by
The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has decided to transfer petitions for review to the D.C. Circuit. The petitions challenge a final rule by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In the contested rule, the EPA disapproved state implementation plans (SIPs) for 21 states, including Oklahoma and Utah, considering that these states failed to sufficiently address their contributions to air-quality problems in downwind states. The EPA argued that the petitions should be reviewed in the D.C. Circuit because the disputed rule is nationally applicable. The Tenth Circuit agreed, stating that the jurisdiction for review depends on the nature of the EPA's final action, not the specifics of the petitioner’s grievance. The Tenth Circuit ruled that, on its face, the final EPA action being challenged is nationally applicable, hence, any challenge to that rule belongs in the D.C. Circuit. Therefore, the court granted the EPA's motion to transfer the petitions. View "Utah v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

by
The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit denied the petitions for judicial review by Electric Clouds, Inc. and Cloud 9 Vapor Products, L.L.C. against the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The two companies had sought review of the FDA's rejection of their applications to market their flavored e-liquids, arguing that the FDA had misled them about the application process and had not adequately reviewed their proposed marketing plans. The court ruled that the FDA did not mislead the companies and acted reasonably in concluding that their evidence was inadequate to approve the applications. The court also found that even if the FDA erred in not reviewing the marketing plans, any such error was harmless because the FDA had previously found such plans to be ineffective in preventing youth access to e-cigarettes. View "Electric Clouds v. FDA" on Justia Law

by
In November 2018, Joseph Hoskins was stopped by a Utah state trooper, Jared Withers, because his Illinois license plate was partially obscured. The situation escalated when Trooper Withers conducted a dog sniff of the car, which led him to search the car and find a large amount of cash. Mr. Hoskins was arrested, and his DNA was collected. Mr. Hoskins sued Trooper Withers and Jess Anderson, Commissioner of the Utah Department of Public Safety, alleging violations of the First and Fourth Amendments and state law.The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held that Trooper Withers had reasonable suspicion to conduct the traffic stop because Utah law requires license plates to be legible, and this applies to out-of-state plates. The court also found that the dog sniff did not unlawfully prolong the traffic stop, as Mr. Hoskins was searching for his proof of insurance at the time. The court ruled that the trooper's protective measures, including pointing a gun at Mr. Hoskins, handcuffing him, and conducting a patdown, did not elevate the stop into an arrest due to Mr. Hoskins's confrontational behavior.The court further held that the dog's reaction to the car created arguable probable cause to search the car and that the discovery of a large amount of cash provided arguable probable cause to arrest Mr. Hoskins. The court found that Trooper Withers did not violate any clearly established constitutional rights by pointing a gun at Mr. Hoskins in retaliation for protected speech or as excessive force. Lastly, the court found no violation of Mr. Hoskins's due process rights related to the handling of his DNA sample, as neither the Due Process Clause nor state law created a protected interest in a procedure to ensure the destruction of his DNA sample. View "Hoskins v. Withers" on Justia Law

by
In the case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, the plaintiff, Donald Ray Logsdon, Jr., alleged that Deputy United States Marshals used excessive force when executing a state-court warrant for Logsdon's arrest. The plaintiff relied on a precedent, Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents, which established a cause of action against federal agents for violations of the Bill of Rights. However, the district court dismissed Logsdon's case, holding that the Bivens claim was not applicable, and the plaintiff appealed.The Appeals Court affirmed the district court's judgment, holding that Logsdon had no claim under Bivens. The court found that there were two "special factors" that distinguished this case from Bivens and thus justified not recognizing a Bivens claim.Firstly, the court stated that agents of the United States Marshal Service (USMS) were a new category of defendant not considered by the Supreme Court in Bivens. The USMS is required by statute to partner with state and local law-enforcement authorities to create Fugitive Apprehension Task Forces. The court found that the potential chilling effect on such partnerships of recognizing Bivens liability for USMS officers was a special factor that suggested that Congress, not the courts, should create a remedy.Secondly, the court found that the availability of alternative remedies for misconduct by Deputy U.S. Marshals, including the internal USMS grievance procedure and the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigation procedure, was a special factor suggesting that the courts should not create a remedy. The court stated that the judiciary should not assess the adequacy of such remedies, indicating that this was the role of Congress or the Executive.The Appeals Court also rejected Logsdon's argument that the district court abused its discretion by granting the defendants' motion to reconsider its initial ruling that Logsdon had a Bivens claim. The court held that the district court had the discretion to reconsider any order short of a final decree. View "Logsdon v. United States Marshal Service" on Justia Law

by
In a case brought before the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, Bruce McWhorter, a mechanic, had his certification revoked by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) after it was discovered that he had not replaced certain components of an aircraft's engine despite claiming to have performed a major overhaul. McWhorter appealed the decision to an administrative law judge who affirmed the FAA's decision. McWhorter then sought to appeal this decision to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), but failed to serve the FAA with his notice of appeal in a timely manner. The NTSB dismissed McWhorter's appeal on these grounds. McWhorter subsequently petitioned for a review of the NTSB’s dismissal, but did so 111 days after the NTSB issued its final order, exceeding the 60-day limit prescribed by law.The court clarified that the 60-day limit for seeking appellate review stipulated in 49 U.S.C. § 1153(b)(1) is not a jurisdictional requirement, but rather a claim-processing rule. This means that a petitioner’s failure to comply with this time limit does not affect the court’s jurisdiction to hear the appeal. However, the court found that McWhorter had not established reasonable grounds for the delay in filing his petition for review, as required by the same statute for petitions filed after the 60-day limit. The court determined that the primary blame for the delay was on McWhorter, not on any confusion created by the FAA or the NTSB. Therefore, the court denied McWhorter's petition as untimely. View "McWhorter v. FAA" on Justia Law