Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
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OXY USA, Inc. appealed a decision of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Natural Resources Revenue (“ONRR”) ordering it to pay an additional $1,820,652.66 in royalty payments on federal gas leases that were committed to the Bravo Dome Unit (“the Unit”). The owner of the leases OXY subsequently acquired - Amerada Hess Corporation (“Hess”) - used almost all of the CO2 it produced in the Unit for its own purposes rather than sale. ONRR rejected Hess’s valuation method and established its own. Hess appealed, and ONRR’s Director issued a decision reducing the amount Hess owed but affirming the remainder of ONRR’s order. Hess appealed to the Interior Board of Land Appeals, but the Board did not issue a final merits decision prior to the 33-month limitations period. On appeal to the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, the district court rejected OXY’s challenge to the amount of royalties owed and affirmed the Director’s decision. Finding ONRR's interpretation and application of the marketable-condition rule to this case was not plainly erroneous or inconsistent with the applicable regulations, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. View "OXY USA v. DOI, et al." on Justia Law

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Appellants Darren Herrera and Paula Garcia purchased a home in the City of Espanola, New Mexico (the “City”). At the time Appellants purchased the home, the existing owner, Charlotte Miera, was not current on her water and sewer bill. Although the City initially provided water service to Appellants, it discontinued service in February 2017, and declined to recommence it until someone paid the water and sewer bill. In June 2020, Appellants filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the New Mexico Tort Claims Act (“NMTCA”) based on the City’s refusal to provide them water service unless someone paid Miera’s bill. The City filed a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion, arguing the statute of limitations had elapsed before Appellants filed their action. Although Appellants conceded a three-year statute of limitations governed their section 1983 claims, and a two-year statute of limitations governed their NMTCA claim, they argued the limitations period had not expired on their claims because the City repeatedly denied their requests for water service between February 2017 and February 2020. They expressly relied on the continuing violation doctrine to extend the limitations period, and also argued facts consistent with the related repeated violations doctrine. The district court granted the City’s motion to dismiss. The Tenth Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part and reversed in part. The Court agreed with the district court that Appellants’ action first accrued no later than March 2017. Further, although it held the continuing violation doctrine was available within the section 1983 context, the Court concurred with the district court that it did not save Appellants’ claims against the City or their NMTCA claim. The Court found Appellants’ claims premised on the City’s alleged policy of conditioning water service to new property owners on the payment of bills owed by prior property owners was not time-barred under the repeated violation doctrine and Hamer v. City of Trinidad, 924 F.3d 1093 (10th Cir. 2019). View "Herrera, et al. v. City of Espanola, et al." on Justia Law

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Taj Jerry Mahabub, founder and Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) of GenAudio, Inc. (“GenAudio”; collectively referred to as “Appellants”) attempted to secure a software licensing deal with Apple, Inc. (“Apple”). Mahabub intended to integrate GenAudio’s three-dimensional audio software, “AstoundSound,” into Apple’s products. While Appellants were pursuing that collaboration, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) commenced an investigation into Mr. Mahabub’s conduct: Mahabub was suspected of defrauding investors by fabricating statements about Apple’s interest in GenAudio’s software and violating registration provisions of the securities laws in connection with sales of GenAudio securities. The district court found Mahabub defrauded investors and violated the securities laws. The court determined that Appellants were liable for knowingly or recklessly making six fraudulent misstatements in connection with two offerings of GenAudio’s securities in violation of the antifraud provisions of the securities laws. Appellants appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the SEC. View "SEC v. GenAudio Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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In 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service exercised its authority under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to designate nearly 14,000 acres of riparian land in New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona as critical habitat for the New Mexico Meadow Jumping Mouse. Two New Mexico ranching associations whose members graze cattle on the designated land challenged the Service’s critical habitat determination. The district court rejected each argument and upheld the Service’s critical habitat designation. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed, concluding: (1) the Service’s method for assessing the economic impacts of critical habitat designation complied with the ESA; (2) the Service adequately considered the effects of designation on the ranching association members’ water rights; and (3) the Service reasonably supported its decision not to exclude certain areas from the critical habitat designation. View "Northern New Mexico Stockman, et al. v. United States Fish & Wildlife Service, et al." on Justia Law

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Petitioner Kelly Gonzalez Aguilar was a transgender woman from Honduras. She came to the United States and applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and deferral of removal. In support, Kelly claimed she had been persecuted by family, feared further persecution from pervasive discrimination and violence against transgender women in Honduras, and would likely be tortured if she returned to Honduras. In denying asylum, an immigration judge found no pattern or practice of persecution. Kelly appealed the denial of each application, and the Board of Immigration Appeals dismissed the appeal. The dismissal led Kelly to petition for judicial review to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, which granted the petition. "On the asylum claim, any reasonable adjudicator would be compelled to find a pattern or practice of persecution against transgender women in Honduras." View "Gonzalez Aguilar v. Garland" on Justia Law

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The Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation (“the Tribe”) temporarily banished Angelita Chegup, Tara Amboh, Mary Jenkins, and Lynda Kozlowicz (“the banished members”). The banished members did not challenge their temporary banishment in a tribal forum, but instead sought relief in federal court by filing a petition for habeas corpus. The banished members contended that, because they were excluded from the reservation by virtue of their banishment, they were “detained” within the meaning of the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 (“ICRA”). The district court disagreed and dismissed the suit without considering the Tribe’s alternative position: that the court could not consider the claims at all because the banished members failed to exhaust their tribal remedies. On appeal, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concurred with the district court: "Even though tribal exhaustion is non-jurisdictional, and courts may often choose between threshold grounds for denying relief, we think that under the unique circumstances of this case there was a right choice." Because the district court neither began its analysis with tribal exhaustion nor reached that issue in the alternative, the Tenth Circuit remanded for it to be decided in the first instance. View "Chegup, et al. v. Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Robin Thornton and Michael Lucero alleged defendants Tyson Foods, Inc., Cargill Meat Solutions, Corp., JBS USA Food Company, and National Beef Packing Company, LLC, used deceptive and misleading labels on their beef products. In particular, plaintiffs contended the “Product of the U.S.A.” label on defendants’ beef products was misleading and deceptive in violation of New Mexico law because the beef products did not originate from cattle born and raised in the United States. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals determined the federal agency tasked with ensuring the labels were not misleading or deceptive preapproved the labels at issue here. In seeking to establish that defendants’ federally approved labels were nevertheless misleading and deceptive under state law, plaintiffs sought to impose labeling requirements that were different than or in addition to the federal requirements. The Tenth Circuit concluded plaintiffs’ deceptive-labeling claims were expressly preempted by federal law. Further, the Court agreed with the district court that plaintiffs failed to state a claim for false advertising. View "Thornton, et al. v. Tyson Foods, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit against defendant Roark-Whitten Hospitality 2 (RW2) seeking relief for what the EEOC alleged were unlawful employment practices by RW2 on the basis of race, color, national origin, and retaliation. Those unlawful employment practices allegedly occurred after RW2 purchased and began operating a hotel in Taos, New Mexico in 2009. The aggrieved employees were all employed at the hotel prior to RW2’s purchase, and were all either terminated or constructively discharged at some point after the purchase. After the action was initiated, the EEOC filed amended complaints seeking to add as defendants two additional entities, Jai Hanuman, LLC (Jai), which purchased the hotel from RW2 in 2014, and SGI, LLC (SGI), which purchased the hotel from Jai in 2016. The district court dismissed the EEOC’s claims against SGI on the grounds that the EEOC failed to adequately allege a basis for successor liability against SGI. As for RW2 and Jai, the district court, acting pursuant to a motion for civil contempt filed by the EEOC, entered default judgment against them and then conducted a hearing on the issue of damages. After conducting that hearing, the district court dismissed the EEOC’s claims against Jai on the grounds that the EEOC failed to adequately allege a basis for successor liability against Jai, and it ordered RW2 to pay compensatory damages to the EEOC in the total amount of $35,000. The EEOC appealed, arguing: (1) the district court erred in dismissing its claims against defendants SGI and Jai; and (2) the district court erred in awarding only $35,000 in compensatory damages for the eleven aggrieved individuals. After review, the Tenth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal of the EEOC’s claims against defendant SGI, affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the EEOC’s claims against defendant Jai, reversed the district court’s damage award against defendant RW2, and remanded for further proceedings. View "EEOC v. Roark-Whitten Hospitality, et al." on Justia Law

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Three teaching hospitals challenged the denial of Medicare reimbursements. At that time, a teaching hospital could obtain reimbursement only by incurring “substantially all” of a resident’s training costs. Because the teaching hospitals had shared the training costs for each resident, the government denied reimbursement. The denials led the teaching hospitals to file administrative appeals. While they were pending, Congress enacted the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which created a new standard for reimbursement. The parties disagreed on whether the ACA’s new standard applied to proceedings reopened when Congress changed the law. The agency answered no, and the district court granted summary judgment to the agency. Finding no reversible error in that decision, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "St. Francis Hospital, et al. v. Becerra" on Justia Law

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TCI Pacific Communications, LLC (“TCI”) appealed a district court’s judgment holding it liable to Cyprus Amax Minerals Co. (“Cyprus”) for contribution under 42 U.S.C. sections 9601(9)(B), 9607(a), and 9613(f) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response and Liability Act (“CERCLA”). This case involved claims brought by Cyprus to determine whether TCI could be held liable for environmental cleanup costs relating to zinc smelting operations near Collinsville, Oklahoma. The Bartlesville Zinc Company, a former subsidiary of Cyprus’s predecessor, operated the Bartlesville Zinc Smelter (the “BZ Smelter”) from 1911 to 1918, near Collinsville, Oklahoma. TFMC owned and operated another zinc smelter (the “TFM Smelter”) from 1911 to 1926. This case does not concern cleanup work at either smelter, but rather is an action by Cyprus seeking cost recovery and contribution for its remediation in the broader Collinsville area, within the Collinsville Soil Program (“CSP”) Study Area. Cyprus sought to hold TCI liable as a former owner or operator of the TFM Smelter whose waste was located throughout the CSP Study Area. The district court granted partial summary judgment to Cyprus and pierced the corporate veil to hold TCI’s corporate predecessor, the New Jersey Zinc Company (“NJZ”), liable as the alter ego of the Tulsa Fuel & Manufacturing Co. (“TFMC”). The district court then interpreted CERCLA and held that TCI was liable as a former owner/operator of a CERCLA “facility.” Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Cyprus Amax Minerals Company v. TCI Pacific Communications" on Justia Law