Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court’s denial of their request for a preliminary injunction to prevent the drilling of certain oil and gas wells in the Mancos Shale formation of the San Juan Basin in New Mexico. The district court concluded that Plaintiffs had failed to satisfy three of the four elements required to obtain a preliminary injunction: (1) Plaintiffs had not demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their claims; (2) the balance of harms weighed against Plaintiffs; and (3) Plaintiffs failed to show that the public interest favored an injunction. Finding no reversible error in the district court's denial, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Dine Citizens v. Jewell" on Justia Law

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Petitioners American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, The Cloud Foundation, Return to Freedom, Carol Walker, and Kimerlee Curyl filed this action against Sally Jewell, the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, and Neil Kornze, the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), seeking review of BLM’s decision to remove wild horses in certain areas of public land located in southwestern Wyoming within an area known as the “Checkerboard.” The Checkerboard was comprised of over one million acres of generally high desert land, and “derives its name from the pattern of alternating sections of private and public land which it comprises.” Under a 2013 consent decree, BLM agreed to remove all wild horses located on private lands in the Checkerboard. BLM maintained that “due to the unique pattern of land ownership” within the Checkerboard, “and as recognized in the Consent Decree, it is practically infeasible for the BLM to meet its obligations under Section 4 of the [Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act ("the Act")] while removing wild horses solely from the private lands sections of the [C]heckerboard.” Petitioners alleged, in pertinent part, that the removal violated the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA). The district court rejected these claims. Petitioners appealed. The Tenth Circuit reversed, finding it was "improper" for BLM to construe the unambiguous terms “privately owned land” and “private lands,” as used in Section 4 of the Act, to include the public land sections of the Checkerboard. And, in turn, with respect to the FLMPA claims, it was improper for BLM to conduct what it described as a Section 4 gather on the public land sections of the Checkerboard. "By doing so, BLM violated the duties that Section 3 clearly imposes on it with respect to wild horses found on the public land sections of the Checkerboard." The Court reversed the district court and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "American Wild Horse v. Jewell" on Justia Law

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The Court consolidated two cases in this opinion. Plaintiffs in both cases complained they were denied due process when the Board of County Commissioners of Elbert County (the Board) required them to rezone their properties before they could subdivide them. They argued that after the Board lost the documents reflecting the prior comprehensive zoning ordinance, it created new documents without following proper procedures for enacting an ordinance and covered up their misconduct. "Perhaps these allegations state a claim under Colorado law." After review, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals found that were not deprived of their right to due process under the United States Constitution. View "Onyx Properties v. Elbert Board of County Commissioners" on Justia Law

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Zia Shadows, LLC operated a mobile-home park in Las Cruces, New Mexico, under a special-use permit from the City. In late 2000, a dispute over water-rights fees arose between Zia Shadows and the City, and principal Alex Garth protested these fees and lodged written and oral complaints with the City Council. This appeal arose out of that zoning dispute. Zia Shadows and its principals, Alex and William Garth (collectively, Zia Shadows), filed suit in federal district court, alleging the City’s delays in approval of a zoning request (and the conditions ultimately attached to the approval) violated Zia Shadows’ rights to due process and equal protection. Zia Shadows also alleged the City’s actions were taken in retaliation for Zia Shadows’ public criticisms of the City. The district court granted summary judgment to the City on Zia Shadows’ due-process and equal-protection claims, and a jury found in favor of the City on Zia Shadows’ First Amendment retaliation claim. Zia Shadows argued on appeal to the Tenth Circuit: (1) that the district court erred in granting summary judgment; (2) the district court abused its discretion both in its instruction of the jury and its refusal to strike a juror; and (3) the jury’s verdict was against the clear weight of the evidence. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment, concluding Zia Shadows failed to establish the requisite elements of its due-process and equal-protection claims and did not demonstrate reversible error in either the proceedings or verdict at trial. View "Zia Shadows, LLC v. City of Las Cruces" on Justia Law

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This appeal concerned two suits: one in state and one in federal court, and statutory limitations on the power of the federal court to enjoin the state court case. In the federal case, the Utah Attorney General and the Board of Tooele County Commissioners sued the federal government under the Quiet Title Act, attempting to quiet title in favor of Utah for hundreds of rights of way in Tooele County, Utah. Five environmental groups opposed this suit, and the federal district court permitted the groups to intervene. In the state court case, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Mr. Michael Abdo, a Tooele County resident, claimed that the Utah officials lacked authority under state law to prosecute the quiet-title action in federal court. The Utah officials asked the federal court to enjoin the Wilderness Alliance and Mr. Abdo from prosecuting the state-court case. The federal district court granted the request and entered a temporary restraining order enjoining the Wilderness Alliance and Mr. Abdo for an indefinite period of time. The Wilderness Alliance and Mr. Abdo appealed, raising two issues: (1) whether the Tenth Circuit had jurisdiction to hear the appeal; and (2) did the federal district court have the authority to enjoin the state-court suit? After concluding it had jurisdiction to hear this appeal, the Tenth Circuit then concluded that the federal district court did not have authority to enjoin the Utah state court. "The All Writs Act grants a district court expansive authority to issue 'all writs necessary.' But the Anti-Injunction Act generally prohibits federal courts from enjoining state-court suits." An exception exists when an injunction is "in aid of" the federal court’s exercise of its jurisdiction. This exception applies when: (1) the federal and state court exercise in rem or quasi in rem jurisdiction over the same res; and (2) the federal court is the first to take possession of the res. These circumstances are absent because the state-court action was neither in rem nor quasi in rem. Thus, the district court’s order violated the Anti-Injunction Act. View "Tooele County v. United States" on Justia Law