Justia U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries
Western Watersheds Project, et al. v. Haaland, et al.
In 2019, the United States Forest Service (“FS”) issued a Record of Decision (“ROD”) authorizing livestock grazing for 10 years on land in the Upper Green River Area Rangeland (“UGRA”) in Wyoming. Two sets of petitioners-appellants, the Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club (collectively, “CBD”) and Western Watersheds Project, Alliance for Wile Rockies and Yellowstone to Unitas Connection (collectively “WWP”) challenged the UGRA Project under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”), the National Forest Management Act (“NFMA”), and the Administrative Procedures Act. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded: (1) the Fish and Wildlife Service’s failures in the Biological Opinion to consider certain impacts the UGRA would have on female grizzly bears was arbitrary and capricious, but that the Opinion’s reliance on certain conservation measures was not; and (2) the Forest Service’s reliance on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Biological Opinion was arbitrary and capricious. As to WWP’s NFMA claims, the Court determined the ROD’s failure to consider the adequacy of forage and cover for migratory birds in the Project area was arbitrary and capricious. The Court remanded without vacated to the agencies to address deficiencies identified. View "Western Watersheds Project, et al. v. Haaland, et al." on Justia Law
United States v. Young
After the government charged defendant-appellant Apache Young with one count of violating the felon-in-possession statute, he moved to suppress the firearms seized from his truck during an encounter with law enforcement. Young argued: (1) officers lacked reasonable suspicion to stop him; and (2) even if he was justifiably detained, the scope of his detention was not reasonably related to the justification for the initial encounter. The district court rejected both arguments. Young preserved the issue in a conditional plea agreement and made the same arguments he did at the district court to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Young" on Justia Law
United States v. Brooks
Defendant-appellant Jimmy Lee Brooks was convicted by jury of unlawful possession of ammunition and witness tampering. The ammunition charge stemmed from an incident in which Brooks shot a firearm at a car his then-girlfriend was riding in, striking her in the buttocks. Over Brooks’ objection, the sentencing court concluded he committed attempted second-degree murder and applied a cross-reference to the attempted murder guideline, U.S.S.G. § 2A2.1. The district court was also required to calculate the guidelines under U.S.S.G. § 2K2.1 and, in doing so, applied a heightened base offense level on the assumption that Oklahoma aggravated assault and battery was a crime of violence. On appeal to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, Brooks renewed his challenge to the attempted murder cross-reference, arguing that the district court was required to find he acted with specific intent to kill but instead found he acted with malice aforethought. To this, the Tenth Circuit agreed that the attempted murder cross-reference was appropriate only when the defendant intended to kill and that the court’s finding on malice aforethought was insufficient to support the cross-reference. Brooks also argued the district court plainly erred because, under United States v. Winrow, 49 F.4th 1372 (10th Cir. 2022), Oklahoma aggravated assault and battery was not a crime of violence. The government conceded, and the Tenth Circuit agreed, that Oklahoma aggravated assault and battery was not a crime of violence. But because Brooks’ argument that his substantial rights were impacted by this error was speculative, the Tenth Circuit left the issue open for the district court to consider on remand. Accordingly, Brooks’ sentence was vacated and his case remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Brooks" on Justia Law
Mukantagara, et al. v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, et al.
Plaintiff Agnes Mukantagara, and her son, Plaintiff Ebenezer Shyaka, challenged an unfavorable United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) decision on refugee status. Meanwhile, the government began separate removal proceedings. Plaintiffs filed this suit in the United States District Court for the District of Utah seeking judicial review of the termination of their refugee status. Defendants moved to dismiss, contending that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the agency action was not final and because of the jurisdiction-stripping provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. In the district court’s view, the regulation implementing the Immigration and Nationality Act’s provision allowing for the termination of refugee status, 8 C.F.R § 207.9, constitutes a triggering event that “arises from” an action taken to remove an alien. The district court said Plaintiffs’ claims fell within the scope of 8 U.S.C. § 1252(b)(9) because they challenged the decision “to seek removal.” The district court dismissed the action, concluding that it lacked jurisdiction. But the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals determined the district court read the statute too expansively. “Congress did not intend the zipper clause 'to cut off claims that have a tangential relationship with pending removal proceedings.' ... the regulation strips USCIS’s discretion whether it should take action to remove an alien under the circumstances.” USCIS’s decision “is not a decision to ‘commence proceedings,’ much less to ‘adjudicate’ a case or ‘execute’ a removal order.” View "Mukantagara, et al. v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Government & Administrative Law, Immigration Law
Audubon of Kansas v. United States Department of Interior, et al.
Appellant Audubon of Kansas (Audubon) was frustrated with federal bureaucracy: the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service) knew for decades that junior water-rights-holders were impairing its senior water right in Quivira Wildlife Refuge (the Refuge), threatening the endangered species there. Despite years of study and negotiation between the Service, state agencies, and Kansas water districts, the Refuge water right remained impaired. Audubon filed this lawsuit seeking to force the Service to protect the Refuge water right. But in 2023, the Service did act by requesting full administration of the Refuge water right, which was a remedy Audubon sought for its failure-to-act claim. For its claims of unlawful agency action, Audubon also sought to set aside an agreement between the Service and a water district. The Tenth Circuit determined all material terms of this agreement expired. The Service argued Audubon’s claims were moot; Audubon countered that its claims weren't moot or that a mootness exception should apply. To this, the Tenth Circuit concluded Audubon’s claim of unlawful agency action under 5 U.S.C. § 706(2) was moot, and that claim was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. As for Audubon’s claim of agency inaction under § 706(1), the Court found the mootness exception of “capable of repetition but evading review” applied, but the Court lacked jurisdiction under the Administrative Procedure Act. View "Audubon of Kansas v. United States Department of Interior, et al." on Justia Law
D.K., et al. v. United Behavioral Health, et al.
Middle schooler A.K. struggled with suicidal ideation for many years and attempted suicide numerous times, resulting in frequent emergency room visits and in-patient hospitalizations. A.K.’s physicians strongly recommended she enroll in a residential treatment facility to build the skills necessary to stabilize. Despite these recommendations and extensive evidence in the medical record, United Behavioral Health (“United”) denied coverage for A.K.’s stay at a residential treatment facility beyond an initial three month period. Her parents appealed United’s denial numerous times, requesting further clarification, and providing extensive medical evidence, yet United only replied with conclusory statements that did not address the evidence provided. As a result, A.K.’s parents brought this lawsuit contending United violated its fiduciary duties by failing to provide a “full and fair review” of their claim for medical benefits. Both sides moved for summary judgment, and the district court ruled against United. The issue this case presented for the Tenth Circuit's review was whether United arbitrarily and capriciously denied A.K. medical benefits and whether the district court abused its discretion in awarding A.K. benefits rather than remanding to United for further review. The Court ultimately concluded United did act arbitrarily and capriciously in not adequately engaging with the opinions of A.K.’s physicians and in not providing its reasoning for denials to A.K.’s parents. The Court also concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion by awarding A.K. benefits outright. View "D.K., et al. v. United Behavioral Health, et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, ERISA, Government & Administrative Law, Health Law
Elevate Federal Credit Union v. Elevations Credit Union
This appeal concerns a trademark dispute between two credit unions: “Elevate Federal Credit Union” and “Elevations Credit Union.” Elevate sued for a declaratory judgment of noninfringement, and Elevations counterclaimed for trademark infringement under the Lanham Act. The parties proffered expert witnesses and challenged the admissibility of the adversary’s expert testimony. The district court excluded opinion testimony by Elevations’ expert witness and granted summary judgment to Elevate on its claim for a declaratory judgment and on Elevations’ counterclaim. Elevations appealed these rulings. The appeal presented two issues for the Tenth Circuit's resolution: (1) whether the district court acted within its discretion when disallowing Elevations' expert testimony because Elevations failed to disclose information that the expert witness considered; and (2) whether the marks belong to credit unions with differing eligibility restrictions in distinct geographic markets, could the presence of some similarities create a likelihood of confusion. The Tenth Circuit concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion in disallowing the expert testimony, and the differing eligibility restrictions in differing markets did not create a likelihood of confusion. View "Elevate Federal Credit Union v. Elevations Credit Union" on Justia Law
Posted in: Antitrust & Trade Regulation, Business Law, Trademark
Helvie v. Jenkins
Plaintiff Jeffrey Helvie appealed a district court’s decision to grant Defendant Chad Jenkins, an Adams County, Colorado, deputy sheriff, qualified immunity on Helvie’s claim that the deputy used excessive force against Helvie during a traffic stop. On August 23, 2018, at approximately 11:45 p.m., Deputy Jenkins observed Plaintiff make several traffic infractions while driving a Nissan pickup truck. The vehicle window was partially down when Deputy Jenkins approached. According to Deputy Jenkins, he could smell the strong odor of burnt marijuana coming out of the window, though Plaintiff disputed having smoked marijuana that day. Plaintiff handed his driver’s license and registration to Deputy Jenkins, but had difficulty providing his proof of insurance (which was on his phone) due to either poor cellular reception or Plaintiff's inability to correctly enter a passcode. According to Deputy Jenkins, he believed that Plaintiff was operating a vehicle while under the influence and wanted to conduct further investigation. When Plaintiff did not get out of the vehicle, Deputy Jenkins grabbed Plaintiff's arm and ordered him out of the vehicle. According to Deputy Jenkins, Plaintiff pulled away. Deputy Jenkins then grabbed Plaintiff's leg and pulled him out of the vehicle, causing Plaintiff to land on his back. As Deputy Jenkins was pulling Plaintiff out of the vehicle, he observed a handgun in the pocket of the driver’s side door. After review of Plaintiff's complaint, the Tenth Circuit determined he failed to show that Deputy Jenkins violated his constitutional rights and, necessarily flowing from that holding, Plaintiff failed to show that his constitutional rights allegedly violated were clearly established. View "Helvie v. Jenkins" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law
United States v. Faunce
Defendant Ivan Faunce appealed the revocation of his supervised release. While on supervised release, Faunce allegedly beat his ex-girlfriend, E.B., and locked her in an RV. The district court: (1) found Faunce had committed kidnapping, aggravated assault, criminal mischief, and other violations of the terms of his supervised release; and (2) sentenced Faunce to two years in prison and one more year of supervised release. Faunce appealed, arguing: (1) the district court plainly erred by constructively amending the petition; and (2) the district court plainly erred or abused its discretion by allowing a government witness to testify by Zoom. After review of the trial court record, the Tenth Circuit found no reversible error and affirmed the revocation and sentence. View "United States v. Faunce" on Justia Law
United States v. Porter
Defendant-Appellant Aaron Porter entered a conditional plea of guilty to one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, and was sentenced to 43 months’ imprisonment and three years’ supervised release. He reserved the right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress a firearm found inside of his backpack. On appeal, to the Tenth Circuit, he argued that the Denver police conducted a warrantless search of his backpack and that the district court erred in finding that: (1) he had abandoned the backpack; and (2) the firearm would have been discovered pursuant to an inventory search. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed Porter's conviction and sentence. View "United States v. Porter" on Justia Law