Justia U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Animal / Dog Law
Friends of Animals v. Bernhardt, et al.
Animal rights organization Friends of Animals served a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) seeking disclosure of form 3-177s submitted by wildlife hunters and traders seeking to import elephant and giraffe parts. FWS disclosed the forms with redactions. Most relevant here, it withheld the names of the individual submitters under FOIA Exemptions 6 and 7(C), which prevent disclosure of information when a privacy interest in withholding outweighs the public interest in disclosure, as well as information on one Form 3-177 under Exemption 4, which prevents the disclosure of material that is commercial and confidential. Friends of Animals challenged these redactions in the district court, which granted summary judgment in favor of FWS, upholding the redactions. The Tenth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part, finding the district court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of FWS as to the withholdings in the Elephant Request under Exemptions 6 and 7(C) and as to the withholdings under Exemption 4. The Court affirmed summary judgment as to the withholdings in the Giraffe Request. View "Friends of Animals v. Bernhardt, et al." on Justia Law
Animal Legal Defense Fund, et al. v. Kelly, et al.
The Kansas Farm Animal and Field Crop and Research Facilities Protection Act (the “Act”) criminalized certain actions directed at an animal facility without effective consent of the owner of the facility and with intent to damage the enterprise of such facility. The Act provided that consent was not effective if induced through deception. Animal Legal Defense Fund (“ALDF”) wished to perform investigations by planting ALDF investigators as employees of animal facilities to document abuse of animals that ALDF would then publicize. Because investigators would be willing to lie about their association with ALDF, ALDF feared its investigations would run afoul of the Act. ALDF therefore took preemptive action and sued the Governor of Kansas, Laura Kelly, and the Attorney General of Kansas, Derek Schmidt, in their official capacities, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief on the ground that the Act violated the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The district court granted both motions in part, determining ALDF had standing to challenge only three subsections of the Act, Title 47, sections 1827(b), (c), and (d) of the Kansas Statutes Annotated. The district court held these provisions were unconstitutional. Thereafter, ALDF moved for a permanent injunction against enforcement of the relevant subsections of the Act. The district court granted its request. Kansas appealed both the order on the cross-motions for summary judgment and the order granting a permanent injunction, arguing the district court erred in holding the relevant subsections of the Act unconstitutional. After its review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed: "Subsections (b), (c), and (d) of the Act concern speech because they include deception as a possible element and are viewpoint discriminatory because they apply only to persons who intend to damage the enterprise of an animal facility. Because the 'intent to damage the enterprise conducted at the animal facility' requirement, is a broad element that does not delineate protected from unprotected speech, Kansas must satisfy strict scrutiny. It has not attempted to do so." View "Animal Legal Defense Fund, et al. v. Kelly, et al." on Justia Law
United States v. Maldonado-Passage
Joseph Maldonado-Passage a/k/a Joe Exotic, the self-proclaimed "Tiger King," was indicted on 21 counts: most for wildlife crimes, and two for using interstate facilities in the commission of his murder-for-hire plots against Carole Baskin. A jury convicted Maldonado-Passage on all counts, and the court sentenced him to 264 months’ imprisonment. On appeal, Maldonado-Passage challenged his murder-for-hire convictions, arguing that the district court erred by allowing Baskin, a listed government witness, to attend the entire trial proceedings. He also disputed his sentence, arguing that the trial court erred by not grouping his two murder-for-hire convictions in calculating his advisory Guidelines range. On this second point, he contended that the Guidelines required the district court to group the two counts because they involved the same victim and two or more acts or transactions that were connected by a common criminal objective: murdering Baskin. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeal determined the district court acted within its discretion by allowing Baskin to attend the full trial proceedings despite her being listed as a government witness, but that it erred by not grouping the two murder-for-hire convictions at sentencing. Accordingly, the conviction was affirmed, but the sentence vacated and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Maldonado-Passage" on Justia Law
Big Cats of Serenity Springs v. Vilsack
Big Cats of Serenity Springs was a Colorado-based non-profit that provided housing, food, and veterinary care for exotic animals. The facility was regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Three APHIS inspectors accompanied by sheriff’s deputies broke into the Big Cats facility without its permission to perform an unannounced inspection of two tiger cubs. But at the time the inspectors entered the facility, the cubs were at a veterinarian’s office receiving treatment, just as Big Cats had promised the APHIS inspectors the previous day. Big Cats and its directors sued the APHIS inspectors for the unauthorized entry pursuant to "Bivens v. Six Unknown Narcotics Agents," (403 U.S. 388 (1971)) and 42 U.S.C. 1983, asserting the entry was an illegal search under the Fourth Amendment. The district court denied the APHIS inspectors’ motion to dismiss the complaint and they filed an interlocutory appeal challenging the court’s failure to grant qualified immunity. The Tenth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. Big Cats’ complaint stated a claim for relief under "Bivens." No APHIS inspector would reasonably have believed unauthorized forcible entry of the Big Cats facility was permissible, and therefore Big Cats and its directors could have a claim for violation of their Fourth Amendment right to be free from an unreasonable search. But the Court reversed on Big Cats’ civil rights claim because the federal inspectors were not liable under section 1983 in the circumstances here. View "Big Cats of Serenity Springs v. Vilsack" on Justia Law
Campbell v. City of Spencer
Municipalities City of Spencer and the Town of Forest Park, and Blaze’s Tribute Equine Rescue, acting under a search warrant, seized 44 abused and neglected horses from plaintiff-appellant Ann Campbell’s properties. After a forfeiture hearing, a state district court in Oklahoma issued an order granting Spencer and Forest Park’s joint forfeiture petition. Campbell later sued the municipalities (and Blaze) in federal court under 42 U.S.C. section 1983. The district court dismissed Campbell’s complaint, applying both claim and issue preclusion to prevent relitigation of matters common to the state court forfeiture proceeding. Campbell appealed. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded the district court properly dismissed Campbell’s 1983 claims: because Campbell could have raised her constitutional claims in the forfeiture proceeding but did not do so, and because the Court's allowing her to raise these claims in this appeal would impair the Municipalities’ rights established in that proceeding, the Court held that the district court properly concluded that claim preclusion disallowed Campbell from pursuing her constitutional claims. View "Campbell v. City of Spencer" on Justia Law
United States v. Romero
Defendant Steven Romero appealed his three year sentence for aggravated animal cruelty. In 2009, Defendant tied a rope around the neck of "Buddy," a dog belonging to a family in Delta, Colorado, and dragged him to death behind a pick-up truck on federal land. The United States Probation Office prepared a pre-sentence investigation report (PSR), indicating that while Defendant was in jail for killing Buddy and before pleading guilty, he made a series of telephone calls attempting to silence witnesses and procure false grand jury testimony. The PSR recounted Romero’s ten prior felony convictions, poor physical health, mild mental retardation, amphetamine dependence, depression, and “[i]ntermittent [e]xplosive [d]isorder." The presumptive sentence for aggravated animal cruelty was 12-18 months, but that maximum could be doubled under certain circumstances. Upon review of the sentencing court's record, the Tenth Circuit concluded that the district court did not impose a substantively unreasonable sentence when sentencing Defendant to 36-months' imprisonment. The Court affirmed the lower court's judgment.
United States v. Wilgus
Wilgus was arrested for violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, 16 U.S.C. 668, which prohibits possession of eagle feathers, but excepts possession for religious purposes of Indian tribes. Wilgus is a follower of a Native American faith and blood-brother to a Paiute, but not a member of a recognized tribe, nor is he Indian by birth. He received at least one feather for religious purposes. Following a remand, the district court held that application of the Eagle Act to Wilgus would violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000bb-1 (RFRA), which prohibits government from substantially burdening religious freedom, except to forward a compelling governmental interest via the least restrictive means. The Tenth Circuit reversed. The government has competing compelling interests in protecting eagles and in preserving Native American religion and culture. The RFRA exception is intended to protect the religion and culture of tribes, not individual practitioners. Tribes are quasi-sovereign political entities; protection of faith practices among the general public might violate the Establishment Clause. The government need not refute every option to satisfy the least restrictive means prong of RFRA; the RFRA exception balances the competing interests. Proposed alternatives, involving creation of a feather repository, opening permits to all sincere adherents to Native American religion, or allowing Native Americans to gift feathers, would either be impractical or have a negative impact on governmental goals.