Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

by
The Tenth Circuit found that Terry Margheim failed to show an essential element of his malicious prosecution claim against deputy district attorney Emela Buljko to establish a constitutional violation. For that reason, the Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded with instructions to grant qualified immunity to Buljko. Margheim sued Buljko under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for malicious prosecution in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. This case arose from Margheim’s involvement in three state criminal matters - two domestic violence cases and a later drug case. His malicious prosecution claim was based on his prosecution in the drug case, but the three cases were tied together. When Buljko raised the qualified immunity defense in district court, Margheim had the burden to show a violation of clearly established federal law. (CA-D) Save Our Heritage Organization (McConnell) View "Margheim v. Buljko" on Justia Law

by
Consolidated appeals arose out of the district court’s grant of a preliminary injunction to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. The injunction followed the release, without a state permit, of two Mexican gray wolf pups on federal land located in New Mexico by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”). The district court’s order enjoined the Department of the Interior, FWS, and certain individuals in their official capacities from importing or releasing: (1) any Mexican gray wolves into the State without first obtaining the requisite state permits; and (2) any Mexican gray wolf offspring into the State in violation of prior state permits. Interior, FWS, Ryan Zinke, in his official capacity as Secretary of the Interior, Jim Kurth, in his capacity as Acting Director of FWS, Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, in his capacity as Southwest Regional Director for FWS, and intervening defendants Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians, and New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, separately filed timely appeals contending the district court abused its discretion in granting the Department a preliminary injunction. After review, the Tenth Circuit determined the Department failed to present sufficient evidence to support a finding that it was likely to suffer irreparable harm absent a preliminary injunction. As a result, the district court abused its discretion in granting the Department’s request for injunctive relief. The Tenth Circuit therefore reversed and vacated the district court’s order enjoining Federal Appellants from importing and releasing: (1) any Mexican gray wolves into the State without first obtaining the requisite state permits; and (2) any Mexican gray wolf offspring into the State in violation of prior state permits. The case was remanded back to the district court for further proceedings. View "NM Dept. of Game & Fish v. Dept. of Interior" on Justia Law

by
Kent Duty filed suit against BNSF Railway Company (“BNSF”), after he applied to work there as a locomotive electrician. Duty had an impairment that limits his grip strength in his right hand. Fearing that Duty would fall from ladders, BNSF revoked his offer for employment. Duty and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “Commission”) sued BNSF for employment discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”). The ADA limits its protection by recognizing that not all impairments are disabilities. Applying the ADA’s definition of “disability,” the district court found that Kent Duty was not disabled and granted summary judgment to BNSF. On appeal, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "EEOC v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

by
A New Mexico county board filed a lawsuit in state court against its securities broker and registered agent. The board refrained, however, from serving process while it determined whether arbitration was available. The securities broker and agent nonetheless removed the case to federal court and moved to dismiss the suit. Four days after briefing was complete and about three months after the board had filed suit, the board voluntarily dismissed the case and filed for arbitration. The securities broker and agent then filed this action to enjoin arbitration, arguing the board waived its right to demand arbitration when it filed the state court action. The district court disagreed and instead granted the board’s counterclaim to compel arbitration. The broker and registered agent appealed the waiver issue. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "BOSC v. Board of County Commissioners" on Justia Law

by
VR Acquisitions, LLC (VRA) owned a roughly 6,700-acre property in Utah’s Jordanelle Basin. VRA brought this action in 2015, asserting three federal constitutional claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and five state-law claims. All claims rested, to some degree, on VRA’s assertion that an invalid assessment lien was recorded against the property three years before VRA bought the property. The district court dismissed all eight claims with prejudice under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), and VRA appealed. Because the district court properly dismissed VRA’s section 1983 claims for lack of prudential standing, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of those claims with prejudice. But because the district court should have declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over VRA’s state-law claims, the Tenth Circuit reversed its dismissal with prejudice of those claims and remanded with directions for the district court to dismiss those claims without prejudice. View "VR Acquisitions v. Wasatch County" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs-appellants David and Lee Ann Lankford unwittingly invested in a Ponzi scheme operated by Vaughan Company Realtors (VCR), wherein investors paid money to VCR in return for interest-bearing promissory notes. After the Ponzi scheme collapsed, VCR filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. Unlike many others, the Lankfords actually profited from their investment. So the court-appointed trustee of VCR’s bankruptcy estate, Judith Wagner, brought an adversary proceeding against them in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Mexico. Through this and related “clawback” proceedings, the trustee sought to avoid, or undo, pre-bankruptcy fraudulent transfers and thus recoup fictitious profits from investors with net gains for the benefit of all of VCR’s creditors. The Lankfords filed this lawsuit against the bankruptcy trustee and her counsel without first applying for and receiving permission under "Barton v. Barbour," (104 U.S. 126 (1881)), and its progeny (the “Barton doctrine”). The district court concluded that "Barton" barred the suit and dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. View "Lankford v. Wagner" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff owned property traversed by Red Hill Road, which was used by the public to access White Peak, a popular hunting and wildlife area in northern New Mexico. Believing the road to be private, Plaintiff installed a cattle guard, locked gate, and barbed-wire fence to prevent access to his land. Believing the road to be a public right-of-way, Defendant (a district attorney) wrote to Plaintiff on August 3, 2011, demanding that the gate be removed. The next week Plaintiff filed a still-pending quiet-title action in state court to determine whether the road is private or public. After three weeks with no response from Plaintiff, Defendant took matters into his own hands. Accompanied by a former president of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, four deputy sheriffs, and 18 private persons, Defendant cut the lock on the gate and, with the help of others, removed the barbed wire and T-posts from the road. When Defendant learned a few weeks later that Plaintiff had locked the gate a second time, Defendant directed the local sheriff to cut the lock and chain on the gate. This case presented an issue of first impression in the Tenth Circuit. The violation of federal law was not clearly established, but under state law, the action was unauthorized. A question of whether a public officer loses the protection of qualified immunity when he acts outside the scope of his authority was presented by the facts of this case: is there any justification for granting immunity in that context? The district court endorsed a “scope-of-authority” exception to qualified immunity and ruled that Defendant Donald Gallegos, a district attorney, had clearly acted without state-law authority in forcibly removing a barrier that Plaintiff David Stanley had placed on a road to prevent traffic through his property. It therefore held that Defendant could not invoke the protection of qualified immunity. The Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded for the district court to consider whether Defendant violated clearly established federal law or was instead entitled to qualified immunity. View "Stanley v. Gallegos" on Justia Law

by
Roger Garling, Sheryl Garling, and their business, R and D Enterprises, Inc. sued the United States for damages arising from an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) raid and investigation of their laboratory. The district court held the Garlings’ action was time-barred under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The Garlings appealed, arguing the EPA’s conduct was a continuing tort or, alternatively, that they were entitled to equitable tolling. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that sovereign immunity barred the Garlings’ claims and the district court thus lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The Court therefore reversed the district court’s judgment and remanded with directions to dismiss this action for lack of jurisdiction. View "Garling v. EPA" on Justia Law

by
This appeal grew out of a battle over Winter, a horse that belonged to Summer Colby. Colby and her mother grew estranged and argued over who owned Winter. The mother allegedly complained to the Colorado Department of Agriculture, which responded by sending someone from the Brand Inspection Division to investigate. After investigating, the inspector seized the horse, prompting Colby and her mother to take the matter to court over ownership. After almost three years, Colby prevailed and got her horse back. When the horse was returned to Colby, she and her husband sued the Division and two of its officers, but the district court dismissed the action. The Colbys appealed, raising issues involving the Eleventh Amendment and the statute of limitations. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that the district court properly dismissed all of the claims. View "Colby v. Herrick" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Chetan Patel appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants in this 42 U.S.C. 1983 federal civil rights case, in which Plaintiff raised numerous claims against various police officers and other governmental officials involved in his arrest on charges of felony VIN fraud and the related search and seizure of his property in Basin, Wyoming. In granting summary judgment, the court refused to consider a purported affidavit produced by Plaintiff’s counsel. The court also disregarded Plaintiff’s attorneys’ affidavits based on its conclusion that relying on the attorneys’ affidavits would make them material witnesses to this case in violation of Rule 3.7 of the Wyoming Rules of Professional Conduct. The court then concluded that the purported affidavit should have been disregarded both because it was irrelevant and because, without Plaintiff’s counsel’s affidavits, there was no admissible evidence that it was in fact signed by the person making the statement in the affidavit. After review, the Tenth Circuit reversed the grant of summary judgment as to the seizure of certain items and remanded for further proceedings on this claim. The Court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of all Defendants on the remainder of Plaintiff’s federal claims, and affirmed the dismissal with prejudice of Plaintiff’s state law claims against Defendant Frentheway. The Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings dismissal of the state claims as to all other Defendants. View "Patel v. Hall" on Justia Law