Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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This case presented a question of whether a large-scale excavation project constituted “mining” under the pertinent federal regulations that address mineral development on Indian land. When an entity engages in “mining” of minerals owned by the Osage Nation, a federally approved lease must be obtained from the tribe. The Osage Mineral Council (OMC), acting on behalf of the Osage Nation, appealed the award of summary judgment to Defendant Osage Wind, LLC (Osage Wind), arguing that Osage Wind engaged in “mining” without procuring a federally approved mineral lease. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has defined “mining” as the “science, technique, and business of mineral development[.]” The Tenth Circuit held the term “mineral development” had a broad meaning, including commercial mineral extractions and offsite relocations, but also encompass action upon the extracted minerals for the purpose of exploiting the minerals themselves on site. The Court held Osage Wind’s extraction, sorting, crushing, and use of minerals as part of its excavation work constituted “mineral development,” thereby requiring a federally approved lease which Osage Wind failed to obtain. Accordingly, the Court reversed the award of summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Osage Wind" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-Appellants WildEarth Guardians and Sierra Club challenged the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) decision to approve four coal leases in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. Plaintiffs brought an Administrative Procedure Act (APA) claim arguing that the BLM failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it concluded that issuing the leases would not result in higher national carbon dioxide emissions than would declining to issue them. The district court upheld the leases. The Tenth Circuit held the BLM’s Environmental Impact Studies and Records Of Decisions were arbitrary and capricious because they omitted data pertinent to its choice with respect to issuing the leases, and thereby informing the public of its rationale. The Tenth Circuit remanded with instructions to the BLM to revise its Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) and Records of Decision (RODs). The Court did not vacate the resulting leases. View "WildEarth Guardians v. Bureau of Land Management" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Liying Qiu, a native and citizen of the People’s Republic of China, sought asylum and withholding of removal based on her status as a Christian who did not agree with China’s state-sanctioned version of Christianity, and as a woman who violated China’s one-child policy by having three children. Her application was denied by the immigration court in 2011, and the Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed that decision in March 2013. In December 2015, Petitioner filed a motion to reopen based on the significantly increased persecution of Christians in China in 2014 and 2015. The BIA denied her motion to reopen as untimely. Amongst the evidence submitted in support of her application, Petitioner submitted a portion of the 2015 annual report issued by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent, bipartisan U.S. government entity that monitored religious freedom violations globally and made policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress. The BIA held that Petitioner had not submitted sufficient evidence to show a change in country conditions, and thus that her motion to reopen was untimely under 8 U.S.C. 1229a(c)(7)(C). The Tenth Circuit found the BIA abused its discretion in denying Petitioner's application: "surely Congress did not intend for 8 U.S.C. 1229a(c)(7)(C) to protect only petitioners who file frivolous asylum applications under no threat of persecution, while extending no help to petitioners who seek reopening after an existing pattern of persecution becomes dramatically worse. The BIA’s reasoning would lead to an absurd result, one we cannot condone." The Court held that a significant increase in the level of persecution constituted a material change in country conditions for purposes of 8 U.S.C. 1229a(c)(7)(C) and that the BIA abuses its discretion when it fails to assess and consider a petitioner’s evidence that the persecution of others in his protected category has substantially worsened since the initial application. The Court concluded the BIA provided no rational, factually supported reason for denying Petitioner’s motion to reopen, and accordingly remanded this case back to the BIA for further consideration. View "Qiu v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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R-S-C illegally reentered the United States after having been removed and her prior removal order was reinstated, thus under the Attorney General’s interpretation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), she could not apply for asylum. She challenged the Attorney General’s regulations as inconsistent with the INA’s asylum guarantee. The Tenth Circuit concluded Congress had not clearly expressed whether aliens governed by the reinstatement provision could apply for asylum. However, the Attorney General’s regulations were consistent with a reasonable interpretation of the statutory scheme, so they are entitled to administrative deference. Accordingly, the Court denied the petition for review. View "R-S-C v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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This appeal grew out of a dispute between a company and its former employee: CollegeAmerica Denver, Inc., and Debbi Potts. CollegeAmerica and Potts resolved a dispute by entering into a settlement agreement. But CollegeAmerica later came to believe that Potts breached the settlement agreement. This belief led CollegeAmerica to sue Potts in state court. That suit sparked the interest of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which believed CollegeAmerica’s interpretation and enforcement of the settlement agreement was unlawfully interfering with Potts’ and the EEOC’s statutory rights. Based on this belief, the EEOC sued CollegeAmerica in federal court. In response, CollegeAmerica disavowed the legal positions known to concern the agency. The company’s disavowal of these legal positions led the district court to dismiss the agency’s unlawful-interference claim as moot. CollegeAmerica then asserted a new theory against the former employee, which the agency regarded as a continuation of the unlawful interference with statutory rights. That change presented the question to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals of whether the EEOC’s unlawful-interference claim remained moot after the parties disputed if the company could lawfully assert its new theory against the former employee. The Tenth Circuit thought not and reversed the dismissal. View "EEOC v. CollegeAmerica Denver" on Justia Law

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Kelcey Patton, a social worker for the Denver Department of Human Services (“DDHS”), was one of those responsible for removing T.D., a minor at the time, from his mother’s home, placing him into DDHS’s custody, and recommending T.D. be placed and remain in the temporary custody of his father, Tiercel Duerson. T.D. eventually was removed from his father’s home after DDHS received reports that T.D. had sexual contact with his half-brother, also Mr. Duerson’s son. DDHS later determined that during T.D.’s placement with Mr. Duerson, T.D. had suffered severe physical and sexual abuse at the hands of his father. T.D. sued Patton under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for violating his right to substantive due process, relying on a “danger-creation theory,” which provided that “state officials can be liable for the acts of third parties where those officials created the danger that caused the harm.” Patton moved for summary judgment on the ground that she is entitled to qualified immunity. The district court denied the motion. Finding no reversible error in that decision, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "T.D. v. Patton" on Justia Law

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Kelcey Patton, a social worker for the Denver Department of Human Services (“DDHS”), was one of those responsible for removing T.D., a minor at the time, from his mother’s home, placing him into DDHS’s custody, and recommending T.D. be placed and remain in the temporary custody of his father, Tiercel Duerson. T.D. eventually was removed from his father’s home after DDHS received reports that T.D. had sexual contact with his half-brother, also Mr. Duerson’s son. DDHS later determined that during T.D.’s placement with Mr. Duerson, T.D. had suffered severe physical and sexual abuse at the hands of his father. T.D. sued Patton under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for violating his right to substantive due process, relying on a “danger-creation theory,” which provided that “state officials can be liable for the acts of third parties where those officials created the danger that caused the harm.” Patton moved for summary judgment on the ground that she is entitled to qualified immunity. The district court denied the motion. Finding no reversible error in that decision, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "T.D. v. Patton" on Justia Law

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Defendants, various officials at the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, appealed the district court’s entry of a permanent injunction related to the Department’s payment for air-ambulance services rendered to ill or injured individuals covered by the Wyoming Worker’s Compensation Act. Plaintiffs were several companies which provide air-ambulance services in Wyoming. Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief against Defendants, arguing that the federal Airline Deregulation Act impermissibly regulated the price of air-ambulance services. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court agreed “that the Airline Deregulation Act preempt[ed] Wyoming Statute section 27-14-401(e) and Chapter 9, Section 8 of the Rules, Regulations and Fee Schedules of the Wyoming Workers’ Compensation Division to the extent the statute and regulation set compensation that air ambulances may receive for their services.” The court accordingly entered an injunction against Defendants. On appeal, Defendants challenge both the district court’s legal holding on the preemption question and the scope of the injunctive relief ordered in the amended judgment. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s legal ruling that Wyoming Statute Section 27-14-401(e) and its associated rate schedule were precluded to the extent that they set forth a mandatory maximum reimbursement rate for air-ambulance claims. The Court also affirmed the initial order of injunctive relief entered in the district court’s initial judgment, permanently enjoining Defendants from enforcing the rate schedule against air-ambulance services. The Court reversed the amended judgment and the overbroad injunctive relief entered therein, leaving it for the state officials to determine, as a matter of state law, how Wyoming could and should administer its workers’ compensation program within the limitations set by federal law. View "EagleMed v. Cox" on Justia Law

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In an amendment to the Clean Air Act (CAA), Congress directed the EPA to operate a Renewable Fuel Standards Program (the RFS Program) to increase oil refineries’ use of renewable fuels. But for small refineries that would suffer a “disproportionate economic hardship” in complying with the RFS Program, the statute required the EPA to grant exemptions on a case-by-case basis. Petitioner Sinclair Wyoming Refining Company owned and operated two refineries in Wyoming: one in Sinclair, and another in Casper. Both fell within the RFS Program’s definition of “small refinery” and were exempt from the RFS requirements until 2011. Those exemptions were extended until 2013 after the Department of Energy found Sinclair’s Wyoming refineries to be among the 13 of 59 small refineries that would continue to face “disproportionate economic hardship” if required to comply with the RFS Program. Sinclair then petitioned the EPA to extend their small-refinery exemptions. The EPA denied Sinclair’s petitions in two separate decisions, finding that both refineries appeared to be profitable enough to pay the cost of the RFS Program. Sinclair filed a timely petition for review with the Tenth Circuit court, which concluded the EPA exceeded its statutory authority under the CAA in interpreting the hardship exemption to require a threat to a refinery’s survival as an ongoing operation. Because the Court found the EPA exceeded its statutory authority, it vacated the EPA’s decisions and remanded to the EPA for further proceedings. View "Sinclair Wyoming Refining v. EPA" on Justia Law

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When a state fails to protect a foster child from harm, the foster child can sue the state under the special-relationship doctrine, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983. The special-relationship doctrine provides an exception to the general rule that states aren’t liable for harm caused by private actors. This case is about the geographical reach of the special-relationship doctrine: whether the special relationship (and its accompanying duty to protect)—crosses state lines. James Dahn, a foster child, sued two Colorado social workers responsible for investigating reports that he was being abused, along with others involved with his adoption. Dahn had been in Oklahoma’s custody until, with Oklahoma’s approval, a Colorado-based private adoption agency placed him for adoption with a foster father in Colorado. The foster father physically abused Dahn before and after adopting him. The private adoption agency was responsible for monitoring Dahn’s placement. Together with Colorado, it recommended approval of his adoption by the abusive foster father. Dahn eventually escaped his abusive foster father by running away. Dahn then sued the private adoption agency, its employees, and the Colorado caseworkers who were assigned to investigate reports of abuse from officials at Dahn’s public school. The district court dismissed all of Dahn’s claims except a section 1983 claim against the two Colorado caseworkers and two state-law claims against the agency and its employees, concluding the special-relationship doctrine allowed Dahn to move forward with the 1983 claim, and it exercised supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims. The Colorado caseworkers appealed. Though the Tenth Circuit condemned their efforts to protect the vulnerable child, the Court concluded, under the controlling precedents, that the Colorado caseworkers were entitled to qualified immunity, and reversed. View "Dahn v. Amedei" on Justia Law