Justia U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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The Rio Grande was one of only a handful of rivers that created critical habitat for plants, animals, and humans. “And it is a fact of life that not enough water exists to meet the competing needs.” Recognizing these multiple uses, Congress has authorized the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers to maintain a balance between the personal, commercial, and agricultural needs of the people in New Mexico’s Middle Rio Grande Valley and the competing needs of the plants and animals. WildEarth Guardians claimed the Army Corps of Engineers failed to protect the needs of two endangered species that live along the river: the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher and the Rio Grande Silvery Minnow. The group filed suit under the Endangered Species Act, arguing the Army Corps of Engineers failed to exercise its discretion and consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) about alternative water management policies that would help protect these species. The district court concluded the Army Corps of Engineers was not authorized by the statute to allocate additional water to species’ needs and therefore was not required to consult with FWS. Finding no error in the district court’s reasoning, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. View "WildEarth Guardians v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Alonso Martinez-Perez sought review of a final Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) order that dismissed his appeal, holding that neither the BIA nor the Immigration Court had jurisdiction to grant Petitioner’s application for cancellation of removal. Petitioner was a native and citizen of Mexico. He entered the United States in 2001, without being inspected and admitted or paroled. On April 9, 2009, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) charged him as removable from the United States pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) as an alien present in the United States without being admitted or paroled. Immigration officials served Petitioner with a notice to appear, which did not include a date and time for his hearing. One week later, Petitioner received notice of the date and time of his hearing in a separate document. Petitioner, through counsel, admitted the allegations contained in the notice to appear and conceded the charge of removability. The Immigration Judge found Petitioner removable. The Tenth Circuit found the Supreme Court held that a notice to appear that omits the removal proceeding’s time or place does not stop the alien’s accrual of continuous presence in the United States for purposes of cancellation of removal. The requirements of a notice to appear were claim-processing rules; the Court thus concluded the Immigration Court had authority to adjudicate issues pertaining to Petitioner’s removal even though Petitioner’s notice to appear lacked time-and-date information. With respect to issues raised regarding the BIA’s or Immigration Judge’s jurisdiction to grant Petitioner’s application in the absence of establishing a qualifying relative at the time of hearing: the Tenth Circuit concluded that for the BIA to conclude that neither it nor the Immigration Court had jurisdiction to grant Petitioner’s application was error. Moreover, before the BIA, Petitioner alleged and described what he contended was an improper delay on the part of the Immigration Court. Given this case’s procedural history, which is undisputed, the Tenth Circuit concluded it was within the BIA’s jurisdiction to interpret the applicable statutes in a way that would not penalize Petitioner for the Immigration Court’s delay. Because the BIA erred in holding that it lacked jurisdiction to grant Petitioner’s application and, in turn, failed to exercise its interpretive authority, the Court remanded. View "Martinez-Perez v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Marques Davis was an inmate at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility (“HCF”) from June 2016 until his death in April 2017. During the course of his confinement, Davis suffered from constant neurological symptoms, the cause of which went untreated by HCF medical personnel. When he eventually died from Granulomatous Meningoencephalitis, Davis’s estate (“the Estate”) brought federal and state law claims against Corizon Health, Inc. and numerous health care professionals who interacted with Davis during his incarceration. One such medical professional, Dr. Sohaib Mohiuddin, filed a qualified-immunity-based motion to dismiss the Estate’s 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim. The district court denied the motion, concluding the complaint set out a clearly established violation of Davis’s right to be free from deliberate indifference to the need for serious medical care. Mohiuddin appealed, arguing the district court erred in determining the complaint’s conclusory and collective allegations stated a valid Eighth Amendment claim as to him. Upon de novo review, the Tenth Circuit concluded the complaint did not state a valid deliberate indifference claim as to Mohiuddin. Thus, it reversed the denial of Mohiuddin’s motion to dismiss and remanded the matter to the district court for further proceedings. View "Walker v. Corizon Health" on Justia Law

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Among its reforms, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) required private health insurers to provide coverage for individuals regardless of their gender or health status, including preexisting conditions. Congress anticipated these reforms might hamper the ability of insurers to predict health care costs and to price health insurance premiums as more individuals sought health insurance. To spread the risk of enrolling people who might need more health care than others, Congress established a risk adjustment program for the individual and small group health insurance markets. Congress tasked the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) with designing and implementing this risk adjustment program with the states. HHS developed a formula to calculate how much each insurer would be charged or paid in each state. The formula relied on the “statewide average premium” to calculate charges and payments. Plaintiff-Appellee New Mexico Health Connections (“NMHC”), an insurer that was required to pay charges under the program, sued the HHS Defendants-Appellants under the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), alleging that HHS’s use of the statewide average premium to calculate charges and payments in New Mexico from 2014 through 2018 was arbitrary and capricious. The district court granted summary judgment to NMHC, holding that HHS violated the APA by failing to explain why the agency chose to use the statewide average premium in its program. It remanded to the agency and vacated the 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 rules that implemented the program. After the district court denied HHS’s motion to alter or amend judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), HHS appealed. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals: (1) determined NMHC’s claims regarding the 2017 and 2018 rules were moot, so the matter was remanded to the district court to vacate its judgment on those claims and dismiss them as moot; (2) reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to NMHC as to the 2014, 2015, and 2016 rules because it determined HHS acted reasonably in explaining why it used the statewide average premium in the formula. Because the Court reversed the district court on its summary judgment ruling in favor of NMHC, it did not address the denial of HHS’s Rule 59(e) motion. View "New Mexico Health Connections v. HHS" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Adama Matumona was a native and citizen of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He petitioned the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals for review of a Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) decision to deny his application for asylum and withholding of removal. Regarding asylum, Petitioner argued the BIA: (1) erred in determining that he had firmly resettled in Angola, which barred him from applying for asylum; and (2) engaged in improper factfinding in determining he was ineligible for an exception to the firm-resettlement bar. On withholding of removal, he argued the BIA improperly rejected his claims of past persecution and a well-founded fear of future persecution. Furthermore, Petitioner contended his due-process rights and his statutory right to a fair hearing were violated by the failure of the immigration judge (IJ) to adequately develop the record and to implement appropriate safeguards for a pro se litigant detained in a remote facility. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed on all issues except that the Court remanded to the BIA to consider Petitioner’s claim that he was entitled to withholding of removal because of the alleged pattern or practice of the DRC government of persecuting persons with Petitioner’s political views. View "Matumona v. Barr" on Justia Law

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In 1991, at age three, petitioner Karen Robles-Garcia was admitted to the United States as a nonimmigrant visitor authorized to remain in this country for up to seventy-two hours and to travel within twenty-five miles of the Mexican border. She stayed longer and traveled further than permitted. In 2008, DHS served Robles-Garcia with a Notice to Appear (“NTA”), the document that the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") issues an immigrant to initiate removal proceedings, charging her with violating her visitor permissions from almost seventeen years earlier. Robles-Garcia admitted the five factual allegations charged in the NTA and conceded she was removable. But she applied for cancellation of removal and adjustment of her status, asserting that her removal would work an “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” on her two children, 8 U.S.C. 1229b(b)(1)(D), who were U.S. citizens. Relying on Pereira v. Sessions, 138 S. Ct. 2105 (2018), Robles-Garcia argued for the first time that the immigration judge who initially presided over her removal proceedings never acquired jurisdiction over those proceedings because DHS initiated those proceedings by serving Robles-Garcia with a defective Notice to Appear. Because Robles-Garcia had not yet made that argument to the IJ or the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”), it was unexhausted and the Tenth Circuit determined it lacked jurisdiction to address it. In addition, Robles-Garcia argued the BIA erred in concluding that she was ineligible to apply for discretionary cancellation of removal. The Tenth Circuit upheld that determination because Robles-Garcia was unable to show that a theft conviction was not a disqualifying crime involving moral turpitude. The Court therefore denied Robles-Garcia’s petition for review challenging the BIA’s determination that she was ineligible for cancellation of removal, and dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction to the extent that it asserted the Pereira question. View "Robles-Garcia v. Barr" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from the Tulsa, Oklahoma Police Department’s investigation into the murder of an infant. The police suspected the infant’s mother, plaintiff-appellant Michelle Murphy. She ultimately confessed, but later recanted and sued the City under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court granted summary judgment to the City, concluding that Murphy had not presented evidence that would trigger municipal liability. Finding no reversible error after review of the district court record, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Murphy v. City of Tulsa" on Justia Law

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Yusuf Awadir Abdi sued the directors of several federal agencies challenging his placement on a federal government’s terrorist watchlist. He alleged his being on the list subjected him to enhanced screening at the airport and requires the government to label him as a “known or suspected terrorist” and to disseminate that information to government and private entities. As a result of these alleged consequences, Abdi alleged placement on the Selectee List violated his Fifth Amendment rights to substantive and procedural due process and consequently the Administrative Procedure Act, for which he sought declarative and injunctive relief. The district court dismissed Abdi’s complaint with prejudice under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Finding no reversible error in that decision, the Tenth Circuit affirmed dismissal. View "Abdi v. Wray" on Justia Law

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In removal proceedings, petitioner Sandra Lopez-Munoz appeared and requested cancellation of removal, but the immigration judge declined the request. Petitioner unsuccessfully appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, moved for the Board to reopen her case, petitioned for review to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, moved a second time for the Board to reopen her case, and moved for reconsideration of the denial of her second motion to reopen. The removal proceedings began with the service of a notice to appear. But because the notice to appear failed to include a date and time for her impending immigration hearing, petitioner argued the immigration judge lacked jurisdiction over the removal proceedings. If petitioner was correct, the Tenth Circuit concluded she might be entitled to relief based on the immigration judge’s lack of jurisdiction to order removal. In the Court’s view, however, the alleged defect would not preclude jurisdiction. It thus denied the petition for review. View "Lopez-Munoz v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Santos Raul Escobar-Hernandez has filed a petition for review of the Board of Immigration Appeals’ decision affirming the immigration judge’s denial of his application for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT). The petition’s underlying facts rest on Petitioner’s testimony, which the immigration judge found to be credible. Petitioner is a native and citizen of El Salvador and entered the United States without a valid entry document. He fled El Salvador after he was assaulted by two men, resulting in injuries requiring medical treatment. The assault occurred when the men, one named "Nelson," noticed some graffiti critical of a political party on a fence near Petitioner’s home. Although Petitioner was not politically active and told the men he did not paint the graffiti, Nelson said Petitioner was responsible for it because it was on his house and demanded he remove it. When Petitioner responded that he could not pay for removal, the men hit him and threatened to kill him. Petitioner was unsure if the men assaulted him because of the political graffiti or if they used it as an excuse to assault him merely because he was a vulnerable youth. Petitioner later removed the graffiti, but Nelson attacked him twice more and continued to threaten him. Reports to local police went ignored; Petitioner averred he feared returning to his home town because of the threats, and he feared relocating elsewhere in El Salvador because other people could hurt him. In his petition for review, Petitioner contends the BIA should have granted him asylum and withheld his removal because he suffered past persecution and has a well- founded fear of suffering future persecution based on political opinions Nelson imputed to him. Petitioner also argues the BIA should have granted him protection under CAT because, if he returns to El Salvador, Nelson will likely torture him with the acquiescence of law enforcement. On the record before it, the Tenth Circuit could not say any reasonable adjudicator would be compelled to reach conclusions contrary to those reached by BIA. The Court therefore affirmed denial of asylum and protection under CAT. View "Escobar-Hernandez v. Barr" on Justia Law