Justia U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Government Contracts
Smith v. Boeing Company
At the heart of this appeal were The Boeing Company’s alleged violations of FAA regulations arising from aircraft Boeing sold or leased to the government. Three former employees of Boeing (referred to as relators) in this qui tam action, brought suit under the False Claims Act (FCA) against Boeing and one of its suppliers, Ducommun, Inc. The relators claimed Boeing falsely certified that several aircraft it sold to the government complied with all applicable Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, even though it knew parts manufactured by Ducommun and incorporated into the aircraft didn’t conform to FAA-approved designs. The district court granted Boeing’s and Ducommun’s respective motions for summary judgment on the relators’ FCA claims, finding no genuine dispute of material fact as to the falsity, scienter, and materiality elements of those claims. The district court also denied the relators’ motion to strike two FAA investigative reports, which the court then relied on in granting the motions for summary judgment. The relators then appealed. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded the district court properly admitted the FAA reports under the Federal Rules of Evidence and the relators failed to establish the scienter element of their FCA claims. View "Smith v. Boeing Company" on Justia Law
Posted in: Aviation, Civil Procedure, Government Contracts
United States v. Banks
Defendants-Appellants David Banks, Kendrick Barnes, Demetrius Harper, Clinton Stewart, Gary Walker, and David Zirpolo were convicted following a jury trial on multiple counts of mail fraud and wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. Defendants contacted numerous staffing agencies to “assist in providing temporary services. Witnesses from multiple staffing companies testified that a Defendant (or someone acting as Defendants’ agent) approached them and expressed the desire for "payrolling" services. The staffing-company witnesses testified that they were induced into believing that Defendants’ companies were either doing business with major law-enforcement agencies or were on the verge of selling a specialized software to these agencies. These witnesses testified that Defendants (or Defendants’ agents) assured them that this alleged law-enforcement business would enable Defendants’ companies to pay the staffing companies’ invoices, and, critically, that they relied on these representations in choosing to do business with Defendants. Trial testimony from representatives of the law-enforcement agencies with whom Defendants claimed to be doing business revealed the falsity of Defendants’ representations to the staffing companies. When questioned about their failure to pay the staffing companies’ invoices, Defendants gave false assurances that payment would be forthcoming, and they continued to imply that they were doing business with large government law enforcement agencies. In the end, forty-two different staffing companies were left with outstanding invoices totaling in excess of $5,000,000, which could not be submitted to the government agencies, which had no business relationship with Defendants’ companies. Defendants were sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from 87 to 135 months. Defendants argued on appeal to the Tenth Circuit: (1) their right to a speedy trial was violated when the district court granted multiple continuances of the trial date (at Defendants’ request); (2) the district court compelled co-Defendant Barnes to testify in violation of his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and failed to give a proper curative instruction; (3) the district court abused its discretion in excluding the testimony of two witnesses Defendants sought to call at trial; and (4) the cumulative effect of the district court’s otherwise harmless errors prejudiced them and required reversal. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Banks" on Justia Law
Posted in: Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Government Contracts, White Collar Crime
MMS Construction & Paving v. Head, Inc., et al
MMS Construction & Paving, L.L.C. entered into a subcontract with Head, Inc. to pave asphalt runway shoulders at Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma. The project was delayed and MMS, expressing concern that Head had not been making agreed payments, quit the job. MMS also complained that completing the job would be more expensive than it originally believed because certain requirements were being imposed that Head said would be waived. After MMS quit, Head finished the job, relying on other subcontractors. MMS sued Head on state-law claims of breach of contract, tortious breach of contract, quantum meruit, and misrepresentation, and brought a claim under the federal Miller Act on Head’s surety bond for the project. Head filed a counterclaim, alleging that MMS breached the contract. After a jury trial, MMS was awarded damages and attorney fees. Head filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law or for a new trial, both of which the district court denied. Head appealed, arguing: (1) the evidence at trial was insufficient to show that Head breached the contract; (2) if there was a breach, it was not material; (3) an Oklahoma statute limited MMS’s breach-of-contract damages to the amount unpaid plus interest; (4) the evidence was not sufficient to establish MMS’s alleged lost-profits damages for breach of contract; (5) MMS did not present sufficient evidence to prove misrepresentation or any damages from misrepresentation, MMS waived the misrepresentation claim, and the award of misrepresentation damages duplicated the award of damages for breach of contract; and (6) MMS was not entitled to attorney fees from Head because the Miller Act does not allow recovery of those fees. Upon careful consideration of the district court record, the Tenth Circuit reversed damages award based on the misrepresentation claim because the jury’s award was not supported by any evidence at trial. On all other issues, the Court affirmed. View "MMS Construction & Paving v. Head, Inc., et al" on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Construction Law, Contracts, Government Contracts
SECSYS, LLC v. Vigil
Former New Mexico state treasurer Defendant-Appellee Robert Vigil and his former deputy, co-Defendant Ann Marie Gallegos allegedly hatched a plan to find work for his political rival's wife so that the rival couldn't challenge him in the next election. According to the complaint, Defendants solicited bids for a state contract and insisted that any interested contractor hire Samantha Sais (the wife) on any terms she wished. Plaintiff SECSYS agreed to the plan in principle, but ultimately could not come to terms with Ms. Sais. When negotiations broke down, Defendants allegedly chose another contractor who agreed to Ms. Sais' terms. Mr. Vigil was ultimately indicted, convicted, and sentenced to prison for his role in this scheme. Plaintiff sought damages from Mr. Vigil and Ms. Gallegos in their individual capacities for violating its Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection for discriminating against the company when it refused to acquiesce to Ms. Sais' demands: "So that leaves SECSYS with the remarkable argument that it was discriminated against in violation of the federal Constitution not because it was unwilling to pay, but because it was willing to pay only some of an allegedly extortionate demand." Upon review, the Tenth Circuit found no evidence that Defendants enforced Ms. Sais' demands with the purpose of discriminating against those who failed to meet them: "every indication in the record before [the Court] suggest[ed] the defendants would have been just as happy if SECSYS had met its full demand as it was when another bidder eventually did so." The Court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Defendants. View "SECSYS, LLC v. Vigil" on Justia Law
Maestas v. Day & Zimmerman, LLC
Plaintiffs Michael Maestas, Thomas May, Juanito Marquez and Jahmaal Gregory were all officers in a private security force that protects Los Alamos National Laboratory. They contended that their employer, Day & Zimmerman, LLC and SOC, LLC, (collectively, SOC) improperly classified them as exempt employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA). The district court found that Plaintiffs were exempt executive employees and granted summary judgment to SOC. The parties disagreed over which of Plaintiffs' job duties was "primary." Upon review, the Tenth Circuit held that such a dispute presented a question of fact rather than an issue of law. Furthermore, the Court held that an employee who supervises subordinates while also conducting front-line law enforcement work performs a non-managerial task. Because there remained a genuine dispute as to whether three of the Plaintiffs had this task as their primary duty, summary judgment was proper only against Plaintiff Thomas May and improper as to the others. Accordingly, the Court partly reversed, partly affirmed the district court's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Maestas v. Day & Zimmerman, LLC" on Justia Law
City of Hugo v. Nichols
The City of Hugo, Oklahoma, and the Hugo Municipal Authority, a public water trust, (collectively "Hugo") contracted with the City of Irving, Texas, ("Irving") for the sale of water Hugo has been allocated or sought to be allocated under permits issued by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board ("Board"). Hugo and Irving brought suit against the nine members of the Board for a declaration that certain Oklahoma laws governing the Board’s water allocation decisions were unconstitutional under the dormant Commerce Clause and an injunction prohibiting their enforcement. The district court granted summary judgment for the Board, and Hugo and Irving appealed. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that Hugo, as a political subdivision of Oklahoma, lacked standing to sue the Board under the dormant Commerce Clause. Irving, whose injury was solely premised on a contract it entered into with Hugo, likewise could not demonstrate standing because any injury to Irving cannot be redressed. Concluding no plaintiff had the necessary standing, the Court vacated the district court’s order and remanded the case back the district court to dismiss for lack of federal jurisdiction.
Tarrant Regional Water Dist. v. Herrmann
Tarrant Regional Water District ("Tarrant"), a Texas state agency, applied to the Oklahoma Water Resources Board ("the OWRB") for permits to appropriate water at three locations in Oklahoma for use in Texas. Just before filing its applications, Tarrant sued the nine members of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board in the district court for the Western District of Oklahoma and sought a declaratory judgment to invalidate certain Oklahoma statutes that govern the appropriation and use of water and an injunction preventing OWRB from enforcing them. Tarrant alleged that the Oklahoma statutes restricted interstate commerce in water and thereby violated the dormant Commerce Clause as discriminatory or unduly burdensome. Tarrant further alleged that Congress did not authorize Oklahoma through the Red River Compact ("Compact") to enact such laws. OWRB responded that Congress did authorize Oklahoma to adopt these statutes by consenting to the Compact. Tarrant also claimed that the Compact preempted the Oklahoma statutes insofar as the Compact applied to Tarrant’s application to appropriate water located in the Red River Basin. The district court granted summary judgment for OWRB on both the dormant Commerce Clause and Supremacy Clause claims. After that decision, Tarrant took steps to export to Texas Oklahoma water that was not subject to the Compact. Tarrant negotiated a contract with property owners in Stephens County, Oklahoma to export groundwater to Texas and also entered a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Apache Tribe concerning the Tribe’s potential water rights. In court Tarrant then reasserted its dormant Commerce Clause challenge based on these transactions. The district court dismissed the Stephens County matter for lack of standing and the Apache Tribe matter as not ripe. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the grants of summary judgment on the dormant Commerce Clause and preemption issues, and the dismissals based on standing and ripeness: [w]e hold that the Red River Compact insulates Oklahoma water statutes from dormant Commerce Clause challenge insofar as they apply to surface water subject to the Compact."
Bunch v. Ind. Sch. Dist. No. I-050 of Osage Cty.
Plaintiff-Appellant Dawn Bunch brought suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging that Defendant Independent School District No. I-050 of Osage County (Prue Public Schools) violated her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. She appealed a district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the District in which the court concluded Plaintiff had no protected property interest in her employment and failed to show her speech was a motivating factor for her termination. An internal investigation found that Plaintiff “either [. . .] wasn’t properly trained or she was not doing her job as required.” The School Board in an open session, but without holding a due-process hearing, terminated Plaintiff's employment. Plaintiff's complaint claimed a property interest in her employment contract entitled her to a hearing before her employment was terminated. She also alleged the termination was in retaliation for her exercise of free speech rights because, earlier that fall, she had signed a state-court petition calling for a grand jury investigation into the activities of Board members, and she had complained to friends and family about the Board. Upon review of the trial court's record and the applicable authority, the Tenth Circuit found that Plaintiff's proffered evidence of discrimination did not amount to the requisite proof that her civil and constitutional rights were violated. The Court affirmed the lower court's grant of summary judgement in favor of the District.
Cypert v. Ind. Sch. Dist. No. I-050 of Osage Cty.
Plaintiff-Appellant Louanne Cypert brought suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and several anti-discrimination statutes alleging that Defendant Independent School District No. I-050 of Osage County's (Prue Public Schools) failure to renew her employment contract violated her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Specifically, Plaintiff claimed the District discriminated against her because of her age. The district court granted the District summary judgment, finding that Plaintiff's non-renewal hearing satisfied her Fourteenth Amendment claim to due process, and that she failed to show her speech was the motivating factor that led to the District's non-renewal, and that she failed to show the District's non-renewal resulted from discrimination. In the fall of 2008, the local School Board became concerned about the District’s finances. It initiated an investigation and began terminating employment contracts. Plaintiff's contract was one of the terminated contracts. On appeal, Plaintiff proffered evidence of the Board's keeping younger, lesser-qualified personnel on staff at the time of her termination. Upon review of the trial court's record and the applicable authority, the Tenth Circuit found that Plaintiff's proffered evidence of discrimination did not amount to the requisite proof that her civil and constitutional rights were violated. The Court affirmed the lower court's grant of summary judgement in favor of the District.
Kay Electric Cooperative v. City of Newkirk
The City of Newkirk and Kay Electric Cooperative both provide electricity to Oklahoma consumers. "When a city acts as a market participant it generally has to play by the same rules as everyone else. It can't abuse its monopoly power or conspire to suppress competition. Except sometimes it can. If the city can show that its parent state authorized it to upend normal competition [. . . ] the city enjoys immunity from federal antitrust liability. The problem for the City of Newkirk in this case is that the state has done no such thing." Kay sued Newkirk alleging that the City engaged in unlawful tying and attempted monopolization in violation of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1,2. The district court refused to allow the case to proceed, granting Newkirk's motion to dismiss after it found the City "immune" from liability as a matter of law. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit found that the state did not authorize Newkirk to enter the local electricity market as it did in this case. The Court reversed the district court and remanded the case for further proceedings.