by
This case involved an alleged worldwide Ponzi scheme and the antifraud provisions of the federal Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Defendant Charles Scoville operated an internet traffic exchange business through his Utah company, Defendant Traffic Monsoon, LLC. The Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) initiated this civil enforcement action, alleging Defendants were instead operating an unlawful online Ponzi scheme involving the fraudulent sale of securities. In this interlocutory appeal, Scoville challenged several preliminary orders the district court issued at the outset, including orders freezing Defendants’ assets, appointing a receiver, and preliminarily enjoining Defendants from continuing to operate their business. The Tenth Circuit upheld those preliminary rulings, finding the SEC asserted sufficient evidence to make it likely that the SEC would be able to prove that Defendants were operating a Ponzi scheme. View "SEC v. Traffic Monsoon" on Justia Law

by
Jason Dean, director of the Labor Relations Division of the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions (“DWS”), appealed a district court's denial of qualified immunity against the claim that he violated Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights to substantive due process by failing to issue prevailing rates for wages and fringe benefits as required by New Mexico law. Plaintiffs were individuals who worked on public works projects in New Mexico, who filed claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated. As a result of this failure, from 2009 to 2015 plaintiffs alleged they did not receive the rates to which they were entitled under the Act. Defendants moved to dismiss, claiming qualified immunity. The district court granted it in part and denied it in part. Specifically, the district court granted the motion in its entirety as to Secretary Bussey, and as to Plaintiffs’ procedural due-process claim against Director Dean. However, the court denied the motion with respect to Director Dean on Plaintiffs’ substantive due-process claim. The Tenth Circuit dismissed plaintiffs' cross-appeal for lack of jurisdiction, and reversed and remanded the denial of qualified immunity as to Director Dean. View "Cummings v. Dean" on Justia Law

by
Lina Thoung emigrated from Cambodia to the United States in 2002 using a fraudulently obtained visa in the name and birthdate of another person. In 2007, she obtained U.S. citizenship and affirmed she had never provided false information to any government official while applying for any immigration benefit. Her fraud was discovered in 2012. She subsequently pleaded guilty to misusing a visa, permit, and other documents to obtain citizenship. As part of her plea agreement, she jointly stipulated to denaturalization under 8 U.S.C. 1451(e) and removal from the United States. Relying on 8 U.S.C. 1228(c)(5), the district court entered an order of removal. Immigration authorities, unable to deport Thoung back to Cambodia, eventually released her subject to an Order of Supervision. Under this order, Thoung could be arrested and deported at any time. Thoung filed a writ of habeas corpus with the district court alleging the court had lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to enter its order of removal. The district court reaffirmed its jurisdiction to order removal and rejected Thoung’s habeas petition. The Tenth Circuit held that, because of the REAL ID Act’s limitations on judicial review, the district court lacked jurisdiction to entertain Thoung’s habeas petition challenging the prior removal order. Because the district court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction and thus lacked power to enter its October 2017 Memorandum and Order, that judgment was vacated. View "Thoung v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs Maralex Resources, Inc. (Maralex), Alexis O’Hare and Mary C. O’Hare (the O’Hares) filed this action against the Secretary of the Department of the Interior (Secretary), the Department of the Interior, and the United States seeking review of a decision of the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) the upheld four Notices of Incidents of Noncompliance that were issued by the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) Tres Rios Field Office to Maralex for failing to allow a BLM representative to access certain oil and gas lease sites operated by Maralex on land owned by the O’Hares. The district court affirmed the IBLA’s decision. The Tenth Circuit determined the BLM, in issuing the Notices of Incidents of Noncompliance, lacked authority to require plaintiffs to provide BLM with a key to a lease site on privately-owned land or to allow the BLM to install its own locks on the gates to such lease site. Consequently, the Court reversed and remanded to the district court with instructions to enter judgment in favor of plaintiffs on this “key or lock” issue. View "Maralex Resources v. Barnhardt" on Justia Law

by
Defendant pled guilty based on a plea agreement he struck with the government. The agreement included a waiver of the right to collaterally challenge the conviction. Despite the waiver, defendant collaterally challenged the conviction under 28 U.S.C. 2255. The district court dismissed the challenge without ruling on the waiver, holding instead that the defendant’s underlying claim failed on the merits. On appeal, defendant didn't question the enforceability or applicability of the waiver. Instead, he contended the government forfeited the waiver by failing to invoke it in district court. The government defended the district court's ruling, adding that the Tenth Circuit should also affirm based on the defendant’s waiver of a collateral challenge. The Tenth Circuit rejected defendant's contention because the government never had an opportunity to assert the waiver in district court. As a result, the Court affirmed dismissal based on the waiver. View "United States v. Lopez-Aguilar" on Justia Law

by
Dennis Woolman, former president of The Clemens Coal Company, challenged a district court’s determination that Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company didn’t breach a duty to him by failing to procure for Clemens Coal an insurance policy with a black-lung disease endorsement. Clemens Coal operated a surface coal mine until it filed for bankruptcy in 1997. Woolman served as Clemens Coal’s last president before it went bankrupt. Federal law required Clemens Coal to maintain worker’s compensation insurance with a special endorsement covering miners’ black-lung disease benefits. Woolman didn’t personally procure insurance for Clemens Coal but instead delegated that responsibility to an outside consultant. The policy the consultant ultimately purchased for the company did not contain a black-lung-claim endorsement, and it expressly excluded coverage for federal occupational disease claims, such as those arising under the Black Lung Benefits Act (the Act). In 2012, a former Clemens Coal employee, Clayton Spencer, filed a claim with the United States Department of Labor (DOL) against Clemens Coal for benefits under the Act. After some investigation, the DOL advised Woolman that Clemens Coal was uninsured for black-lung-benefits claims as of July 25, 1997 (the last date of Spencer’s employment) and that, without such coverage, Woolman, as Clemens Coal’s president, could be held personally liable. Woolman promptly tendered the claim to Liberty Mutual for a legal defense. Liberty Mutual responded with a reservation-of-rights letter, stating that it hadn’t yet determined coverage for Spencer’s claim but that it would provide a defense during its investigation. Then in a follow-up letter, Liberty Mutual clarified that it would defend Clemens Coal as a company (not Woolman personally) and advised Woolman to retain his own counsel. Liberty Mutual eventually concluded that the insurance policy didn’t cover the black-lung claim, and sued Clemens Coal and Woolman for a declaration to that effect. In his suit, Woolman also challenged the district court’s rejection of his argument that Liberty Mutual should have been estopped from denying black-lung-disease coverage, insisting that he relied on Liberty Mutual to provide such coverage. Having considered the totality of the circumstances, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded the district court didn’t err in declining Woolman’s extraordinary request to expand the coverages in the Liberty Mutual policy. “Liberty Mutual never represented it would procure the coverage that Woolman now seeks, and the policy itself clearly excludes such coverage. No other compelling consideration justifies rewriting the agreement— twenty years later—to Woolman’s liking.” View "Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance v. Woolman" on Justia Law

by
Enable Intrastate Transmission, LLC owned and operated a natural gas pipeline that crossed Indian allotted land in Anadarko, Oklahoma. A twenty-year easement for the pipeline expired in 2000. Enable failed to renew the easement but also failed to remove the pipeline. In response, roughly three-dozen individual Native American Allottees who held equitable title in the allotted land filed suit. The district court granted summary judgment to the Allottees, ruling on the basis of stipulated facts that Enable was liable for trespass. The court then enjoined the trespass, ordering Enable to remove the pipeline. Enable appealed both rulings; the Tenth Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded for further proceedings. The Court determined the district court properly granted summary judgment to the Allottees but erred in issuing the permanent injunction. A federal district court’s decision to permanently enjoin a continuing trespass on allotted land should take into account: (1) whether an injunction is necessary to prevent “irreparable harm;” (2) whether “the threatened injury outweighs the harm that the injunction may cause” to the enjoined party; and (3) whether the injunction would “adversely affect the public interest.” The Tenth Circuit concluded that by ordering Enable to remove the pipeline on the basis of liability alone, the district court legally erred and thus abused its discretion. The district court incorporated a simplified injunction rule from Oklahoma law when it should have adhered to basic tenants of federal equity jurisprudence. This matter was remanded for the district court "for a full weighing of the equities." View "Davilla v. Enable Midstream Partners" on Justia Law

by
In 2007, Oscar Almanza-Vigil pleaded guilty in Colorado state court to “selling or distributing” methamphetamine in Colorado, for which he received a four-year prison sentence. In 2009, when the state paroled him, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) initiated expedited removal proceedings against him, declaring that he had committed an aggravated felony. With that designation, he had no right to an administrative hearing before an immigration judge. Within the week, the Department of Homeland Security had issued a final administrative removal order, and ICE agents had sent Almanza-Vigil back across the border to Mexico. Six years later, border-patrol agents found Almanza-Vigil in the New Mexico desert. Charged with illegal reentry, Almanza-Vigil moved to dismiss the indictment by collaterally attacking his previous removal order and arguing, for the first time, that he never committed an aggravated felony. The Tenth Circuit determined Almanza-Vigil’s Colorado felony did not fit the Immigration and Naturalization Act's (INA) definition of an aggravated felony. But the Court also concluded he failed to demonstrate a reasonable likelihood of avoiding removal but for the erroneous classification of his conviction. Therefore, the Court affirmed Almanza-Vigil's conviction. View "United States v. Almanza-Vigil" on Justia Law

by
I.B. and her mother, Jane Doe (collectively, “Does”), claimed that a caseworker from the El Paso County (Colorado) Department of Human Services ("DHA"), April Woodard, wrongfully searched I.B. at the Head Start preschool, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Without consent or a warrant, Woodard partially undressed I.B., performed a visual examination for signs of abuse, then photographed I.B.’s private areas and partially unclothed body. The Defendants moved to dismiss. The district court granted the motion, holding that qualified immunity precluded the Fourth Amendment unlawful search claim and that the complaint failed to state a Fourteenth Amendment claim. The Does appealed these rulings and the district court’s denial of leave to amend their complaint. Finding no constitutional violation, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Doe v. Woodard" on Justia Law

by
United States Border Patrol agents found Defendant-appellant John Hargrove, his girlfriend Janelle Richter, and Edgar Silvas-Hinojos in the desert near the border between Arizona and New Mexico. They were all in Hargrove’s truck, along with nearly 300 pounds of marijuana and two firearms. Hargrove was charged with: (1) conspiracy to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana; and (2) possession with the intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of marijuana, and aiding and abetting said possession. Hargrove was convicted by jury on both charges and sentenced to sixty months’ imprisonment. On appeal, Hargrove argued: (1) the district court erred in failing to grant him a mistrial after the prosecutor elicited testimony that the district court had previously barred; and (2) the district court erred in failing to grant him safety-valve relief under section 5C1.2 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court in all respects. View "United States v. Hargrove" on Justia Law