Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
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At issue in this case was whether the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was required to conduct an environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it re-opened an area that it had temporarily closed to off-highway vehicles (OHVs) pursuant to its authority under 43 C.F.R. section 8341.2(a). In 2006, the BLM closed a portion of the Factory Butte area in Utah to OHVs due to their adverse effects on the endangered Wright fishhook cactus. The BLM lifted that closure order in 2019 and re-opened the area to OHV use, but did not perform any kind of environmental analysis under NEPA before doing so. Plaintiffs filed suit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1331, alleging violations of NEPA and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The district court disagreed with Plaintiffs' contention and dismissed their complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "Natural Resources Defense v. McCarthy" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Joan Unrein became legally blind and could no longer drive herself to work, a 120 mile round trip. She asked her employer, Colorado Plains Medical Center, to allow her to work a flexible schedule dependent on her ability to secure rides. The Medical Center permitted this arrangement for a while, but it became a problem because Unrein’s physical presence at the hospital was unpredictable. The flexible schedule arrangement ended in 2016, and was never reinstated. After Unrein was terminated, she sued the Medical Center for failure to accommodate her disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act. After a bench trial, the district court entered judgment in favor of the Medical Center because it concluded Unrein’s accommodation request was unreasonable since a physical presence at the hospital on a set and predictable schedule was an essential job function of her position. Unrein appealed. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed, agreeing that Unrein’s physical presence at the hospital on a set and predictable schedule was essential to her job, and the ADA did not require an employer to accommodate employees’ non-work related barriers created by personal lifestyle choices. View "Unrein v. PHC-Fort Morgan" on Justia Law

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In 2015, Michael and Sonja Saltman sold a vacant lot in Park City, Utah, to Curt Marcantel. Marcantel pushed to close the deal quickly, but at the time of the sale, the Saltmans knew something that Marcantel didn’t: a ten-foot wide sewer easement (including a sewer pipe within it) ran under a portion of the property, rendering infeasible Marcantel's plans to redevelop the property. The Saltmans did not tell Marcantel about the pipe, and the company Marcantel hired discover the easement did not find it. Because of an indexing error by the county recorder, at least three different title companies on four separate occasions failed to find and note the sewer easement on the property. Marcantel first heard about the easement when his prospective buyer alerted him to it; that buyer fortuitously learned of the easement from a neighboring property owner. The prospective buyer then balked at Marcantel’s asking price. Marcantel eventually sold the lot at a significant loss. Marcantel sued the Saltmans for, among other things, fraudulent nondisclosure and breach of the parties’ real estate purchase contract, arguing the Saltmans’ silence breached their contractual and common-law duties to disclose the easement. The Saltmans claimed they had assumed Marcantel knew about the easement, and in any event, Marcantel had constructive notice of the easement because it was publicly recorded. The district court granted the Saltmans summary judgment on all Marcantel’s claims. On appeal, Marcantel argued the district court repeatedly misapplied Utah law and disregarded summary-judgment procedure that required it to draw inferences in Marcantel’s favor. To this, the Tenth Circuit agreed, reversing in part the trial court's grant of summary judgment, but affirmed in all other respects. View "Marcantel v. Michael & Sonja Saltman Family" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-Appellants Santa Fe Alliance for Public Health & Safety, Arthur Firstenberg, and Monika Steinhoff (collectively the “Alliance”) brought a number of claims under Section 704 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (“TCA”), New Mexico’s Wireless Consumer Advanced Infrastructure Investment Act (“WCAIIA”), the Amendments to Chapter 27 of the Santa Fe City City Code, and Santa Fe mayor proclamations. The Alliance alleged the statutes and proclamations violated due process, the Takings Clause, and the First Amendment. Through its amended complaint, the Alliance contended the installation of telecommunications facilities, primarily cellular towers and antennas, on public rights-of-way exposed its members to dangerous levels of radiation. The Alliance further contended these legislative and executive acts prevented it from effectively speaking out against the installation of new telecommunications facilities. The United States moved to dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), and (b)(6), and the City of Santa Fe moved to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). The district court concluded that while the Alliance pled sufficient facts to establish standing to assert its constitutional claims, the Alliance failed to allege facts stating any constitutional claim upon which relief could be granted, thus dismissing claims against all defendants, including New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas. The Tenth Circuit affirmed dismissal of the Alliance's constitutional claims, finding apart from the district court, that the Alliance lacked standing to raise its takings and due process claims not premised on an alleged denial of notice. Furthermore, the Court held that while the Alliance satisfied the threshold for standing as to its First Amendment and procedural due process claims (premised on the WCAIIA and Chapter 27 Amendments), the district court properly dismissed these claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). View "Santa Fe Alliance v. City of Santa Fe" on Justia Law

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Rex Sharp, the attorney for Plaintiff Duncan Frank in a putative class-action against Crawley Petroleum Corporation, appealed a district-court order granting Plaintiff’s motion for voluntary dismissal of his claim with prejudice but placing three restrictions on Sharp’s bringing similar putative class-action claims against Crawley on behalf of other plaintiffs. Plaintiff owned a royalty interest in an oil and gas well operated by Crawley in Oklahoma. He alleged that Crawley had been underpaying the royalties owed on natural-gas production. Sharp claimed two of the three conditions were improperly imposed because the dismissal caused no legal prejudice to Crawley. Crawley moved to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The Tenth Circuit denied the motion to dismiss because Sharp was expressly referenced in the order and was directly bound by it. And although a nonparty, he was a proper appellant, he had standing to appeal, and the order was a final, appealable order. The Tenth Circuit also agreed with Sharp on the merits of his appeal: Crawley would not be better off in regard to class certification than it was with the dismissal with prejudice of Plaintiff’s complaint. The matter was remanded to the district court with instructions to grant Plaintiff’s requested dismissal without the challenged conditions. View "Frank v. Crawley Petroleum Corp." on Justia Law

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Brett Hendrickson worked for the New Mexico Human Services Department (“HSD”) and was a dues-paying member of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Council 18 (“AFSCME” or “Union”). He resigned his membership in 2018 after the Supreme Court decided Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, 138 S. Ct. 2448 (2018). His dues deductions stopped shortly thereafter. Despite correspondence stating his wish to withdraw, dues continued to be deducted from Hendrickson’s paycheck. On January 7, 2019, he emailed the State Personnel Office (SPO) to request the deductions be stopped, attaching the Union’s December 6 letter. The SPO responded that because it had not received his request during an opt-out window in the first two weeks of December, it would not stop deductions. Hendrickson then sent a request to the HSD to cease dues deductions. Thereafter, he filed suit to get monies returned when he originally asked for the deductions to stop. Hendrickson contended that, under Janus, the Union could not: (1) retain dues that had been deducted from his paycheck; or (2) serve as his exclusive bargaining representative. The district court dismissed these claims. The Tenth Circuit affirmed, but remanded for the district court to amend its judgment to reflect that: (1) the dismissal of Hendrickson’s request for prospective relief on Count 1 as moot; and (2) the dismissal of Count 2 against the New Mexico Defendants based on Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity, were both “without prejudice.” View "Hendrickson v. AFSCME Council 18" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Keith Sanders, a sergeant with the Montrose County Sheriff’s Office, appealed the denial of his summary judgment motion based on qualified immunity. Plaintiff-appellee Eric Vette filed a verified complaint alleging, among other things, that Sergeant Sanders subjected him to excessive force during the course of his arrest by committing the following acts after Vette had already been apprehended: punching Vette, hitting him in the face with a dog chain, and letting a police dog attack him. Sergeant Sanders moved to dismiss the complaint, or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, arguing he was entitled to qualified immunity. The district court converted Sergeant Sanders’s motion to one for summary judgment and denied it. Sergeant Sanders appealed, invoking the collateral order doctrine as the purported basis for appellate jurisdiction. The Tenth Circuit determined, however, that it lacked jurisdiction over Sergeant Sanders’ appeal to the extent his arguments depended on facts that differed from those the district court assumed in denying his summary judgment motion. Exercising jurisdiction over the abstract issues of law advanced by Sergeant Sanders, the Court held the district court did not err. View "Vette v. Sanders" on Justia Law

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Southern Furniture Leasing, Inc. filed a putative class action against a group of less-than-truckload (“LTL”) freight carriers, all predecessors to or current subsidiaries of YRC, Inc. Southern Furniture alleged YRC “carried out a widespread and systematic practice of overcharging its customers by intentionally using inflated shipment weights when determining shipment prices.” YRC asked the Tenth Circuit to affirm on the alternate ground that Southern Furniture failed to allege Article III standing. The district court rejected YRC’s standing argument, and the Tenth Circuit agreed with its analysis. The district court granted YRC’s motion to dismiss on the grounds that Southern Furniture had only 180 days to contest the alleged overcharges under 49 U.S.C. 13710(a)(3)(B). To this, the Tenth Circuit concurred and affirmed. View "Southern Furniture Leasing v. YRC" on Justia Law

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The issue common to appeals consolidated for the Tenth Circuit's review centered on what are "waters of the United States." In April 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers tried to define the phrase through a regulation called the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR). The State of Colorado swiftly challenged the NWPR in federal court, arguing the new rule, despite its name, did very little to protect waters of the United States and was both substantively and procedurally flawed. Before the NWPR took effect, Colorado asked the district court to enjoin the Agencies from implementing the rule pending a determination on the merits of the case. The district court obliged, issuing an order staying the effective date of the NWPR and preliminarily enjoining the Agencies to continue administering the Clean Water Act under the then-current regulations. The Tenth Circuit was asked whether the district court abused its discretion when it granted Colorado injunctive relief. To this, the Court responded in the affirmative: "Colorado asked for immediate relief but hasn’t shown it will suffer irreparable injury absent a preliminary injunction. Because that alone compels us to reverse, we do not consider the other preliminary injunction factors." View "State of Colorado v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Shawna Tanner, the plaintiff below, appealed an adverse ruling on summary judgment. Tanner was approximately 35 weeks pregnant and in custody at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Bernalillo County, New Mexico when she went into the final stages of her pregnancy. Over the ensuing thirty hours, commencing with the point at which her water broke, Appellees—employees of a nationwide private medical contractor—ignored and minimized her symptoms, refused to transport her to a hospital, and failed to conduct even a cursory pelvic examination. Only minimal attention was given to her: water, Tylenol, and sanitary pads. After thirty hours of pain and trauma, Tanner gave birth to her son. The child was born with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. He was not breathing. He had no pulse. This appeal considered whether full-time employees of a for-profit, multi-state corporation organized to provide contract medical care in detention facilities may assert a qualified immunity defense to shield themselves from 42 U.S.C. 1983 liability. The Tenth Circuit found neither historical justifications of special government immunity nor modern policy considerations supported the extension of a qualified immunity defense to Appellees. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Tanner v. McMurray" on Justia Law