Articles Posted in U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

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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

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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

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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. View "City of Hugo v. Nichols " on Justia Law

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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." View "Tarrant Regional Water Dist. v. Herrmann" on Justia Law

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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. View "Bunch v. Ind. Sch. Dist. No. I-050 of Osage Cty." on Justia Law

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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. View "Cypert v. Ind. Sch. Dist. No. I-050 of Osage Cty." on Justia Law

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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. View "Kay Electric Cooperative v. City of Newkirk" on Justia Law

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Pursuant to the Indian Self-determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDA), the United States enters into contracts with Indian tribes and tribal organizations for âthe planning, conduct and administration of programs or services which are otherwise provided to Indian tribes and their members pursuant to Federal law.â These agreements (Contract Support Cost contracts, or CSCs) include costs which are used for the running of essential tribal services, such as law enforcement, economic development and natural resource management. Congress mandated all CSCs be provided with full funding, but then failed to appropriate funds sufficient to pay all CSCs. Instead Congress capped appropriations at a level well below the sum total of CSCs. Several tribes sued seeking to collect the promised-but-unappropriated CSC money. The government argued that the phrase âsubject to the availability of appropriationsâ relieves it of the obligation to pay if the Congress doesnât appropriate the funds. The tribes argued that only Congressional funding decisionsânot the discretionary allocation decisions made by the Department of the Interiorâcan render an appropriation âunavailable.â The Tenth Circuit concluded that Plaintiffsâ interpretation is âreasonable,â and it reversed the district courtâs grant of summary judgment in favor of the government. The Court remanded the case for further proceedings.