United States v Wells and Lyman

Wells and Lyman appealed their convictions and restitution orders arising from a protest ATV ride on federal land. The panel, with one judge adding a concurrence, affirmed. It held the district court judge did not abuse his discretion in not sua sponte recusing himself form the case before trial because adverse rulings cannot be the basis of a recusal and the friendship between the judge and an environmental activist would not lead a reasonable person to conclude the judge was biased against Wells and Lyman particularly as there was basis to believe the judge had any idea that the activist had a significant pretrial role in the case. It affirmed the denial of Well’s motion to dismiss as he presented no evidence of prosecutorial hostility towards his first Amendment rights and affirmed as to Lyman’s motion to dismiss as the argument about interdependence was waived and failed in any event because Lyman and Wells worked together on social media posts promoting the ride including an interview about the ride which they posted on social media. It held the same evidence of interdependence was sufficient to prove Wells was a coconspirator not a journalist covering the ride. It rejected Wells dn Lyman’s Brady argument as they did not know about the map which purports to show a right of way and thus could not use it to prove subjective lack of knowing violation and even if they had  the map was not material to a defense of right of way as the map lacks any indication about what the proposed right of way is and Wells and Lyman bore the burden of proving public acceptance of the right of way which could not be accomplished with just the map here as there was no proof of the scope of the alleged right of way or whether ATV use was part of the right of way. It affirmed the restitution awards as the government proved the ATV ride caused damage to the closed area of federal land and wells and Lyman proximately caused the damage because even if the other riders involved went beyond the scope of the conspiracy into the closed area, their actions were done in repose to the conspiracy and thus covered by the restitution statute. It affirmed the amount as the archaeological expenses were actually incurred as part of the damage assessment, investigative expenses are recoverable and the claim that the amounts were mere estimates as unsupported by the record. It finally held that Lyman must raise his ineffective assistance claim on collateral review. Harz added a brief concurrence arguing defendants charged with trespass can challenge the legality of closure orders which provide the basis for the charge.

Mayotte v U.S. Bank National Association

Mayotte appealed the dismissal of her claims under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. The panel reversed. It held that Rooker-Feldman only applies when the later federal case has a claim the state court judgment was wrongly entered and here none of Mayotte’s claims make that argument and in fact are based on facts prior to the Colorado Rule 120 proceeding relied upon by the district court. It noted the Rule 120 proceeding may have preclusive or equitable effects on some of Mayotte’s claims, but left that issue for the district court to resolve in the first instance.

Hasan v Chase Bank USA, N.A.; Hasan v American Express Centurion Bank

Hasan appealed the dismissal of his cases. The panel affirmed holding that under 15 USC 166i claims are limited to the amount owed on a credit card account, Hasan paid his card accounts in full and thus the credit outstanding for purposes of 1666i is $0 and the cases were properly dismissed.

In re Peeples (Lee v McCardle)

Mr. and Mrs. Lee appealed summary judgment ruling the bankruptcy automatic stay did not apply to their state lawsuit against McCardle. The panel vacated at to Mrs. Lee and affirmed as to Mr.  Lee. It held that Mrs. Lee did not have standing as the alleged harm here is judgment against Mr.  Lee only for attorney fees in the state lawsuit and thus vacated judgment and remanded with instructions to dismiss. As to Mr. Lee, it held the claim involving attorney fees in a state lawsuit was outside the zone of interests of the automatic stay as it does not involve any interest as a creditor in the bankruptcy case and claims under 11 USC 362(k) are limited to debtors and creditors in a bankruptcy proceeding as this serves the purposes of the automatic stay.

Jackson et al. and ARC of New Mexico, Intervenors v Los Lunas Community Program et al.

Program et al appealed the denial of their Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(5) motion to vacate existing consent decrees concerning intellectually disabled persons and programs to assist them and end federal oversight. The panel vacated and remanded. It held there was jurisdiction to hear the case as the motion involved final judgments for purposes of 28 USC 1291 as there will be no further litigation on the merits of the motion. The panel held that the united states Supreme Court Horne decision involving 60(b)(5) motions to modify injunctions decrees also controls motion to terminate decrees as the decrees are final judgments, Horne appears to treat injunctions an consent decrees as equivalents in this context and federalism concerns are present in both injunction and consent decree setting. It held that under Horne, dissect courts must undertake a flexible analysis of whether the underlying violations of federal law have been remedied and must consider the toasty of the moving party’s efforts to comply and where the motion is based on changed circumstances the district court must consider whether the change warrants revision or termination of the decrees and whether the requested modification or termination is suitably tailored to the changed circumstances. It held that if moving parties show that eh changed circumstances make compliance substantially more onerous, the decree is now unworkable due to unforeseen obstacles or failure to modify would be detrimental to the public interest, the district court must proceed to evaluate the tailoring question, but, that the district court must consider in the vacate context whether the objective of compliance with federal law has been accomplished and consider disengaging where a durable remedy has been put in place. The panel held that the district court ted erred in denying the motion as it made factual findings  that compliance was onerous and the decrees had taken away control form state decision makers yet found no change in circumstances which requires remand to explain why there is no significant change in circumstances and the district court failed to undertake the required flexible approach in Horne and remanded for correct analysis under this standard.

Estate of Cummings v Community health Systems, Inc.

Systems appealed the district court order vacating the dismissal of estate’s claims against it and remanding the claims to state court. The panel reversed. It held the order was erroneous as federal district courts have the authority to rule on personal jurisdiction before ruling on whether there is subject matter jurisdiction over a case and the appeal of Systems’ personal jurisdiction order was dismissed with prejudice and those claims were excluded from the mandate order to remand state law claims back to state court. It held there was jurisdiction under 28 USC 1447 to hear this appeal because the district court remand order was issued after final judgment as the earlier appeal was dismissed and only limited ministerial duties remained for the district court after the earlier appeal.