Schell v Oxy USA, Inc.

Oxy appealed a declaratory judgment adopting Schell’s positon on the meaning of certain clauses in oil and gas leases and Schell cross appealed the denial of his motion for attorney fees. The panel dismissed the appeal as moot and afire on cross appeal. It held the appeal was moot as Oxy sold its interests in the leaseholds to a third party, could not therefore have its behavior altered by the appellate decision and its fears of future liability to other parties was too speculative to create a current legally cognizable interest. The panel declined to vacate the underlying judgment holding that Oxy’s intentional conduct had mooted the case and equity favored retaining the judgment as allowing Oxy to avoid the effects of the judgment would not serve the public interest and would reward a litigation strategy of obtaining an advisory opinion. The panel affirmed on cross appeal as there was no attorney fee provision in the leases, there was no common benefit as the award could not be spread among the plaintiff class as Oxy no longer owes any duties under the leases and the declaratory judgment act is not a basis for attorney fee awards.

Saenz Mencia v Allred

Saenz Mencia sued Allred alleging wage violations. The district court ruled Saenz Mencia qualified as a sheepherder under applicable regulations of the visa program he was employed under and granted judgment to Allred. The panel reversed and entered judgment for Saenz Mencia. It held that applicable regulations under federal labor law and the visa program required sheepherders to do the sheep heading in remote grazing areas, the hours worked must be difficult to calculate and the herder must not do incidental more than actual herding.  None of those happened here as the work was done by Allred’s house, he kept track of the time and Saenz Mencia did mostly incidental work. The panel held estopel was unavailable for the federal wage claim as a matter of law and Allred’s estopel defense to the state contract claim failed as he did not rely on any statements of Saenz Mencia and had access to the true facts. The panel finally held testimony at deposition established the number of hours Saenz Mencia worked and federal farm hand wage rates provide the appropriate measure of the claim. The case was remanded to calculate the wage award. 

In re Jeffery Lavenhar (Laurie Lavenhar v First American Title)

Laurie appealed the lift of the automatic stay to allow First American to challenge the spousal support award in the Lavenhar’s divorce decree as collusive and fraudulent. The panel affirmed. It held the order lifting the stay was limited to challenging the spousal award, First American’s interest was aligned with the trustee’s interest, lifting the stay was the only way to allow the challenge to proceed, success would benefit all creditors and the trustee will monitor the proceedings to ensure no assets are distributed.

United States v Castillo

Castillo appealed his enhanced sentence arguing his California robbery conviction was not a crime of violence for sentencing guideline purposes. The panel affirmed. It held that the California robbery statute covered both taking of property by threats to persons and to property, that takings of property by threats to property is generic extortion which is a listed violent crime, that there is no basis to limit analysis of a state conviction to how the state labels or to limit the analysis to one listed crime and this conclusion is not an innovation of law but flows directly from the language of the guideline.

United States v Martinez

Martinez appealed the denial of his motion to quash a garnishment of his retirement accounts to partially satisfy a criminal restitution award. The panel reversed. It held that under the federal criminal restitution statute, awards are due immediately unless the district court orders installments. Here, at the sentencing the district court set the payment in its oral pronouncement at 25% of disposable income. As Martinez has no disposable income, nothing is currently due and thus the garnishment should have been quashed. It also held that the government’s interest in collecting the full amount ordered cannot overcome the statutory text and the provisions of the order in this case.