April 21, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: License Suspension Arbitrary and Capricious Due to Lack of Standards

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Farmer v. Colorado Parks & Wildlife Commission on Thursday, August 25, 2016.

Big Game Hunter—Suspension of Wildlife License—Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission—Agency Standards—Arbitrary and Capricious.

Farmer is a big game hunter and guide. After allowing his Colorado outfitter’s license to lapse, Farmer was charged with six counts of illegal sale of big game wildlife for outfitting mountain lion hunts without the proper license. Farmer pleaded guilty to one count. Pursuant to CRS § 33-6-113(2)(a), his guilty plea triggered an administrative hearing by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission (Commission) to determine whether to suspend Farmer’s wildlife license privileges. After a hearing, Farmer’s hunting license was suspended for 20 years. Farmer initiated this action for review of the Commission’s decision, and the district court affirmed.

On appeal, Farmer contended that he was deprived of due process because neither CRS §§ 33-6-106 and -113 nor any applicable regulations contain sufficient standards to constrain the Commission’s discretion in determining the length of his suspension. CRS § 33-6-113(2)(a) merely provides that, upon conviction for the illegal sale of big game, the Commission may suspend “any or all wildlife license privileges of the person for a minimum of one year to life.” Because neither the statute nor any applicable regulations provide sufficient standards to guide the Commission’s suspension decision, its action in suspending Farmer’s license was arbitrary and capricious.

The district court’s order was reversed and Farmer’s suspension was vacated. Because remanding to the hearing officer would not provide Farmer a complete remedy for the arbitrary and capricious suspension of his license under defective procedures, the Court of Appeals declined to remand for a new hearing.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

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