April 21, 2019

Tenth Circuit: Special Conditions of Release that Affect Employment Require Specific Findings

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United States v. Rodebaugh on Tuesday, August 25, 2015.

Dennis Rodebaugh operated a hunting business in Colorado, where he would take mostly out-of-state clients on elk and deer hunting trips through the White River National Forest. Rodebaugh’s business had a high success rate for shooting animals, but at some point officials were tipped off that Rodebaugh was illegally baiting the animals by spreading salt below his deer stands. After a lengthy investigation, he was interviewed by authorities, to whom he eventually confessed that he was baiting the animals and knew it was illegal.

He was indicted on several counts of Lacey Act violations, which Act prohibits selling wildlife taken in violation of state law. Rodebaugh moved to suppress his confession, arguing it was involuntary, but the district court ultimately denied his motion. Rodebaugh also moved to dismiss the indictment, arguing the Colorado regulations against baiting were unconstitutionally vague. The district court denied his motion to dismiss without prejudice but granted leave for Rodebaugh to raise the vagueness issue at trial. During the multi-day trial, Rodebaugh again raised his vagueness argument, but he was ultimately convicted of six Lacey Act violations. The district court applied three sentencing enhancements to arrive at a Guidelines range of 41-51 months. It sentenced him to 41 months imprisonment followed by three years’ supervised release, during which time he could not engage in or accompany others in any hunting or fishing activities. Rodebaugh appealed.

The Tenth Circuit first addressed Rodebaugh’s contention that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress, arguing that his confession was involuntary and that the district court erred by making him present first at the suppression hearing. The Tenth Circuit examined the circumstances under which Rodebaugh’s confession was obtained and found it fully voluntary. Rodebaugh contended that because he had only slept three hours in the past two days, he should have been allowed to take a nap before talking to the agents, but the Tenth Circuit disagreed, finding record support that it was customary for Rodebaugh to receive little sleep and that he was coherent throughout the interview. The Tenth Circuit also evaluated the circumstances of the interview, including that it lasted only three hours, it was outdoors, and Rodebaugh was free to leave, and found that the circumstances did not support an inference of involuntariness. Next, Rodebaugh urged that his confession was involuntary because an agent told him that if he did not confess they would take his house and all his property away from him. The Tenth Circuit found this statement troubling, but not enough so to render the confession involuntary. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Rodebaugh’s motion to suppress. The Tenth Circuit also rejected Rodebaugh’s argument that the district court erred by making him present first at the suppression hearing, finding it well within the district court’s discretion to determine how best to run the courtroom.

The Tenth Circuit next evaluated and rejected Rodebaugh’s argument that the Colorado law prohibiting baiting was unconstitutionally vague, finding no support for either Rodebaugh’s facial or as-applied challenges. The Tenth Circuit also rejected Rodebaugh’s sufficiency of the evidence challenges, finding that Rodebaugh’s confession, specific testimony from an undercover agent and others, and evidence that he had salt in his home supported his convictions. Rodebaugh also challenged the procedural reasonableness of his sentence, but the Tenth Circuit found support for each of the enhancers applied by the district court.

The Tenth Circuit then turned from the majority opinion to Judge Matheson’s dissent regarding Rodebaugh’s appeal of the special condition of supervised release that prohibited him from any hunting or fishing activities. Judge Matheson noted that the district court failed to make any specific findings about imposing a restriction on Rodebaugh’s employment, which it was required to do. Judge Matheson’s dissent was well-reasoned, noting that although Rodebaugh failed to raise the argument in district court, the government failed to object when Rodebaugh raised it again, and therefore there was no prejudice in addressing the argument. Judge Matheson would have remanded to the district court for further findings on the issue of whether the employment restrictions were warranted. However, the majority opinion resumed, and the majority declined to apply the waiver-of-the-waiver argument championed by Judge Matheson. The majority decided that because Rodebaugh’s main argument against the hunting and fishing prohibition is that it deprived him pleasure, there was no need to discuss employment restrictions, and therefore the district court’s order was affirmed.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court on all counts. Judge Matheson wrote a thoughtful dissent regarding the employment restrictions imposed by the district court.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Park Board’s Failure to Follow Own Process Arbitrary but No Prejudice

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Rags Over the Arkansas River, Inc. v. Colorado Parks and Wildlife Board on Thursday, February 12, 2015.

Colorado Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation—Special Activities Permit—Regulations.

Several years ago, artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude began a quest to install a large-scale art display over the Arkansas River (Project). The artists formed Over the River Corporation (OTR), an intervenor in this action, to facilitate the Project. More than a decade after the initial application, the Colorado Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation (Parks Division), through its Board, authorized the Project. Rags Over the Arkansas River, Inc. (ROAR), a nonprofit organization, sought judicial review of the Parks Division’s authorization of the Project.

ROAR asserted that the Board was required to follow its special activities permit regulation, and the failure to do so was arbitrary and capricious. The General Assembly delegated the authority to develop regulations for management of the state parks and recreation areas and development of outdoor recreation programs to the Parks Board. Consistent with this statutory guidance, the Board issued regulations to manage the use of state parks and recreation areas. The regulations outline procedures for allowing members of the public to obtain a permit to conduct a special activity on areas under the Parks Division’s jurisdiction, including prior approval in the form of a Special-Activities Permit. The plain language of the special activities permitting regulation is mandatory. At the May 2011 Board meeting, the Board, with little explanation, abandoned the special activities permitting process, instead approving negotiation of a cooperative agreement with OTR. Because the Parks Division failed to adhere to its own special-activities permit regulation in approving the Project, its decision was arbitrary and capricious. However, because the Board’s authorization of the Project was supported by sufficient evidence and ROAR was unable to demonstrate prejudice as a result of the procedure by which the Project was approved, the Parks Division’s approval of the Project was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Parcel of Land Sold to School District Was Never a Park

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Friends of Denver Parks, Inc. v. City & County of Denver on Thursday, December 26, 2013.

City Land—Park—Common Law—Denver Charter § 2.4.5.

Defendant, the City and County of Denver (City), agreed to transfer a parcel of land (southern parcel) to a school district so that the district could build a school on it. Plaintiffs, an organization called Friends of Denver Parks, Inc. and several other interested parties, tried to file a referendum petition to repeal the ordinance transferring the southern parcel; however, the City’s Clerk and Recorder refused to accept the petition. Plaintiffs then filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to enjoin the City’s transfer of the southern parcel to the school district. The court denied both requests.

On appeal, plaintiffs argued that the trial court erred in denying their requested relief because (1) the City’s conduct over the years had dedicated the southern parcel as a park under the common law; and (2) the City’s charter requires that voters approve the transfer of a “park belonging to the city as of December 31, 1955.” The Court of Appeals disagreed on both counts.

Denver Charter § 2.4.5 sets forth the sole mechanism as of December 31, 1955 for creating parks and transferring parks. The City did not pass an ordinance dedicating the southern parcel as a park pursuant to § 2.4.5 after December 31, 1955. Additionally, the record did not clearly establish that the City, through its unambiguous actions, had demonstrated an unequivocal intent to dedicate the southern parcel as a park on or before December 31, 1955. Therefore, Denver Charter § 3.2.6 authorized the City to sell or transfer it without following the requirements of § 2.4.5, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it determined that plaintiffs did not establish a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits of this issue. The order was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here.