United States v. Boyd ( 2015 )


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  •                                                             FILED
                                                     United States Court of Appeals
                                                             Tenth Circuit
    
                                                          December 7, 2015
                    UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
                                                 Elisabeth A. Shumaker
                                                            Clerk of Court
                                 TENTH CIRCUIT
    
    
    UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
    
               Plaintiff - Appellee,
    
    v.                                               No.15-2002
                                         (D.C. No. 1:97-CV-00803-JAP-RLP)
    STATE OF NEW MEXICO ex rel.                       (D. N.M.)
    STATE ENGINEER; CITY OF LAS
    CRUCES; ELEPHANT BUTTE
    IRRIGATION DISTRICT; EL PASO
    COUNTY WATER IMPROVEMENT
    DISTRICT NO. 1,
    
               Defendants - Appellees,
    
         and
    
    HUDSPETH COUNTY
    CONSERVATION AND
    RECLAMATION DISTRICT NO. 1;
    CITY OF EL PASO; NEW MEXICO
    STATE UNIVERSITY; STAHMANN
    FARMS
    
               Defendants.
    
    
    JAMES SCOTT BOYD; PRE–1906
    CLAIMANTS; SAMMIE SINGH, SR.;
    SAMMIE SINGH, JR.; ED
    PROVENCIO; JOHNNY DIAZ,
    
               Movants - Appellants.
                                ORDER AND JUDGMENT *
    
    
    Before BRISCOE, McKAY and McHUGH, Circuit Judges.
    
    
    
          In this appeal, Appellants challenge the district court’s decision to deny
    
    their motions to intervene and lift the stay in a federal case that has been stayed
    
    and administratively closed since 2002 based on the Brillhart abstention doctrine.
    
    See Brillhart v. Excess Ins. Co. of Am., 
    316 U.S. 491
     (1942).
    
          In 1986, a New Mexico state court began conducting a comprehensive
    
    water rights adjudication referred to as the Lower Rio Grande Adjudication,
    
    which pertains to all known and unknown claimants to water rights in the Rio
    
    Grande from the Elephant Butte Dam to the Texas state line. This complex
    
    adjudication is still pending in the state court.
    
          In 1997, the United States filed the federal action underlying this appeal,
    
    seeking to quiet title to water rights related to the Rio Grande Reclamation
    
    Project. Based on the related state court proceeding, the district court dismissed
    
    the complaint under the Colorado River doctrine and, in the alternative, under the
    
    Brillhart doctrine. On appeal, we affirmed the district court’s decision to abstain
    
    
          *
            This order and judgment is not binding precedent, except under the
    doctrines of law of the case, res judicata, and collateral estoppel. It may be cited,
    however, for its persuasive value consistent with Fed. R. App. P. 32.1 and 10th
    Cir. R. 32.1.
    
                                              -2-
    under Brillhart but remanded for the district court to consider whether the action
    
    should be stayed instead of dismissed. See United States v. City of Las Cruces,
    
    
    289 F.3d 1170
     (10th Cir. 2002). On remand, the district court stayed the federal
    
    action and administratively closed the case.
    
          Twelve years later, the current Appellants—claimants of water rights in the
    
    Lower Rio Grande Basin who are dissatisfied with various rulings in the state
    
    court water rights adjudication—filed motions to intervene and lift the stay in this
    
    federal action, seeking to obtain federal review of their claims. After a thorough
    
    and well-reasoned analysis of the Brillhart factors, however, the district court
    
    concluded that Brillhart abstention was still appropriate and that Appellants’
    
    motions to intervene and lift the stay should accordingly be denied.
    
          Our review of the parties’ briefs and the record on appeal fails to convince
    
    us that the district court’s decision constituted an abuse of discretion. See City of
    
    Las Cruces, 289 F.3d at 1179. Accordingly, and for substantially the same
    
    reasons given by the district court, we AFFIRM the district court’s denial of
    
    Appellants’ motions to intervene and to lift the stay. All pending motions are
    
    DENIED.
    
                                                    Entered for the Court
    
    
    
                                                    Monroe G. McKay
                                                    Circuit Judge
    
    
                                              -3-
    

Document Info

DocketNumber: 15-2002

Filed Date: 12/7/2015

Precedential Status: Non-Precedential

Modified Date: 12/7/2015