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In November 2014, the Voters of Maui County passed a ballot initiative banning the cultivation and testing of genetically engineered (GE) plants. The district court granted the GE Parties’ motion for summary judgment filed in the Robert Ito Farm action and granted the County’s motion to dismiss filed in the Atay action. The district court found the Ordinance unenforceable because it was expressly and impliedly preempted by federal law, impliedly preempted by state law, and in excess of the County’s authority under the Maui County Charter. SHAKA appealed the district court’s judgment in both cases. The court concluded that SHAKA and other appellants have Article III standing based on the allegations of five individual appellants who allege that GE farming operations on Maui threaten economic harm to their organic, non-GE farms. The court also concluded that the district court did not err in denying SHAKA’s motion to remand to state court, and in denying SHAKA’s request for Rule 56(d) discovery. The court held that the Ordinance is expressly preempted by the Plant Protection Act, 7 U.S.C. 7756(b), to the extent that it bans GE plants that the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regulates as plant pests. The court held that the ban is not impliedly preempted by the Plant Protection Act in its application to GE crops that APHIS has deregulated, but is impliedly preempted in this application by Hawaii’s comprehensive state statutory scheme for the regulation of potentially harmful plants. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment and its dismissal in two related actions related to the ordinance. View "Atay v. County of Maui" on Justia Law

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After the County approved a county ordinance prohibiting the growth, testing, and cultivation of genetically engineered crops, plaintiffs filed suit to enjoin and invalidate the Ordinance. Two public-interest citizens’ groups, Shaka and MOM Hui, filed motions to intervene. The magistrate judge granted Shaka’s motion to intervene but denied MOM Hui’s, finding that Shaka would adequately represent MOM Hui’s interests. The district court held that the magistrate judge had jurisdiction to rule on MOM Hui’s motion to intervene; any appeal from the magistrate judge’s order needed to be taken to the Ninth Circuit because the magistrate judge, having obtained the consent of the parties, had authority to enter a final decision under 28 U.S.C. 636(c)(1); and thus the district court lacked jurisdiction to hear MOM Hui’s appeal. The court agreed with the Seventh Circuit that a prospective intervenor is not a "party" as the term is used in section 636(c)(1). The court concluded that, because the magistrate judge had the consent of the parties and did not need the consent of MOM Hui, the magistrate judge had jurisdiction to rule on MOM Hui’s motion to intervene. Effectively presiding as a district judge over the suit, the court explained that the magistrate judge’s intervention order became immediately appealable to this court. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Roberto Ito Farm, Inc. v. County of Maui" on Justia Law

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After Kauai County passed Ordinance 960 to regulate pesticides and genetically engineered (GE) plants, plaintiffs filed suit challenging the Ordinance. Plaintiffs are companies that supply seed for GE plants. The Ordinance requires commercial farmers to maintain “buffer zones” between crops to which pesticides are applied and certain surrounding properties, provide notifications before and after applying pesticides, and file annual reports disclosing the cultivation of GE crops. The Hawaii Pesticides Law, HRS Ch. 149A, and its implementing rules also regulate pesticides, including by imposing notification requirements and conditions of use, such as locations of permissible use. The district court held that the Ordinance's pesticide provisions are preempted by Hawaii state law. The court concluded that the Hawaii Pesticides Law preempts Ordinance 960's pesticide provisions because both address the same subject matter, the State's scheme for the regulation of pesticides is comprehensive; and the legislature clearly intended for the State’s regulation of pesticides to be uniform and exclusive. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendants’ motion to certify the preemption issues to the Hawaii Supreme Court. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's conclusion that the Hawaii Pesticides Law impliedly preempts Ordinance 960’s pesticide provisions; affirmed the district court’s conclusion that Hawaii law impliedly preempts Ordinance 960’s GE crop reporting provision in a concurrently filed memorandum disposition; and affirmed the district court’s denial of defendants’ motion to certify. View "Syngenta Seeds, Inc. v. County of Kauai" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, six states, filed suit seeking to block enforcement of California's laws and regulations prescribing standards for the conditions under which chickens must be kept in order for their eggs to be sold in the state. Plaintiffs seek to block enforcement before the laws and regulations take effect. The court agreed with the district court that plaintiffs lacked standing to bring this case as parens patriae where plaintiffs failed to demonstrate an interest apart from the interests of particular private parties because plaintiffs' alleged harm to the egg farmers in plaintiffs' states is insufficient to satisfy the first prong of parens patriae; plaintiffs' allegations regarding the potential economic effects of the laws, after implementation, were necessarily speculative; and plaintiffs’ reliance on cases granting parens patriae standing to challenge discrimination against a state’s citizens is misplaced where the laws do not distinguish among eggs based on their state of origin. The court also concluded that plaintiffs would be unable to assert parens patriae standing in an amended complaint. Because plaintiffs could allege post-effective-date facts that might support standing, the complaint should have been dismissed without prejudice. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment and remanded with instructions to dismiss the action without prejudice. View "State of Missouri ex rel. Koster v. Harris" on Justia Law

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Vernon Smith appeals the district court’s award of attorney fees to Treasure Valley Seed Company, LLC and its owner Don Tolmie (collectively TVSC). This case arose out of a contract for the sale of lima beans between Victoria H. Smith and TVSC. In 2013, Victoria’s son, Vernon, filed a complaint against TVSC alleging claims for breach of the lima beans contract. As plaintiff, the complaint named “VICTORIA H. SMITH, by and through her attorney in fact, Vernon K. Smith, by and through his Durable and Irrevocable Power of Attorney.” In 2014, TVSC learned Victoria had died on September 11, 2013—roughly three months before the complaint was filed. TVSC then moved to dismiss the complaint, contending there was no real party in interest. Vernon responded and argued he was the real party in interest because of his durable and irrevocable power of attorney. The district court concluded Vernon’s power of attorney had terminated at Victoria’s death. Further, the district court reasoned that because no personal representative had been appointed through probate, there was no real party in interest. Accordingly, the district court granted TVSC’s motion to dismiss. Vernon appealed. The Supreme Court found, after review of this matter: (1) there was indeed a real party in interest; and (2) the district court erred by assessing attorney fees jointly and severally against Victoria and Vernon. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Smith v. Treasure Valley Seed Co." on Justia Law

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A common-benefit trust fund was established to compensate attorneys leading the MDL concerning Bayer’s LibertyLink LL601 genetically modified rice. On appeal, Bayer and Riceland challenge the district court's order requiring Bayer to cause the deposit of a portion of a settlement between Bayer and Riceland into the fund. Bayer and Riceland argue that because their settlement was the product of negotiations following a state-court judgment, the district court lacked jurisdiction to order Bayer to cause a percentage of the settlement to be deposited into the fund. The court concluded that the district court properly ordered Bayer to hold back a portion of the Bayer-Riceland settlement. In this case, application of the Common Benefit Order was a comparable collateral matter that the district court had jurisdiction to resolve in light of the settlement; the district court properly applied the Common Benefit Order to the settlement and required a percentage of the entire settlement to be redirected to the common-benefit fund; and the district court did not plainly err in assigning to Bayer the duty of causing a deposit of the funds due under the Common Benefit Order. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Riceland Foods v. Bayer Cropscience US" on Justia Law

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The Fergusons proposed to repay their farm debts under Bankruptcy Code Chapter 12, including a $300,000 loan from First Community Bank, secured by a mortgage plus a lien on farm equipment and crops, and a $176,000 loan from FS, secured by a junior lien on equipment and crops. The bankruptcy judge approved a sale of equipment and crops, which yielded $238,000. The Bank, as senior creditor, demanded those proceeds. FS argued that the Bank should be required to recoup through the mortgage, allowing FS to be repaid from the equipment sale; "marshaling" is not mentioned in the Code, but available under state law. The Fergusons wanted reorganization, to keep their farm. The judge awarded the Bank $238,000. The parties could not agree on a repayment plan. The judge converted the case to a Chapter 7 liquidation. The trustee sold the farm for $411,000, paying the Bank the balance of its claim. About $261,000 remains. FS wanted to be treated as a secured creditor and repeated its request for marshaling. The equipment sale generated federal and state tax bills, with priority among unsecured creditors, 11 U.S.C. 507(a)(8). FS’s status—as a secured creditor with marshaling, or a general unsecured creditor without it—determines whether the taxes will be paid during the bankruptcy. Tax debts are not dischargeable; the Fergusons opposed marshaling. The bankruptcy judge approved FS’s request, stating that he would have approved the original request had he known that the farm would be sold. The district court remanded, stating that marshaling is proper only if two funds exist simultaneously. One fund (equipment and crop proceeds) is gone, only the land sale fund still exists. The Seventh Circuit dismissed an appeal for lack of jurisdiction; the remand was not a final order. View "Ferguson v. West Central FS, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the USDA and others, claiming that defendants violated the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), 15 U.S.C. 1691 et seq., because they denied his debt settlement offers on the basis of his race and in retaliation for his being a member of the Pigford class-action litigation. Plaintiff also alleged that defendants engaged in a conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. 1985(3) to interfere with his civil rights, and that they violated his rights under the Fifth and Thirteenth Amendments. The district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's claims. The court held that a final agency decision by the USDA resolving a complaint under 7 C.F.R. Pt. 15d using the administrative procedures currently in effect does not result in claim preclusion. In this case, the complaint does not contain sufficient allegations to state a plausible claim that Thomas Brown and M. Terry Johnson, both of whom are employed with the USDA’s National Appeals Division, are creditors for ECOA purposes. Accordingly, the court affirmed the dismissal of the ECOA claims with respect to Thomas Brown and M. Terry Johnson, and reversed the dismissal of these claims with respect to the remaining defendants. The court also concluded that plaintiff's conspiracy claims under 42 U.S.C. 1985(3) were properly dismissed pursuant to the intracorporate conspiracy doctrine. Finally, the court reversed the dismissal of the Bivens claims because, when a remedial scheme is created entirely by regulation, it does not preclude a Bivens claim. View "Johnson v. USDA" on Justia Law

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This case centered on a rural water conservation program administered in part by Defendants-Appellees United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”), the Secretary of the USDA, the Farm Service Agency (“FSA”), and the Administrator of the FSA (collectively, “the agency”). Plaintiffs-Appellants Cure Land, LLC, and Cure Land II, LLC (collectively “Cure Land”) argued that the agency’s handling of a proposed amendment to the conservation program violated the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) and the Administrative Procedures Act (“APA”). The district court upheld the agency’s actions. Finding no reversible error after review of this matter, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Cure Land v. USDA" on Justia Law

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On April 21 and April 29, 2015, the Oklahoma Senate and the Oklahoma House of Representatives, respectively, passed House Joint Resolution Number 1012, directing the Oklahoma Secretary of State to refer a proposed constitutional amendment to a vote of the people of Oklahoma. The proposed amendment would add a new section to Article II, prohibiting the Legislature from passing any law "which abridges the right of citizens and lawful residents of Oklahoma to employ agricultural technology and livestock production and ranching practices without a compelling state interest." Plaintiffs filed a petition in the district court, urging that the measure was facially unconstitutional. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, submitting that the challenge was untimely. The district court granted the motion to dismiss finding the challenge was timely and was not facially unconstitutional. Plaintiffs appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Oklahoma Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of the case, but on grounds that the district court should have abstained from review of a referendum before voted on by the people. View "Save the Illinois River, Inc. v. Oklahoma ex rel. Oklahoma Election Board" on Justia Law