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Manning v. United States

ELR Citation: 28 ELR 21431
Nos. 96-2258, 146 F.3d 808/(10th Cir., 06/17/1998)

The court upholds an injunction requiring an ore processing plant owner to provide the U.S. Forest Service with access to the area surrounding his mill and precluding further operations until the Forest Service approves a new operating plant. The court first holds that the district court did not err in denying the owner's demand for a jury trial for his Declaratory Judgment Act claims. Whether the owner is entitled to a jury trial under the Seventh Amendment depends on whether his action is equitable or legal in nature. Here, the owner's action was equitable in nature. The fact that he requested a declaratory judgment in conjunction with the injunctive relief did not alter the basic equitable nature of his action. The court next holds that the district court did not err in denying the owner's motion to amend his reply counterclaim to add damage claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The case had been pending for over a year, the pleadings had been amended repeatedly, and the motion to amend was made shortly before the close of discovery and less than four months prior to the scheduled trial. There were also jurisdictional flaws with the proposed reply counterclaim. The court then holds that the district court's factual findings are supported by the evidence in the record and are not clearly erroneous. Where there are two permissible views of the evidence, the fact finder's choice between them cannot be clearly erroneous. The court also holds that there was no reversible error in the district court's interpretation and application of the law to the particular facts of this case.

The court next holds that the Multiple Use Mining Act of 1955 applies to millsites. The Act is silent with respect to whether millsites are covered. Because Congress did not clearly address the issue, the court defers to interpretations of the statute by the agencies charged with its administration, provided such interpretations are based on a permissible construction of the statute. Here, the U.S. Department of the Interior and Forest Service regulations defining "mining claim" as including "millsites" are reasonable and consistent with the purpose of the statute to allow the efficient use, management, and conservation of the surface resources of public lands. Last, because the Forest Service has the authority to regulate the owner's millsite operations, the court rejects the owner's contention that the Forest Service had no right-of-access to his site and that the Forest Service employees' entry onto the millsite violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Peter V. Domenici Jr.
Dolan & Domenici
6100 Seagull St. NE, Ste. 205, Albuquerque NM 87109
(505) 883-6250

Counsel for Defendant
John W. Zavitz, Ass't U.S. Attorney
U.S. Attorney's Office
625 Silver Ave. SW, Ste. 400, Albuquerque NM 87102
(505) 766-3341

Before Anderson and Logan, JJ.