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Wyoming v. Livingston

ELR Citation: 36 ELR 20071
Nos. Nos. 04-8085, -8087, (10th Cir., 04/06/2006)

The court upholds the dismissal of state misdemeanor trespass and littering claims against a federal officer and contractor involved in the federal reintroduction of wolves in Wyoming. The officer and contractor were charged with the misdemeanors after they unknowingly entered private property in the course of tranquilizing and installing collar monitoring devices on wolves that had strayed from their proper territory. The lower court correctly dismissed these claims because the officer and contractor enjoy immunity from state prosecution under the Supremacy Clause. The defendants had federal authorization for the capture and collar operation that led to their indictments. Moreover, they had a well-founded basis to believe that they were not committing criminal trespass and, thus, that their entry on the land was an objectively reasonable mode of carrying out their federal duties. The court also commented that the evidence supports a suspicion that the prosecution was not a bona fide effort to punish a violation of state law, but rather an attempt to hinder a locally unpopular federal program.