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Gaume v. New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission

Court of Appeals of New Mexico

July 31, 2019

NORMAN GAUME, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
THE NEW MEXICO INTERSTATE STREAM COMMISSION, JIM DUNLAP, in his official capacity as Chairman of the Commission, THE GILA SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE NEW MEXICO INTERSTATE STREAM COMMISSION, BUFORD HARRIS, in his official capacity as Chairman of the Gila Subcommittee of the Commission, AMY HAAS, in her official capacity as Acting Director of the Commissions, SCOTT VERHINES, in his official capacity as New Mexico State Engineer and Secretary of the Commission, Defendants-Appellees.

          APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF SANTA FE COUNTY Francis J. Mathew, District Judge

          Daniel Yohalem Santa Fe, NM Alto Street Environmental Consulting Douglas W. Wolf Reston, VA for Appellant

          Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP Steven O. Sims Dulcinea Z. Hanuschak Albuquerque, NM Keitha A. Leonard Tesuque, NM Interstate Stream Commission of New Mexico Dominque M. Work Santa Fe, NM for Appellees

          OPINION

          VANZI, JUDGE.

         {¶1} In this appeal, we consider whether the district court can award damages for a wrongful injunction when it did not require Plaintiff to post security under Rule 1-! 066(C) NMRA. We conclude that the district court had no discretion to award i damages to a wrongfully enjoined Defendant in the absence of an injunction bond. 'Accordingly, we reverse the district court's award of attorney fees accrued in I seeking to dissolve a wrongful injunction.

         BACKGROUND

         {¶2} This case began when Plaintiff Norman Gaume filed a complaint against the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (the Commission) based on purported violations of the Open Meetings Act (OMA), NMSA 1978, §§ 10-15-1 to -4 (1974, as amended through 2013). The majority of Plaintiff s complaint focused on the Gila Committee, a committee created by the Commission to gather facts about the Gila River Basin and provide input to the Commission concerning matters related to the Arizona Water Settlements Act (AWSA), Pub. L. No. 108-451, 118 Stat. 3478 (2004); see generally Adrian Oglesby, Implementation of the Arizona Water Settlement Act in New Mexico: An Overview of Legal Considerations, 52 Nat. Resources J. 215 (2012) (discussing history of the AWSA and the Gila River). 1 Plaintiff alleged that the Gila Committee violated the OMA by meeting on at least thirteen occasions in private and without notice. See § 10-15-1(B) (establishing public meeting requirement); § 10-15-1(D) (discussing notice requirement). Additionally, Plaintiff alleged that the Commission approved at least two large service contracts at non-public meetings held in violation of the OMA. See § 10-15-1(H)(6) (providing that "[t]he actual approval of purchase of the item or final action regarding the selection of a contractor shall be made in an open meeting").

         {¶3} Plaintiff also petitioned for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction preventing the Gila Committee "from taking any action or making any decision related in any way to the AWSA or the Gila River." As the basis for the TRO and preliminary injunction, Plaintiff claimed that there was an immediate risk of harm because the Gila Committee could "create new policy regarding proposals considered under the AWSA," which could lead to the improper spending of state and federal funds. In addition, Plaintiff requested that the Commission "be enjoined in the same manner as the [Gila Committee]" because the Commission could take action relying on the Gila Committee's recommendations.

         {¶4} Judge Raymond Ortiz granted Plaintiffs request for a TRO ex parte, without a hearing, on October 23, 2014. The TRO broadly ordered the Commission to "not take any action regarding the Gila River and/or the [AWSA]" or "hold any meeting of the [Commission] or the [Gila Committee]." The district court set a hearing for the next week for the Commission to "show cause before the [district c]ourt why the [TRO] should not be extended or a preliminary injunction issued." The day after the district court issued the TRO, the Commission filed an emergency motion to dissolve the TRO, claiming that Plaintiffs allegations were false. The Commission also requested that the district court require Plaintiff to post a $1 million bond to compensate the Commission for costs and damages for the wrongfully granted TRO. See Rule 1-066(C). The Commission argued that the injunction bond was necessary because the TRO had the possibility of preventing the State from obtaining approximately $62 million in federal funding under the AWSA if the Commission did not submit Gila River-related proposals to the Secretary of the Interior by the end of the year.

         {¶5} On October 30, 2014, the day set for the hearing on the preliminary injunction, six local governments moved to intervene in support of the Commission. As a result, the district court spent much of the hearing resolving the motion to intervene. However, after the Commission informed the district court that it needed to hold meetings within the next two weeks in order to meet deadlines under the AWSA, the court agreed to modify the TRO and rescheduled the hearing on the preliminary injunction for November 12, 2014. The district court entered a modified TRO on November 3, 2014, which provided:

1. The [TRO] granted at Plaintiff s request on October 23, 2014, is hereby modified to allow the [Commission] to hold public meetings.
2. The Commission is further allowed to conduct any and all business, take any and all actions or votes, and make any and all decisions concerning issues that are not related to the Gila River Basin and the [AWSA].
3. With regard to the Gila River Basin and the AWSA, the Commission is allowed to hold public, informational meetings ... but is not allowed to make decisions on AWSA or ...

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