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Vaqueria Tres Monjitas, Inc. v. Comas-Pagan

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

December 2, 2014

VAQUERÍA TRES MONJITAS, INC.; SUIZA DAIRY, INC., Plaintiffs, Appellees,
v.
MYRNA COMAS-PAGÁN, in her official capacity as the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico; EDMUNDO ROSALY-RODRÍGUEZ, in his official capacity as Administrator of the Office of the Milk Industry Regulatory Administration for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Defendants, Appellees, PUERTO RICO DAIRY FARMERS ASSOCIATION (PRDFA), Plaintiff, INDUSTRIA LECHERA DE PUERTO RICO, INC., Intervenor Defendant, Appellant

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO. Hon. Daniel R. Domínguez, U.S. District Judge.

Rafael M. Santiago-Rosa, with whom Vanessa Medina-Romero, Darissa C. Hernández-Egúrbida and Marichal, Hernández, Santiago & Juarbe, LLC, were on brief, for appellant.

Rafael Escalera-Rodríguez, with whom Amelia Caicedo-Santiago, Carlos M. Hernández-Burgos and Reichard & Escalera, were on brief, for appellee Suiza Dairy, Inc.

José R. Lázaro-Paoli, José R. Lázaro-Paoli Law Offices, Enrique Nassar-Rizek and ENR & Associates, on brief, for appellee Vaquerí a Tres Monjitas, Inc.

Before Torruella, Lipez, and Thompson, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 957

TORRUELLA, Circuit Judge.

This case stems from a long-running dispute that involves the Puerto Rico milk industry. Plaintiffs Suiza Dairy, Inc. (" Suiza" ) and Vaquerí a Tres Monjitas, Inc. (" Vaquerí a" ) reached a settlement agreement in the original case with the government defendants, Myrna Comas-Pagá n, the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and Edmundo Rosaly-Rodríguez, the Administrator of the Office of the Milk Industry Regulatory Administration (collectively, the " Department" ). Intervenors Industria Lechera de Puerto Rico, Inc. (" Indulac" under its Spanish acronym) and the Puerto Rico Dairy Farmers Association (the " PRDFA" ) objected to the settlement, claiming that it violated Puerto Rico's constitutional and statutory law. The district court approved the settlement agreement, and Indulac appeals, contending that the said action violated its due process rights by approving the agreement without affording Indulac a hearing. We conclude that Indulac's appeal is untimely, which deprives us of appellate jurisdiction. Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal.

I. Background

The dispute over Puerto Rico's dairy industry is not new to this Court, and ample accounts of the litigation's origins can be found in our previous opinions. P.R. Dairy Farmers Ass'n v. Pagán, 748 F.3d 13 (1st Cir. 2014); Vaquerí a Tres Monjitas, Inc. v. Pagán, 748 F.3d 21 (1st Cir. 2014); Vaquerí a Tres Monjitas, Inc. v. Irizarry, 587 F.3d 464 (1st Cir. 2009), reh'g & reh'g en banc denied, 600 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2010).

For the purposes of this appeal, the following summary of the facts suffices: after almost a decade of litigation -- complete with various evidentiary hearings, three appeals, and the onset of contempt proceedings -- the principal parties settled. The Department agreed to promulgate a regulation that would drastically reshape the already pervasively regulated Puerto Rico dairy industry.[1] As a result of the proceedings, a regulation was crafted to

Page 958

rework the pricing and structure of the market.[2] Indulac and the PRDFA were excluded from the bargaining table. Spurned, they moved for the district court to reject the settlement agreement, alleging that the regulation violated a host of Puerto Rico's constitutional and statutory provisions because the regulation allowed the Plaintiffs to keep more money and forced the Intervenors to receive less. The district court heard their arguments, and, after reasoned consideration, approved the settlement. The district court entered judgment on November 6, 2013. A day later, it amended the order to correct a simple grammatical mistake. On December 5, Indulac moved to alter the judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). The district court denied the motion, ...


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