Shepherds’ Wage Suppression Suit Receives Major Blow
Tenth Circuit affirms dismissal of antitrust claims and nearly all RICO claims

by Doug Chartier

A group of Peruvian shepherds claiming they were victims of a wide-spread wage-fixing scheme was dealt a decisive blow by a federal appellate court last week.

The shepherds allege that U.S. ranchers, through their trade associations, colluded to depress their wages to the minimum amount allowed by the Department of Labor. But the federal district court in Colorado had dismissed all of their class action antitrust and racketeering claims, and on Tuesday, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed each dismissal except for a single Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, claim. The 10th Circuit also upheld the lower court’s decision to block the shepherds from amending their complaint a third time.

According to the 53-page opinion written by Senior Judge Michael Murphy, the plaintiffs failed to plausibly allege an antitrust conspiracy among the ranchers hiring the foreign shepherds, and largely because their actions were coordinated in the context of the agricultural worker visa system.

U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn had thrown out the RICO claims against each of the trade associations — the Western Range Association and the Mountain Plains Agricultural Service — as well as the individual defendant, Dennis Richins.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the July 22, 2019 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.