Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

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In 2012, the Navajo Nation and several of its individual members sued San Juan County, Utah alleging that the election districts for both the school board and the county commission violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965. The district court denied the county’s motion to dismiss, found that the election districts violated the Equal Protection Clause, and awarded summary judgment to the Navajo Nation. It later rejected the county’s proposed remedial redistricting plan because it concluded the redrawn districts again violated the Equal Protection Clause. The district court then appointed a special master to develop a proposed remedial redistricting plan, directed the county to adopt that remedial plan, and ordered the county to hold special elections based on that plan in November 2018. On appeal, the county challenged each of the district court’s decisions. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Navajo Nation v. San Juan County" on Justia Law

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Louis Hansen was indicted for tax evasion and tax obstruction. Before trial, Hansen purported to waive his right to counsel. The district court held a hearing to determine whether this waiver was made knowingly and intelligently. At that hearing, the district court asked Hansen, among other things, whether he understood he would be required to follow federal procedural and evidentiary rules if he proceeded without counsel. Hansen’s response was at best ambiguous and unclear; at one juncture, he specifically told the court that he did not understand that he would be required to abide by these rules. Without seeking clarification from Hansen, the court accepted the waiver. Hansen represented himself at trial, and the jury convicted him of both tax evasion and tax obstruction. On appeal, Hansen argued that his waiver of the right to counsel was invalid because it was not made knowingly and intelligently. The Tenth Circuit concluded the district court incorrectly determined that Hansen’s waiver was knowing and intelligent. In particular, the Court determined the trial court failed to engage in a sufficiently thorough colloquy with Hansen that would properly warn him that if he proceeded pro se, he would be obliged to adhere to federal procedural and evidentiary rules. The district court’s waiver determination was reversed and the matter remanded to vacate Hansen’s conviction and to conduct further proceedings. View "United States v. Hansen" on Justia Law

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Former federal prisoner, plaintiff-appellant Billy May, filed suit under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), claiming he was denied his due process rights as a prisoner when he was quarantined without a hearing during a scabies infestation at the prison. The magistrate judge granted camp administrator Juan Segovia summary judgment on two issues: (1) the exhaustion requirement of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) applied to May; and (2) there was no genuine issue of material fact as to the availability of administrative remedies. May appealed to contest both conclusions. Segovia opposed May’s appeal, raising two alternative grounds for affirmance that Segovia raised before the magistrate judge, but the judge did not reach. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the magistrate judge’s conclusions that the PLRA exhaustion requirement applied to May and that there was no genuine issue of material fact as to whether administrative remedies were available to him. Because the Court affirmed the judgment below, it did not reach Segovia’s alternative arguments. View "May v. Segovia" on Justia Law

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Tommy Gurule was frisked during a routine traffic stop of a car in which he was a passenger. When officers discovered a pistol, he was arrested and charged as a felon in possession of a firearm. Gurule moved to suppress both the pistol and his subsequent confession as the products of an illegal search. The district court granted this motion, concluding Gurule had been unlawfully detained during the traffic stop and the officers lacked the necessary reasonable suspicion to frisk him. The Tenth Circuit reversed, concluding the officers did not violate the Fourth Amendment when they: (1) reasonably detained Gurule and the other occupants of the car prior to the search; and (2) frisked Gurule after they observed a gun in his pocket and had otherwise developed the reasonable suspicion he might be armed and dangerous. View "United States v. Gurule" on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant Jerry Doby was charged with one count of failing to register as a sex offender. A detention hearing was held in July 2018, and a magistrate judge imposed conditions of pretrial release, including a curfew, location monitoring, and monitoring of Doby’s computer use. He did not object to those conditions at that time. In this appeal, Doby challenged the district court’s denial of his motion under 18 U.S.C. 3145(a)(2) and 18 U.S.C. 3142(c)(3) seeking vacatur of pretrial release conditions imposed by the magistrate judge. The district court denied the motion as not properly before the court under these provisions (and also denied the motion as improper under 18 U.S.C. 3142(f), which Doby did not rely on in his motion). The district court ruled, among other things, that Doby’s motion was improper under 3145(a)(2) because Doby had not complied with the time limit for objections set forth in Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 59(a). The Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded, agreeing with Doby that the district court erred in applying Rule 59(a)’s framework to a motion under 3145(a)(2). Because that was a sufficient basis upon which to reverse and remand, the Court did not reach Doby’s other arguments. View "United States v. Doby" on Justia Law

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Believing that Utah state law required the Utah Department of Corrections ("UDOC") to pay interest on prison accounts, plaintiff-appellant Reginald Williams investigated the relationship between UDOC and Zions First National Bank (Zions Bank). Based on his investigation, he concluded that Zions Bank had a contract with UDOC to hold prisoner funds in an account administered by UDOC, and that the interest earned on the funds was illegally retained by the bank, when it should have been paid to the prisoners who owned the funds. Williams believed that, in response to this investigation, UDOC retaliated against him by, among other things, seizing his legal papers and giving him a negative parole report, which resulted in the denial of parole. He claimed that he was a model prisoner who was similarly situated to other prisoners who had been granted parole. Proceeding pro se, Williams filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 against UDOC, numerous prison officials, Zions Bank, and several Zions Bank employees, alleging takings and due-process constitutional violations for withholding interest on inmate funds, and retaliation in violation of the First Amendment for raising these issues. After the district court appointed counsel for Williams, all defendants moved to dismiss. The district court dismissed all claims except the retaliation claim, and dismissed all defendants except five prison officials. The remaining defendants then filed a motion for summary judgment on the retaliation claim, which the district court granted. In their motion to dismiss, UDOC and the prison-official defendants asserted Eleventh Amendment immunity, claiming that as an arm of the State of Utah, UDOC was immune from suit, and that the prison personnel were similarly immune from suit for claims against them in their official capacities. Williams presented no argument regarding the Eleventh Amendment, and the district court did not address Eleventh Amendment immunity in any of its rulings. On appeal, the UDOC Defendants renewed their argument that they were immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment. Finding that the Supreme Court’s recent holding in Knick v. Twp. of Scott, No. 17-647, 2019 WL 2552486 (U.S. June 21, 2019) that a property owner could bring a federal suit claiming a Fifth Amendment taking without first bringing suit in state court, the Tenth Circuit concluded Knick did not involve Eleventh Amendment immunity, which was the basis of its holding in this case. Therefore, the Court held the takings claim against the UDOC Defendants had to be dismissed based on Eleventh Amendment immunity; the matter was remanded to the district court with instructions to dismiss it without prejudice. View "Williams v. Utah Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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After Sandy City, Utah’s city council adopted an ordinance making it illegal for any person “to sit or stand, in or on any unpaved median, or any median of less than 36 inches for any period of time,” appellant Steve Ray Evans received four citations for violating the Ordinance when he stood on narrow or unpaved medians. Evans filed suit against the City and many of its officials under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging the Ordinance was facially invalid because it violated the First Amendment right to free speech. Evans also asked the district court to grant his request for a preliminary injunction. The City filed a motion for summary judgment, and after a hearing, the district court denied Evans’ preliminary injunction and granted summary judgment in favor of the City because the Ordinance was a valid time, place, or manner restriction on speech. Evans appealed, arguing the district court incorrectly applied the time, place, or manner standard and wrongly granted summary judgment because the City did not satisfy its evidentiary burden. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment. View "Evans v. Sandy City" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Christopher Colbruno was in jail waiting for trial when he needed to be taken to the hospital for an urgent medical condition. Six deputies in the Denver Sheriff’s Department (Defendants) walked him through the public areas of the hospital completely unclothed except for an orange pair of mittens. Complaining that the deputies violated his constitutional rights, he sued them, among others, under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Defendants moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim on the ground that they were entitled to qualified immunity. The district court disagreed, and Defendants appealed to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. After review, the Court found plaintiff’s complaint alleged facts supporting the inference that the public exposure of his naked body was wholly unjustifiable and therefore sufficed to state a claim under the Fourteenth Amendment. "Whether the evidence supports those allegations is a question for further proceedings." View "Colbruno v. Kessler" on Justia Law

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Defendant Vincent Mathews appealed three convictions: two for interfering with commerce by robbery and one for being a felon in possession of a firearm. He argued on appeal that the district court: (1) improperly denied his motion to suppress evidence related to an unconstitutional search of his historical GPS data that was collected when he was serving a state sentence; (2) abused its discretion when it ruled on the admissibility of this evidence without first holding a suppression hearing; and (3) abused its discretion when it allowed the government’s expert to testify without first holding a Daubert hearing. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions. View "United States v. Mathews" on Justia Law

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Mark Porter shouted racial epithets at Lucas Waldvogel, a seven-year-old African American who lived in Porter’s apartment complex. After hearing Porter’s language, the boy’s father, Michael Waldvogel, confronted Porter, who then assaulted Waldvogel with a stun cane. Shortly thereafter, Waldvogel and his family moved out of the complex. A jury convicted Porter of interfering with Waldvogel’s housing because of Waldvogel’s race, a violation of the Fair Housing Act. The district court sentenced Porter to nine months in prison. He appealed his conviction, and the Government cross-appealed his sentence. On direct appeal to the Tenth Circuit, Porter argued: (1) the evidence was insufficient to show he assaulted Waldvogel because of his race; (2) the district court plainly erred by allowing the prosecution’s opening statement and closing arguments, the trial evidence, and the jury instructions to make it likely that the jury convicted him for his actions against Lucas rather than Michael Waldvogel, thereby constructively amending the indictment. The Government argued the district court erred in calculating Porter’s sentence. Based on its review of the trial evidence, the Tenth Circuit held a reasonable jury could find Porter guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The Court found the presentations at trial clearly identified Michael Waldvogel as the alleged victim. The Tenth Circuit agreed the district court erred when it failed to apply a base level of 10 under the applicable sentencing Guideline when Porter’s offense involved “the use or threat of force against a person.” The conviction was affirmed, but the sentence vacated and the matter remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Porter" on Justia Law