Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
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Defendant Terrence Taylor plead guilty to two counts of being a felon in possession of ammunition and one count of felon in possession of firearms. On appeal, he argued these charges were multiplicitous in violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause. The Tenth Circuit rejected this argument because he waived his multiplicity claim when he entered his plea to the three separate offenses. View "United States v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant Dalton “Dash” Brown pled guilty to a single count of being a felon in possession of ammunition, and was sentenced to 120 months’ imprisonment and three years’ supervised release. On appeal, he challenged the sentence, arguing the district court improperly calculated his offense level under the Sentencing Guidelines. According to Brown, the district court erred in applying: (1) a multiple-firearms enhancement; (2) a stolen-firearm enhancement; (3) a higher base offense for possession of a high-capacity magazine; (4) a reckless-endangerment upward-adjustment; and (5) an “in-connection-with” enhancement. He urges the court to reverse and remand for resentencing with a lower offense level. Findnign no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the sentence. View "United States v. Brown" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Kenneth Walker appealed his conviction and sentence for assault resulting in serious bodily injury within Indian country. Walker lived "off and on" with his adult niece, Victoria Dirickson. Walker asked Dirickson for a set of house keys. She declined because “[i]t was [her] only day off, and [she] really didn’t feel like getting out and making a copy” of the keys. Walker became “[r]eally aggravated,” and an argument ensued in the living room, which lead to the assault charges at issue in this case. A grand jury indicted Walker on one count of assault resulting in serious bodily injury within Indian country. The indictment alleged Walker was a non-Indian and Dirickson was Indian. A jury found Walker guilty as charged. On appeal, Walker: (1) challenged the district court's jurisdiction because it erred in admitting Dirickson's Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (“CDIB”) and tribal registration cards; (2) the district court abused its discretion in admitting the testimony of a medical expert; (3) the district court abused its discretion in failing to give a unanimity-of-means jury instruction; (4) abused its discretion in failing to consider sentencing disparities arising from a possible sentence in a state case; and (5) Plainly erred in imposing an anger management condition of supervised release due to insufficient notice, and improper delegation of authority to the Probation Office. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed Walker's conviction and sentence. View "United States v. Walker" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Edward Parson was convicted by jury of aggravated sexual abuse of a child. Parson argued: (1) the district court erred in admitting expert testimony about the process of child-sexual-abuse disclosures and the characteristics and behaviors of children who make such disclosures; and (2) the district court erred in admitting specific testimony of the expert that children are four times more likely to omit facts than to make up facts in the process of disclosing abuse. The Tenth Circuit determined the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the expert testimony, and his second claim of error was unpreserved and Parson failed to demonstrate an entitlement to relief under the difficult-to-satisfy plain error standard. Thus, the district court’s judgment of conviction was affirmed. View "United States v. Parson" on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant Anthony Mason was convicted by a jury of assault of an intimate or dating partner by strangulation and Oklahoma first-degree burglary. The Presentence Report (PSR) initially calculated an offense level of 22 and a criminal history category of III, resulting in an advisory guideline range of 51 to 63 months’ imprisonment. But when a statutorily required minimum sentence is greater than the maximum of the guideline range, as was the case here, the statutorily required minimum was the guideline sentence. For convictions of first-degree burglary, Oklahoma state law imposed a sentence “not less than seven (7) years.” Accordingly, the PSR recommended a sentence of 84 months’ imprisonment, 21 months more than the initial advisory guideline range. Mason objected to the PSR sentence, arguing that his eligibility for a suspended or deferred sentence under the Oklahoma sentencing scheme meant that it did not impose a “true mandatory minimum.” Finding no reversible error in the calculation of Mason's sentence, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Mason" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff John Frank sued Wyoming state and local officials in federal district court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, contending Wyoming's electioneering statute violated the First Amendment, facially and as applied. Frank, a Wyoming citizen, and alleging the statute unconstitutionally prevented him from handing out campaign literature and displaying bumper stickers on his car within the 300-foot buffer zone. Frank also claimed the statute was overbroad because it violated the First Amendment rights of third parties who could not display campaign signs on private property falling within the statutory buffer zones. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The court granted each in part, striking down some parts of the electioneering statute and upholding the rest. Specifically, the district court held the ban on electioneering within 300 feet of polling places on election day was unconstitutional, as was the ban on bumper stickers within the election day and absentee period buffer zones. But the district court upheld the statute’s prohibition on electioneering within 100 feet of absentee polling places. It also concluded there was an insufficient factual basis to consider Plaintiff’s overbreadth claim. After its review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. The Court upheld the electioneering statute against Frank’s First Amendment challenge to the size of, and conduct proscribed within, the 300-foot election-day buffer zone. The Court reversed and remanded on Frank’s constitutional challenge to the absentee buffer zone, including the electioneering conduct proscribed within that zone. Finally, the Court remanded for the district court to adjudicate in the first instance Frank’s facial overbreadth challenge. View "Frank, et al. v. Wyoming Secretary of State, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Van Sant & Co. (Van Sant) owned and operated a mobile home park in Calhan, Colorado, for a number of years. In 2018, Van Sant began to publicly explore the possibility of converting its mobile home park to an RV park. In October 2018, Calhan adopted an ordinance that imposed regulations on the development of new RV parks, but also included a grandfather clause that effectively exempted the two existing RV parks in Calhan, one of which was connected to the grandparents of two members of Calhan’s Board of Trustees (Board) who voted in favor of the new RV park regulations. Van Sant subsequently filed suit against Calhan, several members of its Board, the owners of one of the existing RV parks, and other related individuals. asserting antitrust claims under the Sherman Act, as well as substantive due process and equal protection claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The defendants successfully moved for summary judgment. Van Sant appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Van Sant & Co. v. Town of Calhan, et al." on Justia Law

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Wyoming Gun Owners, a non-profit gun rights advocacy group, aired a provocative radio ad in the run-up to Wyoming’s 2020 primary election. The ad extolled the pro-gun credentials of one candidate while branding the other as out of touch with Wyoming values. Under Wyoming law, an advertisement that refers to a candidate and advocates for his victory or defeat—or can only be reasonably understood in that way—generally constitutes an electioneering communication. The Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office flagged Wyoming Gun Owners’ advertisement as an electioneering communication. The organization subsequently sued the Secretary of State (and related parties) in federal district court, arguing that various provisions of the Wyoming statute were void for vagueness and that the disclosure scheme was not constitutionally justified. The district court agreed and determined that the disclosure regime failed exacting scrutiny as applied to WyGO and found a provision within the scheme void for vagueness as applied to WyGO. The Secretary appealed the latter two rulings and WyGO cross-appealed the rest. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court on most claims: the disclosure regime failed exacting scrutiny as applied to WyGO for lack of narrow tailoring; and the regime’s requirement that expenditures for speech “related to” candidate campaigns must be disclosed was void for vagueness as applied to WyGO. The district court did, however, erroneously deny WyGO’s request for attorney’s fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. The Court reversed and remanded for an accounting of fees. View "Wyoming Gun Owners v. Gray, et al." on Justia Law

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Defendant Alfredo Nunez-Carranza, a Mexican citizen, challenged his fifty-one-month sentence for unlawfully reentering the United States after previously being removed. The fifty-one-month sentence fell at the bottom of Nunez-Carranza’s properly calculated advisory guideline range. On appeal, he contended the district court plainly erred in not explaining why it imposed that sentence instead of a below-guideline sentence that he requested. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. View "United States v. Nunez-Carranza" on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant Bentley Streett was arrested for, and eventually pleaded guilty to, various counts of child pornography and sexual activity with minors. His actions were discovered by the mother of one of the minors from whom Streett attempted to solicit pornography, prompting the mother to contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. An investigation ensued, resulting in the production of Streett’s cell phone records, followed by his arrest and a search of his home, computers, and phones. Streett appealed, arguing: (1) the search warrant permitting the search of his home lacked probable cause, and that the search could not be justified by an exception to the requirement that officers obtain a legitimate warrant; and (2) the district court erred in denying his motion to dismiss counts 3 through 7 of his indictment. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the denial of Streett's motion to suppress and motion to dismiss. View "United States v. Streett" on Justia Law