Justia U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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Defendant-appellant Damion Tittle pled guilty to being a felon in possession of firearms. This crime carried a maximum sentence of 10 years, but the Government argued defendant's sentence should have been enhanced under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”). The enhancement would apply for mandatory minimum term of 15 years when a defendant had “three previous convictions . . . for a violent felony or a serious drug offense, or both.” The district court concluded defendant had three qualifying offenses and sentenced him to a prison term of 188 months, more than 15 years. On appeal, defendant argued he was not subject to an ACCA-enhanced sentence because one of his three prior convictions was not a qualifying offense. After review, the Tenth Circuit agreed, vacated his sentence and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Titties" on Justia Law

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Petitioner-appellant Keighton Budder was convicted by an Oklahoma jury of several violent nonhomicide crimes committed when he was sixteen years old. After sentence modification on direct appeal, he received three life sentences and an additional sentence of twenty years, all to run consecutively. He was not be eligible for parole under Oklahoma law until he served 131.75 years in prison. Budder filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, arguing his sentence violated the Eighth Amendment. In support, he cited “Graham v. Florida,” (560 U.S. 48 (2010)), which held that sentencing juvenile offenders who have not committed homicide crimes to life in prison without a meaningful opportunity for release was unconstitutional. The district court denied Budder’s petition, and he appeals. The Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded with instructions to grant Budder’s petition. The Court found under the categorical rule clearly established in “Graham,” Budder’s sentence violated the Eighth Amendment. “The [Oklahoma Supreme Court’s] judgment was contrary to this clearly established Supreme Court precedent. Accordingly, we reverse and remand with instructions to grant Budder’s petition for writ of habeas corpus, to vacate Budder’s sentence, and to direct the State of Oklahoma to resentence Budder within a reasonable period.” View "Budder v. Addison" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff owned property traversed by Red Hill Road, which was used by the public to access White Peak, a popular hunting and wildlife area in northern New Mexico. Believing the road to be private, Plaintiff installed a cattle guard, locked gate, and barbed-wire fence to prevent access to his land. Believing the road to be a public right-of-way, Defendant (a district attorney) wrote to Plaintiff on August 3, 2011, demanding that the gate be removed. The next week Plaintiff filed a still-pending quiet-title action in state court to determine whether the road is private or public. After three weeks with no response from Plaintiff, Defendant took matters into his own hands. Accompanied by a former president of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, four deputy sheriffs, and 18 private persons, Defendant cut the lock on the gate and, with the help of others, removed the barbed wire and T-posts from the road. When Defendant learned a few weeks later that Plaintiff had locked the gate a second time, Defendant directed the local sheriff to cut the lock and chain on the gate. This case presented an issue of first impression in the Tenth Circuit. The violation of federal law was not clearly established, but under state law, the action was unauthorized. A question of whether a public officer loses the protection of qualified immunity when he acts outside the scope of his authority was presented by the facts of this case: is there any justification for granting immunity in that context? The district court endorsed a “scope-of-authority” exception to qualified immunity and ruled that Defendant Donald Gallegos, a district attorney, had clearly acted without state-law authority in forcibly removing a barrier that Plaintiff David Stanley had placed on a road to prevent traffic through his property. It therefore held that Defendant could not invoke the protection of qualified immunity. The Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded for the district court to consider whether Defendant violated clearly established federal law or was instead entitled to qualified immunity. View "Stanley v. Gallegos" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant Suture Express, Inc. appeals from the district court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of Cardinal Health 200, LLC (“Cardinal”) and Owens & Minor Distribution, Inc. (“O&M”) under Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act, Section 3 of the Clayton Act, and the Kansas Restraint of Trade Act (“KRTA”). Suture Express, Cardinal, and O&M compete in the national broadline medical-and-surgical (“med-surg”) supply and distribution market. After Suture Express entered the "suture-endo" market and steadily grew its market share, Cardinal and O&M responded by instituting bundling packages in their contracts. Suture Express sued Cardinal and O&M, alleging that their bundling arrangements constituted an illegal tying practice in violation of federal and state antitrust laws. The court held that Suture Express’s federal claims failed as a matter of law because it could not establish that either Cardinal or O&M individually possessed sufficient market power in the other-med-surg market that would permit it to restrain trade in the suture-endo market. Even were this not the case, however, the court also held that: (1) Suture Express could not establish antitrust injury because it had not shown that competition itself had been harmed; and (2) Cardinal and O&M cited sufficient procompetitive justifications for the bundling arrangement to overcome any harm caused by any anticompetitive effects resulting from the bundle. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Suture Express, the Tenth Circuit did not think the company could survive summary judgment under Section 1 of the Sherman Act, Section 3 of the Clayton Act, or the Kansas Restraint of Trade Act. "There simply is not enough probative evidence by which a reasonable jury could find that Cardinal’s and O&M’s bundling arrangement unreasonably restrained trade in violation of federal or state antitrust law." View "Suture Express v. Owens & Minor" on Justia Law

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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed suit against American Pension Services ("APS"), a third-party administrator of self-directed individual retirement and 401(k) accounts (collectively "IRA Accounts"), and its President and CEO, Curtis DeYoung. The SEC alleged that DeYoung misappropriated $24 million in APS customer funds that APS had commingled in a Master Trust Account at First Utah Bank, custodian of the funds. The district court appointed a Receiver, who ultimately entered into a Settlement Agreement with First Utah. The settlement included a Claims Bar Order, which barred all other claims against First Utah relating to any IRA Accounts established with APS. Three of the approximately 5,500 APS clients who had a financial stake in the receivership entity intervened and contended that the court could not bar them from filing their own claims against First Utah. The district court disagreed and approved the settlement. The intervenors appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "SEC v. American Pension Services" on Justia Law

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After his release from death row, Paris Powell sued the prosecutor responsible for his overturned conviction, Robert Miller. Powell alleged: Miller had suborned perjury from a key witness at his trial, Derrick Smith; had hidden from the defense evidence of Miller’s agreement to help Smith with his own criminal charges; and had failed to disclose the efforts Miller made on Smith’s behalf with regard to those charges. Miller filed a motion to dismiss. The district court granted the motion in part, but denied qualified immunity on certain claims. Miller did not appeal the ruling. Years later, Miller filed a motion to reconsider the denial of qualified immunity. The district court denied that motion as well. Miller then appealed the denial of his motion to reconsider. Because the Tenth Circuit lacked appellate jurisdiction over the district court’s order denying Miller’s motion to reconsider, it dismissed Miller’s appeal. View "Powell v. Miller" on Justia Law

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The district court dismissed Aarica Romero’s minimum-wage claim under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the relying on a single, undisputed fact: Romero never alleged that she earned less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, taking into account both: (1) the cash wage that her employer paid her; and (2) all of the tips that she received each week. An employer doesn’t comply with its federal minimum-wage obligations just because its employees receive at least $7.25 an hour in tips. Instead, an employer complies with its minimum-wage obligations if it "pay[s]" its employees at least $7.25 an hour in "wages." And while an employer can treat tips as wages under certain circumstances, Romero argued that her employer impermissibly did so here. The district court declined to address this argument. The Tenth Circuit found that without first resolving whether Romero’s employer was entitled to treat her tips as wages, the district court couldn’t have determined whether that employer "pa[id]" Romero "wages" of at least $7.25 an hour. The Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded this case back to the district court to make this threshold determination in the first instance. View "Romero v. Top-Tier Colorado" on Justia Law

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Roger Garling, Sheryl Garling, and their business, R and D Enterprises, Inc. sued the United States for damages arising from an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) raid and investigation of their laboratory. The district court held the Garlings’ action was time-barred under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The Garlings appealed, arguing the EPA’s conduct was a continuing tort or, alternatively, that they were entitled to equitable tolling. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that sovereign immunity barred the Garlings’ claims and the district court thus lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The Court therefore reversed the district court’s judgment and remanded with directions to dismiss this action for lack of jurisdiction. View "Garling v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Francisco Flores-Molina was an undocumented alien subject to removal from the United States. An immigration judge determined he was ineligible for cancellation of removal because he has been convicted of a “crime involving moral turpitude.” The Board of Immigration Appeals agreed and dismissed Flores-Molina’s appeal. Flores-Molina then appealed to the Tenth Circuit, arguing the Board of Immigration Appeals erred in finding that his crime of conviction under Denver Municipal Code 38-40 (giving false information to a city official during an investigation), was a crime involving moral turpitude. The Tenth Circuit agreed, granted the petition and remanded for further proceedings. View "Flores-Molina v. Sessions" on Justia Law
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This appeal grew out of a battle over Winter, a horse that belonged to Summer Colby. Colby and her mother grew estranged and argued over who owned Winter. The mother allegedly complained to the Colorado Department of Agriculture, which responded by sending someone from the Brand Inspection Division to investigate. After investigating, the inspector seized the horse, prompting Colby and her mother to take the matter to court over ownership. After almost three years, Colby prevailed and got her horse back. When the horse was returned to Colby, she and her husband sued the Division and two of its officers, but the district court dismissed the action. The Colbys appealed, raising issues involving the Eleventh Amendment and the statute of limitations. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that the district court properly dismissed all of the claims. View "Colby v. Herrick" on Justia Law