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

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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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

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Plaintiff Chetan Patel appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants in this 42 U.S.C. 1983 federal civil rights case, in which Plaintiff raised numerous claims against various police officers and other governmental officials involved in his arrest on charges of felony VIN fraud and the related search and seizure of his property in Basin, Wyoming. In granting summary judgment, the court refused to consider a purported affidavit produced by Plaintiff’s counsel. The court also disregarded Plaintiff’s attorneys’ affidavits based on its conclusion that relying on the attorneys’ affidavits would make them material witnesses to this case in violation of Rule 3.7 of the Wyoming Rules of Professional Conduct. The court then concluded that the purported affidavit should have been disregarded both because it was irrelevant and because, without Plaintiff’s counsel’s affidavits, there was no admissible evidence that it was in fact signed by the person making the statement in the affidavit. After review, the Tenth Circuit reversed the grant of summary judgment as to the seizure of certain items and remanded for further proceedings on this claim. The Court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of all Defendants on the remainder of Plaintiff’s federal claims, and affirmed the dismissal with prejudice of Plaintiff’s state law claims against Defendant Frentheway. The Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings dismissal of the state claims as to all other Defendants. View "Patel v. Hall" on Justia Law

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The Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration appealed a district court order reversing her decision to deny Marla Vallejo’s application for supplemental security income benefits and remanding the case for further administrative proceedings. Because the district court’s order rested on a misapplication of controlling law, the Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded to the district court for further proceedings. View "Vallejo v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) issued a subpoena to TriCore Reference Laboratories (“TriCore”) seeking information relating to an individual’s charge of disability and pregnancy discrimination. After TriCore refused to comply, the EEOC asked the New Mexico federal district court to enforce the subpoena. The court denied the request, and the EEOC appealed. Although the Tenth Circuit disagreed with some of the district court’s analysis, it could not say it abused its discretion. View "EEOC v. TriCore Reference Laboratories" on Justia Law

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The issue presented for the Tenth Circuit’s review centered on whether a taxpayer may challenge a tax penalty in a Collection Due Process hearing (“CDP hearing”) after already having challenged the penalty in the Appeals Office of the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”). Keller Tank Services II, Inc. participated in an employee benefit plan and took deductions for its contributions to the plan. The IRS notified Keller of: (1) a tax penalty for failure to report its participation in the plan as a “listed transaction” on its 2007 tax return; and (2) an income tax deficiency and related penalties for improper deductions of payments to the plan. Keller protested the tax penalty at the IRS Appeals Office. It then attempted to do so in a CDP hearing but was rebuffed because it already had challenged the penalty at the Appeals Office. Keller appealed the CDP decision to the Tax Court, which granted summary judgment to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue (“Commissioner”). Finding no reversible error in the Tax Court’s judgment, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Keller Tank Services v. Commissioner, Internal Rev. Svc." on Justia Law

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Defendant Donald Bowers was previously involved in a civil trade secret misappropriation case that was litigated in the United States Federal District Court. During the course of that litigation, Bowers willfully and repeatedly violated a permanent injunction, and refused to purge himself of civil contempt. His actions resulted in findings of civil contempt against him, judgments against him for the plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees, and, ultimately, a criminal referral to the United States Attorney for the District of Utah. A federal grand jury subsequently indicted Bowers on two counts of contempt. The case proceeded to trial, where a jury found Bowers guilty of both counts. Bowers was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of fifteen months, to be followed by a thirty-six month term of supervised release. He was also directed, as a condition of supervised release, to make monthly payments on the outstanding amount owed by him to the plaintiff in the underlying civil case. Bowers appealed, arguing that the district court erred in: (1) imposing a special condition of supervised release requiring him to make monthly payments on the outstanding judgments owed to the plaintiff in the civil case; (2) denying his motion for disclosure of the criminal referral; and (3) sentencing him to a term of imprisonment that exceeded six months. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Bowers" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Lenox MacLaren Surgical Corporation (“Lenox”) sued several related corporations, Medtronic, Inc.; Medtronic PS Medical, Inc. (“PS Medical”); Medtronic Sofamor Danek, Inc. (“MSD, Inc.”); and Medtronic Sofamor Danek Co. Ltd. (“MSD Japan”) (collectively, “Defendants”), for monopolization and attempted monopolization in violation of section 2 of the Sherman Act. Lenox alleged that Defendants engaged in illegal activity to advance a coordinated, anticompetitive scheme in which a related non-party, Medtronic Sofamor Danek USA, Inc. (“MSD USA”), also participated. Lenox sued MSD USA in 2007 on claims arising from the same set of facts. In this case, Lexon challenged the district court’s disposition of Defendants’ second motion for summary judgment, which claimed that Lenox could not prove the elements of its antitrust claims against any of the named Defendants individually, and that Defendants cannot be charged collectively with the conduct of MSD USA or of each other. They also argued that the doctrine of claim preclusion barred Lenox’s claims, in light of the prior proceeding against MSD USA. The district court granted summary judgment, holding that because Lenox could not establish each of the elements of an antitrust claim against any one defendant, or establish a conspiracy among them, Lenox’s claims failed as a matter of law. Lenox appealed. But finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Lenox MacLaren Surgical Corp. v. Medtronic" on Justia Law

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Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company (“Philadelphia”) and Lexington Insurance Company (“Lexington”) insured the same school building that suffered fire damage. In a declaratory judgment action, they disputed their relative responsibilities to pay for the loss. The district court ordered Philadelphia to pay 54 percent and Lexington to pay 46 percent of the approximately $6 million loss. Lexington appealed, arguing it should have no obligation to pay. Philadelphia cross-appealed, arguing Lexington should have paid more. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's allocation between the insurers. View "Philadelphia Indemnity v. Lexington Insurance" on Justia Law

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Janna DeWitt appealed a district court’s order granting summary judgment to her former employer, Southwestern Bell Telephone Company (SWBTC) on her claims of disability discrimination and failure to accommodate her disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and retaliation in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). In 2009 and early 2010, DeWitt used FMLA leave intermittently for health issues related to her diabetes. DeWitt only took FMLA leave when vacation days were not available because DeWitt believed that SWBTC “frowned upon” employees taking FMLA leave. DwWitt's employment was terminated in 2010 when she allegedly hung up on two customers during a low blood sugar episode. DeWitt explained that she did not remember taking the calls due to a severe drop in her blood sugar. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that SWBTC was entitled to summary judgment because: (1) it advanced a legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for taking adverse employment action against DeWitt (i.e., DeWitt’s hanging up on customers while on a Last Chance Agreement); and (2) DeWitt failed to demonstrate that SWBTC’s stated reason for its disciplinary action was pretextual. Finding that DeWitt failed to otherwise meet her burden to overcome summary judgment, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "DeWitt v. Southwestern Bell Telephone" on Justia Law

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Between fiscal years 2006 and 2011, Congress prohibited the use of funds for inspection, thereby preventing commercial equine slaughter. In fiscal year 2012, Congress lifted the ban on funding and Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) received several applications for inspection. The agency issued grants of inspection to two commercial equine slaughter facilities: Valley Meat Company, LLC and Responsible Transportation, LLC. Front Range Equine Rescue, the Humane Society of the United States, and several other individuals and organizations (collectively, "Front Range") sued officials of the USDA, seeking a declaration that grants of inspection generally violated the National Environmental Policy Act and requesting that the court set aside the specific grants of inspection. Front Range also moved to enjoin the Federal Defendants from authorizing equine slaughter during the pendency of the claims. The district court granted Front Range's motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO), prohibiting the Federal Defendants from sending inspectors to the equine slaughterhouses of, or otherwise providing equine inspection services. The court additionally sua sponte enjoined Valley Meat and Responsible Transportation from engaging in commercial equine slaughter. Valley Meat opposed Front Range's motion, arguing that it should be restrained and Front Range should be required to post a bond because an injunction against the Federal Defendants effectively also enjoined its operations. The district court never ruled on Front Range's motion, but denied Front Range's request for a permanent injunction and dismissed the action. Front Range immediately appealed the decision to the Tenth Circuit. The Tenth Circuit temporarily enjoined the Federal Defendants from sending inspectors but did not enjoin Valley Meat or Responsible Transportation. Then, the Court dismissed the appeal as moot: (1) because Congress once again made it unlawful to engage in commercial equine slaughter for human consumption; and (2) while the appeal was pending, Valley Meat "decided to abandon all plans to slaughter equines and asked FSIS to withdraw its grant of inspection." The Tenth Circuit then vacated the district court's order denying a permanent injunction, "based on the underlying equitable principle that a party should not have to bear the consequences of an adverse ruling when frustrated by the vagaries of the circumstances." Valley Meat and Responsible Transportation moved to recover an injunction bond. A magistrate judge recommended that the motion be denied, and the district court adopted the magistrate's recommendation in full. Valley Meat appealed the denial of damages on the injunction bond. To this point, the Tenth Circuit affirmed, finding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying recovery against the injunction bond because there was never a ruling that Valley Meat was wrongfully enjoined. "This conclusion alone is enough to affirm the district court's decision." View "Front Range Equine Rescue v. Vilsack" on Justia Law