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

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A.S. was adjudicated a juvenile delinquent under the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act (“FJDA”) after the district court concluded that, when he was seventeen years old, he knowingly engaged in a sexual act with a victim, K.P., while she was incapable of appraising the nature of the conduct. The court ordered A.S. to be committed to eighteen months’ custodial detention to be followed by twenty-four months’ juvenile-delinquent supervision. On appeal, A.S. raised three challenges: (1) the district court erred in limiting cross-examination and excluding extrinsic evidence concerning a prior allegation of sexual assault that K.P. made; (2) the evidence was insufficient to demonstrate that he knew that K.P. was incapable of appraising the nature of the sexual conduct, which he says was an element of the offense; and (3) the district court erred in imposing a dispositional sentence on him of custodial detention. The Tenth Circuit concluded: (1) the district court’s actions accorded with the Federal Rules of Evidence and did not violate A.S.’s constitutional rights; (2) there was ample evidence for a reasonable factfinder to determine A.S. engaged in sexual conduct with K.P. while he knew she was asleep and drunk; and (3) the sentence did not constitute an abuse of the district court's broad sentencing discretion. Thus, the Tenth Circuit affirmed judgment. View "United States v. A.S." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellee C5 Medical Werks sued Defendant-Appellant CeramTec, a German company that produces ceramics and ceramic components for medical prostheses, in Colorado for cancellation of CeramTec’s trademarks and a declaratory judgment of non-infringement. CeramTec moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The district court denied CeramTec’s motion and, after a bench trial, found in favor of C5. CeramTec appealed both the district court’s finding of personal jurisdiction and its determination on the merits. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded the district court did not have personal jurisdiction over CeramTec: CeramTec’s attendance at various tradeshows was fortuitous and, as such, was insufficient to show purposeful availment of the forum state, Colorado. Further, to the extent CeramTec engaged in enforcement activity, it did so outside of Colorado. Accordingly, the Court reversed the district court’s denial of CeramTec’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and remand with instructions that the case be dismissed. View "C5 Medical Werks v. Ceramtec GMBH" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Ashton Malone was convicted on two counts of distributing methamphetamine and sentenced to 151 months’ custody followed by five years of supervised release. At sentencing, the district court imposed all the various conditions of supervised release set forth in the Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”), including a special condition requiring Malone to undergo mental health treatment. Contained within this special condition was the mandate for Malone to “take prescribed medication as directed” by mental health staff or a treating physician. That medication requirement was the issue on appeal to the Tenth Circuit. Malone did not object to this proposed condition in either his written objections to the PSR or at sentencing, but he argued on appeal that the district court’s failure to make particularized findings to support this condition was plain error compelling reversal. The Tenth Circuit agreed and accordingly, reversed. View "United States v. Malone" on Justia Law

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Samuel Elliott pled guilty for producing and possessing child pornography. Each of the four possession counts concerned a different electronic device or medium on which Elliott stored his collection. On appeal, he argued three of the four possession counts were multiplicitous and thus violated the Double Jeopardy Clause. Elliott contends that because he possessed the different electronic devices in the same physical location and at the same time, he could not be convicted of distinct possession counts for each device. To this end, Elliott argued the rule of lenity requires a single possession conviction because the statute was ambiguous as to whether the unit of prosecution was a single device containing child pornography or the simultaneous possession of multiple devices containing child pornography. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed the statute’s unit of prosecution was ambiguous, and thus concluded the rule of lenity required the Court construe 18 U.S.C. 2252A(a)(5)(B) to preclude distinct charges for each electronic device or medium simultaneously possessed. The case was remanded back to the district court with instructions to vacate three of Elliott’s possession convictions and sentences. View "United States v. Elliott" on Justia Law

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Intervenor-Appellant the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma (UKB) purchased an undeveloped 76-acre parcel of land near Tahlequah, Oklahoma, with the intention of developing it into a tribal and cultural center (Subject Tract, or Subject Parcel). The Subject Parcel sat entirely within the boundaries of the former reservation of Appellees the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma (Nation). In 2004, the UKB submitted an application to the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), requesting the BIA take the Subject Parcel into trust, thereby formally establishing a UKB tribal land base. The Nation opposed the application. After seven years of review, the BIA approved the UKB’s application. The Nation sued Department of the Interior and BIA officials, with the UKB intervening as defendants, challenging the BIA’s decision on several fronts. The district court found in favor of the Nation, determining that the BIA’s decision to take the Subject Parcel into trust was “arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, and otherwise not in accordance with law.” Among other holdings, the district court concluded that: (1) the BIA had to obtain Nation consent before taking the Subject Parcel into trust; (2) the BIA’s analysis of two of its regulations as applied to the UKB application was arbitrary and capricious; and (3) the BIA must consider whether the UKB meets the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA)’s definition of “Indian” in light of the Supreme Court case Carcieri v. Salazar, 555 U.S. 379 (2009). On appeal, the Tenth Circuit determined the Secretary of the Interior had authority to take the Subject Parcel into trust under section 3 of the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act of 1936 (OIWA). The BIA was therefore not required to consider whether the UKB met the IRA’s definition of “Indian.” Nor was the BIA required to obtain the Nation’s consent before taking the land into trust. The Court also held the BIA’s application of its regulations was not arbitrary and capricious. View "Cherokee Nation v. Zinke" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was a district court’s determination concerning the location of children’s habitual residence. Shane Watts was a dual citizen of Australia and the United States. Carrie Watts was a citizen of the United States. In 2005, Shane and Carrie married in Park City, Utah. From December 2006 to June 2016, the couple lived in North Carolina, where they reared their three children—also dual citizens of Australia and the United States. In March 2016, the couple learned that their middle child would need specialized medical attention possibly including expensive palate-extension surgery. The family decided to move to Australia to benefit from that country’s universal- healthcare system. The couple intended to live in Australia until completion of their son’s medical treatment. The move to Australia placed additional stress on Shane and Carrie’s already- strained marriage. Concerned that she would be unable to work if she and Shane later divorced, Carrie applied for a permanent visa to Australia. Shane notified the Australian immigration authorities that they had separated, and he withdrew his sponsorship of Carrie’s permanent-visa application. Carrie obtained an “intervention order” against Shane. About three days after learning that Shane had withdrawn his sponsorship of her permanent-visa application, Carrie took the children and flew to Utah. She did not tell Shane beforehand, and she lied to customs agents that she was traveling to the United States for a short visit. Carrie and the children have remained in Utah since. In total, the family lived in Australia for just over eleven months. Shane petitioned a federal court in Utah for the return of the children. In his petition, Shane claimed that Carrie had wrongfully removed the children from their “habitual residence”—i.e., Victoria, Australia. Finding that Shane failed to prove the children's habitual residence was Australia, it denied his request for relief under the Hague Convention as "wrongful." The Tenth Circuit found no reversible error, and affirmed the district court's dismissal of Shane's petition. View "Watts v. Watts" on Justia Law

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Manuel Romero was charged with one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, and one count of knowingly possessing a stolen firearm. Romero moved to suppress the firearm that a Las Cruces police officer discovered in Romero’s backpack during a search incident to his arrest for obstructing an officer in violation of New Mexico Statute 30-22-1(D). The officer arrested Romero for obstruction because he failed to immediately comply with the officer’s request that he submit to a pat-down search. Romero argued in his motion that the firearm should have been suppressed because the officer had neither: (1) reasonable suspicion to conduct the pat-down search; nor (2) probable cause to arrest Romero for obstruction. The district court denied Romero’s motion. The Tenth Circuit reversed, agreeing with Romero’s latter argument that there was insufficient probable cause to support an arrest under section 30-22-1(D). Thus, the search of the backpack could not be supported as a search incident to arrest. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Romero" on Justia Law

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Oscar "O" Garcia was charged by indictment with money laundering, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance, and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. Following plea negotiations, the government filed an information, charging Garcia with only two counts: conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance and money laundering. The parties entered into a plea agreement with a stipulated sentence of 180 months. Garcia consented to appearing before a federal magistrate judge for his change of plea hearing the same day. After Garcia’s change-of-plea hearing before the magistrate judge, but prior to his sentencing before the district judge, Garcia moved to withdraw his plea. The magistrate judge did not make a written recommendation nor did the clerk of court file a notice as to any objections to the magistrate judge’s recommendation. This case called on the Tenth Circuit to resolve whether federal magistrate judges could accept and enter guilty pleas in criminal proceedings where the parties have consented to appearing before the magistrate judge. Longstanding precedent says they could, but in this case, Garcia argued this precedent was abrogated by subsequent changes to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, and that only district court judges could accept pleas deemed to be dispositive. He contended these changes to the Rules allowed him to withdraw his previously accepted plea of guilty as a matter of right. The Tenth Circuit found Garcia’s argument persuasive, but felt bound by prior precedent. For that reason, the Court affirmed the district court. View "United States v. Garcia" on Justia Law

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Jeffrey Antonio was driving his pickup truck a few miles north of Albuquerque when he was involved in a car accident. He was driving north but drifted into the southbound lane where he collided head-on with another vehicle. Antonio had been drinking, and at the time of the accident, he was significantly over the legal limit for driving. He had been convicted of driving under the influence on two occasions prior to his arrest in this case. This time, a passenger in the other vehicle was killed. A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Antonio with one count of second-degree murder. As an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo, Antonio could be charged and tried in federal court if the accident occurred in Indian Country. The United States alleged that the accident occurred within the exterior boundaries of the Sandia Pueblo. Prior to trial, the United States filed a motion in limine asking the district court to rule that the site of the accident was in Indian Country to conclusively establish federal jurisdiction. After hearing the evidence, the district court judge stated he was “inclined to find” the site of the accident took place in Indian Country. One week before trial, Antonio filed a motion to dismiss the indictment for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(b)(2). He argued that, as a matter of law, the accident site was on privately owned land and not in Indian Country. Therefore, there was no federal jurisdiction. The Tenth Circuit concluded the crime occurred within the exterior boundaries of the Sandia Pueblo, and therefore the federal court for the District of New Mexico was the proper forum for the prosecution. View "United States v. Antonio" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Aaron Bowen appealed a district court’s dismissal of his motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. Bowen challenged his conviction for brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, which rested on the trial court’s instruction that witness retaliation was a crime of violence under 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3). Given the narrowing of issues by the parties and developments in the law while this appeal was pending, resolution of this case called for the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeal to answer certain questions and leave others for another day. In short, the Court held that United States v. Davis, 139 S. Ct. 2319 (2019), in which the Supreme Court held that section 924(c)(3)(B) was void for vagueness, created a new substantive rule that was retroactively applicable on collateral review, and Bowen’s convictions for witness retaliation did not qualify as crimes of violence under 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3)(A). Therefore, the Court found Bowen was actually innocent of 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1). The parties agreed in this case that, if Bowen was actually innocent, his 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion was timely. Because Bowen was entitled to relief under section 2255, the Court reversed the district court’s dismissal of Bowen’s section 2255 motion and remanded for the trial court to vacate his section 924(c)(1) conviction. View "United States v. Bowen" on Justia Law