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In 2014, CNB auditors conducted a surprise audit of the Burlington, Kansas Central National Bank (“CNB” or “Bank”) vault. The vault was missing $764,000. When they began to suspect defendant Denise Christy, she forged documents to purport that she had sent the missing cash to the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City (“FRB”). A grand jury indicted her on one count of bank embezzlement, six counts of making false bank entries, six counts of failing to report income on her taxes, and 10 counts of money laundering. After a six-day trial, a jury found Christy guilty of all charges except four money laundering counts. On appeal, Christy argued: (1) cumulative prosecutorial misconduct violated her due process rights; (2) the evidence was insufficient for her money laundering convictions; and (3) the jury instructions improperly omitted a “materiality” element for the false-bank-entry charges. The Tenth Circuit: (1) rejected Christy’s prosecutorial misconduct challenge because she has not shown the prosecutor’s comments influenced the jury’s verdict; (2) reversed Christy’s money laundering convictions because the Government did not produce sufficient evidence of the intent to file a false tax return; and (3) affirmed Christy’s false-bank-entry convictions because, even assuming materiality was an implied element of 18 U.S.C. 1005, its omission from the jury instruction was harmless error. The matter was remanded to the district court with instructions to vacate the convictions for money laundering, resentence the defendant, and further proceedings. View "United States v. Christy" on Justia Law

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The city of Fort Collins, Colorado, enacted a public-nudity ordinance that imposed no restrictions on male toplessness but prohibited women from baring their breasts below the areola. In response, Free the Nipple, an unincorporated association, and two individuals, Brittiany Hoagland and Samantha Six (collectively, Plaintiffs ), sued the City in federal district court, alleging (among other things) the ordinance violated the Equal Protection Clause, U.S. Const. amend. XIV, sec. 1, and they asked for a preliminary injunction to halt enforcement of the ordinance. The district court agreed and enjoined the City, pending the resolution of the case s merits, from implementing the ordinance to the extent that it prohibits women, but not men, from knowingly exposing their breasts in public. The City then brought this interlocutory appeal to challenge the injunction. The narrow issue presented for the Tenth Circuit's review asked whether the district court reversibly erred in issuing the preliminary injunction. The Court found the trial court did not, affirmed the district court's judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Free the Nipple v. City of Fort Collins" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Anupama Bekkem filed suit against her employer, the Department of Veterans Affairs, based on numerous instances of discrimination and retaliation she allegedly experienced while working as a primary care physician for the VA in the Oklahoma City area. The district court dismissed some of her claims under Rule 12(b)(6) and granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant on the remaining claims. Plaintiff appealed. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's grant of summary judgment on Plaintiff’s claims of discrimination based on unequal pay and retaliation based on her non-selection for the position as North May clinic medical director, and dismissal of her claim of discrimination based on a reprimand she received, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. However, the Court reversed summary judgment as to Plaintiff's claim of retaliation relating to the reprimand, and remanded that claim for further proceedings at the district court. View "Bekkem v. Wilkie" on Justia Law

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In 2008, James Nelson was seriously injured while riding his bicycle on United States Air Force Academy land. He and his wife, Elizabeth Varney, sued the Academy under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), seeking damages. The district court ruled in their favor and awarded them approximately $7 million in damages. In a previous appeal, the Tenth Circuit reversed that decision, holding that the Colorado Recreational Use Statute (the “CRUS”) shielded the Academy from liability. But the Court remanded on the issue of whether an exception to the statute’s liability shield applied. On remand, the district court held that an exception did apply, and reinstated its prior judgment. The Academy appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Nelson v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Millard Lance Lemmings (“Lance”) was born at a government-operated hospital in Ada, Oklahoma. During his birth, Lance suffered a brain injury. Lance and his parents, suing as “parents and next friends,” sued Defendants Comphealth, Inc. and Comphealth Medical Staffing, Inc. for medical malpractice under the Federal Tor Claims Act. The parties settled the case on September 28, 2001. Lance’s parents were simultaneously engaged in a state court proceeding regarding guardianship of Lance. On the morning of October 25, 2001, Lance’s parents filed an application for an order approving the agreed settlement, attorneys’ fees, and litigation costs in the state court action. The state district court appointed Lance’s parents as the guardians of Lance’s estate. Following that court order, Lance’s parents withdrew their state court application for an order approving the settlement. Later that day, Lance’s parents appeared before the federal district court for a fairness hearing regarding the settlement and represented him at the fairness hearing. The district court did not appoint a guardian ad litem. Appellants Barbara Lemmings and Oran Hurley, Jr. filed a motion fifteen years later seeking to intervene, in which they contended: (1) the parties presented materially inaccurate information to the district court in 2001 in order to obtain the district court’s approval; (2) the district court did not have jurisdiction to approve the settlement because it did not appoint a guardian ad litem to represent Lance; and (3) a conflict of interest existed between Lance and his parents which required the appointment of a guardian ad litem. Belatedly, Appellants further sought access to the 2001 sealed fairness hearing transcript. In the motion to intervene, Appellants asserted that Lance’s parents spent a large portion of the proceeds and abandoned him in 2011, leaving him in the care of his paternal grandmother, Appellant Barbara Lemmings. The state district court appointed her Lance’s guardian in January 2017. After Ms. Lemmings suffered a health issue, the state court appointed Appellant Oran Hurley, Jr. as co-guardian. Appellants sought to reopen the district court action, vacate the dismissal, intervene, and rewrite the terms of the Irrevocable Governmental Trust in order to access the proceeds contained in that trust. The United States objected. The Tenth Circuit rejected Appellants' contention that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17 required the formal appointment of a guardian ad litem, and rejected the contention that an inherent conflict of interest always existed where a minor was represented by a parent who was a party to the same lawsuit as the minor. View "Kile v. United States" on Justia Law

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After investigating complaints regarding the tax-preparation services of defendant Donald Iley, the Colorado Board of Accountancy (Board) issued an “Agreement and Final Agency Order” in which Iley admitted to engaging in professionally negligent conduct and agreed to accept certain disciplinary sanctions, including a $10,000 fine and a five-year probationary period. Among the acts for which the Board disciplined Iley was taking a client’s money, ostensibly to pay the client’s payroll taxes, but then failing to promptly and properly pay those funds to the IRS. While serving the Order’s probationary term, Iley executed a fraudulent scheme in which he fleeced his clients of more than $11 million. As part of this scheme, Iley fraudulently misrepresented to his clients that he was taking their funds to pay outstanding payroll taxes to the IRS but, instead, Iley used those funds for personal purposes. After this fraud was discovered, Iley pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aiding in the preparation of a false tax return. At sentencing, the district court enhanced Iley’s sentence under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, section 2B1.1(b)(9)(C). The question presented to the Tenth Circuit was whether the court erred in doing so. The Court held that under the particular circumstances of this case, the court did not err in Iley's sentence, and affirmed. View "United States v. Iley" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Richard Roe pled guilty to conspiring to possess with intent to distribute 280 grams or more of cocaine base (“crack”) and five kilograms or more of cocaine. Because of the quantities involved, Roe was subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of twenty years. Pursuant to a plea agreement, the government requested a sentence below the mandatory minimum. The district court sentenced Roe to fifteen years. Roe did not file a direct appeal; instead, he filed a 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence, arguing trial counsel was ineffective in failing to: (1) challenge the drug quantity at the sentencing hearing (“drug-quantity claim”) and (2) file a notice of appeal as requested (“failure-to-file claim”). The district court summarily denied the drug-quantity claim, concluding Roe’s guilty plea established the relevant quantity. It held an evidentiary hearing on the failure-to-file claim. Trial counsel testified Roe never told him to file an appeal because they never discussed the issue. In a post-hearing motion, Roe sought to amend his failure-to-file claim so it focused on trial counsel’s failure to consult with him as to whether an appeal should be filed (the “failure-to-consult claim”). The district court rejected, on two separate grounds, Roe’s failure-to-consult claim. It concluded the failure-to-consult claim was an untimely new claim that did not relate back to the failure-to-file claim set out in Roe’s original Section 2255 motion. In the alternative, the district court concluded the failure-to-consult claim failed on the merits. Roe filed and received a certificate of appealability to raise both the drug-quantity and failure-to-consult claims. The Tenth Circuit affirmed denial of Roe's 2255 motion: (1) when a criminal defendant enters a knowing and voluntary guilty plea to an indictment charging a drug conspiracy with an attendant quantity element, the defendant is subject to the enhanced penalties associated with that quantity; and (2) Roe’s failure-to-consult claim did not relate back to his failure-to-file claim and was, therefore, untimely. View "In re: Sealed Opinion" on Justia Law

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Defendant Bobby Pullen was sentenced as a career offender at a time when the United States Sentencing Guidelines were mandatory. In 2015, the Supreme Court decided Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015), holding the residual clause of 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(2)(B)(ii) as unconstitutionally vague. As the residual clause of 924(e)(2)(B)(ii) was identical in wording to the residual clause of USSG 4B1.2. Relying on "Johnson," Pullen moved for authorization to file a second or successive 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals determined Pullen made a prima facie showing that Johnson created a retroactive, new rule of constitutional law applicable to the mandatory Guidelines. The district court, however, concluded Johnson did not actually create a new rule applicable to the mandatory Guidelines and dismissed Pullen’s section 2255 motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 255(h)(2), a provision governing authorization to file a second or successive section 2255 motion. The district court did, however, grant Pullen a certificate of appealability (“COA”). With respect to Pullen’s substantive challenge, the Tenth Circuit found the Supreme Court never recognized a void for vagueness challenge to the Guidelines and so Johnson neither created a new rule applicable to the Guidelines nor dictated that any provision of the Guidelines was subject to a void for vagueness challenge. Accordingly, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment. View "United States v. Pullen" on Justia Law

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Defendant Troy Bong was convicted in 2013 of being a felon in possession of a firearm, for which he was sentenced to 293 months in prison. He appealed the district court’s denial of his motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence. The district court granted Bong a certificate of appealability (COA) on Bong’s claims that he was improperly sentenced under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) and that his trial and appellate counsel were ineffective for failing to challenge the ACCA sentencing. The Tenth Circuit subsequently granted Bong a COA as to two additional issues: (1) whether his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate the facts of the underlying traffic stop, Bong’s resulting arrest, and Bong’s alleged possession of a firearm; and (2) whether the prosecution suppressed any available video recordings of his stop and arrest. After review, the Tenth Circuit agreed the district court erred in treating Bong's prior Kansas state convictions for robbery and aggravated robbery as “violent felonies” under the ACCA, and remanded for the district court for to consider whether Bong’s remaining prior convictions were sufficient to support his sentence under the ACCA. As for Bong’s ineffective assistance of trial counsel claims, the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part: since the trial court erred in basing's Bong's ACCA sentence on his prior Kansas robbery and aggravated robbery convictions, it was unnecessary to address ineffectiveness based on this issue. However, questions remained whether Bong's motion for post-conviction relief was timely filed based on the discovery of police recordings of his arrest, and the arresting officer's alleged false testimony on whether video recordings existed. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Bong" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal were commercial general liability policy exclusions that barred coverage for damage to “that particular part” of the property on which an insured is performing operations, or which must be repaired or replaced due to the insured’s incorrect work. The Tenth Circuit concluded the phrase “that particular part” was susceptible to more than one reasonable construction: it could refer to the distinct component upon which an insured works or to all parts ultimately impacted by that work. The Court surmised the contract had to then be interpreted consistent with the mutual intent of the parties, with the ambiguity resolved most favorably to the insured and against the insurance carrier. The Court adopted the narrower interpretation of the phrase “that particular part,” under which the exclusion extends only to the distinct components upon which work was performed. This conclusion was contrary to the district court's interpretation, and therefore reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "MTI v. Employers Insurance Co." on Justia Law