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Gary Clark was having a psychotic episode. His brother was having trouble subduing Clark, and called the Broken Arrow Policy to assist. When Clark charged at one of the officers with a knife, he was shot. Clark ultimately survived his gunshot wounds, but had not fully recovered. Clark sued, claiming a violation of a number of his constitutional, state-common-law, and federal-statutory rights. The district court granted summary judgment to Wagoner County Board of Commissioners, Wagoner County Sheriff Robert Colbert, and former Wagoner County Jail Nurse Vicki Holland on Clark’s claims against them. Given the undisputed facts, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded a reasonable jury could not find the officers violated Clark’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force. In addition, Clark failed to adequately brief issues necessary to justify reversal on his Oklahoma-tort and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) claims. Therefore, the Court affirmed summary judgment in favor of the governmental officials. View "Clark v. Colbert" on Justia Law

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Jesse Leaverton was convicted of three counts of bank robbery. At sentencing, the district court concluded that 18 U.S.C. 3559(c) applied because Leaverton had been previously convicted of two serious violent felonies, enhancing his sentence from a maximum of twenty years to a mandatory term of life imprisonment. Leaverton appealed, arguing that his prior conviction for Oklahoma manslaughter did not qualify under section 3559(c). The Oklahoma statute contained three subsections. The government argued that Leaverton was convicted under a subsection that applied when a killing is “perpetrated without a design to effect death, and in a heat of passion, but in a cruel and unusual manner, or by means of a dangerous weapon; unless it is committed under such circumstances as constitute excusable or justifiable homicide.” At sentencing, the district court found that Leaverton had been convicted under subsection two, which qualified as a serious violent felony and thus Leaverton met the requirements of section 3559(c). Leaverton argued section 3559(c)(2)(F)(i) required the crime of conviction be equivalent to voluntary federal manslaughter. The Tenth Circuit found that the Oklahoma statute (section 711(2)) bore some similarity to the second definition provided in the Model Penal Code, the section 711(2) heat of passion element differed markedly from that applicable to generic manslaughter. The Tenth Circuit could not say that a conviction under section 711(2) “necessarily involved facts equating to” generic manslaughter. As such, the Court concluded Leaverton's offense did not constitute manslaughter as that term was used in section 3559(c)(2)(F)(i). The Court reversed and remanded this case for resentencing. View "United States v. Leaverton" on Justia Law

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Canyon Fuel Company operated the Sufco Mine, a coal mine located in Sevier County, Utah. Under federal law, the mine had to have two escapeways in the event of an emergency: a primary and an alternate. An inspector for the Mine Safety and Health Administration (“MSHA”) cited Canyon Fuel for a violation of this mine safety requirement. Canyon Fuel unsuccessfully contested the citation before the federal agency and appealed to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the Secretary of Labor’s interpretation of the regulation as requiring consideration of both above- and below-ground factors, but vacated the citation because it was not supported by substantial evidence. View "Canyon Fuel Company v. Secretary of Labor" on Justia Law

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Michelle Renee Lamb was born a male, but from a young age, however, displayed feminine characteristics and identified as a female. Lamb was in state prison experiencing gender dysphoria. For this condition, she received medical treatment. However, she claimed the treatment was so poor that it violated the Eighth Amendment. The undisputed evidence showed Lamb received hormone treatment, testosterone-blocking medication, and weekly counseling sessions. A 1986 precedent, Supre v. Ricketts, 752 F.2d 958 (10th Cir. 1986), suggested these forms of treatment would preclude liability for an Eighth Amendment violation. Based partly on this precedent, the district court granted summary judgment to the prison officials. Lamb challenged the grant of summary judgment. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded no genuine issue of material fact existed: “In light of the prison’s treatment for Michelle’s gender dysphoria, no reasonable factfinder could infer deliberate indifference on the part of prison officials. And the district court did not improperly curtail Michelle’s opportunity to conduct discovery. Thus, we affirm the award of summary judgment to the prison officials.” View "Lamb v. Norwood" on Justia Law

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This case was a qui tam action alleging violations of the False Claims Act (“FCA”) involving fraudulent reimbursements under the Medicare Act. Plaintiff Gerald Polukoff, M.D., was a doctor who worked with Defendant Sherman Sorensen, M.D. After observing some of Sorensen’s medical practices, Polukoff brought this FCA action, on behalf of the United States, against Sorensen and the two hospitals where Sorensen worked (collectively, “Defendants”). Polukoff alleged Sorensen performed thousands of unnecessary heart surgeries and received reimbursement through the Medicare Act by fraudulently certifying that the surgeries were medically necessary. Polukoff further alleged the hospitals where Sorensen worked were complicit in and profited from Sorensen’s fraud. The district court granted Defendants’ motions to dismiss, reasoning that a medical judgment could not be false under the FCA. The Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that a doctor’s certification to the government that a procedure is “reasonable and necessary” is “false” under the FCA if the procedure was not reasonable and necessary under the government’s definition of the phrase. View "Polukoff v. St. Mark's Hospital" on Justia Law

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Appellant Tizoc Chalchihutlaton Garcia-Herrera was charged with numerous counts relating to a drug conspiracy. He pled guilty to one count pursuant to a plea agreement in which he waived his right to appeal or challenge his conviction or sentence with respect to all claims but claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. The government dismissed the other counts. Appellant was sentenced to 151 months’ imprisonment, and he did not appeal. However, apparently dissatisfied with counsel, Appellant filed a pro se “Motion to Compel Former Attorney to Produce Record File/Work Product Material” in his closed criminal case. His motion demanded “all documents and work regarding his case.” He did not identify any potential substantive basis for relief, nor did he state he intended to file a motion for relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2255. His only claim of motivation to seek the files was his need “to have even the slightest chance at proving any future claims.” The district court granted partial relief and directed defense counsel to provide Appellant with certain documents. Appellant appealed that order, claiming a right to all of the files. In response, the government argued that the district court lacked jurisdiction to grant any part of the motion and requested that this court vacate the district court’s order and remand with instructions to dismiss appellant’s motion for lack of jurisdiction. The Tenth Circuit agreed it and the district court lacked jurisdiction to grant appellant’s requested relief, and therefore vacated the order and remanded for dismissal. View "United States v. Garcia-Herrera" on Justia Law

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Silvan Warnick brought a malicious prosecution case and a number of state law tort claims against several Salt Lake County prosecutors and investigators. Warnick served as a constable in Salt Lake County. Daniel Herboldsheimer worked for Warnick as a deputy constable. In 2011, Herboldsheimer was serving as bailiff for the South Salt Lake City Justice Court when a criminal defendant attempted to flee. Herboldsheimer pursued, and eventually both Herboldsheimer and another deputy constable, Scott Hansen, another deputy constable, apprehended the defendant. After the fact, Herboldsheimer filed an incident report describing what had happened. According to the complaint, Warnick told Herboldsheimer that his report did not comport with county policy because it contained hearsay observations from others, and not Herboldsheimer’s direct observations. In particular, Herboldsheimer’s report made incorrect statements about Hansen’s use of force to subdue the fleeing defendant. Warnick alleged Herboldsheimer took offense to Warnick’s rebuke. Soon afterward, Herboldsheimer contacted the Salt Lake County Attorney’s Office and falsely complained that Warnick and his staff member, Alanna Warnick (Silvan Warnick’s wife), had instructed him to falsify his incident report. In addition, Herboldsheimer told the prosecutors that Warnick had made changes to his report - something he took to be falsification. Warnick claimed he was falsely accused of tampering with evidence that led to the filing of criminal charges against him that were later dismissed. The district court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss, and Warnick appealed. The Tenth Circuit affirmed, finding, like the district court, that absolute prosecutorial immunity precluded Warnick from suing the prosecutors for filing charges, and that Warnick failed to plead the rest of his allegations with sufficient factual specificity. View "Warnick v. Cooley" on Justia Law

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Manuel Chavez-Morales appeared before the district court following his fifth conviction for an illegal reentry offense. At sentencing, he argued that higher wages in the United States motivated his decision to illegally reenter the United States. Focusing heavily on Chavez-Morales’s criminal history and noting that none of the earlier sentences deterred Chavez-Morales from reoffending, the district court imposed an upward variant sentence of thirty-six months’ imprisonment. The district court also imposed a three-year term of supervised release. On appeal, Chavez-Morales challenged the procedural reasonableness of his term of imprisonment. Specifically, he argued the district court did not meaningfully consider his argument that economic opportunities motivated his decision to illegally reenter the United States and thereby mitigated the seriousness of his offense. Furthermore, Chavez-Morales argued the district court committed plain error by imposing a term of supervised release without acknowledging or considering United States Sentencing Guidelines Manual (U.S.S.G.) section 5D1.1(c), which stated a court “ordinarily” should not impose a term of supervised release when “the defendant is a deportable alien who likely will be deported after imprisonment.” The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. With respect to the prison term, the Court found the transcript of the sentencing hearing established that, on three occasions, the district court addressed the economic motivation argument. As to the imposition of a term of supervised release, while the district court erred by not acknowledging and considering U.S.S.G. 5D1.1(c), Chavez- Morales did not carry his burden on the third prong of the plain error analysis. View "United States v. Chavez-Morales" on Justia Law

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Alpenglow Botanicals, LLC (“Alpenglow”) sued the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) for a tax refund, alleging the IRS exceeded its statutory and constitutional authority by denying Alpenglow’s business tax deductions under 26 U.S.C. 280E. The federal government classified marijuana as a “controlled substance” under schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”), but it is legal for medical or recreational use in Colorado. This appeal was the product of the clash between these state and federal policies: Alpenglow is a medical marijuana business owned and operated by Charles Williams and Justin Williams, doing business legally in Colorado. After an audit of Alpenglow’s 2010, 2011, and 2012 tax returns, however, the IRS issued a Notice of Deficiency concluding that Alpenglow had “committed the crime of trafficking in a controlled substance in violation of the CSA” and denying a variety of Alpenglow’s claimed business deductions under section 280E. Alpenglow’s income and resultant tax liability were increased based on the denial of these deductions. Because Alpenglow was a “pass through” entity, the increased tax liability was passed on to Charles Williams and Justin Williams. The two men paid the increased tax liability under protest and filed for a refund, which the IRS denied. The district court dismissed Alpenglow’s suit under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, and denied Alpenglow’s subsequent motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) to reconsider the judgment. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Alpenglow Botanicals v. United States" on Justia Law

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Kevin Underwood appealed the federal district court’s denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. In 2008, a jury convicted Underwood of first degree murder and sentenced him to death in Oklahoma state court. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (“OCCA”) affirmed Underwood’s conviction and sentence and later denied post-conviction relief. The federal district court denied Underwood’s requests for relief and for a certificate of appealability (“COA”) on all eleven grounds raised in his 18 U.S.C. section 2254 application. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals granted COAs on six of the eleven grounds for relief, but finding that he was not entitled to habeas relief, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial. View "Underwood v. Royal" on Justia Law