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Anthony Kendall pleaded guilty to forcibly assaulting a federal officer and inflicting a bodily injury. Kendall had two prior felony convictions: a federal conviction for aggravated assault while carrying a firearm and a conviction for assault on a District of Columbia police officer in violation of a local provision. At sentencing, the district court held all three of these convictions supported a career offender sentence enhancement because each constituted a crime of violence under the United States Sentencing Guidelines (USSG). Kendall appealed, contending the district court erred in classifying his conviction under 18 U.S.C. 111(b) in this case and his prior conviction under D.C. Code 22-405(c). Finding that all three of his convictions constituted crimes of violence, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the sentence Kendall received. View "United States v. Kendall" on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant Wayne Benton challenged his sentence. Benton pled guilty to one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. His presentence investigation report (PSR) concluded Benton’s 2006 Kansas conviction for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon was a crime of violence as defined in the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which applied to his guilty plea, resulted in a six-level enhancement. Benton appealed, arguing his aggravated assault with a deadly weapon conviction did not qualify as a crime of violence, and that he should have had a base offense of 14 and a corresponding Guidelines range of 51 to 63 months, instead of the 92 to 115 month range he ultimately received. Benton argued that aggravated assault with a deadly weapon could not be a crime of violence because, in some cases, a perpetrator may commit the crime with a harmless object. Yet, under Kansas law, the actual ability to effectuate harm is irrelevant because assault “requires only an apparent ability, not a present ability, to do bodily harm.” The Tenth Circuit concluded the 2006 aggravated assault with a deadly weapon conviction qualified as a predicate offense under the Sentencing Guidelines and affirmed the district court. View "United States v. Benton" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Gabriel Mirabel, a convicted felon and acting pro se, appealed when he was convicted on drug and weapon possession charges. Authorities thought that they saw Mirabal put an assault rifle in the trunk of a car. This sighting led authorities to arrange for a local officer to stop Mirabal for a traffic violation and to search the trunk. After telling Mirabal that he had been speeding, a sheriff deputy looked for an assault rifle. Though he didn’t find one, he did find a kilogram of cocaine in the car’s interior. The discovery of cocaine in the car became key evidence for one of the eventual charges against Mirabal. In defending against these charges, Mirabal argued that the search had violated his constitutional rights. At trial, the Government presented testimony by the owner of the car, Dominic Anaya, who had pleaded guilty to his own drug crimes. Anaya testified that he and Mirabal had worked together to sell cocaine. So Mirabal set out to impeach Anaya, asking Anaya about how much he expected his sentence to drop as a result of his plea agreement. Mirabal was allowed to probe the plea agreement in general terms, but not in detail. On appeal, Mirabal challenged the evidence involving the cocaine found in the care. He also challenged the restrictions placed on his cross-examination of Anaya. Furthermore, Mirabal challenged the sufficiency of the evidence presented against him at trial, alleging certain evidence was destroyed or otherwise withheld. Finding none of these challenges availing, the Tenth Circuit affirmed Mirabal’s convictions. View "United States v. Mirabal" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant Ray Carney appeals from the district court’s dismissal of his claims under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Carney, an Oklahoma state inmate appearing pro se, was convicted of sexually abusing a child in 2010. Upon his release in January 2018, Carney will be required to register as an aggravated sex offender. Under Oklahoma law, this means he will have to acquire a driver’s license that indicates he is a sex offender (“license requirement”). Failing to obtain such a license results in cancellation, and continued use of a cancelled license is a misdemeanor. Carney argued on appeal: (1) the license requirement violated the First Amendment because it was compelled speech; (2) that the license requirement constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment; and (3) the license requirement was a harsher punishment than those similarly situated to him, namely, non-aggravated sex offenders and others who must register after committing various violent crimes and methamphetamine-related crimes, all of which was a violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights. Finding no reversible error in the district court’s dismissal of Carney’s claims, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Carney v. Oklahoma Dep't of Pub. Safety" on Justia Law

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This appeal stems from the sentencing of Paul Turrieta for possession of a firearm and ammunition after a felony conviction. The district court imposed a 15-year sentence based on the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) and three past convictions in New Mexico for residential burglary. Turrieta moved to vacate the sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255, arguing that the district court had relied on the ACCA’s residual clause and that this clause was unconstitutionally vague. The district court denied the motion, and Turrieta appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Turrieta" on Justia Law

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The Tenth Circuit expedited consideration of this bail appeal to consider Mario Ailon-Ailon’s argument that the government has misinterpreted the word “flee” as it appeared in 18 U.S.C. 3142(f)(2), resulting in his illegal pre-trial detention. He argued that involuntary removal by the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) did not constitute flight of the sort that would justify detention. On initial consideration, a magistrate judge agreed and determined that Ailon-Ailon should not have been detained before trial. On review of the magistrate judge, the district court reversed, ordering that he be detained. The Tenth Circuit concluded that the plain meaning of “flee” refers to a volitional act rather than involuntary removal, and that the structure of the Bail Reform Act supported this plain-text reading. View "United States v. Ailon-Ailon" on Justia Law

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Kansas distinguishes between legal malpractice claims: some sound in contract, others sound in tort. Plaintiff Cory Sylvia sued his former attorneys, James Wisler and David Trevino, for legal malpractice allegedly sounding in tort and breach of contract arising from their representation of Sylvia in a suit for wrongful termination against Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (“Goodyear”), his former employer. Later, Sylvia amended his complaint to add as a defendant Xpressions, L.C. (“Xpressions”), a limited liability company formerly known as the Wisler Law Office, L.C. Sylvia’s initial complaint characterized his claims as sounding both in tort and in contract. Specifically, he faulted: (1) both individual defendants for failing to include in, or to later amend, his complaint to aver a workers’ compensation retaliation claim; and (2) solely Wisler for voluntarily dismissing Sylvia’s case on the erroneous belief that all claims could be refiled, causing one of his claims to become barred by the statute of limitations. For each of these claims, Sylvia advanced both tort and contract theories of liability. This case presented a difficult question of Kansas law for the Tenth Circuit's review: when do legal malpractice claims involving a failure to act sound in tort rather than contract? After review, the Tenth Circuit reversed in part and vacated in part the district court’s judgment dismissing Sylvia’s tort-based legal malpractice claims. However, regarding the district court’s grant of summary judgment for the defendants on the breach of contract claims, the Court affirmed. View "Sylvia v. Wisler" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Marcus Woodson, a prisoner of Oklahoma, sued several Oklahoma prison officials in Oklahoma state court, proceeding in forma pauperis (IFP) under state law. The defendants removed the case to federal district court. As required by federal statute, they paid the filing fee. The federal court, however, determined that Woodson, who had previously abused the federal courts by filing frivolous lawsuits, was not eligible to proceed IFP and dismissed his case because he failed to pay the filing fee. Woodson appealed. The Tenth Circuit reversed finding state-court plaintiffs whose cases are removed to federal court have no obligation to pay a filing fee; nothing in the federal IFP statute was to the contrary. View "Woodson v. McCollum" on Justia Law

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Objector-Appellant Dale Hefner appeals from the district court’s denial of his motion for settlement-related discovery, approval of the settlement agreement, and order regarding attorneys’ fees. This case concerns the settlement agreement and attorneys’ fees related to two separate shareholder derivative suits on behalf of SandRidge Energy Inc. (“SandRidge”) against its directors. The first of those actions was filed in federal district court in January 2013. The federal derivative suit alleged self-dealing, usurpation of corporate opportunities, and misappropriation by Tom Ward, SandRidge’s founding CEO, and entities affiliated with him. Hefner filed the second derivative suit was filed in Oklahoma state court in 2013. The director-defendants moved the state court to stay the action pending a resolution in the federal case, or in the alternative to dismiss the suit entirely. Hefner objected, and the state court stayed the action but denied the motion to dismiss. In 2014, the state court entered a stipulated and agreed to order granting SandRidge’s motion to stay. Then in 2015, the federal district court granted a preliminary approval of a partial settlement in the federal suit. Hefner (1) filed a contingent motion for attorneys’ fees and reimbursement of expenses, (2) objected to the settlement, and (3) requested additional settlement-related discovery. The district court denied Hefner’s motion for additional discovery and, after a hearing on the other matters, entered a final order and judgment approving the proposed partial settlement and denying the request for attorneys’ fees. While the appeal was pending before the Tenth Circuit, SandRidge filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. SandRidge gave notice of the bankruptcy court’s approval of the company’s plan of reorganization and filed a contemporaneous motion to dismiss the appeal as moot, contending that because company stock was cancelled as part of the bankruptcy, Hefner did not have standing to pursue a shareholder derivative claim; the relevant derivative claims were released and discharged as part of the reorganization, and the right to pursue derivative litigation vested in reorganized SandRidge. The Tenth Circuit agreed that Hefner's claims were moot, and finding no other reversible error, it appealed. View "Elliot v. Ward" on Justia Law

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Defendant Rural Water District No. 4, Douglas County, Kansas (“Douglas-4”) appealed a district court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff City of Eudora, Kansas (“Eudora”) in this declaratory judgment action. Douglas-4 and Eudora disputed which entity could provide water service to certain areas near Eudora (the “Service Area”). In 2002, Douglas-4 was the water service provider for the Service Area, but was running low on water. Douglas-4 decided to purchase water from an adjacent rural water district, “Johnson-6.” The project required laying new pipes and building additional pumping stations at an estimated cost of $1.25 million. To finance the project, Douglas-4 received initial approval for a $1.25 million loan from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) with a fixed rate and twenty-year term. That same year, Eudora annexed the Service Area. The annexation positioned Eudora to potentially assume Douglas-4’s water customers. Understanding that it was facing a potential loss of customers, Douglas-4’s governing board reduced its KDHE loan to $1 million and sought the remaining $250,000 from a private, USDA-guaranteed loan. Douglas-4 believed that such a loan would come with federal protection under 7 U.S.C. 1926(b), which prevented municipalities from assuming water customers while a USDA-guaranteed loan was in repayment. Douglas-4 eventually secured a USDA-guaranteed loan for $250,000 from First State Bank & Trust and proceeded with the Johnson-6 project. Both the KDHE loan and the USDA-guaranteed loan had twenty-year repayment terms, beginning in 2004 and ending in 2024. Between 2004 and 2007, Douglas-4 and Eudora entered into negotiations in an attempt to resolve the disputed Service Area, but the discussions were not successful. Douglas-4 filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas to prevent Eudora from taking its water customers. The jury returned a special verdict in favor of Douglas-4, concluding the loan guaranteed by the federal government was necessary, and Eudora appealed. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "City of Eudora v. Rural Water District No. 4" on Justia Law