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

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The issue this case presented for the Tenth Circuit's review centered on whether federal court was the proper forum for a suit filed in Colorado state court by local governmental entities for the global warming-related damage allegedly caused by oil and gas companies in Colorado. Suncor Energy and ExxonMobil advanced seven bases for federal subject matter jurisdiction in removing the action to federal court, each of which the district court rejected in its remand order. Suncor Energy and ExxonMobil appealed, reiterating six of those bases for federal jurisdiction. After review, the Tenth Circuit held that 28 U.S.C. 1447(d) limited its appellate jurisdiction to just one of them: federal officer removal under 28 U.S.C. 1442(a)(1). And because the Court concluded ExxonMobil failed to establish grounds for federal officer removal, the Court affirmed the district court’s order on that basis and dismissed the remainder of this appeal. View "Boulder County Commissioners v. Suncor Energy" on Justia Law

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Defendant Francisco Cantu, Jr. appeals the enhancement of his sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). Although he failed to preserve his challenge to the enhancement in district court, the enhancement was plainly contrary to the law of the Tenth Circuit. The ACCA enhancement rested in part on the characterization of Defendant’s two prior convictions for drug offenses under Okla. Stat. tit. 63, section 2–401(A)(1) as “serious drug offenses.” But the Court found there were "multiple means by which the Oklahoma statute can be violated, and some of those means do not satisfy the ACCA definition of serious drug offense." Under the categorical/modified-categorical approach established by the United States Supreme Court for determining whether a state conviction can qualify as an ACCA predicate conviction, the two state convictions therefore cannot be predicate convictions supporting an ACCA enhancement. The Tenth Circuit vacated Cantu's sentence and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Cantu" on Justia Law

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This appeal involved the relationship between the detention and release provisions of two statutes: the Bail Reform Act (BRA), 18 U.S.C. sections 3141-3156, and the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. sections 1101-1537. The district court ordered Jose Luis Barrera-Landa released pending trial subject to the conditions the magistrate judge set in an earlier order. Barrera did not appeal that portion of the district court’s release order. As part of its order granting pretrial release, the district court denied Barrera’s request to enjoin the United States Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) from detaining or deporting him during the pending criminal proceedings. Barrera appealed that portion of the district court’s release order. Barrera raised two new arguments on appeal: (1) 18 U.S.C. 3142(c) authorized a district court to prohibit the United States from deporting a defendant to assure his appearance in court; and (2) the Tenth Circuit should recognize the courts’ inherent supervisory authority to enjoin the United States from arresting or deporting Barrera while the criminal case is pending. Furthermore, Barrera argued the government had to choose to either proceed with immigration enforcement or his criminal prosecution, but could not do both. He asserted that if the government chose to prosecute, it had to must submit to the detention rules that governed criminal prosecutions and ICE could not detain or remove him. The district court denied Barrera’s request to enjoin ICE, explaining that every circuit that has addressed the issue has concluded that ICE may fulfill its statutory duties under the INA to detain an illegal alien regardless of a release determination under the BRA. The Tenth Circuit found Barrera forfeited his first two arguments by failing to raise them at the district court. The Court concluded the BRA and the INA "are capable of co-existing in the circumstances presented here." It therefore affirmed the district court's release order. View "United States v. Barrera-Landa" on Justia Law

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Anthony Kapinski shot and killed two men for which he was arrested and prosecuted for murder. But at trial, the jury found him not guilty on the basis of self-defense. Trial evidence included video surveillance footage of the incident. Kapinski brought civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against Detective Terra Juarez and the City of Albuquerque, alleging constitutional violations stemming from Detective Juarez’s failure to mention the video surveillance footage in her warrant affidavit for Kapinski’s arrest. He argued that if the court issuing the arrest warrant had been made aware of the video footage, it would not have found probable cause supporting the warrant. Detective Juarez moved for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds, and the district court granted her motion. The court held Kapinski failed to show a constitutional violation because the video footage would not have negated probable cause for his arrest, and, even if Detective Juarez’s omission ran afoul of the Fourth Amendment, she was nonetheless entitled to summary judgment because the law on this issue was not clearly established. To this, the Tenth Circuit agreed Kapinski failed to show a clearly established constitutional violation and therefore affirmed summary judgment. View "Kapinski v. City of Albuquerque" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Tenth Circuit's review involved an interpretation of an environmental regulation addressing the renewal of permits under Title V of the Clean Air Act. The statute and accompanying regulation allowed renewal of these permits only if they ensured “compliance with” all of the “applicable requirements.” The term “applicable requirements” was defined in the regulation, but not the statute. The Sierra Club interpreted the regulatory definition to require compliance with all existing statutory requirements; the EPA interpretd the regulatory definition more narrowly, arguing that the applicability of certain requirements was determined by the state permit issued under a separate part of the Clean Air Act (Title I). The Tenth Circuit agreed with the Sierra Club’s interpretation: the regulatory definition of “applicable requirements” included all requirements in the state’s implementation plan, and Utah’s implementation plan broadly required compliance with the Clean Air Act. So, the Court concluded, all of the Act’s requirements constituted “applicable requirements” under the regulation. View "Sierra Club v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Tommy Peña was convicted in the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico of conspiracy to commit a carjacking, carjacking and aiding and abetting, using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, and four counts of felon in possession of a firearm and/or ammunition. For these convictions, defendant was initially sentenced to 480 months. However, after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), defendant no longer qualified for a sentence enhancement under 18 U.S.C. 924(e). At resentencing, the district court imposed a 360-month sentence, varying upward from the guidelines. Defendant appealed, arguing the sentence was procedurally and substantively unreasonable. Although the Tenth Circuit found the variance from the guidelines here was indeed large, the district provided compelling reasons for the upward variance, and thereby maintained the connection between defendant's conduct and the sentence imposed. Given that detailed explanation, the Court determined defendant could not meet his burden of showing the sentence was arbitrary, whimsical or substantively unreasonable. View "United States v. Pena" on Justia Law

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While in pretrial detention at the Rio Grande County Jail (RGCJ), Gordon Sawyers’s delusional behavior deteriorated to the point that he removed his right eyeball from its socket. He sued the sheriff in his individual and official capacities under 42 U.S.C 1983 for a deliberate indifference Fourteenth Amendment violation, and under state law for negligence. He also sued three on-duty officers for state law negligence. The district court granted in part and denied in part Defendants' summary judgment motion. Defendants appealed. The Tenth Circuit, after its review, affirmed the denial of the three officers' motion for summary judgment asserting qualified immunity to Sawyers' 1983 claim. The Court concluded it lacked jurisdiction on interlocutory review to address their factual challenges to the trial court's conclusion that a jury could find a constitutional violation. Further, due to what the Court characterized as "inadequate briefing," it determined defendants waived an argument about clearly established law. The Court affirmed the denial of sovereign immunity to Rio Grande County on the state law negligence claim because the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act waived immunity resulting from the operation of a jail. View "Sawyers v. Norton" on Justia Law

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Defendant Abel Cristerna-Gonzalez was convicted by jury on one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and one count of possession with intent to distribute heroin. On appeal, he argued three evidentiary errors occurred at trial: (1) two law-enforcement witnesses gave expert testimony without being admitted as experts; (2) the government made an impermissible propensity argument in violation of Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b); and (3) the district court allowed irrelevant and prejudicial testimony about the Sinaloa cartel. The Tenth Circuit found defendant did not raise the first two issues at trial, and that there was no plain error. Although the Court agreed with Defendant that Sinaloa-cartel evidence was inadmissible, the error was harmless. View "United States v. Cristerna-Gonzalez" on Justia Law

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"A series of coincidences and mistaken beliefs led to the arrest of Laramie Hinkle for possessing a stolen trailer that was not even stolen. And things got worse from there." After investigation showed Hinkle innocent, he sued, alleging as unlawful his arrest, the press release, and the body-cavity strip search by the sheriff's office that arrested him. While the Tenth Circuit sympathized with Hinkle, it found the deputy sheriff had probable cause for the arrest, that the deputy arrested Hinkle based on that probable cause, and that the district court did not err in dismissing Hinkle’s claim that the sheriff issued the press release to retaliate against Hinkle. That said, the Court concluded the body-cavity strip search was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment. And because this unlawful search was based on the County’s indiscriminate strip-search policy, the Court held the Beckham County, Oklahoma was directly liable. View "Hinkle v. Beckham County Board of County" on Justia Law

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In 2015, the Government filed a civil action against Neldon Johnson, Gregory Shepard, and Johnson’s three companies: RaPower-3 LLC (“RaPower”), International Automated Systems, Inc. (“IAS”), and LTB1, LLC (“LTB”) (collectively, Defendants). The Government alleged Defendants promoted an abusive tax scheme. Following a bench trial, the district court found for the Government, enjoined the Defendants from further promoting their scheme, and ordered disgorgement of ill-gotten gains. In 2018, the district court appointed a receiver (Appellee) to take control of Defendants' assets and to investigate whether their affiliated entities possessed proceeds from the illicit tax scheme. On the Receiver’s recommendation, the court added 13 nonparty affiliated entities to the Receivership. Six of the added entities (“Appellant Entities”) appeals, arguing the district court included them in the Receivership without providing sufficient due process. Finding the "Receivership Expansion Order" was not immediately appealable because the Appellant Entities did not show the order was final, the Tenth Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "United States v. RaPower-3" on Justia Law