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Defendant Lucio Lozano was charged with involvement in a multi-year cocaine trafficking conspiracy between individuals in Mexico and Colorado. In October 2017, defendant pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. He was subsequently sentenced to 180 months imprisonment and five years supervised release. He challenged the district court’s application of two sentencing enhancements: (1) a two-level guidelines increase for maintaining a premise for the purpose of distributing a controlled substance, and (2) a three-level aggravated role enhancement. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence. View "United States v. Lozano" on Justia Law

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In this shareholder-derivative action, Shareholders of The Western Union Company averred several of Western Union’s Officers and Directors breached their fiduciary duties to the company by willfully failing to implement and maintain an effective anti-money-laundering-compliance program (AML-compliance program), despite knowing of systemic deficiencies in the company’s AML compliance. The Shareholders didn’t make a pre-suit demand on Western Union’s Board of Directors to pursue this litigation, and the district court found no evidence that such demand would have been futile. The district court thus dismissed the case, reasoning that the Shareholders’ obligation to make a pre-suit demand on the Board was not excused. The Tenth Circuit concurred with the district court's decision to dismiss, and affirmed. View "City of Cambridge Retirement v. Ersek" on Justia Law

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Defendants ultimately filed two motions based on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). The motions were decided by different judges. After the first judge denied the first motion, he retired and the court reassigned the case to another judge. Defendants then filed their second motion, reurging or elaborating on what they had argued in their prior motion. This time, the second judge granted the motion. The Tenth Circuit determined the motion as presented was an improper Rule 59(e) motion because it had simply rehashed arguments from the first motion. Because the motion was improper, the district court erred in granting it. The Court therefore reversed. View "Nelson v. Board of County Commissioners" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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Arnold Jones pleaded guilty to child abuse for driving on a reservation while intoxicated with his minor son in the car. He entered a guilty plea both before a tribal court and, after serving his tribal sentence, before a federal district court. Although child abuse itself was not a federal offense, federal law incorporated state law offenses committed by Native Americans on tribal land. After Jones pleaded guilty in federal court, the district court imposed a forty-month sentence. But, as all parties agreed, the district court made a miscalculation, imposing twelve unintended months. Jones appealed, asking the Tenth Circuit to vacate his sentence and to remand for imposition of the intended sentence. The government requested that the Court affirm the erroneous sentence because, it argued, the miscalculation was harmless due to the district court’s failure to impose a six-year mandatory minimum sentence. Concluding that the error was not harmless, the Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded for the district court to correct the sentence. View "United States v. Jones" on Justia Law

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WildEarth Guardians appealed after the United States Forest Service published a 2014 environmental assessment (“EA”) to the Tennessee Creek Project, and subsequently issued a Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact. The Service undertook the project for a stated purpose of protecting from insects, disease, fire, improvement of wildlife habitat and to maintain watershed conditions. One of the conclusions in the EA determined none of these actions would adversely impact the Canadian lynx. WildEarth Guardians alleged the EA failed to adequately assess the Project’s effects on lynx and by failing to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS). The district court upheld the agency action. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the Agency’s actions, finding the Service satisfied its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) obligations when it reasonably concluded in its EA that under a worst-case scenario the lynx would not be adversely affected by the Project and reasonably concluded that an EIS was not necessary. View "WildEarth Guardians v. Conner" on Justia Law

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Dr. Mark Hopkins moved to vacate his 2010 conviction and sentence for tax evasion. Before trial, the district court ordered him to make monthly payments into the court’s registry to ensure he was complying with federal tax law. Several months later, Dr. Hopkins requested release of the funds so he and his wife, who was being tried with him, could pay their attorneys. The district court ordered the funds’ return. But then the IRS filed notice of a lien on the funds, prompting the court clerk to file an interpleader action. Dr. Hopkins never received the funds; he and his wife were convicted in a jury trial. Dr. Hopkins filed his motion on March 29, 2017, following the Supreme Court’s decision in Luis v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 1083 (2016). But because his conviction became final in 2013, however, Dr. Hopkins’s motion fell outside the usual one-year time limit set by 28 U.S.C. 2255(f)(1). He sought to avoid that time bar by relying on section 2255(f)(3), arguing that Luis created a “newly recognized” right that would be “retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review.” The district court held that Luis did not create such a right, dismissed the motion, and granted a certificate of appealability. Finding no reversible error in that decision, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "United States v. Hopkins" on Justia Law

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E.F. pleaded guilty to a number of federal offenses pursuant to a plea agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, the government agreed that it would recommend a sentence below the one recommended by the United States Sentencing Guidelines. As a result of that agreement, the district court significantly reduced E.F.’s advisory guidelines range to approximately half the term of imprisonment recommended by the Guidelines. E.F. was ultimately sentenced to the mandatory minimum sentence. The district court noted it would have preferred to sentence E.F. to a lesser sentence, but it was unable to do so in light of the government’s refusal to file a motion for a further reduction pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 3553(e). On appeal of the sentence, E.F. argued: (1) the government breached the covenant of good faith and fair dealing implied in the plea agreement when it refused to file a 3553(e) motion; (2) the government’s refusal was not rationally related to a legitimate government end and that enforcing the plea agreement would result in a miscarriage of justice; and (3) the sentence was substantively unreasonable. The district court first considered whether United States v. Doe, 865 F.3d 1295 (10th Cir. 2017), applied. The court concluded that while Doe applied, E.F. failed to satisfy the Doe requirements that would trigger good-faith review by the district court. Thus, the plea agreement was not subject to good-faith review. The Tenth Circuit concurred with the district court’s analysis under Doe and affirmed its conclusion that the government’s decision not to file a 3553(e) motion was not subject to good-faith review. View "In re: Sealed Opinion" on Justia Law

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Lou Hodges submitted a claim for long-term-disability (LTD) benefits to Life Insurance Company of North America (LINA) through his employer’s group-insurance plan. Although LINA approved his claim, Hodges contended LINA should have classified him as a “sales” employee under the policy, which would have entitled him to more benefits. This led Hodges to sue LINA. The district court remanded for further factfinding, but LINA once again reached the same result. The district court then reversed LINA’s decision, concluding that Hodges qualified as a salesperson under the policy. LINA appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed that ruling. View "Hodges v. Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant Jerud Butler was a government employee, a supervisor for the San Miguel County, Colorado, Road and Bridge Department. He alleged his supervisors violated his First Amendment freedom of speech when they demoted him for testifying truthfully in state court as a character witness for his sister-in-law. The state-court proceeding concerned a domestic child custody dispute between Butler’s sister-in-law and her ex-husband, who also worked for the County’s Road and Bridge Department. The district court dismissed Butler’s First Amendment claim with prejudice under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), concluding at step two of the Garcetti/Pickering analysis that Butler’s testimony at the custody hearing, given as a private citizen, was not on a matter of public concern. The Tenth Circuit rejected Butler’s assertion that any truthful sworn testimony given by a government employee in court as a citizen was per se always a matter of public concern. The Tenth Circuit employed a case-by-case approach, considering whether, in this particular case, the content of Butler’s testimony, as well as its form and context, made it speech involving a matter of public concern. After applying such an analysis here, the Court concluded Butler’s testimony during the child custody proceeding was not on a matter of public concern. "Although Butler’s testimony involved a matter of great significance to the private parties involved in the proceeding, it did not relate to any matter of political, social or other concern of the larger community." View "Butler v. Board of County Commissioners" on Justia Law

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With issues common to three appeals consolidated for review, the Government filed suit to collect unpaid taxes. In Appeal No. 17-4083, the Government appealed a district court’s determination that its state-law contract claim was time-barred because it was subject to a Utah state six-year state statute of limitations. The Tenth Circuit concluded the state-law claim was governed by the ten-year statute of limitations set out in 26 U.S.C. 6502(a) because the Government was proceeding in its sovereign capacity. Appeal No. 17-4093 was a cross-appeal of the district court’s ruling that the Government’s transferee-liability claim, brought pursuant to 16 U.S.C. 6324(a)(2), was timely. Here, the Tenth Circuit concluded the transferee-liability claim was timely filed because the limitations period applicable to the 6324(a)(2) transferees was the same as the limitations period applicable to the estate. In Appeal No. 18-4036, the Government appealed the district court’s order awarding attorney’s fees to Appellees. The Tenth Circuit concluded Appellees were not entitled to attorney’s fees because the Government’s position in this litigation was substantially justified. View "United States v. Johnson" on Justia Law