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In 2014, the government prosecuted two Kansas men, Shane Cox and Jeremy Kettler, for violating the National Firearms Act (NFA) by manufacturing (in Kansas), transferring (in Kansas), and possessing (in Kansas) several unregistered firearms. A jury found them guilty of most (though not all) of the charges. Cox and Kettler appealed their convictions; they didn't dispute that their actions ran afoul of the NFA. Instead, they: (1) challenged the NFA’s constitutionality, alleging that the statute was an invalid exercise of congressional power and an invasion of the Second Amendment right to bear arms; and (2) challenged the district court’s ruling that their reliance on Kansas' Seciond Amendment Protection Act (SAPA), which they understood to shield Kansas-made and -owned firearms from federal regulation, provided no defense to charges that they violated the NFA. Kettler further asked the Tenth Circuit to see his prosecution as the product of a dispute between Kansas and the federal government over the SAPA, a dispute that unjustly swept him (and Cox) up (Cox did not join this latter argument). The Tenth Circuit granted Kansas’s request to participate in these appeals as needed to defend the SAPA from a Supremacy Clause challenge. The Tenth Circuit rejected Cox’s and Kettler’s challenges to their convictions (without addressing the SAPA’s constitutionality). View "United States v. Cox" on Justia Law

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In 2013, while the disputed insurance policy was in effect, several guests at the Siloam Springs Hotel allegedly sustained injuries due to carbon monoxide poisoning stemming from an indoor-swimming-pool heater that had recently been serviced. The hotel sought coverage under the policy, and the insurer denied coverage based on the exclusion for “qualities or characteristics of indoor air.” This case made it back to the Tenth Circuit following a remand in which the district court was directed to determine whether there was complete diversity of citizenship between the parties, which was an essential jurisdictional issue that needed to be decided before it could properly address the merits of this case. On remand, the district court received evidence on this question and determined that diversity jurisdiction was indeed proper. The district court also certified a policy question to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which held that the exclusion at issue in this case - however interpreted -should not be voided based on public policy concerns. Following the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s resolution of the certified question, the insurer asked the district court to administratively close the case, arguing that “no further activity in this case . . . remains necessary to render the [district c]ourt’s adjudication of the coverage issue which the case concerns a final judgment.” The hotel asked the court to reopen the case to either reconsider its previous order or to enter a final, appealable judgment against the hotel. The district court held that the case had already been administratively closed and it had no need to reopen the case, since “both its finding of diversity jurisdiction and the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s answer to the certified question did not alter in any way” the court’s summary judgment decision on the merits of the coverage dispute. The hotel appealed. The Tenth Circuit determined the hotel was entitled to coverage under the policy at issue, and reversed the district court's denial. The case was remanded for further proceedings on the question of damages. View "Siloam Springs Hotel v. Century Surety Company" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Laurie Exby-Stolley sued her former employer, the Board of County Commissioners of Weld County, Colorado (the County), under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). She alleged the County had failed to accommodate her disability, resulting in the loss of her job. The jury returned a verdict for the County. Exby-Stolley appealed, arguing: (1) the district court improperly instructed the jury that she needed to prove she had suffered an adverse employment action; (2) the district court refused to instruct the jury on a claim of constructive discharge or allow her to argue constructive discharge in closing argument; and (3) the district court misallocated the burden of proof in its undue-hardship jury instruction. The Tenth Circuit found no errors and affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Exby-Stolley v. Board of County Commissioners" on Justia Law

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Shannon Porter used over-the-counter tax preparation software to complete and electronically file 123 false tax returns with the IRS. Although the IRS rejected many of the returns and requested refunds, it paid out $180,397 to Porter, which she promptly spent. For this conduct, she pled guilty to making a false statement to the United States in violation of 18 U.S.C. 287 and was sentenced to imprisonment to be followed by a term of supervised release. She would be given two terms of prison-and-supervised release. The third time, no supervised release was recommended or approved by the trial court. Porter appealed the last sentence that did not include supervised release. The Tenth Circuit determined that each of Porter’s previous supervised release violations were punishable as a “breach of trust,” and as such, did not abuse its discretion in denying a request for supervised release upon Porter’s third revocation hearing. View "United States v. Porter" on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs were two wholly owned subsidiaries of First American Financial Corporation: First American Title Insurance Company (FA Company) and First American Title Company, LLC (FA LLC) (collectively Plaintiffs). The defendants, who appealed a judgment against them (Defendants) were Michael Smith, Kristi Carrell, and Northwest Title Insurance Agency, LLC. Jeffrey Williams was also a defendant, but is not a party to the appeal. Defendants raised numerous grounds on appeal of a large jury award based on breaches of contractual and fiduciary duties, many of which the Tenth Circuit concluded were not adequately preserved or presented. Therefore, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, "[w]e may not have awarded the same amount, but we see no abuse of discretion." View "First American Title Insurance v. Northwest Title Insurance" on Justia Law

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Delmart Vreeland II applied for habeas relief in federal district court, alleging in relevant part that the state trial court violated his Sixth Amendment right to counsel and his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process. The district court rejected both claims and declined to issue a certificate of appealability (COA). Vreeland later obtained a COA from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to challenge the district court’s resolution of his Sixth Amendment claim. Pursuant to that COA, he argued the district court erred in denying him relief. Vreeland asked for another COA so he could appeal the district court’s denial of his due-process claim. The Tenth Circuit agreed with the district court that Vreeland failed to demonstrate the state appellate court’s resolution of his Sixth Amendment claim satisfied 28 U.S.C. 2254(d): Vreeland failed to show that the state appellate court’s decision: (1) “was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established [f]ederal law” or (2) “was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts.” Thus, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court to the extent it denied relief on Sixth Amendment grounds. The Tenth Circuit further concluded reasonable jurists wouldn’t find the district court’s resolution of Vreeland’s due-process claim debatable or wrong, and denied his request for a COA on that claim. View "Vreeland v. Zupan" on Justia Law

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Charles Payan appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of United Parcel Service (“UPS”) in relation to his claims for racial discrimination and retaliation arising under Title VII and 42 U.S.C. 1981, as well as his state law claims for breach of contract and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Payan identified himself as Hispanic and worked for UPS since 1991. UPS uses the “Ready Now” list to determine candidates for promotions, so Payan’s removal from the list meant that he could no longer be considered for promotions. Charles Martinez, Payan's direct supervisor, continued thereafter to rate Payan’s promotion status as “Retain at Current Level,” meaning he believed Payan needed more time to develop before being promoted. After Payan’s downgrade, two UPS employees with similar credentials were promoted to Security Division Managers, positions that Payan wanted but was not eligible for in light of his promotion status downgrade. In November 2012, and in response to the recommendations of Martinez, UPS put Payan through a Management Performance Improvement Process (“MPIP”), designed to “help employees who are not performing well go through a formalized training with their manager to help them improve their skill sets so they could perform effectively and eliminate whatever those deficiencies are.” At some point, UPS determined Payan was not meeting the plan’s requirements. Shortly thereafter, Payan filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Payan alleged that he had been subjected to harassing and degrading behavior from Martinez and that his non-Hispanic coworkers were not treated in such a way. He also alleged that UPS retaliated against him by placing him on an MPIP. The EEOC ultimately dismissed Payan’s charge of discrimination and issued him a right-to-sue letter. Finding no reversible error in the district court's grant of summary judgment to UPS, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Payan v. United Parcel Service" on Justia Law

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The district court dismissed with prejudice of the Secretary of Labor’s complaint against Jani-King of Oklahoma, Inc. Jani-King is a janitorial company providing cleaning services in the Oklahoma City area. Following an investigation into Jani-King’s employment practices, the Secretary of Labor filed a complaint alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and seeking an injunction to require Jani-King to keep the requisite FLSA employee records. Specifically, the Secretary asserted that individuals who formed corporate entities and enter franchise agreements as required by Jani-King “nonetheless personally perform the janitorial work on behalf of Jani-King” and, based on the economic realities of this relationship, were Jani-King’s employees under the FLSA. Jani-King successfully moved to dismiss, arguing: (1) under Rule 12(b)(6), the Secretary failed to plausibly suggest that every franchise owner should have been treated as an employee under the FLSA; and (2) under Rule 12(b)(7), the Secretary failed to name the franchisees as necessary parties. The Tenth Circuit found the Secretary’s amended complaint contained sufficient facts to state a facially plausible claim for relief. In so concluding, the Court made no determination as to the merits of the case, only that it survived the initial Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. View "Acosta v. Jani-King of Oklahoma" on Justia Law

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Defendant Davon Lymon challenged the procedure by which the district court decided to order the three federal sentences imposed in his case to be consecutive. Lymon pled guilty to three offenses charged in the same indictment: selling heroin to an undercover officer on two separate occasions (Counts 1 and 3), and being a previously convicted felon in possession of a gun (Count 2). Using the sentencing guidelines’ grouping rules, the district court established a single combined offense level for all three convictions. That offense level led to an advisory sentencing range of 77 to 96 months in prison. Lymon did not object to that starting guideline range, but he does object to the court’s ultimate decision to vary upward from the range to a total sentence of 216 months as a result of running the sentences on each of the three counts of conviction largely consecutively instead of concurrently as called for in the guidelines. The Tenth Circuit determined the district court did not procedurally err because the sentencing guidelines were only advisory, the district court considered the guidelines’ recommendation before exercising its discretion under 18 U.S.C. 3584 to order consecutive sentences, and the court adequately explained why it did so. View "United States v. Lymon" on Justia Law

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The Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services (“ODRS”) appealed a district court’s affirmance of an arbitration decision rendered under the Randolph-Sheppard Act (the “RSA”). The statute authorized designated state agencies such as ODRS to license and assign blind vendors to operate vending facilities on federal property; it also established an arbitration scheme to resolve disputes arising from this program. In accordance with the statute, the Department of Education (“DOE”) convened an arbitration panel (the “Panel”) to hear the grievances of David Altstatt, a blind vendor, challenging ODRS’s selection of another blind vendor, Robert Brown, for a particular vending assignment. Both Mr. Altstatt and Mr. Brown had applied for the assignment. The Panel found for Altstatt and ordered ODRS to remove Brown from the disputed assignment, appoint Altstatt in Brown’s place, and pay damages and attorney fees to Altstatt. ODRS brought suit to vacate the Panel’s decision, which the Randolph-Sheppard Act subjectd to judicial review as a final agency action under the Administrative Procedure Act (the “APA”). Altstatt intervened as a defendant and counterclaimant, requesting that the court affirm the arbitration decision. DOE participated in the litigation only to the extent of filing the administrative record of the Panel proceedings. The district court entered judgment in favor of Altstatt and ordered ODRS to comply with the Panel’s decision. ODRS then appealed. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision with respect to the Panel’s award of injunctive relief in the form of Brown’s removal and Altstatt’s appointment to the disputed assignment, but reversed as to the Panel’s award of damages and attorney fees. View "Tyler v. United States Dept. of Educ." on Justia Law