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

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This appeal stemmed from a group of fourteen diversity cases that were consolidated by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation and transferred to the Northern District of Oklahoma. The plaintiffs in all fourteen cases were cancer treatment providers who purchased multi-dose vials of Herceptin, a breast cancer drug, from defendant Genentech, Inc. (Genentech). Plaintiffs alleged that Genentech violated state law by failing to ensure that each vial of Herceptin contained the labeled amount of the active ingredient, and by misstating the drug concentration and volume on the product labeling. After the cases were consolidated, Genentech moved for summary judgment, arguing that plaintiffs’ claims were pre-empted by federal law. The district court agreed with Genentech and granted its motion for summary judgment. Plaintiffs appealed. The Tenth Circuit disagreed with the district court's conclusion that plaintiffs' claims were preempted, and consequently, reversed summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "In re: MDL 2700 Genentech" on Justia Law

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In 2018, Defendant Frank Trujillo pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. The district court sentenced him to a term of 120 months’ imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release. Defendant appealed both his conviction and sentence. With respect to his conviction, Defendant argued his guilty plea was constitutionally invalid because he was not advised of the true nature of his charge. As to his sentence, Defendant argued the district court plainly erred by applying U.S.S.G. section 2K2.1(a)(1) to calculate his base offense level because he did not commit the instant offense “subsequent to” sustaining at least two felony convictions for crimes of violence. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction but remanded for resentencing only. Defendant’s advisory guideline range was erroneously calculated at 140 to 175 months’ imprisonment. "It is reasonably probable that the district court’s error caused Defendant to receive a higher sentence, and 'we can think of few things that affect . . . the public's perception of the fairness and integrity of the judicial process more than a reasonable probability an individual will linger longer in prison than the law demands only because of an obvious judicial mistake.'” View "United States v. Trujillo" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Jorge Corona was a backseat passenger in a car pulled over for a routine traffic stop by Clovis Police Officer Brent Aguilar. Plaintiff was arrested when he did not produce identification in response to the officer's demand for ID. Defendant Aguilar charged Plaintiff with: (1) resisting, evading, or obstructing an officer; and (2) concealing his identity. The district attorney’s office dismissed the concealing-identity charge, and a jury later acquitted Plaintiff of the charge against him for resisting, evading, or obstructing an officer. Plaintiff subsequently sued the arresting officers, Defendant Aguilar and police officer Travis Loomis; the City of Clovis; and the Clovis Police Department for, among other things, alleged constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. 1983. As relevant here, Plaintiff alleged Defendant Aguilar violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unlawful arrest by arresting him without probable cause. Defendant Aguilar moved for partial summary judgment on Plaintiff’s unlawful-arrest claim based on qualified immunity, but the district court denied his motion. The Tenth Circuit disagreed with Officer Aguilar's contention that the district court erred in denying him qualified immunity. The Tenth Circuit determined the officer arrested plaintiff without probable cause. "Additionally, clearly established law would have put a reasonable officer in Defendant Aguilar’s position on notice that his conduct violated Plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unlawful arrest. Defendant Aguilar is therefore not entitled to qualified immunity." View "Corona v. City of Clovis" on Justia Law

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Jeffrey Goebel was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. He moved to suppress, which the district court denied. He pleaded guilty conditioned on his ability to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress. On appeal, Goebel argued the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress, contending the arresting officer lacked reasonable suspicion to detain him and his statements were obtained in violation of the Fifth Amendment. Further, Goebel argued the district court committed plain error by applying the wrong standard of review to the motion. After review, the Tenth Circuit rejected these arguments and affirmed judgment of conviction. View "United States v. Goebel" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Cody Cox sued Defendant Don Wilson, a deputy in the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Department, under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Cox alleged that when Wilson shot him in his vehicle while stopped on Interstate 70, Wilson violated the constitutional prohibition against the use of excessive force by law-enforcement officers. Plaintiff appealed when the jury returned a verdict in favor of the deputy, arguing the district court erred in failing to instruct the jury to consider whether Wilson unreasonably created the need for the use of force by his own reckless conduct. The Tenth Circuit determined that although the district court incorrectly stated the Supreme Court had recently abrogated the Tenth Circuit's precedents requiring such an instruction in appropriate circumstances, the evidence in this case did not support the instruction. "No law, certainly no law clearly established at the time of the incident, suggests that Wilson acted unreasonably up to and including the time that he exited his vehicle and approached Cox’s vehicle." Therefore, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of Deputy Wilson. View "Cox v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant Jordan Sandoval pleaded guilty to committing an assault in Indian Country which resulted in serious bodily injury. He was sentenced to a prison term of 27 months. Sandoval appealed the district court’s sentence as disproportionate by noting crimes either committed with greater intent or causing death are afforded only slightly higher sentencing ranges under the Guidelines. In the alternative, he argued his sentence was substantively unreasonable. Finding that the district court carefully considered Sandoval's arguments before sentencing, the Tenth Circuit concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion in arriving at his sentence. View "United States v. Sandoval" on Justia Law

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In August 2017, Kansas law enforcement officers, after a traffic chase, pulled over Matthew Holmes for suspected vehicular burglary. The officers were from the City of Newton Police Department (“NPD”), McPherson County Sheriff’s Office (“MCSO”), and Harvey County Sheriff’s Office (“HCSO”). After Holmes stopped and exited the car, officers wrestled him to the ground. McPherson County Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Somers shot Holmes in the back. He later died from the gunshot wound. Holmes' estate sued, alleging constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. 1983 ad a state law claim. The district court granted in part and denied in part Defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) motions. In particular, it denied each sheriff’s motion to dismiss based on Eleventh Amendment immunity because, “with respect to local law enforcement activities, sheriffs are not arms of the state but rather of the county that they serve.” The Tenth Circuit determined the district court did not err in denying the sheriffs' motions, and therefore affirmed. View "Couser v. Gay" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Board of Education of Gallup-McKinley County Schools (Gallup) successfully obtained summary judgment on certain Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) claims made by Mavis Yazzie in the administrative action below. Subsequently, Gallup sought attorneys’ fees from Yazzie and her counsel, the Native American Disability Law Center (NADLC). The question presented for the Tenth Circuit's review was whether the controlling provision of the New Mexico Administrative Code (NMAC) permitted Gallup to pursue attorneys’ fees within 30 days of the final decision relating to any party in the administrative action, or did the NMAC limit Gallup to seeking fees within 30 days of obtaining summary judgment, which Gallup failed to do. The Tenth Circuit concluded the plain meaning of the regulatory language permitted petitions for attorneys’ fees made within 30 days of the final decision in the administrative action regardless of whether that decision related to the party seeking fees. Accordingly, Gallup’s petition was timely. The Court therefore reversed the district court and remanded for further proceedings. View "Board of Education of Gallup v. Native American Disability Law" on Justia Law

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The Town of Castle Rock, Colorado enacted a 7:00 p.m. curfew on commercial door-to-door solicitation. Aptive Environmental, LLC sold pest-control services through door-to-door solicitation and encouraged its salespeople to go door-to-door until dusk during the traditional business week. When Aptive came to Castle Rock in 2017, it struggled to sell its services as successfully as it had in other nearby markets. Blaming the Curfew, Aptive sued Castle Rock for violating its First Amendment rights and sought an injunction against the Curfew’s enforcement. After a bench trial, the district court permanently enjoined Castle Rock from enforcing the Curfew. Castle Rock appealed. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded Castle Rock failed to demonstrate the Curfew advanced its substantial interests in a direct and material way. View "Aptive Environmental v. Town of Castle Rock" on Justia Law

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Appellant Tom Connolly, the trustee for the Chapter 7 case of Appellee Samuel Morreale, sought compensation based upon moneys disbursed in Morreale’s Chapter 7 case and in a related Chapter 11 case. Morreale owned the sole membership interest in Morreale Hotels, LLC (Hotels LLC), which in turn owned two properties in Denver, Colorado. Morreale also acted as Hotels LLC’s manager and personally guaranteed certain loans that Hotels LLC obtained on the properties it owned. In 2012, Hotels LLC filed a petition for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and pursued reorganization. In 2013, Morreale filed his own Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition, which the bankruptcy court later converted to Chapter 7. The U.S. Trustee appointed Connolly as the Chapter 7 trustee in the Chapter 7 Case. As trustee, Connolly assumed Morreale’s membership interest in Hotels LLC. Exercising that interest, Connolly appointed himself the new manager of Hotels LLC, thereby replacing Morreale. The bankruptcy court approved this replacement. Connolly abandoned reorganization of Hotels LLC and decided instead to liquidate Hotels LLC’s properties. In his application for compensation, Connolly sought $260,000, an amount based on the moneys disbursed in both the Chapter 7 Case and to creditors who also held claims in the Chapter 11 Case. The bankruptcy court and the Tenth Circuit’s bankruptcy appellate panel (the BAP) both rejected Connolly’s request, concluding that the language of 11 U.S.C. section 326(a) did not support it. After review, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that the plain language of section 326(a) permitted awarding compensation to a Chapter 7 trustee based only on moneys disbursed in the case in which that trustee served, and not on moneys disbursed in a related Chapter 11 case in which the trustee did not serve. View "Connolly v. Morreale" on Justia Law

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