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

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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Plaintiff Kimberly Aubrey worked for the Weld County, Colorado, Clerk and Recorder’s office. She became unable to work for a time due to posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (“PRES”), a rare condition characterized by fluctuating blood pressure that causes swelling in the brain, coma and sometimes death. Eventually Aubrey’s PRES resolved and she began to recover. The County allowed her to take several months off but eventually terminated her employment. By that time, Aubrey contended, she recovered sufficiently to be able to return to her job, with reasonable accommodation for her disability. Aubrey sued the County under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and several related statutes. The district court granted the County summary judgment on all claims. The Tenth Circuit reversed in part, finding Aubrey presented sufficient evidence that a jury could have found the County failed to engage in the collaborative interactive process that the ADA called for between an employer and an employee in order to determine whether there was a reasonable accommodation that would have permitted Aubrey to perform the essential functions of her job. In light of that evidence, Aubrey’s failure-to-accommodate and disability discrimination claims were sufficient to survive summary judgment. Summary judgment for the County was affirmed on Aubrey’s retaliation claims because she failed to present sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find that the County terminated her employment in retaliation for her asking for an accommodation. View "Aubrey v. Koppes" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Dana Fedor appealed a district court’s order compelling her to arbitrate employment-related claims she brought against her former employer, UnitedHealthcare, Inc. (UHC), and United Healthcare Services, Inc. Fedor argued the district court impermissibly compelled arbitration before first finding that she and UHC had indeed formed the arbitration agreement underlying the district court’s decision. To this, the Tenth Circuit agreed, concluding that the issue of whether an arbitration agreement was formed in the first instance had to be determined by the court, even where there has been a failure to specifically challenge provisions within the agreement delegating certain decisions to an arbitrator. Judgment was vacated and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Fedor v. United Healthcare" on Justia Law

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The class’s version of events painted the Hutchenses as cunning con artists who "puppeteered" a advance-fee loan scam from afar. Defendants Sandy Hutchens, Tanya Hutchens, and Jennifer Hutchens, a three-member family who purportedly orchestrated a loan scam, challenged a district court’s rulings to avoid paying all or part of the judgment against them brought pursuant to a class action suit. The Tenth Circuit concluded almost all of those challenges failed, including their challenges to the jury’s verdict, class certification, proximate causation, and the application of the equitable unclean hands defense. However, the Court agreed with the Hutchenses’ position on the district court’s imposition of a constructive trust on some real property allegedly bought with the swindled fees. The Court therefore affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded to the district court for entry of a revised judgment. View "CGC Holding Company v. Hutchens" on Justia Law

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In September 2018, petitioner Larry Baca was removed from his position in the Directorate of Public Works at the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. Baca sought review of this decision by the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), asserting three affirmative defenses to his removal. The MSPB rejected all of Baca’s defenses and affirmed his removal. He appealed only the MSPB’s determination with respect to one of his affirmative defenses, that his firing was unlawful retaliation for whistleblowing in violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA). Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the MSPB's decision. View "Baca v. Department of Army" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-appellees Byron and Laura McDaniel claimed they discharged some private student loans in their Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Defendant-Appellant Navient Solutions, LLC (“Navient”), the loans’ creditor, moved to dismiss the McDaniels’ claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), contending that the loans were excepted from discharge under 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(8)(A)(ii). This case raised a question of first impression to the Tenth Circuit of whether an educational loan constituted “an obligation to repay funds received as an educational benefit,” within the meaning of section 523(a)(8)(A)(ii). The Court concluded that it did not, therefore, the Court affirmed the bankruptcy court’s interlocutory order denying Navient’s motion, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "McDaniel v. Navient Solutions" on Justia Law

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Oklahoma City Ordinance 25,777 prohibited standing, sitting, or remaining for most purposes on certain medians. Plaintiffs were Oklahoma City residents, a minority political party in Oklahoma, and an independent news organization. They used medians to panhandle, engage in protests or other expressive activity, mount political campaigns, cover the news, or have personal conversations. After they were no longer able to engage in such activity due to the ordinance, plaintiffs sued Oklahoma City and its chief of police, William Citty, (together, “the City”) alleging violations of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The district court dismissed plaintiff Trista Wilson’s First Amendment claim; granted summary judgment favoring the City on plaintiffs’ due process vagueness claims; and, following a bench trial, entered judgment against plaintiffs on all other claims. After review, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the court’s entry of judgment in favor of the City on plaintiffs’ First Amendment claims; it reversed the dismissal of Wilson’s First Amendment claim; and affirmed on all other claims. View "McCraw v. City of Oklahoma City" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Kansas Natural Resource Coalition (“KNRC”) sought an order to enjoin the United States Department of the Interior (“DOI”) to submit its rules to Congress, pursuant to the Congressional Review Act (“CRA”), before those rules “take effect.” The district court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the CRA contained a provision prohibiting judicial review of any “omission under this chapter.” The Tenth Circuit affirmed based on KNRC’s lack of Article III standing. Furthermore, the Court declined to remand the case so that KNRC could amend its complaint because, in any event, the district court was correct that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. View "Kansas Natural Resource v. United States Dept of Interior" on Justia Law

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Eric Wagenknecht and his wife, Susan Colbert, filed for relief under Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code in January 2016 (the “Petition Date”). The case was converted to Chapter 7 in April 2017. Jared Walters was appointed as the Chapter 7 trustee for the estate (the “Trustee”). Prior to the Petition Date, the Law Firm provided legal services to Eric. By the end of 2015, Eric owed the law firm of Stevens, Littman, Biddison, Tharp & Weinberg, LLC (the “Law Firm”) over $20,000. Eric borrowed money from his mother to pay the Law Firm, and executed a promissory note to repay her. In January 2018, the Trustee initiated an adversary proceeding against the Law Firm. The Trustee alleged that the payment to the Law Firm was a preferential transfer under 11 U.S.C. 547. The Trustee therefore sought to avoid and recover the payment under 11 U.S.C. sections 547 and 550. The parties cross-moved for summary judgment, and the bankruptcy court entered an order denying the Law Firm’s motion for summary judgment and granting the Trustee’s cross-motion for summary judgment. The Tenth Circuit reversed, finding that because Eric did not exercise control or dominion over the payment to the Law Firm, and because the payment did not diminish Eric’s bankruptcy estate, the payment did not constitute a “transfer of an interest of the debtor in property” under section 547(b). Therefore, the bankruptcy court erred in entering summary judgment in favor of the Trustee. View "Walters v. Stevens, Littman, Biddison" on Justia Law

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The parties to this appeal were a Bolivian company, Compania de Inversiones Mercantiles S.A. (“CIMSA”), and Mexican companies known as Grupo Cementos de Chihuahua, S.A.B. de C.V. and GCC Latinoamerica, S.A. de C.V. (collectively “GCC”). Plaintiff-appellant CIMSA brought a district court action pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act to confirm a foreign arbitral award issued in Bolivia against Defendant-appellee GCC. The underlying dispute stemmed from an agreement under which CIMSA and GCC arranged to give each other a right of first refusal if either party decided to sell its shares in a Bolivian cement company known as Sociedad Boliviana de Cemento, S.A. (“SOBOCE”). GCC sold its SOBOCE shares to a third party after taking the position that CIMSA failed to properly exercise its right of first refusal. In 2011, CIMSA initiated an arbitration proceeding in Bolivia. The arbitration tribunal determined that GCC violated the contract and the parties’ expectations. GCC then initiated Bolivian and Mexican court actions to challenge the arbitration tribunal’s decisions. A Bolivian trial judge rejected GCC’s challenge to the arbitration tribunal’s decision on the merits. A Bolivian appellate court reversed and remanded. During the pendency of the remand proceedings, Bolivia’s highest court reversed the appellate court and affirmed the original trial judge. But as a result of the simultaneous remand proceedings, the high court also issued arguably contradictory orders suggesting the second trial judge’s ruling on the merits remained in effect. GCC filed a separate Bolivian court action challenging the arbitration tribunal’s damages award. That case made its way to Bolivia’s highest court too, which reversed an intermediate appellate court’s nullification of the award and remanded for further proceedings. Invoking the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, CIMSA filed a confirmation action in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado. After encountering difficulties with conventional service of process in Mexico under the Hague Convention on Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents, CIMSA sought and received permission from the district court to serve GCC through its American counsel pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(f)(3). The district court then rejected GCC’s challenges to personal jurisdiction, holding (among other things) that: (1) it was appropriate to aggregate GCC’s contacts with the United States; (2) CIMSA’s injury arose out of GCC’s contacts; (3) exercising jurisdiction was consistent with fair play and substantial justice; and (4) alternative service was proper. The district court rejected GCC's defenses to CIMSA's claim under the New York Convention. Before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Court affirmed the district court: the district court properly determined that CIMSA’s injury arose out of or related to GCC’s nationwide contacts. "The district court correctly decided that exercising personal jurisdiction over GCC comported with fair play and substantial justice because CIMSA established minimum contacts and GCC did not make a compelling case to the contrary." The Court also affirmed the district court's confirmation of the arbitration tribunal's decisions. View "Compania De Inversiones v. Grupo Cementos de Chihuahua" on Justia Law

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Jane Doe appealed the dismissal of her Title IX claim against School District No. 1, Denver, Colorado (the District or DPS) for failure to state a claim. According to the complaint, a group of students began sexually harassing Ms. Doe after she was sexually assaulted by another student in March of her freshman year at East High School (EHS). She alleged that despite her numerous reports of the harassment to school personnel, as well as reports from teachers and a counselor, the school administration never investigated her complaints and little if anything was done to prevent the harassment from continuing. She stopped attending regularly scheduled classes about 14 months after the assault, and she transferred to a different school after completing her sophomore year. The Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded, finding Ms. Doe's complaint contained sufficient allegations to support an inference of deliberate indifference. View "Doe v. School District Number 1" on Justia Law