Justia U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Rights
Duran, et al. v. Budaj, et al.
Defendants filed an interlocutory appeal, challenging the district court’s denial of qualified immunity to Officer David McNamee, Officer Cory Budaj, and Sergeant Patricio Serrant. Between May 28 and June 2, 2020, several large protests occurred on Denver streets in reaction to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. On May 30, then-Denver Mayor Michael Hancock declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew; he also requested assistance from mutual aid police departments, including the Aurora Police Department. At about 9 p.m. on May 31, Plaintiff Zachary Packard was protesting near downtown Denver when a police officer threw a tear gas canister near Packard. Packard kicked the cannister“away from himself and other protesters, in the direction of a line of officers.” Packard kicked the canister about five to ten feet away from himself and other protesters. Critically, this action “did not pose an immediate threat,” the district court concluded, “because officers were equipped with gas masks that protected them from any gas from that container.” Immediately after kicking the canister, Packard was hit in the head with a beanbag round fired from a shotgun; the round knocked him unconscious and caused major injuries. One of the officers on Sergeant Serrant’s line was Defendant Officer McNamee. He fired several beanbag rounds at the time Packard was shot, but the parties disputed whether Officer McNamee was the officer who shot Packard. The district court concluded Plaintiffs raised genuine disputes of material fact as to whether Sergeant Serrant and Officer McNamee were “personally involved in the alleged violation of Mr. Packard’s rights.” The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals found no reversible error in the district court's judgment and affirmed. View "Duran, et al. v. Budaj, et al." on Justia Law
Estate of Allan George, et al. v. Ryan, et al.
The plaintiffs in this case, which included the estate and surviving family members of Allan Thomas George, filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against the City of Rifle, Colorado (the City), Tommy Klein, the chief of the Rifle Police Department (RPD), and Dewey Ryan, a corporal with RPD, alleging that the defendants violated George’s Fourth Amendment rights by employing excessive and deadly force against him in the course of attempting to arrest him on a felony warrant. Plaintiffs also raised a Colorado state law claim of battery causing wrongful death against Ryan. Defendants moved for summary judgment with respect to all of the claims asserted against them. Defendants Ryan and Klein asserted, in particular, that they were entitled to qualified immunity from the § 1983 excessive force claim. The district court denied defendants’ motion in its entirety. Defendants filed an interlocutory appeal challenging the district court’s ruling. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that where, as here, a police officer’s employment of deadly force against a fleeing felony suspect was objectively reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, the officer’s use of force cannot, as a matter of law, be deemed to be in “conscious disregard of the danger.” The Court therefore concluded the district court erred in denying summary judgment to the defendant officers, and reversed with respect to all defendants. View "Estate of Allan George, et al. v. Ryan, et al." on Justia Law
Forth v. Laramie County School District
Plaintiff-Appellant Gracie Ann Forth appealed the grant of summary judgement entered in favor of Defendant-Appellee Laramie County School District Number 1 (“LCSD1”) on Forth’s claim under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”). Forth alleged that while she was a student at Johnson Junior High School (“JJHS”), a school within LCSD1, one of her seventh-grade teachers, Joseph Meza, sexually abused her over several years beginning in 2014. Forth alleged principals at JJHS had actual notice that Meza posed a substantial risk of abuse and were deliberately indifferent to these risks, thereby violating Title IX. On LCSD1’s motion, the district court concluded LCSD1 did not have actual notice Meza posed a substantial risk of abuse before it learned that Forth had reported him to the police. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded after review, that the district court erred in finding Forth failed to establish such notice by LCSD1 during the period before LCSD1 learned of her police report, and erred in concluding LCSD1 (in lacking such notice) was not deliberately indifferent during that period. The summary judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for the district court to address in the first instance. View "Forth v. Laramie County School District" on Justia Law
Waetzig v. Halliburton Energy Services
Plaintiff-appellee Gary Waetzig filed an age discrimination lawsuit against his former employer, Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. Because he was contractually bound to arbitrate his claim, he voluntarily dismissed his suit without prejudice under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a) and filed for arbitration. The arbitrator sided with Halliburton. Dissatisfied with the outcome, Waetzig returned to federal court. But instead of filing a new lawsuit challenging arbitration, he moved to reopen his age discrimination case and vacate the arbitration award. Relying on Rule 60(b), the district court concluded it had jurisdiction to consider Waetzig’s motion, reopened the case, and vacated the award. The Tenth Circuit found the district court erred: the district court could not reopen the case under Rule 60(b) after it had been voluntarily dismissed without prejudice. Under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 41(a) and 60(b), a court cannot set aside a voluntary dismissal without prejudice because it is not a final judgment, order, or proceeding. View "Waetzig v. Halliburton Energy Services" on Justia Law
Barrick v. Parker-Migliorini International
In April 2012, Plaintiff-Appellee Brandon Barrick filed a qui tam action against his then-employer, Defendant-Appellant Parker-Migliorini International LLC (PMI). Barrick alleged violations of the False Claims Act (FCA) and amended his complaint to include a claim that PMI unlawfully retaliated against him under the FCA. PMI was a meat exporting company based in Utah. While working for PMI, Barrick noticed two practices he believed were illegal. The first was the “Japan Triangle”: PMI exported beef to Costa Rica to a company which repackaged it, then sent it to Japan (Japan had been concerned about mad cow disease from U.S. beef). The second was the “LSW Channel”: PMI informed the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) it was shipping beef to Moldova on a shipping certificate, but sent it to Hong Kong. Then, according to Barrick, PMI smuggled the beef into China (China was not then accepting U.S. beef). Barrick brought his concerns to Steve Johnson, PMI’s CFO, at least three times, telling Johnson that he was not comfortable with the practices. By October, the FBI raided PMI's office. Barrick was terminated from PMI in November 2012, as part of a company-wide reduction in force (RIF). PMI claimed the RIF was needed because in addition to the FBI raid, problems with exports and bank lines of credit put a financial strain on the company. Nine employees were terminated as part of the RIF. PMI claims it did not learn about Barrick’s cooperation with the FBI until October 2014, when the DOJ notified PMI of this qui tam action. A jury found that PMI retaliated against Barrick for his engagement in protected activity under the FCA when it terminated his employment. On appeal, PMI argued the district court improperly denied its motion for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL). In the alternative, PMI argued the Tenth Circuit court should order a new trial based on either the district court’s erroneous admission of evidence or an erroneous jury instruction. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed on all issues. View "Barrick v. Parker-Migliorini International" on Justia Law
Andersen v. DelCore, et al.
Plaintiff Carl Andersen alleged defendant Officer Vito DelCore used excessive force against him while securing a cell phone that Officer DelCore believed would contain incriminating evidence that Andersen or his fiancée had abused their child. The district court denied Officer DelCore’s motion for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds, ruling that Officer DelCore had used excessive force and that there was clearly established law that would have alerted him that the force he used was unreasonable and unconstitutional. Officer DelCore appealed the denial of summary judgment, arguing that he was entitled to qualified immunity. On the trial court record, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals found Officer DelCore used reasonable force under the circumstances, so no Fourth Amendment violation occurred. The district court therefore erred in denying Officer DelCore qualified immunity. View "Andersen v. DelCore, et al." on Justia Law
Aguayo v. Garland
Petitioner Angel Aguayo filed a motion to terminate his removal proceedings, contending his state detention and transfer to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody was unlawful. Aguayo was a native and citizen of Mexico. In 1992, he entered the United States unlawfully. For over twenty-five years, Aguayo and his wife lived in Utah and raised four children. In March 2018, Aguayo’s daughter - a United States citizen - filed a visa petition on her father’s behalf. After U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approved the visa petition, Aguayo lawfully remained in Utah and applied to become a legal permanent resident. In 2019, state law enforcement officers arrested Aguayo in Springville, Utah. He was later charged with two counts of possession of a forged document, use or possession of drug paraphernalia, and having an open container in a vehicle. At the time of his arrest, Aguayo also had pending misdemeanor state charges for issuing a bad check, shoplifting, possession or use of a controlled substance, and use or possession of drug paraphernalia. Aguayo was detained at the Utah County Jail. The day after his arrest, agents from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) encountered Aguayo during a routine jail check. DHS then issued an immigration detainer (an “ICE hold”) for Aguayo. He remained at the Utah County Jail for about five months. In June 2019, Aguayo pled guilty to some of the pending state charges. He was sentenced to thirty days in the county jail. He would be later sentenced to 364 days’ imprisonment on the forgery convictions, and an indeterminate term of imprisonment not to exceed five years on the bad check conviction. DHS initiated removal proceedings; Aguayo contested his removability. The Tenth Circuit denied Aguayo's petition: he did not show he was prejudiced—under any applicable standard—by the denial of his motion to terminate removal proceedings. View "Aguayo v. Garland" on Justia Law
Jordan v. Adams County Sheriff’s Office, et al.
According to the complaint, Plaintiff John Jordan alleged he was thrown to the ground and arrested for criticizing the police. Moments before the arrest, Jordan stood across the street from Deputies Michael Donnellon and Chad Jenkins listening as the Deputies questioned his nephew about a car accident involving a truck owned by Jordan’s company. Jordan grew frustrated with what he was hearing and started criticizing the two Deputies. The Deputies retaliated with their own disparaging remarks about Jordan. Eventually, Deputy Jenkins became fed up with Jordan’s criticisms and performed a takedown maneuver on Jordan, placing him under arrest for obstruction of justice. As relevant to this appeal, Jordan sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for unlawful arrest, malicious prosecution, and excessive force. The magistrate judge granted the Deputies’ motion for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity and dismissed each of these claims. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded granting summary judgment to the Deputies was improper: under the "Graham" factors, it was clearly established that the takedown maneuver utilized by the Deputies here was excessive as applied to Jordan at the time of his arrest. View "Jordan v. Adams County Sheriff's Office, et al." on Justia Law
Courage to Change, et al. v. El Paso County
Courage to Change Recovery Ranch, recently known as Soaring Hope Recovery Center, provided treatment and housing for people recovering from drug and alcohol addictions in a single-family neighborhood in El Paso County, Colorado. But Soaring Hope claimed the County’s strict occupancy limits, standards for group homes for disabled persons, and policies restricting what treatment options Soaring Hope could provide in a single-family zone led Soaring Hope to close its home in a single-family neighborhood (the Spruce Road home). The Tenth Circuit determined the County violated the Fair Housing Act Amendments (FHAA) by imposing facially discriminatory occupancy limits on group homes for disabled persons without a legally permissible justification. Though Soaring Hope showed standing to challenge the occupancy limits which directly injured it, Soaring Hope did not show standing to challenge the standards for group homes for disabled persons—no evidence shows that the County enforced the standards against Soaring Hope. The Tenth Circuit also held that the district court erred by granting summary judgment against Soaring Hope on its zoning-out claim for intentional discrimination: Soaring Hope raised a genuine issue of material fact about whether the County had prohibited certain therapeutic activities in its Spruce Road home while allowing those same activities in other structured group-living arrangements and residential homes. The case was remanded for the district court to further address the zoning-out claim. The judgment was affirmed in all other respects. View "Courage to Change, et al. v. El Paso County" on Justia Law
Wise v. Caffey, et al.
While plaintiff-appellee Jesse Wise was a pretrial detainee at Creek County Jail in Oklahoma, Officer Don Caffey performed a knee strike on Wise when he was seated on the ground and handcuffed. Officer Caffey subsequently resigned his employment at Creek County Jail as a result of an investigation into the incident. Wise sued Officer Caffey and Creek County Sheriff Bret Bowling under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging excessive-force and supervisory-liability claims against Officer Caffey and Sheriff Bowling, respectively. At the summary-judgment stage, the court held Officer Caffey’s knee strike was excessive as a matter of law and that he and Sheriff Bowling were not entitled to qualified immunity. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of summary judgment as to Officer Caffey’s qualified-immunity defense because the “facts that the district court ruled a reasonable jury could find would suffice to show a legal violation.” View "Wise v. Caffey, et al." on Justia Law