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

Articles Posted in Civil Rights
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The case involves a lawsuit filed by the parents of Shamikle Jackson against four police officers for using unconstitutionally excessive force. Jackson had called 911, claiming that two people were dead inside an apartment and that he was holding others hostage. When the police arrived, they encountered Jackson's sister who informed them that Jackson was alone, unarmed, and might have mental health problems. However, as the officers proceeded to search the apartment, Jackson emerged from a bedroom with a machete and was shot and killed by the officers.The United States District Court for the District of Colorado denied the officers' motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. The court concluded that a reasonable jury could find that the officers recklessly created the need to use deadly force, thereby unreasonably violating Jackson's constitutional rights under clearly established law.The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reversed the lower court's decision. The appellate court found that the officers had a split second to respond to a deadly threat posed by Jackson. Under these circumstances, it was not clearly established that the officers recklessly created a situation where the use of deadly force was necessary. Therefore, the officers were entitled to qualified immunity. The court also rejected the claim that the other officers failed to intervene to prevent the violation of Jackson's rights, as there was no underlying constitutional violation. View "Flores v. Henderson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Rights
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The case revolves around Mr. Lyndell Daniels, who was detained by law enforcement officers who linked him to a stolen Glock firearm based on his name. Daniels was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Daniels moved to suppress his name as the fruit of an unlawful investigative detention, arguing that the officers had no reasonable suspicion to detain him. The district court agreed with Daniels and granted his motion. The government appealed this decision, arguing that the district court erred because there was reasonable suspicion to detain Daniels.The case originated from a near-anonymous call to the Aurora Police Department, expressing concern about three Black men, wearing dark hoodies and jeans, intermittently taking guns in and out of their pockets and getting in and out of a dark SUV. The caller believed they were “getting ready to do something,” but reported no illegality. The police arrived at the scene and detained Daniels, who was standing near the SUV. The officers did not observe any illegal activity or firearms when they arrived.The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that the totality of the circumstances known to the officer when he detained Daniels did not amount to reasonable suspicion. The court noted that the 911 call, the presence and actions of the SUV, the time of the encounter, and the location of the encounter were not sufficient to establish reasonable suspicion. The court concluded that Daniels' detention was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment, and the district court's grant of Daniels' motion to suppress was proper. View "United States v. Daniels" on Justia Law

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The case involves Dr. Adam Lowther and his wife, Jessica Lowther, who sued various state officials on behalf of themselves and their children, alleging constitutional claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law claims under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act. The claims arose from the warrantless entry into their home, the arrest of Dr. Lowther, and the removal of their children by officials from New Mexico’s Children, Youth, and Family Department (CYFD) and the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department (BCSD). The actions of the officials were based on an anonymous report alleging that Dr. Lowther was sexually abusing his four-year-old daughter.The United States District Court for the District of New Mexico granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, concluding that they were entitled to qualified immunity on the § 1983 claims and that the state law claims failed for similar reasons. The Lowthers appealed the decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court held that the officials had reasonable suspicion that the children had been abused and were in imminent danger, which justified the warrantless entry into the Lowthers' home and the removal of the children. The court also held that the officials had probable cause to arrest Dr. Lowther. Therefore, the officials were entitled to qualified immunity, and the Lowthers' claims were dismissed. View "Lowther v. Children Youth and Family Department" on Justia Law

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A prisoner, Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, alleged that officials from the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) beat him while others watched. He brought claims under the Eighth Amendment for excessive force and failure to intervene, arguing that the BOP officials' actions gave him a cause of action under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics. The BOP officials moved to dismiss the claims, arguing that Bivens did not extend to Mohamed's claims. The district court denied their motion.The BOP officials appealed the district court's decision, seeking interlocutory review. However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The court found that the BOP officials had not shown that the district court's order extending Bivens to Mohamed's Eighth Amendment excessive force and failure to intervene claims qualified for interlocutory review under the collateral order doctrine. The court noted that the BOP officials bore the burden of establishing the court's appellate jurisdiction and had failed to convince the court to create an exception to the final judgment rule for all district court orders extending a Bivens remedy. The court also noted that the BOP officials had not shown that Bivens extension orders were effectively unreviewable after final judgment and therefore had not satisfied the third Cohen factor. View "Mohamed v. Jones" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around an incident where Colorado Springs Police Officers Robert McCafferty and Christopher Pryor responded to a 911-call placed by Sasha Cronick reporting a drug overdose. During the incident, Officer Pryor questioned Cronick, which escalated into an argument, leading to her arrest for failure to desist and disperse in violation of Colorado Springs Code § 9.2.103. Cronick filed a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging the officers violated her constitutional rights. The officers asserted qualified immunity, but the district court denied their claim.The district court found several disputes of fact, including whether Officer Pryor issued an order for Cronick to leave the scene, whether Cronick was obstructing the scene, and whether Officer Pryor grabbed Cronick's arm to escort her away or after she had already turned to walk away. The court concluded that these disputes prevented it from finding that the officers had probable cause to arrest Cronick.The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The appellate court concluded that a reasonable officer under these circumstances would not have arguable probable cause to arrest Cronick for failure to desist or disperse. The court also found that the officers did not have probable cause to conduct a search incident to arrest. The officers failed to articulate specific facts that led them to believe Cronick posed a threat and offered nothing beyond conclusory references to safety. Therefore, the officers were not entitled to qualified immunity because they violated Cronick's clearly established constitutional rights. View "Cronick v. Pryor" on Justia Law

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A student, John Doe, through his mother, Jane Doe, filed a lawsuit against Rocky Mountain Classical Academy (RMCA), Nicole Blanc, and Cullen McDowell, alleging that the school's dress code, which prohibited boys from wearing earrings, violated his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause and Title IX. The plaintiff also claimed that the school retaliated against him for complaining about sex discrimination.The United States District Court for the District of Colorado dismissed the plaintiff's claims, applying the "comparable burdens" test from the Seventh Circuit's decision in Hayden ex rel. A.H. v. Greensburg Cmty. Sch. Corp. The district court found that the dress code imposed comparable burdens on both boys and girls, and therefore did not constitute sex discrimination.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit disagreed with the district court's application of the "comparable burdens" test. The appellate court held that the district court should have applied the intermediate scrutiny standard, which requires a sex-based classification to serve important governmental objectives and be substantially related to achieving those objectives. The court found that the plaintiff had stated a claim upon which relief could be granted under both the Equal Protection Clause and Title IX, as the school had not provided an "exceedingly persuasive justification" for its sex-based classification. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of the plaintiff's sex discrimination claims.However, the appellate court agreed with the district court's dismissal of the plaintiff's Title IX retaliation claim. The court found that the plaintiff had not stated a plausible claim for retaliation, as the complaint only permitted the inference that the school took disciplinary actions because of the plaintiff's dress code violations. View "Doe v. Rocky Mountain Classical Academy" on Justia Law

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The case involves Brandon Pryor, an advocate for quality educational opportunities in Far Northeast Denver, who was stripped of his volunteer position and restricted from accessing Denver School District No. 1 facilities after he criticized the district and its officials. The district claimed that Pryor's conduct was abusive, bullying, threatening, and intimidating. Pryor sued the district, Superintendent Alex Marrero, and Deputy Superintendent Anthony Smith, alleging First Amendment retaliation.The United States District Court for the District of Colorado granted a preliminary injunction in part, enjoining the defendants from enforcing the restrictions and from taking any other retaliatory action against Pryor, his family, or the school he co-founded, the Robert W. Smith STEAM Academy. The defendants appealed the preliminary injunction.The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that Pryor was substantially likely to succeed on the merits of his First Amendment retaliation claim. The court also found that Pryor would suffer irreparable injury if the injunction was denied, that the harm to Pryor without the injunction outweighed the harm to the defendants with the injunction, and that the injunction was not adverse to the public interest. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the preliminary injunction. View "Pryor v. School District No. 1" on Justia Law

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In 1989, Andrew Johnson was convicted of aggravated burglary and sexual assault. In 2013, a Wyoming state court declared Johnson innocent based on DNA evidence and vacated his convictions. Johnson then filed a lawsuit against Officer Alan Spencer, the Estate of Detective George Stanford, and the City of Cheyenne, Wyoming, alleging that they fabricated evidence, failed to produce exculpatory evidence, and failed to maintain adequate policing policies. The district court dismissed Johnson's claims, and he appealed.The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that Johnson failed to plausibly allege a fabrication-of-evidence claim against Officer Spencer. Regarding Johnson's claim based on the alleged failure to produce exculpatory evidence, the court determined that Johnson failed to show that his constitutional rights were violated, and thus, Officer Spencer and Detective Stanford were entitled to qualified immunity. The court also concluded that the district court properly dismissed the claims against the City of Cheyenne because Johnson did not demonstrate that any City of Cheyenne law enforcement officer violated his constitutional rights. View "Johnson v. City of Cheyenne" on Justia Law

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Albert Bustillos, an independent journalist, was filming content for his YouTube channel outside the Navajo oil refinery in Artesia, New Mexico. He was approached by refinery security and later by officers from the Artesia Police Department, including Corporal David Bailey. Despite Bustillos asserting he was on public property and had not broken any laws, Bailey arrested him for failure to identify himself in violation of New Mexico law.Bustillos sued Bailey and the City of Artesia, alleging violations of his First and Fourth Amendment rights and New Mexico law. The defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that Bailey was entitled to qualified immunity. The district court denied the motion, rejecting Bailey’s qualified immunity defense.The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of qualified immunity. The court found that Bailey lacked reasonable suspicion of a predicate crime, which is required to lawfully arrest someone for concealing identity. The court also found that Bustillos had met his burden to show that Bailey violated his clearly established Fourth Amendment rights. The court dismissed the portion of the appeal relating to Bustillos’s state-law claims, as the defendants had failed to meet their burden to support pendent appellate jurisdiction. View "Bustillos v. City of Artesia" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Lori Vogt, a deputy court clerk, who was fired by Lisa Rodebush, the McIntosh County Court Clerk, for not publicly supporting Rodebush's reelection campaign. Vogt had worked with Rodebush for thirteen years and had supported her in the past. However, during the 2020 reelection campaign, Vogt's best friend, a former employee of the County Court Clerk’s Office, ran against Rodebush. Vogt decided to support Rodebush privately but not publicly to maintain her friendship with Rodebush's opponent. Despite this, Vogt campaigned for Rodebush and provided advice for her campaign. Rodebush, however, was not satisfied with Vogt's level of support and eventually fired her after winning the election. Vogt then filed a lawsuit alleging that Rodebush violated her First Amendment rights of free speech and political affiliation.The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma denied Rodebush's motion for summary judgment, where she asserted qualified immunity. Rodebush appealed this decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision. The court found that a public official cannot condition a subordinate’s employment on her political beliefs, affiliation, or non-affiliation, unless the government has a vital interest in doing so. The court held that Rodebush violated Vogt's First Amendment right to political affiliation by firing her for not publicly supporting her reelection campaign. The court also found that Vogt's right was clearly established at the time of the violation, thus defeating Rodebush's claim of qualified immunity. View "Vogt v. McIntosh County Board" on Justia Law