Justia U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Family Law
McAnulty v. McAnulty, et al.
Husband Steven McAnulty was married twice: once to Plaintiff Elizabeth McAnulty, and once to Defendant Melanie McAnulty. Husband's first marriage ended in divorce; the second ended with his death. Husband’s only life-insurance policy (the Policy) named Defendant as the beneficiary. But the Missouri divorce decree between Plaintiff and Husband required Husband to procure and maintain a $100,000 life-insurance policy with Plaintiff listed as sole beneficiary until his maintenance obligation to her was lawfully terminated (which never happened). Plaintiff sued Defendant and the issuer of the Policy, Standard Insurance Company (Standard), claiming unjust enrichment and seeking the imposition on her behalf of a constructive trust on $100,000 of the insurance proceeds. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff appealed. By stipulation of the parties, Standard was dismissed with respect to this appeal. The only question to be resolved was whether Plaintiff stated a claim. Resolving that issue required the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to predict whether the Colorado Supreme Court would endorse Illustration 26 in Comment g to § 48 of the Restatement (Third) of Restitution and Unjust Enrichment (Am. L. Inst. 2011) (the Restatement (Third)), which would recognize a cause of action in essentially the same circumstances. Because the Tenth Circuit predicted the Colorado Supreme Court would endorse Illustration 26, the Court held Plaintiff has stated a claim of unjust enrichment, and accordingly reversed the previous dismissal of her case. View "McAnulty v. McAnulty, et al." on Justia Law
Peck v. McCann, et al.
Plaintiff-Appellee and attorney Jessica Peck represented parents and other family members in child abuse cases in Colorado juvenile courts. She brought suit against Defendant-Appellants, Colorado Executive Director of Health Services Michelle Barnes and Second Judicial District Attorney Beth McCann, to challenge the constitutionality of § 19-1-307 of the Colorado Children’s Code Records and Information Act (“Children’s Code”). Peck alleged Section 307 violated her First Amendment rights by restricting her disclosures and thereby chilling her speech on these matters. The district court agreed and struck down both of Section 307’s penalty provisions. The Tenth Circuit thought Section 307(1) and Section 307(4) had different scopes due to their distinct language and legislative histories. As a result, the Court found Peck could challenge Section 307(4)’s penalty as unconstitutional, but has not properly challenged Section 307(1). The Court thus reversed the district court’s order insofar as it invalidated Section 307(1). View "Peck v. McCann, et al." on Justia Law
Hunt, et al. v. Montano, et al.
Ariza Barreras, T.B., and F.B. (“the children”) were siblings. In May 2017, the children were transferred to the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department's (“CYFD”) custody. At the time, Barreras was four months old, T.B. was two years old, and F.B. was one year old. CYFD employees Michelle Hill and Lora Valdez placed the children with foster parents Vanessa Dominguez and Justin Romero without evaluating whether Barreras and T.B., who were exposed to drugs in utero, “should have been treated and cared for as ‘special needs’ children and placed with foster parents who had received . . . additional training.” Dominguez and Romero had no experience as full-time foster parents for multiple children under the age of three with special needs. Hill and Valdez allegedly made this full-time placement even though Dominguez and Romero were licensed only as respite care providers. This case arose from allegations of abuse of T.B. and F.B., and the death of Ariza. The specific issue was whether the "special relationship" doctrine exposed five CYFD employees from liability when they all asserted qualified immunity. The Tenth Circuit agreed with the district court that the children’s representatives’ allegations stated a plausible claim that two of the CYFD employees—Leah Montano and Gwendolyn Griffin—violated the children’s substantive due process rights. However, the district court erred by concluding that the other three employees—Kim Chavez-Buie, Michelle Hill, and Lora Valdez—committed a constitutional violation. The district court also erred by finding that the clearly established prong of qualified immunity had been waived for purposes of this motion. The Court therefore reversed as to Chavez-Buie, Hill, and Valdez on the constitutional violation prong of qualified immunity because the complaint failed to allege liability under the special relationship doctrine. Chavez-Buie, Hill, and Valdez were therefore entitled to qualified immunity. The Court reversed as to Montano and Griffin on the clearly established prong of qualified immunity because, even though it agreed with the district court that the allegations state a claim under the special relationship doctrine, the Court found the district court incorrectly deemed the clearly established prong waived. The case was remanded for a determination whether Montano and Griffin violated clearly established law. View "Hunt, et al. v. Montano, et al." on Justia Law
United States v. Mobley
In April 2014, a pregnant Bogdana Alexandrovna Osipova took her young son and daughter to Russia, leaving behind ongoing divorce proceedings in Kansas. By doing so, Osipova deprived Brian Mobley, her soon-to-be ex-husband and the father of her daughter and unborn child, of his joint-custody rights under the Kansas court’s temporary custodial order. In Russia, Osipova gave birth to a girl and instituted her own divorce proceedings. The Russian court ordered Mobley to pay monthly child support. But by then the Kansas court had already awarded Mobley full custody of their two daughters, and he steadfastly refused Osipova’s requests that he pay the Russian court-ordered child support. Eventually, in September 2017, Osipova returned alone to the United States on an ill-fated quest to modify the Kansas order. The FBI promptly arrested Osipova, and she was incarcerated for international parental kidnapping and extortionate interstate communications. A jury sentenced Osipova to the statutory maximum three years on the parental-kidnapping conviction, and to seven years on each extortionate-communications convictions, all to run concurrently. On appeal, Osipova argued the federal district judge should have dismissed the indictment and recused himself from her sentencing. Osipova also argued that insufficient evidence supports her 18 U.S.C. 875(b) convictions and that the court erred by awarding Mobley restitution for attorney’s fees he incurred attempting to obtain physical custody of their two daughters. The Tenth Circuit rejected Osipova's dismissal and recusal arguments, but concurred that insufficient evidence supported the extortionate communications charges. Further, the restitution order was unauthorized by law. The latter part of the trial court's judgment was vacated and the matter remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Mobley" on Justia Law
Ogawa v. Kang
Japanese national Takeshi Ogawa brought a Hague Convention action against his former wife, South Korean national Kyong Kang, alleging that she wrongfully removed their twin daughters from Japan to the United States in violation of his rights of custody and seeking an order requiring the twins to return to Japan. The district court disagreed and denied Ogawa’s petition, concluding that: (1) the twins’ removal to the United States did not violate Ogawa’s rights of custody, and alternatively, (2) even if their removal was wrongful, the twins objected to returning to Japan. Ogawa appealed. After review, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals determined Ogawa failed to make a prima facie showing that he had any rights of custody as the Convention defined them. Accordingly, it affirmed the district court’s order. View "Ogawa v. Kang" on Justia Law
Watts v. Watts
At issue in this case was a district court’s determination concerning the location of children’s habitual residence. Shane Watts was a dual citizen of Australia and the United States. Carrie Watts was a citizen of the United States. In 2005, Shane and Carrie married in Park City, Utah. From December 2006 to June 2016, the couple lived in North Carolina, where they reared their three children—also dual citizens of Australia and the United States. In March 2016, the couple learned that their middle child would need specialized medical attention possibly including expensive palate-extension surgery. The family decided to move to Australia to benefit from that country’s universal- healthcare system. The couple intended to live in Australia until completion of their son’s medical treatment. The move to Australia placed additional stress on Shane and Carrie’s already- strained marriage. Concerned that she would be unable to work if she and Shane later divorced, Carrie applied for a permanent visa to Australia. Shane notified the Australian immigration authorities that they had separated, and he withdrew his sponsorship of Carrie’s permanent-visa application. Carrie obtained an “intervention order” against Shane. About three days after learning that Shane had withdrawn his sponsorship of her permanent-visa application, Carrie took the children and flew to Utah. She did not tell Shane beforehand, and she lied to customs agents that she was traveling to the United States for a short visit. Carrie and the children have remained in Utah since. In total, the family lived in Australia for just over eleven months. Shane petitioned a federal court in Utah for the return of the children. In his petition, Shane claimed that Carrie had wrongfully removed the children from their “habitual residence”—i.e., Victoria, Australia. Finding that Shane failed to prove the children's habitual residence was Australia, it denied his request for relief under the Hague Convention as "wrongful." The Tenth Circuit found no reversible error, and affirmed the district court's dismissal of Shane's petition. View "Watts v. Watts" on Justia Law
Doe v. Woodard
I.B. and her mother, Jane Doe (collectively, “Does”), claimed that a caseworker from the El Paso County (Colorado) Department of Human Services ("DHA"), April Woodard, wrongfully searched I.B. at the Head Start preschool, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Without consent or a warrant, Woodard partially undressed I.B., performed a visual examination for signs of abuse, then photographed I.B.’s private areas and partially unclothed body. The Defendants moved to dismiss. The district court granted the motion, holding that qualified immunity precluded the Fourth Amendment unlawful search claim and that the complaint failed to state a Fourteenth Amendment claim. The Does appealed these rulings and the district court’s denial of leave to amend their complaint. Finding no constitutional violation, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Doe v. Woodard" on Justia Law
Halley v. Huckaby
J.H., a minor represented by his grandfather, claimed a child welfare specialist at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and two police officers wrongfully seized and questioned him about possible abuse by his father. Because of this conduct, J.H. argued these officials violated the Fourth Amendment, and that two of the three officials violated the Fourteenth Amendment by unduly interfering with J.H’s substantive due process right of familial association. The officials moved for summary judgment, arguing in relevant part that qualified immunity shielded them from liability. The district court denied qualified immunity, and the officials filed an interlocutory appeal. After review, the Tenth Circuit determined the district court was correct that two of the three defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity on the Fourth Amendment unlawful seizure claim. But the Court reversed the district court’s denial of qualified immunity for the officer who merely followed orders by transporting J.H. Furthermore, the Court reversed denial of qualified immunity on the Fourteenth Amendment interference with familial association claim since it was not clearly established that the officials’ conduct violated the Fourteenth Amendment. View "Halley v. Huckaby" on Justia Law
Gutteridge v. Oklahoma
Plaintiff Donald Gutteridge, Jr. appealed a district court order granting summary judgment to defendants Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, and several individuals on two claims arising from injuries suffered by D.C., a child who was then in Oklahoma’s foster-care system. The Tenth Circuit agreed with the district court that the individual defendants were entitled to qualified immunity on Gutteridge’s 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim. Likewise, the Court agreed Gutteridge’s state-law tort claim was barred to the extent it arose from D.C.’s placement in two different foster homes. But to the extent Gutteridge’s state-law claim instead arose from the alleged failure to timely remove D.C. from one of those homes and the alleged failure to provide D.C. with timely medical care for injuries she suffered there, the placement exemption did not apply. View "Gutteridge v. Oklahoma" on Justia Law
T.D. v. Patton
Kelcey Patton, a social worker for the Denver Department of Human Services (“DDHS”), was one of those responsible for removing T.D., a minor at the time, from his mother’s home, placing him into DDHS’s custody, and recommending T.D. be placed and remain in the temporary custody of his father, Tiercel Duerson. T.D. eventually was removed from his father’s home after DDHS received reports that T.D. had sexual contact with his half-brother, also Mr. Duerson’s son. DDHS later determined that during T.D.’s placement with Mr. Duerson, T.D. had suffered severe physical and sexual abuse at the hands of his father. T.D. sued Patton under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for violating his right to substantive due process, relying on a “danger-creation theory,” which provided that “state officials can be liable for the acts of third parties where those officials created the danger that caused the harm.” Patton moved for summary judgment on the ground that she is entitled to qualified immunity. The district court denied the motion. Finding no reversible error in that decision, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "T.D. v. Patton" on Justia Law