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An Oklahoma jury convicted Emmanuel Littlejohn of first-degree murder and sentenced him to death. In this case's first appearance before the Tenth Circuit, the district court found Littlejohn’s ineffective-assistance and cumulative-error claims (among twelve other bases for relief) meritless or procedurally barred. The Tenth Circuit addressed the declaration of Dr. Manual Saint Martin, a psychiatrist who diagnosed Littlejohn (for the first time) with undefined, synapse-level neurological deficits, or an organic brain disorder. Given that evidence, the Court reasoned that the disposition of Littlejohn’s ineffective-assistance claim, and derivatively, his cumulative-error claim, hinged on whether Dr. Saint Martin’s averments would prove worthy of belief, because “[e]vidence that an organic brain disorder was a substantial factor in engendering Mr. Littlejohn’s life of deviance probably would have been a significant favorable input for Mr. Littlejohn in the jury’s decisionmaking calculus” during the penalty phase. As a result, the case was remanded to the district court for an evidentiary hearing on whether Littlejohn’s trial counsel proved ineffective by failing to adequately investigate and present to the jury a mitigation theory of organic brain damage. On remand, the district court held an evidentiary hearing; the parties presented the testimony of various individuals - including Dr. Saint Martin and Littlejohn’s trial counsel. Following the hearing, the district court largely restated its earlier findings and again denied Littlejohn habeas relief on his ineffective-assistance and cumulative-error claims. Littlejohn appealed the district court’s judgment on remand. With the benefit of a more developed factual record relative to Littlejohn’s alleged organic brain damage, the Tenth Circuit found no reversible error and affirmed the district court. View "Littlejohn v. Royal" on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant, Tito Ontiveros, appeals from the district court judgment resentencing him following the vacation of his original sentence as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in Johnson v United States (“Johnson II”), 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015). Ontiveros was convicted by jury of being a felon in possession of a firearm and possessing an unregistered firearm. After finding that Ontiveros qualified as an armed career criminal under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) for having committed three prior violent felonies, one of which fell under the “residual clause,” the district court sentenced Ontiveros to 382 months’ imprisonment. The sentence was affirmed on direct appeal. In 2015, the Supreme Court held that the ACCA’s residual clause is unconstitutionally vague. At resentencing, the new presentence report (PSR) recommended a base offense level of 22 under section 2K2.1(a)(3) of the Sentencing Guidelines because Ontiveros had one prior felony conviction that counted as a crime of violence. The government objected, arguing that the base offense level should be 26 under section 2K2.1(a)(1) because Ontiveros had two prior crimes of violence. The government argued that Ontiveros’s 2007 conviction for Colorado second-degree assault, in violation of Colo. Rev. Stat. 18-3-203(1)(g), also counted as a crime of violence. Ontiveros conceded that one of his prior convictions constituted a crime of violence but argued, relying on the Tenth Circuit’s decision in United States v. Perez-Vargas, 414 F.3d 1282 (2005), his Colorado second-degree assault conviction did not. The district court agreed with the government and, based on the higher offense level, sentenced Ontiveros to two concurrent 110-month sentences with a three-year term of supervised release. Ontiveros appealed, arguing that Colorado second-degree assault is not a “crime of violence.” Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment. View "United States v. Ontiveros" on Justia Law

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Defendant James Woods, a detective in the Cottonwood Heights Police Department, was informed by Utah’s Unified Fire Authority (“UFA”) that medications, including opioids and sedatives, were missing from several UFA ambulances. Detective Woods accessed a state database and searched the prescription drug records of 480 UFA employees in an effort to “develop suspect leads of those who have the appearance of Opioid dependencies.” Consistent with Utah law at the time, Woods did not obtain a search warrant before accessing the Database. Based on the information Woods obtained from the Database search, he developed suspicions about Plaintiffs Ryan Pyle and Marlon Jones. Neither Plaintiff, however, was ever prosecuted for the thefts from the ambulances. Plaintiffs brought separate lawsuits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983, each challenging Defendants’ conduct as violative of the Fourth Amendment and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”). In both suits, the district court dismissed the claims against Defendant Woods, concluding Woods was entitled to qualified immunity because the law governing warrantless access to prescription drug information by law enforcement was not clearly established. The district court also dismissed the FCRA claims because Defendants’ actions fit within an exemption set out in the Act. In Jones’s suit, the district court dismissed the constitutional claims against the city of Cottonwood Heights with prejudice because Jones’s complaint failed to state a claim for municipal liability plausible on its face. In Pyle’s suit, the district court dismissed the constitutional claims against Cottonwood Heights without prejudice, concluding Pyle failed to notify the Utah Attorney General of those claims as required by Rule 5.1 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Pyle and Jones each appealed. Exercising jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1291, and finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s judgments. View "Pyle v. Woods" on Justia Law

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This interlocutory appeal concerned a contract dispute about the provision of food services at the Fort Riley Army base in Kansas. The Department of the Army (Army) contracts with outside vendors for food preparation and related supporting services for its cafeteria dining facilities at Fort Riley. Since 2006, the State of Kansas, through the Kansas Department for Children and Families (Kansas), successfully bid under the RSA on those food preparation and related services contracts at Fort Riley. Kansas’s most recent contract awarded under the RSA was scheduled to expire in February 2016. As that date approached, the Army determined that its next dining contract at Fort Riley would be for supporting services only. The Army therefore decided that it need not solicit bids under the RSA and it approached another vendor directly, as permitted by the JWOD. Kansas took exception to the Army’s decision because it eliminated Kansas’s ability to bid on the contract. So Kansas initiated arbitration proceedings under the RSA’s dispute resolution provisions. And upon learning that the Army intended to contract with the other vendor despite the commencement of arbitration proceedings, Kansas sued in federal court, seeking to preliminarily enjoin the Army from executing the JWOD contract pending arbitration. The root of the dispute was the intersection of two federal statutes that both address the procurement of food services at federal facilities: (1) the Randolph-Sheppard Vending Facility Act of 1936 (RSA), and (2) the Javits Wagner O’Day Act (JWOD). The parties disagreed as to which of these statutes governed the award of the Fort Riley food services contract. And due to events that have occurred since this action was filed, the parties also disputed whether this appeal was rendered moot. The Tenth Circuit concluded that the issue raised by this appeal fell within an exception to the mootness doctrine for matters capable of repetition yet evading review. Because an arbitration panel has since issued its decision thereby dissolving the injunction at issue in this appeal, the Court declined to address whether the district court correctly granted the injunction. View "Kansas Department for Children v. SourceAmerica" on Justia Law

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First Western Capital Management (“FWCM”), and its parent company First Western Financial, Inc. (collectively, “First Western”), sought a preliminary injunction against former employee Kenneth Malamed for misappropriating trade secrets. In 2008, FWCM acquired Financial Management Advisors, LLC (“FMA”), an investment firm Malamed founded in 1985 primarily to serve high net worth individuals and entities such as trusts and foundations. After selling FMA, Malamed worked for FWCM from 2008 until FWCM terminated him on September 1, 2016. In early 2016, a committee of FWCM directors began discussing the possibility of selling FWCM to another company. Although Malamed was not involved in these discussions, he learned about the potential sale and, in a meeting with other FWCM officers, expressed his displeasure with the buyer under consideration. Following the meeting, Malamed emailed his assistant asking her to print three copies of his client book, which contained the names and contact information for approximately 5,000 FWCM contacts. Of these contacts, 331 were current FWCM clients and roughly half of those had been clients of FMA before First Western acquired it. The printout also contained spreadsheets that included, among other information, client names, the total market value of their holdings under management, and the fees being charged by FWCM. On September 1, 2016, shortly after Malamed’s employment contract expired, First Western fired him. That same day, First Western served him with a complaint it had filed in federal court a month earlier, alleging misappropriation of trade secrets under the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (“DTSA”), and the Colorado Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“CUTSA”), breach of employment contract, and breach of fiduciary duty. First Western moved for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to prevent Malamed from soliciting FWCM’s clients. The district court excused First Western from demonstrating irreparable harm (one of the four elements a party seeking injunctive relief is typically required to prove) and granted the injunction. As applied here, the Tenth Circuit determined that if First Western could not show irreparable harm, it cannot obtain injunctive relief. The district court should not have entered the preliminary injunction here. View "First Western Capital v. Malamed" on Justia Law

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Darnell O’Connor pled guilty to violating 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), which bars felons from possessing firearms. The Government argued O’Connor’s sentence should have been enhanced under section 2K2.1(a)(4)(A) of the United States Sentencing Guidelines because he had a prior felony conviction for robbery, which was deemed a “crime of violence.” The district court agreed and sentenced O’Connor to 32 months in prison. On appeal, O’Connor argued his prior robbery conviction was not a “crime of violence” under the Guidelines. The Tenth Circuit agreed, vacated his sentence and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. O'Connor" on Justia Law

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The Santa Cruz Operation, Inc. (Santa Cruz) entered into a business arrangement with International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) to develop a new operating system that would run on a more advanced processor manufactured by Intel Corporation (Intel). The parties signed an agreement memorializing this relationship, calling it “Project Monterey.” Another technology company, The SCO Group, Inc. (SCO), then acquired Santa Cruz’s intellectual property assets and filed this lawsuit for IBM’s alleged misconduct during and immediately after Project Monterey. SCO accused IBM of stealing and improperly using source code developed as part of the Project to strengthen its own operating system, thereby committing the tort of unfair competition by means of misappropriation. The district court awarded summary judgment to IBM on this claim based on the independent tort doctrine, which barred a separate tort action where there was no violation of a duty independent of a party’s contractual obligations. SCO also accused IBM of disclosing Santa Cruz’s proprietary materials to the computer programming community for inclusion in its Linux open-source operating system. In a separate order, finding insufficient evidence of actionable interference by IBM, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of IBM on these tortious interference claims. Finally, after the deadline for amended pleadings in this case, SCO sought leave to add a new claim for copyright infringement based on the allegedly stolen source code from Project Monterey. SCO claimed it had only discovered the essential facts to support this claim in IBM’s most recent discovery disclosures. The district court rejected SCO’s proposed amendment for failure to show good cause. SCO appealed. After review, the Tenth Circuit reversed the district court’s order awarding IBM summary judgment on the misappropriation claim, and affirmed as to all other issues. View "SCO Group v. IBM" on Justia Law

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Defendant Kenneth Hardin was the senior manager of the Civil Rights Division for the Regional Transportation District in Colorado (RTD). Lucilious Ward was the owner–operator of a busing company that had been certified as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise and Small Business Enterprise. Ward was also a manufacturing representative for a Chinese manufacturer of automobiles and rechargeable batteries. In 2008, Ward’s busing company contracted with RTD as a service provider for a program that provided local bus transportation in Denver for people with disabilities. From that point on, Ward paid Defendant monthly bribes in exchange for his help. When the "Access-a-Ride" contract expired in 2014 and Ward received his final check, Defendant called Ward to request an additional, final payment of $1,100. Unbeknownst to Defendant, Ward had pled guilty to tax evasion. Hoping to receive a reduced sentence in his tax case, Ward relayed Defendant’s request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which began using him as a confidential informant to investigate Defendant for bribery. Defendant was indicted on four counts relating to committing bribery involving a program that receives federal funds. The four counts correlated to four meetings he had with Ward about RTD’s request for proposal for a shuttle-bus contract. Count 1 charged Defendant with accepting a bribe of $1,100; he was acquitted on this count. However, the jury found Defendant guilty as to Counts 2–4, which were based on Ward’s bribes relating to the proposed shuttle-bus contract. After return of the guilty verdicts, Defendant moved for a judgment of acquittal, arguing that, because of his acquittal on Count 1, the government had not shown that the bribes he solicited met the $5,000 threshold set by statute. The district court denied Defendant’s motion, holding that the jury could reasonably have concluded that the bribes were intended to influence the selection of bids for the shuttle-bus contract and that the value of this contract exceeded $5,000. Defendant timely appealed. View "United States v. Hardin" on Justia Law

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The Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) closed an area of Recapture Canyon to all-terrain vehicles (“ATVs”) in 2007, to prevent soil damage and the spoliation of archeological resources near the trail. Frustrated with what had been billed as a temporary closure, in 2014, certain individuals planned an ATV ride to protest the BLM’s closure order. The ride took place in May 2014. Defendant-appellant Phil Lyman, a County Commissioner for San Juan County, was a major promoter of the ride. He was charged along with Defendant-appellant Monte Wells in a misdemeanor criminal information with operating ATVs on lands closed to such use by the BLM and conspiring to do so. A jury found both men guilty of the charged offenses, for which they were sentenced them to terms of probation and brief terms of imprisonment. They were also ordered to pay restitution for the costs of assessing and repairing the damage that the protest ride caused to the land. On appeal, defendants brought a variety of challenges to their convictions and the restitution order: asking ask for a new trial because they claimed a reasonable observer allegedly would have questioned the district court judge’s impartiality (the judge did ultimately recuse before their sentencing). Furthermore, they appealed the denial of their motions to dismiss; they made a “Brady” claim stemming from the government’s failure to produce a map showing a possible public right-of-way through Recapture Canyon (which allegedly would have called into question whether the BLM’s 2007 closure order was lawful); they challenged the district court’s restitution order and the amount they were ordered to pay; and, lastly, Lyman argued he was denied constitutionally adequate counsel. The Tenth Circuit found none of defendants’ arguments were grounds for reversal of the district court’s judgment, and affirmed. View "United States v. Wells" on Justia Law

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Defendant Kathleen Stegman was convicted by a jury of two counts of evading her personal taxes for the tax years 2007 and 2008. Stegman was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 51 months, to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release. The district court also ordered Stegman to pay a $100,000 fine, plus restitution in the amount of $68,733. Stegman established several limited liability corporations pertaining to a “medical aesthetics” business she owned, using these corporations to effectively launder client payments. As part of this process, Stegman would use the corporations to purchase money orders, typically in denominations of $500 or less, that she in turn used to purchase items for personal use. In 2007, Stegman purchased 162 money orders totaling $77,181.92. In 2008, she purchased 252 money orders totaling $121,869.99. And in 2009, she purchased 157 money orders totaling $73,697.31. Notably, Stegman reported zero cash income on her federal income tax returns during each of these years. At the conclusion of the evidence, the jury convicted Stegman of evading her personal taxes for the tax years 2007 and 2008 (Counts 4 and 5), as well as evading corporate taxes for the tax years 2008 and 2009 (Counts 1 and 2). The jury acquitted Stegman of evading corporate taxes for the tax year 2010 (Count 3). The jury also acquitted Stegman and Smith of the conspiracy charge (Count 6). Stegman moved for judgment of acquittal or, in the alternative, a new trial. The district court granted the motion as to the two counts that related to the evasion of corporate taxes (Counts 1 and 2), but denied the remainder of the motion. In doing so, the district court chose to acquit Stegman of the corporate tax evasion counts not due to a lack of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt that this corporation evaded taxes,” but rather because “the indictment itself was flawed in attributing the loss as due and owing by Ms. Stegman, when actually it was due and owing by the corporation.” Stegman raised five issues on appeal, four of which pertain to her convictions and one of which pertained to her sentence. Although several of these issues require extensive discussion due to their fact-intensive nature, the Tenth Circuit concluded that all of these issues lacked merit. View "United States v. Stegman" on Justia Law