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Plaintiff Diane Smith, a former employee of the Pointe Frontier assisted living facility in Cheyenne, Wyoming, filed suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging that she was unlawfully terminated by Pointe Frontier in 2014 in retaliation for filing a complaint with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) in 2012. Finding that Smith had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies, the district court dismissed her claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and, in the alternative, found that there was no genuine issue of material fact and granted summary judgment for Defendant. After review of the district court record, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s decision that Plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies, and remanded this case with instructions to vacate the order and dismiss the suit without prejudice. View "Smith v. Cheyenne Retirement Investors" on Justia Law

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Ryan Lee sued four Sheriff’s Deputies, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of his First and Fourth Amendment rights. On July 4, 2014, Lee and his wife, Tamila Lee, attended a barbecue where they consumed alcohol. After the couple returned home, an altercation broke out over a set of car keys. Tamila, in an attempt to keep her husband from driving, blocked him from exiting their home, and a physical struggle ensued. Deputies Mark O’Harold and Todd Tucker arrived first and entered the home with Tamila’s consent. Shortly afterward, Deputies Amanda Weiss and Chad Walker also arrived at the Lees’ home and separated the Lees for questioning. Lee was largely uncooperative. Tucker attempted to detain him, and another struggle broke out. O’Harold and Weiss, hearing a commotion, reentered the home. O’Harold applied an arm bar hold to Lee. Lee collided with the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator, and Weiss then struck him twice in the shoulder in an effort to force him to let go of the refrigerator. O’Harold also struck Lee twice in the neck. Tucker drew his Taser and applied it three to five times to Lee’s back, with each application lasting approximately three, five, and eight seconds respectively. Lee then lost consciousness. Throughout the incident, Walker observed but did not intervene. Weiss then handcuffed Lee and escorted him to Weiss’ squad car. Lee subsequently pled guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence. The district court granted the motion as to Lee’s First Amendment retaliation claim and the portion of his excessive force claim based on handcuffing, but denied it as to the remainder of his excessive force claim. The district court concluded that the facts remaining in dispute, when viewed in the light most favorable to Lee, precluded a grant of qualified immunity. Defendants appealed. The Tenth Circuit determined it lacked interlocutory appellate jurisdiction to review the district court’s determination of evidentiary sufficiency at the summary judgment stage. As to the purely legal challenge defendants raised on appeal, the Court concluded the district court correctly held that defendants used excessive force and did so in violation of clearly established law. The appeal was dismissed as to the factual challenges, and affirmed in all other respects. View "Lee v. Tucker" on Justia Law

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Two years after the district court denied class certification, the parties settled the individual claims. After settling, the parties jointly asked the court to enter a stipulated judgment dismissing with prejudice the Trusts’ individual claims, and the court did so. In the judgment, the Trusts reserved any right they may have to appeal the district court’s class-certification denial. The Trusts now appealed that denial, contending that the class-certification order merged with the stipulated judgment dismissing their individual claims, resulting in a final, appealable order under 28 U.S.C. 1291. Relying on Microsoft Corp. v. Baker, 137 S. Ct. 1702 (2017), the Tenth Circuit held that it lacked statutory appellate jurisdiction to review the district court’s order denying class certification. "Voluntarily dismissing the Trusts’ individual claims with prejudice after settling them doesn’t convert the class-certification denial—an inherently interlocutory order—into a final decision under 28 U.S.C. 1291." The Court dismissed this appeal. View "Anderson Living Trust v. WPX Energy Production" on Justia Law

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Defendant Daederick Lacy was charged with three felony counts stemming from his prostitution of teenage girls. The jury convicted him on all three counts, and he was sentenced to a total of 293 months of imprisonment. On appeal, Defendant challenged his conviction on each count, arguing Count 1 should be reversed because: (1) the district court did not provide the jury with a technical definition of “sex act” to guide its verdict and (2) there was insufficient evidence to support the jury’s finding that his sixteen-year-old victim engaged in sex acts with her clients. He argued Count 2 should have been reversed because the district court allowed two law enforcement officers to testify about what the victim told them the day after she committed an act of prostitution arranged by Defendant. Finally, he argued Count 3 should have been reversed for insufficiency of the evidence. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed Lacy's convictions. View "United States v. Lacy" on Justia Law

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Jason Williams and Foreclosure Connection, Inc. (“FCI”) appealed the district court’s judgment in favor of the Secretary of Labor. FCI was a Utah company that bought real estate, renovated homes, and rented or resold properties. Williams was the manager and part owner of FCI, responsible for hiring and firing decisions. Jack Erickson was FCI’s foreman. Mychal Barber Sr. and his teenaged son, Mychal Scott Barber Jr., began doing construction work for FCI in the summer of 2015. The Barbers became dissatisfied with working conditions at FCI, and in particular, with the company’s failure to pay overtime wages. On July 7, 2015, they submitted a complaint to the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor (“DOL”), alleging that FCI’s failure to pay overtime wages violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). The following morning, Erickson told the Barbers not to report to work because there was not enough work for them to do. Later that day, DOL investigator Sheffield Keith met with Williams at FCI’s offices, requesting certain records, including information on FCI’s employees. Williams responded that FCI did not have any employees, and that all of its workers were independent contractors. Later that night, the Barbers called Erickson, who told them they were terminated. Erickson explained that Williams blamed the Barbers for reporting the company to DOL. On July 15, an employee surreptitiously recorded a meeting Williams held with his workers. Williams instructed the group to refuse to cooperate in DOL’s investigation. He also circulated independent contractor agreements to the workers, requested that they sign the agreements but leave them undated, and told them to claim they could not remember when they signed. FCI submitted contractor agreements to DOL, including an agreement for Barber Sr. with what appeared to be a forged signature. In September 2015, DOL filed a complaint alleging that FCI had obstructed its investigation and retaliated against its employees, including the Barbers. Following a bench trial, the district court ruled in favor of DOL. It imposed a permanent injunction, awarded $3,530.23 in back pay to Barber Jr. plus an equal amount of liquidated damages, and awarded $80,992.55 in back pay to Barber Sr. plus an equal amount of liquidated damages. Defendants timely appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the DOL. View "Acosta v. Foreclosure Connection" on Justia Law

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Oklahoma charged Raye Smith with several child abuse charges stemming from the death of her two-year-old daughter, Kelsey, who died from blunt force trauma to the abdomen. Kelsey’s death, and Smith’s subsequent trial, generated substantial public interest and publicity. In the end, a jury convicted Smith of enabling child abuse. Smith moved for a new trial based on claims of juror misconduct and jurors’ exposure to information outside the courtroom. To support her contention, Smith provided affidavits from trial attendees who alleged some jurors were sleeping during the trial. Smith also claimed the out-of-court publicity tainted the verdict. Smith requested an evidentiary hearing from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (OCCA), which granted with respect to the publicity issue, but refused on the sleeping-juror issue, finding the trial judge's statement on the issue adequately refuted the allegations. Ultimately, the OCCA denied relief. Turning to the Tenth Circuit, Smith sought habeas relief, reiterating the sleeping juror issue, and arguing she received ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to bringing the sleeping juror to the trial judge's attention. Smith also argued the trial publicity violated her rights to an impartial jury and due process. Finding that the OCCA did not base its denial of Smith's claims on an unreasonable determination of the facts, and that the OCCA's opinion was contrary to or unreasonably applied clearly established federal law, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the OCCA. View "Smith v. Aldridge" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Aaron Lewis, Jr., a federal prisoner acting pro se, sought a certificate of appealability to appeal the district court’s denial of his section 2255 petition. In 2010, Petitioner pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court found Petitioner to be an armed career criminal based on two prior drug convictions and one burglary conviction and sentenced him to 188 months of imprisonment. He did not appeal his conviction. In this habeas petition, Petitioner sought sentencing relief based on Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015), which invalidated the residual clause of 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(2)(B). The gravamen of his argument was that he was entitled to Johnson relief because the necessary third prior conviction for burglary under Kansas statute 21-3715 only qualified as a violent felony under the now-void residual clause. Petitioner also contended the district court erred in holding that Mathis v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 2243 (2016), was not retroactively applicable on collateral review. Having granted the COA, the Tenth Circuit nevertheless denied Petitioner’s appeal on the merits. Though Petitioner asserted a timely Johnson claim, he did not establish a Johnson error, meaning that the Court's analysis could not go further than the initial, historical evaluation of the sentencing court’s decision. Petitioner was sentenced in 2010; Mathis was decided in 2016. Because Mathis was a “post-sentencing decision” that was not part of the “controlling law . . . at the time of sentencing,” and as such, the Court did not apply it on collateral review. View "United States v. Lewis" on Justia Law

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Belsen Getty, LLC, a registered investment adviser owned by Terry Deru, obtained a claims-made financial-services-liability policy (the Policy) from XL Specialty Insurance Company covering Belsen Getty and its advisers for the period for one year. Under the policy, XL had no duty to defend. During the policy period James, Jenalyn, and Wade Morden brought claims against Belsen Getty and Deru alleging improper and misleading investment advice. XL denied coverage, asserting the Mordens’ claims and claims brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) before the policy period concerned “Interrelated Wrongful Acts,” as defined by the Policy, and that the Policy therefore required treating the two claims as one claim made before the policy period. Belsen Getty and Deru then settled with the Mordens, assigning their rights against XL; and the Mordens sued XL in federal district court, raising the assigned claims that XL breached its covenant of good faith and fair dealing and its fiduciary duties to Belsen Getty and Deru in denying coverage under the Policy. XL counterclaimed that the Policy’s Interrelated Wrongful Acts provision precluded coverage. The Mordens moved for partial summary judgment on the counterclaim and on several of XL's affirmative defenses. XL moved for summary judgment based on the policy and for failure to prove bad faith or breach of fiduciary duty. The district court denied XL's counterclaim, but granted summary judgment on the bad-faith and fiduciary-duty claims. The Mordens appealed summary judgment against them on their bad-faith and fiduciary-duty claims and on the denial of their motion to amend their complaint to add a breach-of-contract claim. XL cross-appealed the summary judgment against it on its counterclaim that the Policy’s Interrelated Wrongful Acts provision barred all the Mordens’ claims. The Tenth Circuit reversed the denial of XL’s motion for summary judgment on its counterclaim: this reversal undermined the Mordens’ challenges to the summary judgment against them and the denial of their motion to amend. The Court therefore affirmed summary judgment against the Mordens on their claims and the denial of their motion to amend. View "Morden v. XL Specialty Insurance" on Justia Law

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This appeal presented a question of whether established law supported Plaintiff Joseph Leiser's claim that two jail officials in Coffey County, Kansas, violated his constitutional rights by disclosing medical information about him that they had properly obtained. Plaintiff was set to be extradited from Illinois to Kansas, and the Kansas jail requested Illinois arrange for multiple medical examinations of Plaintiff to determine whether he had suffered injuries after being tasered by U.S. Marshals. The Kansas official learned Plaintiff had bone lesions and possibly cancer. This information was conveyed to the Coffey County Sheriff, who conveyed it to Coffey County Hospital, then to Plaintiff's family and friends, without first obtaining Plaintiff's permission. The Tenth Circuit determined the prison officials were entitled to qualified immunity, and dismissed his case. View "Leiser v. Moore" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Wendell Grissom, with the assistance of a man he had just met, randomly selected a rural Oklahoma home to burglarize. Upon realizing that the home was occupied by two women and two minor children, Grissom shot his way into the home, killing one woman and seriously injuring the other. After the injured woman was able to escape in Grissom’s own vehicle, Grissom and his accomplice fled on a stolen all-terrain vehicle. Grissom and his accomplice were arrested shortly thereafter. Grissom was tried and convicted in Oklahoma state court of first degree murder, shooting with intent to kill, possession of a firearm after former conviction of a felony, and larceny of a motor vehicle after two or more previous felony convictions. Grissom was sentenced to death for the first degree murder conviction, and sentenced him to lengthy prison sentences for the other convictions. After exhausting his state court remedies through a direct appeal and a single application for state post-conviction relief, Grissom filed a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus, which was denied. However, the district court granted him a certificate of appealability (COA) with respect to one issue. The Tenth Circuit granted Grissom a COA with respect to two additional issues. Finding no reason to disturb the district court’s order, the Tenth Circuit affirmed denial of habeas relief. View "Grissom v. Carpenter" on Justia Law