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Plaintiff Marcia Eisenhour worked for 24 years as a court administrator for the Weber County Justice Court. In 2008, she complained to the county attorney about sexual harassment by Judge Craig Storey, the only judge of that court. The matter was referred to Utah’s Judicial Conduct Commission, which found no misconduct. Eisenhour then went public in 2009, and the press reported her allegations. Several months later, three Weber County Commissioners, defendants Craig Deardon, Kenneth Bischoff, and Jan Zogmaister, voted to close the Justice Court and merge it with a similar court in another county. This eventually left Eisenhour without a job. Eisenhour sued Storey, Weber County, and the three commissioners who voted to close the Justice Court, raising a variety of claims. The district court granted summary judgment against Eisenhour on all claims, and she appealed. The Tenth Circuit reversed in part. At the trial on the remanded claims, the jury rendered verdicts for Eisenhour on the equal-protection harassment claim against Storey and the whistleblower claim against the County but found against her on the First Amendment retaliation claims against the County and the commissioners. The district court then granted a motion by the County for a new trial on the whistleblower claim, and it sua sponte ordered a new trial on the retaliation claims against the County and the commissioners. At the retrial on those claims the court granted the commissioners’ motion for judgment as a matter of law under Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b) on the retaliation claim against them, and the jury found for the County on the whistleblower and retaliation claims against it. Storey raised two issues on appeal: (1) the denial of his motion for judgment as a matter of law because the evidence against him was insufficient; and (2) the admission into evidence of a poem he had written concerning Eisenhour. Eisenhour raised three issues: (1) the judge who presided at the first trial should have recused himself after the jury rendered its verdict in that trial; (2) her second trial was unfair because of the district court’s evidentiary rulings; and (3) at the second trial the district court should not have granted the commissioners a judgment as a matter of law but should have let the claim go to the jury. The Tenth Circuit rejected all challenges by both parties except dismissal of a punitive-damages claim. View "Eisenhour v. Weber County" on Justia Law

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Darrell Havens, a former Colorado state prisoner, appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment against his claims of discrimination on the basis of his disability. Havens claimed certain decisions and policies of the Colorado Department of Corrections (“CDOC”) caused him to be excluded from access to the facilities and services available to able-bodied inmates of the Colorado prison system, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Rehabilitation Act. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded: (1) Havens’s Title II claim was barred by Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity; and (2) Havens failed to make the requisite showing of intentional discrimination under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Therefore, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court in full. View "Havens v. CDOC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Rights

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A jury convicted Shane Roach of coercing D.G. into prostitution. Roach recruited D.G. and, with help from Angela Santillanes, prostituted D.G. to clients. D.G. became scared and reached out for help, leading to Roach’s and Santillanes’s arrests. The Government charged Roach and Santillanes, but after Santillanes agreed to testify against Roach, it dropped her charge. At trial, Roach attempted to cross-examine Santillanes about three topics. The Government successfully objected. On appeal, Roach argued the district court’s rulings preventing cross-examination violated: (1) the Confrontation Clause; and (2) the Federal Rules of Evidence, and because these errors were not harmless, the Tenth Circuit had to vacate his conviction and remand for a new trial. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded: (1) Roach waived his Confrontation Clause arguments; and (2) any error in limiting his cross-examination under the evidence rules was harmless. Accordingly, the Court affirmed his conviction. View "United States v. Roach" on Justia Law

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Chester Bailey Jr. was employed by the Independent School District No. 69 of Canadian County Oklahoma (“the School District”) as Director of Athletics from 2009 to 2016. Throughout his career, Bailey received positive evaluations, indicating that he “exhibited strong leadership abilities,” “demonstrat[ed] a high degree of integrity,” and was “an asset to the district.” Bailey's nephew, Dustin Graham, pled guilty in 2014 to various state charges largely stemming from video recordings he made of women in the bathroom of his apartment without their consent. Graham also pled guilty to a single count of manufacturing child pornography based on a video he recorded of a minor. There was considerable media coverage of Graham’s arrest, trial, and sentencing. During Graham’s sentencing proceedings in 2014, Bailey wrote a letter to the sentencing judge on Graham’s behalf. The School District does not issue its employees official letterhead but it was common practice for individuals to produce their own letterhead using the school logo and their titles. Bailey had created such a letterhead and used a sheet to write to Graham’s sentencing judge. The letter’s header contained the logo for the school district, and gave the address of the Department of Athletics and Bailey’s job title. More than thirty individuals wrote letters to the sentencing judge on Graham’s behalf, including his local state representative. In 2017, the Superintendent of Schools for the School District received a letter expressing concern that Bailey used School District letterhead in support of an individual convicted of a child pornography offense. The Superintended decided to recommend Bailey's termination, citing loss of trust in Bailey's judgment, for using the school letterhead to request leniency for Graham. After a due process hearing before the Board of Education, the Board terminated Bailey's employment. Bailey filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the School District and Superintendent, alleging wrongful termination in retaliation for speech protected by the First Amendment. Concluding that Bailey’s speech did not relate to a matter of public concern, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the School District and the Superintendent. Bailey timely appealed. The issue this case presented on appeal to the Tenth Circuit was whether a letter written by a public employee, seeking a reduced sentence for his relative, speech on a matter of public concern for the purposes of a First Amendment "Garcetti/Pickering" inquiry. The Court determined it was, and reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgement favoring the School District. Nonetheless, the Court affirmed the district court’s grant of qualified immunity to school superintendent Sean McDaniel because the law was not previously clearly established on this issue. View "Bailey v. Independent School District No. 69" on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs in consolidated appeals each settled a claim under their automobile-insurance policies with the defendants. But plaintiffs maintained the defendants illegally reduced their settlement offers by taking into account certain benefits they had previously paid plaintiffs. The district courts dismissed the plaintiffs’ putative class-action lawsuits after concluding the plaintiffs each waived their rights to collect further damages from the defendants on their settled claims. The Tenth Circuit reversed in part and remanded to the district court with instructions to vacate its judgment in favor of USAA Casualty Insurance Company because it lacked jurisdiction to hear the claims against that defendant. Otherwise, the Court affirmed. View "McCracken v. Progressive Direct Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Appellants, the Navajo Nation and its wholly-owned government enterprise the Northern Edge Navajo Casino (together, the “Tribe” or “Nation”), entered into a state-tribal gaming compact with New Mexico under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (“IGRA”). The Tribe agreed not only to waive its sovereign immunity for personal-injury lawsuits brought by visitors to its on-reservation gaming facilities, but also to permit state courts to take jurisdiction over such claims. Harold and Michelle McNeal were plaintiffs in such a state-court action against the Tribe. Mr. McNeal allegedly slipped on a wet floor in the Northern Edge Navajo Casino. This incident constituted the basis for the McNeals’ tort claims against the Nation for negligence, res ipsa loquitur, and loss of consortium. The Tribe moved to dismiss the McNeals’ complaint, arguing that the state court lacked jurisdiction because neither IGRA nor Navajo law permitted the shifting of jurisdiction to a state court over such personal-injury claims. The state court rejected that motion. In response, the Tribe sought declaratory relief in federal court on the basis of the same arguments. The district court granted summary judgment for the McNeals, holding that IGRA permitted tribes and states to agree to shift jurisdiction to the state courts and that Navajo law did not prohibit such an allocation of jurisdiction. Along with the jurisdictional issue, the parties also disputed: (1) whether IGRA permitted an Indian tribe to allocate jurisdiction over a tort claim arising on Indian land to a state court; and (2) assuming that IGRA did allow for such an allocation, whether the Navajo Nation Council (“NNC”) was empowered to shift jurisdiction to the state court under Navajo Law. The Tenth Circuit determined that IGRA, under its plain terms, did not authorize an allocation of jurisdiction over tort claims of the kind at issue here. Accordingly, the Tenth Circuit reversed the district court and remanded with instructions to grant the declaratory relief sought by the Nation. View "Navajo Nation v. Dalley" on Justia Law

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Robert Ukeiley owned property in Lamar, Colorado and suffered from a lung condition worsened by airborne particulates. Lamar experiences many windy days, and the resulting dust storms generate airborne particulate pollution that affects its residents. Due to this pollution, between the early 1990s and 2005 the Environmental Protection Agency designated Lamar as a nonattainment area under the Clean Air Act. To achieve attainment, Lamar needed to comply with National Ambient Air Quality Standards (Standards) promulgated by the EPA. The Standards impose a variety of regulatory requirements designed to reduce the exposure of the public to dangerous levels of airborne pollutants. To achieve compliance with the Standards, Colorado developed a state implementation plan in 1994. In 2002, Colorado requested the EPA to redesignate the Lamar area as an attainment area and submitted a ten-year maintenance plan to demonstrate expected compliance through 2015. The EPA approved the plan in 2005 and redesignated Lamar as an attainment area. In 2013, as part of its requirement for achieving attainment, Colorado submitted its second proposed ten-year maintenance plan for the Lamar area. Along with its submission, Colorado asked the EPA to exclude a number of days in which Lamar’s airborne pollutants exceeded the Standards. The EPA concurred on the request for some of the days and approved the plan in 2016. Ukeiley challenged that 2016 approval in his petition for review by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. He contended the EPA abused its discretion by granting Colorado’s request to exclude certain instances in which airborne dust exceeded the Standards. The Tenth Circuit concluded the EPA did not err in approving Colorado’s maintenance plan, holding the EPA’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act and its application of that interpretation were correct. Furthermore, the Court held the EPA’s regulations, related guidance, and the extensive administrative record all supported the EPA’s decision. Therefore, the Court denied Ukeiley’s petition for review. View "Ukeiley v. Env. Protection Agy." on Justia Law

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Defendant Edward McLinn appealed the district court’s denial of his motion to dismiss the indictment for failure to state an offense under Fed. R. Crim. P. 12(b)(3)(B)(v). In 2013, Lawrence, Kansas, police officers responded to a call at a local gas station to find McLinn wandering the premises wrapped only in a shower curtain. The officers observed that McLinn had "chemical burns on his person, bloodshot eyes, and other minor injuries[,]" but when they initially asked McLinn about drug use he responded that he had used methamphetamine "approximately 3 1⁄2 years" earlier, and that his symptoms were the result of having been cleaning his house with heavy cleaners. McLinn was taken to the emergency room for treatment; staff stated McLinn exhibited "extreme psychosis with visual hallucinations . . . auditory hallucinations . . . [and] paranoia." A hospital employee ultimately requested McLinn be placed in protective custody and ordered to undergo mental health evaluation at Osawatomie State Hospital. Two days later, a state court held a hearing to determine whether there was probable cause to believe McLinn should have been involuntarily committed. The state court ordered McLinn be detained at the state hospital until trial, "but in no event later than 14 days from the filing of the application [for involuntary commitment].” McLinn was discharged less than a week after he had originally been admitted. As part of the discharge process, McLinn was required to sign a document which included language indicating he would violate the law if, as a person who had been involuntarily civilly committed to possess a firearm. Roughly a year later, a number of City Commissioners in Lawrence began to receive a series of bizarre emails referring to firearms. Police launched an investigation, found McLinn's public Instagram account, on which he had posted several photos of himself with firearms. Police then arrested McLinn and charged him with, among other offenses, possession of a firearm by an individual who has been adjudicated as a mental defective and committed to a mental institution. McLinn moved to dismiss this count of the indictment for failure to state an offense. The district court denied the motion "without prejudice." Following this adverse ruling, McLinn entered a conditional guilty plea to this count of the indictment, reserving the right to appeal the denial of his motion to dismiss. The Tenth Circuit determined the district court mistakenly treated the dispositive issue in this case as a fact question properly reserved for the jury. The Court vacated the district court’s order and remanded for the district court to determine as a matter of law whether McLinn was: (1) adjudicated as a mental defective or (2) committed to any mental institution as those terms were used in 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(4). View "United States v. McLinn" on Justia Law

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Gary Clark was having a psychotic episode. His brother was having trouble subduing Clark, and called the Broken Arrow Policy to assist. When Clark charged at one of the officers with a knife, he was shot. Clark ultimately survived his gunshot wounds, but had not fully recovered. Clark sued, claiming a violation of a number of his constitutional, state-common-law, and federal-statutory rights. The district court granted summary judgment to Wagoner County Board of Commissioners, Wagoner County Sheriff Robert Colbert, and former Wagoner County Jail Nurse Vicki Holland on Clark’s claims against them. Given the undisputed facts, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded a reasonable jury could not find the officers violated Clark’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force. In addition, Clark failed to adequately brief issues necessary to justify reversal on his Oklahoma-tort and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) claims. Therefore, the Court affirmed summary judgment in favor of the governmental officials. View "Clark v. Colbert" on Justia Law

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Jesse Leaverton was convicted of three counts of bank robbery. At sentencing, the district court concluded that 18 U.S.C. 3559(c) applied because Leaverton had been previously convicted of two serious violent felonies, enhancing his sentence from a maximum of twenty years to a mandatory term of life imprisonment. Leaverton appealed, arguing that his prior conviction for Oklahoma manslaughter did not qualify under section 3559(c). The Oklahoma statute contained three subsections. The government argued that Leaverton was convicted under a subsection that applied when a killing is “perpetrated without a design to effect death, and in a heat of passion, but in a cruel and unusual manner, or by means of a dangerous weapon; unless it is committed under such circumstances as constitute excusable or justifiable homicide.” At sentencing, the district court found that Leaverton had been convicted under subsection two, which qualified as a serious violent felony and thus Leaverton met the requirements of section 3559(c). Leaverton argued section 3559(c)(2)(F)(i) required the crime of conviction be equivalent to voluntary federal manslaughter. The Tenth Circuit found that the Oklahoma statute (section 711(2)) bore some similarity to the second definition provided in the Model Penal Code, the section 711(2) heat of passion element differed markedly from that applicable to generic manslaughter. The Tenth Circuit could not say that a conviction under section 711(2) “necessarily involved facts equating to” generic manslaughter. As such, the Court concluded Leaverton's offense did not constitute manslaughter as that term was used in section 3559(c)(2)(F)(i). The Court reversed and remanded this case for resentencing. View "United States v. Leaverton" on Justia Law