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Northern Natural Gas Company initiated proceedings against a number of parties to condemn certain rights relating to the storage of natural gas in and under more than 9,000 acres of land in southeast Kansas, known as the Cunningham Storage Field. Northern Natural Gas brought this action under the Natural Gas Act of 1938 (NGA), 15 U.S.C. 717 et seq. A three-person commission was appointed to determine the appropriate condemnation award, and the district court adopted the commission’s findings and recommendations in full. Both sides appealed, asserting various arguments in support of their positions that the award either over- or under-compensated the Landowners and Producers. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded: the condemnation award should not have included either (1) the value of storage gas in and under the Cunningham Field on the date of taking, or (2) the lost value of producing such gas after the date of certification, because certification extinguished any property interests the Landowners and Producers may have held in the gas before that date. But the Court agreed with the award’s inclusion of value for Extension Area tracts based on their potential use for gas storage and buffer rights, the commission’s valuation for the eight Extension Area wells, and the district court’s denial of attorneys’ fees. View "Northern Natural Gas v. Approximately 9117 Acres" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Defendant Ann Marie McNeal under 18 U.S.C. 922(d)(1) for disposing of a firearm to her son, a convicted felon. Her primary claim on appeal was that evidence seized from her home under a search warrant should have been suppressed. The affidavit supporting the warrant was based largely on statements she made when interviewed by law-enforcement officers; she argued that some of what she said was improperly coerced by the officers and that the affidavit included false descriptions of her statements. The Tenth Circuit concluded that police did not coerce defendant when they told her of their reasonable belief she could be prosecuted for providing false information to them. Finding no other reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction. View "United States v. McNeal (Ann Marie)" on Justia Law

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Philip White obtained a judgment for $100,000 in compensatory damages and moved for an award of prejudgment interest. The district court denied the motion, viewing the bulk of the award as compensation for noneconomic damages. White argued on appeal to the Tenth Circuit that the Court should: (1) overrule earlier opinions and find that prejudgment interest was always available for compensatory awards under 42 U.S.C. 1983; or (2) conclude that the district court abused its discretion in disallowing prejudgment interest. The Court rejected both of White's arguments, finding it could not overrule published opinions by other Tenth Circuit panels. Applying an abuse-of-discretion standard, the Tenth Circuit concluded: (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying prejudgment interest on the award of noneconomic compensatory damages; and (2) the district court could reasonably decline to speculate on the amount the jury had regarded as economic damages. View "White v. Wycoff" on Justia Law

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This case presented the question whether Oklahoma’s drive-by shooting statute, Okla. Stat. tit. 21, sec. 652(B), qualified as a violent felony under the federal Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). In 2004, defendant-appellant Britt Hammons pleaded guilty in federal court to possessing a firearm as a felon. His criminal history included three prior convictions under Oklahoma’s drive-by shooting statute. At the time of sentencing, Hammons qualified for the ACCA’s fifteen-year mandatory minimum sentence because his prior convictions would have met the definition of “violent felony” under the ACCA’s residual clause. The district court thus imposed the ACCA enhancement, but the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the residual clause in Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015). Because the residual clause could not be relied upon for the enhancement, Hammons sought to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. sec. 2255. On collateral review, the district court concluded that Hammons nevertheless qualified for the enhancement because his state-law convictions were violent felonies under the elements clause of the ACCA. The Tenth Circuit agreed, finding that a conviction under Oklahoma’s drive-by shooting statute categorically qualified as a violent felony under the elements clause of the ACCA. View "United States v. Hammons" on Justia Law

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This case involved claims brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) by a temporary employee whose assignment by a staffing agency to work as the receptionist for another business was terminated after she missed a significant amount of work while being tested for breast cancer and informed the agency that, due to her cancer, she needed to take a full week plus an additional unknown amount of time off for more tests, appointments, and radiation treatments. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the staffing agency and the business on both of these claims. The employee appealed that ruling, and finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Punt v. Kelly Services" on Justia Law

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In 2014, an FBI agent served a grand-jury subpoena on Defendant Dakota Williston while he was being held in jail on state charges unrelated to a crime that the grand jury was investigating. Williston appeared before the grand jury. Before the federal prosecutor began asking Williston any questions, he reviewed on the record Williston’s rights with him. Williston affirmed that he understood all that information. The prosecutor then moved on to his substantive questions, starting out by asking if Williston wanted to tell the grand jury his story. The prosecutor’s belief stemmed from Williston’s prior affirmation to the second FBI agent that he planned to testify rather than invoke his Fifth Amendment rights. Williston then gave his account of the death of Payton Cockrell. Six months after Williston’s testimony, the grand jury indicted Williston for Payton’s murder. Williston filed a pretrial motion to suppress his grand-jury testimony. A magistrate judge recommended the denial of the motion, and the district court adopted the recommendation and denied the motion. Defendant argued that Miranda should have applied to protect grand-jury targets who were confined on unrelated criminal charges. Defendant argued that the district court erred at trial by not suppressing his grand-jury testimony, because the government failed to provide him Miranda warnings before that testimony. In rejecting defendant's argument, the Tenth Circuit held that the rule rendering Miranda inapplicable to grand-jury witnesses extended to persons who were incarcerated for unrelated reasons when they are subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury. The Court also rejected Defendant’s other challenges to his conviction and sentence based on the Sixth Amendment right to counsel, unfairly prejudicial evidence, the evidentiary rule of completeness, and the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. View "United States v. Williston" on Justia Law

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In 2010, the Kansas Disciplinary Administrator filed a formal complaint against plaintiff-appellant Phillip Kline for violations of the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct (KRPC). A panel held a disciplinary hearing in two phases from February to July 2011. In October, it released a 185-page report finding multiple violations of the KRPC. It recommended an indefinite suspension from the practice of law. Kline filed exceptions to the report. The case went to the Kansas Supreme Court. In May 2012, Kline moved to recuse five justices based on participation in earlier cases involving him, arguing recusal would “not hinder [his] appeal from being heard” because “the Supreme Court may assign a judge of the court of the appeals or a district judge to serve temporarily on the supreme court.” The five justices voluntarily recused. In November 2012, Kline argued his case before the Kansas Supreme Court. In October 2013, the court found “clear and convincing evidence that Kline committed 11 KRPC violations.” It ordered indefinite suspension. In February 2014, Kline moved to vacate or dismiss the judgment, claiming the court was unlawfully composed because Justice Biles lacked authority to appoint replacement judges. The Clerk of the Kansas Appellate Courts did not docket the motion because the case was closed. In March, Kline petitioned for certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, alleging due process and free speech violations. The Supreme Court denied the petition. In October 2015, Kline sued in federal district court, asserting ten counts for declaratory and injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Counts one through nine attacked the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision. Count ten was a “prospective challenge” to the “unconstitutionally vague” Kansas Supreme Court Rule 219. The district court dismissed count three as a non-justiciable political question. It dismissed the other nine counts for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Kline appealed, but finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Kline v. Biles" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Ralph Rogerson, a licensed pest-control applicator in Kansas, challenged a regulation of the Kansas Department of Agriculture on the ground that it required excessive pesticide treatment in preconstruction applications. He filed suit for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Secretary of the Department, claiming that the regulation: (1) was preempted by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) because it conflicted with pesticide labels approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); and (2) was preempted by the Sherman Antitrust Act because it limited consumer choice and competition through retail price maintenance. The United States District Court for the District of Kansas rejected both claims, and Plaintiff appealed. The Tenth Circuit affirmed: the Kansas regulation was neither expressly nor impliedly preempted by FIFRA. And Plaintiff conceded the absence of an essential element of his Sherman Act claim. View "Schoenhofer v. McClaskey" on Justia Law

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After settlement of a class action for royalties from gas wells, the federal district court for the Western District of Oklahoma awarded attorney fees to class counsel and an incentive award to the lead plaintiff to be paid out of the common fund shared by class members. The court rejected claims by two objectors, and they appealed. Finding the district court failed to compute attorney fees under the lodestar method, as required by Oklahoma law in this diversity case, and the incentive award was unsupported by the record, the Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded. View "Chieftain Royalty v. Enervest Energy" on Justia Law

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One form of allocution involves a trial court’s announcement of a definitive sentence before giving the defendant an opportunity to make his statement: this sequence creates a violation unless the court communicates its willingness to reconsider the sentence in light of what the defendant says. In the second form, the trial court announces a purportedly tentative sentence, but makes further statements suggesting that the court might have already made a decision. This was what took place here when Jesus Octavio Valdez-Aguirre was to be sentenced for drug conspiracy. Defendant did not object to this, and appealed to the Tenth Circuit. After review of the trial court record, the Tenth Circuit found no plain error in the judgment and affirmed. View "United States v. Valdez-Aguirre" on Justia Law