U.S. Tenth Circuit

U.S. Tenth Circuit - The FindLaw 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog


A large display of the Ten Commandments on the city hall lawn in Bloomfield, New Mexico, violates the Constitution's Establishment Clause, the Tenth Circuit ruled recently in an unanimous decision penned by Judge David M. Ebel. The display, which weighs 3,400 pounds and stands 5-feet tall, was erected by private donors and was marked with a small disclaimer that the lawn had been opened to the public for the display of monuments "that reflect the City's history of law and government."

That was not good enough for the Tenth Circuit. In response to a lawsuit by two polytheistic, Wiccan town residents, the court ruled that the monument, despite being privately sponsored, was government speech and an impermissible endorsement of religion.

The Rocky Mountain High was popularized long before Colorado legalized recreational marijuana. After all, what is the Centennial State if not the perfect place for stoners, snowboarders, and fast food chains?

But Colorado's pot-friendly status doesn't justify pulling over out-of-state drivers with Colorado plates, the Tenth Circuit ruled recently, throwing out two Kansas Highway Patrol officers' claims of qualified immunity after they cited Colorado plates as a reason for stopping drivers.

10th Cir. Halts Albuquerque Rapid Transit at 11th Hour

The Tenth Circuit issued a temporary injunction that halted a rapid transit project in its tracks just days before shovels were set to hit the dirt. It's a feather in Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry's cap after his previous failed attempts to stop the ART.

This is hardly the last anyone will hear of this legal battle. After all, $120 million has already been sunk into this thing.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert can't withhold federal funds from the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, the Tenth Circuit ruled last week. The governor had instructed Utah officials to withhold $272,000 in so-called "pass-through" federal funds designated for STD treatment and sex education.

The move came shortly after conservative activists released video of Planned Parenthood discussing the use of fetal tissue in medical research, leading to a national uproar and attempts in several states to deny funding to Planned Parenthood-affiliated programs.

10th Cir. Dismisses Class Toxic Tort Claims for Lack of Standing

Noting that a reasonable concern of injury does not satisfy the need to plead an actual or imminent injury, the Tenth Circuit affirmed a lower court dismissal of a class action suit against an industrial defendant. The ruling was with prejudice, too.

As any practitioner knows, causation must be alleged in order to support a cause of action. This seems to be something that the plaintiffs' lawyer forgot in this case.

Gov't Asking About Past Sex Crimes Is Unconstitutional, 10th Cir. Rules

A stunning case was recently decided by the Tenth Circuit in which the federal court ruled that a convicted sex offender facing an 'authentic danger of self-incrimination' cannot be forced by the government to answer questions regarding past sexual crimes. It's a clear line drawn in the sand.

In our view, the decision by the circuit court was the correct one and that the circuit correctly reversed the lower court's ludicrous finding that the subject's answers would not present a "real and appreciable risk of incrimination."

Digital Publisher Isn't Liable for Freelancers With No Oversight

The Tenth Circuit recently handed down a decision that could present a wonderful business opportunity to some enterprising online "journalism" sites.

The circuit court's opinion will likely stand for the rule that outfits like Examiner.com can drape themselves within a safe-harbor cloak when their independent contractors run afoul of copyright laws.

10th Cir. Brushes off Kansas Religious Education Case

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an Establishment Clause case against the Kansas Board of Education brought after the state sought to adopt curriculum standards for K-12 science instruction. Those standards, some parents claimed, "breached the parent's trust" and would result in "anti-religious instruction."

It didn't take long before the circuit affirmed for the Board.

In 'Sister Wives' Case, 10th Circuit Recriminalizes Polygamy in Utah

The Brown family of Lehi, Utah first became known to most Americans through the TLC reality television series Sister Wives. The show (which still airs) documents the lives of members of the Browns, a polygamist family made up of husband-patriarch Kody Brown, his four wives, and their eighteen children.

The Browns claimed that part of their impetus in participating in the show was to help dispel fears and prejudices about polygamist families and to quell controversy. Rather ironically, the show would lead to the case of Brown v. Buhman. This week, the Tenth Circuit ruled that the family had no standing to sue.

Officers Not Immune From Suit in New Mexico Taser Case

The Tenth Circuit affirmed a lower court's ruling that two police officers were not immune from suit when they taser-shot a mentally ill man at least ten times within two minutes.

This case doesn't come as much of a shock as other courts have recently acheived similar rulings. For example, the Fourth Circuit recently found no qualified immunity for police officer who tased without reason.