U.S. Tenth Circuit

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


Okay, this is no surprise after Kitchen v. Herbert, the Utah gay marriage case that was argued at the same time as this appeal out of Oklahoma. But still, it's yet another chapter in the long battle for marriage equality, and the second federal circuit court of appeals ruling, both from the Tenth Circuit, to explicitly rule in favor of gay marriage.

Congrats, Oklahoma. Like it or not, you're second, and if we were putting bets on it, we'd guess you're headed for the Supreme Court, just like Utah is (and others will be).

We didn't think the battle for same-sex marriage could get any more odd than what transpired in Oregon: nobody but an openly gay judge argued in favor of that state's ban, at least until that same judge ruled against it a short time later, after noting that he had no plans to get married.

This might be close. In Boulder, Colorado, County Clerk Hillary Hall decided to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, even though that state's ban still stands. She did so after the Tenth Circuit ruled against a neighboring state, Utah, overturning that state's substantively similar ban. Interestingly enough, the Tenth Circuit also issued a stay in that case -- meaning marriage licenses still aren't being issued in Utah, though they are in Boulder, Colorado.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's dissent in the Hobby Lobby case was long. And some might say, lyrical. It also forebode a series of unintended consequences that could flow from the majority's holding: closely held corporations have religious rights and therefore, can't be forced to violate their religion by providing contraceptive coverage.

What does this hypothetical "parade of horribles" contain? And how likely are these predictions to come true?

While everyone's eyes were on the Supreme Court, and the last few days of its term, the Tenth Circuit just dropped an opinion that is just as important, if not more so, than the High Court's slate of cases: it just ruled that Utah's ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional.

The court's ruling is the first to come from one of our nation's appellate courts*, and should impact the states of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming.

It's been more than a decade. Two trips to the Tenth Circuit. And they still haven't sorted out the tab for a $1,791 verdict in a First Amendment dispute.

Years ago, possibly irked over a filed business deal with the county, Michael Zinna launched JeffcoExposed.com and ColoradoExposed.com, two citizen journalist muckraking sites dedicated to shining light on local corruption. And while many citizen journalists peddle in rambling nonsense, others actually prove to be more than a keyboard and an unfilled psychiatric prescription. Zinna won a local reporting award, obtained press credentials, and exposed a handful of scandals.

His reward? ColoradoWackoExposed.com, which targeted Zinna, was launched. Threats and intimidation followed. Zinna responded with First Amendment litigation.

An expedited appeal isn't going to stop third-parties from adding their two cents to the Kansas and Arizona Voter ID case.

Last month, the Tenth Circuit extended a stay against the states and granted an expedited appeal. At issue is whether the two states can pass voter identification laws that not only require voters to present an ID to vote, but require the federal Election Assistance Commission to add language reflecting the requirement to the bare minimum federal form (which only requires the registrant to attest to citizenship).

Now, Democrats from the U.S. House of Representatives have filed an amicus brief in the case, urging the court to block the state laws.

Back in March, a federal district court held that because the National Voter Registration Act did not explicitly preempt states from passing voter registration requirement laws (specifically, proof-of-citizenship laws), the United States Election Assistance Commission could not deny requests from Arizona and Kansas to include proof-of-citizenship requirements on the federal form. By law, the states have to accept the lenient federal form, which at present, only requires one to attest to citizenship.

The case presents interesting questions of state and federal preemption, such as whether the federal government can impliedly set voter registration requirements by requiring acceptance of their own form, and whether states can force the federal government to change their form by passing their own requirements.

For now, though a district court has held in the states' favor, that decision was put on hold by the Tenth Circuit pending an expedited appeal on the merits.

Last year, I was assigned to cover the Tenth Circuit, and it was a glorious time. I mocked the court's citation of dicta in a terrible concealed carry opinion, laughed when they raged at the Ninth Circuit and a litigious undocumented immigrant, and alliterated when Mr. Cush's curtilage was invaded by a "knock and sniff."

When assignments were shuffled later that year, I genuinely missed the Tenth Circuit beat. I also apparently missed the part where they redesigned the website to turn it in to a steaming pile of something folks in many 10th Circuit states will be familiar with: horse manure.

The Center for Public Integrity recently completed an audit of federal appeals courts, checking financial disclosures against panel assignments for missed conflicts. On the surface, the results were worrisome: twenty-six definite conflicts over three years throughout the system. These were cases where a judge had a financial interest in one of the parties, or one of the law firms that represented the parties, and should've recused.

Well, so far, from our review of the conflicts, it's been much ado about nothing, with nearly all of the conflicts coming in unanimous decisions, most of which were nonprecedential and unpublished. Don't expect much more from the Tenth Circuit, as there was only one conflict unearthed -- an understandable mistake from a stock broker that led to a conflict in another unanimous decision.

Lesson From U.S. v. Henderson: Don't Give Up, Poll the Jury

The Tenth Circuit issued an opinion today in United States v. Henderson that demonstrates the importance of polling the jury when you get a verdict against you.

In 2011, former Tulsa, Oklahoma, police officer Jeff Henderson was convicted of several counts during a corruption trial and was sentenced to 42 months in prison, Tulsa's KOTV reports. The most interesting issue on appeal was this: Was Henderson denied his constitutional right to a unanimous jury, given that one juror was instructed by the foreman that she was not permitted to change her guilty vote?

The court decided no. Henderson attached an affidavit from the juror, but the court did not consider it, citing Rule 606(b) of the Federal Rules of Evidence, which provides: