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


'Underwear Bomber' Sues Over Alleged Mistreatment

The Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, Colorado houses some of the most hated mass murderers in the world.

They include Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, and terrorists in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Twin Towers.

Then there's the "Underwear Bomber." He's in the news again, claiming prison officials have mistreated him.

Colorado Court Strikes Human Smuggling Law

Sometimes, you just don't know where the road will take you -- especially when you take a wrong turn.

Bernardino Fuentes-Espinoza found that out when he was driving illegal immigrants across state lines into Colorado. He was caught and convicted of smuggling under state laws.

Seven years later, the Colorado Supreme Court threw out his conviction because Colorado's law was preempted by federal law. His case, Fuentes-Espinoza v. People, will go down as a litigation landmark.

In a rare instance, the American Bar Association has rated Judge Charles Goodwin, President Trump's nominee to the Federal District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, as "unqualified." This may be puzzling to some as Judge Goodwin has served as a federal magistrate judge in the same court for the past four years.

However, whether or not that rating will hold up or prevent his confirmation cannot be predicted with any certainty. While traditionally the ABA issued their evaluations prior to the announcement of a nomination, President Trump has not bothered with seeking the ABA's evaluation prior to announcing a nomination.

Tenth Circuit Dismisses Fracking Appeals

Fracking, for all its attention-getting repercussions, is not getting any more attention from a federal appeals court.

The U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed consolidated fracking appeals that included more parties and amici than judges in the four-state circuit.

In State of Wyoming v. Zinke, the appeals panel said the cases were "prudentially unripe" because a disputed federal fracking regulation is being rescinded.

The Osage Nation won a rather significant battle in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. The fight was over the mineral rights to the land where wind turbines were built.

The tribe owns the rights to the land and the mining rights. However, it was not consulted when the land was leased to the wind farm developers. After losing at the district court level, the federal government, which was representing the tribe, advised the tribe on the last day to file an appeal that it would not do so. Fortunately for the tribe, the circuit still accepted the appeal and ruled in its favor.

A recent appeal handed down by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals might change the way things get done in the mining and energy industry.

The appellate decision is requiring the federal agency that conducts analyses on environmental impacts for mining operations to redo their analysis for a group of mines subject to a challenge brought by the Wildearth Guardians and the Sierra Club. However, the subpar analysis was already relied upon, and as such, the court refused to vacate the agreements entered into allowing two mines to expand.

Court: 'Ag Gag' Laws Challenge Free Speech

Sometime in profane history, a judge said there is no such thing as a little pregnant.

The U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals said something like that in Western Watersheds Project v. Michael. It had nothing to do with being pregnant, but everything to do with going beyond the point of no return.

The plaintiffs sued to invalidate Wyoming laws that penalized environmentalists for trespassing on private property to discover and report water pollution on public lands. The appeals court said the laws impermissibly crossed the line against free speech, and must face constitutional scrutiny.

"The fact that one aspect of the challenged statutes concerns private property does not defeat the need for First Amendment scrutiny," the court said.

In what is sure to turn heads, a decision out of Colorado's Federal District Court has just ruled that the state's sex offender register scheme is unconstitutional. The court not only found that the scheme violated the Constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment, but it also violated the Fourteenth Amendment's due process protections.

Fortunately, before the entire state goes into panic mode locking their loved ones indoors, the ruling only applies to three particular individuals that have been harmed by Colorado's registration process. Additionally, the case outlines some of the basic flaws and misconceptions inherent in the sex offender registration schemes used across the country.

Gas Case Blows Up Over Attorney's Fees

Gas expands as it heat ups, which basically explains the complex class-action In Re. Motor Fuel Temperature Sales Practice Litigation.

According to Judge Nancy Moritz of the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, the years of litigation were born of simple physics: when consumers buy gas at higher temperatures, they may get less bang for their buck.

The parties ultimately settled, providing mechanisms to remedy the wrong at the gas pump. But some of the settlements blew up because of another explosive issue: class-action attorney's fees.

No 'Speedy Trial' Violation After Two Years Awaiting Trial, 10th Cir. Rules

Marty Madkins III appealed his drug convictions, saying he was denied a speedy trial.

But the big problem was Madkins had been convicted of drug violations twice before. Even though his third case took two years to get to trial, a federal appeals court said justice was speedy enough.

But sometimes it's better when the wheels of justice grind slowly. According to the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in United States of America v. Madkins, the defendant may actually get less time.