U.S. Tenth Circuit

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


Everyone makes mistakes. Some folks have one too many drinks before getting behind the wheel. Others fail, allegedly, to follow proper procedure when testing DUI blood draws, leading to retesting 1,700 samples. When Colorado's state toxicology lab had to do just that, they laid the blame publicly on one young lab tech, Mitchell Fox-Rivera.

After he was fired, Fox-Rivera claimed that the government lab improperly impugned his reputation, denying him due process. The Tenth Circuit was less sympathetic to his claims of scapegoating, finding that the comments made, which accused Fox-Rivera of not doing his job properly, did not rise to the level needed to implicate his due process liberty interests.

A bankruptcy trustee can't recover real property that was transferred, allegedly to avoid being lost, the Tenth Circuit ruled on Monday. That's because the transferor possessed only bare legal title, which is not an interest that may be avoided as a fraudulent conveyance under the Bankruptcy Code.

The case confirms that a joint tenancy and a trust may coexist under Kansas law. When a parent transferred her interest in a joint tenancy to her child without consideration, but also without fraudulent intent, and to be managed for her benefit -- she created a resulting trust, transferring only "bare legal title" to her soon-to-be-bankrupt child.

When a Wells Fargo branch was robbed in Aurora, Colorado, police took it seriously, stopping every car at a nearby intersection and holding them at gunpoint while they attempted to locate the pilfered cash. The mass detention of 29 people lasted over two hours and led to two lawsuits; one by fourteen people who were detained and another by the bank robber, who was caught in the stop.

If that's not bizarre enough, consider how the robbery itself. Recently fired violinist and music teacher Christian Paetsch road to the bank on a stolen bicycle, donned a beekeeper's hat and held up the bank while blasting an air horn. When he left, he took $26,000 in cash and a hidden tracking beacon.

He'd returned to his car by the time police placed the street on lockdown. In an appeal from his conviction, he argued that the mass detention was an unreasonable search and seizure.

James White pleaded guilty to violating the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) after he failed to update his sex offender registration when he moved from Oklahoma to Texas. (He actually moved to Texas, then "drove back to Oklahoma every ninety days to maintain the illusion that he continued to reside there.")

On appeal, he claimed SORNA violated the Commerce Clause, the Tenth Amendment, and the Ex Post Facto Clause. He also brought two sentencing issues. So, is SORNA grossly unconstitutional?

The skies may be getting a bit brighter in Utah, if an environmental group gets its way. Wild Earth Guardians, a nonprofit wilderness protection group, has sued the EPA for failure to protect visibility in the Beehive state.

The Clean Air Act, while mostly concerned with air pollution emissions, protects visibility in "Class I areas," primarily large wilderness areas and wildlife refuges. The responsibility for visibility protection is meant to fall on the states, but Wild Earth Guardians argues that EPA must take action after rejecting Utah's plan.

Calling something a legal "technicality" is like calling a judge an "activist" or, in George Orwell's formulation, anyone a "fascist." The word doesn't mean anything except "I don't like that person." In the law, "technicality" just means "I lost."

The Tenth Circuit emphasized the importance of process, though, as it decided a district court in Kansas was correct in refusing to consider 700 pages of documents not filed in compliance with local rules.

Several months after the Tenth Circuit struck down Arizona and Kansas' proof of citizenship voter registration lawsuit, the states have asked the Supreme Court to hear the case. The Tenth had rejected a suit by the two states which sought to force the Election Assistance Commission to include a proof of citizenship requirement on federal voter registration forms. Arizona and Kansas had failed to demonstrate that voter registration fraud via the federal forms prevented either state from enforcing their voter qualification laws, the court ruled.

The Election Assistance Commission has until April 23rd to respond to the states' petition for certiorari.

Oral arguments are just about a month away in Glossip v. Gross, the SCOTUS case challenging Oklahoma's use of lethal injections, and the briefs are just beginning to arrive. Glossip challenges Oklahoma's use of a three drug lethal injection cocktail, which has been connected to several botched executions.

The drugs in question, potassium chloride, pancuronium bromide and midazolam, are meant to work in concert to achieve a relatively humane execution. midazolam anesthetizes the prisoner, pancuronium bromideparalyzes him, while potassium chloride stops his heart. The problem? According to three men sentenced to execution in Oklahoma, midazolam doesn't prevent excruciating suffering, it simply hides it from observers.

A Colorado couple can sue Jack Nicklaus for intentional misrepresentation over a failed luxury golf development, the Tenth Circuit has ruled. The couple, Jeffrey and Judee Donner, who invested $1.5 million in a luxury golf resort, did so at least in part because of claims that one of the greatest professional golfers of all time, Jack Nicklaus, would both design the course and have a house in the development.

When the $3 billion project went belly up, the Donners sued. The Tenth Circuit overturned the dismissal of their case in district court, allowing them to continue pursuing claims that Nicklaus and his company intentionally misrepresented the golfer's relationship with the development.

Jury instructions regarding the "direct threat" affirmative defense in an employment discrimination case required an employer to prove more than legally necessary, the Tenth Circuit ruled on Monday. An employer must only show that he had a reasonable belief that an impaired worker's job performance would pose a significant risk of substantial harm in order to avoid liability. Contrary to the district court instructions, a jury need not determine if such a threat actually existed.

The case involved a legally blind employee of Beverage Distributors Company in Colorado. The company rescinded the worker's job offer in the company's warehouse, believing that he would need reasonable accommodations under the ADA.