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Snowboarders Cry Foul but Lose Equal Protection Lawsuit

In what has got to be this years' most finicky, hair-splitting case, the Tenth Circuit dismissed a lawsuit by a group of snowboarders who claimed equal protection violations by the U.S. Forest Service whose special-use permit excluded snowboarders but allowed skiers.

In the opinion of U.S. Judge Dee Benson, "the equal protection clause is not a general fairness law that allows anyone who feels discriminated against to bring an action in federal court."

The God-fearing people of Oklahoma can breathe a sigh of relief today, safe in the knowledge that their car license plates do not require them to endorse pantheistic, pagan beliefs -- at least according to the Tenth Circuit. Those Oklahoma plates declare the state, once largely set aside as a tribal reservation, as "Native America" and depict a native man shooting an arrow into the sky.

One Oklahoman Christian took offense at the image, claiming it forced him to communicate a pantheistic message in violation of his free speech and free exercise of religion. The Tenth Circuit disagreed, holding that, while the image does have connections to certain Native American religious beliefs, no reasonable person would think the plate, or those driving the car, were endorsing pantheism.

When we think of free speech in schools, it's often student speech that comes to mind. However, plenty of free speech disputes arise from school employees' public disagreements with their administration. Those cases often involve the balancing of a state employee's interest in participating in public debate against a government employer's interest in an efficient work force.

Last week, the Tenth Circuit ruled that the government's interest outweighs a principal's right to speak out against the closing of a school. In that case, Joyce Rock, a principal in New Mexico, sued after she was fired for publicly opposing the closing of her alternative high school. Her termination was justified, the Tenth said, given the school district's need to speak in a uniform voice on the closing.

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, a Republican, didn't violate anyone's civil rights when she cleaned house after taking office, demanding the resignation of employees appointed by her Democratic predecessor. Glenn Smith, the former director of the state Workers' Compensation Administration sued after he was terminated, arguing that he had a right to finish out his five year term.

Unfortunately for Smith, the Tenth Circuit disagreed, finding that he served at the will of the Governor and could be let go before his term concluded. Martinez is considered by some to be a likely contender for the GOP's VP pick in 2016.

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.

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.

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.

Lots of Amici Join EEOC in Abercrombie Religious Discrimination Case

In October 2013, the Tenth Circuit determined that Abercrombie & Fitch, the nation's No. 1 purveyor of that weird cologne smell in the mall, didn't violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act when it refused to hire a Muslim job applicant for wearing a hijab in contravention of Abercrombie's dress code.

The EEOC has since been granted a cert. petition, and filed its opening brief earlier this month. The case has garnered a whole heck of a lot of amici including religious organizations, the Lambda Legal foundation, and the State of Arizona, for some reason.

Utah GOP Sues to Stop State's New Primary Election Process

Earlier this year, Utah became one of the many states to allow political party candidates for office to be selected by way of a "direct primary" system. This system is already in existence in many states, but it's a change for Utah, which left up to the parties the method by which it chose nominees. Typically, Utah used neighborhood caucuses to find candidates. The winners of caucuses would then be nominated (or not) at the party's statewide convention.

The Republican Party in Utah (well, some of its members, anyway) didn't like this very much and decided to sue the governor, alleging that the new legislation dilutes the ability of a political party to select its own candidates and unconstitutionally places control of selecting the party's candidate in the hands of the state, not the party.