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

Recently in Civil Rights Law Category

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.

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.

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.

Every year since 2004, Colorado's governor has recognized a "Colorado Day of Prayer." This isn't terribly unusual in itself; since 1952, Congress has established a "national day of prayer" and most other states do the same thing.

But the Freedom from Religion Foundation doesn't like it. They object to the explicit biblical references in the proclamations, claiming a violation of the Preference Clause of the state constitution (its own version of the Establishment Clause).

10th Cir. Rules Against Kan., Ariz. in Voter-Registration Form Appeal

States (Arizona and Kansas) have passed laws requiring voters to show proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. Meantime, a long-standing federal law (the National Voter Registration Act, or "Motor Voter" law) says that the U.S. Election Assistance Commission has to make a universal nationwide voter registration form, and that states have to take it and like it.

Long story short: Arizona's law already made it to the Supreme Court last year, when the Court required Arizona to recognize the federal form. However, Justice Scalia also suggested that the states might be able to sue the EAC to force them to add proof-of-citizenship language to the forms.

How well did that work out? Not too well, if the Tenth Circuit's recent opinion is the last word.

SCOTUS Issues SSM Stay in Kan.: Weirder Than Flying Monkeys in Oz

Update: it turns out the stay was much ado about nothing. The stay was lifted Wednesday afternoon. More on the order, and the two sides' arguments, can be found at FindLaw's Courtside.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor has just issued a stay blocking same-sex marriages in Kansas, right around the time a district court's ruling striking down the state's ban on gay marriages was about to take effect. The order is a surprise, considering that since the Court declined to take on gay marriage earlier this term, it has refused to issue stays in numerous other same-sex marriage appeals.

We have to imagine that the plaintiffs' lawyers feel like the witch who got crushed by Dorothy's house in Oz, as this came out of nowhere. What gives? And what else is odd about this SCOTUS stay?

Fed. Court Strikes Kan. Gay Marriage Ban While State Case Is Pending

We love being right, though to be fair, anyone with even the most rudimentary understanding of how controlling precedent works could have seen this opinion coming.

The Tenth Circuit has ruled against gay marriage. The Supreme Court didn't intervene. What's a federal district court in Kansas to do then? Make Kansas the 33rd state to have legalized gay marriage, obviously, even though a parallel state court challenge is set for oral arguments tomorrow.

Kan. Sup. Ct. to Hear Gay Marriage on Thurs. for No Reason at All

This is cute. The Kansas Supreme Court actually thinks that it might have a say in gay marriage.

That may seem harsh, but you probably already know about the Tenth Circuit's holdings in the Utah and Oklahoma cases. And you probably already know that the U.S. Supreme Court declined to disturb those holdings.

Gay marriage is legal in the Tenth Circuit.

So why is the Kansas Supreme Court hearing oral arguments this week (which you can attend in person -- arrive early!)?

Last week, we reported about a quick, three-paragraph order allowing Citizens United to show the film "Rocky Mountain Heist" without having to disclose the names of the people who donated to the project. The Tenth Circuit promised that it would deliver a substantive opinion on the issue soon, and on Monday it certainly did -- in the form of a 34-page opinion with a nine-page dissent.

So why, exactly, doesn't Citizens United have to disclose the donors of "Rocky Mountain Heist"?