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

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Prison Officials Escape Liability for Gassing Inmates

The U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals called it textbook negligence.

If so, it could well end up in a law school casebook someday. But they'll probably call it the "prison tear-gas case" because that's what happened.

Prison officials accidentally gassed 100 men inside their cells. There was nothing they could do about it then, and according to the appeals court, they can't do a thing about it now.

If you haven't heard of the national Free the Nipple movement, perhaps you haven't been listening, or looking, close enough. Basically, the general idea behind the movement is gender equality through the decriminalization of the female breast, chest, and nipple.

In short, the movement seeks to make sure the law is the same for both men and women that want to walk around topless. Currently, a preliminary injunction prevents women from facing potential criminal penalties for walking around topless in Fort Collins, Colorado. That injunction was ordered by a federal district court judge upon the motion of Free the Nipple, the organization behind the national movement, and the two brave plaintiffs. However, the City of Fort Collins has appealed the injunction to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, which will be hearing arguments mid-January.

The Federal District Court for New Mexico issued a preliminary injunction blocking the state's Secretary of State from limiting the amount of money Representative Steve Pearce can transfer over from his prior federal campaign to his state bid for the governor's office.

Pearce apparently has (or at this point, maybe, had) nearly a million dollars just sitting in his federal campaign account. However, the New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver limited Pearce from transferring more than $11,000 from that account to his state campaign account due to New Mexico's campaign finance laws. The federal court disagreed and issued an injunction allowing Pearce to access the funds while the matter is pending in the courts.

In a line of cases that has subtly flown under the radar, you might be surprised to find out that your prescription drug records are not that confidential. In fact, in many states, law enforcement officers have access to a Prescription Drug Monitoring Database, often referred to as a PDMP database (Prescription Drug Monitoring Program).

A recent Tenth Circuit Court of Appeal opinion confirming the dismissal of two distinct cases alleging Fourth Amendment violations stemming from the warrantless search of a PDMP database explains the procedural problem the litigants faced more so than the actual problem with warrantless PDMP searches.

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.

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.

The 1985 film 'Desert Hearts,' tells the story of a divorced woman's lesbian awakening in Reno, Nevada. It's become a cult classic and a seminal work in gay cinema, but to one student assigned to watch it, 'Desert Hearts' had nothing to offer "for anyone other than lesbians who are unable to discern bad film from good."

A disagreement over that review, and the condemnation of lesbians it contained, eventually led the student, Monica Pompeo, to withdraw from the class, a graduate-level course at the University of New Mexico. She later sued, claiming that the university had violated her free speech rights. But the Tenth Circuit rejected her suit last Tuesday, ruling that there was no clear, constitutional prohibition against restricting "inflammatory and divisive statements."

The Supreme Court unanimously rejected the Tenth Circuit's interpretation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act on Wednesday. That law requires schools to provide disabled students with a free and appropriate public education, or FAPE. But to meet that standard, the Tenth had ruled, schools must confer an educational benefit that is "merely more than de minimis." The law is "markedly more demanding" than that, the Supreme Court ruled this morning.

The timing was a bit uncomfortable for the Tenth's Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump's Supreme Court nominee, who was undergoing questioning before the Senate as the Supreme Court decision was released.

A large display of the Ten Commandments on the city hall lawn in Bloomfield, New Mexico, violates the Constitution's Establishment Clause, the Tenth Circuit ruled recently in an unanimous decision penned by Judge David M. Ebel. The display, which weighs 3,400 pounds and stands 5-feet tall, was erected by private donors and was marked with a small disclaimer that the lawn had been opened to the public for the display of monuments "that reflect the City's history of law and government."

That was not good enough for the Tenth Circuit. In response to a lawsuit by two polytheistic, Wiccan town residents, the court ruled that the monument, despite being privately sponsored, was government speech and an impermissible endorsement of religion.

The Rocky Mountain High was popularized long before Colorado legalized recreational marijuana. After all, what is the Centennial State if not the perfect place for stoners, snowboarders, and fast food chains?

But Colorado's pot-friendly status doesn't justify pulling over out-of-state drivers with Colorado plates, the Tenth Circuit ruled recently, throwing out two Kansas Highway Patrol officers' claims of qualified immunity after they cited Colorado plates as a reason for stopping drivers.