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

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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.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert can't withhold federal funds from the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, the Tenth Circuit ruled last week. The governor had instructed Utah officials to withhold $272,000 in so-called "pass-through" federal funds designated for STD treatment and sex education.

The move came shortly after conservative activists released video of Planned Parenthood discussing the use of fetal tissue in medical research, leading to a national uproar and attempts in several states to deny funding to Planned Parenthood-affiliated programs.

10th Cir. Brushes off Kansas Religious Education Case

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an Establishment Clause case against the Kansas Board of Education brought after the state sought to adopt curriculum standards for K-12 science instruction. Those standards, some parents claimed, "breached the parent's trust" and would result in "anti-religious instruction."

It didn't take long before the circuit affirmed for the Board.

In 'Sister Wives' Case, 10th Circuit Recriminalizes Polygamy in Utah

The Brown family of Lehi, Utah first became known to most Americans through the TLC reality television series Sister Wives. The show (which still airs) documents the lives of members of the Browns, a polygamist family made up of husband-patriarch Kody Brown, his four wives, and their eighteen children.

The Browns claimed that part of their impetus in participating in the show was to help dispel fears and prejudices about polygamist families and to quell controversy. Rather ironically, the show would lead to the case of Brown v. Buhman. This week, the Tenth Circuit ruled that the family had no standing to sue.