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

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The Supreme Court released its order list Monday, and two notable cases originating in the Tenth Circuit were on it.

One case deals with a procedural issue, and seeks clarification on the pleading requirements for seeking removal to federal court. In the other case, the Court was asked to weigh in on whether New Mexico's public accommodations statute violated the First Amendment's prohibition on compelling speech.

Here's a breakdown of the two cases:

The big day is here. The first federal appellate case post-Windsor made its way through oral arguments this morning, and it was not without its own wave of drama.

Even before the arguments began, Utah officials backtracked on authority used in their briefs. Then, in oral arguments, the panel seemed to be deeply divided, with two judges sticking to their predicted ideological lines, and a third serving as the wildcard.

As the first of a coming wave of same-sex marriage appeals in this circuit, and many other circuit courts of appeal, this case is important as authority for the remaining cases, as well as a possible vehicle for a Supreme Court appeal.

The Tenth Circuit's traditionally conservative stance when it comes to reproductive rights and women's issues is at the forefront this week with two key developments in a case involving Kansas's Title X funding of Planned Parenthood and the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate.

Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri v. Moser

In 2011, Kansas Governor Brownback signed a law that essentially defunded Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. Planned Parenthood sued, asking for injunctive relief challenging the law on Supremacy Clause, First Amendment, and Fourteenth Amendment grounds. The district court found that Planned Parenthood had established a likelihood of success on the merits on the Supremacy Clause and First Amendment claims, and granted a preliminary injunction. Kansas appealed.

Two University of Denver constitutional law professors have initiated two challenges to ag gag laws: one in Utah federal court, the other in Idaho.

Ag Gag Laws

What's an "ag gag" you ask? If you ask someone in the industry, they'll say that they are "agriculture protection laws." If you ask an animal rights activist, they'll say that the laws are "prohibitions [that] are deliberately designed to silence or "gag" anyone attempting to collect evidence," says Food Safety News. Seven states currently have ag gag laws in place, according to Food Safety News: Idaho, Utah, Missouri, Iowa, North Dakota, Montana and Kansas, with eleven states currently considering, or considered in the past, some type of ag gag law, according to the ACLU.

You could say the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate is having its "day in court" with 93 pending cases (as of today). It may even be outpacing same-sex marriage legal challenges.

This week, the Little Sisters filed their appellate brief in the Tenth Circuit as they challenge the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado's ruling that a preliminary injunction be denied.

We're not sure what is going on in Kansas right now, but we sure are glad we're not there. The Sunflower State has been mulling over some potential bills that are not as sunny as its motto, including allowing corporal punishment in schools, and legalizing discrimination -- in the name of religious freedom.

The Spanking Bill

The spanking bill, more officially known as HB 2699, if passed, would define corporal punishment as "up to ten forceful applications in succession of a bare, open-handed palm against the clothed buttocks of a child," reports The Wichita Eagle. The bill goes even further noting that to restrain or control a child "any such reasonable physical force" may be used and acknowledges "that redness or bruising may occur on the tender skin of a child as a result." Let's all say it together: WTF?!

Utah and Oklahoma Get Same Judges for Gay Marriage Appeals

Both Utah and Oklahoma will get the same panel of federal judges for their gay marriage appeals as the Tenth Circuit agrees to expedite the cases.

Although the judges will be the same, the oral arguments won't be heard at the same time, The Oklahoman reports. However, briefs will be allowed to be filed jointly.

So could a decision bring gay marriage back to SCOTUS?

O.K. Oklahoma -- U.S. District Judge Terence C. Kern overturned the state's gay marriage ban. However, Judge Kern is staying his decision pending appeal, according to The Washington Post.

Judge Kern's opinion in Bishop v. United States deals with "Part A" of the Oklahoma amendment. He used the rational basis test to determine that the ban is unconstitutional -- much to the chagrin of some Oklahoma politicians.

Oh, the good ol' Tenth Circuit. For a circuit that covers a geographically large portion of the United States, the case law coming out of there can sometimes not be as compelling as circuits with cities like New York or San Francisco. But, that doesn't mean all Tenth Circuit cases are folly. In fact, when they mean business, they get the whole country's attention.

Tenth Circuit in the News

With Utah's large Mormon population, we suppose it was just a matter of time before a polygamy case was heard. And just in time for the end of 2013, Judge Waddoups of the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah struck down Utah's bigamy statutes' cohabitation provision as unconstitutional.

Utah was the 18th state to recognize same-sex marriage -- for a total of 18 days, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In what has been a very busy month, with a dizzying array of motions and orders, the Utah same-sex marriage case, a/k/a Herbert v. Kitchen, has made its way from district court, to the Tenth Circuit, to the Supreme Court, and back to the Tenth.

And while the state of Utah has said that it won't recognize the gay marriages that were legally performed during those fateful 18 days, the federal government had something different to say about the matter.

Whew. Confused yet? Here's a breakdown.