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

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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.

Officers Not Immune From Suit in New Mexico Taser Case

The Tenth Circuit affirmed a lower court's ruling that two police officers were not immune from suit when they taser-shot a mentally ill man at least ten times within two minutes.

This case doesn't come as much of a shock as other courts have recently acheived similar rulings. For example, the Fourth Circuit recently found no qualified immunity for police officer who tased without reason.

Standing Kills CO Sheriff's Gun Laws Suit Against Gov. Hickenlooper

It took 33 pages for the Tenth Circuit to clearly spell out why it was reversing and remanding a federal district court's ruling that Colorado's recently enacted gun laws were constitutional. It was also a strange opinion in that both plaintiffs and defendants claimed victory.

The Tenth Circuit's opinion and remand marks what seems to be a major chapter in the book that first began with the tragic shootings at Aurora, Colorado and Newton, Connecticut.

10th Cir. Rules That Colorado Non-Profit Needn't Disclose Donors

The Tenth Circuit affirmed a lower district court ruling in favor of a Colorado non-profit that allowed it not to register as an "issue committee," thus allowing it to protect the identities of its donors. This case should also be read in conjunction with a related campaign case also recently decided in the Tenth Circuit.

The non-profit in question is Colorado's Coalition for Secular Government, which has fought zealously against a proposed amendment to the Colorado Constitution to grant "personhood" to unborn fetuses.