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

Recently in Court News Category

Former Oklahoma Senate Leader Must Be Resentenced, 10th Circuit Orders

Michael Morgan, an Oklahoma attorney and former leader of the Oklahoma Senate was sentenced in 2012 to probation arising out of a charge bribery. Since the Tenth Circuit found that the punishment was "grossly at odds" with sentencing guidelines, he will now be resentenced. Basically, the Tenth Circuit determined that the lower court gave the defendant an easy pass.

When Michael Morgan was convicted for bribery, the jury acquitted him of about 60 other criminal counts. Morgan asked for a new trial alleging that the prosecution failed to disclose "tacit agreements" with a witness, insufficiency of evidence and failure to properly instruct the jury. Unfortunately for him, the 3 judge-panel disagreed and found that the jury's conviction of Morgan was based on sufficient factual evidence and further described the trial court's order of Morgan's probation as "little more than a slap on the wrist."

Timothy Tymkovich became the new Chief Judge of the Tenth Circuit last week, replacing Judge Mary Beck Briscoe, whose five year term as chief ended in September. As a judge and former Colorado solicitor general, Tymkovich has been involved in a number of notable cases, dealing with everything from gay rights to gun rights, freedom of speech to freedom of religion.

But his first week as chief hasn't brought any headline making decisions just yet. Rather, the new Chief Judge's docket has been full of child porn and bicycle accidents, according to The Colorado Statesman.

The separation of powers is good for everyone -- unless you're a state governor with a political agenda you want to implement quickly. Then you might find the judiciary, for instance, to be a bit of a nuisance.

Gov. Sam Brownback wouldn't be the first governor to confront this issue, but he may be one of the first to tackle the issue by attempting to replace Kansas judges. At least, that's how Brownback's critics interpret his latest proposals concerning constitutional amendments.

The skies may be getting a bit brighter in Utah, if an environmental group gets its way. Wild Earth Guardians, a nonprofit wilderness protection group, has sued the EPA for failure to protect visibility in the Beehive state.

The Clean Air Act, while mostly concerned with air pollution emissions, protects visibility in "Class I areas," primarily large wilderness areas and wildlife refuges. The responsibility for visibility protection is meant to fall on the states, but Wild Earth Guardians argues that EPA must take action after rejecting Utah's plan.

10th Cir. OKs Exclusion of 700 Pages of Nonconforming Docs

Calling something a legal "technicality" is like calling a judge an "activist" or, in George Orwell's formulation, anyone a "fascist." The word doesn't mean anything except "I don't like that person." In the law, "technicality" just means "I lost."

The Tenth Circuit emphasized the importance of process, though, as it decided a district court in Kansas was correct in refusing to consider 700 pages of documents not filed in compliance with local rules.

Top 10 Blog Posts From the 10th Cir. in 2014

Ask 99 percent of America what the Tenth Circuit is and they will either stare at you blankly or mumble some guess about science fiction. But despite its "flyover" circuit status, the Tenth Circuit has been big this year.

First to address gay marriage? Yep. Citizens United II? Uh-huh.

Here are the 10 most popular Tenth Circuit blog posts for 2014:

Will Somebody Please Fix the Terrible New 10th Circuit Website?

Last year, I was assigned to cover the Tenth Circuit, and it was a glorious time. I mocked the court's citation of dicta in a terrible concealed carry opinion, laughed when they raged at the Ninth Circuit and a litigious undocumented immigrant, and alliterated when Mr. Cush's curtilage was invaded by a "knock and sniff."

When assignments were shuffled later that year, I genuinely missed the Tenth Circuit beat. I also apparently missed the part where they redesigned the website to turn it in to a steaming pile of something folks in many 10th Circuit states will be familiar with: horse manure.

Lesson From U.S. v. Henderson: Don't Give Up, Poll the Jury

The Tenth Circuit issued an opinion today in United States v. Henderson that demonstrates the importance of polling the jury when you get a verdict against you.

In 2011, former Tulsa, Oklahoma, police officer Jeff Henderson was convicted of several counts during a corruption trial and was sentenced to 42 months in prison, Tulsa's KOTV reports. The most interesting issue on appeal was this: Was Henderson denied his constitutional right to a unanimous jury, given that one juror was instructed by the foreman that she was not permitted to change her guilty vote?

The court decided no. Henderson attached an affidavit from the juror, but the court did not consider it, citing Rule 606(b) of the Federal Rules of Evidence, which provides:

Salt Lake's 'Borg' Courthouse Debuts with a Shooting

The "Borg Cube," as the locals like to call it, opened one week ago. Today was the first trial in the new courthouse. Lets hope the rest of the trials go more smoothly than this one.

During the last of a series of trials for alleged Tongan Crips members, defendant Siale Angilau, 25, allegedly grabbed a pen or pencil and tried to charge the stand. A U.S. Marshall shot him multiple times in the chest. He was removed from the building on a stretcher, in critical condition, while the brand new courthouse is expected to be locked down until Monday afternoon, reports the Salt Lake Tribune.

Arguments Heard in First Post-Windsor Same-Sex Marriage Appeal

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.