People and Events News - U.S. Tenth Circuit
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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.

A Colorado couple can sue Jack Nicklaus for intentional misrepresentation over a failed luxury golf development, the Tenth Circuit has ruled. The couple, Jeffrey and Judee Donner, who invested $1.5 million in a luxury golf resort, did so at least in part because of claims that one of the greatest professional golfers of all time, Jack Nicklaus, would both design the course and have a house in the development.

When the $3 billion project went belly up, the Donners sued. The Tenth Circuit overturned the dismissal of their case in district court, allowing them to continue pursuing claims that Nicklaus and his company intentionally misrepresented the golfer's relationship with the development.

Okla. AG Asks SCOTUS to Hear Obamacare Subsidies Challenge

Back in September, a federal district judge in Oklahoma, agreeing with a three-judge panel opinion of the D.C. Circuit, held that the Affordable Care Act subsidies applied only to states that had, themselves, established state exchanges and not states in which the federal government had to run the exchange after the state refused.

Well, a lot has happened since then. The D.C. Circuit took its case up en banc, vacating the panel opinion, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the challenge in the form of King v. Burwell, a Fourth Circuit case finding the other way.

Now, Oklahoma's attorney general wants to appeal his state's case straight to the Supreme Court.

Kan. Court: Democrats Can Abandon U.S. Senate Race

Less than two weeks ago, the Kansas Supreme Court held that Chad Taylor, a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, could drop out of the race over the objections of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican. Taylor, who filed his "I quit" paperwork at the deadline, did so in order to avoid splitting the anti-Republican vote with a popular independent candidate, Greg Orman.

Kansas' highest court, however, failed to address the issue of whether the Democratic Party could abandon the race altogether -- the statute does say, after all, that the party "shall" replace the candidate. It uses the word "shall" 13 times, in fact.

Quantity and severity of language wasn't enough to convince a state district court, however, which held today that no pinch hitter was necessary.

Okla. Dist. Ct. Follows DC Cir., Strikes Down Obamacare Subsidies

Hot on the heels of decisions from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and the Fourth Circuit, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma ruled today that Obamacare subsidies aren't available to residents of states that didn't establish their own state-run exchanges.

If you'll recall, there was a teensy bit of controversy over the Affordable Care Act. Republican-leaning states -- including Oklahoma -- opted out of running their own state insurance exchanges, meaning the federal government had to step in to operate the exchanges.

Kan. Must Remove Senate Candidate's Name From Nov. Ballot: Court

Another interesting election law decision out of the nation's heartland. Is it just me, or is this an especially litigious year?

The Kansas Supreme Court on Thursday granted a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate's wish, letting him off the ballot over the protestations of Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

Yes, we know, usually ballot access battles are fought to get on the ballot. So why was Chad Taylor so desperate to get off the ballot? Why did a Republican fight so hard to keep him on?

'Borg' Court Won't Release Tape of Cop Killing Defendant Mid-Trial

It was the first trial in the "Borg Cube," the new federal courthouse in Salt Lake City. The defendant, Siale Angilau, allegedly grabbed a pen or pencil and rushed the witness stand. A nearby U.S. marshal pulled out his gun and fired multiple times. Angilau, 25, did not survive.

Now, word has emerged that there is a tape of the shooting, one which the district court, in the name of security, refuses to release. Does Chief Judge Ted Stewart have a point?

The Black Hills National Forest ("BHNF") straddles Wyoming and South Dakota, and its infestation by pine beetles has made the forest a subject of litigation in South Dakota, Wyoming, and Colorado.

Last week, the Tenth Circuit joined the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in denying environmental activist organizations the ability to challenge plans to address the pine beetle infestation in the BHNF, South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley announced.

Judge Nancy Moritz Sworn In; Other Judicial Vacancies Remain

Washburn University School of Law, you have something to celebrate: a Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals judge (and now-former Kansas Supreme Court Justice). Other notable Washburn alums include former Senator and Presidential candidate Bob Dole and Fred Phelps, Pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church. Time to update the Wikipedia page, folks!

Justice Moritz, now Judge Moritz, fills a vacancy that's been around since then-Judge Deanell Tacha took senior status in 2011, shortly before taking over as Dean of Pepperdine Law School. With Moritz's ascension to the bench, the list of judicial vacancies grows even smaller, leaving only a few district-level spots in the Tenth Circuit, and a few circuit court seats elsewhere.

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Judge's Stock Broker's Flub Led to Conflict in Unremarkable Case

The Center for Public Integrity recently completed an audit of federal appeals courts, checking financial disclosures against panel assignments for missed conflicts. On the surface, the results were worrisome: twenty-six definite conflicts over three years throughout the system. These were cases where a judge had a financial interest in one of the parties, or one of the law firms that represented the parties, and should've recused.

Well, so far, from our review of the conflicts, it's been much ado about nothing, with nearly all of the conflicts coming in unanimous decisions, most of which were nonprecedential and unpublished. Don't expect much more from the Tenth Circuit, as there was only one conflict unearthed -- an understandable mistake from a stock broker that led to a conflict in another unanimous decision.