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

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The Osage Nation won a rather significant battle in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. The fight was over the mineral rights to the land where wind turbines were built.

The tribe owns the rights to the land and the mining rights. However, it was not consulted when the land was leased to the wind farm developers. After losing at the district court level, the federal government, which was representing the tribe, advised the tribe on the last day to file an appeal that it would not do so. Fortunately for the tribe, the circuit still accepted the appeal and ruled in its favor.

Court: 'Ag Gag' Laws Challenge Free Speech

Sometime in profane history, a judge said there is no such thing as a little pregnant.

The U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals said something like that in Western Watersheds Project v. Michael. It had nothing to do with being pregnant, but everything to do with going beyond the point of no return.

The plaintiffs sued to invalidate Wyoming laws that penalized environmentalists for trespassing on private property to discover and report water pollution on public lands. The appeals court said the laws impermissibly crossed the line against free speech, and must face constitutional scrutiny.

"The fact that one aspect of the challenged statutes concerns private property does not defeat the need for First Amendment scrutiny," the court said.

Two Colorado residents felt cheated when Bank of America tried to sell their condominium that was in foreclosure. Bringing an appeal to the Tenth Circuit, their primary arguments were based on due process rights and a violation of the Colorado Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (CFDCPA).

None of the plaintiff's arguments stuck. Finding that their claims were either off base or speculative, the Tenth agreed with the lower court and dismissed the complaint.

A bankruptcy trustee can't recover real property that was transferred, allegedly to avoid being lost, the Tenth Circuit ruled on Monday. That's because the transferor possessed only bare legal title, which is not an interest that may be avoided as a fraudulent conveyance under the Bankruptcy Code.

The case confirms that a joint tenancy and a trust may coexist under Kansas law. When a parent transferred her interest in a joint tenancy to her child without consideration, but also without fraudulent intent, and to be managed for her benefit -- she created a resulting trust, transferring only "bare legal title" to her soon-to-be-bankrupt child.

Mining Company Can Cross Grouse Rancher's Land: 10th Cir.

In a case from the wild prair-ee, the Tenth Circuit was called upon to figure out who owns rights to what, stemming from an almost 100-year-old mineral rights law. The Ballad of Jed Clampett this is not.

Stull is a ranching company. It runs a grouse-hunting business above ground in rural Colorado. Entek is a mineral company. It mines for minerals, oil, and other valuable underground stuff -- largely under Stull's land. Entek needed access to Stull's land in order to develop new oil well and to maintain its existing oil wells on adjacent BLM land. Stull said no; Entek's presence would disturb its grouses.

A federal district court granted Entek the right to access portions of Stull's land -- but not the right to cross over Stull's land to service its wells on BLM land.

Change to Obamacare Religious Accommodation Leaked in Court Filing

Hobby Lobby happened: Employers can request an exemption from the contraceptive coverage mandate portion of Obamacare if the closely held corporation's owners' religious beliefs would be burdened by the mandate.

But it wasn't just the coverage requirement that burdened these owners' religious beliefs. Later that week, the Court issued an order in the Wheaton College appeal, blocking enforcement of the religious accommodation procedures against the college. The college argued that the procedures amounted to facilitating the religiously objectionable conduct (providing birth control). And facilitating the sin is still a sin, it seems.

Though that injunction was far from a decision on the merits, the Obama administration, in a filing in a Tenth Circuit case, has told the appeals court that the accommodation procedure will be tweaked, hopefully to the religious objectors' satisfaction.

The Tenth Circuit can be so fickle. There are days when there is nothing interesting going on, and then there are days like today, with some interesting cases to cover. With two cases getting national attention, we couldn't just pick one, so we'll give you a quick rundown of both.

First, we have an update on the horse slaughter case we discussed back in November, followed by news on polygamy and the meaning of marriage, courtesy of "Sister Wives."

While the thought of eating Seabiscuit is probably revolting to you, as evidenced by the general uproar surrounding the Ikea horse meat meatball scare, many people around the world eat horse meat. The U.S. was poised to export horse meat to other countries including China, Russia, and Mexico but now a twist of legal events has put the plan on hold, reports Reuters.

The Tenth Circuit didn't have any cases making jurisprudential history this week, though it has managed to stay in the news. One item can have serious repercussions for Oklahoma consumers, while the other seems immune from sequester cuts.

Abby Shadakofsky, d/b/a Personal Collection Services ("Shadakofsky"), hired Cheryl Wadas to represent her in a debt collection action against George James. After many procedural mishaps, the parties ended up in federal court with James claiming that Wadas, as Shadakofsky's agent, violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA").

The question before the court was whether Wadas regularly engaged in the practice of debt collection, to be considered a "debt collector" for purposes of the FDCPA. The Tenth Circuit found that she was not.