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

November 2011 Archives

Tenth Cir: No Relief for Nathan Dunlap in Chuck E. Cheese Murders

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals denied Chuck E. Cheese killer Nathan Dunlap's presumptive and actual prejudice challenges to an armed-robbery conviction last week.

Dunlap, who made headlines after killing four people in a shooting rampage at a Colorado Chuck E. Cheese in 1993, appealed his conviction for a Burger King robbery that occurred after the Chuck E. Cheese murders, but before the murder trial; the Burger King robbery was later used as a statutory aggravator in the penalty phase of Dunlap's Chuck E. Cheese trial.

Dunlap argued that the district court erred in rejecting his motion for a change of venue for the Burger King robbery trial because the pretrial publicity about the Chuck E. Cheese case prejudiced his ability to obtain a fair trial.

No Reasonable Person Here: Court Refuses to Suppress Evidence

Every time we read an opinion, like the one in this Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals case, in which a court determines that a search was consensual because a "reasonable person" would known that he was free to leave a police interview, we wonder: Who are these "reasonable people?"

We're lawyers. We read suppression opinions all day long. And if a police officer pulled us over, asked us questions, told us "thank you, have a safe trip," but then asked if he could ask more questions, we wouldn't feel like we were free to leave.

Clearly, in the eyes of justice, we are not reasonable, but we don't feel comfortable telling someone with a gun, pepper spray, a Taser, and a nightstick to buzz off. (Especially when there's a Taser involved. Cops are too Taser-happy.)

Tenth Circuit Rejects Snowmass Ski Project Lawsuit

Good news, slope-bound attorneys: Snowmass will open this week, five days earlier that initially planned, thanks to early, heavy snow.

And now, let's tie ski season in with something about the law, so we're not just goofing off at work.

Last week, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the Ark Initiative in its challenge to the proposed Snowmass Ski Improvements Project, finding that the organization had not properly exhausted its administrative remedies before bringing a federal lawsuit.

Let's Go, Intellectual Labor! No Copyright for Inane Cheer

According to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, one can only copyright material that requires "intellectual labor."

"Let's Go Thunder," in the court's opinion, did not require sufficient thought to be entitled to copyright protection.

Charles Syrus wrote a song for the Oklahoma City Thunder (Thunder), a professional basketball team in the NBA. Syrus gave a copy of his song, for which he has a copyright registration, to the Oklahoma City Mayor's office in 2008. He also gave the song to an unnamed coach and to the team's head cheerleader as part of a fan engagement activity.

Lies Don't Lay Groundwork to Withdraw a Guilty Plea

When Fleetwood Mac cooed “tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies,” they were referring to lies that can spare feelings in a relationship, not lies to support a defendant’s request to withdraw a guilty plea.

This week, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals attempted to clarify that point, holding that a district court need not allow a defendant to withdraw a guilty plea when the defendant’s request is based on a lie.

Admit it. You’re curious to find out what the sweet little lie in question was.

Supreme Court Denies Cert in Tenth Circuit Highway Cross Case

The Supreme Court denied cert this week in the Utah Highway Cross Cases out of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals: Utah Highway Patrol Association v. American Atheists, Inc., and Davenport, et al., v. American Atheists.

The Tenth Circuit, relying on the Lemon/endorsement test, ruled in both cases last year that cross memorials honoring fallen troopers on Utah highways were unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause.

Justice Clarence Thomas authored a 19-page dissenting opinion to the Court’s decision to deny cert, noting that the appellate court had relied on its own precedent, instead of a Supreme Court decision, when deciding the case because the Supreme Court was “sharply divided” on First Amendment Establishment Clause cases.