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

Recently in Civil Rights Law Category

An inmate in a Colorado state prison is suing after being raped and abused, presumably by another inmate, while in custody. The inmate is a transgender individual that identifies as a woman, but she is nevertheless housed in a men's prison.

Before the rape occurred, the inmate sought the protection of the court against a disciplinary transfer. The had been housed in that unit before, and was assaulted. Unfortunately for the inmate, the court did not find her past experiences merited overturning the prison officials' disciplinary decisions. Sadly, the rape occurred in the unit that the inmate was seeking not to be sent to.

A lawsuit filed just days ago in Colorado's state courts against two of the biggest oil companies, Exxon and Suncor, alleges that the oil producers have caused climate change and damages to the citizens of the state of Colorado.

Unlike similar cases filed in New York and California, Colorado is not alleging damages based upon sea level change. Rather, the state claims that the "dwindling" snow pack, increased fire risk, and changes in the amount of annual precipitation, caused by climate change, are its damages.

The Utah Republican Party has sought to enjoin the enforcement of SB54, a state law passed to provide two methods for a party's candidates to make it onto the primary ballot: via the party's caucus or convention, or via signature gathering.

The Utah Republicans did not want to allow the latter method as its stated preference is to only allow the party's primary candidates to be chosen at their state nominating convention. However, unfortunately for the Utah Republican Party (but maybe fortunately for the party members), the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals explained that the law is not unconstitutional and does not violate the party's First Amendment rights.

Prison Officials Escape Liability for Gassing Inmates

The U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals called it textbook negligence.

If so, it could well end up in a law school casebook someday. But they'll probably call it the "prison tear-gas case" because that's what happened.

Prison officials accidentally gassed 100 men inside their cells. There was nothing they could do about it then, and according to the appeals court, they can't do a thing about it now.

If you haven't heard of the national Free the Nipple movement, perhaps you haven't been listening, or looking, close enough. Basically, the general idea behind the movement is gender equality through the decriminalization of the female breast, chest, and nipple.

In short, the movement seeks to make sure the law is the same for both men and women that want to walk around topless. Currently, a preliminary injunction prevents women from facing potential criminal penalties for walking around topless in Fort Collins, Colorado. That injunction was ordered by a federal district court judge upon the motion of Free the Nipple, the organization behind the national movement, and the two brave plaintiffs. However, the City of Fort Collins has appealed the injunction to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, which will be hearing arguments mid-January.

The Federal District Court for New Mexico issued a preliminary injunction blocking the state's Secretary of State from limiting the amount of money Representative Steve Pearce can transfer over from his prior federal campaign to his state bid for the governor's office.

Pearce apparently has (or at this point, maybe, had) nearly a million dollars just sitting in his federal campaign account. However, the New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver limited Pearce from transferring more than $11,000 from that account to his state campaign account due to New Mexico's campaign finance laws. The federal court disagreed and issued an injunction allowing Pearce to access the funds while the matter is pending in the courts.

In a line of cases that has subtly flown under the radar, you might be surprised to find out that your prescription drug records are not that confidential. In fact, in many states, law enforcement officers have access to a Prescription Drug Monitoring Database, often referred to as a PDMP database (Prescription Drug Monitoring Program).

A recent Tenth Circuit Court of Appeal opinion confirming the dismissal of two distinct cases alleging Fourth Amendment violations stemming from the warrantless search of a PDMP database explains the procedural problem the litigants faced more so than the actual problem with warrantless PDMP searches.

A recent appeal handed down by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals might change the way things get done in the mining and energy industry.

The appellate decision is requiring the federal agency that conducts analyses on environmental impacts for mining operations to redo their analysis for a group of mines subject to a challenge brought by the Wildearth Guardians and the Sierra Club. However, the subpar analysis was already relied upon, and as such, the court refused to vacate the agreements entered into allowing two mines to expand.

In what is sure to turn heads, a decision out of Colorado's Federal District Court has just ruled that the state's sex offender register scheme is unconstitutional. The court not only found that the scheme violated the Constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment, but it also violated the Fourteenth Amendment's due process protections.

Fortunately, before the entire state goes into panic mode locking their loved ones indoors, the ruling only applies to three particular individuals that have been harmed by Colorado's registration process. Additionally, the case outlines some of the basic flaws and misconceptions inherent in the sex offender registration schemes used across the country.

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."