Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

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Plaintiff-Appellant Bryan “Shane” Jones appealed the dismissal of his Title VII sex discrimination claim against Defendant-Appellee Needham Trucking, LLC and his state law tort claim for wrongful interference with a contractual relationship against Defendant-Appellee Julie Needham. Jones completed an intake questionnaire with the EEOC. In response to questions seeking more detailed explanations, Jones wrote “[s]ee attached.” The attachment never made it to the EEOC, nor did the EEOC alert Jones that it was missing. Nevertheless, the EEOC prepared a charge form on his behalf, and issued a right-to-sue letter. Jones then filed his lawsuit, alleging sexual harassment, negligence, negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress, wrongful interference with a contractual or business relationship, and violation of the Oklahoma Employment Security Act of 1980 (“OESA”). The district court held that Jones failed to exhaust his administrative remedies for his quid pro quo sexual harassment claim, that his state law tort claim was precluded by the Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Act (“OADA”), and that his OESA claim failed for want of a private right of action. Needham Trucking argued that the facts alleged were insufficient to put it on notice of the quid pro quo harassment claim made in Jones’s amended complaint because the facts from the attachment were not reflected in the EEOC charge form or right-to-sue letter. The Tenth Circuit concluded that though the complaint Jones filed was more detailed than his charge form, the form only needed to “describe generally” the alleged discrimination. The Tenth Circuit reversed the district court with respect to the discrimination claim, but affirmed on the state law tort claims. View "Jones v. Needham" on Justia Law

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The Tenth Circuit found that Terry Margheim failed to show an essential element of his malicious prosecution claim against deputy district attorney Emela Buljko to establish a constitutional violation. For that reason, the Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded with instructions to grant qualified immunity to Buljko. Margheim sued Buljko under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for malicious prosecution in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. This case arose from Margheim’s involvement in three state criminal matters - two domestic violence cases and a later drug case. His malicious prosecution claim was based on his prosecution in the drug case, but the three cases were tied together. When Buljko raised the qualified immunity defense in district court, Margheim had the burden to show a violation of clearly established federal law. (CA-D) Save Our Heritage Organization (McConnell) View "Margheim v. Buljko" on Justia Law

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Kent Duty filed suit against BNSF Railway Company (“BNSF”), after he applied to work there as a locomotive electrician. Duty had an impairment that limits his grip strength in his right hand. Fearing that Duty would fall from ladders, BNSF revoked his offer for employment. Duty and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “Commission”) sued BNSF for employment discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”). The ADA limits its protection by recognizing that not all impairments are disabilities. Applying the ADA’s definition of “disability,” the district court found that Kent Duty was not disabled and granted summary judgment to BNSF. On appeal, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "EEOC v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

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VR Acquisitions, LLC (VRA) owned a roughly 6,700-acre property in Utah’s Jordanelle Basin. VRA brought this action in 2015, asserting three federal constitutional claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and five state-law claims. All claims rested, to some degree, on VRA’s assertion that an invalid assessment lien was recorded against the property three years before VRA bought the property. The district court dismissed all eight claims with prejudice under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), and VRA appealed. Because the district court properly dismissed VRA’s section 1983 claims for lack of prudential standing, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of those claims with prejudice. But because the district court should have declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over VRA’s state-law claims, the Tenth Circuit reversed its dismissal with prejudice of those claims and remanded with directions for the district court to dismiss those claims without prejudice. View "VR Acquisitions v. Wasatch County" on Justia Law

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Monica Pompeo, a student in a graduate-level course at the University of New Mexico (“UNM”), claimed that UNM officials retaliated against her in violation of her free speech rights because they disagreed with viewpoints she expressed in an assigned class paper. In "Axson-Flynn v. Johnson," (356 F.3d 1277 (10th Cir. 2004)), the Tenth Circuit held courts may not override an educator’s decision in the school-sponsored speech context “unless it is such a substantial departure from accepted academic norms as to demonstrate that the person or committee responsible did not actually exercise professional judgment” and instead used “the proffered goal or methodology [as] a sham pretext for an impermissible ulterior motive.” Here, Pompeo asked the Tenth Circuit to draw an analogy between the religious discrimination at issue in "Axson-Flynn" and the viewpoint discrimination she complained of in this case. "Yet our court has specifically held that precedent 'allows educators to make viewpoint-based decisions about school-sponsored speech' and may restrict speech they believe contains 'inflammatory and divisive statements.'" Finding no reversible error in the district court's grant of summary judgment to UNM, the Tenth Circuit affirmed dismissal of Pompeo's case. View "Pompeo v. Board of Regents" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Chetan Patel appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants in this 42 U.S.C. 1983 federal civil rights case, in which Plaintiff raised numerous claims against various police officers and other governmental officials involved in his arrest on charges of felony VIN fraud and the related search and seizure of his property in Basin, Wyoming. In granting summary judgment, the court refused to consider a purported affidavit produced by Plaintiff’s counsel. The court also disregarded Plaintiff’s attorneys’ affidavits based on its conclusion that relying on the attorneys’ affidavits would make them material witnesses to this case in violation of Rule 3.7 of the Wyoming Rules of Professional Conduct. The court then concluded that the purported affidavit should have been disregarded both because it was irrelevant and because, without Plaintiff’s counsel’s affidavits, there was no admissible evidence that it was in fact signed by the person making the statement in the affidavit. After review, the Tenth Circuit reversed the grant of summary judgment as to the seizure of certain items and remanded for further proceedings on this claim. The Court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of all Defendants on the remainder of Plaintiff’s federal claims, and affirmed the dismissal with prejudice of Plaintiff’s state law claims against Defendant Frentheway. The Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings dismissal of the state claims as to all other Defendants. View "Patel v. Hall" on Justia Law

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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) issued a subpoena to TriCore Reference Laboratories (“TriCore”) seeking information relating to an individual’s charge of disability and pregnancy discrimination. After TriCore refused to comply, the EEOC asked the New Mexico federal district court to enforce the subpoena. The court denied the request, and the EEOC appealed. Although the Tenth Circuit disagreed with some of the district court’s analysis, it could not say it abused its discretion. View "EEOC v. TriCore Reference Laboratories" on Justia Law

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Steven Williams alleged that his former employer, FedEx Corporate Services, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by discriminating against him based on his actual and perceived disabilities, and by requiring his enrollment in the company’s substance abuse and drug testing program. Williams further alleges that Aetna Life Insurance Company, the administrator of FedEx’s short-term disability plan, breached its fiduciary duty under the Employee Retirement Income and Security Act (ERISA) when it reported to FedEx that Williams filed a disability claim for substance abuse. Both FedEx and Aetna filed motions for summary judgment, which the district court granted. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed in part, and reversed and remanded. An employer is liable for an improper medical examination or inquiry, “unless such examination or inquiry is shown to be job-related and consistent with business necessity.” FedEx argued that it satisfied the business necessity exception because its employee testing program “ensure[] that employees who seek assistance for drug abuse or dependencies are no longer abusing the drug if they return to FedEx.” The Tenth Circuit found that the district court did not address this argument. As a result, the Court did not have an adequate record from which it could decide this issue on appeal. The Court reversed for the district court to decide that issue, and affirmed in all other respects. View "Williams v. FedEx Corporate" on Justia Law

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In 2009, as part of a federal law-enforcement investigation, FBI and Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) agents arrested twenty-three people and searched twelve properties in and near three Utah cities. The operation targeted persons possessing and trafficking in Native American artifacts illegally taken from the Four Corners region of the United States. One day after agents searched Dr. James D. Redd’s home, arrested him as part of this operation, and released him on bond, Dr. Redd committed suicide. Dr. Redd’s Estate (“the Estate”) sued sixteen named FBI and BLM agents and twenty-one unnamed agents under “Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics,” (403 U.S. 388 (1971)), claiming that the agents had violated Dr. Redd’s Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The district court granted the Defendants’ motions to dismiss all of the Estate’s claims except one: a Fourth Amendment excessive-force claim against the lead BLM agent, Daniel Love. Later, on qualified-immunity grounds, the district court granted Agent Love summary judgment on that final claim. The Estate appealed the district court’s dismissal of the excessive-force claim. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Estate of James Redd v. Love" on Justia Law

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This appeal stems from an officer-involved shooting in the early morning hours of September 19, 2011. At approximately 3:50 a.m., plaintiff Matthew Carabajal was driving a vehicle containing three other individuals, including his infant son V.M.C., when he noticed that he was being followed by a police vehicle with its lights and siren activated. Plaintiff drove for several blocks. Other officers were notified and reported to the scene. Plaintiff pulled over, the officers exited their police cars, and one officer stepped in front of plaintiff’s vehicle. Soon thereafter, plaintiff’s vehicle began to move forward. The officer fired two rounds from his shotgun at plaintiff, severely injuring him. At that time, V.M.C. was still in the vehicle, secured in a car seat behind the front passenger. V.M.C., through Mathew and V.M.C.’s mother, Arianna Martinez, appealed the district court’s judgment in favor of defendants-appellees Officers Joshua Thornton and Michael Sutton, and Defendant-Appellee City of Cheyenne (“the City”). On appeal, plaintiffs challenged: (1) the district court’s grant of a motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment claim of unlawful seizure of V.M.C. by Officer Thornton when he shot into the vehicle that V.M.C. occupied; (2) the grant of summary judgment in favor of the officers based upon qualified immunity as to Carabajal’s excessive force claims; and (3) the district court’s initial dismissal of, and later grant of summary judgment in favor of the City on, Plaintiffs’ claims of negligent hiring of Officer Thornton. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Carabajal v. City of Cheyenne" on Justia Law