Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

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Plaintiff Stephen Hamer resided in Trinidad, Colorado, confined to a motorized wheelchair, and a qualified individual with a disability under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“RA”). He did not own a car or otherwise use public transportation. Instead, he primarily used the City’s public sidewalks to move about town. Plaintiff contended many of the City’s sidewalks and the curb cuts allowing access onto those sidewalks did not comply with Title II of the ADA and section 504 of the RA. Plaintiff filed an ADA complaint with the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) informing the government about the state of the City’s sidewalks, and continued to lodge informal ADA and RA complaints at City Council meetings over several months. Apparently in response to Plaintiff’s multiple complaints and the results of a DOJ audit, City officials actively began repairing and amassing funding to further repair non-compliant sidewalks and curb cuts. Even so, Plaintiff nonetheless filed suit against the City for violations of Title II of the ADA and section 504 of the RA, seeking a declaratory judgment that the City’s sidewalks and curb cuts violated the ADA and RA, injunctive relief requiring City officials to remedy the City’s non-compliant sidewalks and curb cuts, monetary damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs. The district court granted summary judgment to the City on statute-of-limitations grounds, finding the applicable “statute of limitations begins to run when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the existence and cause of the injury which is the basis of his action.” The Tenth Circuit held a public entity violates Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act each day that it fails to remedy a noncompliant service, program, or activity. As a result, the applicable statute of limitations did not operate in its usual capacity as a firm bar to an untimely lawsuit. “Instead, it constrains a plaintiff’s right to relief to injuries sustained during the limitations period counting backwards from the day he or she files the lawsuit and injuries sustained while the lawsuit is pending.” Because the district court applied a different and incorrect standard, the Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Hamer v. City of Trinidad" on Justia Law

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Jaime Ceballos’s wife, Quianna Vigil, called police to report that her husband was in their driveway with a baseball bat “acting crazy,” and that he was drunk and probably on drugs. Vigil wanted police to remove Ceballos so she could return home to put the child to bed. Defendant William Husk and several other Thornton police officers responded. Within a minute of their arrival, Officer Husk shot Ceballos to death in the street in front of his home. Ceballos’s estate and his surviving wife and children sued Officer Husk and the City of Thornton, asserting: (1) a 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim against Officer Husk, alleging he used excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment; (2) a section 1983 claim alleging the City failed to train Officer Husk adequately in how to handle situations involving individuals who are emotionally distraught or who have a diminished ability to reason; and (3) a state-law wrongful death tort claim against Husk. In an interlocutory appeal, Defendants challenged the district court’s decision to deny them summary judgment on each of these three claims. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision denying Officer Husk summary judgment on the section 1983 excessive-force claim; the Court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction both the City’s appeal of the denial of summary judgment on the failure-to- train claim, and Husk’s appeal involving the state-law wrongful death claim. View "Estate of Jaime Ceballos v. Husk" on Justia Law

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Kyle Lindsey and Zayne Mann were seriously injured when Lindsey lost control of his utility vehicle on a gravel road after a brief police pursuit. They claimed the accident was caused by an overzealous officer who should not have initiated a chase over a minor traffic infraction, alleging violations of both their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by Officer Brandon Hyler, the City of Webbers Falls, and several other municipal officials, based on Officer Hyler’s conduct during the pursuit as well as his previous training. Lindsey and Mann also sought relief under Oklahoma law. The district court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment on all federal claims and concluded that Officer Hyler was entitled to qualified immunity. Because the record could not credibly sustain plaintiffs’ allegations, the Tenth Circuit concluded the district court appropriately dismissed their claims. View "Lindsey v. Hyler" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Tessa Farmer and Sara Weckhorst, two students at Kansas State University (“KSU”), alleged KSU, a recipient of federal educational funds, violated Title IX by being deliberately indifferent to reports it received of student-on-student sexual harassment which, in this case, involved rape. Plaintiffs alleged KSU violated Title IX’s ban against sex discrimination by being deliberately indifferent after Plaintiffs reported to KSU that other students had raped them, and that deliberate indifference caused Plaintiffs subsequently to be deprived of educational benefits that were available to other students. At the procedural posture presented by these interlocutory appeals, which addressed the denial of KSU’s motions to dismiss, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals accepted as true Plaintiffs’ factual allegations indicating that KSU was deliberately indifferent to their rape reports. Accepting that premise, the legal question presented to the Court was what harm Plaintiffs had to allege KSU’s deliberate indifference caused them. The Tenth Circuit concluded that, in this case, Plaintiffs sufficiently alleged that KSU’s deliberate indifference made each of them “vulnerable to” sexual harassment by allowing their student-assailants (unchecked and without the school investigating) to continue attending KSU along with Plaintiffs. “This, as Plaintiffs adequately allege, caused them to withdraw from participating in the educational opportunities offered by KSU.” The Court affirmed the district court’s decision to deny KSU’s Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss Plaintiffs’ Title IX claims. View "Farmer v. Kansas State University" on Justia Law

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This case was brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983, challenging the constitutionality of New Mexico’s system of bail. Plaintiffs-Appellants Darlene Collins, the Bail Bond Association of New Mexico (“BBANM”), and five New Mexico state legislators (the “Legislator Plaintiffs”) alleged New Mexico’s system of bail violated the Excessive Bail Clause of the Eighth Amendment, as well as the procedural and substantive components of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiffs further alleged the rules governing New Mexico’s system of bail were promulgated by the New Mexico Supreme Court in violation of the New Mexico Constitution. Defendants-Appellees were the New Mexico Supreme Court and its justices; the Second Judicial District Court of New Mexico, its chief judge, and its court executive officer; and the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court, its chief judge, and its court executive officer. They moved to dismiss, arguing that Plaintiffs lacked standing, Defendants were immune from suit, and Plaintiffs failed to state a claim. Defendants also moved for Rule 11 sanctions on the basis that Plaintiffs’ attorneys filed suit without adequately researching the viability of Plaintiffs’ claims. Plaintiffs moved for leave to amend their complaint to add a claim that Defendants’ Rule 11 motion violated Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights. The district court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss because it found that BBANM and the Legislator Plaintiffs lacked standing, Defendants were immune from suit, and Plaintiffs failed to state a claim. The district court also granted Defendants’ motion for sanctions and denied Plaintiffs’ motion to amend. Plaintiffs timely appealed, but finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Collins v. Daniels" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Anupama Bekkem filed suit against her employer, the Department of Veterans Affairs, based on numerous instances of discrimination and retaliation she allegedly experienced while working as a primary care physician for the VA in the Oklahoma City area. The district court dismissed some of her claims under Rule 12(b)(6) and granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant on the remaining claims. Plaintiff appealed. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's grant of summary judgment on Plaintiff’s claims of discrimination based on unequal pay and retaliation based on her non-selection for the position as North May clinic medical director, and dismissal of her claim of discrimination based on a reprimand she received, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. However, the Court reversed summary judgment as to Plaintiff's claim of retaliation relating to the reprimand, and remanded that claim for further proceedings at the district court. View "Bekkem v. Wilkie" on Justia Law

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I.B. and her mother, Jane Doe (collectively, “Does”), claimed that a caseworker from the El Paso County (Colorado) Department of Human Services ("DHA"), April Woodard, wrongfully searched I.B. at the Head Start preschool, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Without consent or a warrant, Woodard partially undressed I.B., performed a visual examination for signs of abuse, then photographed I.B.’s private areas and partially unclothed body. The Defendants moved to dismiss. The district court granted the motion, holding that qualified immunity precluded the Fourth Amendment unlawful search claim and that the complaint failed to state a Fourteenth Amendment claim. The Does appealed these rulings and the district court’s denial of leave to amend their complaint. Finding no constitutional violation, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Doe v. Woodard" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Laurie Exby-Stolley sued her former employer, the Board of County Commissioners of Weld County, Colorado (the County), under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). She alleged the County had failed to accommodate her disability, resulting in the loss of her job. The jury returned a verdict for the County. Exby-Stolley appealed, arguing: (1) the district court improperly instructed the jury that she needed to prove she had suffered an adverse employment action; (2) the district court refused to instruct the jury on a claim of constructive discharge or allow her to argue constructive discharge in closing argument; and (3) the district court misallocated the burden of proof in its undue-hardship jury instruction. The Tenth Circuit found no errors and affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Exby-Stolley v. Board of County Commissioners" on Justia Law

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Ryan Lee sued four Sheriff’s Deputies, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of his First and Fourth Amendment rights. On July 4, 2014, Lee and his wife, Tamila Lee, attended a barbecue where they consumed alcohol. After the couple returned home, an altercation broke out over a set of car keys. Tamila, in an attempt to keep her husband from driving, blocked him from exiting their home, and a physical struggle ensued. Deputies Mark O’Harold and Todd Tucker arrived first and entered the home with Tamila’s consent. Shortly afterward, Deputies Amanda Weiss and Chad Walker also arrived at the Lees’ home and separated the Lees for questioning. Lee was largely uncooperative. Tucker attempted to detain him, and another struggle broke out. O’Harold and Weiss, hearing a commotion, reentered the home. O’Harold applied an arm bar hold to Lee. Lee collided with the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator, and Weiss then struck him twice in the shoulder in an effort to force him to let go of the refrigerator. O’Harold also struck Lee twice in the neck. Tucker drew his Taser and applied it three to five times to Lee’s back, with each application lasting approximately three, five, and eight seconds respectively. Lee then lost consciousness. Throughout the incident, Walker observed but did not intervene. Weiss then handcuffed Lee and escorted him to Weiss’ squad car. Lee subsequently pled guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence. The district court granted the motion as to Lee’s First Amendment retaliation claim and the portion of his excessive force claim based on handcuffing, but denied it as to the remainder of his excessive force claim. The district court concluded that the facts remaining in dispute, when viewed in the light most favorable to Lee, precluded a grant of qualified immunity. Defendants appealed. The Tenth Circuit determined it lacked interlocutory appellate jurisdiction to review the district court’s determination of evidentiary sufficiency at the summary judgment stage. As to the purely legal challenge defendants raised on appeal, the Court concluded the district court correctly held that defendants used excessive force and did so in violation of clearly established law. The appeal was dismissed as to the factual challenges, and affirmed in all other respects. View "Lee v. Tucker" on Justia Law

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This appeal presented a question of whether established law supported Plaintiff Joseph Leiser's claim that two jail officials in Coffey County, Kansas, violated his constitutional rights by disclosing medical information about him that they had properly obtained. Plaintiff was set to be extradited from Illinois to Kansas, and the Kansas jail requested Illinois arrange for multiple medical examinations of Plaintiff to determine whether he had suffered injuries after being tasered by U.S. Marshals. The Kansas official learned Plaintiff had bone lesions and possibly cancer. This information was conveyed to the Coffey County Sheriff, who conveyed it to Coffey County Hospital, then to Plaintiff's family and friends, without first obtaining Plaintiff's permission. The Tenth Circuit determined the prison officials were entitled to qualified immunity, and dismissed his case. View "Leiser v. Moore" on Justia Law