Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

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Correct Care Solutions, LLC (CCS) terminated Alena Fassbender’s employment for violating CCS policy. Fassbender, who was pregnant at the time of her termination, argued she was terminated because CCS had one too many pregnant workers in Fassbender’s unit, which posed a problem for her supervisor. After review of the district court record, the Tenth Circuit concluded a reasonable jury could believe Fassbender’s version of events. Accordingly, the Court reversed the portion of the district court’s order granting CCS summary judgment on Fassbender’s pregnancy discrimination claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. secs. 2000e–2000e-17. However, the Court affirmed in part, finding no reasonable jury could believe Fassbender’s alternative claim that CCS terminated her in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment. View "Fassbender v. Correct Care Solutions" on Justia Law

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Mariano Moya and Lonnie Petry were arrested based on outstanding warrants and detained in a county jail for 30 days or more prior to their arraignments. These arraignment delays violated New Mexico law, which required arraignment of a defendant within 15 days of arrest. Both men sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for deprivation of due process. The district court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a valid claim. The Tenth Circuit affirmed because Moya and Petry failed to plausibly allege a factual basis for liability. View "Moya v. Garcia" on Justia Law

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Hutchinson, Kansas police officers responded to a reported armed hostage situation and arrested DeRon McCoy, Jr. The officers brought him to the ground, struck him, and rendered him unconscious with a carotid restraint maneuver. While unconscious, the officers handcuffed McCoy’s arms behind his back, zip-tied his legs together, and moved him into a seated position. As McCoy regained consciousness, the officers resumed striking him and placed him into a second carotid restraint, rendering him unconscious a second time. Based on this incident, McCoy sued three of the arresting officers who participated in his arrest under 42 U.S.C. 1983. He alleged that they violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force. The Appellees-officers moved for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds. The district court granted the motion, determining: (1) Appellees acted reasonably under the circumstances; and (2) the relevant law was not clearly established at the time of the Appellees’ alleged conduct. McCoy appealed. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed in part, and reversed in part, finding Appellees were entitled to qualified immunity (1) for their conduct before McCoy’s arms and legs were bound while he was unconscious, but (2) not for their conduct after this point. View "McCoy v. Meyers" on Justia Law

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Hutchinson, Kansas police officers responded to a reported armed hostage situation and arrested DeRon McCoy, Jr. The officers brought him to the ground, struck him, and rendered him unconscious with a carotid restraint maneuver. While unconscious, the officers handcuffed McCoy’s arms behind his back, zip-tied his legs together, and moved him into a seated position. As McCoy regained consciousness, the officers resumed striking him and placed him into a second carotid restraint, rendering him unconscious a second time. Based on this incident, McCoy sued three of the arresting officers who participated in his arrest under 42 U.S.C. 1983. He alleged that they violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force. The Appellees-officers moved for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds. The district court granted the motion, determining: (1) Appellees acted reasonably under the circumstances; and (2) the relevant law was not clearly established at the time of the Appellees’ alleged conduct. McCoy appealed. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed in part, and reversed in part, finding Appellees were entitled to qualified immunity (1) for their conduct before McCoy’s arms and legs were bound while he was unconscious, but (2) not for their conduct after this point. View "McCoy v. Meyers" on Justia Law

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Denver Detention Center (“DDC”) prisoner Craig Ralston filed a 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983 civil rights suit against Hosea Cannon. Ralston alleged Cannon, the official charged with “coordinating, directing[,] and monitoring the religious activities” of DDC inmates, violated his First Amendment right to free exercise by denying his request for a kosher diet. Cannon moved for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity, asserting his conduct was, at most, negligent and, thus, did not rise to the level of a First Amendment violation. The district court denied Cannon’s request for qualified immunity. The district court concluded it was clearly established that a kosher-meal accommodation was necessary if Ralston had an honest belief the accommodation was important to his free exercise of religion. Importantly, the district court further concluded the record, read in the light most favorable to Ralston, was sufficient to allow a reasonable juror to find Cannon consciously or intentionally interfered with Ralston’s right to free exercise by denying the kosher-diet request. Cannon appealed. The Tenth Circuit determined that each aspect of Cannon’s appeal amounted to a challenge of the district court’s determinations of evidentiary sufficiency. Accordingly, the Court lacked jurisdiction over this interlocutory appeal, and dismissed Cannon’s appeal. View "Ralston v. Cannon" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Sherida Felders, Elijah Madyun and Delarryon Hansend filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging, among other things, that Defendant Brian Bairett and other law enforcement officers violated Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment rights during a traffic stop. In February 2009, before Plaintiffs served Bairett (or any other defendant) with a summons and the complaint, Bairett offered to settle the case by paying the driver, Felders, $20,000 and passengers Madyun and Hansend $2,500 each. Plaintiffs did not accept Bairett’s offer. Two months later, Plaintiffs timely sent Bairett’s counsel a request to waive service of the summons and complaint, which Bairett’s attorney executed. Six years later, a jury found Defendant Bairett liable for unlawfully searching Plaintiffs’ car and awarded the driver, Felders, $15,000, and her two passengers, Madyun and Hansend, nominal damages of $1 each. After the jury’s verdict, Plaintiffs moved “To Strike and/or Deem Ineffective Bairett’s Alleged ‘Offer of Judgment.’” The district court granted that motion, ruling that Bairett’s February 2009 offer to settle the case did not qualify as a Fed. R. Civ. P. 68 offer to allow judgment against Bairett because he made that settlement offer before he became a party to this litigation. Ordinarily prevailing parties can recover litigation costs from their opponent. Bairett argued on appeal that he effectively invoked Rule 68 to limit his liability for Plaintiffs’ costs. But the district court ruled that Bairett’s Rule 68 offer of judgment was premature, and thus ineffective, because Bairett made it before he had become a party to this litigation. To this, the Tenth Circuit agreed: because Rule 68 required the “party defending against a claim” to make an “offer to allow judgment” against him, and because a court cannot enter judgment against the offeror until he has first been made a party to the litigation, Bairett’s offer, filed before Plaintiffs served him with the summons and complaint or obtained his waiver of service, was too early to be effective. View "Felders v. Bairett" on Justia Law

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In 2016, Kansas sent notices of decisions to terminate its Medicaid contracts with two Planned Parenthood affiliates, Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri (“PPGP”), and Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region (“PPSLR”). The notices cited concerns about the level of PPGP’s cooperation in solid-waste inspections, both Providers’ billing practices, and an anti-abortion group’s allegations that Planned Parenthood of America (“PPFA”) executives had been video-recorded negotiating the sale of fetal tissue and body parts. Together, the Providers and three individual Jane Does (“the Patients”) immediately sued Susan Mosier, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (“KDHE”), under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. 1396a(a)(23) and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction enjoining Kansas from terminating the Providers from the state’s Medicaid program. "States may not terminate providers from their Medicaid program for any reason they see fit, especially when that reason is unrelated to the provider’s competence and the quality of the healthcare it provides." The Tenth Circuit joined four of five circuits that addressed this same provision and affirmed the district court’s injunction prohibiting Kansas from terminating its Medicaid contract with PPGP. But the Court vacated the district court’s injunction as it pertained to PPSLR, remanding for further proceedings on that issue, because Plaintiffs failed to establish standing to challenge that termination. But on this record, the Court could not determine whether PPSLR itself could establish standing, an issue the district court declined to decide but now must decide on remand. View "Planned Parenthood v. Andersen" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from prison officials’ attempt to gain control over an agitated prisoner who refused to obey their orders, locked himself in the prison’s outdoor recreation yard, and threatened prison officials. Officials decided to drop tear gas into the recreation yard. An intake vent in the yard drew the gas in and filtered it into the prison. Numerous prisoners in their cells were exposed to the gas. Prison officials evacuated the prisoners housed in two sections of the prison after they secured the prisoner in the recreation yard. The officials did not, however, evacuate the prisoners in two other sections. On behalf of a class of about one-hundred prisoners, Timothy Redmond sued three of the prison officials for constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming the officials violated the Eighth Amendment and Utah’s Constitution by exposing the prisoners to gas, and then failing to provide adequate medical care. The district court granted the defendants’ summary judgment motion. After review of the claims, the Tenth Circuit affirmed: the prison officials’ conduct, at most, only accidently exposed the prisoners to CS gas, and qualified immunity shields government officials from liability for mistakes like this one. And the rest of Redmond’s claims failed either because Redmond forfeited them, failed to prove a constitutional violation occurred, or did not cite case law that clearly established the alleged rights. Furthermore, violating the Utah Constitution required more-than-negligent conduct, and the prison officials’ conduct was “textbook negligence.” View "Redmond v. Crowther" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from prison officials’ attempt to gain control over an agitated prisoner who refused to obey their orders, locked himself in the prison’s outdoor recreation yard, and threatened prison officials. Officials decided to drop tear gas into the recreation yard. An intake vent in the yard drew the gas in and filtered it into the prison. Numerous prisoners in their cells were exposed to the gas. Prison officials evacuated the prisoners housed in two sections of the prison after they secured the prisoner in the recreation yard. The officials did not, however, evacuate the prisoners in two other sections. On behalf of a class of about one-hundred prisoners, Timothy Redmond sued three of the prison officials for constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming the officials violated the Eighth Amendment and Utah’s Constitution by exposing the prisoners to gas, and then failing to provide adequate medical care. The district court granted the defendants’ summary judgment motion. After review of the claims, the Tenth Circuit affirmed: the prison officials’ conduct, at most, only accidently exposed the prisoners to CS gas, and qualified immunity shields government officials from liability for mistakes like this one. And the rest of Redmond’s claims failed either because Redmond forfeited them, failed to prove a constitutional violation occurred, or did not cite case law that clearly established the alleged rights. Furthermore, violating the Utah Constitution required more-than-negligent conduct, and the prison officials’ conduct was “textbook negligence.” View "Redmond v. Crowther" on Justia Law

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This civil rights class action lawsuit was filed thirty years ago to challenge various aspects of the institutionalization of developmentally disabled individuals at two state-supported facilities in New Mexico. After a lengthy trial in 1990, the district court ruled that Defendants (the two institutions and the individuals charged with their operation) were violating class members’ federal constitutional and statutory rights. The district court ordered the parties to develop a plan to cure the violations, and the plan was implemented over the ensuing years through several consent decrees and other court-approved agreements. Although the two institutions closed in the 1990s, the district court has continued to monitor whether Defendants complied with the obligations mandated by the consent decrees. In the years since the court’s initial ruling, the parties have agreed to, and the court has approved, numerous additional decree obligations of varying specificity with which Defendants must comply before the court will discontinue its oversight. As of the district court’s most recent order, Defendants had yet to fulfill over 300 decree obligations. In August 2015, Defendants moved under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(5) to vacate all consent decrees and to terminate the court’s oversight, arguing that changed factual circumstances warrant the requested relief. The district court denied the motion in June 2016. Defendants appealed. The Tenth Circuit vacated the 2016 Order and remanded the matter for the district court to decide whether Defendants were currently violating class members’ federal constitutional or statutory rights, and to reassess the equity of continuing federal oversight with the benefit of that determination. View "Jackson v. Los Lunas Community Program" on Justia Law