Articles Posted in U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

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This appeal related to petitioner Linda Hendron's third application for disability benefits. She filed the first in 1999 and was denied on the merits. She applied again in 2001, and was denied on res judicata grounds. This latest application was filed in 2009, claiming a disability onset date of November 1, 1995. After the Social Security Administration denied the claim on res judicata grounds, requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ heard testimony from petitioner, and considered 19 medical exhibits that had not been submitted in petitioner's previous applications. The ALJ issued a written decision finding that petitioner was not disabled before the expiration of her insured status. The Appeals Council denied review, and petitioner took her appeal to the district court, which concluded the ALJ failed to develop a sufficient record on which to base a disability decision. The Commissioner appealed the district court's decision. Finding ample evidence in the record that the ALJ developed the record on which he denied petitioner's claim, the Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded the case for entry of judgment in favor of the Commissioner. View "Hendron v. Colvin" on Justia Law

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Biodiversity Conservation Alliance challenged a United States Forest Service decision modifying trail use in the two-million-acre Medicine Bow National Forest in southern Wyoming. The Forest Service formally closed several hundred miles of unauthorized motorized trails, but allowed motorcycle use on an approximately five-mile trail in the Middle Fork Inventoried Roadless Area and several connecting trails. The Alliance argued the Forest Service did not properly consider the impacts on wetlands and non-motorized recreation in reaching its decision, and should have found that significant impacts required the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Upon review, the Tenth Circuit concluded the Forest Service's Environmental Assessment adequately supported its finding that the proposed decision would have no significant impacts on wetlands or other users of the Middle Fork IRA. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court and upheld the Forest Service decision. View "Biodiversity Conservation v. United States Forest Service" on Justia Law

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An election dispute arose about which individuals were properly elected or appointed to govern the Thlopthlocco people. The Tribal Town filed suit in the tribal court of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and, accordingly, voluntarily submitted to that court's jurisdiction. The Tribal Town subsequently concluded it did not want to maintain its suit in tribal court and dismissed its claims. But the defendant in that suit had, by that time, filed cross-claims. Arguing that the Tribal Town's sovereign immunity waiver did not cover proceedings on the cross-claims, the Tribal Town attempted to escape Muscogee court jurisdiction, but, in various decisions, several judges and justices of the Muscogee courts held that they may exercise jurisdiction over the Tribal Town without its consent. The Tribal Town then filed a federal action in the Northern District of Oklahoma against those Muscogee judicial officers, seeking to enjoin the Muscogee courts' exercise of jurisdiction. The district court dismissed the case, finding that the federal courts lacked subject matter jurisdiction, defendants were entitled to sovereign immunity, the Tribal Town had failed to join indispensable parties, and the Tribal Town had failed to exhaust its remedies in tribal court. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit concluded, however, that the Tribal Town presented a federal question and that the other claims do not require dismissal. But the Court agreed the Tribal Town should have exhausted its remedies in tribal court while its federal court action was abated. View "Thlopthlocco Tribal Town v. Stidham, et al" on Justia Law

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When negotiations between the Teamsters and Harborlite reached an impasse, management told the union that unless it would agree to the company's final offer it would lock out union members and "immediately begin hiring permanent replacements for locked out employees." Several days later, the company backed off its threat: while it continued the lockout and began hiring new workers, it said that "until further notice" these workers would only be temporary. After three months, the company let its temporary workers go and permitted union members to return to work even though the union never did accept the company's purportedly final offer. The union petitioned the National Labor Relations Board, and the Board agreed with the union that the act of threatening to hire permanent replacement workers violated 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(1). The Board ordered Harborlite to cease making such threats and to post a notice admitting its violation of the law. The union appealed the Board's decision, arguing that Harborlite's lockout was itself unlawful and therefore entitled its union employees to back pay. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that the Board did not err in refusing to order additional remedial measures against the company, namely, back pay. View "Teamsters Local Union No. 455 v. NLRB" on Justia Law

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Husband and wife Alberto Martinez Molina and Cristina Ramirez Rivera were Mexican citizens subject to final orders of removal from the United States. After an immigration judge declined to cancel their removal orders, the couple filed a motion to reopen based on ineffective representation of counsel. With the motion, they submitted evidence that they had resided in the United States since 1998. The Board of Immigration Appeals denied the motion, reasoning that the couple had not shown prejudice because the evidence that they submitted: (1) could not overcome discrepancies in their testimony, and (2) was the same or substantially similar to the evidence considered by the immigration judge. The spouses then filed a petition for review, arguing that: (1) the Board abused its discretion in rejecting their claim for ineffective representation, and (2) the immigration judge failed to consider the entire record. As to Ms. Ramirez, the Tenth Circuit affirmed: the Board acted within its discretion in rejecting her ineffective-representation claim, and Ms. Ramirez did not exhaust her claim involving failure of the immigration judge to consider the entire record. As to Mr. Martinez, the Court remanded to the Board: Mr. Martinez did not exhaust his claim involving failure to consider the entire record, but he did exhaust his ineffective-representation claim, and the Board abused its discretion when it mistakenly concluded that the newly submitted evidence was the same or substantially similar to the evidence considered by the immigration judge. View "Molina v. Holder" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Lucrecia Carpio Holmes appealed a district court’s ruling that her claim for disability benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) was barred due to her failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Holmes v. Colorado Coalition" on Justia Law

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This case was an interlocutory appeal from the district court’s denial of qualified immunity in an Eighth Amendment case brought by a Colorado state prisoner. Plaintiff Homaidan Al-Turki filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against several prison officials, including Defendant Mary Robinson (a prison nurse) based on these officials’ failure to provide him with any type of medical evaluation or treatment while he was suffering through several hours of severe abdominal pain from what turned out to be kidney stones. The district court granted qualified immunity to the other prison officials, none of whom were medical professionals, but denied Defendant Robinson’s summary judgment motion for qualified immunity. Defendant then filed this interlocutory appeal. On appeal, the issues this case presented to the Tenth Circuit were: (1) whether the hours of severe pain Plaintiff experienced constituted a sufficiently serious medical need to satisfy the objective prong of the Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference test; and (2) whether Defendant’s alleged actions violated clearly established law. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court on both issues. View "Al-Turki v. Robinson, et al" on Justia Law

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This appeal consolidated two cases about United States Forest Service actions in the Black Hills National Forest (BHNF). Appellants, (collectively, "Biodiversity") were largely non-profit organizations interested in species and habitat protection in the BHNF. Appellees were the Forest Service and several of its officials tasked with managing the BHNF. Intervenors-Appellees were state and county governments and private groups concerned with how management of the BHNF affected nearby private land, state and county citizens, and visitors. Biodiversity sued the Forest Service regarding the BHNF in two separate proceedings: (1) in the United States Federal District Court for the District of Wyoming, Biodiversity claimed the Forest Service had failed to comply with various federal statutes and regulations; and (2) in the United States Federal District Court for the District of Colorado, Biodiversity moved for relief, arguing the Forest Service had violated a settlement agreement. The district courts denied Biodiversity's petition for review and dismissed Biodiversity's motion, respectively. After careful consideration of the district courts' records, the Tenth Circuit found no reversible errors and affirmed the Wyoming and Colorado courts. View "Biodiversity Conservation, et al v. Jiron, et al" on Justia Law

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Chris Hogan lost his job with the Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency("UTOPIA"). Claiming he was fired for revealing a conflict of interest in contract awards, he threatened to sue the agency for wrongful termination. Shortly after making this threat, he was subject to several unflattering media articles about his job performance and his termination dispute with the agency’s leaders. Several of the stories claimed his threats to sue the agency amounted to extortion or blackmail. One of the stories was written pseudonymously by Michael Winder, the mayor of West Valley City where UTOPIA did much of its business. Hogan sued UTOPIA, the mayor, the City, and a number of other people he believed were involved in the publication of the articles. He claimed the articles were defamatory, portrayed him in a false light, invaded his privacy, were an intentional infliction of emotional distress, a deprivation of his constitutional rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. 1983, and a civil conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. 1985. He also sued UTOPIA for First Amendment violations, breach of contract, wrongful termination, and other violations of state law in a separate lawsuit. The district court dismissed all of the claims, and finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed: "because the articles' critical statements are explained by their context, we agree with the district court's conclusion that the articles were neither defamatory nor otherwise tortiously offensive. And we further agree that Hogan's federal law claims cannot go forward because he has insufficiently pleaded that the defendants' actions were exercises of their power under state law and that the defendants conspired to punish Hogan for bringing his claims to court." View "Hogan v. Winder, et al" on Justia Law

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Ramirez-Coria illegally entered the United States in 1995. He was placed in removal proceedings in April 2009, and conceded removability at his initial hearing. At a second hearing in May 2009, Ramirez-Coria requested a continuance in order to complete his application for cancellation of removal (Form EOIR-42B). The instructions on Form EOIR-42B directed Ramirez-Coria to: (1) attend an appointment with a nearby immigration Application Support Center (ASC) to provide biometric information; (2) obtain a biometrics confirmation notice from the ASC and bring it to his hearing as evidence he had provided his biometrics; and (3) file the completed Form EOIR-42B application and all supporting documentation with the Immigration Court within the time period directed by the IJ. Because Ramirez-Coria had not included the biometric information with his application, the IJ rescheduled his hearing to October 2010, eighteen months away. The IJ later rescheduled the hearing to January 2012, but shortly before the hearing Ramirez-Coria’s counsel moved to withdraw, stating his client had “lost interest in his own case.” New counsel entered an appearance, and the hearing was rescheduled for March 2, 2012. Ramirez-Coria submitted his supporting documentation for the application two days before the March hearing, but without the biometric information. At the hearing, counsel told the IJ that Ramirez-Coria had gone to an ASC the day before and provided his fingerprints. Officials at ASC would not take Ramirez-Coria’s fingerprints without any identification or birth certificate, and counsel stated that Ramirez-Coria had lacked any form of identification for the past three years until the day before the hearing. The government stated that DHS had no record that Ramirez-Coria had provided his fingerprints. Counsel did not dispute the IJ’s observation that the DHS obviously had not had time to complete its required investigation. The IJ also noted that all of Ramirez-Coria’s supporting documentation for the application was untimely because the Immigration Court Practice Manual requires all filings to be submitted at least fifteen days in advance of the hearing. Counsel stated her office had been diligent in contacting Ramirez-Coria, but he had been working a lot and it had been difficult to get the documentation. The IJ determined that Ramirez-Coria’s application for cancellation of removal should have been deemed abandoned and concluded that he had not shown good cause for failing to complete the biometric requirement in over two years, nor had his counsel ever informed the IJ that he was having any problem obtaining his fingerprints. The IJ dismissed his application, but granted Ramirez-Coria voluntary departure. Ramirez-Coria appealed to the BIA, which concluded the IJ properly deemed his cancellation-of-removal application abandoned, and it dismissed his appeal. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit denied Ramirez-Coria's petition. View "Ramirez-Coria v. Holder" on Justia Law