Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

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In this shareholder-derivative action, Shareholders of The Western Union Company averred several of Western Union’s Officers and Directors breached their fiduciary duties to the company by willfully failing to implement and maintain an effective anti-money-laundering-compliance program (AML-compliance program), despite knowing of systemic deficiencies in the company’s AML compliance. The Shareholders didn’t make a pre-suit demand on Western Union’s Board of Directors to pursue this litigation, and the district court found no evidence that such demand would have been futile. The district court thus dismissed the case, reasoning that the Shareholders’ obligation to make a pre-suit demand on the Board was not excused. The Tenth Circuit concurred with the district court's decision to dismiss, and affirmed. View "City of Cambridge Retirement v. Ersek" on Justia Law

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Defendants ultimately filed two motions based on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). The motions were decided by different judges. After the first judge denied the first motion, he retired and the court reassigned the case to another judge. Defendants then filed their second motion, reurging or elaborating on what they had argued in their prior motion. This time, the second judge granted the motion. The Tenth Circuit determined the motion as presented was an improper Rule 59(e) motion because it had simply rehashed arguments from the first motion. Because the motion was improper, the district court erred in granting it. The Court therefore reversed. View "Nelson v. Board of County Commissioners" on Justia Law

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WildEarth Guardians appealed after the United States Forest Service published a 2014 environmental assessment (“EA”) to the Tennessee Creek Project, and subsequently issued a Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact. The Service undertook the project for a stated purpose of protecting from insects, disease, fire, improvement of wildlife habitat and to maintain watershed conditions. One of the conclusions in the EA determined none of these actions would adversely impact the Canadian lynx. WildEarth Guardians alleged the EA failed to adequately assess the Project’s effects on lynx and by failing to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS). The district court upheld the agency action. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the Agency’s actions, finding the Service satisfied its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) obligations when it reasonably concluded in its EA that under a worst-case scenario the lynx would not be adversely affected by the Project and reasonably concluded that an EIS was not necessary. View "WildEarth Guardians v. Conner" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant Jerud Butler was a government employee, a supervisor for the San Miguel County, Colorado, Road and Bridge Department. He alleged his supervisors violated his First Amendment freedom of speech when they demoted him for testifying truthfully in state court as a character witness for his sister-in-law. The state-court proceeding concerned a domestic child custody dispute between Butler’s sister-in-law and her ex-husband, who also worked for the County’s Road and Bridge Department. The district court dismissed Butler’s First Amendment claim with prejudice under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), concluding at step two of the Garcetti/Pickering analysis that Butler’s testimony at the custody hearing, given as a private citizen, was not on a matter of public concern. The Tenth Circuit rejected Butler’s assertion that any truthful sworn testimony given by a government employee in court as a citizen was per se always a matter of public concern. The Tenth Circuit employed a case-by-case approach, considering whether, in this particular case, the content of Butler’s testimony, as well as its form and context, made it speech involving a matter of public concern. After applying such an analysis here, the Court concluded Butler’s testimony during the child custody proceeding was not on a matter of public concern. "Although Butler’s testimony involved a matter of great significance to the private parties involved in the proceeding, it did not relate to any matter of political, social or other concern of the larger community." View "Butler v. Board of County Commissioners" on Justia Law

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Blue Valley Hospital, Inc., (“BVH”) appealed a district court’s dismissal of its action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) terminated BVH’s Medicare certification. The next day, BVH sought an administrative appeal before the HHS Departmental Appeals Board and brought this action. In this action, BVH sought an injunction to stay the termination of its Medicare certification and provider contracts pending its administrative appeal. The district court dismissed, holding the Medicare Act required BVH exhaust its administrative appeals before subject matter jurisdiction vested in the district court. BVH acknowledged that it did not exhaust administrative appeals with the Secretary of HHS prior to bringing this action, but argued: (1) the district court had federal question jurisdiction arising from BVH’s constitutional due process claim; (2) BVH’s due process claim presents a colorable and collateral constitutional claim for which jurisdictional exhaustion requirements are waived under Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319 (1976); and (3) the exhaustion requirements foreclosed the possibility of any judicial review and thus cannot deny jurisdiction under Bowen v. Michigan Academy of Family Physicians, 476 U.S. 667 (1986). The Tenth Circuit disagreed and affirmed dismissal. View "Blue Valley Hospital v. Azar" on Justia Law

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John Teets, a participant in an employer retirement plan, invested money in Great-West Life Annuity and Insurance Company’s investment fund which guaranteed investors would never lose their principal or the interest they accrued. The investment fund was offered to employers as an investment option for their employees’ retirement savings plans, which were governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”). Teets later sued Great-West under ERISA, alleging Great-West breached a fiduciary duty to participants in the fund or that Great-West was a nonfiduciary party in interest that benefitted from prohibited transactions with his plan’s assets. After certifying a class of 270,000 plan participants like Mr. Teets, the district court granted summary judgment for Great-West, holding that: (1) Great-West was not a fiduciary; and (2) Mr. Teets had not adduced sufficient evidence to impose liability on Great-West as a non-fiduciary party in interest. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment. View "Teets v. Great-West Life" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant Karna Sacchi obtained an unpaid internship with Defendant-Appellee IHC Health Services, Inc. (the “Hospital”), but her internship was terminated by Defendant-Appellee Joy Singh before it was scheduled to finish. Sacchi filed a complaint alleging: (1) associational discrimination and retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); (2) sex and religious discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act; (3) age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA); (4) breach of contract; and (5) defamation against Singh. The district court dismissed Sacchi’s federal claims because it concluded that she was not an employee and therefore not protected under the antidiscrimination statutes. The district court also declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over her non-federal claims and dismissed them without prejudice. On appeal to the Tenth Circuit, Sacchi argued that, in an internship setting, access to professional certification, a path to employment, or both could constitute indirect, significant job-related benefits and thereby satisfy the “threshold-remuneration” test if those benefits are substantial and not incident to the internship. In the alternative, Sacchi argued most unpaid interns were “employees” under federal antidiscrimination statutes. On the facts alleged in Sacchi’s complaint, the Tenth Circuit concluded the benefits claimed were too attenuated and speculative to constitute sufficient remuneration for purposes of the Tenth Circuit's threshold-remuneration test. Accordingly, the Court affirmed dismissal of her case. View "Sacchi v. IHC Health Services" 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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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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PetroChina Canada bought ten large heat-exchanger units from Kelvion’s Oklahoma plant for use in PetroChina’s oil and gas operations. Their contract included a mandatory forum-selection clause subjecting the parties to Canadian jurisdiction. After a dispute over unanticipated delivery costs that PetroChina refused to pay, Kelvion brought suit in Oklahoma. It asserted quantum meruit and unjust enrichment claims, arguing the forum-selection clause did not apply to its equitable claims. The district court disagreed, concluding the forum-selection clause applied, and dismissed the suit under the doctrine of forum non conveniens. Finding no error in judgment, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal for forum non conveniens. View "Kelvion, Inc. v. PetroChina Canada Ltd." on Justia Law