January 28, 2015

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 1/27/2015

On Tuesday, January 27, 2015, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued four published opinions and four unpublished opinions.

United States v. Valle-Rodriguez

United States v. Perez-Estrada

Tadlock v. Foxx

United States v. Zaavedra

Case summaries are not provided for unpublished opinions. However, published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.

 

Colorado Supreme Court: Announcement Sheet, 1/26/2015

On Monday, January 26, 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court issued one published opinion.

In re Hagan v. Farmers Insurance Exchange

The summary for this case is forthcoming, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Neither State Judicial nor the Colorado Bar Association provides case summaries for unpublished appellate opinions. The case announcement sheet is available here.

Colorado Supreme Court: Trial Court Abused Discretion by Allowing Change of Venue

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in In re Hagan v. Farmers Insurance Exchange; In re Ewald v. Farmers Insurance Exchange; In re Mayfield v. Farmers Insurance Exchange on Monday, January 26, 2015.

Change of Venue.

In these original proceedings under CAR 21, plaintiffs sought extraordinary relief from the trial courts’ orders granting a change of venue. The Supreme Court issued rules to show cause why those orders should not be vacated and venue transferred back to Boulder County District Court and consolidates its ruling here.

The Court held that the trial courts abused their discretion when they granted a change of venue in each of these cases. First, Boulder County District Court is a proper venue for all three cases; under CRCP 98(c)(1), plaintiffs were allowed to file their complaints in the county of their choice because defendant is a nonresident. Second, the trial courts granted the motions without the requisite evidentiary support. The affidavits that defendant submitted improperly focus on convenience to plaintiffs and do not satisfy the standard set forth in Sampson v. District Court, 197 Colo. 158, 160, 590 P.2d 958, 959 (1979). Consequently, the Court made the rules absolute and directed the transferee courts to return the cases to Boulder County District Court.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 1/26/2015

On Monday, January 26, 2015, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued one published opinion and two unpublished opinions.

Rivers v. State of Colorado

Boyce v. Berkebile

Case summaries are not provided for unpublished opinions. However, published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.

 

Tenth Circuit: Collateral Estoppel Bars Relitigation of Claims Decided in Other Federal Courts

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Stan Lee Media Inc. v. Walt Disney Co. on Tuesday, December 23, 2014.

In October 1998, legendary comic book artist Stan Lee entered into an employment agreement (“1998 agreement”) with a Colorado company he formed to create new characters, Stan Lee Entertainment, Inc. (the predecessor to Stan Lee Media). At the time, Lee had worked for Marvel for approximately 60 years, and the agreement expressly recognized he would continue to work for Marvel. In November 1998, Lee entered into a similar agreement with Marvel, transferring to Marvel essentially the same rights he had transferred to Stan Lee Media through the 1998 agreement. In 2001, Stan Lee repudiated the 1998 agreement, contending Stan Lee Media committed material breach and reclaiming ownership of the intellectual property rights. Over five years later, Stan Lee Media recorded the 1998 agreement with the U.S. Copyright Office, asserting in a cover letter that the 1998 agreement transferred to Stan Lee Media ownership rights in many famous characters, including Spider-Man and Iron Man.

Meanwhile, Marvel exploited the comic book universe by selling and licensing the character rights to major production companies in order to create, sell, and distribute motion pictures. These included 2002’s Spider-Man movie, which has grossed over $800 million worldwide. Despite Marvel’s success, Stan Lee Media did not assert ownership interests over the characters until 2007, at which time it filed lawsuits across the country. Many courts have considered Abadin v. Marvel Entm’t, Inc., No. 09 Civ. 0715 (PAC), 2010 WL 1257519 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 31, 2010) (Abadin I) binding precedent, including the lower court in this action.

Stan Lee Media filed a claim against Disney in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, alleging a single cause of action for federal copyright infringement. The district court granted Disney’s motion to dismiss, relying on Abadin I as precluding the Colorado litigation. Since the district court’s decision, the Ninth Circuit has issued a decision in a related suit. The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California dismissed Stan Lee Media’s claims on res judicata grounds, but the Ninth Circuit affirmed on different grounds, finding that Stan Lee Media failed to state a claim that is plausible on its face.

The Tenth Circuit reviewed the Ninth Circuit decision, the briefing in the Ninth Circuit and the Central District of California, and supplemental briefing submitted in the Tenth Circuit, and found that none of the elements of collateral estoppel can be reasonable debated, because each are present in the Tenth Circuit case.

The Tenth Circuit found that only the fourth element of collateral estoppel was seriously contested — Stan Lee Media alleges it did not have a full and fair opportunity to litigate the ownership issue. However, the Tenth Circuit rejected that argument. Stan Lee Media devoted five full pages in a response explaining how its claims met the Iqbal/Twombly and Rule 8 standards. Further, the Ninth Circuit’s decision was a dismissal with prejudice, so there is no point in allowing Stan Lee Media to amend its complaint. Finally, the Ninth Circuit’s singular and readily discernible rationale for dismissal — that Stan Lee Media’s claims are “simply implausible,” — clears all remaining obstacles to the application of collateral estoppel.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Stan Lee Media’s complaint for failure to state a claim.

Tenth Circuit: Congress Did Not Grant Authority to Expunge Records in Federal Youth Corrections Act

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Tokoph v. United States on Tuesday, December 23, 2014.

David Tokoph was sentenced in 1974 under the then-effective Federal Youth Corrections Act, which provided that for offenders sentenced to probation who met certain criteria, the court could set aside the conviction and provide the offender a certificate to that effect. In 1982, Tokoph was discharged, the sentence was set aside, and the court issued him a certificate to that effect. In 2012, Tokoph petitioned the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico to seal and expunge his records. The district court found it lacked authority to do so and denied the motion. Tokoph appealed.

The Tenth Circuit evaluated the case law on which Tokoph relied and found that his proposition was only supported by dicta, not holdings in the cases. To the contrary, the Tenth Circuit found the district court correctly followed binding circuit precedent in refusing to expunge the conviction. Tokoph also argued that Supreme Court precedent indicated authority to seal records, but the Tenth Circuit found that the indications were weak, and the binding Tenth Circuit precedent on point controlled. The Tenth Circuit also noted there is no applicable inherent equitable authority to grant expunction of a valid conviction.

The district court’s denial of Tokoph’s motion to expunge was affirmed. The Tenth Circuit reversed the order sealing the record.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 1/23/2015

On Friday, January 23, 2015, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued one published opinion and one unpublished opinion.

United States v. Valencia

Case summaries are not provided for unpublished opinions. However, published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.

 

Colorado Supreme Court: Profit from Contingency Fee Case Pending During Law Firm’s Dissolution Must Be Shared

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in LaFond v. Sweeney on Tuesday, January 20, 2015.

Colorado’s Limited Liability Company Act—CRS § 7-8-404(a)(1)—Contingent Fee—Unfinished Business Rule—No-Compensation Rule.

The Supreme Court held that under the plain language of Colorado’s Limited Liability Company Act (LLC Act), CRS §§ 7-80-101 to -1101, any profit derived from a contingency fee case that is pending upon dissolution of the LLC belongs to the LLC and must be divided between members and managers according to their profit sharing agreement. Members and managers are not entitled to additional compensation for their post-dissolution work winding up the LLC business. This holding derives from (1) the principle that law firms do not end upon dissolution, but extend through the winding-up period; (2) the fiduciary duties of members and managers of an LLC; and (3) the absence of language in the LLC Act granting members and managers the right to additional compensation for their post-dissolution services. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Abuse of Discretion Not to Dismiss Lawsuit Filed After Expiration of Statute of Limitations

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in In re Malm v. Villegas on Tuesday, January 20, 2015.

Civil Procedure—Time for Service of Process.

Villegas petitioned for relief pursuant to CAR 21 from an order of the district court granting Malm’s motion to reopen her personal injury lawsuit. The court denied Villegas’s motion to reconsider and dismiss the action for failure to prosecute, despite the passage of more than seven years between the filing and service of the complaint. Relying largely on Malm’s self-reported efforts to find and serve Villegas, as well as Villegas’s failure to demonstrate prejudice from the delay, the district court found that service was made within a reasonable time. The Supreme Court issued a rule to show cause why the district court had not abused its discretion in declining to dismiss for failure to prosecute.

The Court made its rule absolute and remanded the case with directions to dismiss the action. The delay between filing and service of the complaint extended beyond expiration of the applicable statute of limitations and there were no factual findings that the delay was the product of either wrongful conduct by the defendant or some formal impediment to service. Because the service was not made within a reasonable time, the district court abused its discretion in declining to dismiss the lawsuit for failure to prosecute.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Actual Conflict Requires Showing of Both Conflict of Interest and Adverse Effect

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in West v. People on Tuesday, January 20, 2015.

Conflicts of Interest—Post-Conviction and Extraordinary Relief—Ineffective Assistance of Counsel.

In these appeals, defendants alleged that their trial counsel labored under conflicts of interest because counsel concurrently or successively represented trial witnesses against them. The court of appeals remanded both cases to the trial courts to determine whether, under Cuyler v. Sullivan, 446 U.S. 335 (1980), defendants’ attorneys labored under an “actual conflict.” Defendants separately petitioned for review of the court of appeals’ judgments, asking the court to clarify whether the Sullivan standard requires a defendant to demonstrate, in addition to a conflict of interest, that an “adverse effect” arose from the conflict.

In People v. Castro, 657 P.2d 932 (Colo. 1983), the Supreme Court held that an adverse effect was inherent in a “real and substantial” conflict of interest and thus a separate showing was unnecessary. In this consolidated opinion, the Court overruled Castro because the U.S. Supreme Court recently held that an actual conflict, under the Sullivan standard, requires a defendant to show both a conflict of interest and an adverse effect on his or her attorney’s performance.

The Court held that to show an adverse effect, a defendant must (1) identify a plausible alternative defense strategy or tactic that trial counsel could have pursued; (2) show that the alternative strategy or tactic was objectively reasonable under the facts known to counsel at the time of the strategic decision; and (3) establish that counsel’s failure to pursue the strategy or tactic was linked to the actual conflict. The Court therefore affirmed the court of appeals’ judgments in part and instructed the trial courts to consider whether, under this framework, defendants received ineffective assistance of counsel by virtue of their attorneys’ alleged conflicts and are therefore entitled to new trials.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Announcement Sheet, 1/22/2015

On Thursday, January 22, 2015, the Colorado Court of Appeals issued no published opinion and 40 unpublished opinions.

Neither State Judicial nor the Colorado Bar Association provides case summaries for unpublished appellate opinions. The case announcement sheet is available here.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 1/21/2015

On Wednesday, January 21, 2015, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued two published opinions and five unpublished opinions.

United States v. Woods

Hanover American Insurance Co. v. Balfour

United States v. Bell

United States v. Loman

United States v. Corrigan

Case summaries are not provided for unpublished opinions. However, published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.