October 24, 2014

Tenth Circuit: Sanctions Reversed for Lack of Notice and Hearing

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United States v. Melot on Friday, September 26, 2014.

Katherine Melot (plaintiff) and her husband Billy owe the government millions of dollars in federal taxes, and Billy is serving a prison sentence for tax crimes. The tax debt led the government to foreclose on the Melots’ properties. The Melots tried to stop the foreclosures using fraudulent methods — namely, by asserting liens on the property in the name of Stephen Byers, an incarcerated and destitute person. The liens and Byers’ motion to intervene in the foreclosure proceedings were signed by Mrs. Melot and they were mailed from the address of a friend of the Melots. The government suspected fraud and, at the hearing on the motion to intervene, presented evidence tending to show the scheme between Melot and Byers.

At the hearing, Mrs. Melot’s counsel requested notice prior to the imposition of any sanctions, and the magistrate noted that the Melots would be noticed on any hearing regarding the contempt. The magistrate certified criminal contempt by the Melots. More than a year later, the district court issued an order addressing the contempt certifications, and, recognizing the costs of prosecuting a criminal contempt matter, declined to order contempt, instead imposing the following sanctions: (1) removal of Mrs. Melot and her children from the property; (2) reimbursement of the government’s costs for the hearing; (3) striking the Melots’ pending motions, responses to motions, and requests for stays; and (4) imposing filing restrictions.

Mrs. Melot appealed the sanctions, arguing the district court violated the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process clause by imposing sanctions without giving the Melots notice and an opportunity to be heard. The Tenth Circuit agreed. Sanctions cannot be imposed without notice that sanctions are being considered by the court and a subsequent opportunity for the defending party to be heard. Although the magistrate had provided notice of the possibility of criminal contempt, there was no notice of the imposition of sanctions. The Tenth Circuit reversed the district court’s sanction order and remanded for further proceedings, noting that the district court was not barred from re-imposing sanctions after proper notice and hearing.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 9/26/2014

On Friday, September 26, 2014, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued one published opinion and three unpublished opinions.

Williams v. Patton

United States v. Melot (Billy)

United States v. Melot (Katherine)

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

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 9/25/2014

On Thursday, September 25, 2014, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued one published opinion and two unpublished opinions.

Collvins v. Hennebold

Stewart v. Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs

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

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 9/24/2014

On Wednesday, September 24, 2014, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued no published opinion and four unpublished opinions.

United States v. Herget

Rudnick v. Falk

Benton v. Town of South Fork

Moreno v. Taos County Board of Commissioners

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

Tenth Circuit: No Fourth Amendment Violation in Search of Abandoned Bag

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United States v. Tubens on Tuesday, September 2, 2014.

Peter Tubens was on a Greyhound bus in Utah en route to Philadelphia when Utah Highway Patrol officers and their drug-sniffing dogs stopped the bus during a routine drug interdiction activity. Both dogs alerted to one bag in the luggage compartment marked as Tubens’. One officer entered the bus and asked for Mr. Tubens in a loud, clear voice, but Tubens did not respond. After checking all the passengers’ tickets, the police located Tubens and questioned him. Because of his suspicious behavior and knowledge that drug traffickers tend to move drugs between their checked bags and carry-ons, the officers asked to search Tubens’ carry-ons. Tubens said he did not have any, but another passenger said Tubens had been putting a bag in the carry-on area. Officers found a paper bag and CD case on Tubens’ seat, neither of which contained drugs. The officers, by this time quite suspicious of Tubens, asked everyone on the bus to claim their carry-ons, after which there was one bag remaining. The officer asked in a loud, clear voice if the bag belonged to anyone, but no one claimed it. They asked Tubens if the bag was his and he denied ownership. They proceeded to search the bag and found two cylinders containing meth as well as two prescriptions belonging to Tubens. He was charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and sentenced to 240 months’ imprisonment. Tubens appealed, arguing that the evidence obtained by searching the bag should be suppressed because it was obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The Tenth Circuit disagreed. The officers’ initial stop and dog sniff was a lawful investigation, and no justification was needed. Even assuming the officers’ search required reasonable suspicion, they had ample reason to be suspicious of Tubens, given the dogs’ positive reactions to the bag and Tubens’ evasive behavior. No Fourth Amendment violation precipitated Tubens’ abandonment of his bag. And, because Tubens unequivocally proclaimed the abandoned bag was not his, he lacked standing to challenge its search. The district court’s judgment was affirmed.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 9/23/2014

On Tuesday, September 23, 2014, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued one published opinion and three unpublished opinions.

Chen v. Holder

United States v. Gilchrist

United States v. Lake

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

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 9/22/2014

On Monday, September 22, 2014, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued one published opinion and one unpublished opinion.

United States v. Carrillo-Lopez

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

Tenth Circuit: Questions of Fact Existed Regarding ADA Violations; Summary Judgment Inappropriate

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition v. Abercrombie & Fitch Co. on Tuesday, September 2, 2014.

Abercrombie & Fitch Co., parent company of J.M. Hollister, LLC, d/b/a Hollister Co., has two designs for its stores in shopping malls. One design features a raised “porch” entrance, where the porch is raised by two steps and there is no ramp. The Orchard Park Town Center and Park Meadows Mall Hollister stores have the “porch” design. Anita Hansen, a member of The Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC) who uses a wheelchair, tried to enter the Hollister store at Orchard Park and could not access the store via the “porch.” She was told by a store employee to use a side entrance, but it was locked. When an employee opened the door, there was no room for Hansen to maneuver her wheelchair into the store. She had a similar experience at the Park Meadows store. The experiences were humiliating for Hansen.

CCDC notified Abercrombie and Hollister that these stores violated the ADA. Attempts to settle failed, and CCDC brought suit in federal district court. CCDC added class complaints challenging the “porch” design at Hollister stores throughout the United States. Abercrombie corrected some of the barriers by lowering sales counters, rearranging merchandise so wheelchair-bound customers could access the store, and ensuring the side door remained unlocked. However, it kept the “porch” design.

After plaintiff filed a third amended complaint, Abercrombie moved to dismiss, arguing plaintiffs lacked Article III standing. However, the district court disagreed, finding a “real and immediate threat” of future harm if the ADA violations were not remedied. The plaintiffs filed a motion for partial summary judgment, asking for judgment as a matter of law on whether the porch at the Park Meadows Hollister violated Title III of the ADA. This motion was granted. Thereafter, some plaintiffs withdrew and another wheelchair-bound plaintiff, Ms. Farrar, was added. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, plaintiffs seeking summary judgment that all Hollister stores with the porch-like entrance violated Title III of the ADA and defendants seeking summary judgment on standing, arguing that the plaintiffs failed to prove a concrete injury in fact. The district court granted plaintiffs’ motion in full and denied Abercrombie’s. The court held that plaintiffs proved standing, Abercrombie’s changes to the Park Meadows Hollister did not moot the claim against the porch entrance, and it entered a permanent injunction ordering Abercrombie to bring all stores into compliance with Title III of the ADA within three years. Abercrombie appealed.

The Tenth Circuit first addressed standing, finding that just because Farrar and Hansen were ADA testers, that did not deprive them of Title III standing. Further, because Ms. Farrar has standing, she has standing as the representative of a nationwide class. The Tenth Circuit declined to overturn the district court’s class certification, finding that the numerosity element of Rule 23 was met and that it would be impracticable to join all potential class members. Next, the Tenth Circuit turned to the ADA claims. The district court found that Abercrombie violated the ADA in three ways: (1) the raised porch design violated the broad statutory requirements of the ADA by providing “different or separate” accommodation that was not in the most integrated setting; (2) the porch was a “space” as defined by the Design Standards, and Abercrombie must comply with regulations regarding circulation routes and accessibility; and (3) because the porch was an “entrance,” it violated the Design Standards’ mandate that the entrance used by the majority of people be accessible. The Tenth Circuit disagreed that Abercrombie’s use of the porch design violated the ADA, holding instead that the design itself was what violated the ADA and the accessibility must be evaluated by the Design Standards. The Tenth Circuit held that each of the district court’s grounds for awarding Plaintiffs summary judgment was untenable.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of summary judgment to Abercrombie, affirmed the class certification, but reversed the grant of summary judgment to plaintiffs. The case was remanded for further determination of the issues. The dissent would not have certified the class.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 9/19/2014

On Friday, September 19, 2014, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued one published opinion and no unpublished opinions.

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

Comment Period Open for Proposed Changes to Bankruptcy Court Local Rules

Significant changes to the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure will take effect December 1, 2014. The changes are to the 8000 series of rules, which govern appeals. Correspondingly, the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel of the 10th Circuit has amended its local rules, effective December 1, 2014.

The comment period for the proposed changes to the local bankruptcy rules is open until October 15, 2014. Comments may be submitted via email to 10th_Circuit_BAP@ca10.uscourts.gov. A redline of the proposed changes is available here, and a summary of the revisions is available here.

Tenth Circuit: Threat to Hire Permanent Replacements Not Enough to Invalidate Entire Lockout

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Teamsters Local Union No. 455 v. National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday, August 27, 2014.

Harborlite, Inc. locked out union members during a collective bargaining dispute. Harborlite threatened to hire permanent workers to replace the locked out union members, and the Teamsters brought a claim with the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB ordered Harborlite not to make future threats of termination and to post a notice to that effect. Teamsters appealed, alleging that the NLRB should have held the entire lockout unlawful and awarded back pay.

The Tenth Circuit first addressed the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in NLRB v. Noel Canning, 134 S.Ct. 2550 (2014), and found it had jurisdiction, since the NLRB appointment at issue was made during a Senate recess that was longer than the period specified as problematic by the Court.

Turning to the merits of the appeal, the Tenth Circuit could not support the Teamsters’ contention that the lockout became unlawful when Harborlite threatened to hire permanent replacements. The threat did not cause the Teamsters to change their position, and it was not acted upon. A mere threat and nothing more was not enough to convert an otherwise legal lockout to an illegal one. The petition to review was denied.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 9/18/2014

On Thursday, September 18, 2014, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued one published opinion and four unpublished opinions.

Gagarina v. Holder

United States v. Riggins

Antelope Coal Co. v. Goddard

Collvins v. Hennebold

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