August 25, 2019

Archives for November 9, 2011

Tenth Circuit: Sufficient Facts to Find Violation of Procedural Due Process But Not Violation of Substantive Due Process or Equal Protection

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Brown v. Montoya on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s decision. Respondent pled guilty to two counts of false imprisonment in New Mexico state court. When he was released from custody, his probation officer, Petitioner, directed him to register as a sex offender and placed him in the sex offender probation unit. Petitioner alleged that he acted on information that the victim in Respondent’s false imprisonment case was a minor, and, under Petitioner’s understanding of the law, Respondent was properly classified as a sex offender. Respondent sought and won in state court an order removing his name from the sex offender registry and removing him from the sex offender probation unit.

Respondent then filed suit seeking damages from Petitioner and New Mexico Secretary of Corrections Joe Williams in their individual capacities. Respondent alleged he was wrongly directed to register as a sex offender and wrongly placed in the sex offender probation unit. Petitioner and Secretary Williams filed an answer containing an affirmative defense of qualified immunity and moved to dismiss. They also contended they were protected by statutory immunity. Secretary Williams further argued that he was protected by absolute legislative immunity. The district court denied the motion, and Petitioner and Secretary Williams appealed.

The Court had jurisdiction over the qualified immunity and absolute legislative immunity issues, but lacked jurisdiction over the statutory immunity issue. Because Respondent had not alleged sufficient facts to establish that Secretary Williams violated any of his constitutional rights, the Court reversed the district court’s decision on qualified immunity grounds. However, Respondent has alleged sufficient facts to establish that Petitioner violated his clearly established procedural due process right. The Court affirmed the district court’s denial of Petitioner’s motion to dismiss the procedural due process claim; “the Complaint’s allegations overcome the qualified immunity defense.” But since Respondent has not alleged sufficient facts to establish that Petitioner violated a clearly established substantive due process right or that he violated his equal protection right, the Court reversed the district court’s denial of Petitioner’s motion to dismiss those claims.

Tenth Circuit: Prisoner with Objectively Reasonable Fear of Retaliation from Prison Officials May Be Excused from Exhausting Administrative Remedies

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Tuckel v. Grover on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

The Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded the district court’s decision. Petitioner held a job in vehicle maintenance while serving a sentence at the Arkansas Valley Correction Facility. Unsatisfied with his position, Petitioner allegedly struck a deal with Respondent, a prison official, so that Petitioner would be transferred to a vocational program if he completed a welding project. Upon completion of the project, however, Respondent denied the existence of the agreement. Petitioner subsequently filed a complaint through the prison grievance system, and claims that he was beaten in retaliation for submitting the complaint. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Respondents, finding that Petitioner had failed to exhaust administrative remedies under the Prison Litigation Reform Act.

The Court, however, found that “a plaintiff with an objectively reasonable fear of retaliation from prison officials may show that administrative remedies were unavailable to him and thereby be excused from exhausting such remedies.” Because there were disputed issues of fact about the availability of administrative remedies to Petitioner, the Court reversed and remanded to allow Petitioner’s suit to proceed.

Tenth Circuit: District Court Need Not Allow Defendant to Withdraw Guilty Plea When Request Based on a Lie

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United States v. Armendariz Soto on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision. Petitioner was facing an indictment for his involvement in a drug distribution conspiracy. As part of an effort to show his cooperation and reduce his sentence, and in consultation with his attorney, Petitioner initially agreed to, and did, plead guilty to the charges without a plea agreement. Later, but before his sentencing hearing, he asked the court to allow him to withdraw the plea he had entered. He claimed that his plea was not entered knowingly or voluntarily and that his counsel promised him a fifteen year sentence if he agreed to admit his guilt, despite having no basis for making such a promise. His counsel denied the claims and stated that he never promised any sentence to his client. The district court denied Petitioner’s request to withdraw his guilty plea and Petitioner appealed.

The Court concluded that a district court need not allow a defendant to withdraw his guilty plea when the request is based on a lie. The law does not permit anyone to compel judicial action based on intentionally false statements. Petitioner failed to” show that the district court clearly erred in finding that he told an intentional untruth rather than simply made a mistake or was confused,” a showing that would help in finding that the court abused its discretion in refusing relief from his plea. Without such evidence, the district court’s decision was affirmed.

Tenth Circuit: Opponents of Ski Area Expansion Plan Failed to Exhaust Administrative Remedies with Forest Service

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in The Ark Initiative v. United States Forest Service on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision. “The Snowmass Ski Area occupies land within the White River National Forest near Aspen, Colorado. The Aspen Skiing Company operates the ski area pursuant to a long-term special use permit issued by the U.S. Forest Service. This permit requires Aspen Skiing to submit Master Development Plans to the Forest Service that outline any envisioned future improvements and expansion plans to the resort or surrounding areas.” Aspen Skiing “proposed improvements such as replacement of ski lifts at Snowmass, expansion and addition of ski trails, expansion of snowmaking facilities, and construction of a new complex at the Base Village,” and Petitioner contends that the Forest Service “violated NEPA by approving the project without examining certain cumulative effects— namely, effects on water resources, endangered fish, forest habitats, and ‘other resources.'”

The Court agreed with the Forest Service that Petitioners failed to exhaust these claims before the agency. Petitioners failed to exhaust any claims brought up on appeal at the administrative level beyond the water depletion issue. “Though they did exhaust the water depletion issue, they failed to properly preserve it before the district court.”

Governor Hickenlooper Appoints Daniel Walzl to Alamosa County Court

On Wednesday, November 9, 2011, Governor John Hickenlooper announced his appointment of Daniel A. Walzl to serve as an Alamosa County court judge in the Twelfth Judicial District (Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Mineral, Rio Grande and Saguache counties). Walzl’s appointment is effective October 1, 2011.

Walzl will fill a vacancy created by the resignation of the Honorable Michael Gonzales, who was recently appointed to serve as a district court judge in the Twelfth Judicial District.

Walzl, of Alamosa, serves as the Office Head of the Colorado Public Defenders Office for the Alamosa Regional Office. Walzl previously served as a law clerk from 1999-2000 for the Honorable Thomas M. Jahnke, Superior Court, First Judicial District in Ketchikan, Alaska. The majority of Walzl’s legal career has been devoted to criminal litigation. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and his J.D. from the University of Colorado School of Law.

Tenth Circuit: Perjury by Former ClearOne Communications Executive Affirmed by Sufficient Evidence and Materiality

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United States v. Strohm on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s conviction. Petitioner “is a former executive of ClearOne Communications, Inc. In 2003, the SEC sought a preliminary injunction against ClearOne based on suspicions of irregular accounting practices and securities law violations. During a hearing on the preliminary injunction, [Petitioner] was asked if she was involved in a particular sale by ClearOne that was the focus of the SEC’s case. She said she was not and approximated that she learned of the sale either before or after the end of ClearOne’s fiscal year.” Based on this testimony, Petitioner was later convicted of one count of perjury. “She argues her conviction should be reversed because (1) the questioning at issue was ambiguous, (2) her testimony was literally true, and (3) even if false, her testimony was not material to the court’s decision to grant the preliminary injunction.”

The Court rejected all three of Petitioner’s contentions. The Court found that “the questions were not ambiguous and there [was] sufficient evidence to demonstrate [Petitioner] knowingly made false statements. Also, [Petitioner]’s testimony was material to the preliminary injunction hearing because it related to a transaction the SEC believed demonstrated ClearOne’s accounting irregularities.”

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 11/8/11

On Tuesday, November 8, 2011, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued five published opinions and two unpublished opinions.


McKeighan v. Corrs. Corp. of America

United States v. Snider

No case summaries are available for unpublished opinions. However, published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.