United States v Sandoval-Enrique

Sandoval-Enrique appealed the denial of his motion to withdraw his guilty plea. The panel, with one judge dissenting in part, affirmed. The majority held that the case was not moot even though the sentence has been served because the attack is on the conviction not his sentence while the dissenting judge argued the appeal is really about getting a fast track sentence and the arguments about two rejected plea agreements are moot. The majority held there was no error in rejecting the two plea agreements under rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C) as the district court knew it could impose supervised release but followed the guidelines commentary and did not, actually considered the lack of fast track in another district where Sandoval-Enrique was sentenced and district courts can reject plea agreements even under fast track rules. The panel, addressing an issue of first impression,  rejected any bright line rules and further held there was no improper participation in the plea bargaining process here under the totality of the circumstances standard as the district court was required to analyze the proposed agreement including the sentence and articulated a permissible view that the proposed sentences were too low given the need for deterrence and allowing such comments is consistent with the reasons for the bar namely preventing coerced pleas  and maintaining the judge a neutral arbiter.

Sanchez v United States Department of Energy

Sanchez appealed the dismissal of his Rehabilitation Act and due process claims. The panel affirmed in part and reversed in part. It affirmed as to the due process claim because revocation of Sanchez’s human reliability certification was like a security clearance revocation because the certification program was created by executive authority, involves nuclear weapons a matter of national security and requires the decision makers to make predictions about who could compromise sensitive information and thus the decision to revoke cannot be reviewed and the fact the decision was done for safety reasons does not change the analysis. It reversed as to his failure to accommodate claim under the Act as he alleged the elements of the claim including the existence of vacancies in Department he was qualified for and does not challenge the decision to revoke his certification and thus there is no bar to the suit.

Northern Natural Gas v L.D. Drilling et al. and Nash Oil and Gas et al.

Northern Drilling and Nash appealed various aspects of the judgment in this Natural Gas Act of 1938 condemnation case. The panel affirmed in part and reversed in part. It reversed the inclusion of the value of storage natural gas on certain parts of the properties in question in the judgment as Northern owned that gas under Kansas law as it was the certified owner of the gas in and under the properties in question at the date of the condemnation taking and Drilling and Nash had not actually produced any of the gas and thus had no property rights in it under the right of capture or any other rights. It affirmed the valuation of certain gas storage and buffer rights on certain properties condemned holding the factual findings adopted by the district court of the lease values of the properties and sale values of nearby property made the value of $125 per acre nonspeculative. It affirmed the value of the award as to certain wells as it was consistent with Kansas law, the reality that the wells were nonproductive and the market would only value the casing at each wellsite. It finally affirmed the district court’s denial of Drilling and Nash’s attorney fee claim holding there was no basis in federal or Kansas law to award fees.

Ross v University of Tulsa

Ross appealed summary judgment to University on her Title IX claim arising form being raped by a fellow student. The panel affirmed. It held her theory that University was deliberately indifferent to the risk the fellow student would rape after being accused of raping another student failed as a matter of law because the reports by the raped student and two football players to campus security were specific enough to given notice of the risk, the officers dropping the earlier instigation arguably demonstrated their deliberate indifference, but the reports never reached anyone at University who could take corrective action and vicarious liability cannot support liability particularly as secretarial error would otherwise trigger liability.  It also rejected Ross’ argument that University’s refusal to consider allegations of past sexual misconduct by the alleged rapist as its rule requiring a finding of responsibility before the allegations can be admitted at the Title IX hearing was consistent with federal government guidance and not otherwise facially unreasonable and as to two of the alleged incidents no one at University was even informed of the alleged rapes.

United States v Henthorn

Henthorn appealed his murder conviction arguing the district court erred in admitting other bad acts evidence. The panel affirmed. It held evidence about the death of Henthorn’s first wife and a possible attempt to kill the victim here were relevant to whether Henthorn’s intent, planning and whether the incident was an accident, both incidents were relevant as they both took place in remote areas with limited communications, emergency response was delayed, Henthorn was the only witness, refused help, bought life insurance policies on shortly before each incident and gave conflicting stories about what happened and those facts were also present in this case, there was no error in determining the probative value as to intent outweighed any prejudice particularly as any prejudice was not wholly apart form the relevance as to intent, planning and lack of accident and the required limiting instructions were given.

WildEarth Guardians v United States Bureau of Land Management and Wyoming Mining Association et al. Interveners

Guardians appealed the district court judgment rejecting its challenge to four coal leases. The panel, with one judge concurring, reversed and remanded with instructions, but did not vacate the leases. The majority held that Guardians had standing as it alleged environmental impacts of the leases are germane to its purposes, individual member’s submitted declarations that eh lases will impact their aesthetic and recreational interests in the land involved and these harms can be redressed by vacating the decision documents and the leases. The majority held Bureau acted arbitrarily and capriciously when it assumed no climate change impact from granting the lease as the assumption had no factual basis in the record, was contradicted by the sources it claimed to rely upon and was contrary to the basic relationship of supply and demand as not granting the lease would raise the price of available coal. It rejected Guardians’ alternative argument that Bureau failed to use a climate change model, as agencies are not required to follow any particular decision-making process. It also rejected Bureau’s arguments as economics is not an area of expertise of Bureau and it failed to raise harmless error at the district court. The majority declined to vacate the leases as the appeal was on a narrow issue, the district court may be able to craft a narrow remedy and what to do with the three leases already in production was not touched do in the parties’ arguments. The case was therefore remanded with instructions to order Bureau to revise the decision documents. Baldock concurred arguing the economic issue was dispositive, climate change is still in a state of robust scientific debate and climate change discussion here was unnecessary.

United States ex rel. Little and Motaghed v Triumph Gear Systems, Inc.

Triumph brought an interlocutory appeal challenging the denial of its motion to dismiss this qui tam suit for violation of the first to fil rule. The panel reversed. It held that under 31 USC 3730(b)(5), any substitution of parties violates the first to file rule and thus the amended complaint here substituting Little and Motaghed for the original plaintiff violated the rule; even if the 10th Circuit Precision case exception to the any substitution rule is still good law, the exception did not apply here as no original plaintiff tried to amend the original complaint; anonymous plaintiffs are not allowed din the federal system and the john doe plaintiff destinations in the original complaint did not make Little and Motaghed parties tot eh case; Rule of Civil procedure 17 does not change the outcome as there is no allegation the original plaintiff was not a  real party in interest; the ban on dismissal of a qui tam case with Attorney General approval only applies when the plaintiff attempts to dismiss voluntarily which did not occur here and the first to file rule is jurisdictional in the 10th Circuit and even if it was not violation of the rule supports dismissal for failure to state a claim. It also denied Little and Motaghed’s motion to amend the complaint as such amendments cannot be used to create jurisdiction which is what the motion attempts to do here.