Articles Posted in U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

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In 2010, three individuals ran for the Colorado House of Representatives, House District 61: Kathleen Curry was a write-in candidate; Roger Wilson was the Democratic nominee, and Luke Korkowski was the Republican nominee. Under Colorado law, individual contributions to Ms. Curry were capped at $200, and individual contributions to each of her opponents were capped at $400. Contributors to Ms. Curry’s campaign sued state officials under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming violation of the First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. The district court rejected the claims and granted summary judgment to the state officials. The Tenth Circuit reversed on the equal-protection claim; and in light of this, declined to address the summary-judgment ruling on the First Amendment claims. View "Riddle v. Hickenlooper" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Tenth Circuit in this case centered on a matter of state campaign finance regulations in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in "Citizens United v. FEC," (558 U.S. 310 (2010)). Before "Citizens United" in 2010, New Mexico had introduced a new state campaign finance law that imposed a host of contribution and other limitations on political parties, political action committees, and donors to such entities. As pertains to this case, the state limited the amount an individual may contribute to a political committee. Potential donors, political parties, and political committees mounted an as-applied challenge to the law in federal district court, contending several of its provisions violated the First Amendment. The district court agreed and issued a preliminary injunction, enjoining the enforcement of two provisions: (1) limits on contributions to political committees for use in federal campaigns, and (2) limits on contributions to political committees that are to be used for independent expenditures. New Mexico appealed the latter ruling, contending that the limit on contributions furthers the state’s compelling interest in preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption in campaign spending. After careful consideration, the Tenth Circuit concluded the district court was correct that the challenged provision could not be reconciled with Citizens United and, as a result, did not err in entering a preliminary injunction. View "Republican Party of New Mexico, et al v. King, et al" on Justia Law

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A three-person nonprofit, Free Speech, brought facial and as-applied challenges against 11 C.F.R. Sec. 100.22(b). The district court dismissed, concluding that Free Speech's claims that its First Amendment rights were violated by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) were implicated only to disclosure requirements subject to exacting scrutiny and requiring a "substantial relation between the disclosure requirement and a sufficiently important governmental interest." Free Speech appealed to the Tenth Circuit. On appeal, the group argued that the district court erred in its conclusion, arguing that policies and rules of the FEC were unconstitutionally vague, overbroad and triggered burdensome registration and reporting requirements on the group that acted as the functional equivalent of a prior restraint on political speech. After careful review of the appellate filings, the district court’s order, and the entire record, the Tenth Circuit Court affirmed the dismissal for substantially the same reasons stated by the district court. View "Free Speech v. Federal Election Commission" on Justia Law

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The Constitution Party of Kansas, Curt Engelbrecht, and Mark Pickens sued the Secretary of State of Kansas, in his official capacity, alleging that their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights are violated by the Secretary's refusal, consistent with Kansas law, to keep track of Kansas voters' affiliation with the Constitution Party because the Constitution Party is not a recognized political party under Kansas law. In the district court, the parties stipulated to a Joint Statement of Facts and filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The court ruled for the Secretary, determining that Kansas's system of tracking party affiliation did not unconstitutionally burden the plaintiffs' rights. On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the district court misapplied controlling Tenth Circuit precedent in evaluating their claim, and that under the proper analytical criteria, reversal is warranted. The Constitution Party did not contend that summary judgment was improper due to a lack of evidence in the record to support the Secretary's legal argument. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit found no merit to the Constitution Party's argument and affirmed the district court's decision. View "Constitution Party of Kansas, et al v. Kobach" on Justia Law

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The issue on appeal to the Tenth circuit centered on what level of deference (if any) must be afforded to a local governmental entity's proffered plan to remedy an adjudged violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. 1973), when that proposed remedy unnecessarily conflicted with state law. The Court surmised that when such plans in effectuating their remedial purposes do not adhere as closely as possible to the contours of the governing state law, they are not eligible for the deference customarily afforded legislative plans. Consequently in this case, the Court affirmed the district court's order that rejected the Fremont County Board of Commissioners' proposed remedial plan, and held under settled Supreme Court precedent that strongly favors single-member districts in court-ordered plans, that the district court did not abuse its discretion in fashioning a remedial plan solely consisting of single-member districts. View "Large v. Freemont County" on Justia Law

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Two appeals arose out of a lawsuit filed against New Mexico state officials that sought declaratory and injunctive relief to redress alleged violations of New Mexico’s obligations under Sections 7 and 5 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), 42 U.S.C. 1973gg et seq. The Section 7 claim was resolved on summary judgment, with the district court concluding that the Defendant officials responsible for overseeing New Mexico’s Human Services Department (HSD) violated the NVRA by failing to provide voter registration forms to those applicants for public assistance who left the Section 7-mandated declination form blank. The Section 5 claim, which alleged that New Mexico’s motor vehicle authority offices failed to provide necessary voter registration services, was resolved by written settlement agreement. Although two of the settling agencies reimbursed Plaintiffs for a portion of the attorneys' fees and expenses plaintiffs incurred in litigating the Section 5 claim, the New Mexico Secretary of State refused to contribute. Plaintiffs subsequently sought and were granted attorneys' fees and expenses related to the Section 5 claim against the Secretary of State. In Appeal No. 11-2063, Defendants appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment on the Section 7 claim. In Appeal No. 11-2084, the Secretary of State appealed the district court’s order granting Plaintiffs' application for attorneys' fees and expenses arising out of the Section 5 claim. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court in all respects. View "Valdez v. Duran" on Justia Law

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Former New Mexico state treasurer Defendant-Appellee Robert Vigil and his former deputy, co-Defendant Ann Marie Gallegos allegedly hatched a plan to find work for his political rival's wife so that the rival couldn't challenge him in the next election. According to the complaint, Defendants solicited bids for a state contract and insisted that any interested contractor hire Samantha Sais (the wife) on any terms she wished. Plaintiff SECSYS agreed to the plan in principle, but ultimately could not come to terms with Ms. Sais. When negotiations broke down, Defendants allegedly chose another contractor who agreed to Ms. Sais' terms. Mr. Vigil was ultimately indicted, convicted, and sentenced to prison for his role in this scheme. Plaintiff sought damages from Mr. Vigil and Ms. Gallegos in their individual capacities for violating its Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection for discriminating against the company when it refused to acquiesce to Ms. Sais' demands: "So that leaves SECSYS with the remarkable argument that it was discriminated against in violation of the federal Constitution not because it was unwilling to pay, but because it was willing to pay only some of an allegedly extortionate demand." Upon review, the Tenth Circuit found no evidence that Defendants enforced Ms. Sais' demands with the purpose of discriminating against those who failed to meet them: "every indication in the record before [the Court] suggest[ed] the defendants would have been just as happy if SECSYS had met its full demand as it was when another bidder eventually did so." The Court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Defendants. View "SECSYS, LLC v. Vigil" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Oklahoma voters approved a state constitutional amendment that would prevent state courts from considering or using Sharia law. Members of the state election board asked the Tenth Circuit to review whether a federal district court abused its discretion when it granted a preliminary injunction to prevent the Board from certifying the result. Plaintiff Muneer Awad sued the Election Board to prevent the certification of ballot title "SQ 755" from the November 2, 2010 election. Plaintiff is an American citizen residing in Oklahoma, and is the executive director of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Plaintiff alleged that SQ 755 violated his rights under both the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. He objected to the amendment's singling out his religion for negative treatment. The district court granted a temporary restraining order on November 9, 2010. On November 22, 2010, the court conducted an evidentiary hearing and granted a preliminary injunction one week later. On appeal to the Tenth Circuit, the Board argued that Plaintiff's claims were not justiciable, and even if Plaintiff's Establishment or Free Exercise claims were justiciable, each failed to meet preliminary injunction requirements. Upon careful consideration of the district court record and the constitutional questions posed by the parties' briefs, the Tenth Circuit held that Plaintiff's claims were justiciable and that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the preliminary injunction based on those claims. View "Awad v. Ziriax, et al" on Justia Law