Utah Appellate Highlights, Utah Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, May 2017

United States v. Jordan
853 F.3d 1334 (10th Cir. Apr. 18, 2017)

The defendant pled guilty to a felony drug charge, and agreed to be sentenced in accordance with a sentencing range established by the Sentencing Commission.  After the sentencing, the Sentencing Commission lowered the sentence range.  The 10th Circuit held that if a plea agreement calls for a defendant to be sentenced within a particular sentencing range, “the district court’s acceptance of the agreement obligates the court to sentence the defendant accordingly,” and the court has authority to reduce the sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2).

BOSC, Inc. v. Board of Cnty. Commissioners
853 F.3d 1165 (10th Cir. Apr. 11, 2017)

After filing suit against BOSC in state court, the Board voluntarily dismissed the suit and sought to enforce an agreement to arbitrate.  BOSC opposed, arguing the Board had waived its right to arbitrate by filing the suit.  The Court held that the Board had not waived its right to arbitrate, because it was not improperly manipulating the judicial process, litigation had not proceeded too far, significant inefficiencies would not result, and neither party was prejudiced by the delay.

VR Acquisitions, LLC v. Wasatch County
853 F.3d 1142 (10th Cir. Apr. 10, 2017)

The district court dismissed three section 1983 claims and five state-law claims for lack of standing.  On appeal, the Tenth Circuit held that (a) the plaintiff lacked prudential standing to assert due process or takings claims that belonged to a prior owner of the property, and (b) the district court should have simply declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over remaining state law claims after dismissing the federal claims.

Stanley v. Gallegos
842 F.3d 1210 (10th Cir. Mar. 17, 2017)

This appeal presented the question of whether a state employee who acts without state authority can nevertheless be entitled to qualified immunity in a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.  In this divided opinion, the three judges agreed that the district court’s decision holding the defendant district attorney was not entitled to qualified immunity must be reversed.  They disagreed, however, as to whether and to what extent the court should adopt the “scope-of-authority” exception to qualified immunity, and whether to even reach that issue in this case.  Judge Hartz, who drafted the lead opinion, concluded the exception should apply, if at all, only when the authority under state law is clearly established.  Because the district attorney’s authority under New Mexico law was not clearly established, the exception would not apply even under Judge Hartz’s reasoning.

Case summaries for Appellate Highlights are authored by members of Snow Christensen & Martineau’s Appellate Practice Group.  For more information, visit our Appellate Highlights page.