Court Opinion: 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion for Sept. 15

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

Editor’s Note: Law Week Colorado edits court opinion summaries for style and, when necessary, length.

Kyte v. Colorado DMV

Megan Kyte appealed the district court’s dismissal of her discrimination suit against the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles. She also moved to proceed in forma pauperis. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of her suit and denied Kyte’s request to proceed in forma pauperis.

Between June 2021 and October 2022, Kyte filed 13 pro se civil actions against various defendants in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. The district court dismissed 10 of those suits because it determined Kyte failed to comply with jurisdictional or procedural rules, according to the opinion. Kyte voluntarily dismissed the other three. After her 13th dismissal, the district court enjoined Kyte from filing any more pro se civil cases in the district court without the court’s permission.

Kyte filed the present case, pro se, less than four months later. She claimed the Colorado DMV violated her 14th Amendment “right to liberty and freedom from oppression” by denying her an ID card and rendering her unable to seek employment. But because she never obtained the court’s permission to proceed pro se, the district court dismissed her claims. Kyte appealed.

The 10th Circuit needed to determine whether the district court abused its discretion by dismissing Kyte’s action. “We review for an abuse of discretion the district court’s decision to impose the sanction of dismissal for failure to follow court orders and rules,” the opinion noted, citing the decisions Gripe v. City of Enid and Archibeque v. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry. Co. “Under this standard, we will not disturb a trial court’s decision absent a definite and firm conviction that the lower court made a clear error of judgment or exceeded the bounds of permissible choice in the circumstances,” the opinion added, citing the decisions Norton v. City of Marietta and Cummings v. GMC.

District courts have the power to enjoin litigants who abuse the court system, the 10th Circuit noted, citing the decision Tripati v. Beaman. After dismissing 13 of Kyte’s actions, the district court enjoined her from representing herself in civil cases unless she first obtained the court’s permission (Kyte v. Mayes). Kyte never challenged the court’s order. Instead, she filed a new civil action without an attorney’s representation or the court’s permission to proceed pro se. As a result, Kyte violated her filing restrictions. The 10th Circuit concluded, based on Kyte’s filing history, the district court didn’t abuse its discretion when it dismissed her claims.

Ktye also moved to proceed in forma pauperis. To proceed in forma pauperis, the 10th Circuit explained she must show “a financial inability to pay the required filing fees and the existence of a reasoned, nonfrivolous argument on the law and facts in support of the issues raised on appeal.”  

In her opening brief, the opinion noted, Kyte failed to raise any issues for review, instead reiterating her claim the Colorado DMV discriminated against her. But because the district court dismissed her case as a sanction, the court never reached the merits of that claim. Kyte, having failed to advance any argument relating to the district court’s dismissal, failed to show “the existence of a reasoned, nonfrivolous argument on the law and facts in support of the issues raised on appeal.” 

The 10th Circuit denied her motion to proceed in forma pauperis. 

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