Court Opinions: 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion for April 20

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

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

Leichty v. Bethel College, et al.

Bethel College, a Mennonite college in the city of North Newton, Kansas, sponsored a two-day conference on the Mennonites’ role in the Holocaust. Bruce Leichty paid the $100 attendance fee for the conference and planned to conduct his own program in the evening. At the evening program, Leichty and two associates planned to present “unusual perspectives on the Holocaust.”

Before the conference began, Leichty distributed flyers about his own program. The organizers of the conference asked Leichty to stop distributing the flyers on the conference grounds, but Leichty refused until the organizers called the police. 

Other conflicts at the conference happened when Leichty stood up to make a comment and one of the organizers reminded Leichty to stay on topic. Leichty then commented that Jewish people had different perspectives on the Holocaust. One of the organizers instructed someone to cut Leichty’s microphone, and despite the microphone being cut, Leichty continued to speak about his upcoming program. 

Later that day another conference organizer told Leighty that he was “out of the conference.” In front of Leichty, the organizers told a colleague to call the police if he attended the next day. 

Undeterred, Leichty returned the next day. The college president told him to leave, but he refused. College officials called the police, who arrived and arrested Leichty for trespassing. He then sued Bethel College and the city of North Newton. 

In the suit against the college, Leichty claimed breach of contract and false arrest. On both claims, the district court granted summary judgment to the college. The district court concluded the college could revoke Leichty’s license to attend if he didn’t act in good faith, which the court believed Leichty’s conduct was. 

Leichty also asserted his false arrest claim against the college, arguing the college gave false information to the police when he returned to the conference and was arrested. 

A 10th Circuit Court of Appeals panel out of Wichita, Kansas, reversed the dismissal of Leichty’s contract claim against the college. The 10th Circuit determined that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to the college because Leichty had an irrevocable license from his enrollment and payment of the $100 registration fee.

The 10th Circuit affirmed the district court’s other rulings, including that the North Newton police had justification to arrest Leichty for trespassing and the college’s alleged misstatement didn’t affect that because the organizers had the authority to exclude Leichty from the conference. The case was remanded for further proceedings on the contract claim against Bethel College. 

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