Court Opinions: 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinions for Feb. 10

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

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

United States v. Garrison 

A grand jury indicted Ricky Garrison, along with 15 others, for drug trafficking and other offenses related to a large-scale conspiracy to distribute cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines. The evidence against Garrison included a wiretap that targeted a criminal organization known as the Gangster Disciples. The government’s application for the wiretap did not disclose that one of the confidential informants used in its probable cause statement was the girlfriend of one of Garrison’s co-defendants. Garrison, through his counsel, filed a motion to suppress the wiretap evidence but didn’t file a timely request for a hearing under Franks v. Delaware, so the district court denied the motion.

At trial, a jury convicted Garrison of one count of conspiracy and 19 counts of using a communication device to facilitate a drug offense. The district court sentenced him to 13 years in prison on the conspiracy count with a concurrent 48-month sentence on the remaining 19 counts, and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2019 affirmed the conviction on direct appeal. 

Garrison filed a motion to vacate his conviction under 28 U.S.C. 2255. Nearly three months later, he filed a motion to amend his motion to add additional claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. The district court denied both motions and, sua sponte, declined to issue a certificate of appealability, so Garrison requested one from the 10th Circuit.

Because reasonable jurists would not debate the correctness of the district court’s rulings on the issues he presents, the 10th Circuit denied the request for a COA and dismissed the matter.

Keybank National Association v. Williams, et al.

This case is an appeal of the denial of a preliminary injunction in a business tort case. KeyBank National Association sued two of its former employees, Charles Williams and Timothy Weldon, after they left KeyBank to work for a competitor, Newmark Knight Frank. KeyBank alleged that the former employees breached their non-compete agreements and used its trade secrets and confidential information to divert business from KeyBank to Newmark. KeyBank moved for a preliminary injunction to prevent Williams and Weldon from doing business with and soliciting KeyBank’s customers and misappropriating its trade secret and confidential information. 

The district court denied the motion, concluding KeyBank failed to show a probability of irreparable harm. KeyBank appealed that order. 

KeyBank contended the district court’s irreparable-harm determination constitutes an abuse of discretion because the court disregarded evidence that KeyBank suffered actual and unquantifiable injury in the form of diminished customer relations, goodwill and competitive standing; and the record does not support the finding that KeyBank delayed seeking relief. KeyBank also challenges the district court’s rejection of the magistrate judge’s recommendation to order Williams and Weldon to return or destroy confidential reports they shared with Newmark.

The underlying litigation is still ongoing, but the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has jurisdiction to review the district court’s denial of the preliminary injunction motion, which it affirmed. The 10th Circuit also made permanent its provisional order granting KeyBank’s unopposed motion to seal several pieces of evidence. 

Handy v. Maximus, et al.

Maximus Inc. operates a call center specializing in open enrollment for health insurance benefits. Prime Source Staffing is a staffing agency that provides employees to Maximus. In August 2018, Prime Source hired Ashlee Handy to work as a customer service representative for Maximus. Handy understood she would work at Maximus during the open-enrollment period from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, when Maximus promised to hire her as a permanent employee. She successfully completed training and received high quality-assurance scores.

On Dec. 5, Handy advised Sharon Dorcas, the Maximus office manager who had trained her, that she was experiencing domestic violence. She shared this information in case she would need to take time off from work. Handy knew several coworkers had experienced and reported similar domestic violence issues, and Dorcas had provided them with accommodations. Handy then left work early. 

The next day, Dorcas informed Handy that her husband had come to the Maximus office with a gun looking for her. At Dorcas’s direction, Handy filed a police report. 

Handy alleges she was terminated on Dec. 7 with letters dated Dec. 5 from Dorcas and Dec. 6 from Scott Cloud, another supervisor at Maximus, but she didn’t learn about her termination until Dec. 10. The letters stated Handy was being terminated because the contract period for her employment ended. But she believes she was terminated for “being a white woman” and “for being a victim of domestic violence,” given that her non-white coworkers faced no repercussions at work for experiencing domestic-violence issues.

Handy appealed the district court’s dismissal of her employment discrimination lawsuit during the 28 U.S.C. 1915 screening process. Because it found the district court provided an inadequate articulation of its rationale and based its decision on a clearly erroneous factual finding, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded the district court abused its discretion. The 10th Circuit reversed the dismissal of Handy’s first amended complaint and remanded for further proceedings.

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