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TCL > October 2005 Issue > Tenth Circuit Summaries

October 2005       Vol. 34, No. 10       Page  127
From the Courts
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

Tenth Circuit Summaries

Summaries of selected opinions appear on a space-available basis. The summaries are prepared for the Colorado Bar Association by Jenine Jensen and Catherine Campbell, licensed Colorado attorneys. The summaries of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit are provided as a service by the Colorado Bar Association and are not the official language of the Court. The Colorado Bar Association cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the summaries.
Full copies of the Tenth Circuit decisions are accessible from the CBA website, http: // (United States Courts link to the Tenth Circuit). Call The Colorado Lawyer Editorial Offices with questions: (303) 860-1118.

Involuntary Administration of Antipsychotic Medication—Competency—Mentally Ill Criminal Defendant

U. S. v. Morrison, No. 04-4174, 07/19/2005, D.Utah, Judge Hartz.

Defendant appeals a district court order authorizing involuntary administration of antipsychotic medication to render him competent to stand trial. There is a four-part test under Sell v. United States, 539 U.S. 166 (2003), for defining the limited circumstances in which the government can administer antipsychotic drugs involuntarily to a mentally ill criminal defendant to render the defendant competent. Before this test is to be applied, however, a court should determine whether it is appropriate to medicate the defendant to ensure his safety or the safety of others, under Washington v. Harper, 494 U.S. 210 (1990). The Tenth Circuit Court determines that the district court ordered involuntary medication without exploring whether involuntary medication would be proper under Harper, and the government did not seek involuntary medication under Harper.

The Tenth Circuit reverses the district court’s order and remands for further proceedings. The Harper inquiry should have preceded the Sell inquiry.

Defendant has been confined beyond the usual amount of time for his offense. Unless defendant is so dangerous that an unusually extended prison sentence is appropriate, the governmental interest in separating him from society is unlikely to be served by a future criminal trial. The case is remanded for the district court to require the government to proceed under Harper, or explain why it does not do so. If involuntary medication is not appropriate under Harper, the district court may reconsider whether an involuntary medication order is appropriate under Sell.

Civil Rights—Unlawful Search—Color of Law—Private Conduct Insufficient

Yanaki v. Iomed, Inc., No. 04-4061, 07/26/2005, D.Utah, Judge Murphy.

After plaintiff left his employment with defendant Iomed, Inc., defendant sued him in a state court, claiming he had misappropriated trade secrets and breached a confidentiality agreement. Iomed obtained an ex parte order from the state court to search the plaintiff’s home and take his computers. The state court also issued an order for the police to assist in the search, and the police seized plaintiff’s computers. Plaintiff then brought this action against Iomed in federal court, alleging that his rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and to due process were violated by the search. The district court held that plaintiff failed to allege facts showing that his rights were violated under color of law, and dismissed the case.

The Tenth Circuit Court stated that a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 requires a plaintiff to show that he was deprived of a constitutional right and that this deprivation was committed under color of law. The Court rejects plaintiff’s contention that the involvement of the police in searching his home established conduct committed under color of law. Private conduct unlawful under state law does not qualify. Plaintiff did not challenge the constitutionality of the state law underlying the search order. Actions taken in violation (rather than under color) of state law do not state a federal claim. Accordingly, the police participation in the search was not state action, and plaintiff’s injuries were attributable only to private parties, i.e., Iomed personnel. The district court’s judgment is affirmed.

Involuntary Administration of Antipsychotic Medication—Non-Dangerous Criminal Defendant—Standard of Review for Legal and Factual Questions

U. S. v. Bradley, No. 03-8097, 07/28/2005, D.Wyo., Judge O’Brien.

Defendant was found incompetent to stand trial. He refused to take antipsychotic medication. The district court, applying the standards in Sell v. United States, 539 U.S. 166 (2003), ordered defendant to be involuntarily medicated to render him competent. Defendant appeals.

The Tenth Circuit Court affirms. The question of whether a district court has followed the proper procedures under Sell for involuntary administration of antipsychotic medication to a non-dangerous criminal defendant, for the purpose of rendering him competent to stand trial, is a question of first impression in the Tenth Circuit. One of the factors—whether involuntary administration of antipsychotic drugs is necessary to significantly further important governmental trial-related interests—is a legal question, reviewed de novo. The other Sell factors depend on factual findings and must be proven by the government by clear and convincing evidence.

Applying the Sell factors, the Circuit holds that the district court did not clearly err in concluding that this regimen of medication was medically appropriate. The district court did not clearly err in finding that use of these drugs was substantially unlikely to have side effects that will interfere significantly with defendant’s ability to assist counsel. The government met its burden of establishing by clear and convincing evidence that less intrusive treatments were unlikely to achieve substantially the same results.

Regarding the court’s legal conclusions, Sell requires a legal determination whether important governmental interests are at stake. The Circuit rules that the court did not err in holding that important government interests are at stake in restoring defendant to competency. Finally, the involuntary administration of antipsychotic drugs is necessary to significantly further important governmental trial-related interests in returning defendant to competency. The district court’s order is affirmed.

Appeal Waiver—Enforceability—Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Appellate Jurisdiction—Fed. R. Crim. P. 27.2—Fifteen-Day Deadline

U. S. v. Clayton, No. 04-3394, 08/01/2005, D.Kan., Judge Hartz.

Defendant pled guilty to a drug offense. His plea agreement included a waiver of his right to appeal his conviction and sentence. The issue on appeal is whether the waiver is enforceable, because the government did not file a timely motion to dismiss the appeal under United States v. Hahn, 359 F.3d 1315 (10th Cir. 2004).

The Tenth Circuit dismisses defendant’s appeal. Fed. R. Crim. P.27.2 contains a fifteen-day deadline. However, failure to file a motion under Rule 27.2 to dismiss for lack of appellate jurisdiction does not foreclose raising the issue in a brief, or even as late as oral argument. The lack of jurisdiction can be raised at any time in the proceedings. Because defendant’s appeal is within the scope of an enforceable waiver, the appeal is dismissed.

First Amendment—Amend Complaint After Appeal—Set Aside Judgment—Time Limit—Appeal Does Not Toll Deadline

Tool Box, Inc. v. Ogden City Corp., No. 04-4173, 08/10/2005, D.Utah, Judge Ebel.

This litigation ensued when defendant-city denied plaintiff’s request for a permit for a nude-dancing establishment. In 2001, the district court entered a judgment in favor of the city. In 2004, after losing its first appeal challenging the city’s regulations as facially unconstitutional, plaintiff filed a motion in the district court to amend its complaint to add an as-applied challenge. Plaintiff also filed a motion to set aside the judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b), despite the rule’s one-year time limit. The district court denied both motions, and plaintiff appealed.

The Tenth Circuit Court holds that a complaint cannot be amended until the judgment is set aside. It then considered whether the Rule 60(b) motion was timely, and concludes that it was not. Rule 60(b) requires a motion to be filed within one year after the judgment. An appeal does not toll the running of that deadline. Moreover, in this case there was no basis for finding that the appellate decision substantially altered the judgment, which may trigger a new one-year time limit under Rule 60(b). The district court’s judgment is affirmed.

Right to Privacy—Prescription Drug Records—Qualified Immunity

Douglas v. Dobbs, No. 04-2118, 08/16/2005, D.N.M., Judge Lucero.

Plaintiff sued several municipal actors as a result of a court authorized search of her prescription drug records. The only defendant remaining in this appeal was the assistant district attorney, who authorized a police officer to present the search warrant application to a magistrate, who then authorized the warrant. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of defendant.

The Tenth Circuit holds that persons have a right to privacy in their prescription drug records. The Court evaluated whether defendant was entitled to qualified immunity, and concludes that she was. Under the doctrine of qualified immunity, government officials generally are not liable for civil rights damages if their conduct does not violate clearly established law of which a reasonable person would have known. Here, there was no clearly established law that a district attorney violates a constitutional right merely by authorizing the submission of a search warrant application to a magistrate. Accordingly, defendant was entitled to qualified immunity. The district court’s judgment is affirmed.

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