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First Amendment and Criminal Matters

By FindLaw Staff on February 16, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Today, the Tenth Circuit decided one case regarding a public school teacher's First Amendment right against retaliation for advocating disabled students' rights, and two criminal matters concerning, respectively, a capital habeas petition and a Sentencing Guidelines issue.

In Reinhardt v. Albuquerque Pub. Schs. Bd. of Educ., No. 09-2005, plaintiff brought First Amendment and Rehabilitation Act claims based on defendant public school system's reduction of plaintiff to a standard contract to work with special education students on the ground that her caseload did not support an extended contract.  The district court granted summary judgment for defendant.

The Tenth Circuit reversed on the grounds that 1) the undisputed facts showed that plaintiff engaged in protected activity for the purposes of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act; 2) there was an issue of material fact as to whether defendant deliberately maintained inaccurate caseload lists that artificially reduced plaintiff's workload in order to reduce her salary; and 3)  plaintiff felt that she had a duty to report the denial of services to special education students as part of her professional obligations, and the district court correctly found this to be conclusive that plaintiff was speaking as an employee and not as a private citizen.

In Alverson v. Workman, No. 09-5000, a capital habeas matter, petitioner's petition centered on the state trial court's denial of petitioner's requests for funding for a neuropsychological examination and the state's introduction of allegedly insufficient evidence to establish that he substantially participated in the murder charged.  The district court denied the petition.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed on the grounds that 1) the state's allegation of future dangerousness was not based on state-sponsored psychiatric evidence, but rather on petitioner's history of violent criminal conduct, including his role in the murder at issue, and thus he was not entitled to a psychiatric examination under Ake; 2) the heinous, atrocious or cruel aggravating factor was based not upon petitioner's state of mind, but rather the brutal manner in which the victim was killed; 3) the jury could clearly have inferred, based upon its viewing of (and listening to) the surveillance tape of the murder, that petitioner was well aware that a murder was going to occur and may well have directly participated in beating the victim; and 4) petitioner failed to identify what other action his trial counsel could or should have taken to obtain a court-ordered neuropsychological examination.

Finally, in US v. Patillar, No. 09-5067, defendant appealed his sentence for robbery, which the district court had enhanced based on defendant's prior Oklahoma convictions.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed on the grounds that both of the prior Oklahoma law offenses, larceny from the person and robbery with firearms, constituted crimes of violence under U.S.S.G. section 4B1.1.

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