Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff is a doctor who used to work at the public hospital on Saipan. Plaintiff filed suit against the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and one of its agencies, alleging that the Commonwealth and the public corporation that runs the hospital, wrongfully denied him privileges at the hospital. The district court, pursuant to Fleming v. Department of Public Safety, denied defendants' motion to dismiss the contract and tort claims on the basis of sovereign immunity. In Fleming, the court held that the Commonwealth does not enjoy sovereign immunity in federal court with respect to claims brought under federal law. The court held that Fleming does not control the outcome of this case where Fleming held only that the Commonwealth waived its sovereign immunity with respect to suits in federal court arising under federal law. The court agreed with the suggestion in Fleming that the Commonwealth retained its sovereign immunity with respect to claims arising under Commonwealth law. Therefore, the court held that the Commonwealth may not be sued without its consent on claims arising under its own laws. The court reversed and remanded for the district court to grant defendants' motion to dismiss the claims at issue. View "Ramsey v. Muna" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs submitted rulemaking petitions to the FDA, FTC, AMS, and FSIS, requesting that each agency promulgate regulations that would require all egg cartons to identify the conditions in which the egglaying hens were kept during production. Plaintiffs subsequently filed suit claiming that each agency had acted arbitrarily and capriciously in dismissing their rulemaking petitions. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants. The court concluded that the FSIS did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in denying plaintiffs' rulemaking petition where plaintiffs' proposed labeling regulations concern only shell eggs and thus fall outside of the FSIS's labeling jurisdiction under the Egg Products Inspection Act (EPIA), 21 U.S.C. 1031–56; the AMS also did not act arbitrarily or capriciously because the agency correctly concluded that it lacks the authority to promulgate mandatory labeling requirements for shell eggs; the FTC did not act arbitrarily or capriciously where the agency could not conclude that the potentially unfair or deceptive labeling practices plaintiffs challenge were "prevalent" as that term was used in the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTCA), 15 U.S.C. 41-58, and the agency reasonably denied the petition based on its discretion to combat any potentially misleading egg labeling through ad hoc enforcement proceedings; and the FDA's explanation for denying plaintiffs' petition barely met its low burden of demonstrating that it considered the potential problem and providing a reasonable explanation of its decision. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Compassion Over Killing v. FDA" on Justia Law

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Growers sold their perishable agricultural products on credit to a distributor, Tanimura, which made Tanimura trustee over a Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA), 7 U.S.C. 499a-499t, trust holding the perishable products and any resulting proceeds for the Growers as PACA-trust beneficiaries. Tanimura then sold the products on credit to third parties and transferred its own resulting accounts receivable to Agricap through a Factoring Agreement or sale of accounts. In this suit against Agricap, Growers alleged that the Factoring Agreement was merely a secured lending arrangement structured to look like a sale but transferring no substantial risk of nonpayment on the accounts; the accounts receivable and proceeds remained trust property under PACA; because the accounts receivable remained trust property, Tanimura breached the PACA trust and Agricap was complicit in the breach; and PACA-trust beneficiaries such as Growers held an interest superior to Agricap, and Agricap was liable to Growers. The court agreed with the district court's conclusion that Boulder Fruit Express & Heger Organic Farm Sales v. Transportation Factoring, Inc., controls the outcome of the case. The district court noted that the Ninth Circuit in Boulder Fruit expressly addressed the commercial reasonableness of a factoring agreement but implicitly rejected a separate, transfer-of-risk test. The district court further noted that the factoring agreement in Boulder Fruit transferred even less risk than the Factoring Agreement in the present case. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "G.W. Palmer & Co. v. Agricap Financial" on Justia Law

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The court filed (1) an order amending its opinion and denying a petition for panel rehearing and a petition for rehearing en banc, and (2) an amended opinion reversing the district court's summary judgment in favor of the school district. Plaintiff filed suit to require the district court to provide her son L.J. with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq. Although the district court found that L.J. was disabled under three categories defined by the IDEA, it concluded that an IEP for specialized services was not necessary because of L.J.'s satisfactory performance in general education classes. The court concluded that the district court clearly erred because L.J. was receiving special services, including mental health counseling and assistance from a one-on-one paraeducator. The court pointed out the important distinction that these are not services offered to general education students. The court explained that the problem with the district court's analysis is that many of the services the district court viewed as general education services were in fact special education services tailored to L.J.'s situation. Because L.J. is eligible for special education, the school district must formulate an IEP. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded for the district court to provide that remedy. The court also concluded that the school district clearly violated important procedural safeguards set forth in the IDEA when it failed to disclose assessments, treatment plans, and progress notes, which deprived L.J.'s mother of her right to informed consent. The school district failed to conduct a health assessment, which rendered the school district and IEP team unable to evaluate and address L.J.'s medication and treatment related needs. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "L. J. v. Pittsburg Unified School District" on Justia Law

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Defendant, a former mortgage loan officer and real estate broker, appealed his convictions and sentence for nine counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated theft. Defendant's convictions stemmed from his involvement in a complex mortgage fraud scheme. The court held that negligence is not a defense to wire fraud, and evidence of lender negligence is not admissible as a defense to mortgage fraud; intentional disregard of relevant information is not a defense to wire fraud, and evidence of intentional disregard by lenders is not admissible as a defense to mortgage fraud; evidence of individual lender behavior is not admissible to disprove materiality, but evidence of general lending standards in the mortgage industry is admissible to disprove materiality; and the district court did not deny defendant the opportunity to present a complete defense. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. The court concurrently filed a separate memorandum disposition rejecting other challenges to the convictions and sentences. View "United States v. Lindsey" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, elderly Oregonians or their successors who purchased long-term healthcare insurance policies sold by Bankers, filed suit alleging that Bankers developed onerous procedures to delay and deny insurance claims. The court certified the following question to the Oregon Supreme Court, pursuant to Oregon Revised Statues 28.200: Does a plaintiff state a claim under Oregon Revised Statutes 124.110(1)(b) for wrongful withholding of money or property where it is alleged that an insurance company has in bad faith delayed the processing of claims and refused to pay benefits owed under an insurance contract? View "Bates v. Bankers Life & Casualty" on Justia Law
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Plaintiff, a county correctional officer, filed suit alleging that the county sheriff created a sexually hostile work environment, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq., and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Cal. Gov't Code 12900 et seq. Plaintiff alleged, among other things, that defendant greeted her with unwelcome hugs on more than one hundred occasions, and a kiss at least once, during a 12-year period. The district court granted summary judgment for the sheriff and the county. The court concluded that a reasonable juror could conclude that the differences in hugging of men and women were not, as defendants argue, just "genuine but innocuous differences in the ways men and women routinely interact with members of the same sex and of the opposite sex." The court also held that the district court's contrary conclusion may have been influenced by application of incorrect legal standards. In this case, the district court had not properly considered the totality of the circumstances where the district court failed to consider whether a reasonable juror would find that hugs, in the kind, number, frequency, and persistence described by plaintiff, created a hostile work environment. The court concluded that plaintiff submitted evidence from which a reasonable juror could conclude that, even if the sheriff also hugged men on occasion, there were "qualitative and quantitative differences" in the hugging conduct toward the two genders. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Zetwick v. County of Yolo" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the county and certain county officials after she was terminated as a litigation attorney for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office (MCAO). Before her termination, county officials requested that she not be assigned further cases in which the county was a party and which involved risk management. A jury returned a verdict for plaintiff, finding that she was terminated in retaliation for her exercise of First Amendment rights in speaking to a newspaper reporter, and against certain county officials for state-law based tortious interference with her employment contract. The court concluded that no reasonable jury could conclude that the county's risk management office was not the client. Therefore, the court reversed the tortious interference with contract judgment because Defendants Wilson and Armfield's conduct was not improper. With the legally defined scope of an attorney's duties in mind, the court explained that it becomes obvious that plaintiff's comments to the newspaper could not constitute constitutionally protected citizen speech under the principles from Dahlia v. Rodriguez. Accordingly, the court reversed the First Amendment retaliation verdict. The court remanded for the district court to enter judgment for defendants and vacated the fee award. View "Brandon v. Maricopa County" on Justia Law

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This case involves a challenge to the Bureau of Reclamation's (BOR) release of Trinity River water from the Lewiston Dam, above and beyond the amount designated in the applicable water release schedule. The Water Contractors filed an amended complaint, alleging that the Federal Defendants violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C. 1531; the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321; the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) section 3411(a) and 43 U.S.C. 383; and CVPIA section 3406(b)(23). The district court granted summary judgment for the Federal Defendants. The court concluded that the broad language of the Act of August 12, 1955 (the 1955 Act) authorized BOR to implement the 2013 flow augmentation release—an appropriate measure—to protect fish downstream from the Lewiston Dam, which includes the lower Klamath River; subsequent legislation did not clearly alter or limit the expansive scope of the authority granted by the 1955 Act; and because the BOR acted within its statutory authority, the court reversed as to this issue. The court concluded that, because the BOR intended to aid the lower Klamath River (and not the Trinity River) in implementing the 2013 flow augmentation release, the release did not violate section 3406(b)(23). The court also concluded that the Water Contractors have failed to establish standing to pursue a claim under the ESA. Finally, the BOR neither violated California water law nor the Reclamation Act in implementing the 2013 flow augmentation release, and thus the BOR did not violate section 3411(a). Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part. View "San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority v. Haugrud" on Justia Law
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