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

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Dr. Lawrence P. Rudolph filed suit against SCI after various SCI members accused him of official misconduct, stripped him of his awards, and kicked him out of the association. Rudolph surreptitiously recorded a conversation with his friend John Whipple, SCI's president, and posted it on YouTube to exonerate himself. Whipple and SCI filed numerous claims against Rudolph, including statutory invasion of privacy, negligence per se, and common law invasion of privacy. The district court granted Rudolph’s motion to strike under California’s anti-SLAPP statute, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code 425.16, as to four claims, but denied relief as to three claims. Rudolph appeals. The court concluded that the district court correctly denied Rudolph's motion as to the claims for violation of California Penal Code section 632, negligence per se, and common law invasion of privacy. In this case, although Rudolph can show that those claims arise from activity he took in furtherance of his right to free speech, plaintiffs can show a reasonable probability of prevailing on each of the challenged claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment; denied Rudolph's corresponding request for an additional attorney fee award; and remanded for further proceedings. View "Safari Club International v. Rudolph" on Justia Law

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Slep-Tone produces karaoke music tracks marketed under the trademark "Sound Choice" on encoded compact discs (CD-G). Plaintiffs filed suit against defendants for, inter alia, trademark infringement after finding out that defendants were using unauthorized media-shifted files instead of Slep-Tone's original CD-Gs. The district court granted defendant's motion to dismiss. Slep-Tone argues that, by "media-shifting" its tracks from physical CD-Gs to digital files and performing them without authorization, defendants committed trademark infringement and unfair competition under the Lanham Act,15 U.S.C. 1114, 1125. The court agreed with the Seventh Circuit's holding that "the ‘good’ whose ‘origin’ is material for purposes of a trademark infringement claim is the ‘tangible product sold in the marketplace’ rather than the creative content of that product." Therefore, the court concluded that Slep-Tone failed to plausibly allege consumer confusion over the origin of a good properly cognizable in a claim of trademark infringement. Accordingly, the court affirmed as to this issue. In a concurrently filed memorandum opinion, the court also reversed in part and remanded in part. View "Slep-Tone Entertainment Corp. v. Wired for Sound Karaoke" on Justia Law

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Petitioner seeks review of the BIA's affirmance of the IJ's denial of withholding of removal and denial of relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). The court rejected the BIA's decision to follow its own precedent in Matter of C-T-L, which held that the "one central reason" test for asylum applies to withholding, even though the withholding statute says merely "a reason." The court held that "a reason" is a less demanding standard than "one central reason." Because the BIA accepted the government’s view under the wrong standard, the court remanded to the BIA to decide the case under the correct standard: " a reason" rather than "one central reason." The court also concluded that the statute and regulations do not establish a “rogue official” exception to CAT relief. The court explained that the regulations say that torture has to be at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or some other person acting in an official capacity. In this case, the record leaves no room for doubt the four policemen that attacked petitioner were public officials who themselves inflicted the torture. Because the BIA did not evaluate relocation under the no-burden-shifting standard, and applied the incorrect standard in assessing petitioner's withholding claim, the court remanded pursuant to INS v. Ventura. Accordingly, the court granted the petition. View "Barajas-Romero v. Lynch" on Justia Law
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After Nóirín Plunkett accused Michael Schwern of raping her and he was arrested, he filed suit against Plunkett for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and intentional interference with economic relations. Plunkett filed a special motion to strike under Oregon’s anti-SLAPP law, Or. Rev. Stat. 31.152(4), but the district court denied the motion. The court held that it has jurisdiction to review denials of Oregon anti-SLAPP motions in light of Oregon's passage of amendments to create a right of immediate appeal from denials of anti-SLAPP motions. On the merits, the court concluded that a reasonable trier of fact could not find that Schwern met his burden of production to support a prima facie case with substantial evidence. Because Schwern failed to establish a prima facie case through substantial evidence, Plunkett was entitled to relief under Oregon’s anti-SLAPP law. Accordingly, the court reversed and instructed the district court to grant the motion to strike. View "Schwern v. Plunkett" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that the law firm of Epsten Grinnell & Howell and attorney Debora M. Sumwalt (collectively, "Epsten") committed unlawful debt collection practices in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692 et seq., the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (Rosenthal Act), Cal. Civ. Code 1788 et seq., and the California Unfair Competition Law, Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 17200, et seq. The district court dismissed the FDCPA claims and the state law claims. The court held, however, that plaintiff has alleged a plausible claim for relief because the collection letter contains language that overshadows and conflicts with her FDCPA debt validation rights when reviewed under the “least sophisticated debtor” standard; rejected Epsten's argument, raised for the first time on appeal, that in sending the collection letter, it merely sought to perfect a security interest and is therefore subject only to the limitations in section 1692f(6); and held that Epsten is subject to the full scope of the FDCPA. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Mashiri v. Epsten Grinnell & Howell" on Justia Law
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The court certified the following questions of state law to the California Supreme Court: 1. Is California’s common law notice-prejudice rule a fundamental public policy for the purpose of choice-of-law analysis? May common law rules other than unconscionability not enshrined in statute, regulation, or the constitution, be fundamental public policies for the purpose of choice-of-law analysis? 2. If the notice-prejudice rule is a fundamental public policy for the purpose of choice-of-law analysis, can a consent provision in a first-party claim insurance policy be interpreted as a notice provision such that the notice-prejudice rule applies? View "Pitzer College v. Indian Harbor Insurance Co." on Justia Law
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Plaintiff filed suit against King County and King County Sheriff's Deputies, under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging, inter alia, that Deputy Volpe violated her Fourth Amendment rights by arresting her without probable cause, conducting an unreasonable seizure, using excessive force during the arrest, and conducting an unlawful search of her truck. Deputies Volpe, Sawtelle, and Christian appealed the district court’s denial of qualified immunity on the excessive force and unlawful search claims. The court concluded that the deputies are entitled to qualified immunity in this case because the government's interests at stake - providing life-saving emergency medical care and to protect first responders and other motorists from potential harm - outweighed any intrusion on plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights. The court thought that Deputy Volpe’s use of force in this case was reasonable in response to the totality of the circumstances. Furthermore, Deputies Sawtelle and Christian did not violate plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights when they searched her truck in an attempt to find the medications plaintiff's son had ingested in his overdose. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for entry of dismissal. View "Ames v. King County" on Justia Law

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In connection with an attempted purchase of a California residence, Kum Tat filed a motion to compel arbitration of a claim against Linden Ox. The district court denied the motion and Kum Tat filed this interlocutory appeal. The court held that the order denying the motion to compel arbitration was not an order from which section 16(a)(1) of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 16(a)(1), permits an interlocutory appeal. In this case, Kum Tat's motion was neither under section 3 nor 4 of the FAA, and the motion expressly urged application only of California arbitration law and contained no citation to the FAA. Significantly, Kum Tat later emphasized that the motion was not made under the FAA. In the alternative, the court concluded that the district court's order was not clearly erroneous and did not warrant mandamus relief. Here, the district court did not clearly err in reserving for itself the question whether the parties agreed to arbitrate, nor did the district court clearly err in concluding the parties did not form a contract. Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "Kum Tat Limited v. Linden Ox Pasture, LLC" on Justia Law

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After DEA agents seized $99,500 in cash from plaintiff's carry-on bag at San Francisco International Airport, the DEA sent plaintiff a notice on May 1, 2013, informing plaintiff that the money was subject to forfeiture under 21 U.S.C. 881 as a result of a violation of the Controlled Substances Act. The notice stated that June 5, 2013 was the deadline to file a contest of the forfeiture. On June 4th, 2013, plaintiff's attorney tendered plaintiff's claim to FedEx for overnight delivery to the DEA, but the DEA did not receive the claim until June 6th. Plaintiff eventually filed a motion for return of property under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(g), arguing that the DEA had wrongfully deemed his claim untimely and that the district court should exercise its equitable jurisdiction to toll the filing deadline. The district court held that it had equitable jurisdiction to consider plaintiff's motion, but denied plaintiff's motion on the merits. The court treated section 983(e) of the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act (CAFRA), 18 U.S.C. 983(e), as a claim-processing rule. In this case, the district court correctly determined that it had jurisdiction to hear plaintiff's motion for equitable relief because there is no clear jurisdictional limitation to CAFRA. The court concluded that plaintiff failed to meet his burden of establishing that he pursued his rights diligently and that some extraordinary circumstance stood in his way. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's denial of the motion. View "Okafor v. United States" on Justia Law

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Relator filed a qui tam suit against his former employer, Serco, under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729-3733, alleging, inter alia, that the company submitted fraudulent claims for payment to the United States for work done under a government contract. The district court granted summary judgment for Serco. In Universal Health Servs., Inc. v. United States ex rel. Escobar, the Supreme Court rejected the contention that a government contract or regulation must expressly designate a requirement as a condition of payment in order to trigger liability under the theory of implied certification. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on relator's FCA claim for submitting false or fraudulent claims for payment under an implied false certification theory of liability. In this case, relator has failed to establish a genuine issue of material fact regarding the materiality of Serco’s obligations to comply with ANSI-748 or provide valid EVM reports. The court concluded that no reasonable jury could return a verdict for relator given the demanding standard required for materiality under the FCA, the government’s acceptance of Serco’s reports despite their non-compliance with ANSI-748, and the government’s payment of Serco’s public vouchers for its work under Delivery Orders 49 and 54. The court also concluded that relator failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact regarding the submission of a false or fraudulent claim. Finally, the court rejected relator's conspiracy claim, FCA claim for wrongful retention of overpayments; and Tameny claim for wrongful termination. View "United States ex rel. Kelly v. Serco" on Justia Law