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

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On remand from the United States Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's order denying enforcement of an administrative subpoena issued by the EEOC to McLane that was issued as part of an investigation of a sex discrimination claim filed by a former employee. The subpoena requested "pedigree information" for employees or prospective employees who took a physical capability strength test. The Ninth Circuit held that the district court abused its discretion by denying enforcement of the subpoena because the pedigree information was relevant to the investigation. Therefore, the panel vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. On remand, McLane is free to renew its argument that the EEOC's request for pedigree information is unduly burdensome, and the district court should also resolve whether producing a second category of evidence—the reasons test takers were terminated—would be unduly burdensome to McLane. View "EEOC V. McLane Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff is a street performer. She and her friend were arrested and charged with conducting business without a license, because they were dressed in "sexy cop" outfits on the Las Vegas strip and posed for photos with the officers in exchange for a tip. After the charges were dropped, plaintiff filed suit against the officers, alleging eleven federal and state causes of action. The Ninth Circuit held that the district court erred in granting summary judgment for the officers because the district court misconceived the scope of the applicable First Amendment protections. The record indicated the officers had no evidence before them when they decided to arrest plaintiff that suggested that the "sexy cops" association had any purpose that could have fallen outside the protection of the First Amendment under Berger v. City of Seattle. To infer from plaintiff and her friend's shared costumes and joint performance, alone, an agreement to engage in a regulable transaction impermissibly burdens the right to engage in purely expressive activity and association. The panel held that something more than that constitutionally protected activity is required to justify plaintiff's arrest. Viewing plaintiff's activities separately from her friend's, the panel held that summary judgment for the officers was improper because plaintiff's actions were entirely protected speech. The panel reversed in part and remanded in part. View "Santopietro v. Howell" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit certified the following question to the Montana Supreme Court: Whether, under Montana law, the public duty doctrine shields a law enforcement officer from liability for negligence where the officer is the direct and sole cause of the harm suffered by the plaintiff? View "Bassett v. Lamantia" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a would-be class-action against China Agritech and others, alleging violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Resh Action). Plaintiffs in this case were unnamed plaintiffs in two earlier would-be class actions against many of the same defendants based on the same underlying events (Dean and Smyth Actions). Class action certification was denied in both cases. Determining that appellate jurisdiction was proper, the Ninth Circuit held that the would-be class action brought by the Resh plaintiffs was not time-barred. In this case, plaintiffs' individual claims were tolled under American Pipe & Construction Co v. Utah, 414 U.S. 538 (1974), and Crown, Cork & Seal Co. v. Parker, 462 U.S. 345 (1983), during the pendency of the Dean and Smyth Actions. The panel explained that so long as they can satisfy the criteria of FRCP 23, and can persuade the district court that comity or preclusion principles do not bar their action, they were entitled to bring their timely individual claims as named plaintiffs in a would-be class action. The panel held that permitting future class action named plaintiffs, who were unnamed class members in previously uncertified classes, to avail themselves of American Pipe tolling would advance the policy objectives that led the Supreme Court to permit tolling in the first place View "Resh v. China Agritech" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that the 2008 Tongass Forest Plan unlawfully damages the habitat of the indigenous Alexander Archipelago wolf, and that the Forest Service violated the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) by approving either the Big Thorne project or the 2008 Tongass Forest Plan (Forest Plan) under which Big Thorne was authorized. The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiffs' declarations were sufficient to show that actions approved under the Forest Plan would cause particularized injury to them; the panel was not aware of any authority compelling the agency to set a specific standard or benchmark for protecting the viability of a species that was neither endangered nor threatened; the Forest Service met its legal obligations when it implemented the Forest plan and its discussion of viability was not arbitrary nor capricious; and the Big Thorne Project was consistent with that plan. View "In re Big Thorne Project" on Justia Law

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After American filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, it sought to reject and to renegotiate its collective bargaining agreements with TWU. American and TWU negotiated new agreements, including an early separation program. TWU members who took advantage of the Early Separation Program filed two putative class-actions alleging that TWU breached its duty of fair representation by excluding them from the bulk of the equity distribution. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the consolidated actions, holding that TWU did not breach its duty of fair representation. In this case, TWU's equity distribution scheme was not arbitrary; the allegations of discrimination were implausible; and TWU did not act in bad faith. View "Demetris v. Transport Workers Union of America" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit filed an amended opinion affirming in part and vacating in part the dismissal of plaintiff's action for failure to state a claim, holding that the trustee of a California deed of trust is a "debt collector" under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Actions taken to facilitate a non-judicial foreclosure, such as sending the notice of default and notice of sale, are not attempts to collect "debt" as that term is defined by the FDCPA; enforcement of a security interest will often involve communications between the forecloser and the consumer; and when these communications are limited to the foreclosure process, they do not transform foreclosure into debt collection. The panel explained that, because the money collected from a trustee's sale is not money owed by a consumer, it is not "debt" as defined by the FDCPA. In this case, the notices at issue did not request payment from plaintiff, but merely informed her that the foreclosure had begun, explained the timeline, and apprised her of her rights. Therefore, the panel held that ReconTrust's activities fell into the category of enforcement of a security interest, rather than general debt collection. View "Vien-Phuong Thi Ho v. ReconTrust" on Justia Law

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Section 1915A of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 28 U.S.C. 1915A, applies only to claims brought by individuals incarcerated at the time they file their complaints. Plaintiff, a former prisoner, filed suit against defendants, alleging violations of the Eighth Amendment and various state laws for injuries he suffered, and the medical treatment he received, after he was struck by shotgun pellets that officers fired. The district court dismissed the complaint. In this case, plaintiff was not incarcerated at the time he filed the complaint and thus should not have been subjected to Section 1915A screening. Therefore, the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded. View "Olivas v. Nevada" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether plaintiffs may amend their complaint, after a case has been removed to federal court, to change the definition of the class so as to eliminate minimal diversity and thereby divest the federal court of jurisdiction. The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiffs may not do so and clarified that the range of amendments permitted under the panel's prior opinion in Benko v. Quality Loan Service Corp., 789 F.3d 1111 (9th Cir. 2015), upon which the district court relied, is very narrow. Plaintiff filed suit against Visa and others, claiming that Visa is violating the state antitrust laws by fixing rates and preventing merchants from applying a surcharge for the use of credit cards. Because the existence of minimal diversity in this case must be determined on the basis of the pleadings at the time of removal in accordance with the general rule, the order of the district court remanding the case on the basis of a postremoval amendment must be reversed. View "Broadway Grill v. Visa" on Justia Law
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Plaintiff, a death row inmate, appealed the dismissal of his claims that the ADC policy and practice of inspecting inmates' outgoing legal mail violates his Sixth and First Amendment rights. The Ninth Circuit reversed and held that ADC's current inspection policy does not satisfy the standard articulated in Nordstrom v. Ryan, 762 F.3d 903, 906 (9th Cir. 2014) (Nordstrom I). The panel explained that the standard was not satisfied because the policy calls for page-by-page content review of inmates' confidential outgoing legal mail. The policy also does not satisfy the four-part test identified in Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89–91 (1987), because ADC did not produce evidence of a threat to prison security sufficient to justify its policy, and because feasible, readily available alternatives were apparent. View "Nordstrom v. Ryan" on Justia Law