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

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Plaintiff filed suit against his former employer, Energy Northwest, alleging claims of retaliation in violation of the Energy Reorganization Act, 42 U.S.C. 5851. The whistleblower retaliation provision of the Act protects energy workers who report or otherwise act upon safety concerns. In this case, plaintiff's single expression of a difference of opinion about the “Charlie” designation of one existing internal condition report lacks a sufficient nexus to a concrete, ongoing safety concern. Therefore, the court concluded that the district court properly granted summary judgment for Energy Northwest because plaintiff's conduct falls outside the scope of the Act's protection. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Sanders v. Energy Northwest" on Justia Law

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Lakeridge has one member, MBP. MBP is managed by a board of five members, one of whom is Kathie Bartlett. Bartlett shares a close business and personal relationship with Dr. Robert Rabkin. Lakeridge filed for bankruptcy and US Bank held a fully secured claim worth about $10 million and MBP held an unsecured claim worth $2.76 million. After MBP's board decided to sell its unsecured claim, Rabkin purchased the claim for $5000. US Bank subsequently moved to designate Rabkin's claim and disallow it for plan voting purposes. The bankruptcy court held Rabkin was not a non-statutory insider and that Rabkin did not purchase MBP's claim in bad faith. However, the bankruptcy court designated Rabkin’s claim and disallowed it for plan voting, because it determined Rabkin had become a statutory insider by acquiring a claim from MBP. Lakeridge and Rabkin both appealed, and US Bank cross-appealed. The BAP reversed the finding that Rabkin had become a statutory insider as a matter of law by acquiring MBP’s claim and affirmed the findings that Rabkin was not a non-statutory insider and that the claim assignment was not made in bad faith. The BAP held that insider status cannot be assigned and must be determined for each individual “on a case-by-case basis, after the consideration of various factors.” Finally, the BAP held Rabkin could vote to accept the Lakeridge plan under 11 U.S.C. 1129(a)(10), because he was an impaired creditor who was not an insider. The court affirmed the BAP's decision. View "US Bank v. The Village at Lakeridge, LLC" on Justia Law
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Defendant was indicted for obstructing justice by lying under oath to a grand jury about his role in impeding an investigation. During trial, defendant testified and allegedly lied under oath again. The district judge applied an enhancement for obstruction of justice under USSG 3C1.1 based on defendant's trial testimony, without expressly finding that the testimony was willfully or materially false. The court agreed with the parties that the district court erred by enhancing the sentence without making the findings necessary to show that defendant's trial testimony was, in fact, perjury. The court rejected defendant's contention that, even if his trial testimony was perjurious, the obstruction enhancement cannot be applied. The court concluded that applying the obstruction enhancement to defendant's false trial testimony does not impermissibly penalize him twice for the same conduct if the district court finds that his trial testimony was false, willful, and material. The court remanded for the district court to make express findings as to the willfulness and materiality of defendant’s trial testimony in light of United States v. Castro-Ponce in order to determine whether the obstruction enhancement applies, and to resentence accordingly. Finally, the court denied defendant's request for reassignment to a different judge on remand. View "United States v. Johnson" on Justia Law
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Petitioner was convicted of murder and the Pima County Superior court found that Atkins v. Virginia did not preclude his execution, the Arizona Court of Appeals denied special action relief, and the Arizona Supreme Court denied a petition for review. In 2010, this court remanded this case to the district court for the limited purpose of considering petitioner's Atkins claim and the district court denied the claim in 2012. The court concluded that a presumption of correctness does not apply to the state court's factual determination that petitioner was not intellectually disabled at the time of the offense and trial. The court held that the state court’s factual determination is not entitled to deference because it is not fairly supported by the record. Judge Reinhardt would hold that deference is not due for the additional and independent reason that the Pima County Superior Court rendered its finding that petitioner was not intellectually disabled under a constitutionally impermissible legal standard. Applying de novo review to determine whether petitioner has demonstrated intellectual disability by clear and convincing evidence as required by Arizona law, the court held that he has met this burden where, considering his intellectual functioning test scores and his history of significantly impaired adaptive behavior, as the court must under Atkins and Hall v. Florida, the court found that the record in this case overwhelmingly demonstrates that petitioner satisfied the two substantive prongs of Arizona’s definition of intellectual disability both prior to age eighteen and at the time of the crime. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with instructions. View "Smith v. Schriro" on Justia Law
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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the California Constitution, and state tort law, alleging that he was wrongfully incarcerated by LASD based on the misapplication of a felony warrant issued in 1994 for Mario L. Garcia, who has the same date of birth as plaintiff. On appeal, LASD, and former LA Sheriff Lee Baca challenged the district court’s denial of qualified immunity, absolute (quasi-judicial) immunity, and immunity under two California statutes. The court concluded that it has jurisdiction over defendants’ appeals from denial of state-law immunity because the district court’s denial determined rights collateral to those asserted in the action, and like the denial of qualified immunity, the district court’s decision is effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment; LA County and LASD may only appeal denial of state-law statutory immunity; and Baca, in his individual capacity, may appeal denial of qualified immunity and of quasi-judicial immunity. The court also concluded that plaintiff has sufficiently pleaded a Fourteenth Amendment violation and he is not entitled to qualified immunity where, at the time of plaintiff's incarceration, the standards for determining whether alleged police conduct violates the Fourteenth Amendment were clearly established. In this case, although plaintiff’s arrest for driving under the influence was valid, the warrant on which he was later held matched only his first and last name and date of birth; plaintiff is nine inches taller and forty pounds heavier than the warrant subject; and, even a cursory comparison of plaintiff to the warrant subject should have led officers to question whether the person described in the warrant was plaintiff. Finally, because the facts plaintiff alleged go beyond the limits of quasi-judicial immunity, this immunity does not apply to Baca. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Garcia v. Cnty. of Riverside" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a Guatemalan citizen, petitioned for review of the BIA's affirmance of the IJ's finding of removability based on his two prior drug convictions. The court concluded that the IJ erred in concluding that petitioner’s two counts of drug possession would bar him from first-offender treatment under the Federal First Offender Act (FFOA), 18 U.S.C. 3607(a). The court held that the two counts amount to a single “offense” under the FFOA because they arose out of a single event, composed a single criminal case, and triggered a single, undivided sentence. While petitioner was charged with possession of two different drugs, that alone does not change petitioner’s status as a first-time drug offender under the FFOA. Accordingly, the court granted the petition for review and remanded for further proceedings. View "Villavicencio-Rojas v. Lynch" on Justia Law
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Petitioner, a citizen of Mexico, seeks adjustment of his immigration status under the “grandfathering” exception for beneficiaries of labor certification applications filed before April 30, 2001. Applying the Chevron framework, the court concluded that the statute at issue in this case, 8 U.S.C. 1255(i), is ambiguous because Congress did not speak to the question of whether that section applies to substitute beneficiaries of labor certifications. The court concluded that it was permissible for the Attorney General, pursuant to 8 C.F.R. 1245.10(j), to interpret the statute to preclude beneficiaries substituted after the sunset date from obtaining grandfathered status. Therefore, the court concluded that 8 C.F.R. 1245.10(j) is entitled to deference. Because the BIA properly denied petitioner's application for adjustment, the court denied the petition for review. View "Valencia v. Lynch" on Justia Law
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Jacksonville filed a putative class action against CVB alleging violations of Section 10(b) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. 78j(b), and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder, 17 C.F.R. 240.10b-5. The district court granted CVB's motion to dismiss. The court concluded that vague optimistic statements by CVB officials are not actionable and the district court correctly dismissed the claims based on these boasts, characterizing them as puffery. Further, CVB's statements describing the Southern California real estate market and Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) violations were not misleading. The court concluded, however, that the second amended complaint (SAC) sufficiently alleges falsity and scienter as to the “no serious doubts” statements in the 10-K on March 4, 2010, and the 10-Q on May 10, 2010. The court also concluded that the SAC adequately plead loss causation. The court held that the announcement of an investigation can “form the basis for a viable loss causation theory” if the complaint also alleges a subsequent corrective disclosure by the defendant. Therefore, the court dismissed the second amended complaint with respect to the "no serious doubts" representations made in the 10-K and the 10-Q and remanded for further proceedings. The court otherwise affirmed the judgment. View "Jacksonville Pension Fund v. CVB" on Justia Law
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Petitioner was convicted of assaulting and attempted premeditated murder. Defendant served his sentence and is out of prison on parole. The Superior Court concluded in a decision spoken from the bench that trial counsel’s performance had been constitutionally defective by failing to secure medical evidence to support his primary expert’s sleepwalking opinion – a conclusion with which the prosecution agreed. The Superior Court found, however, that counsel’s failure had not been prejudicial. Petitioner then filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging a violation of his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel. The district court denied the petition. The court reversed, concluding that the Superior Court’s decision was (1) based on an unreasonable determination of the facts, and (2) objectively unreasonable in its application of clearly established Federal constitutional law. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Yun Hseng Liao v. Junious" on Justia Law
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Debtors filed a joint voluntary individual chapter 11 petition and debtors' operative plan of reorganization placed their largest unsecured creditor, California Bank, into its own class of unsecured creditors and proposed to pay it $5,000 on its claim of nearly $2,000,000. California Bank objected because its claim was thus “impaired under the plan.” The court overruled In re Friedman and joined its sister circuits in adopting the "narrow view", holding that the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCPA), 11 U.S.C. 541(a)(, (a)(1), 1115(a), 1129(b)(2)(B)(ii), amendments merely have the effect of allowing individual Chapter 11 debtors to retain property and earnings acquired after the commencement of the case that would otherwise be excluded under section 541(a)(6) & (7). The court further concluded that, under this view, an individual debtor may not cram down a plan that would permit the debtor to retain prepetition property that is not excluded from the estate by section 541, but may cram down a plan that permits the debtor to retain only postpetition property. Accordingly, the court affirmed the bankruptcy court's order. View "Zachary v. California Bank & Trust" on Justia Law
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