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

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Petitioner, a citizen of Palau and resident of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), petitioned for review of an order of removal based on his conviction for assault with a dangerous weapon under CNMI law, 6 N. Mar. I. Code 1204(a). Petitioner contended that the order violated CNMI's right to self-government and was an impermissible retroactive application of law. The court rejected these challenges, concluding that the United States immigration laws may properly be applied and enforced within CNMI to petitioner even though he entered that territory, committed the crime, and suffered the conviction upon which the removal order is based prior to the extension of United States immigration laws to the Commonwealth. The court also concluded that the conviction was for a crime involving moral turpitude and rejected defendant's contention that he is eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility under section 212(h) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. 1182(h). Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "Mtoched v. Lynch" on Justia Law
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Posted in: Immigration Law
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Petitioner, a native and citizen of the Philippines, was incorrectly advised by an IJ that his prior conviction was for an aggravated felony and that he was therefore ineligible for relief from removal. Based on that advice, petitioner waived his appeal. The court concluded that petitioner's conviction for grand theft under California Penal Code 487(a) is not categorically an aggravated felony because section 487(a) is doubly overbroad because it permits a conviction for theft of labor, while the generic definition of theft does not. Further, section 487(a) incorporates the general definition of theft, which is found at California Penal Code 484(a). An individual may be convicted of theft under section 484(a), and therefore grand theft under section 487(a), even if the victim consented to transfer his property. The court concluded that petitioner's waiver of his right to appeal to the BIA was not considered and intelligent, and the BIA should have granted his motion for reconsideration. Accordingly, the court granted the petition and remanded for further proceedings. View "Garcia v. Lynch" on Justia Law
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Posted in: Immigration Law
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Petitioner challenged California's plans to improve air quality in the San Joaquin Valley. At issue was whether the EPA erred in approving California's State Implementation Plans (SIPs) to comply with National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) enacted under the Clean Air Act (CAA), 42 U.S.C. 7409, concerning ozone and fine particulate matter in the San Joaquin Valley. The court held that by approving California’s plans even though the plans did not include the state-adopted mobile emissions standards on which those plans rely to achieve their emissions reductions goals, EPA violated the CAA; EPA did not violate the CAA by not requiring inclusion of other state mechanisms in its plans, and that other control measures approved by EPA are enforceable commitments as the CAA requires; and, therefore, the court granted the petition in part and denied in part, remanding for further proceedings. View "Comm. for a Better Arvin v. EPA" on Justia Law
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A-1 filed suit challenging the constitutionality of four provisions of Hawaii's campaign finance laws under Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. On appeal, A-1 challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Commission. The court concluded that Hawaii’s expenditure and noncandidate committee definitions in HRS 11-302 are not vague given the Commission’s narrowing construction; Hawaii's advertising definition in HRS 11-302 is not unconstitutionally vague; the noncandidate committee reporting and disclosure requirements survive exacting scrutiny as applied to A-1 where they were substantially related to Hawaii's important interest in informing the electorate, preventing corruption or its appearance, and avoiding the circumvention of valid campaign finance laws; the disclaimer requirement for advertisements is constitutional under Citizens United; A-1 lacks standing to challenge the electioneering communications reporting requirements; the contractor contribution ban is constitutional even as applied to contributions to legislators who neither award nor oversee contracts; and individual Plaintiffs Yamada and Stewart are entitled to attorney's fees. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment on the merits, but vacated the fee award, referring the matter to the Appellate Commissioner with instructions. View "A-1 A-Lectrician v. Snipes" on Justia Law

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The United States appealed the district court's grant of defendant's motion to suppress evidence of illegal drugs and a firearm found in a search of his car after a traffic stop. Applying Rodriquez v. United States, the court held that the officer’s prolongation of the traffic stop to conduct both an ex-felon registration check and a “dog sniff” violated the Fourth Amendment unless the officer had independent reasonable suspicion to support the prolongations. The court vacated and remanded for the district court to address whether the officer had such reasonable suspicion. View "United States v. Evans" on Justia Law
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Posted in: Criminal Law
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Byron Pickle appealed the district court's default judgment and final judgment of forfeiture of real property. The judgment was entered after the district court granted the government's motion to strike Pickle's claim and answer based on Pickle's failure to respond to special interrogatories the government propounded under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure's Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions (Rule) G(6)(c)(i)(A), and denied Pickle's motion to stay. The court concluded that the district court incorrectly viewed Pickle's failure to answer the Rule G(6) special interrogatories as a per se basis for striking his claim. Because the district court’s decision to strike Pickle’s claim was based on the legally erroneous belief that Pickle’s failure to comply with Rule G(6) vitiated his statutory standing to contest the forfeiture and required dismissal of his claim forthwith, and because Pickle’s failure to answer the G(6) interrogatories would not have warranted striking his claim as a discovery sanction without giving him an opportunity to cure his lack of response, the court reversed and remanded. View "United States v. Pickle" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff, an artist, prevailed on a contributory copyright infringement claim against ELW, a publisher of her artwork, the district court awarded her attorney fees under a fee-shifting provision contained in the parties' publishing contract. Both parties appealed. Primarily at issue was whether the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq., precluded enforcement of a contractual attorney fees provision in copyright-based litigation. The court concluded that the Copyright Act does not bar an award of attorney fees under the circumstances but held that the district court abused its discretion by categorically excluding the majority of plaintiff’s requested fees without adequate explanation. The court affirmed the district court’s pretrial order setting the issues for trial and affirm its orders denying plaintiff’s motions for sanctions and for leave to amend. The court concluded that, although the district court correctly determined that plaintiff was entitled to attorney fees, the district court abused its discretion by categorically excluding the majority of plaintiff’s requested fees and failing to provide an adequate explanation for its calculations. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. View "Ryan v. Editions Ltd. West" on Justia Law
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Posted in: Copyright
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Petitioner appealed the denial of his 28 U.S.C. 2241 habeas corpus petition, challenging the district court's conclusion that his detention by immigration authorities never constitutes "official detention" within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. 3585(b), the statute governing the calculation of a term of imprisonment. Petitioner was detained by ICE prior the commencement of his criminal sentence of illegal reentry. The court held that when immigration officials detain an alien pending potential prosecution, the alien is entitled under section 3585(b) to credit toward his criminal sentence; an alien is entitled to credit for all time spent in ICE detention subsequent to his indictment or the filing of formal criminal charges against him; and where a factual dispute exists, the district court must hold an evidentiary hearing as to whether an alien’s detention by ICE prior to the date of his indictment or the filing of criminal charges against him constituted detention pending prosecution. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for the district court to determine in the first instance whether and when during the pre-indictment period petitioner's detention status changed from detention pending deportation to detention pending potential prosecution. On remand, the government has the burden of proving that the pre-indictment detention was for the purpose of deportation rather than potential prosecution. View "Zavala v. Ives" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of five counts of distribution of methamphetamine, one count of distribution of cocaine, and one count of conspiracy to distribute. On appeal, defendant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence on Count Six, one of the counts for distribution and challenged his sentence. The court found that the evidence was sufficient to convict defendant of Count Six where there was sufficient evidence for a rational jury to find that defendant aided and abetted the distribution of methamphetamine. The court concluded that the district court did not clearly err by not finding the FBI memo at issue to be a basis for a charge of sentencing manipulation. Although the court is deeply troubled by the participation of a law enforcement officer, the investigation fell just shy of constituting outrageous government conduct. Here, there was evidence that the government extended its investigation to build a stronger case against defendant. Of particular concern was that the government’s first two confidential sources were both convicted of serious offenses during the period they were acting as confidential sources against defendant. Thus, it was reasonable for law enforcement to extend the investigation with more controlled purchases by a more credible confidential source. Further, the existence of the FBI memo did not require the district court to conclude that the investigators extended the investigation solely to enhance defendant’s potential sentence. The court also concluded that it was not an abuse of discretion for the court to determine these incidents were properly calculated in determining defendant’s criminal history. Finally, the district court did not err in applying a two-level sentencing enhancement for firearm possession and the court rejected defendant's argument that the drug quantity attributed to him was unforeseeable. Accordingly, the court affirmed the sentence. View "United States v. Boykin" on Justia Law
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Posted in: Criminal Law
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Petitioner, convicted of robbery and murder, appealed the denial of his habeas corpus petition. Petitioner argued, inter alia, that one of the guilt-phase instructions given at his trial violated his due process rights by advising the jury that if it finds “premeditation,” it has necessarily found “deliberation.” Petitioner contended that this instruction relieved the state of its burden to prove every element of the offense. The district court found that the state trial court had committed constitutional error, but that the error was harmless. The court concluded, however, that the error was prejudicial where the court had no reason to believe that the jury in fact decided to convict petitioner based on a felony-murder theory rather than on the more traditional first-degree murder charge. The evidence of petitioner’s cocaine intoxication and emotional agitation might well have created reasonable doubt as to the third element of first-degree murder, the one the court’s instructions failed to identify as an independent element: deliberation. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with instructions to grant the writ unless the State of Nevada elects to pursue a new trial within a reasonable time. View "Riley v. McDaniel" on Justia Law
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Posted in: Criminal Law
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