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

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The court affirmed the FWS's finding that listing the whitebark pine as a threatened or endangered species was "warranted but precluded." Wildwest asserted that FWS's decision was arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law. Determining that the case was not moot, the court concluded that FWS was not bound to list species based solely on the degree of threat they face as demonstrated by the assigned Listing Priority Number (LPN), that instead it could properly consider factors outside of those listed in the guidelines, and further that FWS's decision contained a sufficient “description and evaluation of the reasons and data on which the finding was based” to satisfy the Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544. View "Wildwest Institute v. Kurth" on Justia Law

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The court affirmed the denial of a motion to intervene in a False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729-3733, suit brought by the Government against Sprint because the movant did not meet the requirements in the four-part test set out in Sw. Ctr. for Biological Diversity v. Berg. John C. Prather had filed an earlier qui tam suit against Sprint and others, alleging the companies were defrauding federal and state governments. The Government elected not to intervene and the district court later dismissed Prather's suit for lack of jurisdiction. The Government then filed its own FCA suit against Sprint and the district court denied Prather's motion to intervene based on lack of standing. As a preliminary matter, the court agreed with the Fourth Circuit that the parties' settlement and dismissal of a case after the denial of a motion to intervene does not as a rule moot a putative-intervenor's appeal. Here, the Government's settlement agreement with Sprint and the dismissal of the underlying action did not moot this appeal. On the merits, Prather lacked a significantly protectable interest in this case, the statute's qui tam recovery provisions in section 3730(d) did not apply to relators jurisdictionally barred under section 3730(e)(4); and Prather cannot obtain a monetary bounty under the FCA on his jurisdictionally barred claims. View "United States v. Sprint Communications" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff discovered that she was payed less than her male counterparts for the same work, she filed suit under the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. 206(d); Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-5; and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, Cal. Gov. Code 12940. The County conceded that it paid plaintiff less than comparable male employees for the same work, but raised an affirmative defense to a claim under the Equal Pay Act that the differential was "based on any other factor other than sex." In this case, the County claimed that the pay differential was a result of prior salary. The court concluded that Kouba v. Allstate Insurance Co. is controlling in this case. Kouba held that prior salary can be a factor other than sex, provided that the employer shows that prior salary effectuates some business policy and that the employer uses prior salary reasonably in light of its stated purpose as well as its other practices. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's denial of the County's motion for summary judgment, remanding with instructions for the district court to evaluate the business reasons offered by the County and to determine whether the County used prior salary reasonably in light of its stated purposes as well as its other practices. View "Rizo v. Yovino" on Justia Law

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Two disabled individuals filed suit against the City, alleging that the City's FlyAway bus facility and service failed to meet the accessibility standards set forth in Title II of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. 12131 et seq.; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 701 et seq.; and various California statutes. Specifically, plaintiffs alleged that the FlyAway bus facility in Van Nuys had been constructed in such a manner that it was inaccessible by disabled individuals. The City then filed a third-party complaint against AECOM and Tutor, alleging that pursuant to the contract entered into by the City and the company hired to design and construct the Van Nuys FlyAway facility (which was AECOM's predecessor-in-interest), AECOM was obligated to defend, indemnify, and hold the City harmless to all suits. The City also alleged a similar claim against Tutor. The court held that Title II of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act do not preempt a city's state-law claims for breach of contract and de facto contribution against contractors who breach their contractual duty to perform services in compliance with federal disability regulations. In this case, the court applied the presumption against preemption and concluded that Congress did not indicate a clear and manifest purpose to preempt claims for state-law indemnification or contribution filed by a public entity against a contractor. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "City of Los Angeles v. AECOM Services" on Justia Law

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This petition for review returned to a long series of administrative cases arising out of the California energy crisis of 2000 and 2001 all centering on whether the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “Commission”) acted arbitrarily or capriciously in calculating certain refunds. FERC that FERC had acted outside its jurisdiction when ordering governmental entities/non-public utilities to pay refunds, the Commission vacated each of its orders in the California refund proceeding to the extent that they ordered governmental entities/nonpublic utilities to pay refunds. In sum, although the tariffs were not specific, the Ninth Circuit could not concluded FERC acted arbitrarily or capriciously in its construction of the tariffs. View "California Pub. Util. Comm'n v. Federal Energy Reg. Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Sarah Weeden was convicted in California state court of felony murder and sentenced to twenty-nine years to life in prison for her role in a bungled robbery that occurred when she was fourteen. She was not present at the scene of the crime; the prosecution’s case rested on evidence of her role in planning and facilitating the robbery. Weeden’s defense at trial consisted entirely of four character witnesses. Trial counsel did not seek an evaluation by a psychologist or present expert testimony about the effect of Weeden’s youth on her mental state. In post-trial proceedings, counsel claimed that he did not obtain an evaluation because the result might not support his defense strategy. In her habeas corpus petition, Weeden claimed that her trial counsel provided constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel. The state courts rejected this claim, finding that counsel’s refusal to investigate psychological testimony was a reasonable strategic decision. The district court denied habeas relief; the Ninth Circuit reversed. The Court concluded that had an expert's testimony been presented to the jury, "the probability of a different result is 'sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.'" View "Weeden v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Serena Kwan appealed the dismissal of her second amended complaint for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In 2014, Kwan, On Behalf of Herself and All Others Similarly Situated, filed a class action against Defendants-Appellees, SanMedica International, LLC (“SanMedica”), and Sierra Research Group, LLC (“Sierra”), alleging violations of California’s Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”) and California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act (“CLRA”). The complaint was based on an allegation that the defendants falsely represented that their product, SeroVital, provided a 682% mean increase in Human Growth Hormone (“HGH”) levels, that it was clinically tested, and that “peak growth hormone levels” were associated with “youthful skin integrity, lean musculature, elevated energy production, [and] adipose tissue distribution." The Ninth Circuit concluded the district court correctly concluded that California law did not provide for a private cause of action to enforce the substantiation requirements of California’s unfair competition and consumer protection laws. Further, the district court did not err in concluding that Kwan’s second amended complaint failed to allege facts that would support a finding that SanMedica International’s claims regarding its product, SeroVital, were actually false. Accordingly, the Court affirmed dismissal. View "Kwan v. Sanmedica Int'l" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Donald “Ski” Johnson of wire fraud. The district court sentenced Johnson to five years’ probation and ordered Johnson to pay $5,648.58 in restitution. On appeal, the government argued the district court erred by considering only Johnson’s fraudulent conduct that occurred in Montana (the count of conviction) when determining restitution, and thus misinterpreted the Mandatory Victim Restitution Act (“MVRA”). After review, the Ninth Circuit agreed, vacated the district court’s restitution order and remanded for determination of whether Johnson’s conduct outside of Montana was related to his scheme to defraud. View "United States v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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California state prisoner Kevin Andres appealed pro se the district court’s summary judgment in his 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging excessive force. After prison staff failed to respond to plaintiff’s grievance alleging excessive force, plaintiff filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in state court regarding his attempt to exhaust the claim. While the state court action was pending, plaintiff filed this action alleging that administrative remedies were unavailable because officials failed to process his grievance. Subsequently, the state habeas court held an evidentiary hearing and granted the habeas petition, finding that plaintiff had timely filed a grievance and ordering that the grievance be accepted and processed. The district court subsequently dismissed the excessive force claim, finding that exhaustion was not complete at the time plaintiff filed this action. The Ninth Circuit vacated and remanded. Under the circumstances present here, Andres exhausted his available administrative remedies prior to filing suit. "When prison officials fail to respond to a prisoner’s grievance within a reasonable time, the prisoner is deemed to have exhausted available administrative remedies within the meaning of the [Prison Litigation Reform Act]." View "Andres v. Marshall" on Justia Law

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A City of Berkeley ordinance required cell phone retailers to inform prospective cell phone purchasers that carrying a cell phone in certain ways may cause them to exceed Federal Communications Commission guidelines for exposure to radio-frequency radiation. CTIA, a trade association, challenged the ordinance on two grounds: (1) the ordinance violated the First Amendment; and (2) the ordinance was preempted. CTIA requested a preliminary injunction staying enforcement of the ordinance. The district court denied CTIA’s request, and CTIA filed an interlocutory appeal. Finding no reversible error, the Ninth Circuit affirmed. View "CTIA Witeless Ass'n v. City of Berkeley" on Justia Law