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

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging First and Sixth Amendment claims arising from jail employees opening legal mail outside plaintiff's presence. The district court dismissed the claims. The court clarified that, under Nordstrom v. Ryan, prisoners have a Sixth Amendment right to be present when legal mail related to a criminal matter is inspected; plaintiff alleged sufficient facts to state a claim for improper opening of his incoming legal mail on November 9, 2012 and March 12, 2013; the remaining counts were properly dismissed because plaintiff failed to allege that the mail was properly marked as legal mail; and the district court erred in dismissing plaintiff's First Amendment claim in a concurrently filed opinion, Hayes v. Idaho Correctional Center. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Mangiaracina v. Penzone" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff is a doctor who used to work at the public hospital on Saipan. Plaintiff filed suit against the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and one of its agencies, alleging that the Commonwealth and the public corporation that runs the hospital, wrongfully denied him privileges at the hospital. The district court, pursuant to Fleming v. Department of Public Safety, denied defendants' motion to dismiss the contract and tort claims on the basis of sovereign immunity. In Fleming, the court held that the Commonwealth does not enjoy sovereign immunity in federal court with respect to claims brought under federal law. The court held that Fleming does not control the outcome of this case where Fleming held only that the Commonwealth waived its sovereign immunity with respect to suits in federal court arising under federal law. The court agreed with the suggestion in Fleming that the Commonwealth retained its sovereign immunity with respect to claims arising under Commonwealth law. Therefore, the court held that the Commonwealth may not be sued without its consent on claims arising under its own laws. The court reversed and remanded for the district court to grant defendants' motion to dismiss the claims at issue. View "Ramsey v. Muna" on Justia Law

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In 2000, WRS filed suit against Plaza Entertainment and its directors. Plaza cross-claimed, and the district court eventually granted summary judgment for WRS. The district court then granted Defendant Herklotz's motion to sever his state law cross claim and transferred it to the California district court, where it was later dismissed under Federal Civil Rule 12(b)(6). The court explained that a severed action must have an independent jurisdictional basis. Where, as in this case, the claims were stripped of their jurisdictional predicate through severance, they lose their federal hook and must stand on their own. Therefore, the court concluded that the Pennsylvania court lacked jurisdiction to enter the transfer order, and the California court lacked jurisdiction to take the case. The court reasoned that the appropriate course of action would have been either to deny the motion to sever and retain jurisdiction over the supplemental state law claims, or to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1367(c)(3) and dismiss the crossclaim, thus permitting Herklotz to seek relief in state court. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded. View "Herklotz v. Parkinson" on Justia Law
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Plaintiffs filed a class action against ARS, a debt collection agency, under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692 et seq. The class consists of some four million people nationwide. At issue is whether the magistrate judge had the authority to exercise jurisdiction to approve the class action settlement without obtaining the consent of all four million class members. If so, at issue is whether the magistrate judge abused her discretion by approving the settlement as fair, reasonable, and adequate. The court concluded that the magistrate judge had the authority to enter final judgment pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 636(c); the court joined three of its sister circuits and concluded that the statute requires the consent of the named plaintiffs alone, not the consent of the four million class members not present before the district court; and section 636(c) does not violate Article III of the Constitution by permitting magistrate judges to exercise jurisdiction over class actions without obtaining the consent of each absent class member. The court concluded that the magistrate judge abused her discretion by approving the settlement because there is no evidence that the relief afforded by the settlement has any value to the class members, yet to obtain it they had to relinquish their right to seek damages in any other class action. Furthermore, ARS and the named plaintiffs likewise presented no evidence that the absent class members would derive any benefit from the settlement’s cy pres award. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded. View "Koby v. Helmuth" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of a dispute between a flight attendant and the airline about her sick leave. Plaintiff claimed an entitlement to use her December vacation leave for her child’s illness without being charged points, under the Washington Family Care Act, Wash. Rev. Code 49.12.270(1). The Department determined that plaintiff was entitled to use her December vacation leave to care for her child in May, and the airline was fined $200 for violating the statute. The district court subsequently granted summary judgment against the airline’s preemption claim under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), 45 U.S.C. 151-188. The court concluded that the state law right and the collective bargaining agreement are inextricably intertwined. Minor disputes are preempted by the RLA and must be dealt with first through a carrier’s internal dispute resolution process, and then a System Adjustment Board comprised of workers and management. In this case, the court concluded that the question whether plaintiff could use her vacation leave in advance of her scheduled time for this purpose is to be determined by the dispute resolution process in the collective bargaining agreement, not by the state claim resolution process. Because the district court erred by rejecting preemption, the court reversed and remanded. View "Alaska Airlines, Inc. v. Schurke" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Marcus Labertew, his wife, and John and Jennifer McDermott filed suit against Fred R. Auzenne and Loral Langemeier in state court, claiming that Auzenne and Langemeier defrauded Marcus Labertew and John McDermott. The parties settled the case with a Damron agreement. Plaintiffs dismissed their case pursuant to the agreement, and Langemeier stipulated to a $1.5 million judgment against her, a covenant not to execute against her personally and an assignment by her to plaintiffs of her rights against her liability insurers Chartis and 21st Century. Plaintiffs then applied in state court for writs of garnishment against the insurers, and the insurers removed to federal district court. The district court concluded that it had jurisdiction, and that pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 69, Arizona garnishment law applied. In this case, because the Labertews and the McDermotts had missed their ten day window for objecting, the garnishment failed, and under Arizona law the garnishees were discharged. The court concluded that, under Swanson v. Liberty National Insurance Co., the district court had jurisdiction over the garnishment proceeding because it is a separate and independent civil action from the suit by the Labertews and McDermotts against Langemeier. The court also concluded that not only is there no federal judgment in this case upon which to execute, but there is also no state judgment against the insurance companies that could be registered and enforced in federal court. The court explained that this is a civil action in which plaintiffs are seeking to obtain, for the first time, a judgment establishing the liability of the insurance companies. Finally, the court concluded that the district court has discretion under Rule 81(c)(2) to order repleading. Accordingly, the court reversed, vacated, and remanded. View "Labertew v. Langemeier" on Justia Law
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Plaintiffs, purchasers of iPhones and iPhone apps, filed suit against Apple, alleging that Apple has monopolized and attempted to monopolize the market for iPhone apps. The court held that plaintiffs lacked antitrust standing pursuant to Illinois Brick Co. v. Illinois. The court agreed with the Third and Tenth Circuits and read Rule 12(g)(2) in light of the general policy of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, expressed in Rule 1. The court concluded that any error committed by the district court in ruling on Apple’s motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for lack of statutory standing under Illinois Brick, was harmless. The court explained that Apple is a distributor of the iPhone apps, selling them directly to purchasers through its App Store. Because Apple is a distributor, plaintiffs have standing under Illinois Brick to sue Apple for allegedly monopolizing and attempting to monopolize the sale of iPhone apps. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Pepper v. Apple Inc." on Justia Law

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In these consolidated appeals, the court addressed an issue of first impression regarding the scope of appellate jurisdiction to review a district court’s remand order in a class action case founded on federal question jurisdiction. Although remand orders are not appealable as a matter of course, as part of the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA), Congress created an exception under 28 U.S.C. 1453(c)(1) that permits courts of appeals to accept appeals from remand orders in cases that are removed “under this section.” The court joined its sister circuits and concluded that this interlocutory review provision is limited to orders granting or denying remand of diversity class actions brought and removed under CAFA. The court dismissed the petition for permission to appeal, vacated the order granting fees, and remanded. View "Chan Healthcare Group v. Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance" on Justia Law
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Plaintiff filed suit against Archon, alleging breach of contract stemming from Archon's issuance of a Notice of Redemption to holders of outstanding shares of preferred stock. The court concluded that the district court properly held that it lacked federal question subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1331 because plaintiff did not assert a federal claim, and the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act, 15 U.S.C. 77p(d)(1)(A), does not provide an independent basis for federal question jurisdiction over plaintiff's state-law claim. The court also concluded that it lacked diversity jurisdiction over the class action suit under section 1332(d)(2) because of the exception provided in section 1332(d)(9)(C). Finally, the court concluded that the district court properly held that it lacked diversity jurisdiction over plaintiff's individual claim under section 1332(a) and therefore could not exercise section 1367 supplemental jurisdiction over the class members’ claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint. View "Rainero v. Archon Corp." on Justia Law

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) pays Medicare Advantage organizations fixed monthly amounts for each enrollee. Medicare Advantage organizations have a financial incentive to exaggerate an enrollee’s health risks by reporting diagnosis codes unsupported by the enrollee’s medical records, and therefore, Medicare regulations require a Medicare Advantage organization to certify that the risk adjustment data is submits are accurate and truthful. Qui Tam Relator James Swoben filed a third amended complaint alleging that Medicare Advantage organizations performed biased retrospective medical record reviews, which rendered Defendants’ periodic certifications false, in violation of the False Claims Act. Defendants moved to dismiss Swoben’s claims. In response, Swoben sought to amend his complaint. The district court dismissed the third amended complaint with prejudice, concluding that Swoben failed to allege a claim with particularity as required by Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(b). The court also denied leave to amend, citing both futility of amendment and undue delay. The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court’s judgment, holding that the dismissing Swoben’s third amended complaint without leave to amend based on futility of amendment and undue delay and that leave to amend was proper in this case. View "United States v. United Healthcare Insurance Co." on Justia Law