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

Articles Posted in Family Law

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Larry and Kari Miller, both Arizona domiciliaries, owned a cooperative apartment held in each of their names, as husband and wife. First Community Bank, a judgment creditor of Larry Miller, obtained a lien against the couple's co-op. Under Arizona law, the co-op would be treated as community property. Under California law, the co-op would not constitute community property because it was not acquired by the couple while they were domiciled in California. The court held that while the co-op owned by the couple did not come within the definition of community property in California, as that term is defined in Section 760 of the California Family Code, it does come within the definition of a tenancy-in-common. The court explained that the interests of a co-tenant in such tenancies, which are presumed to be held in equal shares, are subject to the enforcement of a judgment lien. In this case, applying California's choice-of-law rules, the court held that California law governs, and that the co-op would be treated as a tenancy-in-common, as defined in Section 685 of the California Civil Code, making Larry Miller's interest in the co-op subject to enforcement of the judgment lien. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's reversal of the bankruptcy court's summary judgment for the creditor, remanding for further proceedings. View "In re Miller" on Justia Law

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WCDSS took B.W. into protective custody when she was two-days old and placed her with a foster parent without obtaining prior judicial authorization. Plaintiff, B.W.'s biological father, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the County and three social workers, alleging Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment violations. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants. The court concluded that plaintiff lacked a cognizable liberty interest in his relationship with B.W. and the district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of defendants because he could not prove a violation of his constitutional rights. However, the court concluded that the district court erred in deciding that the complaint did not provide adequate notice that B.W. asserted a Fourth Amendment claim on her own behalf and, therefore, defendants are not entitled to summary judgment on this basis. The court further concluded that Defendants Wilcox and Kennedy are not entitled to qualified immunity on B.W.'s Fourth Amendment claim where a reasonable juror might find that a reasonable social worker could not have determined that B.W. would be in imminent danger of serious bodily injury in the time that it would have taken to obtain a warrant. Thus, the court reversed and remanded on this issue. Because the evidence presented here creates at least an inference of an unconstitutional, unofficial custom in Washoe County, the County is not entitled to summary judgment. The court reversed and remanded as to this issue. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Defendant Reynolds because plaintiff has not alleged any facts suggesting that she was involved with the decision to take custody of B.W. View "Kirkpatrick v. Cnty. of Washoe" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit for declaratory and injunctive relief, challenging Idaho and Nevada statutes and enacted amendments preventing same-sex couples from marrying and refusing to recognize same-sex marriages validly performed elsewhere. As a preliminary matter, the court concluded that, in Sevcik v. Sandoval, a live case and controversy still exists even though Nevada's officials have ceased to defend their laws constitutionality where the Governor and Clerk-Recorder remain parties and continue to enforce the laws at issue. Further, the Supreme Court's summary dismissal in Baker v. Nelson is not controlling precedent that precludes the court from considering plaintiffs' claims. On the merits, the court held that the Idaho and Nevada laws violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because they deny lesbian and gays who wish to marry persons of the same sex a right they afford to individuals who wish to marry persons of the opposite sex. The laws do not satisfy the heightened scrutiny standard the court adopted in SmithKline Beecham Corp. v. Abbott Labs. The court rejected defendants' essential contention that bans on same-sex marriage promote the welfare of children by encouraging good parenting in stable opposite-sex families. Defendants' other contentions are without merit. Because defendants failed to demonstrate that these laws further any legitimate purpose, they unjustifiably discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment in Latta v. Otter. The court reversed and remanded the judgment in Sevcik.View "Latta v. Otter" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellee William Sloan, a citizen of the United States, and plaintiff-appellant Elaine Murphy, a citizen of Ireland, were married in California in 2000. They lived together in Mill Valley, California, and had a daughter, E.S., in 2005. In October 2009, the couple separated, with Sloan moving to a different bedroom in their house. In 2010, Murphy and Sloan enrolled E.S. in a private California preschool for the next fall. But plans changed in the spring after Murphy proposed moving to Ireland so that she (Murphy) could go back to school. Murphy and Sloan discussed the move to Ireland as a "trial period," and Sloan wrote to both the private preschool and the public school district to inform them of E.S.'s move and the temporary nature of the plan. Visitation between the parents worked for several years until Murphy took E.S. with her on a trip to visit Murphy's boyfriend in Asia. Sloan lost contact with Murphy during that time. On a regularly scheduled visit to E.S. in Ireland, Sloan grew concerned about E.S.'s absences from school when Murphy announced she would again be going to Asia with Murphy's boyfriend. Sloan took E.S. with him to the United States when he left Ireland. Murphy and Sloan agreed that Sloan told Murphy that he did not intend to return E.S. to Ireland, to which Murphy responded that if E.S. was going to live in the United States, Murphy would return to Mill Valley. Murphy took no action to compel E.S.'s return to Ireland for nearly three months, until September 2013, when she filed the action that led to this appeal. E.S. began third grade in Mill Valley in August 2013. In October 2013, the Superior Court entered a judgment dissolving the marriage, but left pending the state court action for purposes of issuing further orders regarding child custody, child support and spousal support. Murphy brought suit under the Hague Convention to compel E.S.'s return to Ireland, contending that Ireland was E.S.'s "habitual residence." The district court denied Murphy's petition after considering Murphy and Sloan's sworn declarations, testimony and documents presented at an evidentiary hearing and depositions of Murphy's boyfriend and an expert witness. It determined that the spring of 2010 was the last time that Sloan and Murphy had a shared, settled intent, which was that E.S. reside in California. The court concluded that "E.S. was, at the time of the alleged wrongful retention, and now remains, a habitual resident of the United States." The issue this case presented for the Ninth Circuit's review explored the significance of a "trial period" of residence on a child's "habitual residence" under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Murphy sought the return of E.S. to Ireland. After review, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court that E.S. was a habitual resident of the United States; "E.S.'s attachments to Ireland 'did not shift the locus of [E.S.'s] development[,] and . . . any acclimatization did not overcome the absence of a shared settled intention by the parents to abandon the United States as a habitual residence.'" View "Murphy v. Sloan" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit seeking to enjoin enforcement of Ariz. Rev. Stat. 36-449.03(E)(6), and its implementing regulation, which restricts the manner in which certain medications may be used to perform abortions. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the district court's denial of their motion for preliminary injunction. Plaintiffs argued that, under a proper reading of its text, the Arizona law prohibits all medication abortions. The State argued that the law allows medication abortions, but only if they are performed in accordance with the on-label regimen. The court assumed without deciding that the Arizona law passes rational basis review and moved directly to the application of the undue burden test in light of Planned Parenthood of Se. Penn. v. Casey and Gonzales v. Carhart. The court concluded that plaintiffs have introduced uncontroverted evidence that the Arizona law substantially burdens women's access to abortion services, and Arizona has introduced no evidence that the law advances in any way its interest in women's health. Therefore, the court held that the district court abused its discretion when it held that plaintiffs were unlikely to succeed on the merits of their undue burden claim. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with instructions to issue the requested preliminary injunction. View "Planned Parenthood Arizona v. Humble" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Foster Farms under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. 2601, and California law. The parties disputed whether plaintiff sought FMLA leave in order to care for her ailing father in another country. The court concluded that an employee can affirmatively decline to use FMLA leave, even if the underlying reasons for seeking the leave would have invoked FMLA protection. The court concluded that the district court did not err in denying plaintiff's motion for judgment as a matter of law where, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict, there was substantial evidence that plaintiff elected not to take FMLA leave. The jury had ample evidence to render a verdict against plaintiff due to her noncompliance with Foster Farms's "three day no-show, no-call rule." Because the district court issued a limiting instruction regarding plaintiff's prior FMLA leave, any error in admitting the evidence was harmless. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to award costs of suit to Foster Poultry. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Escriba v. Foster Poultry Farms" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, the mother of twin girls, filed an application under the Hague Convention on International Aspects of Child Abduction, 19 I.L.M. 1501, after the girls' father, a resident of the United States, did not return them to Mexico. The district court held that the parties abandoned Mexico as the children's habitual state of residence when their parents decided they should, for an indefinite period, spend the majority of their time in the United States. The court concluded that the district court judge did not err in deciding that the parents shared a settled intention to abandon Mexico- they had immediate plans to avail the twins of government assistance in the United States as well as longer-term plans to educate the girls in the United States. The father could prevail by showing that he and the girls' mother shared a settled intention to abandon Mexico as the twins' sole habitual residence, that there was an actual change in geography, and that an appreciable period of time had passed. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Valenzuela v. Michel" on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from disputes over the estate of the late Texas oil magnate and billionaire J. Howard Marshall. J. Howard died in 1995, leaving nearly all his assets to his son, Pierce, but excluding his wife, Anna Nicole Smith (Vickie), and his other son, Howard, from receiving any part of his fortune. Howard and his Wife eventually filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and their case was assigned to Judge Bufford, who had previously presided over Vickie's Chapter 11 bankruptcy case. Judge Bufford published three separate opinions: (1) denying Pierce's motion for reassignment or recusal; (2) confirming the Plan and denying Pierce's motion to dismiss with respect to his constitutional arguments; and (3) confirming the Plan and denying Pierce's motion to dismiss with respect to his statutory arguments. Elaine, Pierce's widow, now appeals the district court's decision, contending that the district court erred in affirming the bankruptcy court's orders. The court addressed the various issues on appeal related to the motion for recusal or reassignment, constitutional issues, and non-constitutional issues, and ultimately affirmed the district court's decision. View "In the Matter of: Marshall" on Justia Law

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Arizona House Bill 2036 (H.B. 2036), enacted in April 2012, forbids, except in a medical emergency, abortion of a fetus determined to be of a gestational age of at least twenty weeks. Arizona law separately prohibited abortions after fetal viability unless necessary to preserve the pregnant woman's life or health. The challenged provision at issue, Section 7 of H.B. 2036, extended the abortion ban earlier in pregnancy, to the period between twenty weeks gestation and fetal viability. Under controlling Supreme Court precedent, the court concluded that Arizona could not deprive a woman of the choice to terminate her pregnancy at any point prior to viability. Section 7 effects such a deprivation, by prohibiting abortion from twenty weeks gestational age through fetal viability. The twenty-week law was therefore unconstitutional under an unbroken stream of Supreme Court authority, beginning with Roe v. Wade and ending with Gonzales v. Carhart. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's denial of declaratory and injunctive relief. View "Isaacson v. Horne" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed an action under 8 U.S.C. 1503(a) seeking a declaratory judgment that he is a citizen of the United States. Plaintiff was born in the Philippine Islands and his father was a U.S. citizen who had lived his entire life in the Philippines. Plaintiff argued that, as a child born out of wedlock, he was covered by a special provision of the Nationality Act of 1940, Pub. L. No. 76-853, section 201(e), that made section 201(e) applicable retroactively to children born out of wedlock before the Act's effective date. The court concluded that the 1940 Act was not the law in effect at the time of plaintiff's birth in 1931, so he must establish that the Act applied retroactively to individuals before its effective date. The court did not think that the provisions of the Act on which defendant relied reflected a legislative intention that they should apply retroactively. Further, plaintiff conceded that he could not meet the condition precedent to acquiring citizenship, that his paternity have been established by legitimation or adjudication during minority. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's summary judgment dismissal of his action. View "Friend v. Holder" on Justia Law