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

Articles Posted in Military Law

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Plaintiff, who had endured many hardships in 2003 while trying to leave Baghdad, alleged, in a purported class action, that former officials of the President George W. Bush administration engaged in the war against Iraq in violation of the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. 1350. The district court held that plaintiff had not exhausted her administrative remedies as required by the Federal Tort Claims Act. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal, holding that the individual defendants were entitled to official immunity under the Westfall Act, 28 U.S.C. 2679(d)(1), which accords federal employees immunity from common-law tort claims for acts undertaken in the course of their official duties. The court upheld the Attorney General’s scope certification (determining that the employees were acting within the scope of their employment so that the action was one against the United States). The court rejected an argument that defendants could not be immune under the Westfall Act because plaintiff alleged violations of a jus cogens norm of international law from which no derogation is permitted and which can be modified only by a subsequent norm of general international law. Congress can provide immunity for federal officers for jus cogens violations. View "Saleh v. Bush" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against his employer, alleging violations of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), 38 U.S.C. 4301-4334. Plaintiff claimed that he was fired from his job after providing notice of his deployment to Afghanistan in the United States Navy Reserve. The court joined its sister circuits and held that the plain text of USERRA does not preclude the compelled arbitration of disputes arising under its provisions. Furthermore, plaintiff has failed to establish that the legislative history evinces Congress’s intent to prevent the enforcement of the arbitration agreement he signed. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's order compelling arbitration and dismissing the complaint. View "Ziober v. BLB Resources" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, veterans' organizations and individuals subject to U.S. military chemical and biological weapons experiments, filed an individual and class action complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the DOD, the Army, the CIA, and the VA. Two of plaintiffs’ claims, brought under section 706(1) of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 706(1), are at issue in this appeal: first, the Army has unlawfully failed to notify test subjects of new medical and scientific information relating to their health as it becomes available; and second, the Army has unlawfully withheld medical care for diseases or conditions proximately caused by their exposures to chemicals during the experiments. The court held that Chapter 3–2(h) of AR 70-25 imposes a duty on the Army to provide all former test subjects with newly acquired information that may affect their well-being, and that this duty is judicially enforceable under section 706(1); the district court did not abuse its discretion in entering its injunction to enforce that duty; the district court was right to find that Chapter 3–1(k) imposes a duty to provide medical care; but, the district court did not, however, have the power to decline to compel care on the ground that another agency was providing similar care to some former test subjects. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court’s summary judgment for the government on this claim and remanded to the district court. View "Vietnam Veterans of America v. CIA" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction of one count of distributing child pornography and one count of possessing child pornography. An NCIS agent investigating online criminal activity of persons in Washington state found evidence of criminal conduct by defendant, a civilian, and gave the information to civilian law enforcement officials. On appeal, defendant argued that the fruits of the NCIS investigation into his online file sharing should have been suppressed because military enforcement of civilian laws is prohibited. In United States v. Chon, the court held that the Posse Comitatus Act (PCA), 18 U.S.C. 1385, prohibits Army and Air Force military personnel from participating in civilian law enforcement. The court reaffirmed Chon's holding that NCIS agents are bound by PCA-like restrictions on direct assistance to civilian law enforcement. In this case, the NCIS agent's actions amounted to direct assistance to civilian law enforcement and violated the regulations and policies proscribing direct military enforcement of civilian laws. The court found that the district court erred in denying defendant's motion to suppress where there was abundant evidence that the violation at issue has occurred repeatedly and frequently, and that the government believes that its conduct is permissible. The court remanded for further proceedings.View "United States v. Dreyer" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's dismissal of his claim under Rule 12(b)(6), alleging that Nationstar violated section 533 of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), 50 U.S.C. app. 533, when it maintained certain fees related to a rescinded Notice of Default on his account while he was on active duty. Because the state-law statutory definition of foreclosure contemplates the inclusion of specified fees as part of the foreclosure proceeding, and because the Supreme Court has unambiguously required courts to give a broad construction to the statutory language of the SCRA to effectuate the Congressional purpose of granting active-duty members of the armed forces repose from some of the trials and tribulations of civilian life, the court held that the attempted collection of fees related to a Notice of Default on a California property constituted a violation of section 533. In this case, plaintiff has pled sufficient facts to allege that Nationstar's continuing failure to remove the fees incidental to the Notice of Default was a continuation of that foreclosure proceeding while plaintiff was on active duty service in violation of section 533. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Brewster v. Sun Trust Mortgage" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a noncitizen "enemy combatant" undergoing proceedings before a military commission at Guatanamo Bay, sought a declaratory judgment that the commission lacked jurisdiction to hear the charges against him because the alleged acts occurred in Yemen, where he argued no war or hostilities existed in 2000 or 2002. The court held, pursuant to Hamad v. Gates, that Section 7 of the Military Commissions Act, 28 U.S.C. 2241(e), deprived the district court of subject matter jurisdiction. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's suit. The court rejected plaintiff’s claims challenging the constitutionality of the Act. View "Al-Nashiri v. MacDonald" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that officers in the Army caused his infant son's death by ordering his pregnant wife, a servicewoman on active duty, to perform physical training in contravention of her doctors' instructions, which ultimately induced premature labor. The district court held that the suit was barred by the Feres doctrine and dismissed the action for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Feres doctrine immunizes the United States from liability for tort claims arising out of activities incident to military service. The court concluded that, under its own precedent, Feres barred plaintiff's wrongful death claim. The court employed the "genesis test," by asking whether the family member's Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 2671 et seq., claim had its genesis in injuries to members of the armed forces. In this case, the infant's injury derived from his mother's military service. The court rejected plaintiff's claim that genetic injuries differed from claims based upon injuries incurred in utero. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Ritchie v. United States" on Justia Law

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Defendant moved to dismiss his federal grand jury indictment, charging him with one count of possessing child pornography, on double jeopardy grounds because he had been subject to nonjudicial proceedings (NJP) with the Coast Guard. At issue was whether the Double Jeopardy Clause prohibited civilian criminal prosecution of a servicemember who previously received NJP without being informed of or waiving his statutory right to reject such punishment and demand a court-martial instead. The court concluded that the inquiry for the Double Jeopardy Clause was whether the defendant actually was previously placed in jeopardy, not whether he might have been placed in jeopardy if other procedures had been followed. Therefore, the court held that defendant's prosecution did not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause. The court also rejected defendant's alternative argument, reversing and remanding for further proceedings. View "United States v. Stoltz" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, Filipino World War II veterans and their widows, contended that their Fifth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection were violated by a statute establishing the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund (FVEC) and by the VA's administration of it, resulting in their lack of payment. The district court dismissed the claims with prejudice on the pleadings for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim. The court held that the Veterans' Judicial Review Act, Pub. L. No. 100-687, div. A, 102 Stat. 4105, barred review of plaintiffs' due-process claim and the district court's dismissal of the claim was appropriate. Because plaintiffs' complaint did not challenge a new classification established by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Pub. L. No. 111-5, 1002(i), 123 Stat. at 202, and did not allege any plausible facts suggesting that the classification in 38 U.S.C. 107 was created for a discriminatory purpose, the court held that the district court did not err when it dismissed the equal-protection claim under Rule 12(b)(6). View "Recinto, et al v. The U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, et al" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a native and citizen of Honduras and a lawful permanent resident alien of the United States, petitioned for review of the Board of Immigration Appeals' (BIA) order dismissing his appeal from an immigration judge's order finding him removable as an alien convicted of an aggravated felony. At issue before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was whether Petitioner's conviction under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice qualified as an "aggravated felony" under the modified categorical approach as explained in the Court's recent en banc decision in United Sates v. Aguila-Montes de Oca. The Court granted the petition, concluding that Petitioner's Article 92 conviction was not an aggravated felony and Petitioner was therefore not removable. Remanded with instructions to vacate the removal order against Petitioner. View "Aguilar-Turcios v. Holder" on Justia Law