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

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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After DEA agents seized $99,500 in cash from plaintiff's carry-on bag at San Francisco International Airport, the DEA sent plaintiff a notice on May 1, 2013, informing plaintiff that the money was subject to forfeiture under 21 U.S.C. 881 as a result of a violation of the Controlled Substances Act. The notice stated that June 5, 2013 was the deadline to file a contest of the forfeiture. On June 4th, 2013, plaintiff's attorney tendered plaintiff's claim to FedEx for overnight delivery to the DEA, but the DEA did not receive the claim until June 6th. Plaintiff eventually filed a motion for return of property under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(g), arguing that the DEA had wrongfully deemed his claim untimely and that the district court should exercise its equitable jurisdiction to toll the filing deadline. The district court held that it had equitable jurisdiction to consider plaintiff's motion, but denied plaintiff's motion on the merits. The court treated section 983(e) of the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act (CAFRA), 18 U.S.C. 983(e), as a claim-processing rule. In this case, the district court correctly determined that it had jurisdiction to hear plaintiff's motion for equitable relief because there is no clear jurisdictional limitation to CAFRA. The court concluded that plaintiff failed to meet his burden of establishing that he pursued his rights diligently and that some extraordinary circumstance stood in his way. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's denial of the motion. View "Okafor v. United States" on Justia Law

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Claimants challenge the government’s seizure of two J.P. Morgan Chase bank accounts in a civil asset-forfeiture action. In a verified complaint seeking forfeiture, the government contends that Claimants unlawfully used the accounts to launder money connected with illicit drug proceeds. Claimants answered and filed verified claims in response to the complaint, alleging that they held ownership and possessory interests in the seized funds sufficient to confer standing. The district court entered judgment in favor of the government. The court concluded that the district court did not err by holding that Claimants failed to provide indicia of their own ownership of the funds sufficient to defeat summary judgment. However, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Claimants, the court held that Claimants’ explanation of their respective possessory interests in the seized funds, coupled with supporting evidence in the form of declarations, deposition testimony, bank records, and other evidence, raises a material dispute of fact for trial. Therefore, the court concluded that Claimants have standing to challenge the forfeiture. The court also concluded that there is sufficient evidence of a possessory interest to confer prudential standing. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Samaniego" on Justia Law

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This case arises out of an action to quiet title to real property purchased at a homeowners’ association foreclosure auction in North Las Vegas, Nevada. Nevada Revised Statutes section 116.3116 et seq. strips a mortgage lender of its first deed of trust when a homeowners’ association forecloses on the property based on delinquent HOA dues. The court held that the Statute’s “opt-in” notice scheme, which required a homeowners’ association to alert a mortgage lender that it intended to foreclose only if the lender had affirmatively requested notice, facially violated the lender’s constitutional due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Bourne Valley Court Trust v. Wells Fargo" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against USB and Recon challenging the complete foreclosure sale of their residential property. Plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that the trustee’s sale was invalid under the Oregon Trust Deed Act (OTDA), ORS 86.770(1), because several assignments of the Trust Deed that took place prior to the 2010 assignment to USB were never recorded. The district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint, holding that ORS 86.770(1) barred plaintiffs' claims. In this case, the only defect the foreclosure process identified by plaintiffs has to do with the content of the notice. The defect is the incorrect listing of the beneficiary in the notice they received. However, plaintiffs do not dispute that: (1) they were in default; (2) they were served in the manner required by ORS 86.740 (requiring, at a minimum, service by certified mail 120 days before the sale) and ORS 86.750 (requiring personal service on grantors who occupy the property 120 days before the sale); (3) they had no financial ability to cure the default and redeem the property; (4) they took no action to challenge the sale prior to it becoming final; and (5) they only challenged the foreclosure sale many months after the foreclosure sale was completed. Therefore, plaintiffs' post-sale claims are barred as their property interests have been terminated and foreclosed pursuant to ORS 86.770(1). Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Woods v. U.S. Bank" on Justia Law

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This case concerns a dispute between the parties over who has priority ownership of property located in Las Vegas. Nevada has a statute that gives a homeowners’ association lien priority over “all other liens and encumbrances” (subject to some limited exceptions) for up to nine months of unpaid HOA fees. NEV. REV. STAT. 116.3116(2)–(3). After the HOA foreclosed on property that Ashley Spencer bought, Weeping Hollow purchased the property at the foreclosure sale. Just over two months after the HOA foreclosure sale, Wells Fargo attempted to foreclose on the property under its 2008 deed of trust. Weeping Hollow filed suit in state court against Spencer, Wells Fargo, and a title insurance company. Wells Fargo removed to federal court. The district court then granted Wells Fargo’s motion to dismiss Weeping Hollow’s complaint. After the district court issued its ruling, the Nevada Supreme Court issued an opinion that expressly abrogates the district court’s interpretation of the HOA statute. Under the Nevada Supreme Court’s holding, a foreclosure on an HOA lien extinguishes an earlier-recorded security interest even though the HOA lien was recorded later. The court held that the district court erred in applying the fraudulent-joinder doctrine to this case. Because Spencer was not shown to be fraudulently joined, her presence in the action divests the district court of diversity jurisdiction and the district court must remand the case to state court. Since this case should never have made it into federal court, the court has no reason to address Wells Fargo’s constitutional and state-law arguments. View "Weeping Hollow Ave. Trust v. Spencer" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs and volunteers built the La Contessa, a replica of a 16th-century Spanish galleon, from a used school bus for use at the Burning Man Festival. Defendant intentionally burned the wooden structure of the La Contessa so that a scrap metal dealer could remove the underlying school bus from his property. Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that defendant violated the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), 17 U.S.C. 106(A), and committed common law conversion when he destroyed the La Contessa. The trial court granted summary judgment on their VARA claim and awarded attorneys' fees. The court held that an object constitutes a piece of “applied art”- as opposed to a “work of visual art”- where the object initially served a utilitarian function and the object continues to serve such a function after the artist made embellishments or alterations to it. Conversely, “applied art” would not include a piece of art whose function is purely aesthetic or a utilitarian object which is so transformed through the addition of artistic elements that its utilitarian functions cease. In this case, the court concluded that the La Contessa plainly was "applied art," and thus was not a work of visual art under the VARA and not eligible for its protection. Therefore, the trial court properly granted summary judgment to defendant on the VARA claim. The court also concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding the testimony of two of plaintiffs' expert witnesses, nor did the trial court err in its jury instructions on abandoned property and abandonment. Furthermore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by failing to include jury instructions on lost profits and punitive damages resulting from the destruction of the La Contessa; in admitting evidence of drug paraphenalia surrounding the La Contessa as it sat on defendant’s property; and in denying plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment on their conversion claim. Finally, the trial court did not err in awarding attorneys' fees. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Cheffins v. Stewart" on Justia Law

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Agnes and Anne Purdy dispute the State’s claim of ownership to rights-of-way for four public trails that cross the Purdys' land, seeking to stop members of the public from trespassing on their property by using the trails. The Purdys acquired ownership of the parcels in question under the Alaska Native Allotment Act, 43 U.S.C. 270–1 et seq. The State filed suit against the Purdys and the United States, contending that the Purdys' allotments are subject to rights-of-way. The State further alleges that, by virtue of public use, it acquired ownership of the rights-of-way under an unusual federal statute known as R.S. 2477. The district court dismissed the quiet title and declaratory judgment claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and entered partial final judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). The remainder of the action has been stayed pending resolution of this appeal. The court concluded that the district court correctly held that the State’s quiet title claim is barred because the United States is a necessary party to that claim but has not waived its immunity from suit pursuant to the Indian lands exception of the Quiet Title Act (QTA), 28 U.S.C. 2409a. The court also concluded that the district court correctly dismissed the State’s claim for declaratory relief under 28 U.S.C. 2201, which sought essentially the same relief as the quiet title claim. Although the district court had subject matter jurisdiction to hear the State’s condemnation claim, that claim may not proceed as pleaded. The court remanded as to this claim so that the State may be given an opportunity to amend the claim. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "State of Alaska Dept. of Nat. Res. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a putative class action against defendants, a group of developers and their agents or affiliates, claiming that defendants' business practices violated California's Unfair Competition Law (UCL), Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 17200 et seq. Plaintiffs specifically alleged that defendants failed to make certain disclosures as required by the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act (ILSA), 15 U.S.C. 1701 et seq. Although defendants concede that they failed to comply with the disclosure requirements, they raise certain affirmative defenses. The district court rejected defendants' claims and granted partial summary judgment for plaintiffs. In this interlocutory appeal, the court affirmed the judgment. The court concluded that, because the UCL's four-year statute of limitations and its accompanying accrual rules apply, the district court properly concluded that plaintiffs’ UCL claim is not time-barred; defendants failed to overcome the strong presumption against preemption, and ILSA’s three-year statute of limitations does not bar plaintiffs’ UCL claim; plaintiffs' units are "lots" and are therefore subject to ILSA's disclosure requirements; the Improved Lot Exemption does not extinguish plaintiffs’ claims; the text and interpretive history of the statute lead to the conclusion that the agency’s interpretation of “lot” is reasonable and entitled to Chevron deference; and the 2014 Amendment to ILSA does not retroactively apply to the present action where the amendment was a substantive change in the law. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Beaver v. Tarsadia Hotels" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from a dispute over interests in mining claims originally owned by Guy Anderson and bequeathed to his six children upon his death. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in allowing all defendants to be joined in a single partition action. In this case, the district court acted well within its discretion in concluding that a single partition action was the most expeditious way of resolving this dispute, and in allowing all defendants to be joined in that action. The court also concluded that the district court did not err when it granted summary judgment in favor of Cuprite and ordered partition by sale to Freeport; the district court properly concluded that partition by sale was more appropriate than partition in kind; and accepting the current offer or any better terms that could be had was a reasonable way for the district court to structure the partition sale, and does not violate any terms of the operative statute. Finally, the court concluded that, regardless of whether an Arizona state court would have been required to hold a trial, the district court correctly resolved the summary judgment motion according to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Cuprite Mine Partners v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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The Park, a mobile home park, filed suit against the City, challenging Ordinance 644, asserting claims for, among other things, violations of the Takings, Due Process, and Equal Protection Clauses of the United States Constitution. Ordinance 644's purpose is to “stabilize mobile home park space rents” to, among other things, “[p]revent exploitation of the shortage of vacant mobile home park spaces,” “[p]revent excessive and unreasonable . . . rent increases,” and “[r]ectify the disparity of bargaining power” between park owners and mobile home owners. The district court granted the City's motion to dismiss. The court held that no regulatory taking occurred here and that the Park’s self-styled “private takings claim” is not a separately cognizable claim. The court concluded that the Park’s “private takings claim” cannot serve as a means to evade Penn Central Transportation Company v. City of New York scrutiny. And in any event, as articulated here, such claim fails because it is a thinly veiled facial challenge, which is both time barred and lacks merit. Further, the court was not persuaded by the related due process and equal protection claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the case. View "Rancho de Calistoga v. City of Calistoga" on Justia Law