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

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Plaintiffs Matteo Brunozzi and Casey McCormick, technicians for CCI, filed separate suits alleging that CCI's compensation plan violated the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 207, and Oregon's statutory requirement that an employer pay all wages earned and unpaid after terminating an employee, ORS 652.140. Brunozzi also alleged additional claims under Oregon law. The district court granted summary judgment for CCI. The court held that CCI's pay plan violated the FLSA's overtime provisions. In this case, the diminishing "bonus" device in CCI's pay plan caused it to miscalculate the technicians' regular hourly rate during weeks when they work overtime and allowed CCI to pay the technicians less during those weeks. Consequently, the court reversed as to this issue and also reversed as to plaintiffs' claim under ORS 652.140. Having examined the text, context, and pertinent legislative history, the court found that the Oregon legislature intended the term "reported" in ORS 659A.199 to mean a report of information to either an external or internal authority. In this case, Brunozzi complained to his supervisors on several occasions that he was not being properly compensated for overtime. Therefore, the court reversed as to Brunozzi's retaliation claim under ORS 659A.199. The court also reversed as to Brunozzi's retaliation claim under ORS 652.355 where the act of complaining about inadequate wages was a protected activity. View "Brunozzi v. Cable Communications, Inc." on Justia Law

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LMA filed suit against its excess insurance carrier, National Union, based on National Union's refusal to either contribute $3.75 million toward the settlement of claims brought by a third party or take over the defense. At issue was whether the district court erred in applying the rule in Diamond Heights Homeowners Association v. National American Insurance Co., instructing the jury, denying National Union's motion for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL), and awarding fees and costs. In Diamond Heights, a California appellate court ruled that an excess liability insurer has three options when presented with a proposed settlement of a covered claim that has met the approval of the insured and the primary insurer. The excess insurer must (1) approve the proposed settlement, (2) reject it and take over the defense, or (3) reject it, decline to take over the defense, and face a potential lawsuit by the insured seeking contribution toward the settlement. The court held that the district court did not err in applying the rule in Diamond Heights where National Union has not presented convincing evidence that the California Supreme Court would not follow Diamond Heights, and Diamond Heights is not distinguishable on its facts. The court also concluded that the district court did not commit prejudicial error in defining the standard of proof applicable to LMA's breach of contract claim; National Union's challenge to the bad faith claim failed because a jury could rationally conclude based on these facts that National Union acted unreasonably by refusing to take over the defense or approve the reasonable settlement, knowing full well of its obligations under California law; and the court affirmed the district court's award of fees and costs. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment and denied National Union's motion for certification. View "Teleflex Medical Inc. v. National Union Fire Insurance Co." on Justia Law
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Petitioners sought review of the EPA's federal implementation plan (FIP) under the Clean Air Act (CAA), 42 U.S.C. 7401, for the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona. The FIP was promulgated under the EPA's Tribal Authority Rule (TAR) that governs CAA requirements on tribal lands. The court concluded that the federal government's partial ownership of the Station does not eliminate any deference to the EPA's interpretation of the CAA and its implementing regulations; the EPA reasonably interpreted the TAR and the Regional Haze Regulations to conclude that the emission reductions deadline in 40 C.F.R. 51.308(e)(2)(iii) does not apply to FIPs for regional haze that are promulgated in place of tribal implementation plans (TIPs); the court deferred to the EPA's determination that the FIP alternative was "better than BART" for nitrous oxide emissions; and the EPA's decision not to determine best available retrofit technology (BART) for particulate matter was a reasonable exercise of the EPA's discretion under the TAR. Accordingly, the court denied the petitions for review. View "Yazzie v. USEPA" on Justia Law

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The Tribe petitioned for review of the EPA's federal implementation plan (FIP) under the Clean Air Act (CAA), 42 U.S.C. 7401, for the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona. The FIP was promulgated under the EPA's Tribal Authority Rule that governs CAA requirements on tribal lands. The Tribe claimed that it was not adequately consulted about its interests before the plan was promulgated and objected to a proposed closure of the Station in 2044. The court concluded that no authority allowed it to treat this as a duty to consult, stemming from the general trust relationship with the Indian tribes. In this case, the record showed that the EPA did, in fact, consult with the Hopi Tribe throughout the rulemaking process. Furthermore, while the EPA did not participate in the Technical Working Group (TWG) negotiations, the DOI did. The court also concluded that the record belies the Tribe's contention that the EPA failed to analyze each of the five best available retrofit technology (BART) factors. Because the TWG proposal was an alternative to BART, the court concluded that there was no error in the EPA not analyzing the BART factors under the TWG alternative. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "The Hopi Tribe v. USEPA" on Justia Law

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The court published an order previously denying the government's motion for a stay of a restraining order pending appeal. The order became moot when this court granted the government's unopposed motion to dismiss its underlying appeal. No party has moved to vacate the published order. The court voted to determine whether it should grant en banc reconsideration in order to vacate the published order denying the stay, and the matter failed to receive a majority of the votes in favor of en banc reconsideration. Therefore, vacatur of the stay was denied. Judge Reinhardt concurred. Judge Bybee, with whom Judges Kozinski, Callahan, Bea, and Ikuta joined, dissented. View "Washington v. Trump" on Justia Law

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The court certified the following questions to the California Supreme Court: 1) Under section 980(a)(2) of the California Civil Code, do copyright owners of pre-1972 sound recordings that were sold to the public before 1982 possess an exclusive right of public performance? 2) If not, does California's common law of property or tort otherwise grant copyright owners of pre-1972 sound recordings an exclusive right of public performance? View "Flo & Eddie v. Pandora Media" on Justia Law

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After petitioners disagreed with how the Tribal Council was governing internal tribal affairs, they submitted a recall petition to the Tribe's Election Committee. The Council subsequently disciplined petitioners for press releases that the Tribe described as inaccurate, false, and defamatory. The Council voted to withhold petitioners' per capita distributions and to ban them temporarily from tribal lands and facilities. Petitioners subsequently filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under the Indian Civil Rights Act (ICRA), 25 U.S.C. 1303, against the members of the Council. The district court dismissed the petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that petitioners' punishment of exclusion was not a detention sufficient to invoke federal habeas jurisdiction. The court held that, reading the ICRA's habeas provision in light of the Indian canons of construction and Congress's plenary authority to limit tribal sovereignty, the district court lacked jurisdiction under section 1303 of the ICRA to review this temporary exclusion claim. The court also explained that any disputes about per capita payments must be brought in a tribal forum, not through federal habeas proceedings. View "Tavares v. Whitehouse" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his 600 month sentence and conviction for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, conspiracy to import methamphetamine, and distribution of methamphetamine. The court concluded that district courts should apply the Ninth Circuit's two-step approach when considering a motion to suppress wiretap evidence where the reviewing district court judge must review de novo whether the application for a wiretap contains a full and complete statement as to whether or not other investigative procedures have been tried and failed or why they reasonably appear to be unlikely to succeed if tried or to be too dangerous. If the wiretap application meets these requirements of 18 U.S.C. 2518(1)(c), then the district court judge should review for abuse of discretion the issuing judge's conclusion that the wiretap was necessary. In this case, the district court judge erred when it applied an abuse of discretion standard to both determinations made by the issuing judge. Based on a de novo review of both affidavits, the court concluded that they adequately explained why the interception of wire communications was necessary to investigate this conspiracy and the target subjects, and that they contained a full and complete statement of facts to establish necessity under section 2518(1)(c). The court also held that the district court's application of 21 U.S.C. 851 to enhance defendant's sentence did not violate his Sixth Amendment rights; the district court failed to comply with section 851(b) and the error was not harmless; and two additional procedural defects warranted remand. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not err by applying an upward adjustment under USSG 3B1.1 or in denying a downward adjustment under USSG 3E1.1(a) for acceptance of responsibility. Accordingly, the court affirmed the conviction, vacated the sentence, and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Rodriguez" on Justia Law
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After plaintiff was acquitted of murder, she filed suit against Detective Karen Thompson and Doe Defendants under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that Thompson violated her constitutional rights to compulsory process and a fair trial by intimidating and attempting to dissuade a key witness from testifying on behalf of the defense, and that Thompson and Doe Defendants conspired to violate her civil rights by orchestrating criminal charges against the key witness. The district court dismissed for failure to state a claim. The court held that plaintiff adequately alleged misconduct by Thompson that rises to the level of substantial interference with a defense witness in contravention of the Compulsory Process Clause of the Sixth Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; plaintiff pleaded a sufficient causal connection between Thompson's misconduct and the witness's unavailability; the fact that plaintiff was eventually acquitted does not render the witness's testimony immaterial, nor does it bar plaintiff's section 1983 action stemming from violations of her rights during the underlying criminal investigation and prosecution; the witness's testimony was material to plaintiff's defense because evidence of third-party culpability would have cast some doubt on the government's evidence at plaintiff's trial; and, likewise, plaintiff sufficiently alleged a plausible claim for civil conspiracy. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Park v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his 365 month sentence and conviction for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. The court concluded that the government failed to prove a justification for the warrantless stop and subsequent pat down, and thus the search of defendant's person was unlawful; the evidence discovered during the pat down, the glass pipe and $1450 in cash, should have been suppressed; a Fourth Amendment search waiver cannot provide a justification for a search of a probationer where the officers were unaware of the waiver before they undertook the search; the government failed to prove a valid justification for the search of defendant's car and any evidence seized from the car, including methamphetamine in baggies, should have been suppressed; but the search of defendant's home was lawful and the evidence seized was admissible. The court further concluded that the district court's error in denying the motion to suppress the evidence found on defendant's person and car was harmless as to the conspiracy conviction. However, the court could not conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that this evidence did not contribute to the jury's verdict on Count 5, and thus the court vacated defendant's conviction for possession with intent to distribute and remanded. The court also concluded that the district court did not err in refusing to give a multiple conspiracies instruction under either an abuse of discretion or a de novo standard of review. Finally, the court concluded that the district court failed to make an express or explicit ruling, as required under Fed. R. Crim. P. 32, to resolve the disputed issues and thus the court vacated defendant's sentence and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Job" on Justia Law
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