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

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Plaintiff filed suit challenging the BLM's approval of a right-of-way on federal lands in Nevada for the construction of an industrial solar project known as Silver State South. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants and its conclusion that the Biological Opinion (BiOp) analyzing the effect of Silver State South on the desert tortoise fully complied with the Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq., and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 706. The panel held that the BiOp's "no jeopardy" determination was neither arbitrary nor capricious; the BiOp's determination that Silver State South was "not likely to adversely affect the critical habitat of the desert tortoise," which permitted the FWS to forego an adverse modification analysis, was neither arbitrary nor capricious; the BiOp's failure to address the FWS comments to the SEIS was not arbitrary or capricious; the BiOp's consideration of Silver State South's edge effects was not arbitrary or capricious; the BiOp does not rely on an impermissibly vague "new information" reinitiation trigger; and thus the BLM permissibly relied upon the BiOp in approving of the right-of-way for Silver State South. View "Defenders of Wildlife v. Zinke" on Justia Law

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The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the deliberate fabrication of evidence by a state official; deliberate fabrication can be established by circumstantial evidence; deliberate fabrication can be shown by direct evidence; and, in cases involving direct evidence, the investigator's knowledge or reason to know of the plaintiff's innocence need not be proved. In this case, plaintiff introduced direct evidence of deliberate fabrication, specifically, evidence that Detective Sharon Krause deliberately mischaracterized witnesses' statements in her investigative reports. A jury found for plaintiff and against defendants, but the district court granted judgment as a matter of law to defendants based on the ground that plaintiff had failed to introduce evidence that Krause knew or should have known of plaintiff's innocence. The Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the district court misunderstood the court's precedent. Because plaintiff introduced direct evidence of deliberate fabrication, he did not have to prove that Krause knew or should have known that he was innocent. Furthermore, defendants' other challenges to the jury's verdict failed. View "Spencer v. Krause" on Justia Law
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Petitioner appealed the denial of his petition for habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2241, contending that a congressional appropriations rider prohibits the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) from using federal funds to incarcerate him and seeking release from custody to remedy the wrongful expenditure. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of habeas relief, holding that petitioner voluntarily waived his right to bring this challenge through the collateral-attack waiver provision of his plea agreement. View "Davies v. Benov" on Justia Law

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Alliance filed suit under the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), seeking to enjoin the Forest Service from constructing new roads in the Kootenai National Forest. The Ninth Circuit held that the 4.7 miles of roads at issue will not violate the Kootenai National Forest Plan because they will be blocked to prevent motorized access upon completion of the project; it was not arbitrary and capricious for the Forest Service to conclude that roads closed to motorized access by berms or barriers do not count toward linear miles of total roads under Standard II(B) of the Access Amendments; and because the Forest Service's interpretation of its own Forest Plan was reasonable, Alliance could not prevail on its NFMA, ESA, and NEPA claims. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of defendants. View "Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. Bradford" on Justia Law

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A claim of genericness or "genericide," where the public appropriates a trademark and uses it as a generic name for particular types of goods or services irrespective of its source, must be made with regard to a particular type of good or service. Plaintiffs petitioned for cancellation of the GOOGLE trademark under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1064(3), based on the ground that it is generic. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Google, Inc., holding that plaintiffs failed to recognize that a claim of genericide must always relate to a particular type of good or service, and that plaintiffs erroneously assumed that verb use automatically constitutes generic use; the district court correctly framed its inquiry as whether the primary significance of the word "google" to the relevant public was as a generic name for internet search engines or as a mark identifying the Google search engine in particular; the assumption that a majority of the public uses the verb "google" in a generic and indiscriminate sense, on its own, could not support a jury finding of genericide under the primary significance test; and plaintiffs have failed to present sufficient evidence in this case to support a jury finding that the relevant public primarily understands the word "google" as a generic name for internet search engines and not as a mark identifying the Google search engine in particular. View "Elliott v. Google, Inc." on Justia Law

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To secure a conviction for misprision of felony under 18 U.S.C. 4, the government must prove not only that the defendant knew the principal engaged in conduct that satisfies the essential elements of the underlying felony, but also that the defendant knew the conduct was a felony. In this case, defendant was convicted of misprision of felony based on her acts of concealing and failing to notify authorities of her business partner's submission of false statements to the USDA in connection with a federal grant application. The Ninth Circuit held that sufficient evidence supported the jury's finding that defendant had the requisite knowledge that her business partner's crime was punishable by more than a year in custody. View "United States v. Olson" on Justia Law
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Plaintiffs filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against defendants, alleging that a sheriff's deputy used excessive force when he shot and killed David Brown in his home. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of summary judgment based on qualified immunity to the deputy. The panel held that, although a reasonable juror could find a Fourth Amendment violation in this case, it was not clearly established at the time that using deadly force in this situation would constitute excessive force. In this case, the district court did not have the benefit of White v. Pauly, and the cases that plaintiffs cited to did not satisfy White's exacting standard; nor does this case involve an obvious or run-of-the-mill violation. Therefore, the deputy was immune from liability under section 1983 for his use of deadly force. View "S. B. v. County of San Diego" on Justia Law

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The parties' dispute arose out of transactions originating from the savings and loan crisis during the 1970's and 1980's. Washington Mutual appealed a judgment entered in favor of the Government after a bench trial in a tax refund action. The Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding that Washington Mutual did not meet its burden of establishing a cost basis for its intangible assets. The panel concluded that the district court held Washington Mutual to the correct burden; did not make any clearly erroneous factual findings; permissibly determined that the cumulative fundamental flaws underlying the Grabowski Model rendered it incapable of producing a reliable value for the Missouri Branching Right; and was thus not required to sua sponte assign a value to that Right. Even assuming the Missouri Branching Right could be valued, Washington Mutual nonetheless failed to show reversible error as to the denial of its abandonment deduction. View "Washington Mutual v. United States" on Justia Law
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Defendant was convicted of wire fraud, mail fraud, false declaration before a court, escape, and contempt. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the convictions, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying defendant's motion for a new trial where defendant showed a lack of diligence by waiting to obtain the new evidence at issue; there was sufficient evidence to sustain defendant's mail fraud, wire fraud, and false declaration convictions; defendant was not deprived of a fair trial because prison officials disorganized his legal materials during trial when they moved him to a different location and because two jurors gave untruthful responses about their criminal history during voir dire; defendant's right to a fair trial was not violated where, under Faretta v. California, a trial court is permitted, but not required, to terminate an incorrigible pro se defendant's self-representation; the district court did not deny defendant a fair trial by allowing him to represent himself for the duration of the proceeding; and the district court did not err in denying defendant a competency hearing. View "United States v. Brugnara" on Justia Law
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The Supreme Court's opinion in CRST Van Expedited Inc. v. E.E.O.C., 136 S. Ct. 1642, 1646 (2016), effectively overruled Branson v Nott's holding that when a defendant wins because the action is dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction he is never a prevailing party. In this case, Amphastar filed a qui tam action against Aventis under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C 3730, alleging that Aventis obtained an illegal monopoly over the drug enoxaparin and then knowingly overcharged the United States. The district court dismissed the suit based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Ninth Circuit held that Amphastar's allegations were based on publicly disclosed information, and it lacked the direct and independent knowledge needed to be an original source. Therefore, the panel upheld the district court's judgment on the merits. However, the panel held that the district court erroneously concluded that it could not award attorneys' fees, because the FCA's fee-shifting provision contained an independent grant of subject matter jurisdiction and because a party who wins a lawsuit on a non-merits issue is a "prevailing party." The panel remanded for resolution of the attorneys' fees issue. View "Amphastar Pharmaceuticals v. Aventis Pharma" on Justia Law