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

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After the City agreed to have OBOT develop a commercial terminal at an Army base near the bay. The City moved to block coal from being transported through the terminal amid a public backlash. The district court concluded that the City breached its contract with OBOT. Because this is a breach of contract dispute, the Ninth Circuit must defer to the district court's factual findings, rather than administrative law review principles. The panel held that the district court did not clearly err in finding that the City breached the contract, because the City lacked substantial evidence of a substantial danger to health or safety when it enacted its resolution barring coal. Furthermore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying intervention of right. Therefore, the panel affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Oakland Bulk & Oversized Terminal, LLC v. City of Oakland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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Defendants removed two complaints brought by California cities in state court alleging that defendants' production and promotion of fossil fuels is a public nuisance under California law. The Ninth Circuit held that the state-law claim for public nuisance does not arise under federal law for purposes of 28 U.S.C. 1331, and remanded to the district court to consider whether there was an alternative basis for subject-matter jurisdiction. The panel held that neither exception to the well-pleaded-complaint rule applies to the original complaints and thus the district court erred in holding that it had jurisdiction under section 1331 at the time of removal. The panel also held that the cities cured any subject-matter jurisdiction defect by amending their complaints to assert a claim under federal common law. The panel joined the Fifth Circuit in holding that a dismissal for failure to state a claim, unlike a grant of summary judgment or judgment after trial, is generally insufficient to forestall an otherwise proper remand. View "City of Oakland v. BP PLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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Counties and cities filed six complaints in California state court against energy companies, alleging nuisance and other causes of action arising from the role of fossil fuel products in global warming. After removal to federal court, the district court granted plaintiffs' motion to remand. The Ninth Circuit held, under 28 U.S.C. 1447(d), that the single ground of removal that it has jurisdiction to review is whether the district court erred in holding that there was no subject matter jurisdiction under the federal officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1442(a)(1). Therefore, the panel dismissed in part for lack of jurisdiction to the extent the energy companies seek review of the district court's ruling as to other bases for subject matter jurisdiction. The panel affirmed in part, holding that the district court did not err in holding that there was no subject matter jurisdiction under section 1442(a)(1) where the energy companies failed to establish that they were "acting under" a federal officer's directions. View "County of San Mateo v. Chevron Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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This appeal challenges the district court's denial of appellants' motion for a temporary restraining order and order to show cause why a preliminary injunction should not issue in appellants' challenge to the application of California and San Diego's stay-at-home orders to in-person religious services during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Ninth Circuit issued an order denying appellants' emergency motion seeking injunction relief permitting them to hold in-person religious services during the pendency of this appeal. The panel held that appellants have not demonstrated a sufficient likelihood of success on appeal. The panel explained that, where state action does not infringe upon or restrict practices because of their religious motivation and does not in a selective manner impose burdens only on conduct motivated by religious belief, it does not violate the First Amendment. In this case, the panel stated that we are dealing with a highly contagious and often fatal disease for which there presently is no known cure. The panel held that the remaining factors do not counsel in favor of injunctive relief. View "South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of claims brought by U.S. servicemembers and their families against TEPCO and GE, alleging that they were exposed to radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The Japanese Act on Compensation for Nuclear Damage provides that the operator of a nuclear power plant is strictly liable for any damage caused by the operation of the power plant but no other person shall be liable. The panel held that Japan's Compensation Act was a liability-limiting statute with outcome-determinative implications and was substantive for Erie purposes. In this case, the district court did not err in proceeding with the full choice-of-law analysis at the motion-to-dismiss stage of the litigation. The panel applied California's three step "governmental interest" test in deciding the choice-of-law questions and ultimately concluded that the district court did not err when it decided that the laws of Japan, not California, govern plaintiffs' claims against GE. The panel likewise held that the district court did not err in proceeding with the choice-of-law analysis and finding that Japanese law also applies to plaintiffs' claims against TEPCO. Finally, having decided that Japanese law applies to the case and considering Japan's strong interests in the case being litigated in Japan, the panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it dismissed the claims against TEPCO on international-comity grounds. View "Cooper v. Tokyo Electric Power Co." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of petitioner's habeas corpus petition challenging his Nevada convictions for three murders and an attempted murder, as well as his death sentence for one of the murders. The district court issued a certificate of appealability (COA) for petitioner's argument that the procedural default of his ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim should be excused in light of Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1 (2012). The panel affirmed the denial of habeas relief and held that, although counsel's performance was deficient at the second penalty-phase hearing, petitioner failed to show that he was prejudiced by counsel's performance. In this case, petitioner failed to show that he was prejudiced by the lack of an evidentiary hearing, and his claim remains procedurally defaulted. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion by dismissing the Martinez claim without holding an evidentiary hearing. The panel certified petitioner's claim alleging violation of the rule set out in Stromberg v. California, 283 U.S. 359 (1931), but ultimately concluded that this claim does not entitle petitioner to habeas relief because the Stromberg error was harmless. The panel declined to certify the remaining claims because they do not raise substantial questions of law and the panel was not persuaded that reasonable jurists would find the district court’s assessment of the constitutional claims debatable or wrong. View "Smith v. Baker" on Justia Law

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In this antitrust action, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order enjoining the NCAA from enforcing rules that restrict the education-related benefits that its member institutions may offer students who play Football Bowl Subdivision football and Division I basketball. The panel held that the district court properly applied the Rule of Reason in determining that the enjoined rules are unlawful restraints of trade under section 1 of the Sherman Act. In this case, the district court found that the NCAA's rules have significant anticompetitive effects in the relevant market for student-athletes' labor on the gridiron and the court; the district court fairly found that NCAA compensation limits preserve demand to the extent they prevent unlimited cash payments akin to professional salaries, but not insofar as they restrict certain education-related benefits; and the district court did not clearly err in determining that the less restrictive alternative would be virtually as effective in serving the procompetitive purposes of the NCAA's current rules, and may be implemented without significantly increased cost. The panel also held that the record supported the factual findings underlying the injunction and that the district court's antitrust analysis is faithful to the panel's decision in O'Bannon v. NCAA (O’Bannon II), 802 F.3d 1049 (9th Cir. 2015). View "Alston v. National Collegiate Athletic Association" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's award of attorneys' fees and litigation expenses to class counsel, following approval of two rounds of settlements in consumer class action litigation. The litigation stemmed from claims of civil antitrust violations based on price-fixing within the optical disk drive industry. The panel held that it has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1291. In a separately filed memorandum disposition, the panel affirmed the district court's approval of the first- and second-round settlements. Here, the panel vacated the awards of fees and litigation expenses, holding that when class counsel secures appointment as interim lead counsel by proposing a fee structure in a competitive bidding process, that bid becomes the starting point for determining a reasonable fee. The district court may adjust fees upward or downward depending on circumstances not contemplated at the time of the bid, but the district court must provide an adequate explanation for any variance. In this case, class counsel argues that an upward departure from its bid was warranted in part because it did not anticipate the need to litigate a second class certification motion or interlocutory appeals. Without more, the panel held that these factors are insufficient to justify a variance of the magnitude approved in the first- and second-round fee awards. Accordingly, the panel remanded for a more complete explanation of the district court's reasoning. View "Indirect Purchaser Class v. Panasonic Corp." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision affirming the denial of petitioner's motion for reconsideration. The panel's review for legal or constitutional error under Bonilla v. Lynch, 840 F.3d 575 (9th Cir. 2016), does not encompass alleged inconsistencies between the BIA's grants or denials of discretionary relief. Rather, the panel looked to whether the particular decision at issue involved legal error. In this case, the panel held that the BIA's denial of equitable tolling was not unreasonable; notwithstanding the BIA's precedent regarding fundamental changes in the law, the BIA's denial of sua sponte reconsideration here was not premised on legal or constitutional error; and petitioner's "settled course" argument is barred by the panel's general rule that it lacks jurisdiction to review claims "that the BIA should have exercised its sua sponte power" in a given case. View "Lona v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Skyline filed suit against the DMHC in 2016, claiming, among other things, that its right to the free exercise of religion requires the DMHC to approve a health insurance plan that comports with Skyline's religious beliefs about abortion. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the action based on lack of jurisdiction. The panel held that Skyline's claim under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment is justiciable. In this case, Skyline has established each of the three elements of standing with respect to its federal free exercise claim and, relatedly, that this claim is constitutionally ripe; Skyline's free exercise claim is prudentially ripe; and the panel vacated the district court's ruling that none of Skyline's other claims are justiciable and remanded for reassessment in light of our decision regarding the justiciability of the free exercise claim. The panel declined to exercise its discretion in reaching the merits in the first instance. View "Skyline Wesleyan Church v. California Department of Managed Health Care" on Justia Law