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

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of defendants' motion to compel arbitration of plaintiff's statutory employment discrimination and civil rights claims. Plaintiff, a former corporate attorney who became an investment banker with defendants, entered into an agreement that set her compensation and benefits, as well as provided that all disputes arising from her employment would be resolved through binding arbitration. Plaintiff also signed a second document that specified the arbitration procedures.The panel concluded that employment disputes are encompassed by the arbitration provisions, and plaintiff knowingly waived her right to a judicial forum. The panel applied Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson Lane Corp., 500 U.S. 20 (1991), where the Supreme Court has held that, while not all statutory claims may be appropriate for arbitration, if a party agreed to arbitration, the party will be held to that agreement unless the party could prove a congressional intent to preclude a waiver of judicial remedies for the statutory rights at issue. In this case, plaintiff carries the burden to show such an intention. The panel extended Gilmer to Title VII claims and held that there must be at least a knowing agreement to arbitrate employment disputes before an employee may be deemed to have waived judicial remedies.The panel assumed, without deciding, that the knowing waiver requirement remains good law and is applicable to these statutes despite the district court's failure to utilize the proper analysis to establish that the standard applies to these statutory claims. Instead, the panel held that this appeal is resolved on the arbitration agreement's clear language encompassing employment disputes and evidence that plaintiff knowingly waived her right to a judicial forum to resolve her statutory claims. The panel remanded to the district court with the direction that all claims be sent to arbitration and the case be dismissed without prejudice. View "Zoller v. GCA Advisors, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit granted a petition for review of the Commission's decision concluding that petitioner failed to prove a prima facie case of discrimination under Section 105(c) of the Mine Safety and Health Act. Petitioner, a dredge operator, claimed that his former employer, CalPortland, discriminated against him for engaging in protected activities related to safety issues.The panel concluded that Section 105(c)'s unambiguous text requires a miner asserting a discrimination claim under Section 105(c) to prove but-for causation. Therefore, the panel rejected the Pasula-Robinette framework and concluded that the Commission applied this wrong causation standard. The panel explained that the Supreme Court has instructed multiple times that the word "because" in a statutory cause of action requires a but-for causation analysis unless the text or context indicates otherwise. Section 105(c) contains no such indication. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Thomas v. CalPortland Co." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for attempted extortion under the Hobbs Act for threatening to file against a well-known entertainer a suit asserting salacious and scandalous allegations if the entertainer did not settle for $1,000,000.The panel concluded that there is no statutory, constitutional, or policy basis to support defendant's argument that threats of sham litigation are categorically excluded from criminal liability under the Hobbs Act. In this case, defendant's threats of sham litigation—in which he produced falsified evidence and lied about the existence of evidence, initially targeted another victim with the same threats, and knew he had no lawful claim against his victim—sought "wrongful" ends and thus were within the scope of Hobbs Act. Therefore, the panel rejected defendant's argument and affirmed the denial of his motion for acquittal.The panel also concluded that, when viewed in the light most favorable to the government, the evidence was more than sufficient for the jury to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant knew his claims against the entertainer were baseless and that he had no right to demand money from the entertainer. The panel rejected defendant's instructional and evidentiary error arguments. Finally, the panel concluded that the district court did not err by applying a fourteen-level increase under U.S.S.G. 2B3.3(b)(1) based on the amount defendant demanded from the entertainer. However, the panel concluded that the district court plainly erred by failing to apply U.S.S.G. 2X1.1 for attempt offenses not otherwise covered by a specific offense guideline. Accordingly, the panel vacated the sentence and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Koziol" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Petitioner, a native and citizen of Honduras, petitioned for review of the IJ's decision affirming the asylum officer's determination that petitioner did not have a reasonable fear of persecution or torture in his home country.The Ninth Circuit dismissed based on lack of jurisdiction petitioner's arguments challenging the validity of his 2013 expedited removal order because they do not fall within any of the categories of reviewable issues, and this is not a habeas corpus proceeding in any event. The panel rejected petitioner's challenges to the legality of the reasonable fear screening process, concluding that the choice to establish a reasonable fear screening process is based on a permissible reading of 8 U.S.C. 1231(a)(5) and 2242 of the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act, as it represents a reasonable effort to reconcile the two statutes' competing demands. Furthermore, the reasonable fear screening procedures do not violate the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause and substantial evidence supports the IJ's determination that petitioner failed to establish a reasonable fear of persecution on account of a protected ground. However, substantial evidence did not support the IJ's determination that petitioner failed to establish a reasonable fear of torture with the consent or acquiescence of a public official. Therefore, the panel granted in part, denied in part, dismissed in part, and remanded with instructions. View "Alvarado-Herrera v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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The Ninth Circuit vacated defendant's conviction and sentence for conspiracy to violate 18 U.S.C. 2332g, which prohibits illicit dealings in guided surface-to-air missiles. Defendant, a Jordanian-born, naturalized United States citizen, and an international arms dealer, was captured by DHS in Greece in an undercover sting operation. Defendant was extradited from Athens to Los Angeles, by way of New York. The government subsequently asked for an erroneous jury instruction on venue, which the district court gave, over defendant's objection.The panel concluded that, although defendant waived his challenge to the indictment for improper venue by failing to bring it before the pretrial motions deadline, he was still entitled to a correct instruction on venue. The panel explained that when defendant landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport, in custody, venue was laid in the Eastern District of New York for the section 2332g charge even though the government had not yet brought it. The panel concluded that the error was harmful because a reasonable juror could have found it more likely than not that defendant's restraint in Greece really was in connection with the alleged section 2332g offense, and thus his conviction must be vacated. Finally, the panel applied plain error review and disposed of defendant's remaining claims regarding extraterritoriality, the doctrine of specialty, and due process. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Ghanem" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Parents and Minors filed suit against the County and two social workers, alleging claims based on medical examinations of Minors during their time in protective custody. Parents seek to hold the social workers liable under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for unconstitutional judicial deception in seeking a state juvenile court order to authorize unconstitutional medical examinations of the Minors without notice to or consent of the Parents, and the County liable for the unconstitutional medical examinations.The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part, concluding that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine does not bar subject matter jurisdiction. The panel reversed the district court's dismissal of the claims against the social workers, concluding that Parents sufficiently pleaded section 1983 liability against them. In this case, plaintiffs alleged that Parents objected to medical examinations of the Minors; Parents did not learn of the medical examinations until after the Minors were released from protective custody; the social workers knowingly and falsely represented to the juvenile court that they had made reasonable efforts to notify Parents about the medical examinations; and Parents' statements alleged a violation of constitutional prohibition on judicial deception and met the heightened pleading standard of Rule 9(b). However, the panel affirmed the dismissal with prejudice on the claims against the County where none of the allegations regarding the County's alleged unconstitutional policy, practice, custom, or failure to train its employees provided factual support for Monell liability. The panel explained that Parents failed to provide anything more than the 2015 Policy itself and the facts of a single incidence of an unconstitutional medical examination and judicial deception. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Benavidez v. County of San Diego" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's order denying defendant's motion for compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(1)(A)(i). The panel held that the current version of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual 1B1.13 is not an "applicable policy statement[] issued by the Sentencing Commission" for motions filed by a defendant under the recently amended section 3582(c)(1)(A). The panel explained that the First Step Act of 2018 amended section 3582(c)(1)(A) to allow for defendants, in addition to the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Director, to file a motion, but section 1B1.13 has not since been amended and only references motions filed by the BOP Director. The dangerousness finding is part of the Sentencing Commission's policy statement in U.S.S.G. 1B1.13(2), but is not statutorily required under section 3582(c)(1)(A)(i). Because the district court relied on section 1B1.13, the panel remanded so that the district court can reassess defendant's motion under the correct legal standard. View "United States v. Aruda" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a securities fraud action against an investment bank, holding that the complaint failed sufficiently to allege scienter. Plaintiff's complaint stemmed from the bank's handling of MannKind's stock price. After an investment bank analyst published a report setting a target price of $7 per share for the company's stock, the stock surged 26 percent that day. Later that evening, the bank announced that it would act as the placing agent for a dilutive offering that priced that same stock at $6 per share. The stock price declined the next day.The panel explained that the complaint did not offer a plausible motive for the bank’s actions or provide compelling and particularized allegations about scienter, and thus it did not support the required strong inference that the defendant intentionally made false or misleading statements or acted with deliberate recklessness. In this case, the panel reasoned that the most plausible inferences are that someone failed to put MannKind on the watch list, failed to properly check the watch list, or failed to realize that a conflict existed when approving the report. View "Panthera Investment Fund, L.P. v. H.C. Wainwright & Co., LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Securities Law
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The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision, holding that the BIA permissibly concluded that Oregon Revised Statute 164.225 is a crime involving moral turpitude and that precedent forecloses the constitutional vagueness argument. The panel applied the categorical approach and concluded that the Oregon statute is overbroad as to intent and as to the type of structure involved. Furthermore, the Oregon statute is divisible where, by its plain text, the statute appears divisible between burglary of a dwelling on the one hand, and burglary of a non-dwelling on the other. In this case, petitioner's conviction for first-degree burglary, when involving a dwelling, is a CIMT and thus he is statutorily ineligible for cancellation of removal. Finally, the court concluded that precedent foreclosed petitioner's argument that the phrase "crime involving moral turpitude" is unconstitutionally vague. View "Diaz-Flores v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's order certifying three classes in a multi-district antitrust case alleging a price-fixing conspiracy by StarKist and Tri-Union, producers of packaged tuna. Producers challenged the district court's determination that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3)'s "predominance" requirement was satisfied by expert statistical evidence finding classwide impact based on averaging assumptions and pooled transaction data.Although the panel has not previously addressed the proper burden of proof at the class certification stage, the panel held that a district court must find by a preponderance of the evidence that the plaintiff has established predominance under Rule 23(b)(3). The panel ultimately concluded that this form of statistical or "representative" evidence can be used to establish predominance, but the district court abused its discretion by not resolving the factual disputes necessary to decide the requirement before certifying these classes. Therefore, the panel vacated the district court's order certifying the classes and remanded for the district court to determine the number of uninjured parties in the proposed class based on the dueling statistical evidence. View "Olean Wholesale Grocery Cooperative, Inc. v. Bumble Bee Foods" on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action