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

by
In a dispute over the naming of a thoroughbred racehorse, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's decision, which held that the decision by the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) precluded the plaintiffs' legal action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging First Amendment violations. The plaintiffs, who owned the horse named Malpractice Meuser, brought the action after the CHRB refused their horse's registration due to its name, which they believed violated specific rules. The Ninth Circuit ruled that the district court was wrong to conclude the CHRB's decision precluded the plaintiffs' § 1983 action. The court reasoned that for a state administrative agency decision to have the same preclusive effect as a state court judgment, the administrative proceeding must be conducted with sufficient safeguards and satisfy fairness requirements. In this case, the CHRB lacked the authority under California law to decide constitutional claims, and thus, its decision had no preclusive effect. Furthermore, the court ruled that the plaintiffs' decision not to seek review of the CHRB's decision in state court did not endow that decision with preclusive effect. The court found that requiring the plaintiffs to go to state court before filing a suit under § 1983 would amount to an improper exhaustion prerequisite. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "JAMGOTCHIAN V. FERRARO" on Justia Law

by
In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision to deny a preliminary injunction requested by Thomas Eugene Creech, a death row inmate. Creech raised constitutional claims concerning his execution method, arguing that the State failed to provide sufficient information about its lethal injection drug, pentobarbital, and that the execution protocol was deficient. The Court, however, found that Creech was unlikely to succeed on his claims, noting that the State had adequately disclosed the planned execution method and that Creech's arguments about the drug's provenance were speculative. Creech's Eighth Amendment claims, which focused on potential unnecessary pain during execution, were rejected as he had not identified an alternative execution method and did not have any known conditions that create a substantial risk of severe pain. Additionally, Creech's argument about the protocol's lack of requirement for an anesthesiologist and a brain monitor were dismissed as they were against Supreme Court precedent. The Court also found that the balance of equities and public interest did not favor Creech. Thus, the Court affirmed the lower court's denial of Creech's request for preliminary injunctive relief. View "CREECH V. TEWALT" on Justia Law

by
In the case under review, the plaintiff-appellant, Thomas Eugene Creech, currently on death row for the 1981 murder of David Dale Jensen, had sought commutation of his death sentence. The State of Idaho had granted Creech a commutation hearing before the Commission of Pardons and Parole, which ultimately denied his petition. Consequently, Creech filed a § 1983 action in federal court, alleging various due process violations during the commutation proceedings and sought a preliminary injunction. The United States District Court for the District of Idaho denied his motion, and he appealed.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision. The Court held that the state had met the minimal procedural safeguards required by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in the commutation proceedings. It rejected Creech's arguments that he was not given adequate notice of the issues to be considered by the Commission and the evidence to be presented at the commutation hearing. Additionally, the Court found that Creech was not entitled to the appointment of a replacement commissioner when one Commissioner recused himself. The Court also refuted Creech's claims that the Ada County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office violated his due process rights by suggesting to the Commission that Creech had committed another murder and got away with it, and by introducing misleading or fabricated evidence during the hearing. The Court found no violation or arbitrariness that would warrant judicial intervention. View "CREECH V. BENNETTS" on Justia Law

by
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a habeas corpus petition filed by Thomas E. Creech, a death row inmate in Idaho. Creech was sentenced to death in 1981 for killing a fellow prisoner while serving two life sentences for first-degree murder. In his habeas corpus petition, Creech raised an Eighth Amendment claim, arguing that societal standards have evolved since Ring v. Arizona (2002) to deem a death sentence imposed by a judge rather than a jury as unconstitutional. The Ninth Circuit disagreed, stating that Creech's claim was barred by 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b), which mandates the dismissal of most claims filed in "second or successive" federal habeas petitions. The court held that Creech's claim was ripe and could have been brought in his prior petition challenging the same judgment, making his current petition second or successive. The court also dismissed as moot Creech's motion to stay his execution while the appeal was pending. View "Creech v. Richardson" on Justia Law

by
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a district court's default judgment entered against defendants Akop and Anahit Arutyunyan. The defendants were accused by Transamerica Life Insurance Company of engaging in insurance fraud. The district court found that the defendants persistently failed to obey court orders related to discovery and entered a default judgment against them. In the course of the legal proceedings, the court applied escalating sanctions against the defendants for their repeated non-compliance with court orders, eventually leading to the entry of a default judgment. The defendants contested this decision, but the Ninth Circuit Court found that their appeal was frivolous. The court held that the district court had not abused its discretion in entering a default judgment as a sanction for the defendants' violations of court orders. The Ninth Circuit also ordered the defendants and their counsel to show cause why sanctions should not be imposed under various provisions given the frivolous nature of the appeal and multiple misstatements made by counsel during oral argument. View "TRANSAMERICA LIFE INSURANCE CO V. ARUTYUNYAN" on Justia Law

by
In a dispute between Valley Hospital Medical Center and the National Labor Relations Board, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied the Hospital's petition for review, granted the Board's cross-application for enforcement, and enforced the Board's order. The court previously remanded the case to the Board to better explain its decision that an employer may unilaterally cease union dues checkoff after the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement. Upon remand, the Board reversed its prior decision, readopting its rule prohibiting employers from unilaterally ceasing dues checkoff after expiration of a collective bargaining agreement, and found that Valley Hospital engaged in an unfair labor practice. Valley Hospital contended that the Board exceeded its mandate from the court, which only authorized supplementing its reasoning, not changing its interpretation of the National Labor Relations Act. However, the Ninth Circuit held that its earlier mandate did not explicitly prohibit the Board from reconsidering its rule, so the Board was not bound by its prior decision. The court also found that the Board's new decision was rational and consistent with the Act. Thus, the Board's order was enforced. View "NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD V. VALLEY HOSPITAL MEDICAL CENTER, INC." on Justia Law

by
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that employers cannot unilaterally stop deducting union dues from employee paychecks after the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement. The case involved Valley Hospital Medical Center and Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center (collectively known as the "Hospitals") and the Service Employees International Union, Local 1107 ("the Union”). The Union and the Hospitals had entered into collective bargaining agreements that included checkoff provisions requiring the Hospitals to deduct union dues from participating employees’ paychecks and to remit those dues to the Union. After the agreements expired, the Hospitals ceased dues checkoff, arguing that the written assignments authorizing this did not include express language concerning revocability upon expiration of the collective bargaining agreement. They believed this omission violated the Labor Management Relations Act, also known as the Taft-Hartley Act. The Union filed unfair labor practice charges, and the National Labor Relations Board determined that the Hospitals had committed an unfair labor practice by unilaterally ceasing dues checkoff. The court held that the Taft-Hartley Act did not require specific language in the written assignments, so the Hospitals could not rely on that statute to justify their unilateral action. Consequently, the court granted the Board’s application for enforcement, denied the Hospitals' petition for review, and enforced the Board’s order in full. View "NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD V. VALLEY HEALTH SYSTEM, LLC DBA DESERT SPRINGS HOSPITAL MEDICAL CENT" on Justia Law

by
This case was brought under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by the parents of A.O., a child with severe hearing loss who uses cochlear implants. The parents had rejected the Los Angeles Unified School District's proposed individualized education program (IEP) for their daughter, which they felt didn't specify the frequency and duration of proposed speech therapy and audiology services, offer a meaningful educational benefit, or place A.O. in the least restrictive environment appropriate for her. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision largely supporting the parents' objections. The court found that the school district's proposed IEP violated the IDEA by not clearly specifying the frequency and duration of proposed speech therapy and audiology services. The court also concluded that the proposed IEP wouldn't offer A.O. a meaningful educational benefit and failed to place her in the least restrictive environment appropriate for her. The court reversed the district court's conclusion that the school district's proposed IEP did not need to provide individual speech therapy. The court remanded the case to the district court to modify its judgment. View "LAUSD V. A. O." on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law
by
A man named Brett Wayne Parkins was convicted of aiming a laser pointer at a police helicopter. Police officers searched Parkins's apartment without a warrant after obtaining consent from his girlfriend. Parkins, who was present but not at the doorway of his apartment, verbally objected to the search. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decided that under the Fourth Amendment, a defendant must be physically present and expressly refuse consent to nullify a co-tenant’s consent to a warrantless search. The court clarified that physical presence does not require the defendant to stand at the doorway — presence on the premises, including its immediate vicinity, is sufficient. The court ruled that Parkins was physically present on the premises and had expressly refused consent, so the search of his apartment violated his Fourth Amendment rights. However, the court upheld the district court's denial of Parkins's motion to suppress his pre-arrest and post-arrest statements because Parkins was not subject to interrogation for his pre-arrest statements and his post-arrest statements at the police station were not a product of the unlawful search of his apartment. The case was sent back to the lower court for further proceedings. View "USA V. PARKINS" on Justia Law

by
Israeil Guzman-Maldonado, a lawful permanent resident of the United States and a citizen of Mexico, was convicted of three counts of armed robbery under Arizona Revised Statutes (“A.R.S.”) § 13-1904(A) in 2019. He was sentenced to concurrent eight-year terms for the first two counts and two years of probation for the third. In 2022, an immigration judge ordered Guzman's removal because he had been convicted of an aggravated felony theft offense and two crimes involving moral turpitude not arising from a single scheme. Guzman appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, which dismissed his appeal, prompting him to petition for review with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.The Ninth Circuit denied Guzman's petition for review, concluding that a conviction for armed robbery under A.R.S. § 13-1904(A), for which the term of imprisonment imposed is at least one year, is categorically an aggravated felony theft offense under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), thereby giving rise to removability. Applying the categorical approach, the court compared the elements of the generic federal crime and of Arizona armed robbery and concluded that Guzman’s conviction under A.R.S. § 13-1904(A) necessarily required proof of each element of generic theft. The court rejected Guzman's arguments that the Arizona statute encompasses "consensual" takings or the theft of services, both of which would have made it broader than generic theft. View "GUZMAN-MALDONADO V. GARLAND" on Justia Law