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

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Appellant CPC Patent Technologies PTY Ltd. (“CPC”) sought documents to use in a potential lawsuit in Germany against an affiliate of appellee Apple, Inc. CPC filed an application in federal court seeking to compel Apple to turn over these documents pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1782, which allows district courts to provide discovery assistance to foreign or international tribunals. After a magistrate judge denied the petition, a district judge reviewed the magistrate judge’s decision for clear error and declined to overturn it.The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court’s order and remanded for further proceedings because the district judge should have reviewed the magistrate judge’s decision de novo.Applying 28 U.S.C. Section 636(b) and its procedural counterpart, Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 72, the court held that CPC’s Section 1782 application was a dispositive matter because the magistrate judge’s order denied the only relief sought by CPC in this federal case: court-ordered discovery. Because both parties did not consent to the magistrate judge's jurisdiction, the magistrate judge lacked jurisdiction to enter an order denying the application, and the district court should have treated the magistrate judge’s ruling at most as a non-binding recommendation subject to de novo review. The court, therefore, remanded for the district court to apply the correct standard of review and left it to the district court to determine whether the case would benefit from further analysis and review by the magistrate judge. View "CPC PATENT TECHS. PTY LTD. V. APPLE, INC." on Justia Law

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While tending to the wounds of a separatist fighter at a local hospital, Cameroonian soldiers punched Petitioner, attacked him and threatened to kill him if they ever caught him treating separatists again. Petitioner sought review of the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) denial of his applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”). The BIA denied asylum and withholding of removal on the grounds that Petitioner had (a) failed to demonstrate past persecution and (b) failed to prove a nexus between the feared harm and a protected ground.The Ninth Circuit held that the harm Petitioner suffered, including the physical injury, the specific death threats connected to the physical harm, and evidence of the country’s political and societal turmoil, compelled the finding of past persecution. The court held that the IJ’s finding that Petitioner failed to establish a nexus based on the fact that he had not testified as to what happened to a hospital coworker who helped Petitioner, was vague because it was not directly responsive to Petitioner’s argument. Further, the court held that it also was not clear whether this reason rested on the flawed findings of fact concerning past persecution or whether this reason faulted Petitioner for not providing corroborative evidence. In light of the ambiguities, the court concluded that it could not conduct a meaningful review of the agency’s nexus determination, and it remanded for a clear explanation. Finally, the court held that substantial evidence supported the denial of CAT relief. View "STEPHEN FON V. MERRICK GARLAND" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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In July 2020, during the heart of the COVID pandemic, Defendant was arrested and charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. Defendant's case went to trial no long after his arrest, when the district court's COVID procedures were still in effect. More specifically, the Northern District of California imposed a restriction stating only "persons who have been authorized by a judge or the Clerk of Court may enter courthouse property." However, the district court judge overseeing Defendant's motion to suppress and trial imposed additional restrictions, disallowing any member of the public from entering the courtroom and instead streamed live audio over the internet. Defendant objected, citing a violation of his right to a public trial. The district court rejected Defendant's challenge, and a jury convicted him.On appeal, the Ninth Circuit vacated Defendant's conviction and reversed the district court's denial of his motion to suppress, holding that the district court’s COVID protocols violated Defendant's Sixth Amendment right to a public trial. The court found that the government presented an overriding interest in limiting the transmission of COVID while holding a criminal trial; however, the court's restriction on video access was not narrowly tailored. The Ninth Circuit noted that other courts around the county were able to allow for video access during the pandemic. View "USA V. JAMES ALLEN, II" on Justia Law

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CitiMortgage, Inc. (“CitiMortgage”) erroneously reported that Plaintiff owed a debt that had been “abolished” under Arizona law. After Plaintiff disputed the entry, CitiMortgage continued to report late payments on the debt and mounting interest and late fees.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of CitiMortgage in Plaintiff’s action alleging that CitiMortgage violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. Sections 1681, et seq., by failing to reasonably investigate Plaintiff's dispute concerning a debt that CitiMortgage reported to national credit reporting agencies and by providing inaccurate information to those agencies. The court held that Plaintiff has more than satisfied his burden to make a prima facie showing of inaccurate reporting by establishing as a matter of law that CitiMortgage’s reports were “patently incorrect.” The court further explained that the question is not whether the junior mortgage was entirely “extinguished” by Arizona law, or whether the debt continued to exist; the point is that vis-à-vis Plaintiff, no outstanding balance existed, because the statute abolished his personal liability.The court held that there is a genuine factual dispute about the reasonableness of CitiMortgage’s investigation, and thus left it to the jury to determine the reasonableness. The court wrote that the issue of causation is quintessentially one for the jury and not for this court to decide on appeal. View "MARSHALL GROSS V. CITIMORTGAGE, INC." on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law
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Petitioner was convicted of first-degree murder of an Arizona police officer after a jury trial in 1997 and was sentenced to death by the state court. Petitioner moved in the district court under Rule 60(b)(6) for additional discovery to develop (1) a potential claim under Napue v. Illinois, 360 U.S. 264 (1959), that the prosecution knowingly elicited false testimony; and (2) a potential claim of actual innocence after a witness’s apparent recantation of key guilt-phase testimony. Petitioner relied on Mitchell v. United States, 958 F.3d 775 (9th Cir. 2020), for two propositions.   The Ninth Circuit denied Petitioner’s request for a certificate of appealability (COA) that would allow Petitioner to challenge the district court’s denial of his Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(6) motion for relief from final judgment. The court agreed with Petitioner that, under Mitchell, the district court had jurisdiction to consider his Rule 60(b)(6) motion for discovery to develop potential claims, and correctly declined to dismiss the motion as a disguised second or successive petition.   Applying the factors set forth in Phelps v. Alameida, 569 F.3d 1120 (9th Cir. 2009), the court found that the holding in Mitchell, which did not disturb the underlying rules governing the discovery that Petitioner sought, did not constitute an extraordinary circumstance justifying relief from final judgment under Rule 60(b)(6). Because no reasonable jurist would disagree with the district court’s decision to deny the Rule 60(b)(6) motion, the court declined to grant Petitioner’s requested COA. View "ERNESTO MARTINEZ V. DAVID SHINN" on Justia Law

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Following entry of Defendant’s guilty plea and his two sentencing proceedings, the Supreme Court clarified in Rehaif v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 2191 (2019), that to be a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of Section 922(g)(1), a defendant must know that they belonged to the relevant category of persons barred from possessing a firearm.Defendant argued that the government’s failure to list the knowledge of status element in his indictment should invalidate his conviction. The Ninth Circuit held that Defendant, who had been incarcerated for more than three years for his prior felony convictions and pointed to nothing in the record suggesting that he would have entered a different plea but for the indictment’s deficiency, failed to satisfy the third and fourth prongs of plain error review.Defendant further argued that the district court’s failure to advise him of the knowledge of status element during the plea colloquy rendered his guilty plea unconstitutionally involuntary and unknowing. The court concluded that there was no plain error requiring reversal, where none of Defendant’s confusion was related to the elements of the Section 922(g)(1) charge, the court already determined in a prior memorandum disposition that his plea was constitutionally valid despite any confusion, and the record contains indisputable evidence of prior felony convictions.Finally, the court held that Defendant’s predicate conviction is not sufficient to trigger the enhancement. The court deferred to the government’s concession, declining to decide whether Bautista controls. View "USA V. TYRONE DAVIS" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Plaintiff brought a shareholder derivative action alleging that The Gap, Inc. and its directors (collectively, Gap) failed to create meaningful diversity within company leadership roles, and that Gap made false statements to shareholders in its proxy statements about the level of diversity it had achieved. Gap’s bylaws contain a forum-selection clause that requires “any derivative action or proceeding brought on behalf of the Corporation” to be adjudicated in the Delaware Court of Chancery.Notwithstanding the forum-selection clause, Plaintiff brought her derivative lawsuit in a federal district court in California, alleging a violation of Section 14(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. Section 78n(a), along with various state law claims. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint based on its application of the doctrine of forum non conveniens, holding that she was bound by the forum selection clause.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal and held that Plaintiff did not meet her burden to show that enforcing Gap’s forum-selection clause contravenes federal public policy, rejecting as unavailing the evidence Plaintiff identified as supporting her position: the Securities Exchange Act’s anti-waiver provision and exclusive federal jurisdiction provision, Delaware state case law, and a federal court’s obligation to hear cases within its jurisdiction. The court, therefore, concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the complaint. View "NOELLE LEE V. ROBERT FISHER" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs in this action are minors who resided in San Diego County. Plaintiffs sued the County and County social workers for allegedly violating their Fourth Amendment rights by interviewing them without a court order or parental consent during the course of a child-abuse investigation. During that investigation, the County created and maintained files related to the alleged child abuse. Attorneys defending the County reviewed the child-abuse investigation file without first obtaining a court order. Plaintiffs then brought an action, alleging that the attorneys who accessed the file violated their right to privacy.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the action. The court held that, contrary to Plaintiffs’ argument, Gonzalez v. Spencer, 336 F.3d 832 (9th Cir. 2003) (per curiam), abrogated on other grounds by Filarsky v. Delia, 566 U.S. 377 (2012) does not stand for the proposition that a right to privacy necessarily attaches to the type of records at issue here. Further, even if Plaintiffs were entitled to informational privacy, the balancing test recognized in Seaton v. Mayberg, 610 F.3d 530 (9th Cir. 2010), showed the County’s interest in defending this litigation outweighed Plaintiffs’ asserted privacy interest. Even assuming that the social workers’ records comprised sensitive medical and psychological records, there was no constitutional violation because the County’s need to access the records was high. Plaintiffs initiated that need, and the professional obligations that lawyers owe their clients minimized the risk of misuse, harassment, or embarrassment. Thus, the district court properly dismissed Plaintiffs’ Monell claim. View "A.C. V. ERICA CORTEZ" on Justia Law

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The Transgender Law Center (collectively “TLC”), acting on behalf of the family and estate of an asylum-seeker, submitted two FOIA requests. The first FOIA request was directed to the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), and the second was directed to the Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. TLC filed suit in district court seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The district court granted TLC’s request for declaratory judgment holding that the agencies had failed to timely respond to their FOIA requests, but ruled for the agencies in all other respects.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s partial summary judgment; vacated the district court’s mootness determination; and remanded. The court held that the government’s belated disclosure was not “adequate” under FOIA. The court reasoned that the Government failed to carry its burden because the agencies did not appropriately respond to positive indications of overlooked materials provided by TLC and did not hew to their duty to follow obvious leads.The court further held that the agencies’ Vaughn indices were filled with boilerplate or conclusory statements; and this high-level, summary approach resulted in an unacceptable lack of specificity and tailoring that undermined TLC’s ability to contest the agencies’ withholdings. The court also held that the Government failed to come forward with clear, precise, and easily reviewable explanations for why the information was not segregable. View "TRANSGENDER LAW CENTER V. ICE" on Justia Law

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The Center for Investigative Reporting (“CIR”) brought a FOIA action against the Department of Labor (“DOL”), claiming that the DOL was improperly withholding workforce demographic data that Synopsys and other companies had submitted pursuant to federal-contractor reporting regulations. The district court granted CIR summary judgment. Seven weeks after that judgment was entered, and eleven days before the deadline to file a notice of appeal, Synopsys moved to intervene as a defendant. About five months after the deadline for filing a notice of appeal of the judgment, the district court denied Synopsys’ motion to intervene but granted their limited intervention for the sole purpose of appealing the judgment. Synopsys then filed a notice of appeal from the judgment.   The Ninth Circuit dismissed for lack of appellate jurisdiction prospective intervenor Synopsys’ untimely appeal of the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of CIR and dismissed as moot CIR’s and DOL’s cross-appeals. The court reasoned that although generally, only parties may appeal an adverse judgment, it does not follow that the deadline to file a notice of appeal for prospective intervenors is different from the deadline for parties. Further, Synopsys’s motion to intervene could not be construed as a notice of appeal because that motion did not satisfy the requirements of Fed. R. App. P. 3. The court also held that because Synopsys did not file a timely notice of appeal of the judgment in favor of CIR, the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the merits of that appeal. View "SYNOPSYS, INC. V. USDOL" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure