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

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Appellant is the owner of a rental house and property in Livingston, Montana (“Property”). Appellant purchased a Landlord Protection Policy (“Policy”) from Safeco Insurance Company (“Safeco”) to insure the Property. In 2017, a water main line leading into the house broke, saturating the area around and under the property with water. A few months later, soft spots developed on the floor of the house. An investigation determined that the soil under the foundation had contracted as a result of the water damage, causing the foundation slab to sag. Safeco informed Appellant that the damage to the Property was not covered under the Policy based on its Earth Movement and Water Damage exclusions, which are listed as excluded perils in the Policy’s ACC clause. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of Safeco, finding that 1) the ACC clause barred coverage, 2) the Policy was not illusory or ambiguous, and 3) Safeco did not violate Montana’s Unfair Trade Practices Act when it denied Appellant coverage. Appellant appealed.   The Ninth Circuit certified the following questions to the Montana Supreme Court: 1) Whether an anti-concurrent cause (“ACC”) clause in an insurance policy applies to defeat insurance coverage despite Montana’s recognition of the efficient proximate cause (“EPC”) doctrine; and 2) Whether the relevant language in the general exclusions section on page 8 of the insurance policy in this case is an ACC clause that circumvents the application of the EPC doctrine. View "VIRGINIA WARD V. SAFECO INSURANCE COMPANY" on Justia Law

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Appellee worked at a Xerox Business Services, LLC (“XBS”) call center and was compensated according to a proprietary system of differential pay rates known as Achievement Based Compensation (“ABC”). Section 4 of the 2002 Dispute Resolution Plan ("DRP") required XBS and its agents to submit “all disputes” to binding arbitration for final and exclusive resolution. Appellee never signed the 2002 DRP. XBS issued an updated DRP (“2012 DRP”). XBS filed a motion to compel individual arbitration by 2,927 class members who had signed the 2002 DRP. The district court found that XBS had waived its right to compel arbitration.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order denying XBS's motion to compel. The panel noted that following Morgan v. Sundance, 142 S. Ct. 1708 (2022), the Ninth Circuit’s test for waiver of the right to compel arbitration consists of two elements: (1) knowledge of an existing right to compel arbitration; and (2) intentional acts inconsistent with that existing right. XBS challenged both prongs of the test. The panel held that XBS was correct that the district court could not compel nonparties to the case to arbitrate until after a class had been certified and the notice and opt-out period were complete. However, XBS failed to appreciate that waiver was a unilateral concept. The panel held that further undercutting XBS’s position was its own actions throughout the course of the litigation, in which XBS raised the 2012 DRP as to putative class members before the class had been certified and before it had the ability to move to enforce that agreement against them. View "TIFFANY HILL V. XEROX BUSINESS SERVICES, LLC, ET AL" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff is a physically challenged athlete and motivational speaker who started the Scott Rigsby Foundation and registered the domain name “scottrigsbyfoundation.org” with GoDaddy.com. When Plaintiff and the Foundation failed to pay the annual renewal fee in 2018, a third party registered the then-available domain name. Scottrigsbyfoundation.org became a gambling information site. Plaintiff sued GoDaddy.com, LLC and its corporate relatives (collectively, “GoDaddy”), for violations of the Lanham Act and various state laws and sought declaratory and injunctive relief, including the return of the domain name. The Northern District of Georgia transferred the case to the District of Arizona, which dismissed all claims.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal and dismissed Plaintiff’s and the Foundation’s appeal of an order transferring venue. The panel held that it lacked jurisdiction to review the District Court for the Northern District of Georgia’s order transferring the case to the District of Arizona because transfer orders are reviewable only in the circuit of the transferor district court. The panel held that Plaintiff could not satisfy the “use in commerce” requirement of the Lanham Act vis-à-vis GoDaddy because the “use” in question was being carried out by a third-party gambling site, not GoDaddy. As to the Lanham Act claim, the panel further held that Plaintiff could not overcome GoDaddy’s immunity under the Anti-cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act.  The panel held that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act shielded GoDaddy from liability for Plaintiff’s state-law claims for invasion of privacy, publicity, trade libel, libel, and violations of Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act. View "SCOTT RIGSBY, ET AL V. GODADDY INC., ET AL" on Justia Law

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Defendant who was not a SNAP beneficiary, was the owner and operator of Laguna Best Restaurant and Catering in Harmon, Guam. From 2015 to 2020, Defendantbought SNAP benefits from various individuals at a substantial discount, and then used those benefits to buy bulk food items for her restaurant. A grand jury indicted Defendant on two counts of the unauthorized use of SNAP benefits and one count of conspiracy to use, transfer, acquire, alter or possess SNAP benefits without authorization. Defendant pled guilty to the conspiracy count. Defendant stipulated to a two-level authentication feature enhancement under U.S.S.G. Section 2B1.1(b)(11)(A)(ii), which was based on her use of EBT cards and PINs to purchase food. The district court sentenced Defendant to ten months imprisonment and three years of supervised release. The court also ordered Defendant to pay $18,752.30 in restitution. Defendant appealed.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed. Considering principally whether the district court properly imposed a two-level sentencing enhancement under U.S.S.G. Section 2B1.1(b)(11)(A)(ii) for Defendant’s misuse of an “authentication feature,” the panel held that a personal identification number associated with a debit-type card is an “authentication feature” under the Sentencing Guidelines and the statutory provisions they reference. The panel held that Defendant did not demonstrate error in the district court’s order requiring her to pay $18,752.30 in restitution, and rejected Defendant’s argument that the government’s breach of the plea agreement constituted plain error. View "USA V. MARITES BARROGO" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Plaintiff protested outside the federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon. He alleged that federal officers unlawfully arrested protesters and used excessive force, including by indiscriminately using tear gas against peaceful protesters. Together with other protesters, he brought this action against Defendant, then the Director of the Federal Protective Service’s Northwest Region, under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). The district court denied Defendant’s motion to dismiss.   The Ninth Circuit reversed, concluding that no Bivens cause of action is available in this case. Applying the two-step analysis set forth in Egbert v. Boule, 142 S. Ct. 1793 (2022), the panel held that a Bivens remedy could not be extended to this case because it presented a new context, and at least two independent factors indicated that the court was less equipped than Congress to determine whether the damages action should proceed.   The court wrote this case differed from Bivens because (1) Defendant, a high-level supervisor, was of a different rank than the agents in Bivens; (2) Defendant’s alleged actions, which consisted of ordering or acquiescing in unconstitutional conduct, took place at a higher level of generality than the actions of the agents in Bivens; and (3) the legal mandate under which Defendant acted differed from that of the agents in Bivens in that Defendant was directing a multi-agency operation to protect federal property and was carrying out an executive order. Allowing a Bivens action to proceed in this case could expose sensitive communications between Defendant and other high-level executive officers. View "MARK PETTIBONE, ET AL V. GABRIEL RUSSELL, ET AL" on Justia Law

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The case at issue began in 1994 when Plaintiffs sued the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the Governor (collectively, “Defendants”), alleging widespread violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act (collectively “ADA”). The district court concluded that California prisons were failing to provide legally required accommodations, and this court affirmed. In these appeals, Defendants challenged two orders in which the district court found ongoing violations of disabled prisoners’ rights at the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility (“RJD”) and at five additional prisons (“Five Prisons”) resulting from Defendants’ failure to investigate adequately and discipline staff misconduct. The district court entered injunctions requiring Defendants to adopt additional remedial measures at the six prisons.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed one district court order, and affirmed in part and vacated in part a second district court order. The panel first rejected Defendants’ threshold contention that the district court did not have authority to issue either of the orders because the orders addressed misconduct that was “categorically distinct” from the allegations of wrongdoing in the Complaint. The panel determined that the new allegations in the motions at issue here were closely related to those in the operative Complaint and alleged misconduct of the same sort—that Defendants failed to accommodate class members’ disabilities, in direct contravention of the ADA. The panel affirmed the particular provisions of each order that address the prisons’ investigatory and disciplinary failures. The panel concluded that the district court abused its discretion by ordering Defendants to reform their pepper-spray policies at the Five Prisons and vacated that portion of the order. View "JOHN ARMSTRONG, ET AL V. GAVIN NEWSOM, ET AL" on Justia Law

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USERRA Section 4316(b)(1) requires employers to provide employees who take military leave with the same non-seniority rights and benefits as their colleagues who take comparable non-military leaves. Plaintiff, a commercial airline pilot and military reservist, filed a class action brought under USERRA. Plaintiff alleged that because Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air Industries (collectively, the “Airlines”) provide paid leave for non-military leaves, including jury duty, bereavement, and sick leave, the Airlines are also required to pay pilots during short-term military leaves. The district court disagreed, granting summary judgment to the Airlines and concluding as a matter of law that military leave is not comparable to any other form of leave offered by the Airlines.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment. The panel held that the district court erred in concluding that no reasonable jury could find military leave comparable to non-military leave. In reaching this conclusion, the district court erred by comparing all military leaves, rather than just the short-term military leaves at issue here, with the comparator non-military leaves. The district court also erred by disregarding factual disputes about each of the three factors in the comparability analysis: duration, purpose, and control. The panel held that because factual disputes existed, comparability was an issue for the jury.   The panel, therefore, reversed and remanded. It instructed that on remand, the district court should consider in the first instance the issue of whether “pay during leave” was a standalone benefit that the airlines provided under their collective bargaining agreements to any employee on leave. View "CASEY CLARKSON V. ALASKA AIRLINES, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law

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Escondido Union School District (“Escondido”) appealed the district court’s ruling that Escondido denied D.O. a Free Appropriate Public Education (“FAPE”) by failing to timely assess him for autism. An administrative law judge ruled that Escondido’s delay in assessing D.O. for autism was neither a procedural violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (“IDEA”) nor a denial of a free appropriate public education, or FAPE. The district court reversed the ALJ in part, holding that Escondido’s four-month delay in assessing D.O. constituted a procedural violation of IDEA and that this procedural violation denied D.O. a FAPE by depriving him of educational benefits.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s summary judgment ruling. The panel concluded that Escondido’s duty to propose an assessment in an area of suspected disability was triggered on December 5, 2016, when Escondido was put on notice that D.O. might be autistic by Dr. M.D., who had completed an assessment and report. The panel concluded that Escondido’s subsequent four-month delay in proposing an autism assessment plan did not violate any California statutory deadlines or any federal statutory timeline. The panel held that Escondido’s delay did not constitute a procedural violation of IDEA because Escondido did not fail to assess D.O., and some delay in complying with IDEA’s procedural requirement is permissible. The panel held that the district court erred in determining that Escondido’s delay was due, at least in part, to the subjective skepticism of its staff. The panel also held that even if the delay were a procedural violation of FAPE, it did not deny D.O. a FAPE. View "D.O. V. ESCONDIDO UNION SCHOOL DIST." on Justia Law

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Members of the Metlakatlan Indian Community (“the Community”) and their Tsimshian ancestors have inhabited the coast of the Pacific Northwest and fished in its waters. In 1891, Congress passed a statute (the “1891 Act”) recognizing the Community and establishing the Annette Islands Reserve as its reservation. In 2020, in response to Alaska’s attempt to subject the Metlakatlans to its limited entry program, the Community sued Alaskan officials in federal district court. The Community contended that the 1891 Act grants to the Community and its members the right to fish in the off-reservation waters where Community members have traditionally fished. The district court disagreed, holding that the Act provides no such right.   The Ninth Circuit filed (1) an order amending its opinion, denying a petition for panel rehearing, and denying a petition for rehearing en banc; and (2) an amended opinion reversing the district court’s dismissal of the Metlakatlan Indian Community’s suit against Alaskan officials. The panel applied the Indian canon of construction, which required it to construe the 1891 Act liberally in favor of the Community and to infer rights that supported the purpose of the reservation. At issue was the scope of that right. The panel concluded that a central purpose of the reservation, understood in light of the history of the Community, was that the Metlakatlans would continue to support themselves by fishing. The panel, therefore, held that the 1891 Act preserved for the Community and its members an implied right to non-exclusive off-reservation fishing for personal consumption and ceremonial purposes, as well as for commercial purposes. View "METLAKATLA INDIAN COMMUNITY V. MICHAEL DUNLEAVY, ET AL" on Justia Law

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One week after an armed robbery of a Sprint store in Los Angeles, Defendant was stopped and frisked by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). A handgun was recovered from the car and later introduced at Defendant’s trial as the weapon used in the Sprint store robbery. Defendant was convicted of Hobbs Act robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery and brandishing a firearm.   At issue on appeal is whether officers violated Defendant’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by exceeding the scope of their patdown search and seizing the car key, and, if a constitutional violation occurred, whether the handgun evidence was nevertheless admissible because Defendant’s flight from officers attenuated the discovery of the handgun.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed Defendant’s convictions for Hobbs Act robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery and a sentence enhancement under U.S.S.G. Section 3C1.1, reversed his conviction for brandishing a firearm, and remanded for a reduction of sentence or retrial on the Section 924(c) count. The court concluded that the handgun evidence was illegally obtained and should have been excluded at trial and that this error prejudiced Defendant as to the brandishing conviction but was harmless as to the convictions for Hobbs Act robbery and conspiracy. Based on the totality of the circumstances, the panel concluded that Defendant did not objectively demonstrate his intent to abandon the car key. The panel wrote that the exclusionary rule required suppression of the handgun evidence at Defendant’s trial unless an exception to the rule applies. View "USA V. TERRANCE BAKER" on Justia Law