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

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in an action where defendant pleaded guilty to a single count contained in a superseding information charging him with conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of a child "in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1594(c) and 1591(a)(1), (b)(2)."The panel concluded that the inclusion of statutory references to both the conspiracy statute and the sections describing the object of the conspiracy does not transform the judgment into one that describes a conviction of the substantive crime. The judgment, in sum, cannot properly be read to suggest that defendant was convicted of more than one crime, nor can it properly be read to suggest that defendant stands convicted of the crime that was the object of the conspiracy. View "United States v. Warren" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for transporting a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2423(a) (Count 1) and traveling with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2423(b) (Count 2). The panel rejected defendant's evidentiary claims as meritless.The panel affirmed the sentence on Count 1, vacated the sentence on Count 2, and remanded for resentencing. The panel concluded that the district court properly applied the custodial enhancement. However, the Government concedes that the case should be remanded for resentencing on Count 2 because the sentence exceeded the statutory maximum. View "United States v. Halamek" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Plaintiff Donald Shooter's 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging that the Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, Javan Mesnard, and the Arizona Governor's Chief of Staff, Kirk Adams, wrongfully engineered Shooter's expulsion as a representative from the Arizona House. In early 2018, Shooter was expelled from the Arizona House by a 56-3 vote after a legislative investigation into sexual harassment allegations concluded that he had created a hostile work environment. After the cause of action was removed to federal court, the district court dismissed the federal claim and remanded the state-law claims back to state court.The panel agreed that Shooter's federal cause of action under section 1983 was properly dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Because the complaint's allegations do not raise a plausible inference of sex discrimination, the panel concluded that Shooter's equal protection claim based on such a theory was properly dismissed. Furthermore, Shooter's two distinct due process theories are barred by qualified immunity. In this case, Shooter has failed to demonstrate a clearly established right to any due process protections beyond those already afforded to him by the Arizona House of Representatives. The panel concluded that the district court correctly held that Mesnard and Adams were entitled to qualified immunity. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion in failing sua sponte to grant Shooter leave to amend. View "Shooter v. Arizona" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a 28 U.S.C. 2241 petition in which petitioner, a federal prisoner, sought to challenge his 2014 career offender sentence. Petitioner had previously filed a 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion in Ohio that was denied. Petitioner contends that, in light of intervening Supreme Court decisions, his previous convictions do not qualify him for career offender status. See Mathis v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 2243 (2016); Descamps v. United States, 570 U.S. 254 (2013).Generally, a federal prisoner who seeks to challenge the legality of confinement must utilize a section 2255 motion. Under the "escape hatch" provision of section 2255(e), a federal prisoner may file a section 2241 petition only when the prisoner makes a claim of actual innocence and has not had an unobstructed procedural shot at presenting that claim. The district court held that petitioner failed to meet either of these requirements.The panel agreed with the district court that petitioner has not established a claim of actual innocence. In this case, petitioner does not dispute the validity of the conviction or that he committed the drug and firearm crimes leading to his sentence. Rather, petitioner claims actual innocence in light of Allen v. Ives, 950 F.3d 1184 (9th Cir. 2020). The panel distinguished Allen from this case and held that petitioner cannot show that he was actually innocent of the career offender enhancement utilized during sentencing. View "Shepherd v. Unknown Party" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death in California state court, was granted habeas corpus relief on numerous claims under 28 U.S.C. 2254. The State appeals and petitioner cross-appeals the district court's denial of habeas corpus relief on his constitutional challenge to California's financial-gain special circumstance.The Ninth Circuit concluded that petitioner was deprived of effective assistance of counsel at the penalty phase by counsel's unprofessional failure to investigate and present mitigating evidence pertaining to petitioner's familial history and his mental health. The panel also concluded that petitioner has shown Strickland prejudice as a result of that deficient performance. Furthermore, the California Supreme Court's denial of petitioner's claim was an unreasonable application of Strickland and, thus, petitioner is entitled to relief under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act as to the sentence of death.The panel reversed the judgment of the district court granting the habeas petition as to petitioner's conviction, affirmed the judgment of the district court granting the petition as to petitioner's death sentence, affirmed the judgment of the district court denying the petition on petitioner's claims based on a financial-gain special circumstance, and remanded to the district court to enter an appropriate order. View "Noguera v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit withdrew its prior opinion and filed a new opinion concurrently with this order. The panel denied defendant's petition for rehearing en banc as moot.The panel reversed the district court's dismissal of an indictment charging defendant of illegal reentry after removal in violation of 8 U.S.C. 1326. The panel applied the majority's holding in its recently published opinion in United States v. Bastide-Hernandez, —F.3d —, 2021 WL 345581 (9th Cir. 2021), which held that the jurisdiction of the immigration court vests upon the filing of the Notice to Appear (NTA), even one that does not at the time inform the alien of the time, date, and location of the hearing.The panel concluded that defendant's argument is foreclosed by United States v. Palomar-Santiago, 141 S. Ct. 1615, 1622 (2021). Therefore, the panel held that defendant has failed to show that he can satisfy the section 1326(d) requirements based simply on the NTA's lack of date and time information, standing alone. Therefore, he is foreclosed from making that argument on remand. The panel explained that defendant may collaterally attack the underlying order on remand on other grounds, but only if he can meet all the requirements of section 1326(d). Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Gonzalez-Valencia" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order denying Petrochem's motion to dismiss plaintiff's claims that Petrochem violated California's wage and hour laws. Plaintiff alleged that Petrochem failed to provide adequate meal and rest periods to workers on oil platforms off the coast of California.The panel held that, under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, all law on the Outer Continental Shelf is federal, and state law is adopted only to the extent it is applicable and not inconsistent with federal law. The panel explained that, pursuant to Parker Drilling Mgmt. Servs. v. Newton, 139 S. Ct. 1881 (2019), there must be a gap in federal law before state law will apply on the Outer Continental Shelf. In this case, the panel concluded that the Fair Labor Standards Act addresses meal and rest periods, and thus there was no gap in the applicable federal law. View "Mauia v. Petrochem Insulation, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit filed an order amending its opinion, denying petitions for panel rehearing, and denying on behalf of the court petitions for rehearing en banc; and an amended opinion in which the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and vacated the district court's judgment in a putative class action, brought by a plaintiff class of California-based flight attendants who were employed by Virgin, alleging that Virgin violated California labor laws.As a preliminary matter, the panel held that the dormant Commerce Clause does not bar applying California law. The panel reversed the district court's summary judgment to plaintiffs on their claims for minimum wage and payment for all hours worked. The panel explained that Virgin's compensation scheme based on block time did not violate California law. The panel also held that Virgin was subject to the overtime requirements of Labor Code section 510. The panel affirmed the district court's summary judgment to plaintiffs on their rest and meal break claims, rejecting Virgin's contention that federal law preempted California's meal and rest break requirement in the aviation context because federal law occupied the field. Contrary to Virgin's characterization, the panel explained that the relevant regulations defined safety duties for a minimum number of flight attendants. The panel agreed with the district court, which held that airlines could comply with both the Federal Aviation Administration safety rules and California's meal and rest break requirements by staffing longer flights with additional flight attendants in order to allow for duty-free breaks.The panel also held that the meal and rest break requirements were not preempted under the Airline Deregulation Act. Applying Ward v. United Airlines, Inc., 466 P.3d 309, 321 (Cal. 2020), the panel affirmed the district court's summary judgment to plaintiffs on their wage statement claim. The panel also affirmed the district court's summary judgment to plaintiffs on their waiting time penalties claim; affirmed the district court's decision on class certification; reversed the district court's holding that Virgin was subject to heightened penalties for subsequent violations under California's Private Attorney General Act; vacated the attorneys' fees and costs award; and remanded. View "Bernstein v. Virgin America, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in an action brought by plaintiffs, alleging that the Secretary violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to consider the environmental impacts of various immigration programs and immigration-related policies. Plaintiffs, organizations and individuals, seek to reduce immigration into the United States because it causes population growth, which in turn, they claim, has a detrimental effect on the environment.In regard to Count I, which challenged DHS's 2015 Instruction Manual, the panel concluded that the Manual does not constitute final agency action subject to the court's review under section 704 of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Therefore, the district court properly dismissed this count.In regard to Count II, which asserted that DHS implemented eight programs that failed to comply with NEPA, the panel concluded that Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871 (1990), squarely foreclosed plaintiffs' request for judicial review of seven non-Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs. Therefore, the panel agreed with the district court that none of these programs are reviewable because they are not discrete agency actions.In regard to Counts II, where plaintiffs challenged DACA, as well as Counts III-V, which facially challenged categorical exclusions (CATEXs), the panel concluded that plaintiffs lack Article III standing. In this case, the panel rejected plaintiffs' enticement theory and "more settled population" theory; plaintiffs made no attempt to tie CATEX A3 to any particular action by DHS; plaintiffs offered no evidence showing that population growth was a predictable effect of the DSO and STEM Rules, as well as the AC21 Rule; plaintiffs failed to show injury-in-fact or causation concerning their challenge to the International Entrepreneur Rule; any cumulative effect analysis required by NEPA did not bear on whether plaintiffs had standing to challenge the rules; plaintiffs lacked Article III standing to challenge the sufficiency of the environmental assessments and findings of no significant impact issued in relation to President Obama's Response to the Influx of Unaccompanied Alien Children Across the Southwest border. View "Whitewater Draw Natural Resource Conservation District v. Mayorkas" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's new, longer sentence imposed after his successful 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion to set aside one of several counts on which he had been convicted. Defendant was convicted for multiple counts of conspiracy, harboring illegal aliens, and hostage taking, as well as one count of possession of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 924(c). The district court granted defendant's motion to vacate the section 924(c) conviction because hostage taking no longer qualified as a crime of violence in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson v. United States, 576 U.S. 591 (2015).The panel concluded that no presumption of vindictiveness applied because: first, the only reason a new sentencing occurred is that the district court itself granted defendant's motion under section 2255 to set aside his first sentence; and second, defendant's new sentence was imposed by a different judge than the judge who imposed his first sentence. The panel also concluded that the district court permissibly exercised its discretion and committed neither procedural nor substantive error in determining defendant's sentence. Finally, defendant did not otherwise demonstrate vindictiveness. View "United States v. Valdez-Lopez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law