Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries
USA V. KLENSCH
In the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the defendant, William Klensch, appealed his sentence after pleading guilty to one count of transportation of an illegal alien. Klensch argued that he was entitled to a minor-role reduction in his sentencing, contending that he had no knowledge of the full smuggling operation and was paid only a small sum for his part. The district court denied this reduction because Klensch was the one physically transporting the individuals. However, the appellate court ruled that the district court did not apply the correct legal standard in denying a minor-role reduction, as the court did not conduct a proper comparative analysis of Klensch’s conduct. The court noted that the district court's explanation did not indicate it considered the factors required for a minor-role reduction. As such, the appellate court vacated Klensch’s sentence and remanded for resentencing in regard to the minor-role reduction.Additionally, Klensch argued that the district court erred by imposing a dangerous-weapons enhancement because he did not possess the stun gun in his car in connection with his illegal smuggling activity. The appellate court rejected this argument, as Klensch acknowledged having the stun gun within his reach while transporting the two men. The court ruled that even if the district court applied an incorrect standard of proof by not requiring the Government to prove a nexus to the stun gun, this error was harmless. As such, the district court's imposition of the dangerous-weapons enhancement was affirmed. View "USA V. KLENSCH" on Justia Law
MILLER V. CITY OF SCOTTSDALE
In this case, Randon L. Miller, the owner of Sushi Brokers, LLC, a sushi restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona, was cited and arrested by Scottsdale Police Officer Christian Bailey for violating a COVID-19 emergency executive order prohibiting on-site dining issued by the Arizona Governor. The charges were later dismissed. Miller subsequently brought a lawsuit against Officer Bailey and the City of Scottsdale, alleging constitutional violations including retaliatory arrest in violation of the First Amendment, and false arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the district court’s summary judgment in favor of Officer Bailey and the City of Scottsdale. The court held that Officer Bailey had probable cause to arrest Miller under Arizona Revised Statutes § 26-317 for violating the emergency order, given that officers had observed on-site dining at the restaurant and there were prior calls reporting violations. The court also rejected Miller’s argument that the warnings he received prior to the enactment of an executive order requiring notice and an opportunity to comply before any enforcement action did not qualify. The court found that Miller had sufficient notice and opportunity to comply given the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. View "MILLER V. CITY OF SCOTTSDALE" on Justia Law
USA V. EHMER
In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the convictions and sentences of four defendants who were involved in the January 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon. The defendants were charged with various offenses including conspiracy to impede officers of the United States, possession of firearms in a federal facility, and depredation of government property. The court rejected the defendants' contentions that the district court erred in the jury selection process and that they were entitled to a jury trial for the misdemeanor offenses charged. The court also held that the evidence was sufficient to support the defendants' misdemeanor and felony convictions. Furthermore, the court rejected the defendants' arguments that their Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial was violated. The court remanded the case back to the district court to resolve certain issues related to the sealing and discovery of materials. The court's ruling is significant as it addressed the rights of the accused in the context of jury selection and the conduct of the trial. View "USA V. EHMER" on Justia Law
Posted in: Criminal Law
DOMINGUEZ V. BETTER MORTGAGE CORPORATION
In this case, the plaintiff, Lorenzo Dominguez, who was a former employee of Better Mortgage Corporation, alleged that the company violated federal and state wage-and-hour laws, primarily by failing to pay overtime to him and other mortgage underwriters. Upon being sued, Better Mortgage attempted to reduce the size of the potential class and collective action by persuading employees to agree not to join any collective or class action and to settle their claims individually. The district court found that Better Mortgage's communications were misleading and coercive. As such, the court nullified the new employment agreements, release agreements, and ordered the company to communicate with current and former employees about wage-and-hour issues only in writing and with prior approval.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order imposing a communication restriction on Better Mortgage, considering the company's appeal timely due to a motion to reconsider the restriction, thus tolling the time to file the notice of appeal. The appellate court held that it had jurisdiction to review the communication restriction and found it both justified and tailored to the situation created by the employer’s misleading and coercive communications. However, the appellate court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction the employer’s appeal from the district court’s order nullifying agreements between the employer and current and former employees. The appellate court found that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the merits of the nullification order because the issue was raised in an interlocutory appeal and did not fit any exception that would allow for review. View "DOMINGUEZ V. BETTER MORTGAGE CORPORATION" on Justia Law
EARTH ISLAND INSTITUTE V. USFS
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's summary judgment in favor of the U.S. Forest Service in a case brought by Earth Island Institute and the Center for Biological Diversity. The plaintiffs challenged the Forest Service's approval of the Three Creeks Project, which aimed to restore the Inyo National Forest to its pre-European settlement conditions by thinning excess trees, removing excess fire fuel, and using prescribed fire. The plaintiffs argued that the Forest Service failed to adequately consider alternatives to logging, failed to solicit public comments following its 2018 Environmental Assessment, and failed to supplement its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis following a 2020 bark-beetle outbreak. The court found that the plaintiff had not shown that the Service's approval of the Three Creeks Project was arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise unlawful. The Service considered a reasonable range of alternatives, offered the public a reasonable opportunity to comment, and was not required to conduct further NEPA analysis following the bark-beetle outbreak. The court also held that the plaintiff had not properly raised its proposed alternatives during the comment period, and therefore it failed to exhaust its argument. Additionally, the court did not consider the plaintiff's claim regarding the Inyo Craters Project since it was not included in its amended complaint. View "EARTH ISLAND INSTITUTE V. USFS" on Justia Law
KIM V. TINDER, INC.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court's approval of a class action settlement between Tinder and Lisa Kim, a user of the dating app, ruling that Kim was not an adequate class representative. This class action lawsuit against Tinder was over its former age-based pricing model. Kim had agreed to arbitration, unlike over 7,000 potential members of the class, creating a fundamental conflict of interest that violated Rule 23(a)(4). The court found that Kim had a strong interest in settling her claim as she had no chance of going to trial, unlike the other members. The court also noted that Kim failed to vigorously litigate the case on behalf of the class, with her approach to opposing Tinder’s motion to compel arbitration not suggesting vigor. The court remanded the case for consideration of Kim's individual action against Tinder. View "KIM V. TINDER, INC." on Justia Law
BIELSKI V. COINBASE, INC.
Abraham Bielski, a user of cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, brought a lawsuit alleging that Coinbase failed to investigate the unauthorized transfer of funds from his account. Coinbase attempted to compel arbitration based on an arbitration agreement in its User Agreement, which included a delegation provision stating that any dispute arising out of the agreement, including enforceability, should be decided by an arbitrator, not a court. Bielski argued that the delegation provision and arbitration agreement were unenforceable due to unconscionability. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that a party must specifically reference and challenge the delegation provision for a court to consider it, and that a party may use the same arguments to challenge both the delegation provision and the arbitration agreement, as long as they articulate why the argument invalidates each specific provision. The court also held that when evaluating whether a delegation provision is unconscionable under California law, a court must interpret the provision in the context of the entire agreement, which may require examining the underlying agreement. After analyzing the Coinbase delegation provision in context, the court determined that it was not unconscionable. The court reversed the district court’s order denying Coinbase’s motion to compel arbitration. View "BIELSKI V. COINBASE, INC." on Justia Law
CHARBONEAU V. DAVIS
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the second federal habeas corpus petition by Jaime Dean Charboneau, who sought to overturn his conviction for the 1984 shooting death of his ex-wife in Idaho. Charboneau alleged that Idaho officials violated their obligations under Brady v. Maryland by encouraging his ex-wife's daughter, Tira, to provide false statements and testimony regarding her mother’s death and to dispose of potentially exculpatory evidence. In support of these allegations, Charboneau relied on a letter written by Tira in 1989. However, the court held that Charboneau failed to meet the threshold requirement of showing actual innocence as required by 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(2)(B)(ii) for consideration of second or successive federal habeas petitions. The court held that, even if the letter was genuine, the statements in the letter, viewed in light of all the evidence, were not sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that no reasonable factfinder would have convicted Charboneau of first-degree murder. The court concluded that Charboneau’s new materials did not suffice to make the requisite showing of actual innocence. Therefore, the district court properly dismissed his petition without reaching the merits of his Brady claim. View "CHARBONEAU V. DAVIS" on Justia Law
CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY V. DEB HAALAND
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit vacated a Biological Opinion (BiOp) by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service) and remanded the case for further consideration. The case involved a dispute over the use of water from the San Pedro River Basin in Arizona by the U.S. Army's Fort Huachuca. The Army uses water from the basin, which is also home to several species protected under the Endangered Species Act. To compensate for the water use, the federal government proposed a "conservation easement" that would limit the use of nearby land for agricultural purposes, therefore saving water and protecting the wildlife that depend on the basin. The plaintiffs, environmental organizations, argued that the BiOp lacked evidence to support the claim of water savings from the easement. The Ninth Circuit agreed, stating that the government's determination that the easement would not jeopardize wildlife was arbitrary and capricious due to the lack of evidence supporting the claimed water savings. The court stated that the government must show that the benefit from the conservation easement would be "reasonably certain" under the relevant regulations. The court also held that the government's conclusion that reduced flow in the Babocomari River, a tributary of the San Pedro River, would not jeopardize the northern Mexican gartersnake was not arbitrary and capricious. View "CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY V. DEB HAALAND" on Justia Law
AMALGAMATED BANK V. FACEBOOK, INC.
In this case, the plaintiffs, who are shareholders of Facebook, Inc., brought a securities fraud action against the company and its executives, alleging that they made materially misleading statements and omissions about the risk of improper access to Facebook users' data, Facebook's internal investigation into the actions of Cambridge Analytica, and the control Facebook users have over their data. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the District Court for the Northern District of California.The Circuit Court held that the shareholders adequately pleaded falsity as to the challenged risk statements in Facebook's 2016 Form 10-K. The court held that these statements were materially misleading because Facebook knew at the time of filing that the risk of improper third-party misuse of Facebook users' data was not hypothetical, but had already occurred.As to the statements regarding Facebook's investigation into Cambridge Analytica, the court affirmed the district court's decision, holding that the shareholders failed to plead scienter, or intent to defraud.Lastly, the court held that the shareholders adequately pleaded loss causation as to the statements assuring users that they controlled their data on the platform. The court found that the shareholders had adequately pleaded that the March 2018 revelation about Cambridge Analytica and the June 2018 revelation about Facebook's whitelisting policy were the first times Facebook investors were alerted that Facebook users did not have complete control over their own data, causing significant stock price drops.The case was remanded to the district court for further proceedings. View "AMALGAMATED BANK V. FACEBOOK, INC." on Justia Law