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

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Plaintiff, individually and on behalf of her minor daughter, alleged that Defendant, an employee of the Kauai County Police Department, deceived the Hawaii family court when she assisted the non-custodial father of Plaintiff’s daughter in obtaining a temporary restraining order that prevented Plaintiff, the sole custodial parent, from having any contact with her daughter. Plaintiff further alleged that Defendant conspired with the noncustodial father and state officials to extract the daughter from her school and place her in the father’s custody without Plaintiff’s knowledge or court order.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to dismiss, on the basis of qualified immunity, an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 alleging violations of Plaintiff’s right to familial association.The court stated that although Defendant may ultimately prove that Plaintiff’s allegations were false, at the pleading stage, the court must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true. When the alleged events in this case occurred, the law clearly established that a parent and child’s constitutional right to familial association is violated when a state official interferes with a parent’s lawful custody through judicial deception. The law also clearly established that a state official cannot remove a child from a lawful custodial parent without consent or court order unless the official has reasonable cause to believe that the child is in imminent danger and, even then, the scope and duration of the removal must be reasonable. Here, Plaintiff plausibly alleged that Defendant violated these rights by deliberately failing to inform the family court of a custody order. View "HANNAH DAVID V. GINA KAULUKUKUI" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a native and citizen of El Salvador, sought a petition for review with the Ninth Circuit after the Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA")dismissed his appeal under 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1229b(a). Previoulsy, Petitioner had been granted special rule cancellation of removal and adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident under section 203 of the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (“NACARA”). However, in 2015, removal proceedings were initiated against Petitioner after he was convicted of a state-law drug offense. The Immigration Judge found Petitioner was removable because he was ineligible for a second grant of cancellation of a removal under 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1229b(a).The Ninth Circuit affirmed the BIA, finding that a plain reading of the relevant statutory law supports the Immigration Judge's and the BIA's position. View "MANUEL HERNANDEZ V. MERRICK GARLAND" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s summary judgment for the County of San Bernardino and County investigator in an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 alleging Defendants violated Plaintiff’s constitutional rights during his murder investigation and prosecution, resulting in his erroneous conviction for the murder of his wife.   Plaintiff alleged that County of San Bernardino investigator fabricated evidence against him by planting. Plaintiff further alleged claims for municipal liability pursuant to Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978), against the County, arguing that the County’s customs and policies, and the absence of better customs and policies, resulted in the alleged constitutional violations.   The court held that because the district court erred by failing to find potential civil rights liability as to the investigator, its derivative ruling as to potential County liability under Monell should also be reversed. The court further held that the district court erred by not addressing whether Plaintiff could show that he suffered a constitutional injury by the County unrelated to the individual officers’ liability under Section 1983.   Plaintiff put forth at least two Monell claims that were not premised on a theory of liability: (1) that the County’s policy of prohibiting coroner investigators from entering a crime scene until cleared by homicide detectives resulted in the loss of exculpatory time-of-death evidence, and (2) that the lack of any training or policy on Brady by the Sheriff’s Department resulted in critical exculpatory evidence being withheld by the prosecution. The court, therefore, remanded to the district court to consider these claims. View "WILLIAM RICHARDS V. COUNTY OF SAN BERNARDINO" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Rights
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Petitioner asserted that, if he were removed to his native country of El Salvador, he would be identified as a gang member based on his gang tattoos and face a significant risk of being killed or tortured. Relying on Matter of J-F-F-, 23 I. & N. Dec. 912 (A.G. 2006), the Board of Immigration Appeals (“Board”) concluded that Petitioner failed to demonstrate a clear probability of torture because he did not establish that every step in a hypothetical chain of events was more likely than not to happen.   The Ninth Circuit, in granting Petitioner’s petition for review the court held that the Board erred by failing to adequately consider Petitioner’s aggregate risk of torture from multiple sources, and erred in rejecting Petitioner’s expert’s credible testimony solely because it was not corroborated by additional country conditions evidence.   The court concluded that the Board erred by failing to assess Petitioner’s aggregate risk of torture. Discussing Cole v. Holder, 659 F.3d 762 (9th Cir. 2011), the court explained that when an applicant posits multiple theories for why he might be tortured, the relevant inquiry is whether the total probability that the applicant will be tortured exceeds 50 percent.   Here, the Board considered Petitioner’s two separate theories of torture as a single hypothetical chain of events and denied his CAT claim because the probability of that hypothetical chain occurring was not high enough. The court concluded that in doing so, the Board misapplied Cole and Matter of J-F-F-.  By requiring Petitioner to show that every step in two hypothetical chains was more likely than not to occur, the Board increased his CAT burden. View "MIGUEL VELASQUEZ-SAMAYOA V. MERRICK GARLAND" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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A 2014 act of Congress requires the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to convey Oak Flat to a mining company. In exchange, the mining company was to convey a series of nearby plots of land to the United States (the “Land Exchange”).Plaintiff, a nonprofit organization advocating on behalf of Apache American Indians, sued the government, alleging that the Land Exchange violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”), the Free Exercise Clause, and the 1852 Treaty of Santa Fe. The district court denied Plaintiff's request for a preliminary injunction and Plainitff appealed.On appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that, although the government's action was burdensome, it did not create a "substantial burden" under the RFRA. Next, the court held that the Plaintiff's Free-Exercise claim failed because the Land Exchange was neutral in that its object was not to infringe upon the Apache’s religious practices. Finally, the court held that Plaintiff could not establish that the Treaty of Santa Fe imposes an enforceable trust obligation on the United States. Thus, the court affirmed the district court’s order denying Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction. View "APACHE STRONGHOLD V. USA" on Justia Law

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Several public-sector employees filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 seeking to recover any agency fees taken from their paychecks by the Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers Association and Santa Clara County. Specifically, Plaintiffs sought a refund for fees paid before the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Janus v. Am. Fed’n of State, Cnty., & Mun. Emps., Council 31, 138 S. Ct. 2448 (2018) (prohibiting public-sector unions from collecting compulsory agency fees).In the district court, Defendants successfully moved for summary judgment, claiming they were entitled to a good-faith defense because their actions were expressly authorized by then-applicable United States Supreme Court law and state law. Plaintiffs appealed.On appeal, Plaintiffs acknowledge that Danielson v. Inslee, 945 F.3d 1096 (9th Cir. 2019) precludes their claim against the Union. The Ninth Circuit held that the rule announced in Danielson also applies to municipalities because "precedent recognizes that municipalities are generally liable in the same way as private corporations in sec. 1983 actions." Thus, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of Plaintiffs' claim against both the Union and the County. View "SEAN ALLEN V. SANTA CLARA CNTY CORR. POA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was raped by a fellow student two weeks after starting at the University of Washington. Plaintiff later learned that two other students had reported the same individual for unwanted sexual advances and contact. Plaintiff filed Title IX and common-law negligence claims against the University in the district court, which granted summary judgment to the University after finding that the University did not owe Plaintiff a duty of care. Plaintiff appealed.The Ninth Circuit certified two questions to the Washington Supreme Court:1. Does Washington law recognize a special relationship between a university and its students giving rise to a duty to use reasonable care to protect students from foreseeable injury at the hands of other students?2. If the answer to question 1 is yes, what is the measure and scope of that duty? View "MADELEINE BARLOW V. STATE OF WASHINGTON" on Justia Law

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The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (“FIFRA”) require the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) to regulate pesticides, which are defined to include herbicides. EPA issued an Interim Registration Review Decision for glyphosate (“Interim Decision”), which: (1) announced that its earlier draft human-health and ecological risk assessments were final; (2) contained a brief cost-benefit analysis concluding that the benefits outweighed the potential ecological risks when glyphosate is used according to label directions; and (3) laid out various mitigation measures, in the form of label changes for glyphosate products, to reduce the potential ecological risks. EPA still planned, among other things, to complete an assessment of glyphosate’s effect on endangered and threatened species, pursuant to the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”).   Petitioners filed for review of the Interim Decision: one led by Rural Coalition and the other by Natural Resources Defense Council (“NRDC”). The Ninth Circuit (1) granted in part and denied in part a petition for review challenging the EPA’s decision determining that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the weedkiller Roundup, does not pose “any unreasonable risk to man or the environment”; and (2) remanded to the agency for further consideration.   The court held that EPA’s conclusion was in tension with parts of the agency’s own analysis and with the Guidelines for Carcinogen Risk Assessment (“Cancer Guidelines”), which EPA purported to follow. Further, that EPA’s registration review decision under FIFRA was an “action” that triggered the ESA’s consultation requirement; EPA actively exercised its regulatory power, completing an assessment of glyphosate’s risks under FIFRA and delineating what constituted acceptable glyphosate use under the statute’s safety standard. View "NRDC V. USEPA" on Justia Law

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Respondent, was ordered suspended from practice before this court based on the State Bar of California’s suspension following his federal conviction. He was permitted to file a petition for reinstatement if he were reinstated to practice law in California. Respondent was reinstated to practice law in California, but the Ninth Circuit held that he failed to meet his burden to justify reinstatement before this court because he was still disbarred from practice before the New York State Bar. The court held that an attorney cannot justify reinstatement while he or she is currently suspended or disbarred in another jurisdiction, provided that the other jurisdiction had independent, nonreciprocal reasons for imposing discipline. Here, New York independently determined that Respondent’s federal felony conviction constituted grounds for automatic disbarment under its precedent. View "In re: STEPHEN YAGMAN" on Justia Law

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Petitioner asserted that changed circumstances in his native Jamaica— a spike in violence against members of the People’s National Party—justified his untimely second motion to reopen. Because an Immigration Judge in an earlier proceeding found Petitioner not credible and questioned his actual identity, the Board of Immigration Appeals (“Board”) ruled that the new evidence of political violence did not matter because Petitioner may not even be a member of the People’s National Party.   The Ninth Circuit denied in part and dismissed in part holding that the Board may rely on a previous adverse credibility determination to deny a motion to reopen if that earlier finding still factually undermines the petitioner’s new argument. The court concluded that the Board did not abuse its discretion in denying Petitioner’s motion to reopen. The court explained that to prevail on a motion to reopen alleging changed country conditions where the persecution claim was previously denied on adverse credibility grounds, the respondent must either overcome the prior credibility determination or show that the new claim is independent of the evidence that was found to be not credible.   Here, Petitioner did not challenge the adverse credibility finding but instead argued that his new evidence was independent of the evidence that was found to be not credible. The court rejected that argument. The court explained that the IJ had previously found Petitioner’s testimony about his identity not credible, thus undermining his entire claim. Moreover, Petitioner’s claims remained the same throughout his proceedings. The court concluded that the basis of Petitioner's motion to reopen therefore remained intertwined with his credibility problem. View "GARFIELD GREENWOOD V. MERRICK GARLAND" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law