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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' claim that their insurer, Blue Shield, violated the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The MLR is the ratio between what an insurer pays out in claims for medical services and the revenue it takes in. The panel held that there was no basis in the language, history, intent or spirit of the ACA to narrow the MLR by excluding payments for services rendered by out-of-network physicians. In this case, the MLR was properly calculated under federal law by including the settlement reimbursements for medical services by nonnetwork providers. Therefore, the district court correctly recognized the services were covered by the plan and the payments were made. View "Morris v. California Physicians' Service" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Salvation Army, in an employment discrimination action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The panel held that the religious organization exemption (ROE) applied to the Salvation Army; the ROE reached claims for retaliation and hostile work environment; and the ROE barred plaintiff's claims because the ROE was nonjurisdictional and subject to procedural forfeiture, and may be first raised at summary judgment absent prejudice. Absent prejudice resulting from the failure to timely raise the defense, the panel held that the Salvation Army permissibly invoked the ROE at summary judgment and it foreclosed plaintiff's Title VII claims. The panel also held that plaintiff failed to make out a claim under the ADA because the Salvation Army was under no obligation to engage in an interactive process in the absence of a disability. In this case, after plaintiff's clearance for work, she failed to show that she was disabled. View "Garcia v. Salvation Army" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for bank robbery and denied his motions to suppress evidence. The panel held that the district court correctly held that the search of defendant's trunk was a lawful parole search where defendant's uncontested control over the car was sufficient to permit a warrantless search of its trunk and, in any event, his conduct also illustrated a sufficiently close nexus to the trunk itself where officers observed him putting things inside the trunk. The panel also held that the warrantless placement of a GPS tracker on the car of defendant, a parolee, did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Furthermore, cell site location information (CSLI) acquired before Carpenter v. United States, 138 S. Ct. 2206 (2018), was admissible under the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule so long as the government satisfied the Stored Communications Act's then-lawful requirements. In this case, the government reasonably relied on the Act when it obtained defendant's CSLI information. Therefore, the panel affirmed the district court's application of the Fourth Amendment's good faith exception. View "United States v. Korte" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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VHT filed a copyright infringement suit against Zillow, alleging that Zillow's use of photos on its Listing Platform and Digs exceeded the scope of VHT's licenses to brokers, agents, and listing services who provided those photos to Zillow. The Ninth Circuit held that VHT failed to satisfy its burden of demonstrating that Zillow directly infringed the photos displayed on the Listing Platform, because VHT failed to provide evidence showing that Zillow exercised control; selected any material for upload, download, transmission, or storage; or instigated any copying, storage or distribution of the photos. The panel also held that VHT did not present substantial evidence that Zillow, through the Digs platform, directly infringed its display, reproduction, or adaption rights in 22,109 not displayed photos and 2,093 displayed but non-searchable photos. However, the fair use defense did not absolve Zillow of direct liability for 3,921 displayed, searchable Digs photos. The panel affirmed the district court's grant of Zillow's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict with respect to secondary infringement, both contributory and vicarious infringement. In regard to damages, the panel remanded to the district court for further proceedings as to whether the VHT photos remaining at issue were a compilation, and held that substantial evidence did not show Zillow was actually aware of its infringing activity nor was it reckless or willfully blind to its infringement. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "VHT, Inc. v. Zillow Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the school district in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging that the district violated a student and his parents' First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights when it expelled the student for one year. The student was expelled for creating a hit list of students that "must die." Under the circumstances of this case, including the nature of the hit list, the student's access to firearms, and the close proximity of the student's home to the high school, the decision to discipline the student for his off-campus speech did not violate his constitutional right to free speech. The panel clarified that courts considering whether a school district may constitutionally regulate off-campus speech must determine, based on the totality of the circumstances, whether the speech bears a sufficient nexus to the school. The panel stated that there is always a sufficient nexus between the speech and the school when the school district reasonably concludes that it faces a credible, identifiable threat of school violence. Furthermore, a student's lack of intent to convey his off-campus speech to any third party is relevant to an evaluation of whether the speech constitutes a credible threat, but is not dispositive. In this case, taken as a whole, the considerations that guide application of the nexus test supported the school district. Finally, the parents' claims alleging violations of their substantive due process failed because their fundamental right to choose the student's educational forum was not infringed by the school district's discipline of the student. View "McNeil v. Sherwood School District 88J" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor, sex trafficking of a minor, conspiracy to transport a minor to engage in prostitution, and transporting a minor to engage in prostitution. The panel held that the district court did not err by excluding testimony regarding one of the victim's prior prostitution activities. In this case, defendant cited no case holding that a defense such as the one he sought to present here triggers the exception in Federal Rule of Evidence 42. The panel saw no reason to depart from the persuasive authorities that held to the contrary. However, the panel held that the applicability of Rule 412 should not depend on the alleged victim's desire to testify. The panel held that, even if the district court misapplied Rule 412, any error would be harmless. Finally, the panel considered defendant's additional arguments that the government opened the door to testimony about the victim's activities and held that they lacked merit. View "United States v. Haines" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Under the facts of this case, McCoy v. Louisiana, 138 S. Ct. 1500 (2018), requires that a criminal defendant have the Sixth Amendment right to demand that counsel not present an insanity defense. Defendant was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to bodily harm, and assault with a deadly weapon resulting in serious bodily injury. The panel rejected defendant's contention that the government did not sufficiently allege and prove the jurisdiction element of 18 U.S.C. 113(a) (assault with a deadly weapon resulting in serious bodily injury). In light of McCoy, defendant's Sixth Amendment rights were violated when the trial judge permitted counsel to present an insanity defense against his clear objection; considering defendant's mental illness and "bizarre" behavior, including his diagnosis of schizophrenia, the district court did not abuse its discretion by appointing counsel; and defendant waived his Speedy Trial Act claim. View "United States v. Read" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a habeas petition as untimely under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA). The panel rejected petitioner's contention that he waited to file his second state habeas petition until the California Supreme Court decided People v. Elizalde, 351 P.3d 1010 (Cal. 2015). The court also rejected petitioner's alternative contention that his delay was reasonable because of the size of the state court record and complexity of the case. The panel held that the district court correctly concluded that petitioner was not entitled to statutory tolling for the period following the California Superior Court's denial of his first state habeas petition. Finally, the district court did not err by not ordering the state to respond and lodge the state-court record. View "Valdez v. Montgomery" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Forest Service in an action challenging travel management plans implemented by the Forest Service to permit limited motorized big game retrieval in three Ranger Districts of the Kaibab National Forest. The panel held that the Forest Service did not violate the plain terms of the Travel Management Rule absent authority requiring a strictly geographic interpretation of the words "limited" and "sparingly." Determining that plaintiffs had standing to bring their claims under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the panel held that the Forest Service took the requisite hard look and its determinations were neither arbitrary nor capricious. In this case, the Forest Service did not violate NEPA by declining to prepare environmental impact statements based on the plans' environmental impacts. Finally, the panel held that the Forest Service satisfied its procedural obligations under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) by conducting the required prefield work, consulting the appropriate entities, and reaching a determination consistent with the evidence before it. View "WildEarth Guardians v. Provencio" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of HomeAway.com and Airbnb Inc.'s (the Platforms) lawsuits challenging the City of Santa Monica’s Ordinance 2535, which imposes various obligations on companies that host online platforms for short-term vacation rentals. The panel held that the district court properly dismissed the Platforms' complaints for failure to state a claim and dismissed as moot the appeals from the denial of preliminary injunctive relief. The panel rejected the Platforms' claim that the ordinance was preempted by the Communications Decency Act (CDA) because it required them to monitor and remove third-party content, and held that neither express preemption nor obstacle preemption applied to the ordinance. The panel also rejected the Platforms' contention that the ordinance impermissibly infringed upon their First Amendment rights, and held that the ordinance regulated nonexpressive conduct, specifically booking transactions, not free speech. The panel held that, even assuming the ordinance would lead the Platforms to voluntarily remove some advertisements for lawful rentals, there would not be a severe limitation on the public's access to lawful advertisements, especially considering the existence of alternative channels like Craigslist. The panel reasoned that such an incidental burden was far from a substantial restriction on the freedom of speech. View "HomeAway.com v. City of Santa Monica" on Justia Law