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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order dismissing an action brought by the United States and the Walker River Paiute Tribe against the Walker River Irrigation District and others over water rights in the Walker River basin. In 2015, without briefing or argument on the issue, the district court sua sponte dismissed all of the Tribe's and the United States' counterclaims on res judicata or jurisdictional grounds. The panel held that the district court had continuing jurisdiction over the counterclaims and that it erred in dismissing the claims on res judicata or jurisdictional grounds without giving the parties an opportunity to brief the issue. On remand, the panel ordered the reassignment of this case to another district judge. View "United States v. Walker River Irrigation District" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit certified to the Supreme Court of Nevada the following question: Does the public trust doctrine apply to rights already adjudicated and settled under the doctrine of prior appropriation and, if so, to what extent? View "Mineral County v. Walker River Irrigation District" on Justia Law

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Farmers filed suit alleging injury to their water rights after the Nevada State Engineer and the California State Water Resources Control Board approved change applications for a voluntary water rights leasing program managed by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in the Walker River Basin. The Ninth Circuit principally held that the Decree court failed to defer to the findings and conclusions of the state agencies and, to the extent the Decree court entered its own findings, those findings were clear error. In this case, the Engineer properly found that a transfer to the Foundation limited to the consumption portion would avoid conflict and injury to other existing water rights, the findings were supported by substantial evidence, and the Engineer applied the correct legal rule. The panel also held that the export restriction of the Walker River Decree did not prohibit delivering water to Walker Lake because Walker Lake was part of the Walker River Basin. View "United States v. U.S. Board of Water Commissioners" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for an officer based on qualified immunity in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging excessive force. The panel held that the district court did not err by raising the issue of qualified immunity sua sponte and by addressing it on summary judgment. The panel also held that, in viewing the record in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the officer's use of deadly force was objectively reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. In this case, the officer could have reasonably feared that plaintiff had a gun and was turning to shoot him when the officer shot plaintiff following a traffic stop. View "Easley v. City of Riverside" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a devout Christian, alleged violations of his right to religious liberty under the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc-1, and the denial of due process. In this case, plaintiff committed a disciplinary violation and was terminated from his kitchen assignment job after he refused to work on a religious holiday. The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiff's two inmate letters did not exhaust his administrative remedies, but that he exhausted administrative remedies through the disciplinary process. The panel held that defendants did not consider plaintiff's request for accommodation and RLUIPA mandated consideration of the requested accommodation. Finally, in regard to the district court's dismissal of certain defendants at the screening stage under 28 U.S.C. 1915A, the panel held that plaintiff's complaint did not explain how the dismissed defendants violated his rights under the First Amendment or RLUIPA. Therefore, the panel reversed the district court's ruling that plaintiff failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies; affirmed the section 1915A screening decision; and remanded for consideration of the merits of plaintiff's First Amendment and RLUIPA claims. View "Fuqua v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of defendants' motion to dismiss claims under California's Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (anti-SLAPP) statute, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code 425.16. In this case, Planned Parenthood and others alleged that defendants used fraudulent means to enter their conferences and gain meetings with their staff for the purpose of creating false and misleading videos that were disseminated on the internet. The panel held that the district court did not err by reviewing defendants' motion using a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) standard. The district court did not err by denying defendants' anti-SLAPP motion challenging the legal sufficiency of plaintiffs' complaint, and did not err in declining to evaluate the factual sufficiency of the complaint at the pleading stage. View "Planned Parenthood Federation of America v. Center for Medical Progress" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment for MetLife in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) action. MetLife denied coverage because plaintiff's leg injury was complicated by his diabetes. The panel held, however, that plaintiff was entitled to coverage because his diabetes did not substantially cause his leg injury from an automobile accident nor did diabetes contribute to his injury. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Dowdy v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: ERISA

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed a juvenile defendant's life sentence without parole where the juvenile was convicted of felony murder and other crimes. The panel held that the district court did not err in resentencing defendant by first calculating and using the sentencing guideline range of life imprisonment; under Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), and Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S. Ct. 718 (2016), the district court was required to consider the hallmark features of youth before imposing a sentence of life without parole on a juvenile offender; and the district court took into account evidence of defendant's rehabilitation as part of its inquiry into whether defendant was a member of a class of permanently incorrigible juvenile offenders. View "United States v. Briones, Jr." on Justia Law

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18 U.S.C. 2113(e) does not contain a separate requirement that the defendant intend the killing which results from his bank robbery. Congress mandated an enhanced punishment for an individual who kills a person in the course of committing a bank robbery in section 2113(e) and the enhancement applies even when the bank robber accidentally kills someone. The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for bank robbery resulting in death, in violation of section 2113(e), holding that the means rea required was the mens rea necessary to commit the underlying bank robbery. View "United States v. McDuffy" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the denial of defendant's motion to suppress evidence found on his person and in the car he was driving. The panel held that defendant failed to show that the officers' decision to pull him over and to impound his car would have occurred in the absence of an impermissible reason. However, the panel held, in light of United States v. Orozco, 858 F.3d 1204 (9th Cir. 2017), that the officers' search and seizure of items from defendant's car could not be justified under the inventory-search doctrine where officers explicitly admitted that they seized items from the car to search for evidence of criminal activity. In this case, the government did not offer any justification for the seizure of the property other than the inventory-search doctrine, and thus the district court erred in denying the motion to suppress. View "United States v. Johnson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law