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

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The case involves a putative class action brought by the plaintiff against Kimberly Clark Corp., alleging that the labeling of the defendant's baby wipes was misleading under California's false advertising laws. The plaintiff claimed that the terms "plant-based wipes" and "natural care®" on the front label, along with nature-themed imagery, suggested that the wipes contained only natural ingredients without chemical modifications. However, the wipes contained synthetic ingredients.The United States District Court for the Central District of California separated the product labels into two categories: those with an asterisk and a qualifying statement ("Asterisked Products") and those without ("Unasterisked Products"). The district court dismissed the plaintiff's claims, concluding that both categories were not misleading as a matter of law. The court reasoned that the asterisk and qualifying statement on the Asterisked Products clarified that the wipes were not entirely plant-based, and the back label's disclaimer about synthetic ingredients dispelled any potential misrepresentation for both categories.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reviewed the case. The court reversed the district court's dismissal of the plaintiff's claims regarding the Unasterisked Products, holding that the front label could plausibly mislead a reasonable consumer to believe the wipes contained only natural ingredients, precluding reliance on the back label at the pleadings stage. However, the court affirmed the dismissal of claims regarding the Asterisked Products, finding that the asterisk and qualifying statement, along with the back label, made it impossible for the plaintiff to prove that a reasonable consumer would be deceived. The court also rejected the defendant's argument that the complaint failed to meet the particularity requirements of Rule 9(b). The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with the court's opinion. View "WHITESIDE V. KIMBERLY CLARK CORP." on Justia Law

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Alexander Behrend, a Work Practice Apprentice (WPA) at the San Francisco Zen Center, filed an employment discrimination lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Behrend, who lived and worked at the Center, performed various tasks including meditation, cleaning, cooking, and maintenance. He argued that his role was not ministerial because it involved mostly menial work and did not include teaching or leading the faith.The United States District Court for the Northern District of California granted summary judgment in favor of the San Francisco Zen Center. The court found that Behrend's role fell within the First Amendment’s ministerial exception, which exempts religious organizations from certain employment laws in relation to their ministers. The court determined that Behrend’s duties, although menial, were integral to the Center’s religious mission and practice.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reviewed the case and affirmed the district court’s decision. The Ninth Circuit held that the ministerial exception applied to Behrend’s role as a WPA. The court emphasized that the exception is broad and includes roles that are essential to carrying out a religious organization’s mission, even if they do not involve teaching or leadership. The court concluded that Behrend’s work was a vital part of Zen training and practice, thus fitting within the ministerial exception. The court rejected Behrend’s argument that only those with key roles in preaching and transmitting the faith qualify for the exception, noting that precedent supports a broader application. The court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment, upholding the application of the ministerial exception. View "BEHREND V. SAN FRANCISCO ZEN CENTER, INC." on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs, including Palestinian NGOs, Gaza residents, and Palestinian-Americans, sought to enjoin the U.S. President and senior officials from providing military, diplomatic, and financial support to Israel in its operations in Gaza. They alleged that the U.S. violated its obligations under the Genocide Convention by being complicit in genocide through its support of Israel. The plaintiffs requested wide-ranging injunctive and declaratory relief to stop U.S. assistance to Israel and to influence Israel to cease its military actions in Gaza.The United States District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed the complaint, ruling that the claims raised non-justiciable political questions. The court found that the issues were fundamentally political and not suitable for judicial resolution, as they involved decisions constitutionally committed to the political branches of government.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal. The appellate court held that the plaintiffs' claims presented non-justiciable political questions under the political question doctrine. The court emphasized that decisions regarding military and diplomatic support to foreign nations are constitutionally committed to the executive and legislative branches, not the judiciary. The court also rejected the plaintiffs' argument that framing their claims as violations of legal duties circumvented the political question doctrine. The court concluded that the judiciary does not have the authority to make decisions on national security and foreign policy matters, which are the prerogatives of the political branches. The request for declaratory relief was also found to be non-justiciable for the same reasons. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint. View "DEFENSE FOR CHILDREN INTERNATIONAL-PALESTINE V. BIDEN" on Justia Law

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The case involves trade associations representing manufacturers of children's products challenging Oregon's Toxic-Free Kids Act (TFKA) and its implementing regulations. The TFKA requires the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to maintain a list of high priority chemicals of concern for children's health and imposes reporting and removal requirements for these chemicals. The trade associations argued that these state requirements are preempted by the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) and the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA).The United States District Court for the District of Oregon partially dismissed the trade associations' claims and granted partial summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The district court concluded that the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) had not exercised independent judgment or expertise to trigger the express preemption provisions of the FHSA or CPSA for all 73 chemicals listed by the OHA. Therefore, the trade associations' facial challenges failed because they could not show that the Oregon statute and its regulations were invalid in all their applications.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reviewed the case and affirmed the district court's decision. The Ninth Circuit held that the FHSA and CPSA did not expressly preempt the TFKA and its regulations because the CPSC had not promulgated regulations for all the chemicals at issue. The court also found that the CPSA did not impliedly preempt the TFKA through principles of conflict preemption. The court concluded that the state law did not interfere with the federal regulatory scheme and upheld the district court's judgment. The decision was affirmed. View "AMERICAN APPAREL & FOOTWEAR ASSOCIATION, INC. V. BADEN" on Justia Law

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Adam Lloyd Livar was convicted of failing to register as a sex offender, a requirement stemming from a prior conviction. He pled guilty and entered a plea agreement with the government, which included a joint recommendation for a mid-range sentence if he demonstrated acceptance of responsibility. However, after making threatening statements during a phone call from prison, the government argued that Livar breached the plea agreement by committing a new crime and recommended a higher sentence.The District Court for the District of Oregon sentenced Livar to thirty months in prison and five years of supervised release, despite the plea agreement. The court found that Livar had accepted responsibility but did not adjudicate whether he committed a new crime. The court also determined that the government had not breached the plea agreement.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reviewed the case. The court first addressed whether the appeal was moot due to Livar's release from prison. It concluded that the appeal was not moot because the district court could modify or terminate Livar's supervised release under 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e).The Ninth Circuit held that the district court must hold an evidentiary hearing to resolve factual disputes when the government seeks to be relieved of its obligations under a plea agreement. The court unanimously agreed that Livar's sentence should be vacated because the district court did not adjudicate whether he committed a new crime. A majority of the panel concluded that due process does not require the government to seek a judicial determination before submitting a different sentencing recommendation. Another majority determined that the proper remedy is to remand with instructions to enter judgment with a term of imprisonment of time served and maintain the original terms of supervised release. The court vacated Livar’s sentence and remanded for resentencing. View "USA V. LIVAR" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Zachary Rosenbaum was arrested by San Jose police officers, during which a police dog allegedly bit him for over twenty seconds after he had surrendered and lay prone on his stomach with his arms outstretched. Rosenbaum sued the City of San Jose and the officers involved under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. He alleged that the prolonged dog bite caused severe lacerations and permanent nerve damage to his arm.The United States District Court for the Northern District of California denied the defendants' motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. The defendants appealed, arguing that the bodycam video contradicted Rosenbaum's allegations. However, the district court found that the video did not contradict Rosenbaum's claims and that whether the officers acted reasonably was a triable question for the jury.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reviewed the case and affirmed the district court's denial of qualified immunity. The Ninth Circuit held that the bodycam video generally supported Rosenbaum's allegations and that a reasonable jury could find that the officers used excessive force. The court noted that it was clearly established in the Ninth Circuit that officers violate the Fourth Amendment when they allow a police dog to continue biting a suspect who has fully surrendered and is under officer control. Therefore, the court concluded that the officers were not entitled to qualified immunity and affirmed the district court's decision. View "Rosenbaum v. City of San Jose" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Rights
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Rosa Cuevas was a passenger in a car driven by Quinntin Castro, who led police on a high-speed chase. After getting stuck in mud, Castro continued trying to flee. Police officers surrounded the car, broke the window, and sent a police dog inside. Castro shot and killed the dog and injured an officer. The officers returned fire, aiming at Castro but accidentally hitting Cuevas multiple times. Castro was ultimately killed, and Cuevas survived with severe injuries. Cuevas sued the City of Tulare and the involved officers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and California law, alleging excessive force.The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The court found that Cuevas was not seized for Fourth Amendment purposes and, alternatively, that even if she were seized, the officers were entitled to qualified immunity because it was not clearly established that their use of force was excessive. The court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims and the defendants' counterclaims.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reviewed the case and affirmed the district court's decision. The appellate court held that Cuevas was indeed seized under clearly established Fourth Amendment law. However, it was not clearly established that the force used by the officers was excessive. The court found that none of the cases cited by Cuevas clearly established that officers violated her rights when they shot her while defensively returning fire during an active shooting. The court also noted that in excessive-force cases where police officers face a threat, the obviousness principle will rarely be available as an end-run to the requirement that law must be clearly established. Therefore, the officers were entitled to qualified immunity. View "Cuevas v. City of Tulare" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Rights
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The case involves a collective action brought by call-center workers against their employer, Customer Connexx LLC, for failing to pay overtime wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The workers claimed they were entitled to overtime pay for the time spent booting up and shutting down their computers each day. Connexx required employees to be ready to take calls at the start of their shifts, necessitating pre-shift computer engagement. The workers were prohibited from clocking in more than seven minutes before their shift, and time was rounded to the nearest quarter-hour, leading to uncompensated work time.The United States District Court for the District of Nevada initially granted summary judgment in favor of Connexx, holding that the time spent on these tasks was not compensable under the FLSA because it was de minimis. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, instructing the district court to determine whether the time was de minimis and whether Connexx had knowledge of the overtime work. On remand, the district court again granted summary judgment to Connexx, maintaining that the time was de minimis and that Connexx had policies allowing employees to request time adjustments.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reviewed the case and reversed the district court’s summary judgment. The Ninth Circuit held that the de minimis doctrine remains applicable to FLSA claims but found that there were triable issues of material fact regarding whether the time spent booting up and shutting down computers was de minimis. The court also found that there were factual disputes about whether Connexx’s policies allowed employees to be compensated for this time. The case was remanded for further proceedings to resolve these factual disputes. View "Cadena v. Customer Connexx LLC" on Justia Law

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The case involves Delaney Marks, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in California in 1994. Marks appealed his conviction, arguing that he was incompetent to stand trial and that he is intellectually disabled, making him ineligible for the death penalty. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part the district court’s judgment denying Marks's federal habeas petition.Marks's claim that he was incompetent to stand trial was denied. The court found that although Marks presented substantial evidence of incompetence, there was a reasonable basis in the record for the California Supreme Court to deny this claim.However, the court held that the district court erred by denying relief on Marks's claim that he is intellectually disabled and thus ineligible for the death penalty. Marks had shown that the California Supreme Court’s rejection of this claim was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding.The court also held that the district court properly denied relief on Marks's claim that the judge adjudicating his Atkins claim was biased against him. The California Supreme Court reasonably could have concluded that the judge did not display a deep-seated favoritism or antagonism that would make fair judgment impossible.The court affirmed the district court's denial of relief on Marks's claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. The California Supreme Court reasonably could have concluded that a second competency hearing would have reached the same conclusion as a jury which had already found Marks competent.In sum, the court vacated the district court’s denial of Marks’s Atkins claim and remanded for de novo review of that claim. The court otherwise affirmed the district court's decision. View "Marks v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The case involves three sets of plaintiffs who filed class-action lawsuits against their healthcare provider, Cedars-Sinai Health System and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The plaintiffs alleged that Cedars-Sinai unlawfully disclosed their private medical information to third parties through tracking software on its website. Cedars-Sinai removed the suits to federal court, arguing that it developed its website while acting under a federal officer and at the direction of the federal government.The district court disagreed with Cedars-Sinai's argument. It held that Cedars-Sinai developed its website in compliance with a generally applicable and comprehensive regulatory scheme and that there is therefore no federal jurisdiction under § 1442(a)(1). The court found that although Cedars-Sinai’s website furthers the government’s broad goal of promoting access to digital health records, Cedars-Sinai’s relationship with the federal government does not establish that it acted pursuant to congressionally delegated authority to help accomplish a basic governmental task.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s orders remanding the removed actions to state court. The court agreed with the district court that Cedars-Sinai developed its website in compliance with a generally applicable and comprehensive regulatory scheme under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, and that there was therefore no federal jurisdiction under § 1442(a)(1). The court concluded that Cedars-Sinai did not meet § 1442(a)(1)’s “causal nexus” requirement. View "Doe v. Cedars-Sinai Health System" on Justia Law