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

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Defendant Franklin pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A)(i)–(ii) and 2, and robbery affecting interstate commerce (Hobbs Act robbery) in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1951(a).The Ninth Circuit concluded that binding precedent forecloses Franklin's contention that Hobbs Act robbery is not categorically a crime of violence under 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3)(A). The panel concluded that there are two distinct questions that this court answers in examining a hearsay statement at sentencing: (1) whether the statement is "procedurally reliable" and (2) whether the statement is "substantively reliable." If the court answers either question in the affirmative, then the statement may be considered at sentencing. The panel explained that this is a disjunctive test: If the court answered either question in the affirmative, then the statement may be considered at sentencing. In this case, the government provided enough specifics so that Franklin was not put to the burden of proving that the enhancement did not apply, and that there were adequate procedural opportunities for Franklin to challenge the extrinsic, nonhearsay evidence corroborating Coconspirator Hiler's hearsay statements. The panel concluded that there was no error in the district court's conclusion that the evidence sufficiently corroborated Hiler's statements and that the admission of those statements at sentencing did not deprive Franklin of due process. Furthermore, the district court did not clearly err in implicitly finding the two coconspirators' statements to corroborate each other enough to be substantively reliable, and that their admission at sentencing thus did not violate due process. View "United States v. Franklin" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Ninth Circuit granted a petition for review of the BIA's decision denying petitioners' second motion to reopen their applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). The panel concluded that the Board erred by failing to assess petitioners’ individualized risk of persecution in Indonesia due to their identity as evangelical Christians. Although the Board correctly recognized that Christians in Indonesia are a disfavored group, the panel explained that the Board failed to account for petitioners' status as evangelical Christians or the evidence they presented indicating that evangelical Christians have experienced a particular increase in violence and persecution, beyond that experienced by Indonesian Christians in general. Accordingly, the panel remanded for the Board to assess whether country conditions in Indonesia have materially changed for evangelical Christians in particular, as distinct from Christians in general. The panel also remanded with instructions. View "Nababan v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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In 2004-2005, the government filed forfeiture actions against a Credit Suisse account, owned by a corporation organized by Kim’s sister . The government alleged the $15 million account included proceeds of fraudulent activities involving Kim’s control of Optional. The district court ordered the seizure of the Account. The putative owners (Kim Claimants) contested the forfeiture. Optional, no longer under Kim's control, and DAS, an alleged victim of Kim's fraud, filed competing claims.In 2011, after years of parallel litigation, the Swiss Attorney General’s Office unfroze the Account and ordered the bank to wire $12.6 million to DAS, which filed a “Notice of Withdrawal of Claims” in the forfeiture proceeding. The court ordered that no party disturb money remaining in the Credit Suisse accounts and requested that the government investigate how the transfer to DAS was accomplished. The court declined to hold DAS in contempt, concluded that it “cannot compel DAS to surrender the funds,” then granted DAS’s opposed motion to be dismissed from the forfeiture proceedings.Optional, the sole remaining claimant, submitted a 2013 proposed final judgment, which the district court adopted. Five years later, Optional sought to hold DAS in contempt for allegedly violating that judgment because DAS failed to surrender the money transferred in 2011; the 2013 judgment had awarded Optional all funds in the Account as of August 2005. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of the contempt motion. The 2013 judgment did not require DAS to turn over $12.6 million to Optional. At the 2013 trial, the court did not have before it, and did not undertake to decide, the competing claims to the transferred money. In awarding Optional “all funds” the district court unmistakably was referring only to the remaining funds. View "Optional Capital, Inc. v. DAS Corp." on Justia Law

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The EEOC concluded, under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), that the Army had unlawfully discriminated against Plaskett when it failed to rehire him for a civilian position, awarded Plaskett reinstatement and backpay, and ordered the Army to pay him sanctions based on the Army’s failure to comply with discovery obligations during administrative proceedings. The Army refused to pay the sanctions award, citing sovereign immunity. Although the Army agreed to hire Plaskett and paid him backpay, Plaskett claimed that the Army owed him additional backpay and filed suit, arguing that the Army’s nondiscretionary duty to pay these sums was enforceable under the Mandamus Act, 28 U.S.C. 1361, and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 706(1).The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the action for lack of jurisdiction. Regardless of whether the claim was viewed under the Mandamus Act or under the APA, Plaskett was required to plead that the Army had a clear, certain, and mandatory duty. The claim to additional backpay rested on an EEOC decision that, on its face. expressed uncertainty as to what amount of additional backpay might be due. The complaint failed to plead sufficient facts to show that a certain amount of additional backpay was now clearly owed. The ADEA did not include a sufficient waiver of the government’s immunity against monetary litigation sanctions with respect to the sanctions award. View "Plaskett v. Wormuth" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a student with ADHD and disability-related behavioral issues, filed suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) alleging that the school district denied him equal access to a public education because of his disability. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to exhaust administrative procedures under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), as required when a plaintiff seeks relief under other federal statutes for the denial of a free appropriate public education (FAPE).In 2020, the Ninth Circuit vacated the dismissal. The en banc court subsequently affirmed the dismissal, holding that exhaustion of the IDEA process was required because the gravamen of the complaint was the denial of a FAPE by failing to provide a one-on-one behavioral aide and related supportive services. The court analyzed two hypothetical questions: whether the plaintiff could have brought essentially the same claim if the alleged conduct had occurred at a non-school public facility, and whether an adult at the school could have pressed essentially the same grievance. A court also must consider the history of the proceedings, particularly whether the plaintiff has previously invoked the IDEA’s formal procedures to handle the dispute. The court rejected D.D.’s argument that he need not exhaust because he seeks compensatory damages for emotional distress, which is not available under the IDEA. The court declined to address whether D.D.’s settlement of the administrative proceedings equated to exhaustion or whether D.D.’s settlement rendered further exhaustion futile. View "D. D. v. Los Angeles Unified School District" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law
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Fried worked as a manicurist, 2005-2017. Fried complained about female manicurists receiving most of the appointments and that other male manicurists also complained. In 2017, Fried became frustrated and threw a pencil at a computer because customers were requesting female manicurists more often than male manicurists. His manager disciplined him and commented that he might want to find other work. He alleges that his coworkers and customers made harassing comments and that he was told to finish a pedicure for a male customer who had solicited him for sex. Fried filed suit under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e, alleging sex discrimination, retaliation, and hostile environment.The Ninth Circuit reversed the summary judgment against Fried. A reasonable factfinder could decide that Fried’s employer created a hostile work environment. An employer can create a hostile work environment by failing to take immediate and corrective action in response to a coworker’s or third party’s sexual harassment or racial discrimination that the employer knew or should have known about. While comments made by a manager and coworkers on two occasions were insufficiently severe or pervasive to support a hostile work environment claim, an employer’s response to unwelcome sexual advances toward an employee can independently create a hostile work environment. Fried’s manager failed to take immediate corrective action and also directed Fried to return to the customer and complete his pedicure. The district court should reconsider the cumulative effect of the coworkers’ comments. View "Fried v. Wynn Las Vegas, LLC" on Justia Law

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.In 2010, the district court invalidated California’s Proposition 8, which prohibited same-sex marriage. Judge Walker recorded the trial. When Proposition 8 Proponents objected, he stated that the recording was not going to be used for public broadcasting or televising. The recordings were offered to the parties for use in their closing arguments and were later entered into the record under seal. In 2011, the Chief Judge ordered the recordings to be unsealed. The Ninth Circuit reversed, citing Judge Walker’s specific assurances and local Rule 79-5(f), which provides that any document filed under seal in a civil case shall be open to the public 10 years from the date the case was closed unless good cause could be shown to extend the seal.In 2020, Proponents asked the district court to extend the seal. The district court declined, noting that Proponents failed to submit any evidence that any Proponent or witness wanted the recordings to remain under seal or feared retaliation or harassment if the recordings were released.The Ninth Circuit dismissed an appeal. Proponents failed to establish a particularized and concrete injury sufficient to constitute “injury in fact” for purposes of jurisdiction. Even a “promise” made by a judge to litigants in the course of litigation is not an enforceable contract. The court rejected contentions that the unsealing would result in a “palpable injustice” or would harm future litigants’ ability to rely on judicial “promises.” Neither alleged injury was sufficiently concrete and particularized to establish Article III standing. View "Perry v. Hollingsworth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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Goulart, a citizen of Brazil. was removed in 2013, after the BIA determined that his conviction was a crime of violence under 18 U.S.C. 16(b). In 2015, the Ninth Circuit held that section 16(b) was unconstitutionally vague. In 2018, the Supreme Court affirmed in “Dimaya.” Goulart learned of the latter ruling on June 9, 2018, when he was so informed by his former defense attorney. He filed his motion for reconsideration based on a change in the law on July 16, 2018.The Ninth Circuit held that the BIA did not abuse its discretion in denying Goulart’s claim for equitable tolling of the 30-day motions deadline. Goulart failed to present any evidence suggesting that he diligently pursued his rights during the time between his removal in 2013 and when he learned of Dimaya in 2018. Even assuming that he was unaware of the Ninth Circuit’s 2015 decision, the BIA did not act arbitrarily or irrationally in determining that Goulart failed to make reasonable efforts to pursue relief. View "Goulart v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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To comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, the FAA issued an Environmental Assessment (EA) for the construction and operation of an air cargo facility at the San Bernardino International Airport. The Record of Decision found no significant environmental impact. Objectors asserted that the FAA did not conform its study areas to the FAA’s Order 1050.1F Desk Reference.The Ninth Circuit rejected a petition for review. The FAA’s nonadherence to the Desk Reference could not alone serve as the basis for holding that the FAA did not take a “hard look” at the environmental consequences. Rejecting an argument that the FAA should have expanded its assessment to include more than 80 projects, the court held that the record showed that the FAA did consider the fact that the additional projects would result in massive average daily trips in the first year of operations.The court rejected California’s argument that the FAA needed to create an environmental impact statement because a California Environmental Impact Report found that the proposed Project could result in significant impacts on air quality, greenhouse gas, and noise. The South Coast Air Quality Management District’s own assessment was that the Project will comply with federal and state air quality standards. The court also rejected California’s noise concerns. Objectors failed to show arbitrariness or capriciousness in the EA’s truck trip calculation method and provided no reason to believe that the Project threatened to violate federal ozone standards. View "Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice v. Federal Aviation Administration" on Justia Law

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In 2017, Langley pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography and was sentenced to time served and 10 years of supervised release. As required by 18 U.S.C. 3583(d), the conditions of Langley’s supervised release included that he “not commit [a] federal, state or local crime,” “not illegally possess a controlled substance,” and “refrain from any unlawful use of a controlled substance.” In 2017, Langley unsuccessfully sought amendment of the conditions of supervised release to permit him to use medical marijuana as allowed by California state law, to alleviate pain stemming from the amputation of his lower leg. Langley renewed the motion in 2020. Langley, who submitted a physician's opinion that marijuana was the best medical solution for his pain issues, argued that he has a fundamental Due Process Clause right to use medical marijuana.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of Langley’s renewed motion. The court held that it is bound by precedent that rejected the identical substantive due process claim. Even if state laws decriminalizing marijuana could constitute additional evidence under the test for determining whether a right is protected by the Due Process Clause, the court concluded that it is bound by its 2007 decision until it is overturned by a higher authority. View "United States v. Langley." on Justia Law