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

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The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision concluding that petitioner was removable for having been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude (CIMT) within five years after the date of admission, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(i).The panel applied the two-step Chevron inquiry, concluding that: (1) the phrase "the date of admission" in section 1227(a)(2)(A)(i)(I) is ambiguous; and (2) the interpretation in Matter of Alyazji, 25 I. & N. Dec. 397 (BIA 2011), of that ambiguous phrase is "a permissible construction of the statute." The panel concluded that Alyazji, and its application in the unpublished BIA decision in this case, meet the requirements for Chevron deference set forth in United States v. Mead Corp., 533 U.S. 218, 226–27 (2001). The panel acknowledged that the Alyazji interpretation of section 1227(a)(2)(A)(i)(I) results in serious consequences when applied to petitioner, who is a Micronesian citizen, because he had less incentive to apply to become a legal permanent resident or naturalize as a United States citizen. View "Route v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment dismissing as barred by the one-year statute of limitations a Montana state prisoner's habeas corpus petition brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2254. The panel concluded that the one-year period begins to run upon "the conclusion of direct review" of the conviction, and it is suspended during the pendency of any "properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral review." The panel held that a proceeding in the Sentence Review Division of the Montana Supreme Court constitutes collateral review, rather than direct review, making the petition here untimely. View "Branham v. Montana" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001, et seq., does not preempt a California law that creates a state-managed individual retirement account (IRA) program.The Ninth Circuit concluded that CalSavers is not an ERISA plan because it is established and maintained by the State, not employers; it does not require employers to operate their own ERISA plans; and it does not have an impermissible reference to or connection with ERISA. Furthermore, CalSavers does not interfere with ERISA's core purposes. Therefore, ERISA does not preclude California's endeavor to encourage personal retirement savings by requiring employers who do not offer retirement plans to participate in CalSavers. The panel affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Ass'n v. California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program" on Justia Law

Posted in: ERISA
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Plaintiffs, cattle ranchers, filed suit in federal district court, claiming that the Service's decision to apply the 1995 Riparian Mitigation Measures to the Dry Cottonwood Allotment, instead of the allowable use levels in the 2009 Forest Plan, violated the National Forest Management Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of partial summary judgment to plaintiffs and remanded with instructions to grant summary judgment to the Service. The panel concluded that the Service lawfully applied a particular set of standards for protecting stream habitats from the effects of cattle grazing, the 1995 Riparian Mitigation Measures, to plaintiffs' grazing permits. The panel also concluded that plaintiffs were not entitled to attorney's fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act for their administrative appeal. View "2-Bar Ranch Limited Partnership v. United States Forest Service" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Nationstar in a diversity action brought by plaintiff alleging claims arising from nonjudicial foreclosure by a HOA on real property in Nevada. The Federal Foreclosure Bar, 12 U.S.C. 4617(j)(3), and Nevada state law, which establishes that in the event a homeowner fails to pay a certain portion of HOA dues, the HOA is authorized to foreclose on a "superpriority lien" in that amount, extinguishing all other liens and encumbrances on the delinquent property recorded after the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions attached to the title. The panel concluded that while Nevada law generally gives delinquent HOA dues superpriority over other lienholders, it does not take priority over federal law. Furthermore, federal law, in the form of the Federal Foreclosure Bar, prohibits the foreclosure of Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) property without FHFA's consent.In this case, the panel concluded that Nationstar properly and timely raised its claims based on the Federal Foreclosure Bar. The panel also concluded that the Federal Foreclosure Bar applies to the HOA foreclosure sale here where Fannie Mae held an enforceable interest in the loan at the time of the HOA foreclosure sale, as established by evidence of Fannie Mae's acquisition and continued ownership of the loan throughout that time and by evidence of its agency relationship with BANA (formerly BAC), the named beneficiary on the recorded Deed. The panel explained that Fannie Mae's interest in the loan, coupled with the fact that it was under FHFA conservatorship at the time of the sale, means the Federal Foreclosure Bar applies to this case. Finally, the panel concluded that the Federal Foreclosure Bar preempts the Nevada HOA Law. View "Nationstar Mortgage LLC v. Saticoy Bay LLC" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision dismissing petitioner's appeal of the IJ's order determining that her application for asylum, withholding of removal, and Convention Against Torture (CAT) was abandoned, under 8 C.F.R. 1003.47(c). The IJ's decision was based on petitioner's failure to submit required biometrics or establish good cause for her failure to do so.The panel concluded that the IJ did not abuse its discretion in deeming petitioner's application as abandoned where the IJ twice warned petitioner if she did not provide her biometrics before the next hearing her application would be deemed abandoned, and petitioner did not follow the instructions. Furthermore, petitioner failed to request a continuance before her merits hearing to complete her biometrics and her counsel failed to show good cause for requesting such a continuance. The panel also concluded that the IJ did not abuse its discretion denying petitioner's final request for more time to obtain an attorney. Because petitioner's application for relief was properly found abandoned, the BIA correctly deemed moot any challenge to the denial of petitioner's previous request for a continuance to obtain evidentiary support for her application. Finally, petitioner was not deprived of a neutral arbiter. View "Gonzalez-Veliz v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment dismissing an amended complaint against Snap based on immunity under the Communications Decency Act (CDA), 47 U.S.C. 230(c)(1). Plaintiffs, the surviving parents of two boys who died in a high-speed accident, alleged that Snap encouraged their sons to drive at dangerous speeds and caused the boys' deaths through its negligent design of its smartphone application Snapchat. Specifically, plaintiffs claimed that Snapchat allegedly knew or should have known, before the accident, that its users believed that a reward system existed and that the Speed Filter was therefore incentivizing young drivers to drive at dangerous speeds.The panel applied the Barnes factors and concluded that, because plaintiffs' claim neither treats Snap as a "publisher or speaker" nor relies on "information provided by another information content provider," Snap does not enjoy immunity from this suit under section 230(c)(1). In this case, Snap is being used for the predictable consequences of designing Snapchat in such a way that it allegedly encourages dangerous behavior, and the CDA does not shield Snap from liability for such claims. The panel declined to affirm the district court's decision on the alternative ground that plaintiffs have failed to plead adequately in their amended complaint the causation element of their negligent design claim. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Lemmon v. Snap, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's orders denying defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty plea to receipt of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2252(a)(2), and his motions to suppress evidence of sexually explicit images of minors found on two cell phones.The panel rejected defendant's contention that he was not fully informed of the essential elements of the crime of receipt of child pornography where his indictment, his plea agreement, and the colloquy informed him of the elements required to be proven; he does not assert that his counsel failed to inform him of the knowledge requirement for each element of the offense; and there is no indication that the Government misunderstood the elements. The panel affirmed the denial of defendant's motion to suppress as to the parole searches because defendant, a California parolee, had the same diminished privacy interest, and the State of California had the same substantial interest in supervising parolees as discussed in United States v. Johnson, 875 F.3d 1265 (9th Cir. 2017). The panel also affirmed the denial of defendant's motion to suppress as to the forensic searches because any illegality in the initial seizure of forensic images from defendant's cell phones was cured by the subsequent issuance of a warrant to search the forensic images from cell phones that were legally seized from defendant as the result of valid parole searches. View "United States v. Peterson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for conspiracy to launder money in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1956(h), conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business in violation of 18 U.S.C. 371, and operating such a business in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1960. Defendant's conviction stemmed from his involvement in a hawala operation, a money transmitting network that he and his coconspirators used to move drug trafficking proceeds from Canada to the United States and eventually to Mexico.The panel concluded that the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's convictions; the government's closing arguments did not constructively amend Counts II and III of the indictment; and there was no Confrontation Clause violation and no abuse of discretion in the district court's rulings regarding the cross-examination of a cooperating witness. The panel also concluded that it was not required to resolve the issue of whether a clear and convincing evidence standard or a preponderance of the evidence standard should apply, because the record supports the application of the six-level USSG 2S1.1(b)(1) enhancement, because defendant knew that the laundered funds were drug trafficiking proceeds, under either standard of proof. The panel noted that the district court ultimately imposed a sentence of 70 months, which is well below defendant's Guidelines range of 151–188 months. View "United States v. Singh" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for HHS in an action brought by plaintiff, challenging HHS's denial of his claim for reimbursement from the Medicare program for services that he provided covered patients. The Supreme Court recently reaffirmed that a reviewing court should defer to an agency's reasonable interpretation of ambiguous regulations in Kisor v. Wilkie, 139 S. Ct. 2400 (2019).The panel agreed with the district court that the governing regulation, 42 C.F.R. 424.520(d), is genuinely ambiguous and that the agency's interpretation is reasonable. In this case, section 424.520(d) does not specify whether a certification submitted to reactivate billing privileges constitutes a "Medicare enrollment application" that triggers a new effective date. The panel concluded that the Board's interpretation of section 424.520(d) merits Auer deference and controls this case. Therefore, plaintiff's reactivation request was "a Medicare enrollment application," and its filing date of August 31, 2015 is the effective date of his billing privileges. The panel also agreed with the district court that its review was appropriately confined to the administrative record the agency produced and that the agency was not required to supplement the record. View "Goffney v. Becerra" on Justia Law