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

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained from warrantless searches of his cell phone by a Customs and Border Patrol official. Applying United States v. Cotterman, 709 F.3d 952 (9th Cir. 2013) (en banc), the panel held that manual cell phone searches may be conducted by border officials without reasonable suspicion but that forensic cell phone searches require reasonable suspicion. The panel clarified Cotterman by holding that "reasonable suspicion" in this context means that officials must reasonably suspect that the cell phone contains digital contraband. Furthermore, cell phone searches at the border, whether manual or forensic, must be limited in scope to a search for digital contraband. In this case, the panel held that the officials violated the Fourth Amendment when their warrantless searches exceeded the permissible scope of a border search. Therefore, most of the evidence from the searches of defendant's cell phone should have been suppressed. Finally, the panel held that defendant's Brady claims were unpersuasive. Because the panel vacated defendant's conviction, the panel did not reach his claim of prosecutorial misconduct. View "United States v. Cano" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of an action brought by a group of exotic dancers against their employer under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Arizona state law. The panel held that the district court erred in concluding that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction because plaintiffs failed to prove at the outset of the case that they were employees rather than independent contractors; plaintiffs' employment status is a merits-based determination, not an antecedent jurisdictional issue; and plaintiffs' federal law allegations were not so patently without merit as to justify dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Tijerino v. Stetson Desert Project, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The panel held that defendant's prior conviction for delivery of methamphetamine in violation of Oregon law does not qualify as a "controlled substance offense" under USSG 2K2.1(a)(4)(A) and 4B1.2(b). The panel rejected defendant's argument that the Oregon statue sweeps more broadly than the federal controlled substance offense because it criminalizes soliciting the delivery of methamphetamine. Therefore, the district court should have applied a base level offense of 20 under section 2K2.1(a)(4)(A). Accordingly, the panel remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Crum" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) action challenging the denial of plaintiff's request for early retirement benefits. Plaintiff argued that the Board incorrectly interpreted the Plan to deny his application for benefits. The panel held that any procedural irregularities in the Board's actions were minor and, at most, the Board's actions weigh only slightly and weakly in favor of holding that an abuse of discretion occurred here. The panel also held that the Board did not abuse its discretion by interpreting "performance of services in any capacity in the Electrical Industry" to include working for the union. In this case, in light of Tapley v. Locals 302 & 612 of Int'l Union of Operating Eng'rs-Emp'rs Const. Indus. Ret. Plan, the panel held that the Board's interpretation did not clearly conflict with the Plan's language; did not render any other Plan provision nugatory; and did not lack a rational nexus to the Plan's purpose. Therefore, the Board's interpretation of the Plan was reasonable. View "O'Rourke v. Northern California Electrical Workers Pension Plan" on Justia Law

Posted in: ERISA

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Current and former minor league baseball players brought claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the wage-and-hour laws of California, Arizona, and Florida against MLB defendants, alleging that defendants did not pay the players at all during spring training, extended spring training, or the instructional leagues. On appeal, the players challenged the district court's denial of class certification for the Arizona, Florida, and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2) classes, and defendants petitioned to appeal the certification of the California class. The Ninth Circuit held that the district court did not err in holding, under Sullivan v. Oracle Corp., that California law should apply to the 23(b)(3) California class. However, the district court erred in determining that choice-of-law considerations defeated predominance and adequacy for the proposed Arizona and Florida Rule 23(b)(3) classes. In this case, the district court fundamentally misunderstood the proper application of California's choice-of-law principles—which, when correctly applied, indicate that Arizona law should govern the Arizona class, and Florida law the Florida class. The panel also held that the district court erred in refusing to certify a Rule 23(b)(2) class for unpaid work at defendants' training facilities in Arizona and Florida on the sole basis that choice-of-law issues undermined "cohesiveness" and therefore made injunctive and declaratory relief inappropriate. Furthermore, the district court erred in imposing a "cohesiveness" requirement for the proposed Rule 23(b)(2) class. The panel held that the predominance requirement was met as to the Arizona and Florida classes, covering alleged minimum wage violations based on the lack of any pay for time spent participating in spring training, extended spring training, and instructional leagues. In regard to the California class -- covering overtime and minimum wage claims relating to work performed during the championship season -- the panel also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that defendant's uniform pay policy, the team schedules, and representative evidence established predominance. The panel rejected defendants' contention that the district court was required to rigorously analyze the Main Survey. The panel affirmed the district court's certification of the FLSA collective action. Applying Campbell v. City of L.A., which postdated the district court's ruling, the panel held that the district court's use of the ad hoc approach was harmless error. The panel also affirmed the district court's certification of the FLSA collective as to plaintiffs' overtime claims. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Senne v. Kansas City Royals Baseball" on Justia Law

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Amazon filed a petition in the tax court challenging the IRS's valuation of a buy-in payment for pre-existing intangibles related to the company's contribution to a cost sharing arrangement, whereby Amazon and a holding company for the European subsidiaries would be treated as co-owners of the intangibles. The tax court ruled primarily with Amazon and the Commissioner appealed. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the tax court's decision and held that the definition of "intangible" in the applicable transfer pricing regulations did not include residual-business assets. Although the language of the definition is ambiguous, the panel held that the drafting history of the regulations shows that "intangible" was understood to be limited to independently transferable assets. View "Amazon.com v. Commissioner" on Justia Law

Posted in: Tax Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit seeking to enforce a 1997 settlement agreement, incorporated into a consent decree, requiring immigration agencies to hold such minors in their custody in facilities that are safe and sanitary. The district court found that the government violated the Agreement by detaining minors in unsanitary and unsafe conditions at Border Patrol stations; ordered enforcement of various paragraphs of the Agreement; and directed the government to appoint an internal Juvenile Coordinator. In this case, the parties agreed that this court has jurisdiction over the appeal of the post-judgment order only if the district court modified the Agreement. The panel held that the district court's order did not modify the Agreement and therefore this court does not have jurisdiction over the appeal. Rather, the district court's orders interpreted the Agreement's requirements that minors be held in safe and sanitary conditions consistent with the government's concern for the particular vulnerability of minors. Although the government argued that the district court's order modified the Agreement in other respects, the panel held that these arguments likewise lacked merit. Accordingly, the panel dismissed the appeal based on lack of jurisdiction. View "Flores v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law

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The Ninth Circuit certified the following question of state law to the Supreme Court of Arizona: What is the standard for determining whether National Union unreasonably withheld consent to Apollo's settlement with shareholders in breach of contract under a policy where the insurer has no duty to defend? View "Apollo Education Group, Inc. v. National Union Fire Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Chase in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging claims under the Truth in Lending Act (TILA). In a prior appeal, the panel held that plaintiff gave proper, timely notice of rescission and vacated the district court's judgment, remanding for further proceedings. On remand. the district court granted summary judgment on a different ground, holding that plaintiff had no right of rescission. The panel held that the district court properly considered defendants' new argument on remand and properly granted summary judgment, because plaintiff obtained the mortgage in order to reacquire a residential property in which his prior ownership interest had been extinguished. Therefore, the right of rescission did not apply. View "Barnes v. Chase Home Finance, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's successive habeas corpus petition challenging the Idaho Supreme Court's 2008 decision that his execution was not barred under an Idaho law prohibiting the execution of intellectually disabled offenders. Petitioner sought relief under Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002), which held that the Eighth Amendment prohibits the execution of intellectually disabled persons. The panel held that the record did not establish that the state court's adjudication of petitioner's Atkins claim resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court, or was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding. Therefore, the district court properly denied habeas relief because section 2254(d) was not satisfied. Finally, the panel noted that its decision did not preclude the Idaho courts from reconsidering these questions in light of Hall v. Florida, 572 U.S. 701 (2014); Brumfield v. Cain, 135 S. Ct. 2269 (2015); and Moore v. Texas, 137 S. Ct. 1039 (2017), which were all decided after the state court's decision View "Pizzuto v. Blades" on Justia Law