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

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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For standing purposes, a loss of even a small amount of money is ordinarily an injury. The temporary loss of use of one's money constitutes an injury in fact for purposes of Article III. Plaintiff filed a putative class action on behalf of LLR customers in Alaska who were improperly charged sales tax. The complaint alleged claims for conversion and misappropriation and for violation of the Alaska Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act. In this case, plaintiff was refunded $531.25 for sales tax charges, but contends that she is owed at least $3.76 in interest on that sum to account for her lost use of the money. The district court granted LLR's motion to dismiss. The Ninth Circuit held that the district court erred by concluding that $3.76 is "too little to support Article III standing." The panel held that plaintiff suffered a cognizable and concrete injury: the loss of a significant amount of money (over $500) for a substantial amount of time (months with respect to some purchases, over a year with respect to others). Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Van v. LLR, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed on different grounds the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims for restitution. Pursuant to Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938), and Guaranty Trust Co. of New York v. York, 326 U.S. 99 (1945), the panel held that federal courts must apply equitable principles derived from federal common law to claims for equitable restitution under California's Unfair Competition Law (UCL) and Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA). The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiff leave to amend her complaint for a third time to reallege the CLRA damages claim. In this case, plaintiff failed to demonstrate that she lacked an adequate legal remedy. View "Sonner v. Premier Nutrition Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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Counties and cities filed six complaints in California state court against energy companies, alleging nuisance and other causes of action arising from the role of fossil fuel products in global warming. After removal to federal court, the district court granted plaintiffs' motion to remand. The Ninth Circuit held, under 28 U.S.C. 1447(d), that the single ground of removal that it has jurisdiction to review is whether the district court erred in holding that there was no subject matter jurisdiction under the federal officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1442(a)(1). Therefore, the panel dismissed in part for lack of jurisdiction to the extent the energy companies seek review of the district court's ruling as to other bases for subject matter jurisdiction. The panel affirmed in part, holding that the district court did not err in holding that there was no subject matter jurisdiction under section 1442(a)(1) where the energy companies failed to establish that they were "acting under" a federal officer's directions. View "County of San Mateo v. Chevron Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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Defendants removed two complaints brought by California cities in state court alleging that defendants' production and promotion of fossil fuels is a public nuisance under California law. The Ninth Circuit held that the state-law claim for public nuisance does not arise under federal law for purposes of 28 U.S.C. 1331, and remanded to the district court to consider whether there was an alternative basis for subject-matter jurisdiction. The panel held that neither exception to the well-pleaded-complaint rule applies to the original complaints and thus the district court erred in holding that it had jurisdiction under section 1331 at the time of removal. The panel also held that the cities cured any subject-matter jurisdiction defect by amending their complaints to assert a claim under federal common law. The panel joined the Fifth Circuit in holding that a dismissal for failure to state a claim, unlike a grant of summary judgment or judgment after trial, is generally insufficient to forestall an otherwise proper remand. View "City of Oakland v. BP PLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of claims brought by U.S. servicemembers and their families against TEPCO and GE, alleging that they were exposed to radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The Japanese Act on Compensation for Nuclear Damage provides that the operator of a nuclear power plant is strictly liable for any damage caused by the operation of the power plant but no other person shall be liable. The panel held that Japan's Compensation Act was a liability-limiting statute with outcome-determinative implications and was substantive for Erie purposes. In this case, the district court did not err in proceeding with the full choice-of-law analysis at the motion-to-dismiss stage of the litigation. The panel applied California's three step "governmental interest" test in deciding the choice-of-law questions and ultimately concluded that the district court did not err when it decided that the laws of Japan, not California, govern plaintiffs' claims against GE. The panel likewise held that the district court did not err in proceeding with the choice-of-law analysis and finding that Japanese law also applies to plaintiffs' claims against TEPCO. Finally, having decided that Japanese law applies to the case and considering Japan's strong interests in the case being litigated in Japan, the panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it dismissed the claims against TEPCO on international-comity grounds. View "Cooper v. Tokyo Electric Power Co." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for writ of mandamus filed under the Crime Victims' Rights Act. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining the amount of restitution to which petitioner is entitled. Furthermore, the panel held that the district court's finding that the prior civil settlement reduced the amount of petitioner's loss was supported by the evidence and was neither an abuse of discretion nor legally erroneous. View "Barber v. USDC, San Francisco" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) motion for relief from the district court's denial of his 2009 motion for authorization to interview jurors at his 2003 criminal trial in order to investigate potential juror misconduct. Petitioner argued that the Supreme Court's intervening decision in Peña-Rodriguez v. Colorado, 137 S. Ct. 855 (2017), changed the law governing requests to interview jurors for evidence of racial bias, and that this change constituted an extraordinary circumstance justifying relief under Rule 60(b)(6). The panel first held that petitioner's motion is not a disguised second or successive section 2255 habeas motion, and the district court had jurisdiction to decide his Rule 60(b)(6) motion. The panel held that a mere development in jurisprudence, as opposed to an unexpected change, does not constitute an extraordinary circumstance for purposes of Rule 60(b)(6). In this case, the panel wrote that, although Peña-Rodriguez established a new exception to Rule 60(b), this change in law left untouched the law governing investigating and interviewing jurors. Furthermore, because Peña-Rodriguez does not override local court rules or compel access to jurors, it is not "clearly irreconcilable" with precedent, Miller v. Gammie, 335 F.3d 889, 893 (2003) (en banc), and therefore did not make any change in the law regarding lawyer access to jurors, let alone one so significant that it would constitute "extraordinary circumstances" for purposes of Rule 60(b). View "Mitchell v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2003, Dansker obtained an $83,000 home loan to purchase Las Vegas real estate. In 2009, Dansker died. No probate proceedings were instituted. In 2011, the neighborhood HOA began foreclosure proceedings and sold the property to LN. The priority lien-holder was Fannie Mae and the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The district court held that LN had not identified any legal representative of Dansker’s estate, and since no such person was identified and joined, complete diversity existed. The district court dismissed and denied a motion to substitute Dansker’s daughter. The Ninth Circuit vacated. Diversity did exist at the time of removal. The trial judge did not abuse his discretion by denying a motion to substitute, so diversity jurisdiction continued to exist. The lawsuit was against Chase and Dansker. Dansker, being dead, had no legal existence, and, therefore, was not a citizen of any state. Jurisdiction exists where the federal entity is not the record beneficiary on the deed of trust but can prove its property interest through admissible evidence. The Federal Foreclosure Bar, which provides that FHFA's property shall not be subject to foreclosure without FHFA's consent, applies and is fatal to LN’s case on the merits. View "LN Management, LLC Series 5664 Divot V. JPMorgan Chase Bank N.A." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying plaintiff's motion to remand his case to state court, where he wants to pursue his claim that a JAG colleague, defendant, is engaged in the unauthorized practice of law because defendant is licensed only in states outside of California. The panel held that defendant was "acting under" a federal officer within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. 1442(a)(2). The panel rejected plaintiff's contention that this was not a "civil action or criminal prosecution" under section 1442(a)(1), and held that defendant was a "person" within the meaning of the statute; there was a causal connection between plaintiff's claims and defendant's actions taken pursuant to a federal officer's directions; and defendant raised a colorable federal defense under the Supremacy Clause. In this case, defendant was appointed by and reports to a federal officer and is permitted by federal regulation to practice law, in a specific and limited capacity, without becoming a member of the California Bar. Therefore, defendant has a colorable defense that this federal regulatory scheme preempts a claim by a private individual that would have the effect of invalidating those federal regulations in states, like California, that do not require all JAG Trial Defense Service attorneys to become members of the California Bar. View "Stirling v. Minasian" on Justia Law

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When a party that has suffered an adverse partial judgment subsequently dismisses any remaining claims without prejudice, and does so without the approval and meaningful participation of the district court, this court lacks jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1291. The Ninth Circuit dismissed plaintiff's appeal of the district court's dismissal of her Rehabilitation Act claim. The panel dismissed the appeal based on lack of jurisdiction, because plaintiff voluntarily dismissed what she thought were her sole remaining claims without prejudice after the district court dismissed her Rehabilitation Act claim, and because the district court did not meaningfully participate in the dismissal of those claims and did not formally dismiss an additional remaining claim. The panel explained that the procedural posture indicates that the district court did not intend to enter a final judgment and that the retaliation claim is still before the district court. View "Galaza v. Wolf" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure