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

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for PGE and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon in a citizen suit brought by DRA, alleging that PGE was operating the Pelton Round Butte Hydroelectric Project (the Project) in violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA).The panel agreed with the district court that the Tribe was a required party, but disagreed on the question of the Tribe's sovereign immunity. The panel held that the CWA did not abrogate the Tribe's immunity and that the suit should have been dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19. The panel concluded that the inclusion of "an Indian tribe" in the definition of "municipality" (and, in turn, in the definition of "person") does not indicate—let alone clearly indicate—that Congress intended in the CWA to subject tribes to unconsented suits. The panel agreed with the district court that the Tribe is a required party because it has a legally protected interest in the subject of the suit that may be impaired by proceedings conducted in its absence. Therefore, the Tribe's sovereign immunity requires dismissal of this suit, in which DRA challenges the operation of a large hydroelectric project co-owned and co-operated by the Tribe, and located partly on the Tribe's reservation. The panel did not reach the question of whether PGE and the Tribe violated the CWA. The panel remanded with instructions to vacate the judgment and to dismiss the suit for failure to join the Tribe. View "Deschutes River Alliance v. Portland General Electric Co." on Justia Law

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California Senate Bill 826 requires all corporations headquartered in California to have a minimum number of females on their boards of directors. Corporations that do not comply with SB 826 may be subject to monetary penalties. The shareholders of OSI, a corporation covered by SB 826, elect members of the board of directors. One shareholder of OSI challenged the constitutionality of SB 826 on the ground that it requires shareholders to discriminate on the basis of sex when exercising their voting rights, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit for lack of standing. The plaintiff plausibly alleged that SB 826 requires or encourages him to discriminate based on sex and, therefore, adequately alleged an injury-in-fact, the only Article III standing element at issue. Plaintiff’s alleged injury was also distinct from any injury to the corporation, so he could bring his own Fourteenth Amendment challenge and had prudential standing to challenge SB 826. The injury was ongoing and neither speculative nor hypothetical, and the district court could grant meaningful relief. The case was therefore ripe and not moot. View "Meland v. Weber" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a class action against Walmart, alleging three violations of California Labor Code's wage-statement and meal-break requirements; first, plaintiff alleged that Walmart did not provide adequate pay rate information on its wage statements, Cal. Lab. Code 226(a)(9); second, he claimed that Walmart failed to furnish the pay-period dates with his last paycheck, section 226(a)(6); and third, he asserted that Walmart did not pay adequate compensation for missed meal breaks, section 226.7(c). Plaintiff sought relief under California's Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA).The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiff lacked standing to bring the meal-break claim because he did not suffer injury himself. The panel explained that PAGA's features diverge from the assignment theory of qui tam injury in Vermont Agency of Nat. Res. V. U.S. ex rel. Stevens, 529 U.S. 765 (2000), and they depart from the traditional criteria of qui tam statutes. In regard to the two wage-statement claims, the panel held that plaintiff had standing but that Walmart did not breach California law. The panel explained that, because Walmart must retroactively calculate the MyShare overtime adjustment based on work from six prior periods, the panel did not consider it an hourly rate "in effect" during the pay period for purposes of section 226(a)(9). Therefore, Walmart complied with the wage statement law here. The panel also held that Walmart's Statements of Final Pay do not violate the wage statement statute. View "Magadia v. Wal-Mart Associates, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's order granting the motion of 22 sates and the District of Columbia, seeking to enjoin the DOS's Final Rule removing 3D-printed guns and their associated files from the U.S. Munitions List. In 2018, DOS proposed a rule removing 3D-printed-gun files from the Munitions List and regulation under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, and placing them on the Commerce Control List, regulated by Commerce under the Export Administration Regulations instead. On the same day, Commerce proposed its own rule expressly assuming regulatory jurisdiction over these items. DOS and Commerce, respectively, promulgated Final Rules on January 23, 2020. After plaintiffs' actions challenging both Final Rules, the district court preliminarily enjoined only the DOS Final Rule.The panel held that Congress expressly barred judicial review of designations and undesignations of defense articles under the International Security Assistance and Arms Export Control Act of 1976 (the Control Act) and of any functions exercised under the Export Control Reform Act (the Reform Act). The panel explained that Congress not only barred Administrative Procedure Act (APA) challenges to Commerce's Reform Act functions, it rendered them, in effect, judicially unreviewable. Because the APA's section 702 did not apply to functions exercised under the Reform Act, federal sovereign immunity had not been waived, precluding judicial review of plaintiffs' challenge. In this case, the district court erred by enjoining the DOS Final Rule in part for perceived procedural deficiencies in the Commerce Final Rule. Therefore, because both the DOS and Commerce Final Rules are unreviewable, the States have not demonstrated the requisite likelihood of success on the merits. Accordingly, the panel remanded with instructions to dismiss. View "Washington v. United States Department of State" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a Nevada physician who treats patients covered by Medicare, filed suit seeking an injunction compelling the contractor that administers Medicare in his region to change the method of evaluating his claims. The district court granted the injunction.The Ninth Circuit vacated the preliminary injunction, concluding that the Medicare statute permits a court to review only claims that have been presented to the agency. The panel explained that, because this case does not involve a claim that was presented to the agency, the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. Accordingly, the panel remanded to the district court with instructions to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction. View "Odell v. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for a writ of mandamus challenging the district court's order transferring an action under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) from the Northern District of California to Minnesota federal court pursuant to a forum selection clause in a retirement plan. The panel held that mandamus relief was not warranted because the district court did not clearly err in transferring the case. The panel explained that courts are in near universal agreement: ERISA does not bar forum selection clauses. Therefore, the panel found no reason to disagree with their well-reasoned conclusion. In this case, the plan contained a forum selection clause and the district court properly enforced that clause. View "In re Becker" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal for lack of organizational standing of an action brought by two public interest groups against Sanderson Farms, alleging false advertising related to the use of antibiotics. The panel concluded that the groups failed to establish standing through a diversion of resources to combat Sanderson's advertising. In this case, the district court did not err by weighing the evidence and concluding that the various activities proffered by the groups were continuations of non-Sanderson-specific initiatives undertaken in furtherance of their missions to address antibiotic use generally. The panel also concluded that the California Unfair Competition Law claim fails because it is tethered to Sanderson's advertisements. View "Friends of the Earth v. Organic Consumer Ass'n" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit agreed with the Second Circuit that the amount in controversy in a Section 7 of the Federal Arbitration Act enforcement action can be measured by either the benefit to the plaintiff or the detriment to the defendant that would result from enforcement of the subpoena. In this case, because there is a good faith allegation that the benefit to plaintiff of obtaining the subpoenaed information in this controversy exceeds $75,000, the panel reversed the district court's order dismissing for want of subject matter jurisdiction and remanded for further proceedings regarding enforcement of the subpoena. View "Maine Community Health Options v. Albertsons Companies, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2020, the Academy filed suit in state court alleging that Continental breached an insurance policy by denying coverage for a claim asserted against it by a former executive. After removal to the district court, the district court issued a sua sponte order remanding the case to state court.The Ninth Circuit concluded that the district court's transmittal of its sua sponte order remanding this civil action to a state court based solely on the notice of removal does not deprive federal courts of jurisdiction. The panel also concluded that despite the district court's characterization of its order, 28 U.S.C. 1447(d) does not bar the panel's review because jurisdiction could not be determined when the district court issued its sua sponte order. The panel explained that section 1447(d) bars review only of a remand order that is based on a colorable section 1447(c) ground. In this case, the district court's requirement that a notice of removal prove subject matter jurisdiction is contrary to Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 574 U.S. 81, 89 (2014), and accordingly, is not a "colorable" ground under section 1447(c). Accordingly, the panel vacated the district court's remand order. View "Academy of Country Music v. Continental Casualty Co." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order granting a partial stay under Colorado River Water Conservation District v. United States, 424 U.S. 800 (1976), of three state law claims, in an action brought by the United States alleging that the California State Water Resources Board violated various provisions of the California Environmental Quality Control Act.The panel held that the district court abused its discretion in granting a partial Colorado River stay. The panel explained that partial stays pursuant to Colorado River are permissible only in very limited circumstances, namely when there is strong evidence of forum shopping. In this case, there is little evidence of forum shopping. The panel also concluded that it could not affirm the district court on the basis of Pullman abstention where the Board, which did not cross-appeal, cannot ask the court to affirm on Pullman grounds. The panel reasoned that it would necessarily have to stay the intergovernmental immunity claim, which the district court allowed to proceed. On remand, the panel instructed the district court to allow the United States' claims to proceed, subject to regular issues of justiciability. View "United States v. State Water Resources Control Board" on Justia Law