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

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision to deny a preliminary injunction requested by Thomas Eugene Creech, a death row inmate. Creech raised constitutional claims concerning his execution method, arguing that the State failed to provide sufficient information about its lethal injection drug, pentobarbital, and that the execution protocol was deficient. The Court, however, found that Creech was unlikely to succeed on his claims, noting that the State had adequately disclosed the planned execution method and that Creech's arguments about the drug's provenance were speculative. Creech's Eighth Amendment claims, which focused on potential unnecessary pain during execution, were rejected as he had not identified an alternative execution method and did not have any known conditions that create a substantial risk of severe pain. Additionally, Creech's argument about the protocol's lack of requirement for an anesthesiologist and a brain monitor were dismissed as they were against Supreme Court precedent. The Court also found that the balance of equities and public interest did not favor Creech. Thus, the Court affirmed the lower court's denial of Creech's request for preliminary injunctive relief. View "CREECH V. TEWALT" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a district court's default judgment entered against defendants Akop and Anahit Arutyunyan. The defendants were accused by Transamerica Life Insurance Company of engaging in insurance fraud. The district court found that the defendants persistently failed to obey court orders related to discovery and entered a default judgment against them. In the course of the legal proceedings, the court applied escalating sanctions against the defendants for their repeated non-compliance with court orders, eventually leading to the entry of a default judgment. The defendants contested this decision, but the Ninth Circuit Court found that their appeal was frivolous. The court held that the district court had not abused its discretion in entering a default judgment as a sanction for the defendants' violations of court orders. The Ninth Circuit also ordered the defendants and their counsel to show cause why sanctions should not be imposed under various provisions given the frivolous nature of the appeal and multiple misstatements made by counsel during oral argument. View "TRANSAMERICA LIFE INSURANCE CO V. ARUTYUNYAN" on Justia Law

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In this case, the plaintiff, a victim of sex trafficking, brought a putative class action against various entities, including foreign-based defendants who operated websites on which videos of her abuse were uploaded and viewed. The district court dismissed the claims against the foreign-based defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed and vacated in part, holding that the district court erred in its conclusion.The Ninth Circuit found that the plaintiff had established a prima facie case for the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction over two foreign defendants, WebGroup Czech Republic, a.s. ("WGCZ") and NKL Associates, s.r.o. ("NKL"), which operated the websites. The court concluded that the plaintiff had shown that these defendants had purposefully directed their activities toward the United States, that her claims arose from these forum-related activities, and that the exercise of jurisdiction would be reasonable.The court based its decision on several factors. WGCZ and NKL had contracted with U.S.-based content delivery network services to ensure faster website loading times and a more seamless viewing experience for U.S. users, demonstrating that they had actively targeted the U.S. market. They also profited significantly from U.S. web traffic. Furthermore, the harm the plaintiff suffered—namely, the publication of videos of her abuse on the defendants' websites—had occurred in the U.S., and a substantial volume of the widespread publication of the videos occurred in the U.S.As for the remaining foreign defendants, the court vacated the district court's dismissal of them because it was based solely on the incorrect assumption that there was no personal jurisdiction over WGCZ and NKL. The court remanded the case for further proceedings to determine whether personal jurisdiction could be asserted against these additional defendants. View "DOE V. WEBGROUP CZECH REPUBLIC, A.S." on Justia Law

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In the case heard by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Peace Ranch LLC challenged the constitutionality of California AB 978, a mobilehome-rent-control statute. Peace Ranch alleged that if it increases mobilehome rents more than AB 978 permits, the California Attorney General would enforce AB 978 against it. However, Peace Ranch also alleged that AB 978 does not apply to its mobilehome park. The Court of Appeals concluded that Peace Ranch had adequately established standing based on a pre-enforcement injury. The court reasoned that Peace Ranch was trapped between complying with a law that it believes does not apply to it or risking enforcement proceedings by raising rents. This dilemma, the court ruled, is the precise predicament that supports pre-enforcement standing. As such, the court reversed the district court's dismissal for lack of standing. View "PEACE RANCH, LLC V. BONTA" on Justia Law

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In this putative class action lawsuit, Maria Johnson, a former employee of Lowe's Home Centers, LLC, brought claims on behalf of herself and other Lowe's employees under California's Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) for alleged violations of the California Labor Code. Johnson had signed a pre-dispute employment contract that included an arbitration clause.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to compel arbitration of Johnson's individual PAGA claim, as a valid arbitration agreement existed and the dispute fell within its scope. However, the district court's dismissal of Johnson's non-individual PAGA claims was vacated. The lower court had based its decision on the U.S. Supreme Court's interpretation of PAGA in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana, which was subsequently corrected by the California Supreme Court in Adolph v. Uber Techs., Inc. The state court held that a PAGA plaintiff could arbitrate their individual PAGA claim while also maintaining their non-individual PAGA claims in court. The case was remanded to the district court to apply this interpretation of California law. The Ninth Circuit rejected Lowe's argument that Adolph was inconsistent with Viking River. View "JOHNSON V. LOWE'S HOME CENTERS, LLC" on Justia Law

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In a dispute between Voltage Pictures, LLC (Voltage) and Gussi S.A. de C.V. (Gussi SA) regarding their Distribution and License Agreement (DLA), the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the District Court for the Central District of California's decision to confirm an arbitral award in favor of Voltage. The court held that the district court had jurisdiction under Section 203 of Chapter 2 of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) and 28 U.S.C. § 1331, despite an incorrect initial assertion of diversity jurisdiction. The court also ruled that Federal procedural law, not California law, governed the service of Voltage's notice of motion to confirm the arbitral award. It held that Voltage had sufficiently served the notice by mailing the motion papers to Gussi SA's counsel. Lastly, the court held that the district court had not erred in refusing to extend comity to an alleged Mexican court order enjoining Voltage from seeking to confirm the award in the United States, as Gussi SA had not certified the genuineness of the purported Mexican court order or its translation. View "VOLTAGE PICTURES, LLC V. GUSSI, S.A. DE C.V." on Justia Law

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In the case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, a group of plaintiffs challenged a Seattle ordinance that criminalizes the intentional writing, painting, or drawing on property without the express permission of the property’s owner or operator. The plaintiffs, who were arrested for writing political messages in charcoal and sidewalk chalk near a Seattle Police Department precinct, argued that the ordinance was substantially overbroad under the First Amendment and facially vague under the Fourteenth Amendment.The Ninth Circuit held that the plaintiffs had Article III standing because enjoining enforcement of the ordinance was substantially likely to redress plaintiffs’ injury by allowing them to chalk political messages on City sidewalks and barriers erected on public walkways without fear of arrest. However, the court found that the district court erred when it granted the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction on their First Amendment facial overbreadth claim and their Fourteenth Amendment facial vagueness claim. The court reasoned that the district court failed to acknowledge the numerous applications of the ordinance that would not implicate any protected speech, and speculated about possible vagueness in hypothetical situations not before the court.Therefore, the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s order granting the preliminary injunction and remanded the case back to the district court for further proceedings. View "TUCSON V. CITY OF SEATTLE" on Justia Law

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In the case involving Katherine Blumenkron, David Blumenkron, and Springville Investors, LLC, versus Multnomah County, the Metro Regional Government, and members of the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission, the plaintiffs challenged the designation of their land in Multnomah County, Oregon, as "rural reserves" under the Oregon Land Reserves Statute. They claimed that the statute and regulations facially violate the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the federal constitution, and that the defendants’ rural reserve designations violated their federal procedural due process, substantive due process, and equal protection rights. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of plaintiffs’ facial and as-applied constitutional challenges to the designation, concluding that the requirements for Burford abstention (a doctrine that allows federal courts to refrain from deciding a case in deference to state courts) were met for each of the as-applied claims. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by abstaining from exercising jurisdiction over the claims in their entirety, including plaintiffs’ claims for damages. The court concluded that plaintiffs had abandoned their facial constitutional claims on appeal and therefore affirmed the district court’s dismissal of these claims for failure to state a claim as a matter of law. View "BLUMENKRON V. MULTNOMAH COUNTY" on Justia Law

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In this case decided by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the court considered whether the claims filed by Adriana Holt, her children, and her mother Beatriz Lukens against Orange County and several deputy sheriffs were barred by the applicable statutes of limitations. The plaintiffs alleged unlawful search and arrest and brought claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and California state law. The case involved multiple filings and dismissals in different courts, raising the question of whether the tolling provision of the supplemental jurisdiction statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1367, applied to their claims.The court held that the plaintiffs' claims were not tolled and were therefore properly dismissed as untimely. The court reasoned that § 1367 tolls the applicable statute of limitations for a federal-law claim that is contained in the same federal court complaint as a supplemental state-law claim and that is “voluntarily dismissed at the same time as or after the dismissal of the [supplemental] claim.” However, this tolling provision does not apply when the supplemental claim is voluntarily dismissed, as occurred in Holt's first suit, or when a supplemental claim is dismissed for improper joinder, as occurred in the separate class action.Finally, the court also held that the plaintiffs' state-law claims were not tolled by a Covid-19 pandemic emergency tolling order and rule because the limitations periods for those claims had already lapsed before either the order or rule went into effect. Therefore, the court affirmed the lower court's dismissal of the plaintiffs' claims as time-barred. View "HOLT V. COUNTY OF ORANGE" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a judgment from the United States District Court for the Central District of California regarding the FBI's "inventory" of 700 safe deposit boxes at US Private Vaults (USPV). The USPV was under investigation for various criminal activities. The FBI seized the boxes and their contents under a warrant that expressly did not authorize a criminal search or seizure of the box contents. After a trial based on written submissions, the district court ruled in favor of the government, holding that the government's "inventory" of the safe deposit boxes was a constitutionally valid inventory search. The Ninth Circuit disagreed, stating that the inventory search doctrine did not apply because one of the key features of the doctrine is the existence of standardized instructions which limit the discretion of officers and apply consistently across cases. The court found that the FBI had supplemented its standardized instructions with additional instructions specifically designed for the USPV raid, which took the case out of the realm of a standardized "inventory" procedure. The Ninth Circuit also held that the government exceeded the scope of the warrant, which did not authorize a criminal search or seizure of the contents of the safe deposit boxes. The case was remanded for the FBI to sequester or destroy the records of its inventory search pertaining to the class members. View "Snitko v. United States" on Justia Law