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

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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Plaintiff and other tenants filed suit against the Duringer Law Group, PLC, and Stephen C. Duringer, alleging that Duringer violated the Act by filing a memorandum of costs in state court proceedings concerning an unlawful-detainer judgment. The district court concluded that Tenants’ federal suit constituted an improper appeal of a state-court judgment and thus was barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s summary judgment. The court explained that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine provides that, by vesting jurisdiction over state-court appeals in the U.S. Supreme Court, 28 U.S.C. Section 1257 precludes a federal district court from exercising subject-matter jurisdiction in an action asking the court to overturn an injurious state-court judgment. The panel held that the doctrine is limited to cases (1) brought by state-court losers (2) complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments (3) rendered before the district court proceedings commenced and (4) inviting district court review and rejection of those judgments. The panel concluded that the tenants’ action did not challenge a memorandum of costs on which the state court already had rendered judgment, but rather a later memorandum. Because there was no relevant state-court judgment purporting to adjudicate the validity of the costs in the later memorandum, Rooker-Feldman did not apply. View "JANEY BROWN, ET AL V. DURINGER LAW GROUP PLC, ET AL" on Justia Law

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Officers Timothy Wright and Brett Willey responded to a domestic violence call where they shot and killed Robert Anderson. Anderson’s estate and family sued Wright, Willey, and the County of Lyon under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 and Nevada law. Defendants moved for summary judgment, and the district court granted qualified immunity to the officers on the Section 1983 claims.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The panel held that defendants were entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment excessive force claim because Plaintiffs’ rights were not clearly established. First, it was not obvious that defendants were constitutionally precluded from firing given that they were responding to an active domestic violence situation, lacked the benefit of having time to fully assess the circumstances, and needed to make split-second decisions as they were being charged. Second, Plaintiffs failed to show controlling authorities (or a consensus of persuasive ones) that would have put every reasonable officer on notice that defendants’ conduct violated the Fourth Amendment. Distinguishing this case from other cases, the panel noted that Anderson was in a narrow hall and rapidly approaching the officers, with no barrier between them. He could have accessed the officers’ weapons at any time or otherwise harmed them. Further, if the officers took the option to retreat to the house’s entryway, they would have left Jennifer Anderson—for whom they had just called an ambulance—alone with her husband or risked injury themselves if Anderson obtained a weapon from somewhere in his home. View "FREDRICK WAID, ET AL V. COUNTY OF LYON, ET AL" on Justia Law

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For several years, Defendant, Shannon Poe, engaged in instream suction dredge mining in Idaho’s South Fork Clearwater River (the South Fork) without a National Pollutant Discharge Eliminating System (NPDES) permit. Plaintiff Idaho Conservation League (ICL) sued Poe, arguing that he violated the CWA each time he operated a suction dredge on the South Fork without an NPDES permit. Poe countered that (1) his suction dredge mining did not add pollutants to the South Fork and therefore did not require an NPDES permit, and (2) even if his suction dredge mining did add pollutants, those pollutants are “dredged” or “fill” material regulated exclusively pursuant to Section 404, not Section 402, of the CWA. The district court granted summary judgment to ICL. Poe appealed the judgment as to liability.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The panel held that to establish a violation of the Clean Water Act’s NPDES requirements, also referred to as Section 402 permitting, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant (1) discharged, i.e., added (2) a pollutant (3) to navigable waters (4) from (5) a point source. As to the first element, the panel held that Poe’s suction dredge mining “added” a pollutant to the South Fork. The panel followed Rybachek v. EPA, 904 F.2d 1276 (9th Cir. 1990), which upheld Environmental Protection Agency regulations interpreting the Clean Water Act. The panel further held that the processed material discharged from Poe’s suction dredge mining was a pollutant, not dredged or fill material, and therefore required an NPDES permit under Section 402 of the Clean Water Act rather than a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers under Section 404. View "IDAHO CONSERVATION LEAGUE V. SHANNON POE" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Coronavirus Reporter, CALID, Inc., Primary Productions LLC, and Dr. Jeffrey D. Isaacs sued Defendant Apple for its allegedly monopolist operation of the Apple App Store. The district court dismissed the claims with prejudice for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and denied the remaining motions as moot. Plaintiffs-Appellants appealed.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The panel held that Plaintiffs failed to state an antitrust claim under Section 1 or Section 2 of the Sherman Act, arising from Apple’s rejection of their apps for distribution through the App Store, because they did not sufficiently allege a plausible relevant market, either for their rejected apps as compared to other apps, or for apps in general. The panel held that Plaintiffs failed to state a claim for breach of contract under California law because they did not identify relevant specific provisions of Apple’s Developer Agreement or Developer Program License Agreement or show that Apple breached a specific provision. View "CORONAVIRUS REPORTER, ET AL V. APPLE, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law

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Officers told Plaintiff that he could distribute his tokens in designated zones, referred to as Free Speech Zones, outside the entry gates but not inside the festival itself. Plaintiff nevertheless purchased a ticket, entered the festival, began handing out tokens, and was subsequently ejected. He brought suit alleging that the Cal Expo fairgrounds, in their entirety, constitute a traditional “public forum,” analogous to a public park, thereby entitling his speech to the most robust constitutional protections.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment for Defendants. The panel first held that the enclosed, ticketed portion of the fairgrounds constituted a nonpublic forum under the United States Constitution and the California Speech Clause. The space did not permit free access, its boundaries were clearly delineated by a fence, and no evidence suggested that access had previously been granted as a matter of course. The panel further noted that California courts have drawn distinctions between ticketed and unticketed portions of venues, and Plaintiff pointed to no case holding that an enclosed area with a paid-entry requirement constitutes a public forum. The panel determined that it need not decide whether the area outside the fence was a public forum under the First Amendment because the California Speech Clause provided independent support for Plaintiff’s argument that it was indeed such a forum, albeit subject to reasonable restrictions on speech. The panel concluded that the Free Speech Zones in the exterior fairgrounds were a valid regulation of the time, place, and manner of Plaintiff’s speech. The guidelines on distributing literature in the enclosed area were likewise permissible. View "BURT CAMENZIND V. CALIFORNIA EXPOSITION AND STATE FAIR, ET AL" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are individual physicians based in Arizona, joined by several Arizona medical and advocacy groups. The named Defendants are Arizona Attorney General Kristin Mayes, all Arizona County Attorneys, and various state enforcement agencies. The Attorney General declined to defend this lawsuit, and the district court allowed Warren Petersen, President of the Arizona Senate, and Ben Toma, Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, to intervene. This suit by Arizona physicians, medical associations, and advocacy groups claims that an Arizona law criminalizing the performance of certain abortions is unconstitutionally vague. The district court denied a preliminary injunction, finding that Plaintiffs lacked standing.   The Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded. The panel held that the physician plaintiffs had demonstrated both actual and imminent injuries sufficient for standing. Plaintiffs suffered an actual injury—economic losses— because they lost money by complying with the laws, which forbade them from providing medical services they would otherwise provide, and these economic losses were fairly traceable to the statute. A favorable decision would relieve plaintiffs of compliance with the laws and restore the revenue generated by the prohibited procedures. Plaintiffs sufficiently alleged two imminent future injuries that affected interests protected by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments: (1) a liberty interest that was imperiled because violating the statute could result in imprisonment; and (2) a property interest that was threatened because a statutory violation could result in revocation of plaintiffs’ licenses, loss of revenue, and monetary damages. Finally, plaintiffs satisfied the causation and redressability requirements with respect to their imminent future injury. View "PAUL ISAACSON, ET AL V. KRISTIN MAYES, ET AL" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the dismissal of their class action, alleging that the Ford Motor Company (“Ford”) made unlawful recordings of their private communications in violation of the Washington Privacy Act (“WPA”).   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment. The panel rejected Plaintiffs’ request for remand to the Washington state court because it was based on the flawed argument that Ford “self-rebutted the assertion of Art. III jurisdiction” when it alleged that plaintiffs failed to plead a statutory injury under the WPA in its motion to dismiss. The injury-in-fact prong of Article III standing and the merits of a WPA claim are separate inquiries. With respect to constitutional injury-in-fact, the complaint’s allegations plausibly articulated an Article III injury because they claimed a violation of a substantive privacy right. Article III standing was thus satisfied, and the district court properly retained jurisdiction. Turning to the merits of the WPA claim, the panel rejected Plaintiffs’ claim that a violation of the WPA itself is an invasion of privacy that constitutes remediable injury. An invasion of privacy, without more, is insufficient to meet the statutory injury requirements of WPA Section 9.73.060. Plaintiffs must allege an injury to “his or her business, his or her person, or his or her reputation.” The court found that Plaintiffs failed to do so here. View "MARK JONES, ET AL V. FORD MOTOR COMPANY" on Justia Law

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The U.S. Department of Labor brought the underlying lawsuit under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, alleging that Appellants Brian Bowers and Dexter Kubota sold their company to an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) at an allegedly inflated value. The government’s case hinged on a single valuation expert, who opined that the plan overpaid for that company. The district court rejected the opinion, and the government lost a bench trial. The district court denied Appellants’ request for attorneys’ fees and nontaxable costs under EAJA, finding that the government’s litigation position was “substantially justified” and that it did not act in bad faith.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of attorneys’ fees and nontaxable costs. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the government’s position at trial was substantially justified, and in denying attorneys’ fees and nontaxable costs under EAJA. The panel noted that the government could not rely on red flags alone, such as the “suspicious” circumstances of the ESOP transaction, to defend its litigation position as “substantially justified.” The panel held that the district court abused its discretion in reducing the award of taxable costs because it relied on a clearly erroneous finding of fact in reducing the magistrate judge’s recommended award of taxable costs. View "JULIE SU V. BRIAN BOWERS, ET AL" on Justia Law

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Three private contractors providing war-zone security services to the Department of Defense (DOD) appealed a district court order remanding to Nevada state court this suit brought by a group of their employees who guarded DOD bases, equipment, and personnel in Iraq. The guards alleged that their working conditions violated the contractors’ recruiting representations, their employment contracts, and the Theater Wide Internal Security Services II (TWISS II) contract between the contractors and the Department of Defense.The Ninth Circuit reversed. The panel held that the contractors met the limited burden imposed by the federal officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. Section 1442(a)(1), which permits removal of a civil action against “any officer (or any person acting under that officer) of the United States or of any agency thereof . . . for or relating to any act under color of such office.” To satisfy this requirement, a removing private entity must show that (a) it is a “person” within the meaning of the statute; (b) there is a causal nexus between its actions, taken pursuant to a federal officer’s directions, and the plaintiff’s claims; and (c) it can assert a colorable federal defense. There was no dispute that the contractors, as corporations, were “persons” for purposes of Section 1442(a)(1). The panel held that the contractors sufficiently pleaded that there was a causal nexus between their actions and the guards’ claims. View "NICHOLAS DEFIORE, ET AL V. SOC LLC, ET AL" on Justia Law

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The Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation filed a complaint against Idaho state officials concerning the interpretation of the 1868 Treaty of Fort Bridger between the United States and several bands of the Shoshone and Bannock Tribes, including the Shoshone’s Northwestern Band. Under the Treaty, the affiliated Shoshone and Bannock Tribes ceded most of their territory to the United States. At the same time, the Tribes expressly reserved their right to hunt on unoccupied lands of the United States. Idaho officials contend that the Treaty conditions the reserved hunting right on permanent residence on a designated reservation and that Northwestern Band members may not exercise the Tribes’ treaty-reserved hunting right because the Northwest Band does not reside on a designated reservation. The district court agreed with Defendants’ treaty interpretation. The only issue on appeal is whether the district court erred in concluding that the Treaty makes the reserved hunting right contingent on permanent residence on the Fort Hall or Wind River Reservations.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s judgment. The panel held that the Treaty’s terms, which must be read in context and construed as they would naturally be understood by the Tribes, plainly do not condition the exercise of the reserved hunting right on the Northwestern Band relocating to a reservation. Because the district court did not reach the Idaho officials’ alternative arguments regarding political cohesion and necessary joinder, the panel remanded the case for the district court to address those issues in the first instance. View "NORTHWESTERN BAND OF THE SHOSHONE NATION V. GREG WOOTEN, ET AL" on Justia Law