Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision upholding a final order of removal. At issue was whether the BIA permissibly interpreted the phrase "single scheme of criminal misconduct" under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(ii). In Matter of Adetiba, 20 I. & N. Dec. 506 (BIA 1992), the BIA affirmed its longstanding interpretation of "single scheme of criminal misconduct" under section 1227(a)(2)(A)(ii): "when an alien has performed an act, which, in and of itself, constitutes a complete, individual, and distinct crime, he is deportable when he again commits such an act, even though one may closely follow the other, be similar in character, and even be part of an overall plan of criminal misconduct." The panel upheld the BIA's interpretation under the principles of Chevron deference and held that the BIA properly applied this interpretation here, and that this application was not impermissibly retroactive. The panel explained that, because the phrase in question operates as an exception to a ground for deportation, the BIA's narrower definition of the exception serves to broaden the application of the removal provision, making petitioner subject to removal when he might not have been under the panel's previous definition. The panel also upheld the BIA's denial of discretionary relief, acknowledging the limitations on judicial review of discretionary decisions. View "Szonyi v. Whitaker" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's forfeiture order in an action where defendant pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to export ammunition from the United States and one count of conspiracy to export firearms and ammunition. The panel held that the district court did not err in ordering forfeiture because 18 U.S.C. 924(d)(1) authorizes forfeiture of firearms and ammunition involved in a federal crime. The panel also held that the district court did not err in ordering the forfeiture of substitute property. Finally, defendant's challenge to the adequacy of the notice of forfeiture in the indictment was not reviewable, but even if it were, the notice was adequate. View "United States v. Soto" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255 in light of Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015). Defendant argued that Johnson established that he was ineligible for a sentencing enhancement under the Armed Career Criminal Act; and, but for alleged misinformation that he was eligible for such an enhancement, he might not have entered a plea agreement. The panel rejected defendant's argument and held that he failed to show that the alleged misinformation about his ACCA eligibility was "demonstrably made the basis for the sentence." In this case, the record established that defendant's potential eligibility for an ACCA enhancement was not before the sentencing court, and defendant's personal concerns and motivation for entering into the plea agreement did not suffice to establish that the district court made an error of constitutional magnitude. View "United States v. Hill" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review of a final order of removal following the dismissal of petitioner's appeal by the BIA. Petitioner was convicted of communication with a minor for immoral purposes in violation of Revised Code of Washington 9.68A.090, and an IJ found that petitioner's conviction constituted a crime involving moral turpitude committed within five years of admission to the United States. Therefore, petitioner was removeable under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(i). The panel held that, in assessing the constitutional status of the phrase "crime involving moral turpitude," it was bound by the Supreme Court's decision in Jordan v. De George, 341 U.S. 223 (1951), which held that the phrase was not unconstitutionally vague. The panel also held that the Supreme Court's more recent decisions in Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015), and Sessions v. Dimaya, 138 S. Ct. 1204 (2018), did not reopen inquiry into the constitutionality of the phrase. Furthermore, petitioner's alternate claim that communicating with a minor for immoral purposes was not a crime of moral turpitude was foreclosed by the panel's decision in Morales v. Gonzales, 478 F.3d 972 (9th Cir. 2007). View "Islas-Veloz v. Whitaker" on Justia Law

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Second-degree assault under Wash. Rev. Code 9A.36.021(1) is overbroad when compared to the generic definition of aggravated assault because only the former encompasses assault with intent to commit a felony. Second-degree murder under Wash. Rev. Code 9A.32.050 (2003) is overbroad when compared to the generic definition of murder because only the former covers felony murder. The Ninth Circuit vacated defendant's sentence after he pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The panel held that second-degree assault did not qualify as a crime of violence under USSG 4B1.2, because the second-degree assault statute was indivisible and the panel could not apply the modified categorical approach. Likewise, the panel held that second-degree murder is not a crime of violence under section 4B1.2. The panel concluded that the district court's incorrect calculation of the proper Guideline range was not harmless. Accordingly, the panel remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Verderoff" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment dismissing a petition for habeas relief. After the district court conducted a through evidentiary hearing on the issue of judicial bias and concluded that no bias occurred, the panel reviewed the record, the briefs, and considered the arguments of counsel and could not say that the district court committed clear error in its factual determinations. The panel also held that Ngyuen v. Curry, 736 F.3d 1287 (9th Cir. 2013), was not controlling and the prudential law of the case doctrine did not bind the panel. Rather, the panel held that, under Davila v. Davis, 137 S. Ct. 2058 (2017), petitioner's ineffective assistance of counsel claim was not viable. View "Hurles v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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In 7 U.S.C. 13(a)(4), a provision within the Commodity Exchange Act, "willfully" must have the traditional meaning ascribed to the term in the context of criminal prohibitions against fraud: intentionally undertaking an act that one knows to be wrongful. This appeal arose from a civil enforcement action brought by the Commission against defendant, the co-founder of the Paron investment firm. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Commission and, after applying the correct meaning of "willfully," held that there were no genuine issues of material fact as to whether defendant acted willfully when he made three separate false statements to the National Futures Association (NFA) during its investigation of Paron. The panel also held that the district court properly awarded restitution. However, the court vacated in part the district court's order issuing a permanent injunction against defendant and remanded for further explanation as to certain parts of the permanent injunction. View "U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission v. Crombie" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against the County and the City in state court, alleging violations of his constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial. In 1972, plaintiff was convicted of 28 counts of felony murder for causing a deadly fire at a Tucson hotel. In 2013, after plaintiff presented newly discovered evidence that arson did not cause the hotel fire, he entered into a plea agreement where the original convictions were vacated and he pleaded no contest to the same counts, was resentenced to time served, and released from prison. After the City removed the case to federal court, the district court granted in part and denied in part the County's motion to dismiss. The Ninth Circuit exercised its discretion under 28 U.S.C. 1292(b) to deny the County's application for permission to appeal the denial of qualified immunity; held that section 1291's collateral order doctrine did not apply to the County's appeal and thus the panel did not have jurisdiction over it; and dismissed the County's appeal. The panel held that a plaintiff in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action may not recover incarceration-related damages for any period of incarceration supported by a valid, unchallenged conviction and sentence. Exercising its discretion under section 1292(b), the panel held that plaintiff's valid 2013 conviction and sentence were the sole legal causes of his incarceration, and thus he could not recover damages for wrongful incarceration. View "Taylor v. County of Pima" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied as unnecessary petitioner's application to file a second or successive habeas corpus petition. Petitioner argued that his petition was not second or successive, but rather a first petition challenging a new judgment that added credit for the time he served before sentencing. The panel held that Gonzalez v. Sherman, 873 F.3d 763, 769 (9th Cir. 2017), which held that, under California law, a state court's amended judgment awarding a defendant credit for time served constituted a new judgment, applied to Nevada law. Therefore, petitioner's habeas petition was the first petition challenging his amended judgment. View "Turner v. Baker" on Justia Law

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A defendant waives his rights to challenge his sentence and precludes plain error review only when there is evidence that he knew of his rights at the time and nonetheless relinquished them. The en banc court affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence, reaffirming the distinction between waiver and forfeiture of sentencing challenges. The en banc court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it dismissed a juror who complained of health problems during deliberations. Although the en banc court held that defendant's failure to object to the Guidelines calculations at sentencing constituted forfeiture subject to plain error review, there was no plain error. In this case, regardless of whether the district court's loss calculation method was legally erroneous, defendant failed to meet his burden of showing that the alleged error affected his substantial rights. View "United States v. Depue" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law