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

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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The conduct proscribed by Oregon's former marijuana delivery statute, Or. Rev. Stat. 475.860 (2011), does not constitute the federal generic crime of "illicit trafficking of a controlled substance," under the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(B).The Ninth Circuit held that the Oregon statute criminalizes more conduct—namely, solicitation—than does the federal generic crime. The panel concluded that "illicit trafficking" does not include solicitation offenses and thus Oregon's former crime of marijuana delivery for consideration, Or. Rev. Stat. 475.860(2)(a), does not qualify as an aggravated felony under section 1101(a)(43)(B). In this case, the BIA erred in relying on Rendon v. Mukasey, 520 F.3d 967 (9th Cir. 2008), especially given the panel's earlier precedent establishing that solicitation offenses do not fall under the controlled substance ground for deportation under section 1227(a)(2)(B)(i). Therefore, the panel granted the petition for review and remanded for further proceedings. View "Cortes-Maldonado v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a petition for writ of error coram nobis brought by petitioner, a lawful permanent resident from Canada, who pleaded guilty to health care fraud and was convicted in 2005. The government seeks to remove petitioner from the United States because his conviction is an aggravated felony.In this case, the panel held that petitioner is not entitled to coram nobis relief because, after learning that the only way he could avoid removal was to challenge his conviction, he waited two years, without a valid reason, before filing his petition for writ of error coram nobis. The panel specifically held that uncertainty or ambiguity in the law is not itself a valid reason to delay seeking coram nobis relief. View "United States v. Kroytor" 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 suppress evidence of a firearm. The panel held that the district court did not clearly err in crediting an officer's testimony that he observed on defendant a "very large and obvious bulge" that suggested a concealed firearm. The panel also held that the district court's basis for finding reasonable suspicion was soundly supported in the record based on factual findings that were not clearly erroneous. Furthermore, those facts taken together created reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Therefore, the district court properly denied defendant's motion to suppress evidence found during the search. View "United States v. Bontemps" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for sexually abusing minors at a facility that housed unaccompanied noncitizen children. The panel held that, under 18 U.S.C. 2246(5)(A), the phrase "pending . . . deportation" does not require a finding of actual or inevitable removal from the United States. Instead, it is sufficient that, as here, the government had initiated removal proceedings against the minors, even though those proceedings were unresolved and the minors therefore did not face a certainty of deportation. Because the government presented testimony establishing that the minors in this case had been served with Notices to Appear in Immigration Court and were placed into removal proceedings that created the possibility of deportation, the panel concluded that the statute's jurisdictional element was met. View "United States v. Pacheco" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Ninth Circuit denied Karen Denise Chades's application for leave to file a second or successive habeas corpus petition under 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(1). Chades was convicted of first degree murder in California state court. In her application, Chades claimed that she was denied effective assistance of counsel in her federal habeas proceedings because her habeas counsel did not adequately press her ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim against her trial counsel.The panel held that it has no authority under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) to authorize Chades to file a second or successive application. In this case, Chades concedes that her application does not meet the statutory exceptions under which a second or successive claim can be reviewed. The panel declined to accept Chades' invitation to hold that the panel nevertheless has jurisdiction to entertain her request directly under the Constitution, because doing so would necessarily require the panel to find that the provisions in section 2244 that bar Chades's application are unconstitutional as applied to her. The panel concluded that the statute does not impermissibly preclude judicial review of an inmate's constitutional challenges, but rather acts as a mere regulation of repetitious requests for relief.The panel raised sua sponte the question of whether a single member of the panel could construe Chades's request as a habeas corpus application and transfer it to a district court for further proceedings. Regardless of whether a transfer is properly done by a panel or by an individual judge, the panel each declined to transfer here. Finally, the panel noted that Chades is not left entirely without a forum for airing her due process claim while seeking habeas relief. View "Chades v. Hill" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of a habeas corpus petition challenging petitioner's first-degree murder conviction and remanded with instructions to conditionally grant the writ. In this case, the prosecutor told the jury at the end of his closing-argument rebuttal that the presumption of innocence no longer applied.The panel applied petitioner's claim pursuant to Darden v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 168 (1986), de novo, holding that the prosecutor's repeated statements, endorsed by the trial judge, that the presumption of innocence no longer applied violated due process under Darden. The panel stated that a holding of a due process violation under Darden necessarily entails a conclusion that the prosecutor's misstatements of the law were prejudicial. The panel also held that the Court of Appeal unreasonably concluded under Chapman v. California, 386 U.S. 18 (1967), that the prosecutor’s misstatements of the law were harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Ford v. Peery" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress in an action where defendant entered a conditional guilty plea to receipt and distribution of material involving the sexual exploitation of minors. The panel held that, under the warrant and the law established by Michigan v. Summers, 452 U.S. 692 (1981), the agents had no authority to seize defendant or search his car when they arrived to execute the warrant, because neither was at the residence. In this case, the agents manufactured the authority to seize them by falsely claiming to be police officers responding to a burglary to lure defendant home. Furthermore, by luring defendant home, the agents' successful deceit enabled them to obtain incriminating statements from defendant and evidence from his car and person. The panel held that, under the particular facts of this case, the agents' use of deceit to seize and search Ramirez violated the Fourth Amendment. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Ramirez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Ninth Circuit reversed defendant's conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm. In United States v. Du Bo, 186 F.3d 1177, 1179 (9th Cir. 1999), an indictment missing an essential element that is properly challenged before trial must be dismissed. At issue in this appeal was whether defendant properly challenged his indictment pre-trial, thereby triggering the Du Bo rule.The panel followed its well-established obligation to construe pro se filings liberally and held that defendant properly challenged his indictment under Du Bo's automatic-dismissal rule. In this case, defendant's indictment neither tracked the language of 18 U.S.C. 922(g) nor set forth the elements of the offense, because it did not allege that he had knowledge of his felon status pursuant to Rehaif v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 2191 (2019). Therefore, the panel directed the district court to dismiss his indictment. View "United States v. Qazi" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Ninth Circuit withdrew a memorandum disposition filed January 9, 2020; filed a published opinion affirming the district court's denial of petitioner's habeas corpus petition; denied a petition for rehearing; and denied on behalf of the court a petition for rehearing en banc. During petitioner's trial, one of the jurors had a conversation with a neighbor who is a police officer about difficulties the juror was having in the case and the police officer neighbor responded something to the effect that a defendant in a criminal trial would not be there if he had not done something wrong.The panel held that the Nevada Supreme Court's test to evaluate juror misconduct—and the application of it in petitioner's case—is not contrary to, nor does it involve an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law. The panel stated that there was no decision of the Supreme Court that precludes the Nevada Supreme Court from requiring petitioner to show a reasonable probability or likelihood that the contact affected the verdict. View "Von Tobel v. Benedetti" on Justia Law

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Defendant again appealed his conviction for possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. In a prior appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that officers from the Salinas Police Department violated the Fourth Amendment when they entered defendant's home without a warrant, ostensibly to determine whether someone inside posed a threat to their safety or required emergency assistance. At issue in this appeal is whether, under the attenuation doctrine, the discovery of the suspicionless search condition after detaining and handcuffing defendant was an intervening circumstance that broke the causal chain between the initial unlawful entry and the discovery of the evidence supporting defendant's conviction in this case and the revocation of supervised release in the underlying case.The panel held that the evidence found in the search was not sufficiently attenuated from the constitutional violation. The panel balanced the three attenuation factors: 1) the temporal proximity between the unconstitutional conduct and the discovery of evidence; 2) the presence of intervening circumstances; and 3) the purpose and flagrancy of the official misconduct. The panel held that whatever role the officers' subjective good faith should play in the attenuation analysis, it is not enough to outweigh the other two factors. Under the totality of the circumstances, the panel concluded that even accepting the district court's finding that the officers acted in good faith, this fact alone is not enough to justify admission of the evidence. Therefore, the district court erred in denying defendant's motion to suppress and the panel reversed defendant's conviction. View "United States v. Garcia" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law