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

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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The term "individual" as used in the Freedom of Information Act's expedited processing provisions does not include an animal as well as a human being. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the USDA in an action brought by the ALDF under FOIA. Determining that the district court had jurisdiction to review the FOIA suit, the panel held that ALDF's action was not moot where ALDF asserted a pattern or practice FOIA claim alleging that the agency's policy or practice would impair ALDF's lawful access to information in the center. The panel also held that, where, as here, "individual" is used as a noun with no corresponding group or category, its plain meaning is "human being." Therefore, the panel rejected ALDF's assertion that the term "individual" in these circumstances included animals. View "Animal Legal Defense Fund v. US Department of Agriculture" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order refusing to compel the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs to place the Aqua Caliente Tribe of Cupeño Indians on a list of federally recognized tribes published in the Federal Register. The panel held that the Tribe failed to exhaust the regulatory process under 25 C.F.R. 83 to obtain federal recognition. Instead, the Tribe argued that the Part 83 process did not apply because they sought "correction" of the list, not recognition. However, the panel held that framing the issue as one of "correction" was unsupported by the applicable regulations and case law. In regard to the Tribe's equal protection and Administrative Procedure Act claims, the panel held that Interior had a rational basis for not making an exception to the Part 83 process for the Tribe. The panel concluded that it was rational for the Interior to ask the Tribe to demonstrate through the Part 83 process how they are a "distinct Community" from the Pala Band of Mission Indians and "politically autonomous" so that Interior may make the federal-recognition determination, and Interior's explanation for treating the Tribe differently from other tribes passed muster. View "Agua Caliente Tribe of Cupeño Indians of the Pala Reservation v. Sweeney" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the City in an action challenging the DOJ's use of certain factors in determining scores for applicants to a competitive grant program. The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant program allocates a limited pool of funds to state and local applicants under the Public Safety Partnership and Community Policing Act, enacted as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. In this case, the DOJ gives additional points to an applicant that chooses to focus on the illegal immigration area (instead of other focus areas) and gives additional points to an applicant who agrees to the Certification of Illegal Immigration Cooperation. After determining that the case was not moot and that the City had Article III standing, the panel held that the DOJ's use of these two factors in evaluating for the competitive grant program did not violate the Spending Clause of the U.S. Constitution, did not exceed the DOJ's statutory authority, and did not violate the Administrative Procedure Act. View "City of Los Angeles v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Civil Beat filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeking to compel disclosure of two documents related to the University of Hawai'i at Manoa's biolab where researchers study a number of highly dangerous biotoxins. The Ninth Circuit held that the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 (BPRA) is a qualifying statute under Exemption 3 of the Freedom of Information Act. The panel dismissed as moot that part of the appeal pertaining to the disclosure of the specific regulatory violations and vacated those portions of the district court's order; affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to the withholding under Exemption 6 of the identity and contact information of CDC employees involved in the UH biolab inspection; and reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the CDC on the BPRA public endangerment exemption, because the CDC did not justify its complete withholding of the information. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest, Inc. v. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention" on Justia Law

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This emergency proceeding arose from a challenge of a decision by President Trump and certain of his cabinet members to "reprogram" funds appropriated by the DoD for Army personnel needs and to redirect those funds toward building a barrier along portions of the United States' southern border. After Congress consistently refused to pass any measures that met the President's desired funding level, he sought to reprogram funds by DoD in response to a request by DHS. Plaintiffs filed suit seeking to enjoin the reprogramming and the funds' expenditure, and the district court enjoined defendants from using the reprogrammed funds to construct a border barrier. Defendants moved for an emergency stay. The Ninth Circuit denied defendants' motion for a stay, holding that defendants failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits of their appeal, because section 8005 of the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2019 did not authorize DoD to reprogram the funds and thus the use of those funds violates the constitutional requirement that the Executive Branch not spend money absent an appropriation from Congress. Furthermore, plaintiffs either have an equitable cause of action to enjoin a constitutional violation, or they can proceed on their constitutional claims under the Administrative Procedure Act, or both. Finally, factors such as the degree of hardship that may result from a stay or its denial, and the public interest at stake, did not persuade the panel to enter a stay. View "Sierra Club v. Trump" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of CTIA's request for a preliminary injunction seeking to stay enforcement of a city ordinance requiring cell phone retailers to inform prospective cell phone purchasers that carrying a cell phone in certain ways may cause them to exceed FCC guidelines for exposure to radio-frequency radiation. The panel held that CTIA has little likelihood of success on its First Amendment claim that the disclosure compelled by the ordinance is unconstitutional under Zauderer v. Office of Disciplinary Counsel, 471 U.S. 626, 651 (1985), where the disclosure was reasonably related to a substantial government interest and was purely factual and uncontroversial; the ordinance complements and reinforces federal law and policy, rather than conflicted with it; CTIA failed to establish irreparable harm based on preemption; and the balance of the equities favors the City and the ordinance is in the public interest. Therefore, the panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying preliminary injunctive relief to CTIA. View "CTIA - The Wireless Association v. City of Berkely" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Forest Service in an action challenging the agency's designation of at-risk forest lands and its approval of the Sunny South Project. The panel held that the landscape-scale area designation under section 6591a(b)(2) did not trigger a requirement for National Environmental Policy Act analysis. In this case, the Forest Service's designation of the areas did not require an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement under the Act. The panel also held that the Forest Service's finding that the project did not involve "extraordinary circumstances" was not arbitrary or capricious. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. Ilano" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order entering a preliminary injunction freezing all of defendants' assets in connection with Consumer Defense Global's loan modification business operations. The Commission filed suit alleging that defendants violated the Federal Trade Commission Act and Regulation O, 12 C.F.R. Part 1015 – Mortgage Assistance Relief Services. In this case, the parties agree that the FTC brought the instant action pursuant to the second proviso of Section 13(b) of the FTC Act, but dispute whether the FTC was required to demonstrate a likelihood of irreparable harm to obtain relief. The panel held that, although in the ordinary case a showing of irreparable harm is required to obtain injunctive relief, no such showing is required when injunctive relief is sought in conjunction with a statutory enforcement action where the applicable statute authorizes injunctive relief. Therefore, the panel held that the district court did not err by granting the motion for preliminary injunction without requiring the FTC to make the traditional showing of irreparable injury. View "FTC v. Consumer Defense, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of claims brought by DaVinci, alleging conversion and other common law torts against the United States and several U.S. Air Force employees. In 2014, the Air Force agents seized ten military GPS antennas from DaVinci, allegedly under the guise of the Espionage Act. DaVinci sought damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). DaVinci alleged abuse of process and conversion claims, arguing that the United States conspired to fraudulently and wrongfully coerce DaVinci to surrender the antennas without due process or just compensation. The panel held that the abuse of process claim was barred by section 2680(c) of the FTCA, because the antennas were not seized "solely" for the purpose of forfeiture. Likewise, the conversion claim failed because it was based on the allegedly illegal seizure of goods. The panel held that DaVinci could proceed in the Court of Federal Claims under the Tucker Act through a takings claim under the Fifth Amendment. In regard to DaVinci's claims against individual defendants, the panel held that DaVinci voluntarily dismissed the case against three individuals and never amended the complaint to include any others. Furthermore, DaVinci's claims against the individual defendants were not part of this appeal. Finally, the district court properly dismissed the Bivens claim against the United States, as the only remaining defendant, based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "DaVinci Aircraft, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Center filed suit seeking an injunction under the citizen suit provision of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) to require the Kaibab National Forest's administrator, the Forest Service, to address hunters' use of lead ammunition in the Kaibab. Scavenger birds ingest the lead ammunition left in animal carcasses and then suffer lead poisoning. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the complaint for lack of jurisdiction, holding that the case concerned a genuine adversary issue between the parties and that a ruling in plaintiffs' favor would require the Forest Service to mitigate in some manner the harm caused by spent lead ammunition. The panel rejected the Forest Service's contention that the district court had discretion to decline jurisdiction over the case and held that the district court did not purport to exercise discretion with regard to whether to hear this case, nor could it properly have done so. Rather, the district court's order dismissing the case was based on its determination that it lacked jurisdiction. Furthermore, because the district court improperly determined that there was no jurisdiction over this case, it failed to decide whether the operative complaint stated a claim under 42 U.S.C. 7002 and applicable pleading standards. Accordingly, the court remanded to the district court for further proceedings. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. United States Forest Service" on Justia Law