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

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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Intervenor UNITE HERE Local 11 (Union) was the exclusive collective bargaining representative for a unit of employees whom Kava Holdings LLC employed at the Hotel Bel-Air. Kava temporarily closed the Hotel for extensive renovations and laid off all the unit employees. As Kava prepared to reopen the Hotel, Kava conducted a job fair to fill about 306 unit positions. Approximately 176 union-affiliated former employees applied for those positions. Kava refused to rehire 152 of them. The National Labor Relations Board found that Kava committed unfair labor practices. The Board ordered various remedies, including reinstatement of the former employee applicants who were affected by Kava’s discriminatory conduct. Kava petitioned for review of the Board’s order and a supplemental remedial order, and the Board cross-applied for enforcement.   The Ninth Circuit denied in part and dismissed in part Kava Holdings, LLC’s petition for review and granted the National Labor Relations Board’s cross-petition for enforcement of its order, which found that Kava committed unfair labor practices in violation of Sections 8(a). The panel held that substantial evidence supported the Board’s finding that Kava committed an unfair labor practice by refusing to rehire union-affiliated former employees so that Kava could avoid its statutory duty to bargain with the Union. The panel held that substantial evidence supported the Board’s finding that Kava committed an unfair labor practice by refusing to recognize and bargain with the Union as it reopened the Hotel and by unilaterally changing the bargaining unit’s established pre-closure terms and conditions of employment. View "KAVA HOLDINGS, LLC V. NLRB" on Justia Law

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Kari Lake and Mark Finchem (“Plaintiffs”), the Republican nominees for Governor and Secretary of State of Arizona, filed this action before the 2022 general election, contending that Arizona’s use of electronic tabulation systems violated the federal Constitution. The district court dismissed their operative first amended complaint for lack of Article III standing. Lake v. Hobbs. Plaintiffs’ candidacies failed at the polls, and their various attempts to overturn the election outcome in state court have to date been unavailing. On appeal, they no longer seek any relief concerning the 2022 election but instead seek to bar use of electronic tabulation systems in future Arizona elections.   The Ninth Circuit agreed with the district court that Plaintiffs’ “speculative allegations that voting machines may be hackable are insufficient to establish an injury in fact under Article III. The court explained that even assuming Plaintiffs could continue to claim standing as prospective voters in future elections, they had not alleged a particularized injury and therefore failed to establish the kind of injury Article III requires. None of Plaintiffs’ allegations supported a plausible inference that their individual votes in future elections will be adversely affected by the use of electronic tabulation, particularly given the robust safeguards in Arizona law, the use of paper ballots, and the post-tabulation retention of those ballots. The panel concluded that speculative allegations that voting machines may be hackable were insufficient to establish an injury, in fact, under Article III. View "KARI LAKE, ET AL V. ADRIAN FONTES, ET AL" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs—five individuals and the California Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc.—filed this action in the Southern District of California challenging the constitutionality of Section 32310 under the Second Amendment. On September 22, 2023, the district court issued an order declaring Section 32310 “unconstitutional in its entirety” and enjoining California officials from enforcing the law. Defendant Rob Bonta, the Attorney General of California, filed an emergency motion for a partial stay pending appeal. The Attorney General seeks to stay “all portions of the order except those regarding Sections 32310(c) and (d), which relate to large-capacity magazines that were acquired and possessed lawfully prior to the district court’s order granting a permanent injunction.”   The Ninth Circuit granted the motion. First, the court concluded that the Attorney General is likely to succeed on the merits. The court explained that the Attorney General makes strong arguments that Section 32310 comports with the Second Amendment under Bruen. Second, the Attorney General has shown that California will be irreparably harmed absent a stay pending appeal by presenting evidence that large-capacity magazines pose significant threats to public safety. Third, it does not appear that staying portions of the district court’s order while the merits of this appeal are pending will substantially injure other parties interested in the proceedings. Finally, the court concluded that the public interest tips in favor of a stay. View "VIRGINIA DUNCAN, ET AL V. ROB BONTA" on Justia Law

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This is the latest proceeding in a long-running case regarding Indian fishing rights in certain waters in Washington State. This proceeding was instituted by three Indian tribes who sought a ruling that the recognized fishing rights of the Lummi Nation (“the Lummi”) under the 1974 decree do not extend to certain areas. The current dispute centers on a single line in the decree recognizing that “the usual and accustomed fishing places” in which the Lummi have fishing rights “include the marine areas of Northern Puget Sound from the Fraser River south to the present environs of Seattle, and particularly Bellingham Bay.” (“Final Decision I”). The question is whether the specific waters in dispute here—namely, the sheltered waters east of Whidbey Island and south of Fidalgo Island—fall within the Lummi’s historical fishing territory.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, Tulalip Tribes, and Upper Skagit Indian Tribe; dismissed as moot a cross-appeal filed by the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe (collectively, “S’Klallam”) from the district court’s grant of summary judgment; and dismissed as moot S’Klallam’s appeal of the district court’s denial of the S’Klallam’s motion for reconsideration. Applying the two-step inquiry, the panel concluded that the district court correctly held that the Swinomish, Tulalip, and Upper Skagit carried their burden to warrant a ruling, under Paragraph 25(a)(1) of the 1974 Decree, that Judge Boldt’s “determination of Lummi’s usual and accustomed fishing grounds and stations” did not extend to the disputed waters at issue here. View "SWINOMISH INDIAN TRIBAL CMTY., ET AL V. LUMMI NATION" on Justia Law

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This diversity suit involves personal injury and wrongful death claims arising from a collision between a sedan and a tour bus on a U.S. highway within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation reservation. Before trial, the district court held that Arizona law applies to the accident, and it therefore dismissed all claims based on Navajo law. At trial, the jury rejected all remaining claims asserted by the sedan’s surviving passengers and by the estate of the sedan’s driver, and the district court entered judgment in favor of the tour bus driver, the tour organizer, and other related corporations.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment in favor of Defendants to the extent that it dismissed all claims that had been asserted solely under Navajo law; reversed the district court’s judgment on the claims that were submitted for trial because the district court erroneously allowed the introduction of hearsay opinions of a non-testifying putative expert; and remanded for a new trial. The panel held that the district court abused its discretion in allowing, under the guise of impeachment evidence against Plaintiffs’ expert witnesses, Defendants’ counsel to elicit the opinions expressed in a police report prepared by the Arizona Department of Public Safety as to the cause of the accident. Next, the panel affirmed the district court’s conclusion that Arizona law applied and its resulting dismissal of all claims that were asserted only under Navajo law. View "JAMIEN JENSEN, ET AL V. EXC INCORPORATED, ET AL" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs’ neighbor petitioned for a civil harassment restraining order against Plaintiffs and was granted a temporary restraining order. As a result of the TRO, Plaintiff was ordered to surrender his firearms to a California licensed firearms dealer. Certain California laws make it unlawful for any person subject to a “civil restraining order” issued by a California state court (including temporary restraining orders) to possess firearms or ammunition. Plaintiffs claim these laws violate the Second Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution as applied to them. Though Plaintiffs were subject to civil restraining orders when they filed their suit, the orders against them have expired, and in January 2023, a California court denied the latest request to extend them.   The Ninth Circuit dismissed Plaintiffs’ action as moot. The panel rejected Plaintiffs’ argument that, although they were no longer subject to any firearm restrictions, the case fell within the “capable of repetition, yet evading review” exception to mootness. The panel noted that this doctrine is to be used sparingly, in exceptional situations, and generally only where (1) the challenged action is in its duration too short to be fully litigated prior to cessation or expiration, and (2) there is a reasonable expectation that the same complaining party will be subject to the same action again. The panel held that this case was moot because the relevant restraining orders have expired, a three-year-long restraining order is not too brief to be litigated on the merits, and there was no reasonable expectation that Plaintiffs will be subject to the same action again View "MIRANDA WALLINGFORD, ET AL V. ROBERT BONTA, ET AL" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits on January 30, 2020, alleging disability since March 1, 2017,due to PTSD, depression, anxiety, insomnia, headaches, and a right knee injury. His application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. A medical expert confirmed that Plaintiff would be markedly limited when interacting with others. The medical expert suggested that Plaintiff’s Residual Function Capacity (RFC) includes “some limitations in terms of his work situation.” Once the Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ’s decision, Plaintiff sought judicial review. The district court affirmed the agency’s denial of benefits. On appeal, Plaintiff only challenged the ALJ’s finding that his mental impairments were not disabling.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The panel held that the ALJ did not err in excluding Plaintiff's VA disability rating from her analysis. McCartey v. Massanari, 298 F.3d 1072, 1076 (9th Cir. 2002) (holding that an ALJ is required to address the Veterans Administration disability rating) is no longer good law for claims filed after March 27, 2017. The 2017 regulations removed any requirement for an ALJ to discuss another agency’s rating. The panel held that the ALJ gave specific, clear, and convincing reasons for rejecting Plaintiff's testimony about the severity of his symptoms by enumerating the objective evidence that undermined Plaintiff’s testimony. The panel rejected Plaintiff's contention that the ALJ erred by rejecting the opinions of Plaintiff’s experts. The panel held that substantial evidence supported the ALJ’s conclusion that Plaintiff’s mental impairments did not meet all of the specified medical criteria or equal the severity of a listed impairment. View "JEREMY KITCHEN V. KILOLO KIJAKAZI" on Justia Law

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The National Park Service adopted a comprehensive plan for fire management in Yosemite National Park. In 2021 and 2022, the National Park Service approved two projects to thin vegetation in Yosemite in preparation for controlled burns. Those projects comported with the fire management plan except for minor alterations. The Earth Island Institute sued under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), arguing that it was unlawful for the National Park Service to approve the projects without conducting a full review of their expected environmental impacts. The Institute then moved for a preliminary injunction to halt parts of the projects. The district court denied the motion for a preliminary injunction holding that the National Park Service had sufficiently evaluated the environmental impact of the projects.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed. Applying the arbitrary and capricious standard, the panel upheld the Agency’s determination that the projects fell under a categorical exclusion called the “minor-change exclusion” that exempted them from the requirement that the Agency prepare an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement. The projects fell under that categorical exclusion because they were “changes or amendments” to the 2004 Fire Management Plan that would cause “no or only minimal environmental impact.” The panel held that the projects were consistent with the Fire Management Plan, contributing to its goals and using its methods, with only minor modifications. The panel acknowledged that even if a proposed project fits within a categorical exclusion, an agency may not rely on that exclusion if there are “extraordinary circumstances in which a normally excluded action may have a significant effect” on the environment. View "EARTH ISLAND INSTITUTE V. CICELY MULDOON, ET AL" on Justia Law

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United Aeronautical Corporation and Blue Aerospace, LLC (collectively, Aero) filed suit against the United States Air Force and Air National Guard (collectively, USAF) in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Aero alleges that USAF has for some time violated federal procurement regulations and the Trade Secrets Act by improperly using Aero’s intellectual property. The district court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that the Contract Disputes Act (CDA), precludes jurisdiction over Aero’s action by vesting exclusive jurisdiction over federal-contractor disputes in the Court of Federal Claims.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The panel agreed with the district court that the Contract Disputes Act “impliedly forbids” jurisdiction over Aero’s claims by vesting exclusive jurisdiction over federal-contractor disputes in the Court of Federal Claims. A claim falls within the scope of the CDA’s exclusive grant of jurisdiction if (1) the plaintiff’s action relates to (2) a procurement contract and (3) to which the plaintiff was a party. Here, Aero’s claims that USAF improperly received and used MAFFS data (1) relate to the DRA, (2) the DRA is a procurement contract, and (3) Aero is a contractor for purposes of the DRA. The panel held that the test set forth in Megapulse, Inc. v. Lewis, 672 F.2d 959 (D.C. Cir. 1982), is limited to determining whether the Tucker Act—which grants exclusive jurisdiction to the Court of Federal Claims over breach-of-contract actions for money damages—“impliedly forbids” an ADA action because Megapulse addressed implied preclusion only pursuant to the Tucker Act, not pursuant to the CDA. View "UNITED AERONAUTICAL CORP., ET AL V. USAF, ET AL" on Justia Law

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Saloojas, Inc. (“Saloojas”) filed five actions against Aetna Health of California, Inc. (“Aetna”), seeking to recover the difference in cost between its posted cash price for COVID-19 testing and the amount of reimbursement it received from Aetna. Saloojas argues that Section 3202 of the CARES Act requires Aetna to reimburse out-of-network providers like Saloojas for the cash price of diagnostic tests listed on their websites. The district court dismissed this action on the ground that the CARES Act does not provide a private right of action to enforce violations of Section 3202.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The panel held that the CARES Act does not provide a private right of action to enforce violations of Section 3202. Saloojas correctly conceded that the CARES Act did not create an express private right of action. The panel held that there is not an implied private right of action for providers to sue insurers. The use of mandatory language requiring reimbursement at the cash price does not demonstrate Congress’s intent to create such a right. The statute does not use “rights-creating language” that places “an unmistakable focus” on the individuals protected as opposed to the party regulated. View "SALOOJAS, INC. V. AETNA HEALTH OF CALIFORNIA, INC." on Justia Law