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

Articles Posted in Juvenile Law
by
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action brought by plaintiff, alleging that a Juvenile Corrections Officer violated her constitutional rights. Plaintiff alleged that the officer made sexual comments to her, groomed her for sexual abuse, and looked at her inappropriately while she was showering. The panel held that, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to plaintiff and drawing all reasonable inferences in her favor, plaintiff has presented sufficient facts to establish a violation of her right to bodily privacy, right to bodily integrity, and right to be free from punishment as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. The panel also held that the district court erred when it concluded that there was no evidence supporting a causal link between the supervisor's conduct and the officer's alleged violation of plaintiff's constitutional rights. Therefore, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Vazquez v. County of Kern" on Justia Law

by
An IJ is required to inform a petitioner subject to removal proceedings of "apparent eligibility to apply for any of the benefits enumerated in this chapter." 8 C.F.R. 1240.11(a)(2). The apparent eligibility standard of 8 C.F.R. 1240.11(a)(2) is triggered whenever the facts before the IJ raise a reasonable possibility that the petitioner may be eligible for relief. When the IJ fails to provide the required advice, the appropriate course is to grant the petition for review, reverse the BIA's dismissal of the petitioner's appeal of the IJ's failure to inform him of this relief, and remand for a new hearing. A successful Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) application plainly can lead to relief from removal, and SIJ regulations are among those in the referenced subchapter, 8 C.F.R. 1245.1(a), (e)(2)(vi)(B)(3). The en banc court granted a petition for review of the BIA's dismissal of petitioner's appeal of the IJ's denial of his application for asylum and withholding of removal. The panel held that the IJ who ordered petitioner removed erred by failing to advise him about his apparent eligibility for SIJ status. View "C.J.L.G. v. Barr" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a petition for habeas relief challenging a sentencing enhancement for a prior nonjury juvenile conviction and for a gang-related crime. Petitioner argued that the evidence supporting the gang enhancement was constitutionally insufficient under Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (1979), and that the enhancement for his nonjury juvenile conviction violated Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000). The panel held that it was objectively unreasonable to conclude that the evidence was sufficient for a reasonable jury to find the robbery was committed "in association with" a gang; but it was not objectively unreasonable to conclude that the evidence was sufficient for a reasonable jury to find the robbery was committed "for the benefit of" a gang. The panel also held that the juvenile conviction claim was procedurally barred, and the sentencing enhancements based on nonjury juvenile convictions did not violate any clearly established federal law as determined by the United States Supreme Court. View "Johnson v. Montgomery" on Justia Law

by
In this appeal, the parties disputed the maximum term of official detention that can be imposed upon revocation of juvenile delinquent supervision when the juvenile is more than 21 years old at the time of the revocation proceeding. Defendant argued that the duration of previously ordered terms of official detention is always subtracted from the maximum term prescribed by 18 U.S.C. 5037(c)(2). The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's imposition of the 34 month term of official detention following revocation of defendant's juvenile delinquent supervision. The panel held that the text and structure of section 5037(d)(5), its legislative history, and the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act's motivating purpose supported defendant's construction of section 5037(d)(5). In this case, defendant was entitled to credit for "any term of official detention previously ordered," and thus the maximum term of official detention that could have been imposed upon revocation of his juvenile delinquent supervision was 14 months. View "United States v. Juvenile Male" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed a juvenile defendant's life sentence without parole where the juvenile was convicted of felony murder and other crimes. The panel held that the district court did not err in resentencing defendant by first calculating and using the sentencing guideline range of life imprisonment; under Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), and Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S. Ct. 718 (2016), the district court was required to consider the hallmark features of youth before imposing a sentence of life without parole on a juvenile offender; and the district court took into account evidence of defendant's rehabilitation as part of its inquiry into whether defendant was a member of a class of permanently incorrigible juvenile offenders. View "United States v. Briones, Jr." on Justia Law

by
Neither the Due Process Clause nor the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq., creates a categorical right to court-appointed counsel at government expense for alien minors. The Ninth Circuit held that, to the extent the IJ failed to provide all the trappings of a full and fair hearing in this case, any shortcomings did not prejudice the outcome because the IJ adequately developed the record on issues that were dispositive to petitioner's claims for relief. The panel also held that the IJ was not required to advise petitioner of a separate state court process that could ultimately form the predicate for petitioner's application for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status with the IJ. Finally, the panel declined to reversed the Board's denial of petitioner's asylum, withholding of removal, and CAT claims, because substantial evidence supported the BIA's determination that petitioner was ineligible for relief. View "C.J.L.G. v. Sessions" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of a habeas corpus petition where petitioner challenged his conviction for second degree murder and attempted murder. Petitioner was fourteen years old at the time he was found guilty of the crimes. The panel held that the government relied on a coerced waiver of the right to counsel to secure the conviction because petitioner did not knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waive such right. Because admission of petitioner's confession was not harmless, the panel granted relief under 42 U.S.C. 2254. View "Rodriguez v. McDonald" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner, convicted of murdering two teenage boys with intent to inflict torture, appealed the denial of his 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition for habeas relief. Petitioner committed the murders when he was 15 years old. Petitioner contends his counsel performed deficiently by failing to challenge the prosecution’s statements as either improper comments on petitioner's decision not to testify, in violation of Griffin v. California, or improper shifting of the burden of proof to the defense. The court concluded that, because there was no actual prosecutorial error, defense counsel’s decision to rebut the prosecution’s comments directly rather than object at trial or on appeal was adequate, and this strategy did not undermine the reliability of petitioner’s conviction. Petitioner also contends that his sentence violates the Eighth Amendment because it is the "functional equivalent" of a mandatory life-without-parole sentence, and he was a juvenile offender. The court concluded that there is a reasonable argument petitioner’s sentence is constitutional because it actually allows for the possibility of parole. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Demirdjian v. Gipson" on Justia Law

by
Defendant, 16 years old at the time of the offenses, was convicted of felony murder and related charges resulting in a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole. Miller v. Alabama subsequently held unconstitutional for juvenile offenders mandatory terms of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The district court refused to appoint a neuropsychological expert under 18 U.S.C. 3006A(e) on resentencing. The court concluded that, under these circumstances, a reasonably competent attorney would have found the services of the requested expert necessary to provide adequate representation at defendant’s resentencing. By precluding defendant from developing this potential mitigating evidence, the district court abused its discretion. The court also concluded that a reasonable attorney would have considered an up-to-date neuropsychological evaluation necessary had defendant been a nonindigent defendant. And because a current evaluation could have provided mitigating evidence in support of a lesser sentence, defendant was sufficiently prejudiced by the failure to appoint a psychological expert before resentencing. Therefore, the court vacated defendant’s sentence and remanded for resentencing. The court further concluded that defendant has not shown the district court erred by calculating the Guidelines’ recommended base offense level as 43; defendant has not demonstrated that the district court committed prejudicial error when it considered the PSR’s calculation of criminal history points attributed to his juvenile offenses; and, even assuming that defendant’s objection to the district court’s calculation of his criminal history category based on his juvenile offenses was forfeited, as opposed to waived, and assuming the district court committed plain error by attributing criminal history points to three of his juvenile offenses, defendant has not shown prejudice as a result of the error. View "United States v. Pete" on Justia Law

by
In 2007, a juvenile court adjudicated Mendez guilty of second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm. If committed by an adult, the offense is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. In 2012, after Mendez had become an adult, a park ranger found him in possession of a shotgun. Based on the juvenile adjudication, the federal government charged him with violating 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), which makes it unlawful for a person to possess a firearm if heView "United States v. Mendez" on Justia Law