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

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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The City of Oakland sued under the Fair Housing Act, claiming that Wells Fargo’s discriminatory lending practices caused higher default rates, which triggered higher foreclosure rates that drove down the assessed value of properties, ultimately resulting in lost property tax revenue and increased municipal expenditures. In 2020, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of Wells Fargo's motion to dismiss claims for lost property-tax revenues and affirmed the dismissal of Oakland's claims for increased municipal expenses.On rehearing, en banc, the Ninth Circuit concluded that all of the claims should be dismissed. Under the Supreme Court’s 2017 holding, Bank of America Corp. v. City of Miami, foreseeability alone is not sufficient to establish proximate cause under the Act; there must be “some direct relation between the injury asserted and the injurious conduct alleged.” The downstream “ripples of harm” from the alleged lending practices were too attenuated and traveled too far beyond the alleged misconduct to establish proximate cause. The Fair Housing Act is not a statute that supports proximate cause for injuries further downstream from the injured borrowers; the extension of proximate cause beyond that first step was not administratively possible and convenient. Oakland also failed sufficiently to plead proximate cause for its increased municipal expenses claim. View "City of Oakland v. Wells Fargo & Co." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction of an action brought under the Quiet Title Act (QTA) against the United States, seeking to confirm that an easement granted to plaintiffs' predecessors-in-interest did not permit public use of the Robbins Gulch Road, and to enforce the government's obligations to patrol and maintain the road against unrestricted public use.The panel reaffirmed that the QTA's statute of limitations is jurisdictional and dispositive in this case. The panel explained that prior Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit precedent are still controlling, even though for other statutes the Supreme Court has more recently set forth a seemingly different framework for assessing whether a statute of limitations is jurisdictional. Furthermore, the jurisdictional question and the merits question are not so intertwined that dismissal was improper because the determination of jurisdiction is not dependent on the merits of plaintiffs' claims. Finally, the panel rejected plaintiffs' remaining contentions, which are addressed in a separate memorandum disposition filed simultaneously with this opinion. View "Wilkins v. United States" on Justia Law

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Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12182(a), the Department of Justice (DOJ) promulgated 1991Accessibility Guidelines requiring that in sports stadiums, “[w]heelchair areas shall be an integral part of any fixed seating plan and shall be provided so as to provide people with physical disabilities a choice of admission prices and lines of sight comparable to those for members of the general public.” A 1996 DOJ guidance document (Accessible Stadiums) provides: Wheelchair seating locations must provide lines of sight comparable to those provided to other spectators. In stadiums where spectators can be expected to stand during the show or event (for example, football, baseball, basketball games, or rock concerts), all or substantially all of the wheelchair seating locations must provide a line of sight over standing spectators."Plaintiffs, baseball fans with ADA-qualifying disabilities, use wheelchairs for mobility. The Stadium, designed in 1996 and constructed in 1997-1999, has vertically stacked seating levels sloped toward the field. There is wheelchair-accessible seating on each level. The district court rejected Plaintiffs’ sightline claim and, regarding the Accessible Stadiums standard, concluded: [W]hen the Court reviews the illustrations considering what can be seen over the line representing the standing spectator’s shoulders, i.e., “over the shoulders and between the heads,” more of the field is visible from the accessible seat, making the views comparable." The Ninth Circuit vacated. The district court failed to explain how the Stadium satisfies all the Accessible Stadiums requirements. View "Landis v. WashingtonvState Major League Baseball Stadium Public Facilities District" on Justia Law

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Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020, Los Angeles imposed an eviction moratorium during a “Local Emergency Period” with the stated purposes of ensuring housing security and promoting public health during the pandemic. Related provisions delay applicable tenants’ rent payment obligations and prohibit landlords from charging late fees and interest. A trade association of Los Angeles landlords, sued, alleging violations of the Constitution’s Contracts Clause.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of the plaintiff’s request for preliminary injunctive relief, noting that other courts, including the Supreme Court, have recently considered various constitutional and statutory challenges to COVID-19 eviction moratoria. Under modern Contracts Clause doctrine, even if the eviction moratorium was a substantial impairment of contractual relations, the moratorium’s provisions were likely “reasonable” and “appropriate” given the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. The city fairly tied the moratorium to its stated goals. The court noted that contemporary Supreme Court case law has severely limited the Contracts Clause’s potency. View "Apartment Association of Los Angeles County, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles." on Justia Law

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The Sacketts purchased a soggy residential lot near Idaho’s Priest Lake in 2004, planning to build a home. Shortly after the Sacketts began placing sand and gravel fill on the lot, they received an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrative compliance order, indicating that the property contained wetlands subject to protection under the Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C. 1251(a), and that the Sacketts had to remove the fill and restore the property to its natural state.The Sacketts sued EPA in 2008, challenging the agency’s jurisdiction over their property. During this appeal, EPA withdrew its compliance order. The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in EPA’s favor. EPA’s withdrawal of the order did not moot the case. EPA’s stated intention not to enforce the order or issue a similar order in the future did not bind the agency. EPA could potentially change positions under new leadership. The court upheld the district court’s refusal to strike from the record a 2008 Memo by an EPA wetlands ecologist, containing observations and photographs from his visit to the property. The court applied the “significant nexus” analysis for determining when wetlands are regulated under the CWA. The record plainly supported EPA’s conclusion that the wetlands on the property were adjacent to a jurisdictional tributary and that, together with a similarly situated wetlands complex, they had a significant nexus to Priest Lake, a traditional navigable water, such that the property was regulable under the CWA. View "Sackett v. United States Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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The Mundens own ranching property in Bannock County, Idaho. They purchased 768 acres in 2012 and 660 acres in 2014 and purchased title insurance for the first purchase through Stewart and for the second purchase through Chicago Title. The property contains a gravel road. A 2019 ordinance amended a 2006 ordinance that closed specified snowmobile trails, including that gravel road, to motor vehicles except snowmobiles and snow-trail-grooming equipment during winter months. The 2019 ordinance deleted the December-to-April closure, giving the County Public Works Director the discretion to determine when to close specified snowmobile trails, and increased the maximum fine for violations. The Mundens sought an injunction. The county asserted that the road had been listed as a public road on county maps since 1963 and that the Mundens purchased their property expressly subject to easements and rights of way apparent or of record.The Mundens filed a federal complaint, seeking declaratory relief, indemnification, and damages. The district court granted the insurance companies summary judgment. The Ninth Circuit reversed as to Chicago Title, finding that the county road map is a “public record” within the meaning of its policy so that coverage applied. Stewart has no duty to indemnify or defend; its policy disclaims coverage for damages “aris[ing] by reason of . . . [r]ight, title and interest of the public in and to those portions of the above-described premises falling within the bounds of roads or highways.” View "Munden v. Stewart Title Guaranty Co." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the 732 Hardy Way trust, the denial of summary judgment to the Bank, and the dismissal of the Bank's claims against the HOA in a quiet title action brought by the Bank, concerning title to real property in Nevada that was subject to a HOA nonjudicial foreclosure sale. At issue is whether the Bank, as the first deed of trust lienholder, may set aside a completed superpriority lien foreclosure sale on the grounds that the sale occurred in violation of the automatic stay in bankruptcy proceedings.The panel concluded that the Bank may raise the HOA's violation of the automatic stay provision and that the Bank has superior title. The panel explained that the Bank has standing under Nevada's quiet title statute, Nevada Revised Statute 40.010, and established case authority confirms that any HOA foreclosure sale made in violation of the bankruptcy stay—like the foreclosure sale here—is void, not merely voidable, Schwartz v. United States, 954 F.2d 569, 571–72 (9th Cir. 1992). Therefore, the district court erred in holding that the Bank lacked standing to pursue its quiet title claim in federal court. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Bank of New York Mellon v. Enchantment at Sunset Bay Condominium Ass'n" on Justia Law

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In 1958, the Northern Pacific Railroad physically abandoned the 20-mile segment outside of Noxon, Montana. Part of that segment runs through the Finnigan property, which is entirely within the boundaries of the Kanisku National Forest. Several landowners along the right of way sought a judicial decree of abandonment and ultimately gained title to their respective segments of the abandoned railway. The Finnigan property’s then-owner did not seek a judicial decree of abandonment. In 2018, the Finnigan Estate brought suit to quiet its title to the right of way across its property. The district court rejected the action on summary judgment.The Ninth Circuit affirmed. Northern Pacific stopped using the segment in 1958, but the railway was not formally declared abandoned before the 1988 enactment of the Rails-to-Trails Act, 6 U.S.C. 1248(c), so the United States retained its reversionary interest in the land. The Act provides that title “shall remain” with the U.S. for railroad rights-of-way abandoned after October 4, 1988, except to the extent that the right of way was converted to a public highway. To transfer rights-of-way to neighboring landowners, abandonment requires both physical abandonment and a judicial decree of abandonment. The judicial-decree requirement was not met when another parcel in the segment obtained a judicial decree of abandonment that did not cover the Finnigan property. View "Estate of Finnigan v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit certified to the Nevada Supreme Court the following question: Whether, under Nevada law, an HOA's misrepresentation that its superpriority lien would not extinguish a first deed of trust, made both in the mortgage protection clause in its CC&Rs and in statements by its agent in contemporaneous arbitration proceedings, constitute slight evidence of fraud, unfairness, or oppression affecting the foreclosure sale that would justify setting it aside.The panel also asked the Nevada Supreme Court to consider the related issue of what evidence a first deed of trust holder must show to establish a causal relationship between a misrepresentation that constitutes unfairness under Nationstar Mortg., LLC v. Saticoy Bay LLC Series 2227 Shadow Canyon, 133 Nev. 740 (2017), and a low sales price. View "U.S. Bank, NA v. Southern Highlands Community Ass'n" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Nationstar in a diversity action brought by plaintiff alleging claims arising from nonjudicial foreclosure by a HOA on real property in Nevada. The Federal Foreclosure Bar, 12 U.S.C. 4617(j)(3), and Nevada state law, which establishes that in the event a homeowner fails to pay a certain portion of HOA dues, the HOA is authorized to foreclose on a "superpriority lien" in that amount, extinguishing all other liens and encumbrances on the delinquent property recorded after the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions attached to the title. The panel concluded that while Nevada law generally gives delinquent HOA dues superpriority over other lienholders, it does not take priority over federal law. Furthermore, federal law, in the form of the Federal Foreclosure Bar, prohibits the foreclosure of Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) property without FHFA's consent.In this case, the panel concluded that Nationstar properly and timely raised its claims based on the Federal Foreclosure Bar. The panel also concluded that the Federal Foreclosure Bar applies to the HOA foreclosure sale here where Fannie Mae held an enforceable interest in the loan at the time of the HOA foreclosure sale, as established by evidence of Fannie Mae's acquisition and continued ownership of the loan throughout that time and by evidence of its agency relationship with BANA (formerly BAC), the named beneficiary on the recorded Deed. The panel explained that Fannie Mae's interest in the loan, coupled with the fact that it was under FHFA conservatorship at the time of the sale, means the Federal Foreclosure Bar applies to this case. Finally, the panel concluded that the Federal Foreclosure Bar preempts the Nevada HOA Law. View "Nationstar Mortgage LLC v. Saticoy Bay LLC" on Justia Law