Articles Posted in U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Petitioner, convicted in Nevada state court of first degree murder, argued that his conviction was invalid due to the trial court's use of the Kazalyn instruction, which did not separately define the terms "willful," "deliberate," and "premeditated." After petitioner was convicted, but before his conviction became final, the Nevada Supreme Court invalidated the Kazlyn instruction and replaced it with an instruction separately defining the terms "willful," "deliberate," and "premeditated." The district court subsequently granted petitioner habeas corpus relief and the State appealed. The court held that White v. Woodall's clarification of the unreasonable-refusal-to-extend rule is "clearly irreconcilable" with Babb v. Lozowsky's conclusion that the Nevada Supreme Court unreasonably applied Supreme Court precedent by failing to apply a change in state law to Babb's pending conviction; Woodall thus "effectively overruled" Babb with respect to petitioners for whom, like Babb, the relevant state court decision pre-dated Bunkley v. Florida; and, for those convictions, the court was no longer bound by Babb. In this case, petitioner's conviction became final in 2001 upon the denial of his direct appeal. Because there can be fairminded disagreement regarding whether Griffith v. Kentucky and Fiore v. White (Fiore II) apply to post conviction changes in state law, the Nevada Supreme Court did not unreasonably apply clearly established federal law when it declined to apply the Byford v. State instruction to petitioner's case. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's grant of the petition for a writ of habeas corpus and remanded with directions to enter judgment for the State, denying the petition. View "Moore v. Helling" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his convictions for manufacturing 1,000 or more marijuana plants and carrying a firearm during a drug trafficking crime. The court concluded that a deputy's single reference to a consulate did not convey anything about defendant's legal status. The court also rejected the argument that the testimony regarding the right to a consulate was undisclosed 404(b) evidence because the testimony did not reveal anything, let alone defendant's status as illegally present in the United States. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying defendant's motion for a mistrial and new trial. Further, the district court did not abuse its discretion when it refused to reopen the evidence to allow defendant to testify. The court joined its sister circuits in holding that a defendant must generally invoke the right to testify before the close of evidence and the court considered the Walker factors to determine whether a district court abused its discretion in denying a motion to reopen. In this case, considering each of the Walker factors in light of the record, the court could not say that the district court abused its discretion. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "United States v. Orozco" on Justia Law

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Petitioner challenged the state court's holding that a retrospective competency determination was feasible and that he was competent at the time of his penalty-phase trial. The district court concluded that exhaustion of state remedies was a prerequisite to its review of petitioner's challenge and the district court stayed and held in abeyance petitioner's challenge pending exhaustion in state court. Petitioner appealed. The court concluded that the stay-and-abeyance order was not an appealable collateral order and was not appealable under Moses H. Cone Mem'l Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp. as an order that put petitioner "effectively out of court." The court declined to construe the appeal as a petition for a writ of mandamus. Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "Stanley v. Chappell" on Justia Law

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Encompass filed suit against Mid-Century and Coast National seeking contribution or subrogation for the expenses Encompass incurred in its defense and indemnification of its insured, Lisa Torti, in an underlying lawsuit. Alexandra Van Horn was a passenger in a wrecked car and, Torti, fearing that Van Horn might be in danger, grabbed Van Horn and physically removed her from the car. Van Horn suffered severe spinal injuries after the accident and became a paraplegic. Van Horn sued Torti, alleging that Torti caused her injuries when she removed her from the wrecked car. At issue on appeal was whether unloading an injured passenger from a motor vehicle constitutes "use" of that motor vehicle under California law. The court concluded that it does. As used in Mid-Century's and Coast National's insurance policies, the term "use" is defined by California Insurance Code 11580.06(g). As defined by California Insurance Code 11580.06(g), "use" of an automobile includes unloading that automobile. In this case, Torti "used" the vehicle when she unloaded Van Horn from that car. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment of the district court in favor of Mid-Century and Coast National and remanded for further proceedings. View "Encompass Ins. Co. v. Coast Nat'l Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Defendant, a juvenile male, appealed the district court's adjudication of delinquency on six counts of aggravated sexual abuse in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2241(c). The court concluded that the district court had subject matter jurisdiction over the juvenile delinquency proceedings and that section 2241(c) is not unconstitutionally vague. The court rejected defendant's claim that the district court erred applying the means rea element of section 2241(c), denying the Rule 29 motion for judgment of acquittal as to Counts 3 and 5 because there was insufficient evidence of anal penetration, and admitting the hearsay statements of a victim through the testimony of a social worker under Rule 803(4). The court remanded the portion of the district court's judgment to allow specific consideration of defendant's suspension request where Rule 35(a)'s fourteen-day time limit had expired and there was no record of whether the district court weighed factors bearing on the suspension while it had jurisdiction to do so. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's disposition decision, remanded for consideration of all disposition options, including a suspension of delinquency, and affirmed in all other respects. View "United States v. Juvenile Male" on Justia Law

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Avenal Power filed suit seeking to compel EPA to issue a Prevention of Significant Deterioration Permit under the old applicable air quality standards that would have applied had EPA acted within the statutory deadline. EPA eventually granted Avenal Power the Permit without regard to the new regulations. Petitioners challenged EPA's action. As a preliminary matter, the court concluded that petitioners had associational standing. On the merits, the court held that the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. 7475(c), unambiguously requires Avenal Power to demonstrate that the Avenal Energy Project complies with the regulations in effect at the time the Permit is issued; because Congress has directly spoken to the precise question at issue in Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., EPA cannot grant the petition for review; and, therefore, the court vacated the decision to issue the permit and remanded for further proceedings. View "Sierra Club v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of knowingly joining and participating in a drug conspiracy because she translated telephone calls for her godson, a leader of a methamphetamine conspiracy. The court held that when a government representative concedes that there was a substantial error in the trial court proceedings involving prosecutorial misconduct, and the court concluded that the plain error standards laid out in United States v. Olano are otherwise met, the court may consider the error and, if otherwise appropriate, reverse the conviction. In this case, the court concluded that the Olano factors have been met and the court found it reasonably probable that defendant was convicted based on the prosecutors' false account of the grandson's testimony. Because the error was plain, the court reversed and remanded. View "United States v. Mageno" on Justia Law

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SoCal filed suit against Defendant Zaffina and his company, SoCal Inc., alleging violations of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1051 et seq.; the California Business and Professions Code; common law trademark infringement; and unfair competition. The court concluded that the district court did have jurisdiction over SoCal's claim under the Lanham Act; the district court properly concluded that SoCal had the capacity to bring its Lanham Act claim in federal court; SoCal had standing to sue; and SoCal's motion for summary judgment was properly served on Zaffina. On the merits, the court concluded that SoCal was entitled to summary judgment where the contested marks are protectable, SoCal owns these marks, and Zaffina's use of these marks is likely to cause confusion. The court held that unincorporated associations have the capacity to own trademarks and the district court's assumption that SoCal has the capacity to own the contested marks was correct. The court rejected defendant's remaining claims and affirmed the district court's entry of summary judgment. View "S. Cal. Darts Ass'n v. Zaffina" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a death row prisoner, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against Department of Corrections officials and a prison guard, alleging that the prison guard read a confidential letter he sent to his attorney, rather than merely scanning it to inspect the letter for contraband. The court concluded that plaintiff stated a Sixth Amendment claim when he alleged that prison officials read his legal mail, that they claim entitlement to do so, and that his right to private consultation with counsel has been chilled; plaintiff's allegations also support a claim for injunctive relief; and, therefore, the court reversed the district court's dismissal for failure to state a claim and remanded for further proceedings. View "Nordstrom v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a putative class action alleging that defendants failed to provide necessary services for students with diabetes in California public schools. The parties subsequently entered into a settlement agreement and the district court retained limited jurisdiction to enforce the agreement. After the district court's jurisdiction had expired per the terms of the settlement agreement, plaintiffs filed a motion seeking attorneys' fees for monitoring defendants' compliance with the agreement. The district court denied the motion for lack of jurisdiction. The court concluded that the district court erred in failing to recognize the distinction between ancillary jurisdiction to enforce the settlement agreement and ancillary jurisdiction over an attorney's fees dispute. While the settlement agreement limited the district court's ancillary jurisdiction to enforce the terms of the parties' settlement, it did not affect the district court's ancillary jurisdiction over an attorneys' fees dispute. Thus, the district court has ancillary jurisdiction over plaintiffs' motion for attorneys' fees. The court reversed and remanded. View "K.C. v. Torlakson" on Justia Law