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

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Petitioner was detained under 8 U.S.C. Section 1226(c), which provides for mandatory detention of noncitizens with certain criminal convictions. After Petitioner filed a habeas petition, the district court ordered that he receive a bond hearing, reasoning that his prolonged mandatory detention violated due process. An IJ denied bond, and the BIA affirmed. The district court asserted jurisdiction over Petitioner’s claims but denied habeas relief.   Affirming in part and vacating in part the Ninth Circuit held that: 1) federal courts lack jurisdiction to review the discretionary determination of whether a particular noncitizen poses a danger to the community such that he is not entitled to bond; and 2) the district court correctly denied Petitioner’s claims that the BIA erred or violated due process in denying bond.   The court held that the district court lacked jurisdiction to review the determination that Petitioner posed a danger to the community, concluding that dangerousness is a discretionary determination covered by the judicial review bar of 8 U.S.C. Section 1226(e). In concluding that the dangerousness determination is discretionary, the court observed that the only guidance as to what it means to be a “danger to the community” is an agency-created multifactorial analysis with no clear, uniform standard for what crosses the line into dangerousness. As to Petitioner’s remaining claims, the court concluded that the district court had jurisdiction to review them as constitutional claims or questions of law not covered by Section1226(e), but agreed with the district court that they must be denied. View "JAVIER MARTINEZ V. LOWELL CLARK" on Justia Law

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After pleading guilty to charges stemming from possessing stolen mail, credit cards, and other financial devices, Defendant was sentenced to 36 months in prison. He appealed his custodial sentence. But, under the terms of Defendant’s plea agreement, he waived the right to appeal his sentence. Defendant argued the court should invalidate the waiver because the district court violated Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. That Rule provides that the district court must address the defendant “personally” and determine that the defendant understands the terms of any appellate waiver. Fed. R. Crim. Proc. 11(b)(1)(N). Defendant asserted that the district court failed to follow this requirement and so he should be permitted to appeal his sentence.  The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The court reviewed for plain error because Defendant failed to object to the alleged violation during the plea colloquy. The court cited several factors in the record including the plea agreement’s specificity as to the scope of the appellate waiver, the counsel’s certification of her discussion and advice concerning the consequences of the entering the agreement, and Defendant’s assurances during the change-of-plea hearing and plea colloquy that he understood the proceedings and the agreement. The court wrote that nothing in the record supports a reasonable probability that Defendant would not have entered the guilty plea had the district court separately addressed the appellate waiver as Rule 11 requires. Thus, the court held that the appellate waiver is enforceable, and did not consider Defendant’s challenges to his custodial sentence. View "USA V. JASON DAVID" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The en banc Ninth Circuit court dismissed as moot an appeal from the district court’s summary judgment in favor of California Governor Newsom and state officials in an action brought by a group of parents and a student alleging Defendants violated federal law when they ordered schools to suspend in-person instruction in 2020 and early 2021, at a time when California was taking its first steps of navigating the Covid-19 pandemic.   The en banc court held that this was a classic case in which, due to intervening events, there was no longer a live controversy necessary for Article III jurisdiction. Nor was there any effective relief that could be granted by the court. The parents had not brought a claim for damages; they sought a declaratory judgment that Governor Newsom’s executive orders, to the extent they incorporated guidance on school reopening, were unconstitutional. Relatedly, they sought an injunction against the 2020-21 Reopening Framework. But Governor Newsom has rescinded the challenged executive orders, and the 2020-21 Reopening Framework has been revoked. Schools now operate under the 2021-22 Guidance, which declares that all schools may reopen for in-person learning. And the parents conceded that, since April 2021, there has been no “state-imposed barrier to reopening for in-person instruction.” The actual controversy has evaporated.The en banc court rejected Plaintiffs’ assertion that the case survived under two exceptions to mootness: the voluntary cessation exception and the capable of repetition yet evading review exception. Neither exception applied. View "MATTHEW BRACH V. GAVIN NEWSOM" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction for possession of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. Section 2252A(a)(5)(B), (b)(2). He contended that the district court should have granted his pretrial motion to suppress evidence, which asserted that FBI agents executing a search warrant at his residence deliberately violated Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(f)(1)(C) by failing to supply a complete copy of the warrant.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial. As the government conceded on appeal, the agents violated Rule 41(f)(1)(C) by delivering only the face page of the warrant rather than a complete copy. Explaining that suppression is automatic only for “fundamental” violations of Rule 41, at least without any applicable exception to the exclusionary rule, the court noted that Defendant contended neither that the violation here was fundamental nor that he was prejudiced by it.The only remaining question, therefore, was whether the district court correctly concluded that the agents’ failure to deliver a complete copy of the warrant at the completion of the search was merely negligent, rather than the product of a deliberate disregard of the rule. The court held that the district court properly concluded that Defendant had not carried his burden to show a deliberate disregard of the rule. Thus, the court found no clear error in the district court’s finding that the agent did not act intentionally, and rejected Defendant’s contention that the district court failed to adequately consider the possibility that another agent had deliberately disregarded Rule 41(f)(1)(C) by unstapling the pages of the warrant and leaving only an incomplete copy. View "USA V. GRANT MANAKU" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Petitioner petitioned for review of a decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) denying his request to administratively close his removal proceedings. An immigration judge ordered Petitioner removed from the United States after he admitted that he had committed acts that disqualified him from obtaining cancellation of removal: He twice “encouraged” his eldest son to enter the United States illegally. Petitioner now argues that the “encouraged” component of the alien-smuggling statute, 8 U.S.C. Section 1182(a)(6)(E)(i), is unconstitutionally overbroad under the First Amendment, that it is unconstitutionally vague, and that it violates the equal-protection component of the Due Process Clause. He also contends that the agency abused its discretion in denying his motion for administrative closure.   The Ninth Circuit denied his petition. The court rejected Petitioner’s contention that its interpretation creates overlap with the other verbs in the section, explaining that, because no interpretation could avoid excess language here, the canon against superfluity had limited force. Further, the court explained that, even if it had doubt about its interpretation, the canon of constitutional avoidance would militate in its favor. Next, the court rejected Petitioner’s argument that section 1182(a)(6)(E)(i) is unconstitutionally vague. The court concluded that his concession that he “encouraged” his son’s unlawful entry foreclosed his facial challenge because an individual who has engaged in conduct that is clearly covered by a statute cannot complain of vagueness as applied to others. Finally, the court held that the agency did not abuse its discretion in denying administrative closure, explaining that the agency considered the applicable factors and explained its conclusions. View "J. MARQUEZ-REYES V. MERRICK GARLAND" on Justia Law

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In determining whether a police officer’s killing of the decedent arose out of the decedent’s “operation or use of a motor vehicle” pursuant to Arizona Revised Statutes (“A.R.S.”) section 12-820.05(B), the Ninth Circuit certified the question of law to the Arizona Supreme Court pursuant to Rule 27 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Arizona. This case presents two principal issues of first impression: (1) whether A.R.S. section 12-820.05(B) provides immunity from suit or a defense to liability, and (2) whether the decedent’s “operation or use of a motor vehicle” falls within A.R.S. section 12-820.05(B)’s motor vehicle exception. The court explained that certification is necessary because the central question of state law is dispositive of the instant case, and there is no controlling precedent from the Arizona Supreme Court. Ariz. R. Sup. Ct. 27(a). View "MARIA ADAME V. CITY OF SURPRISE" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Rights
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Defendant argued that his conviction and sentence under 18 U.S.C. Section 924(c)(1) for using or carrying an explosive device during a crime of violence should be vacated. The Government conceded that Defendant’s conviction under 18 U.S.C. Section 844(i) is not a crime of violence under Section 924(c)(3) after United States v. Davis.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of Defendant’s 28 U.S.C. Section 2255 motion and remanded with instructions to vacate his conviction and sentence under 18 U.S.C. Section 924(c)(1). Applying the categorical approach, the court explained that because a person can be convicted under Section 844(i) for using an explosive to destroy his or her own property, Section 844(i) criminalizes conduct that falls outside Section 924(c)’s definition of a crime of violence definition—an offense committed against the person or property of another. The court wrote that the district court—which relied on this court’s decision in Defendant’s direct appeal rejecting his argument that his property-damage and firearm convictions violated the double jeopardy clause “as punishment for the same conduct”—erred by not applying the categorical approach, which is required when determining whether an offense is a crime of violence. View "USA V. RICHARD MATHEWS" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In a series of appeals concerning a business lease which Defendant Wapato Heritage, LLC, once held on waterfront land within the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington State, the Ninth Circuit affirmed (1) the district court’s dismissal of Wapato Heritage cross-claims against the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs; and (2) the district court’s denial of Wapato Heritage’s motion to intervene in a trespass damages trial between the Bureau of Indian Affairs and other parties. The district court dismissed Wapato Heritage’s cross-claims against the Tribes and the BIA because of tribal sovereign immunity, lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and failure to state a claim   The court explained the instances where tribal participation in litigation will constitute a waiver of tribal sovereign immunity must be viewed as very limited exceptions to the general rule that preserves tribal sovereign immunity absent an unequivocal expression of waiver in clear terms. Here, the Tribes did not waive their sovereign immunity to Wapato Heritage’s cross-claims as to the 2009 and 2014 replacement leases. The Tribes invoked their immunity from suit in two Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) motions to dismiss Wapato Heritage’s cross-claims for lack of jurisdiction, which was granted. The Tribes retained their sovereign immunity to the cross-claims, and the district court did not need to rule on the claims’ merits. The court rejected Wapato Heritage’s contention that the appeal did not relate to Indian Trust land, finding that MA-8 was still Indian allotment land held in trust by the BIA. View "PAUL GRONDAL V. USA" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was publicly marked as a terrorist and threatened with torture over social media by Nicaraguan government operatives, repeatedly verbally threatened with death by supporters of the Ortega regime and received a second death threat— this time during a direct confrontation—after he was seriously beaten by six members of the Sandinista Youth. The Ninth Circuit explained that the threats were credible given the history and context of the Ortega regime’s killing and torture of its political opponents.   The Ninth Circuit (1) granted Petitioner’s petition for review of the Board of Immigration Appeals’ (“Board”) decision affirming an immigration judge’s denial of asylum and related relief, and remanded, holding that the record compelled a finding that Petitioner’s past experiences constituted persecution and that the Board erred in its analysis of other issues; and (2) dismissed as moot Petitioner’s petition for review of the Board’s denial of his motion to reopen   The court held that the record compelled the conclusion that Petitioner’s experiences in Nicaragua constituted persecution. The court explained that the court has consistently recognized that being forced to flee from one’s home in the face of an immediate threat of severe physical violence or death is squarely encompassed within the rubric of persecution. Here, Petitioner was forced to flee three separate times after being personally targeted with violence and threatened with death for his political views. Further,the court wrote that an applicant may suffer persecution based on the cumulative effect of several incidents, even if no single incident rises to the level of persecution. View "MARIO FLORES MOLINA V. MERRICK GARLAND" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Plaintiffs, employees of WinCo Foods, LLC alleged violations of the California Labor Code relating to the payment of wages and business-related expenses and the California Business & Professions Code Sections. Plaintiffs' claimed compensation as an employee for the time and expense of taking a drug test as a successful applicant for employment. Plaintiffs argued that because the tests were administered under the control of the employer, Plaintiffs must be regarded as employees.The district court granted Plaintiff’s motion for class certification and both sides then moved for summary judgment. The district court held that Plaintiff and class members were not employees of WinCo Foods when they underwent drug testing and the court granted WinCo’s motion for summary judgment. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment in favor of WinCo Foods. The court rejected Plaintiffs’ contentions because control over a drug test as part of the job application process is not control over the performance of the job. In this case, the class members were not performing work for an employer when they took the pre-employment drug test; they were instead applying for the job, and they were not yet employees. Plaintiffs also contended under California law that class members were employees under a “contract theory,” and that the drug test should be regarded as a “condition subsequent” to their hiring as employees pursuant to Cal. Civil Code Section 143. The court held that there was no condition subsequent because here there was no written contract, and the drug test was a condition precedent. View "ALFRED JOHNSON V. WINCO FOODS, LLC" on Justia Law