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

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The case involves Adree Edmo, a transgender woman incarcerated in Idaho, who sued the State of Idaho, private prison company Corizon, and individual prison officials for failing to provide her with adequate medical care, including gender-confirmation surgery. Edmo alleged violations of the Eighth Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, the Affordable Care Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and negligence under Idaho law. The district court granted an injunction on Edmo’s Eighth Amendment claim and ordered the defendants to provide her with adequate medical care, including gender-confirmation surgery. The court denied preliminary injunctive relief on Edmo’s Fourteenth Amendment and ACA claims because the record had not been sufficiently developed.The district court's decision was appealed, and the injunction was stayed. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s decision except as it applied to five defendants in their individual capacities. After the Supreme Court denied a writ of certiorari, the parties engaged in settlement negotiations that led to Edmo voluntarily dismissing the remainder of her claims. The district court awarded Edmo $2,586,048.80 for attorneys’ fees incurred up until the injunction became permanent and all appeals were resolved.The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed in part, affirmed in part, and vacated in part the district court’s award of attorneys’ fees to Edmo. The court held that Edmo was entitled to fees incurred litigating her successful Eighth Amendment claim. However, the court found that the district court erred in calculating the lodestar amount to include fees incurred litigating unsuccessful claims advanced in the complaint, even if those claims were premised on the same facts that supported Edmo’s Eighth Amendment claim. The court also held that the district court did not err by applying an enhancement to the lodestar amount given that Edmo’s counsel operated under extraordinary time pressure and that the customary fee for counsel’s services is well above the PLRA cap. The case was remanded for recalculation of the lodestar amount to include only fees incurred litigating Edmo’s successful claim against the defendants who remained in the case. View "Edmo v. Corizon, Inc." on Justia Law

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The case under review is an appeal regarding the resentencing of Vivian Tat, who was involved in a money-laundering scheme. At her initial sentencing, Tat was convicted on several counts and sentenced to 24 months imprisonment. However, she appealed and the higher court vacated her conviction on one count and her sentence, remanding for de novo resentencing. At the resentencing hearing, Tat received an 18-month sentence.Her appeal to this court is her second one, and she argues that the lower court erred in applying sentencing enhancements related to her role as an organizer/leader and her abuse of trust, improperly considered "cost" in dismissing her community-service proposal at sentencing, and violated Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32 by failing to make factual findings about certain parts of her presentence report.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that a criminal defendant’s failure to challenge specific aspects of her initial sentence on a prior appeal does not waive her right to challenge comparable aspects of a newly imposed sentence following de novo resentencing. The court found that the lower court had erred in applying an organizer/leader enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 3B1.1, as Tat’s status as a mere member of the criminal enterprise did not bear on whether she was an organizer, leader, manager, or supervisor of the criminal activity, and the criminal conduct was not “otherwise extensive.” However, the district court did not err in applying an enhancement for abuse of trust under U.S.S.G. § 3B1.3, where Tat’s position as a manager at the bank gave her the discretion to carry out transactions like the one at issue here without oversight, and where her position of trust facilitated her role in the underlying offense. The court also found that the lower court did not improperly consider “cost” in dismissing Tat’s community-service proposal. The court vacated Tat’s sentence and remanded to the district court for resentencing consistent with this opinion. View "United States v. Tat" on Justia Law

Posted in: Banking, Criminal Law
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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to deny absolute and qualified immunity to two social workers, Gloria Vazquez and Mirta Johnson, in a case brought against them by Sydney Rieman and her child, K.B. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants violated their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by (1) failing to provide them with notice of a juvenile detention hearing where the County’s Child and Family Services sought custody of K.B., and (2) providing false information to the Juvenile Court about why Ms. Rieman was not noticed for the hearing.The court rejected the defendants' claim that they were entitled to absolute immunity for actions taken in their quasi-prosecutorial role as social workers. The court determined that the failure to provide notice of the hearing and the provision of false information to the Juvenile Court were not similar to discretionary decisions about whether to prosecute. Therefore, absolute immunity did not apply.The court also held that the defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity from suit for failing to provide notice of the hearing and for providing false information to the Juvenile Court. The court affirmed that Ms. Rieman had a due process right to such notice and that this right was clearly established. It was also clear that providing false information to the court constituted judicial deception. The court concluded that a reasonable social worker in the defendants' position would have understood that their actions were violating the plaintiffs' constitutional rights. View "RIEMAN V. VAZQUEZ" on Justia Law

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In this case, Markanthony Sapalasan was arrested and his backpack was searched. After the arrest, his backpack was taken into police custody, and Sapalasan was taken to the police station for questioning regarding a potential murder. After questioning, Sapalasan was released, but his backpack remained in police custody. Approximately six hours later, Officer Tae Yoon conducted an inventory search of the backpack and discovered methamphetamine. Sapalasan was subsequently convicted of two drug felonies and appealed the conviction, claiming that the search of his backpack violated his Fourth Amendment rights.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the police may constitutionally conduct an inventory search of belongings when the property is lawfully retained and the search is done in compliance with police regulations, even after the individual has been released. The court found that the lawfulness of the initial separation of Sapalasan from his backpack was unchallenged, so the justification of an inventory search did not depend on whether he was headed to jail. The court also determined that Officer Yoon's inventory search substantially complied with the police department's policy. Therefore, the court affirmed the lower court's denial of Sapalasan's motion to suppress the methamphetamine found during the search. View "USA V. SAPALASAN" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit was asked to rule on a trademark infringement case brought by BBK Tobacco & Foods LLP against Central Coast Agriculture, Inc. BBK, a distributor and seller of smoking-related products with trademarked "RAW" branding, alleged that CCA infringed on its mark by selling cannabis products under the mark "Raw Garden." The district court granted summary judgment in favor of CCA on BBK’s trademark claims, but in favor of BBK on its counterclaims to invalidate several of CCA’s trademark applications and CCA’s counterclaim to cancel BBK’s trademark applications for unlawful use.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of BBK on its claim to invalidate four of CCA’s trademark applications. The court held that, under 15 U.S.C. § 1119, when an action involves a claim of infringement on a registered trademark, a district court also has jurisdiction to consider challenges to the trademark applications of a party to the action. The court also held that lack of a bona fide intent to use a mark in commerce is a valid basis to challenge a trademark application.However, in a separately filed memorandum disposition, the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s summary judgment on BBK’s trademark claims and affirmed the summary judgment on CCA’s counterclaim to cancel BBK’s trademark for unlawful use. View "BBK TOBACCO & FOODS LLP V. CENTRAL COAST AGRICULTURE, INC." on Justia Law

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A petitioner, Joseph William Hart, appealed the denial of his 28 U.S.C. § 2254 habeas corpus petition by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The case emerged from a 1988 trial in which Hart was convicted of the murder of Diana H., and of the rape, sodomy, and forced oral copulation of Amy R. Hart was sentenced to death.Hart argued that the State suppressed evidence that could have impeached one of the prosecution’s expert witnesses, Dr. Dewitt Hunter, in violation of Brady v. Maryland. He also argued that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge Dr. Hunter’s qualifications and testimony.The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's denial of Hart's petition. It held that the Supreme Court of California could have reasonably concluded that the impeachment evidence Hart referred to was not material. The court also found that Hart's trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to challenge Dr. Hunter's qualifications and testimony. The court determined that Hart's counsel's decisions were entitled to deference and that Hart provided no substantial evidence that another expert would have contradicted Dr. Hunter's findings. View "JOSEPH HART V. RON BROOMFIELD" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In a case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the petitioner, Terry Eugene Iversen, appealed the district court’s denial of his 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Iversen had been sentenced to life without parole (LWOP) for the crime of public indecency under Oregon’s sex offender recidivism statute due to his extensive criminal history, which included prior convictions for public indecency, rape, and sodomy. Iversen argued that the LWOP sentence was grossly disproportionate to his offense, in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.The court, applying the demanding standard required by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, upheld the district court’s decision. The court found that the Oregon state court’s decision concerning Iversen’s sentence was not contrary to Supreme Court’s Eighth Amendment jurisprudence. The court considered Iversen’s extensive history of adult felony recidivism, his mental health record, his failed opportunities to reform, and the fact that he remained dangerous to others. The court also noted Oregon’s public-safety interest in incapacitating and deterring recidivist felons like Iversen.The court concluded that Iversen’s sentence did not raise an inference of gross disproportionality given the gravity of his offense and criminal history. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court’s denial of Iversen’s habeas petition. View "Iversen v. Pedro" on Justia Law

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The plaintiff, Robert Conway, appealed a decision by the district court that upheld the denial of his social security benefits by an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ had found that Conway could perform "medium work" based on the testimony of a vocational expert. Under Terry v. Saul, the term "medium work" was presumed to imply a six-hour standing and walking limitation.However, Conway argued that this presumption was rebutted during the cross-examination of the vocational expert. When asked if someone could perform medium work if they were only able to be on their feet for six hours maximum, the expert responded that the three sample occupations provided would not be possible and it would be difficult to provide substitute unskilled, medium occupations.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed with Conway, finding that the vocational expert's significantly different responses revealed that the expert did not understand the ALJ’s hypothetical to impliedly include a six-hour standing and walking limitation. As such, the expert’s response to the ALJ’s question had no evidentiary value to support the ALJ’s finding that Conway could perform jobs in the national economy. The court concluded that the error was not harmless and reversed the district court’s judgment, remanding the case to the Commissioner of Social Security for further proceedings. View "CONWAY V. O'MALLEY" on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to vacate the plaintiffs' quasi in rem attachment of a vessel owned by Bergshav Aframax Ltd., a defendant in an admiralty action seeking fulfillment of arbitration awards. The arbitration awards were owed to the plaintiffs by B-Gas Ltd., renamed Bepalo, a different corporate entity. The plaintiffs tried to hold Aframax liable for the arbitration awards by arguing that Aframax and Bepalo were alter egos, essentially the same entity.However, the court found that the plaintiffs failed to show a reasonable probability of success on their veil piercing theory, which would be required to establish that Aframax and Bepalo were alter egos. The court found that the plaintiffs did not demonstrate that Bepalo was dominated and controlled by the Bergshav Group, the parent corporate group of Aframax. The court noted that the minority shareholders of Bepalo exercised independent judgment in approving the relevant transactions, countering the claim that the Bergshav Group had total domination of Bepalo. Therefore, the court concluded that the plaintiffs had not met their burden of demonstrating a reasonable probability of success on their veil-piercing claim, leading to the affirmation of the district court's decision to vacate the attachment of the vessel. View "SIKOUSIS LEGACY, INC. V. B-GAS LIMITED" on Justia Law

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In the case involving Sorrento Therapeutics, Inc., its CEO, and its Vice President, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a securities fraud class-action case brought by lead plaintiff Andrew R. Zenoff. The plaintiff alleged that the defendants violated the Securities Exchange Act and the SEC's Rule 10b-5 by falsely claiming to have discovered a "cure" for COVID-19, resulting in a temporary surge in Sorrento's stock prices.The court held that the defendants' representations about the potential COVID-19 cure, when read in context, were not materially false or misleading. The court also found that the plaintiff failed to support the requisite strong inference of scienter, or intent to deceive, manipulate, or defraud. The court noted that Sorrento's financial difficulties and the need to raise capital did not provide a strong inference of scienter. Furthermore, the plaintiff did not provide evidence of specific stock sales or purchases that would indicate an intent to manipulate stock prices.The court found that the plaintiff's allegations did not meet the specific requirements for claims of securities fraud under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, which include demonstrating a material misrepresentation or omission, scienter, a connection between the misrepresentation or omission and the purchase or sale of a security, reliance upon the misrepresentation or omission, economic loss, and loss causation. The court concluded that the defendants' initial enthusiasm about the potential cure was not inherently false or misleading at the time, and the plaintiff failed to establish a strong inference of scienter. As a result, the court affirmed the lower court's dismissal of the case. View "ZENOFF V. SORRENTO THERAPEUTICS, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law