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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order holding the record custodian for various collective entities in contempt for his failure to comply with an order to respond to twelve grand jury subpoenas. The panel held that Braswell v. United States, 487 U.S. 99, 104 (1988), remained good law. The panel further held that the Fifth Amendment provides no protection to a collective entity's records custodians—and that the size of the collective entity and the extent to which a jury would assume that the individual seeking to assert the privilege produced the documents are not relevant. Therefore, the custodian's challenge to the contempt order failed. View "In re Twelve Grand Jury Suboenas" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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After a jury found that BNSF violated the anti-retaliation provision of the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) when it fired plaintiff for, in part, refusing to stop performing an air-brake test on a 42-car train that he was tasked with moving, plaintiff was awarded over $1.2 million in damages. The Ninth Circuit held that the district court did not err in denying BNSF's motion for judgment as a matter of law with respect to whether plaintiff engaged in FRSA-protected activity. Therefore, the panel affirmed the district court's grant of judgment as a matter of law on that claim. However, the panel reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to plaintiff on the contributing-factor issue because the district court conflated plaintiff's prima facie showing, which he successfully made as a matter of law, with his substantive case, which should have gone to the jury. The panel held that plaintiff was entitled to summary judgment on the contributing-factor element of his prima facie showing, but that he was not entitled to summary judgment on his substantive case. View "Rookaird v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

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California Penal Code 288(c)(1), which prohibits lewd or lascivious acts when a victim is a child of 14 or 15 years and the defendant is at least 10 years older than the child, is neither categorically a crime involving moral turpitude nor categorically a "crime of child abuse." The Ninth Circuit explained that because the offense required only sexual intent, and because a good-faith reasonable mistake of age was not a defense, a defendant was not required to have evil or malicious intent. The panel also held that section 288(c)(1) contains a single, indivisible set of elements such that the modified categorical approach did not apply. The panel granted separate petitions for review of the BIA's decision. The panel held that the BIA erred in concluding that Menendez's conviction triggered the stop-time rule and rendered her ineligible for cancellation. In regard to Rodriguez-Castellon's petition, the panel held that section 288(c)(1) was not categorically a crime of child abuse under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(E)(1), because it was broader than the generic definition of a crime of child abuse. View "De Jesus Menendez v. Whitaker" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for plaintiffs, the owners of a Montana ranch, in a dispute over the ownership of dinosaur fossils. Prior to the discovery of the fossils, the previous owners of the ranch sold their surface and one-third of the mineral estate to plaintiffs, expressly reserving the remaining two-thirds of the mineral estate. The panel held that definitions of "mineral" in Montana statutes were contradictory and thus inconclusive. The panel explained that the Montana Supreme Court has generally adopted the test in Heinatz v. Allen, 217 S.W.2d 994 (Tex. 1940), for determining whether a particular substance was a mineral in the context of deeds and agreements regarding mineral rights to land. Applying the Heinatz test, the panel held that the dinosaur fossils were "minerals" under the terms of the deed and belonged to the owners of the mineral estate. In this case, the fossils were rare and exceptional, and have special value. View "Murray v. BEJ Minerals, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner, holding that the state trial court's admission of opinion testimony from a law enforcement expert on street gangs, who described for the jury the potential benefits that a street gang might receive when a member commits a robbery by himself, did not deny petitioner a fundamentally fair trial and due process. The panel held that the district court's judgment was not contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, Supreme Court precedent. However, the panel explained that the expert testimony was insufficient to support a ten-year gang enhancement and that the state court's decision was an unreasonable application of Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (1979). Furthermore, no rational trier of fact could have found this expert testimony by itself sufficient to prove the elements of the 2001 robbery gang enhancement beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Maquiz MacDonald v. Hedgpeth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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A grant of regulatory employment authorization under 8 C.F.R. 274a.12(b)(20) does not confer lawful immigration status for purposes of establishing eligibility for status adjustment under 8 U.S.C. 1255(k)(2). The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision finding petitioner, the beneficiary of an H-1B visa, ineligible for status adjustment. In this case, petitioner's employer filed for an extension of his H-1B visa, but it was denied, and his employer failed to file an application for status adjustment within 180 days of the expiration of his H-1B visa. Although petitioner was legally authorized to work in the country during the months between the expiration of his H-1B visa and the denial of his application for an H-1B extension pursuant to 8 C.F.R. 274a.12(b)(20), the BIA correctly concluded that petitioner was ineligible for status of adjustment. View "Xiao Ma v. Sessions" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated defendant's conviction for sex trafficking of a minor or by force, fraud, or coercion, and for transportation of a minor in interstate commerce to engage in prostitution. The panel held that defendant's Sixth Amendment right to confront the witnesses against him was violated when one of the victims was permitted to testify against defendant remotely by two-way video because she was seven months pregnant and unable to travel. The panel held that, criminal defendants have a right to physical, face-to-face confrontation at trial, and that right cannot be compromised by the use of a remote video procedure unless it is necessary to do so and the reliability of the testimony is otherwise assured. In this case, alternatives were available for obtaining the testimony that would preserve defendant's right to physical confrontation. The court remanded for resentencing on the remaining five counts. View "United States v. Carter" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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After county social workers removed four children under the age of six from their family home under a suspicion of child abuse, took them to a temporary shelter, and subjected them to invasive medical examinations, without their parents' knowledge or consent and without a court order authorizing the examinations, the family filed suit against the county for violations of the parents' Fourteenth Amendment rights and the children's Fourth Amendment rights. The Ninth Circuit held that the county violates parents' Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights when it performs the Polinsky Children's Center medical examinations without notifying the parents about the examinations and without obtaining either the parents' consent or judicial authorization. The panel assumed, without deciding, that the special needs doctrine applied to the Polinksy medical examinations, but held that the searches were unconstitutional under the special needs balancing test if performed without the necessary notice and consent. In this case, the county violated the children's Fourth Amendment rights by failing to obtain a warrant or to provide these constitutional safeguards before subjecting the children to these invasive medical examinations. View "Mann v. County of San Diego" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a preliminary injunction and its bench trial judgment in an action facially challenging HB 2023, Arizona's 2016 election law prohibiting certain persons from collecting voters' early mail ballots. A person who knowingly collects voted or unvoted early ballots from another person is guilty of a class 6 felony under HB 2023. The panel held that H.B. 2023 was not preempted by federal laws regulating the United States Postal Service, did not violate the First Amendment's protection of speech by implicating the First Amendment rights of ballot collectors, and was not an unconstitutionally vague criminal statute where it did not violate either the fair notice or the arbitrary enforcement requirements. View "Knox v. Brnovich" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of a state patrol officer in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action, alleging that the officer's entry into plaintiff's home without a warrant and under false pretenses violated her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The panel held that, although the officer's entry in plaintiff's home during the course of a civil fraud investigation was an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment, the officer was entitled to qualified immunity because the right to be free from a search in the context of a civil or administrative investigation related to a determination of benefits was not clearly established at the time. View "Whalen v. McMullen" on Justia Law