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

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Sandoval died of a methamphetamine overdose at the San Diego Central Jail after medical staff left him unmonitored for eight hours, despite signs that he was under the influence of drugs, and then failed to promptly summon paramedics when they discovered him unresponsive and having a seizure. A suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 was rejected on summary judgment.The Ninth Circuit reversed. The district court abused its discretion by summarily sustaining the defendants’ “frivolous” evidentiary objections. An objective standard applies to constitutional claims of inadequate medical care brought by pretrial detainees; the district court erroneously applied the subjective deliberate indifference standard. A jury could conclude that Sandoval would not have died but for the defendants’ unreasonable response to his obvious signs of medical distress and that a reasonable nurse who was told that Sandoval was shaking, tired, and disoriented, and who was specifically directed by a deputy to evaluate Sandoval more thoroughly, would have understood that Sandoval faced a substantial risk of serious harm. Failure to check on Sandoval and to promptly call paramedics were objectively unreasonable. The available law was clearly established at the time. The nurses were not entitled to qualified immunity. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, there was a triable issue of fact as to the county’s liability. View "Sandoval v. County of San Diego" on Justia Law

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To fight his hair loss, Greenberg bought an $8 bottle of biotin. The product label states that biotin “helps support healthy hair and skin” and has an asterisk that points to a disclaimer: “This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.” A Supplement Facts panel on the bottle states that the biotin amount in the product far exceeds the recommended daily dosage. Greenberg filed a putative class action under California’s Unfair Competition Law, alleging that the labels are deceptive because most people do not benefit from biotin supplementation.The panel affirmed summary judgment in favor of the manufacturer and distributors. The plaintiff’s state law claims were preempted by the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), under which the FDA requires that dietary supplement labels be truthful and not misleading; 21 U.S.C. 343(r)(6)(B) authorizes several categories of statements, including disease claims and structure/function claims. The FDCA includes a preemption provision to establish a national, uniform standard for labeling. The challenged statement was a permissible structure/function claim. There was substantiation that biotin “helps support healthy hair and skin”; that statement was truthful and not misleading. The label had the appropriate disclosures and did not claim to treat diseases. The state law claims amounted to imposition of different standards from the FDCA. View "Greenberg v. Target Corp." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for conspiracy, attempt to possess with intent to distribute heroin or marijuana, and bribery: public official accepting a bribe. Defendant's charges arose from his involvement in a drug smuggling scheme at the prison where he worked as a correctional officer.The panel rejected defendant's contention that the district court erred by admitting testimony from another participant in the smuggling scheme who identified defendant from a Facebook photo. The panel concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting the government's identification evidence where the photo was not so suggestive that it rendered the identification unreliable. The panel also rejected defendant's contention that he is entitled to a new trial because the government violated the discovery obligations imposed by Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). Although the panel agreed with defendant that at least some of the withheld evidence regarding another prison guard's alleged malfeasance was exculpatory, the panel concluded that it was not material within the meaning of Brady. Therefore, the district court did not err by denying defendant's motion for a new trial. View "United States v. Bruce" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Plaintiff, a former SWAT sniper, filed suit alleging that the Department unconstitutionally retaliated against him for his protected speech when it dismissed him from the SWAT team after he commented on Facebook that it was a "shame" that a suspect who had shot a police officer did not have any "holes" in him. The district court construed plaintiff's statement as advocating unlawful violence, and ruled that the government's interest in employee discipline outweighs plaintiff's First Amendment right under the Pickering balancing test for speech by government employees.The Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the district court erred in granting summary judgment for the government because there is a factual dispute about the objective meaning of plaintiff's comment: was it a hyperbolic political statement lamenting police officers being struck down in the line of duty — or a call for unlawful violence against suspects? Furthermore, another factual dispute exists over whether plaintiff's comment would have likely caused disruption in the police department. Therefore, the panel concluded that these factual disputes had to be resolved before the district court could weigh the competing considerations under the Pickering balancing test. View "Moser v. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision affirming the IJ's determination that petitioner failed to meet his burden of proof for asylum, withholding of removal, or relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). The BIA noted that petitioner never testified or submitted evidence claiming any actual injury caused by the Taliban, or that the Taliban individually targeted or attacked him for any reason. The BIA also concluded that the IJ provided petitioner due process where there was no indication in the transcript or the appeal that he did not understand the proceedings or that there were facts he was "unable to present."The panel held that the IJ provided petitioner due process by providing details about the structure of the hearing, the availability of counsel, and asking numerous questions through which petitioner had ample opportunity to develop his testimony. Furthermore, petitioner failed to show substantial prejudice. The panel also held that substantial evidence supported the BIA's conclusion that petitioner did not suffer past persecution where petitioner never alleged he was personally targeted by the Taliban and his testimony was consistent with an environment of generalized violence. Furthermore, the Pakistani government is not unwilling or unable to prevent harm and it would not be unreasonable for petitioner to relocate within Pakistan. Finally, the panel held that substantial evidence supports the BIA's determination that petitioner cannot meet his burden to obtain CAT protection. View "Hussain v. Rosen" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a habeas corpus petition challenging petitioner's Arizona state conviction and death sentence for multiple offenses including two counts of first-degree murder.The panel addressed three certified issues and concluded that (1) even assuming the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) does not bar the panel's review of petitioner's Brady claims, the delay in producing the photos and police reports, and the failure to disclose the Merrill benefits, were not material; (2) the district court did not err in denying him leave to amend his petition to add a claim that his death sentence violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments because amendment would be futile; and (3) petitioner's ineffective assistance of sentencing counsel claim is procedurally defaulted and petitioner failed to show cause under Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1 (2012), to excuse the default. Finally, the panel declined to expand the COA. View "Hooper v. Shinn" on Justia Law

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Defendant was arrested with nearly a quarter pound of methamphetamine and an inoperable pistol on his person. He was found guilty of simple possession of methamphetamine and pleaded guilty for being a felon-in-possession of a firearm. The district court sentenced defendant to 120-months in prison after applying a four-level sentencing enhancement for possession of a weapon in connection with another felony (simple possession) under USSG 2K2.1(b)(6)(B).After determining that defendant did not waive the issue, the Ninth Circuit held that the district court erred in concluding that defendant's pistol emboldened him to possess methamphetamine where the district court made no findings that defendant's firearm made his drug possession more likely. The panel vacated the 120-month sentence on the felon-in-possession count and remanded for further consideration. The panel also vacated the concurrent 36-month sentence for the possession count because the parties agree that the district court erred in exceeding the maximum applicable sentence. The panel remanded for further proceedings. Finally, the panel explained that nothing in the plain text of Fed. R. Crim. P. 32 requires excluding from a presentence report prior arrests for which there was no conviction. Therefore, the panel concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant's motion to strike portions of his presentence report. View "United States v. Grimaldo" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for one count of conspiracy to commit bank robbery under 18 U.S.C. 371; five counts of armed bank robbery under 18 U.S.C. 2113(a) and (d); two counts of bank robbery under section 2113(a); and three counts of brandishing a firearm during the bank robberies under 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A)(ii).The panel held that defendant's assertion of his rights and pretrial motion to dismiss for Speedy Trial Act violations preserved the issue for appeal; the district court made sufficient findings to support its three ends-of-justice continuances under 18 U.S.C. 3161(h)(7); and the delay of 315 days was not prejudicial where each continuance was supported by detailed information and it was reasonable to allow the codefendants and defendant additional time to adequately prepare. The panel rejected defendant's claim that United States v. Davis, 139 S. Ct. 2319 (2019), and Honeycutt v. United States, 137 S. Ct. 1626 (2017), prohibit using section 2113(d) convictions based on a Pinkerton theory of liability as predicates for section 924(c) convictions. Although defendant did not waive this claim, the panel concluded that it need not decide which liability theory the jury used to convict, because defendant's convictions are valid under either.The panel also rejected defendant's claim that his section 924(c) convictions should be vacated because the jury instructions and verdict form for the predicate section 2113(d) convictions only required the jury to find a conspiracy to commit generic bank robbery. The panel concluded that the district court instructions on aiding-and-abetting liability were not plainly erroneous, and defendant's conviction on either a Pinkerton or an aiding-and-abetting theory was amply supported. Finally, the panel concluded that defendant preserved the claim that the indictment failed to allege the necessary elements of armed bank robbery under section 2113(d). The panel explained that although the failure to include the "use of a weapon" element in the verdict form for armed robbery was incorrect, there is no basis for reversal where the district court correctly instructed the jury on the use of a dangerous weapon. View "United States v. Henry" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Proclamation No. 9945, which restricts entry of immigrant visa applicants who cannot demonstrate that they either (1) will acquire qualifying healthcare coverage within 30 days of entry or (2) have the ability to pay for reasonably foreseeable healthcare expenses, was within President Trump's statutory authority.The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order enjoining the Proclamation's implementation. The panel assumed that, to the extent plaintiffs have Article III standing, they may assert an ultra vires cause of action to challenge the Proclamation on constitutional and statutory grounds. Because the panel concluded that plaintiffs' claims are likely to fail on the merits, the panel has no obligation to reach the consular nonreviewability issue and declined to do so.The panel held that the Proclamation is a lawful exercise of the President's delegated authority under section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) where it comports with the textual limitations of section 212(f) as set forth in Trump v. Hawaii, 138 S. Ct. 2392, 2407 (2018). Furthermore, plaintiffs failed to show a likelihood of success on their claims that the Proclamation conflicts with other statutes such as the Affordable Care Act, the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act, the public charge provision of the INA, and the Violence Against Women Act. Finally, the panel rejected the district court's contention that, to the extent section 212(f) allows the President to impose additional entry restrictions based on "domestic policymaking" concerns, section 212(f) itself violates the nondelegation doctrine. Contrary to what the district court concluded, the panel stated that it makes no difference whether the additional entry restrictions are imposed under section 212(f) based on assertedly domestic policy concerns. Therefore, the panel concluded that the district court abused its discretion in granting the preliminary injunction enjoining the Proclamation's implementation. View "Doe v. Trump" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Defendant appeals the district court's partial denial of his motion to suppress evidence resulting from a search of his vehicle. At issue was whether the insertion of a car key into a lock on the vehicle's door for the sole purpose of aiding the police in ascertaining its ownership or control is a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. The Ninth Circuit has previously held that it was not, applying the "reasonable expectation of privacy" test from Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 360 (1967) (Harlan, J., concurring). See United States v. $109,179 in U.S. Currency, 228 F.3d 1080, 1087–88 (9th Cir. 2000).However, in light of recent Supreme Court authority tying the Fourth Amendment's reach to the law of trespass, the panel must conclude that because "[t]he Government physically occupied private property for the purpose of obtaining information," United States v. Jones, 565 U.S. 400, 404 (2012), it conducted a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. Therefore, a Fourth Amendment search occurs when an officer physically inserts a key into the lock of a vehicle for the purpose of obtaining information, as occurred in this case when an officer inserted the key specifically to learn whether defendant exercised control over the vehicle. On the record before the panel, it is unclear whether the officer had probable cause to believe that the particular vehicle into which he inserted the key was owned or controlled by defendant. The panel remanded for the district court to conduct an evidentiary hearing and to rule on the suppression motion in light of the Jones and Jardines principles.Finally, the panel held that the district court erred in finding that defendant was categorically ineligible for an acceptance-of-responsibility reduction on the ground that defendant did not accept responsibility for the greater offense of possession with intent to distribute. The panel explained that USSG 3E1.1(a) does not require that defendant admit to all the charged offenses. Consequently, in the event the district court upholds the search on remand and reinstates defendant's conviction, the district court shall conduct a resentencing so that it may make a factual finding regarding acceptance of responsibility in the first instance. View "United States v. Dixon" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law