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

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Plaintiff alleged that her former employer violated the ADA by failing to accommodate her disability and instead terminating her from her human resources job after she underwent a bone biopsy surgery on her right shoulder and arm. The district court concluded that Plaintiff failed to plead a “disability” because she did not adequately allege that she had “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limit[ed] one or more major life activities.” The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s employment discrimination action. The court concluded that Plaintiff pleaded facts plausibly establishing that she had a physical impairment both during an immediate post-surgical period and during an extension period in which her surgeon concluded that her injuries had not sufficiently healed to permit her to return to work. The court also found that the activities that Plaintiff pleaded she was unable to perform qualified as “major life activities,” which included caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, lifting, and working. Finally, the complaint adequately alleged that Plaintiff’s impairment substantially limited her ability to perform at least one major life activity. View "KAREN SHIELDS V. CREDIT ONE BANK, N.A." on Justia Law

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After nine years of litigation and in their third set of appeals, the parties asked the Ninth Circuit to decide whether California’s sales ban is preempted by the Poultry Products Inspection Act (“PPIA”) or violates the dormant Commerce Clause. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ preemption and Dormant Commerce Clause claims and its summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs on a declaratory judgment claim in an action brought by various foie gras sellers challenging California’s ban on the in-state sale of products that are “the result of force-feeding a bird for the purpose of enlarging the bird’s liver beyond normal size.” Cal. Health & Safety Code Sec. 25982.   The court held that the sales ban was neither preempted nor unconstitutional and that certain out-of-state sales were permitted by California law. that the sales ban was neither preempted nor unconstitutional and that certain out-of-state sales were permitted by California law and the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Plaintiffs leave to amend to add a new express ingredient preemption claim alleging that the sales ban operates as an “ingredient requirement” by prohibiting foie gras as an ingredient in other poultry products.  Further, rejecting Plaintiffs’ Dormant Commerce Clause claim, the court held that California’s sales ban prohibits only instate sales of foie gras, so it was not impermissibly extraterritorial. View "ASSOCIATION DES ELEVEURS V. ROB BONTA" on Justia Law

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Challenging his second-degree murder conviction, Defendant argued on appeal that the district court erred by failing to instruct the jury that the government bore the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant did not act upon a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion. The en banc court could not conclude on the record that the district court plainly erred. Challenging his Section 924(c) conviction for discharging a firearm during a crime of violence, Defendant argued that second-degree murder can be committed recklessly under Section 1111(a) and that, under the categorical approach, “crime of violence” does not encompass offenses that can be committed with a reckless mens rea.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed Defendant’s convictions for second-degree murder and for discharging a firearm during a crime of violence, vacated the district court’s order of mandatory restitution, and remanded the district court’s restitution order. The court held that second-degree murder can be committed recklessly and therefore does not qualify as a crime of violence. The en banc court explained that such a conviction qualifies because a defendant who acts with the requisite mens rea to commit second-degree murder necessarily employs force “against the person or property of another,” and rather than acting with ordinary recklessness, the defendant acts with recklessness that rises to a level of extreme disregard for human life. View "USA V. RANDLY BEGAY" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Defendant was convicted for illegal reentry after removal in a case in which a Marine Corps surveillance unit spotted him immediately after he unlawfully entered the United States, and notified Customs and Border Patrol agents who soon detained him. Defendant argued that the Marine Corps surveillance violated the Posse Comitatus Act, which codified the longstanding prohibition against military enforcement of civilian law.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction for illegal reentry after removal. The court reasoned that the military may still assist civilian law enforcement agencies if Congress expressly authorized it, and here, the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act directed the U.S. Secretary of Defense to offer military assistance to Border Patrol in hopes of securing the southern land border. The court concluded that the district court therefore properly denied Defendant's suppression motion based on the alleged violation of the Posse Comitatus Act. Further, the court also denied Defendant’s Batson challenge to the prosecution’s striking two Asian jurors from the venire, concluding that Defendant failed to rebut the prosecution’s race-neutral reasons for doing so. View "USA V. CLEMENTE HERNANDEZ-GARCIA" on Justia Law

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Petitioner asserted a fear of persecution or torture in Nigeria based on his status as a gay man and the harm he suffered after being discovered having sex with his boyfriend in a hotel. The immigration judge (“IJ”) found that Petitioner was not credible because he “misrepresented” the name of the hotel where he and his boyfriend were discovered. The IJ found that Petitioner failed to establish that he is gay or that he was ever harmed in Nigeria for being gay. The IJ also found that Petitioner’s asylum application was frivolous, concluding that the misrepresentation of the hotel was a material element of his application.   Petitioner appealed arguing that the agency (1) erred by failing to consider potentially dispositive evidence concerning his CAT claim; (2) violated due process in its CAT determination; and (3) erred in concluding that he had filed a frivolous asylum application.   The Ninth Circuit, granted in part, and denied in part, Petitioner’s petition for review. The court concluded that the Board erred by failing to consider potentially dispositive evidence concerning his CAT claim, thus the agency’s denial of CAT relief could not stand. The court did not reach, and therefore denied, Petitioner’s Fifth Amendment violation claims. Further, the court held that the Board erred in concluding that Petitioner had filed a frivolous asylum application, because any fabrication concerning the name of the hotel where Petitioner was discovered was not material to his claim. View "PETER UDO V. MERRICK GARLAND" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 alleging that Defendants, prison officials, were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs, when despite his numerous complaints over a period of years and a visibly deteriorating condition, they ignored his enlarged prostate. After the district court screened Plaintiff’s complaint, he was left with two claims of deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. The remaining officials claimed that they were entitled to qualified immunity and moved for summary judgment. The district court disagreed and the Ninth Circuit affirmed the order denying qualified immunity to prison officials. The Ninth Circuit determined that only examination of the second prong of the qualified immunity analysis was necessary—whether the right was clearly established at the time of the violation—because doing so would not hamper the development of precedent and both parties expressly acknowledged that this case turned on the second prong. The court reasoned it was clearly established at the time of Plaintiff’s treatment that prison officials violated the constitution when they choose a medically unacceptable course of treatment for the circumstances and a reasonable jury could find that the prison officials did just that. View "LEWIS STEWART V. ROMEO ARANAS" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought his civil rights suit against the County of Ravalli and others. The County filed a motion for summary judgment on all claims. While its motion was still pending, the County made Plaintiff a Rule 68 offer of judgment for $50,000 plus costs and attorney’s fees. Before Rule 68’s fourteen-day window had closed, the district court granted the summary judgment motion. But the court did not enter final judgment. Rather, it said that judgment would be entered “in due course” after it issued a reasoned opinion. Within an hour of the entry of this order, Plaintiff accepted the County’s offer of judgment. The district court held that, under Rule 68, it was bound by the offer of judgment and entered judgment for Plaintiff in the amount of $50,000 plus costs and fees.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment in favor of Plaintiff, entered in accordance with Defendants’ Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 68 offer of judgment. The court held that under the plain text of Rule 68, the district court properly entered judgment according to the County’s offer of judgment. The court’s review of the rule showed that it was designed to function in a mechanical manner. The court reasoned that Rule 68 offer, once made, is non-negotiable; it is either accepted, in which case it is automatically entered by the clerk of court or rejected, in which case it stands as the marker by which the Plaintiff’s results are ultimately measured. View "ROBERT KUBIAK V. COUNTY OF RAVALLI" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, who receives two government pensions, one from noncovered employment and one from covered employment, alleged that the Government Pension Offset (“GPO”) should not apply to his benefits. During Plaintiff’s administrative proceedings, the Social Security Administration (“SSA” or the “agency”) agreed with Plaintiff and paid him spousal benefits without applying any offset. Ultimately, though, the agency decided that the GPO should apply. The agency then temporarily withheld Plaintiff’s spousal benefits to recoup approximately $15,000 in overpayments to him, and it reduced his spousal benefits going forward. On appeal, the parties disputed whether the GPO applies to Plaintiff’s spousal benefits and if it does apply, whether the agency was entitled to recoup the overpayment.   The Ninth Circuit held that the GPO applies to Plaintiff’s spousal benefits but that a remand to the agency is necessary to determine whether SSA was entitled to recoupment. The court reasoned that under both the old and new version of Social Security regulation 20 C.F.R. Sec 404.408a, the existence of Plaintiff’s pension earned through noncovered employment triggered the GPO’s application to his spousal benefits notwithstanding his later covered employment in a job with a different pension plan.  Further, the court held that the ALJ’s finding of Plaintiff’s fault for the overpayment was not supported by substantial evidence and that on remand the agency could consider whether any evidence in the record beyond that relied on by the ALJ supported the proposition that Plaintiff was at fault for the overpayment and, if so, whether recoupment would be appropriate. View "PAUL MISKEY V. KILOLO KIJAKAZI" on Justia Law

Posted in: Public Benefits
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Defendant’s ex-fiance discovered child pornography on his computer, which she then brought to the Sheriff’s Office. While the ex-fiance was there, the Detective asked her to show him only images that she had already viewed when she had accessed the laptop by herself. The ex-fiance complied with that request. Defendant moved to suppress on the ground that, because the Detective directed Defendant’s ex-fiance to access the computer without Defendant’s permission to show the Detective what she had already seen, the search of the computer at the sheriff’s office was an unlawful law-enforcement search.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction. The court held Defendant’s objections to the use of evidence obtained from his computer all failed. The court reasoned that because U.S. Attorney does not dispute Defendant’s assertion that his ex-fiance acted as a state agent when she accessed the computer at the sheriff’s office, the court assumed that this was a government search. However, the court applied United States v. Jacobsen, 466 U.S. 109 (1984), and United States v. Bowman, 215 F.3d 951 (9th Cir. 2000), and held that the search was permissible because, when the ex-fiance accessed the child pornography on Defendant's computer at the sheriff’s office, she merely mimicked her earlier private search. View "USA V. DAREN PHILLIPS" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, acting as the representative for her deceased husband, filed a suit in federal court seeking damages under a wrongful death theory from entities who manufactured, sold, and distributed asbestos-containing products to which her husband could have been exposed. Her husband worked as an outside machinist onboard a ship at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. His duties included removing and installing piping insulation, gaskets, and other parts that may have contained asbestos in various compartments throughout the ships. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma on February 20, 2015, and he died on July 3, 2015.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal of a wrongful death claim under admiralty jurisdiction and remanded for reconsideration of Plaintiff’s claims in light of the court’s holding that the statute of limitations began to accrue on the date of her husband’s death. The court held that a wrongful death claim in admiralty can only accrue on or after the death of the seaman, and not before. The court applied federal law and distinguished wrongful death claims from survival statutes permitting personal injury claims of an injured individual after death. Thus, the accrual of the three-year statute of limitations for maritime torts, 46 U.S.C. Sec. 30106, began to run on the date of death of her husband and not on the date of discovery of the injury or illness that ultimately resulted in his death. View "SHERRI DEEM V. THE WILLIAM POWELL COMPANY" on Justia Law