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

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion to vacate his criminal sentence, which had been enhanced pursuant to the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). Defendant was convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). The panel held that defendant's prior conviction of second degree burglary of a dwelling under Colo. Rev. Stat. 18-4-203(2)(a) was a violent felony, because it covered only conduct within the generic offense of burglary as defined by the Supreme Court in United States v. Stitt, 139 S. Ct. 399 (2018). Therefore, defendant was properly sentenced under 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(1). View "United States v. Jones" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's interlocutory orders denying BNSF's motion for summary judgment on the Tribe's claim that BNSF violated a right-of-way and easement agreement limiting train traffic across the Tribe's reservation. The panel affirmed the district court's judgment, holding that the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA) does not repeal the Indian Right of Way Act and does not defeat the Tribe's right to enforce conditions in a right-of-way easement agreement issued pursuant to the Right of Way Act; the ICCTA does not abrogate the Treaty of Point Elliott and the Tribe's treaty-based federal common law right to exclude and condition a third-party's presence on, and use of, Reservation lands; and the Tribe has the right to pursue injunctive relief to enforce the terms of the Easement Agreement. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Swinomish Indian Tribal Community v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit granted a petition for review of the BIA's decision reversing an IJ's grant of deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture. The panel held that the Board erred by conducting a de novo review of the IJ's factual findings, instead of reviewing them for clear error, as required by 8 C.F.R. 1003.1(d)(3)(i). In this case, the BIA's failure to evaluate the factual findings of the IJ's conclusion -- that petitioner had established that Mexican officials would have the specific intent to torture him -- that were key to the IJ's holding, indicated that the BIA was not reviewing the IJ's determination for clear error. Because the BIA did not explain why the IJ's findings were illogical, implausible, or not supported by permissible inferences from the record, the panel had no trouble concluding that the BIA failed to apply clear error review to the IJ's finding of specific intent. Furthermore, the BIA failed to apply clear error review to the IJ's finding that petitioner would be tortured in criminal detention in Mexico. Accordingly, the panel remanded for reconsideration. View "Guerra v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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An objecting class member appealed from the district court's approval of a settlement between Facebook and a nationwide class of its users who alleged that Facebook routinely captured, read, and used website links included in users' private messages without their consent, and that these practices violated federal and California privacy laws. The district court found that the settlement was fair and approved it, granting in full class counsel's request for fees and costs. The Ninth Circuit held that the district court had Article III jurisdiction to approve the settlement and that this panel had jurisdiction to evaluate the fairness of the settlement. In this case, plaintiffs identified a concrete injury that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the California Invasion of Privacy Act protect; plaintiffs established standing to seek injunctive relief; and post-filing developments did not moot this case. The panel rejected the merits of objector's contentions that the district court abused its discretion by approving the settlement. The panel rejected the argument that the settlement was invalid under Koby v. ARS National Services, Inc., 846 F.3d 1071, 1081 (9th Cir. 2017). Rather, the panel held that, given how little the class could have expected to obtain if it had pursued claims further based on the facts alleged here (and, correspondingly, how little it gave up in the release), it was not unreasonable that the settlement gave the class something of modest value. The panel rejected objector's argument that the settlement was invalid under In re Bluetooth Headset Products Liability Litigation, 654 F.3d 935 (9th Cir. 2010), and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that none of the warning signs weighed against approval of the settlement. View "Campbell v. Facebook, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Secretary in an action against ESSG and three related companies under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The Secretary challenged ESSG's failure to pay overtime to employees who worked more than 40 hours in a workweek. The panel held that the district court correctly found no dispute of material fact as to ESSG's ultimate liability under the FLSA. Consistent with the law of agency, the panel imputed the actions of an employee to ESSG where she admitted that she knew the recruited employees were not being paid overtime owed to them. The panel also held that the three-year statute of limitations applied to the Secretary's claim that ESSG committed a willful violation, making this action timely. The panel affirmed the award of liquidated damages where ESSG's violations were willful and thus it did not act in good faith. Finally, the panel joined the Second Circuit in holding that the FLSA does not imply a right to contribution or indemnification for liable employers. View "Scalia v. Employer Solutions Staffing Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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An interim final rule, coupled with the presidential proclamation that was issued on the same day, that strips asylum eligibility from every migrant who crosses into the United States along the southern border of Mexico between designated ports of entry, conflicts with the text and congressional purpose of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a temporary restraining order and a subsequent grant of a preliminary injunction enjoining enforcement of the interim final rule. Given the preliminary stage of the appellate process at which the motions panel issued the order denying the government's stay motion and the motion panel's stated reservations, the Ninth Circuit panel treated the motions panel's decision as persuasive, but not binding. The panel also held that the Organizations' claims were justiciable and they have otherwise satisfied Article III standing requirements, and the Organizations' claims continue to fall within the zone of interests of the INA and of the regulatory amendments implemented by the rule. On the merits of the preliminary injunction, the panel held that the district court correctly concluded that the rule is substantively invalid because it conflicts with the plain congressional intent instilled in 8 U.S.C. 1158(a), and is therefore not in accordance with law under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The panel explained that section 1158(a) provides that migrants arriving anywhere along the United States's borders may apply for asylum, but the rule requires migrants to enter the United States at ports of entry to preserve their eligibility for asylum. Therefore, the rule was effectively a categorical ban on migrants who use a method of entry explicitly authorized by Congress in section 1158(a). The panel held that, even if the text of section 1158(a) were ambiguous, the rule fails at the second step of Chevron because it is an arbitrary and capricious interpretation of that statutory provision. Furthermore, the panel held that the rule is unreasonable in regard to the United States's treaty obligations under the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 United Nations Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. The panel briefly addressed the procedural arguments raised by the parties; held that the Organizations demonstrated a sufficient likelihood of irreparable injury to warrant injunctive relief; held that the public interest weighs sharply in the Organizations' favor; and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in enjoining enforcement of the rule. View "East Bay Sanctuary Covenant v. Trump" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction setting aside the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), under which non-Mexican asylum seekers who present themselves at the southern border of the United States are required to wait in Mexico while their asylum applications are adjudicated. After determining that the individual plaintiffs had standing and the organizational plaintiffs had standing, the panel followed East Bay Sanctuary Covenant v. Trump, Nos. 18-17274 and 18-17436 (9th Cir. Feb. 28, 2020), argued on the same day as this case, in which the court held that a motions panel's legal analysis, performed during the course of deciding an emergency motion for a stay, is not binding on later merits panels. On the merits, the panel held that plaintiffs had showed a likelihood of success on their claim that the MPP is inconsistent with 8 U.S.C. 1225(b). The panel explained that a plain-meaning reading of section 1225(b), as well as the Government's longstanding and consistent practice, made clear that a section (b)(1) applicant may not be "returned" to a contiguous territory under section 1225(b)(2)(C), which is a procedure specific to a section (b)(2) applicant. Furthermore, plaintiffs showed a likelihood of success on their claim that the MPP does not comply with the United States's treaty-based non-refoulement obligations codified in 8 U.S.C. 1231(b). Because the MPP is invalid in its entirety due to its inconsistency with section 1225(b), the panel held that it should be enjoined in its entirety. Plaintiffs have successfully challenged the MPP under section 706(2)(A) of the Administrative Procedure Act, and the MPP directly affects immigration into this country along the United States's southern border. The panel also held that the other preliminary injunction factors favored plaintiffs, and that the district court did not abuse its discretion in setting aside the MPP. Accordingly, the panel lifted the emergency stay imposed by the motions panel. View "Innovation Law Lab v. Wolf" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action brought after the death of Arizona Senator John McCain, challenging the constitutionality of an Arizona statute that governs appointments and elections in the aftermath of a vacancy in the United States Senate. Plaintiffs argued that the November 2020 vacancy election date and the 27-month interim appointment duration violate the time constraints implicit in the Seventeenth Amendment. The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of this challenge based on failure to state a claim, because there was no authority for invalidating the state statute on this basis. Although the panel found plaintiffs' interpretation a possible one based on the text and history of the Seventeenth Amendment, the panel concluded that it was foreclosed by binding precedents. Plaintiffs also argued that the November 2020 vacancy election date impermissibly burdens their right to vote as protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of this challenge based on failure to state a claim, because important state regulatory interests justify what was a reasonable and nondiscriminatory restriction on plaintiffs' right to vote. Finally, plaintiffs challenge Arizona's statutory mandates that the Governor must make a temporary appointment and must choose a member of the same party as the Senator who vacated the office. The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of this challenge based on failure to state a claim, and rejected plaintiffs' interpretation of the relevant Seventeenth Amendment language. The panel also affirmed the district court's dismissal of the challenge based on lack of standing where there was no harm on the basis of representation by a Republican and no redressability where the Republican Governor would appoint a Republican anyway. View "Tedards v. Ducey" on Justia Law

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Consumers filed suit against TransUnion under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) after the agency—aware that its practice was unlawful—incorrectly placed terrorist alerts on the front page of the consumers' credit reports and subsequently sent the consumers confusing and incomplete information about the alerts and how to get them removed. The jury assessed $60 million in damages for three willful violations of the statute. The Ninth Circuit held that every member of a class certified under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 must satisfy the basic requirements of Article III standing at the final stage of a money damages suit when class members are to be awarded individual monetary damages. In this case, the panel held that each of the 8,185 class members had standing on each of the class claims. The panel rejected TransUnion's arguments regarding the sufficiency of the evidence, Rule 23 certification, and statutory damages. However, the panel held that the punitive damages award is excessive in violation of constitutional due process. The panel reduced the punitive damages award, but otherwise affirmed the verdict and judgment. View "Ramirez v. TransUnion LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law
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After defendant was found guilty of criminal contempt in a bench trial for willfully violating a preliminary injunction prohibiting him from enforcing federal civil immigration law, he was granted a pardon by the President. The district court granted defendant's motion to dismiss the case with prejudice, but refused to vacate the guilty verdict. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, holding that United States v. Munsingwear, Inc., 340 U.S. 36 (1950), which provides for vacatur in cases mooted while on appeal, did not apply in this case. Because the mootness issue here arises from the fact that the district court's findings of guilt can be given no future preclusive effect, the panel held that the Munsingwear rule did not apply to defendant and he was not entitled to vacatur. In this case, defendant was never sentenced and thus there was no final judgment of conviction. Furthermore, the verdict was not essential to the judgment, but was inconsistent with, the final judgment, which dismissed the criminal contempt charge. Finally, defendant's challenges to the district court's finding of guilt were moot and thus the panel did not address them. View "United States v. Arpaio" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law