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

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Appellants, Medicaid providers and former members of public-sector unions, challenge the district courts’ dismissals of two cases, consolidated on appeal. When Appellants joined the unions, they authorized the California State Controller to deduct union dues from their Medicaid reimbursements. Appellants now contend that, when the Controller made these deductions, she violated the “anti-reassignment” provision of the Medicaid Act, which prohibits state Medicaid programs from paying anyone other than the providers or recipients of covered services.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal. The court explained that California uses some of its Medicaid funding to provide assistance with daily activities to elderly and disabled beneficiaries under a program called In-Home Support Services (IHSS). The recipients of these services are responsible for employing and overseeing the work of their IHSS providers, who are often family members. The Controller makes a variety of standard payroll deductions, including for federal and state income tax, unemployment compensation, and retirement savings. California law also authorizes the Controller to deduct union dues from the paychecks of IHSS providers.   Thus, the court held that the Medicaid Act’s anti-reassignment provision, 42 U.S.C. Section 1396a(a)(32), does not confer a right on Medicaid providers enforceable under Section 1983. The text and legislative history of the anti-reassignment provision make clear that Congress was focused on preventing fraud and abuse in state Medicaid programs rather than on serving the needs of Medicaid providers. Because Congress did not intend to benefit Medicaid providers, the anti-reassignment provision did not confer a right as enforceable under Section 1983. View "DELORES POLK V. BETTY YEE" on Justia Law

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Appellant defaulted under her Chapter 11 bankruptcy plan by refusing to pay Appellee Bank of New York Mellon (Bank of NYM) after she lost her adversary proceeding challenging the bank’s secured claim. As a result, the bankruptcy court granted Bank of NYM’s motion to convert the bankruptcy case from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7 and ordered Appellant to turn over undistributed assets in her possession to the Chapter 7 bankruptcy estate. Appellant challenged these two decisions in separate appeals.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy court’s orders converting Appellant’s bankruptcy case from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7 and ordering her to turn over undistributed assets in her possession to the Chapter 7 bankruptcy estate. The court held the bankruptcy court properly exercised its discretion in converting the case to Chapter 7 for cause under 11 U.S.C. Section 1112(b)(1). The court held that the party seeking relief under Section 1112(b)(1) has the initial burden of persuasion to establish that cause exists for granting such relief. The court held that failing to make required payments can be a material default of a Chapter 11 plan, even if the debtor has made payments for an extended period before the default or taken other significant steps to perform the plan. The court concluded that the bankruptcy court did not err in finding that Appellant’s default in paying Bank of New York Mellon’s secured claim was cause for conversion because both the amount and duration of this default were significant. View "ALLANA BARONI V. DAVID SEROR" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy
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Plaintiff brought this 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 action against Defendant, a deputy sergeant with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated her Fourth Amendment right to be free of excessive force by pepper-spraying her without adequate justification. The district court denied Defendant’s motion for qualified immunity, and Defendant filed this interlocutory appeal.   The Ninth Circuit denied a motion for attorney’s fees sought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 1988 following the court's decision, in an unpublished disposition, affirming the denial of qualified immunity to a deputy sergeant who allegedly violated Plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment rights to be free of excessive force.   The court denied fees because Plaintiff was not a “prevailing party” within the meaning of Section 1988(b). The court published this order to reaffirm that a plaintiff who accomplishes no more than to defeat a defendant’s motion for qualified immunity is not entitled to attorney’s fees pursuant to Section 1988(b), because the plaintiff has not yet prevailed on any claim. Although the Supreme Court later overruled Cooper in part, on a different issue, the holding in Cooper as to attorney’s fees remained good law. Independently, the court noted its agreement with the rule announced in Cooper, which comports with Supreme Court precedent and accords with holdings by sister circuits in the identical procedural posture. View "LINDA SENN V. KYLE SMITH" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Rights
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Defendant, who placed Wi-Fi cameras in the eye of a stuffed animal and surreptitiously filmed a teenage girl masturbating, argued that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction because he taped the minor surreptitiously and did not cause her “to engage in” sexually explicit conduct. The appeal centered on whether the defendant “used” his minor victim to engage in sexually explicit conduct by taping her in her bedroom, without her knowledge or participation.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction under 18 U.S.C. Section 2251(a), which criminalizes the conduct of any person who “employs, uses, persuades, induces, entices, or coerces” a minor “to engage in . . . sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing any visual depiction of such conduct.”   Applying the broad interpretation of Section 2251(a) adopted in United States v. Laursen, 847 F.3d 1026 (9th Cir. 2017), the court wrote that the active conduct that is required is that of the perpetrator, not the target of the visual depiction; that the defendant’s placement of hidden cameras in a teenage girl’s bedroom is active conduct in the heartland of a statute criminalizing the production of child pornography; and that the “use” element is satisfied whenever a minor is the subject of the photography. The court concluded that the evidence was, therefore, sufficient under 18 U.S.C. Section 2251(a) and (e) to support the conviction for attempting to “use” a minor “to engage in . . . sexually explicit conduct” for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of that conduct. View "USA V. LORENZO MENDEZ" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Plaintiff sought promotion to the position he claimed he likely would have attained had he not served in the military. The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court’s summary judgment in favor of Defendants in an action brought under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act by a longshore worker who returned to employment following service in the U.S. Air Force, and remanded.   The court held that certain hours credits and elevation in longshore worker status, as set forth in a collective bargaining agreement, qualified as “benefits of employment” under USERRA. The court further held that, under the “escalator principle,” Plaintiff could pursue a USERRA discrimination claim based on Defendants’ alleged failure to reinstate him to the “Class B” position he was reasonably certain to have attained absent his military service. The court left to the district court to decide in the first instance whether a five-year statutory limitation based on the duration of Plaintiff’s military service applied. View "LEON BELAUSTEGUI V. ILWU" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to federal defendants in a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) action brought by Inter-Cooperative Exchange (“ICE”), a cooperative of fishers who harvest and deliver crab off the coast of Alaska, seeking the government’s communications concerning the government’s decision not to factor Alaska’s minimum wage increase into the arbitration system that sets the price of crab.   The North Pacific Fishery Management Council manages fisheries off the coast of Alaska. In 2005, the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) implemented a program recommended by the Council to allocate crab resources among harvesters, processors, and coastal communities. Alaska increased the minimum wage, which raised the question of whether costs should be considered under the arbitration system. The Council reviewed the matter at a 2017 meeting where an Assistant Regional Administrator of NMFS and a voting member of the Council, introduced an unsuccessful motion to include costs for consideration in the arbitration system.   The court held that on the facts here, the three search terms were not reasonably calculated to uncover all documents relevant to ICE’s request. ICE contended that the government’s choice of search terms was unduly narrow and not reasonably calculated to uncover all documents relevant to its FOIA request. The court held that the government’s choice of search terms was overly narrow. View "INTER-COOPERATIVE EXCHANGE V. USDOC" on Justia Law

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Taxpayers challenged the constitutionality of Subpart F’s ability to permit taxation of a CFC’s income after 1986 through the Mandatory Repatriation Tax (“MRT”). The district court dismissed the action for failure to state a claim, denied taxpayers’ cross-motion for summary judgment, and taxpayers appealed.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal. The court held that the MRT is consistent with the Apportionment Clause and it does not violate the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. That clause requires that a direct tax must be apportioned so that each state pays in proportion to its population. The court acknowledged that the Sixteenth Amendment exempts from the apportionment requirement the category of “incomes, from whatever source derived.” The court observed that courts have consistently upheld the constitutionality of taxes similar to the MRT notwithstanding any difficulty in defining income, that the realization of income does not determine the tax’s constitutionality, and that there is no constitutional ban on Congress disregarding the corporate form to facilitate taxation of shareholders’ income.   The court explained that the MRT serves the legitimate purpose of preventing CFC shareholders who have not yet received distributions from obtaining a windfall by never having to pay taxes on their offshore earnings that have not yet been distributed. The MRT accomplished this legitimate purpose by rational means: by accelerating the effective repatriation date of undistributed CFC earnings to a date following passage of the TCJA. View "CHARLES MOORE V. USA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued various Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation & Reentry (“ADCRR”) officials and the Arizona Attorney General (collectively “Defendants”) challenging Defendants’ proposed protocol for his execution. Plaintiff filed a motion for a preliminary injunction prohibiting his execution until such time as Defendants can assure the district court that his execution would comply with various federal statutes and the Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The district court denied the motion for a preliminary injunction and Plaintiff appealed and filed two motions to stay his execution.   The Ninth Circuit denied the motions because: (1) it deferred to the district court’s finding that Defendants’ accommodations for Plaintiff’s degenerative spinal disease preclude a finding that their lethal injection protocol creates a substantial risk of severe pain; (2) even assuming without deciding that Defendants’ Execution Protocol may give rise to a liberty interest, there is insufficient evidence that Plaintiff’s due process rights were violated; and (3) given that Defendants shall execute Plaintiff by lethal injection, he lacks standing to challenge Defendants’ protocol for execution by lethal gas. View "FRANK ATWOOD V. DAVID SHINN" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was convicted of forgery under Section 472 for possession of a counterfeit government seal. The Board of Immigration Appeals concluded that this conviction was a crime involving moral turpitude that made him ineligible for cancellation of removal. Petitioner argued that intent to defraud is not a required element under Section 472, and therefore, his forgery conviction was not a categorical crime involving moral turpitude.   The Ninth Circuit denied in part and dismissed in part Petitioner’s petition for review of a decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals, the court held that a forgery under California Penal Code Section 472 is a crime involving moral turpitude.   The court considered the elements of Section 472 and concluded that California law does not support Petitioner’s reading of the statute. The court explained that it is reasonable to read the statutory text as requiring that all the prohibited acts be done “with the intent to defraud another,” and that no California court has held that Section 472 has separate clauses or that the intent-to-defraud element is limited to specific clauses or actions. The court also explained that California caselaw establishes that forgery requires intent to defraud and that California’s pattern jury instructions confirm that conclusion.   Finally, Petitioner contended that his argument to the BIA that his conviction did not render him inadmissible was sufficient to alert the BIA to the relevance of the petty offense exception. The court concluded that the record belied that assertion, noting that the BIA did not read Petitioner’s brief as raising that assertion. View "PEDRO VASQUEZ-BORJAS V. MERRICK GARLAND" on Justia Law

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Defendant sought to vacate the conviction because he pled guilty without being informed of the mens rea element announced in Rehaif v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 2191 (2019). Defendant did not challenge the omission of this element in the district court or on direct appeal, his claim is procedurally defaulted, such that the district court may not consider the merits of the claim unless Defendant can overcome the default by showing (1) cause for not raising the error sooner; and (2) prejudice, which means a reasonable probability that Defendant would not have pled guilty had he been properly informed of the elements of the offense   The district court summarily denied the motion without supplementing the record, holding an evidentiary hearing, or making factual findings.  The court held that the district court’s summary denial was erroneous. The court wrote that the district court erred by applying plain-error analysis. Rejecting the Government’s specific arguments, the court held (1) neither the fact that Defendant was sentenced to more than one year in prison nor his acknowledgment at his sentencing hearing that he had been “convicted of felonies,” is conclusive evidence that he would have pled guilty even if he were informed of all of the elements of the offense; and (2) the potential loss of an acceptance-of-responsibility reduction is not so great that it alone conclusively establishes that Defendant would have pled guilty to the felon-in-possession count even if he were properly informed of the elements of the offense. View "USA V. JUSTIN WERLE" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law