U.S. Ninth Circuit - The FindLaw 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog


A civil rights class action claim filed by over 100 Seattle police officers was dismissed by a lower federal district court in 2014, and has now, finally, had that dismissal affirmed by the Ninth Circuit. The officers were challenging whether new policies regarding the use of force were constitutional under the Second Amendment. Though arguments were held in May, the decision has just issued.

The new use of force policy was the result of a 2012 federal consent decree requiring a special master be appointed to independently assess, create, and implement a use of force policy. In doing so, a policy was created that stresses de-escalation over force. After the policy was approved and implemented in 2014, this challenge followed.

Some judges were just born to write. Take Judge M. Margaret McKeown's recent opinion in the USA v. Max Spatig case. The opinion opens with this humdinger of a zinger:

As the saying goes, fences make good neighbors. But when the neighbor collects thousands of containers of hazardous and combustible chemicals in his yard that could explode at any moment, a fence may not be enough to save the neighborly relationship. Instead, the authorities need to get involved.

'Selfie Monkey' Settles Copyright Case

There's a problem with the settlement in the selfie-monkey case: the monkey did not consent to it.

If the monkey took a full-on, toothy selfie, he ought to be able to put a signature on a simple agreement. Don't laugh. Elephants can do it.

Even a sloppy, banana smudge would do. Come on, is there no justice in the urban jungle?

Epic Snow Fight: Skiers v. Snowmobilers

Many Americans know that Washington's Mt. St. Helens produced the deadliest and most destructive eruption in U.S. history.

But relatively few know that Oregon's Newberry Crater has spewed out 20 times more volcanic material than Mt. St. Helens. That's because it last erupted 1,300 years ago and its activity spanned 600,000 years.

And in the shadow of these volcanic eruptions, another heated exchange has endured for generations: the battle between skiers and snowmobilers for fresh snow.

Judges Push Back Travel Ban Against Family Members, Refugees

That Hawaiian judge stopped President Trump -- again.

Judge Derrick Watson, slighted by Trump's legal general as that "judge sitting on an island in the Pacific," blocked the president's controversial travel ban in March. The Trump administration appealed up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which temporarily allowed a modified ban, but one issue came back to Watson:

What about relatives of U.S. citizens who travel from those Muslim-majority nations? Watson struck the administration's ban on certain relatives, and the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with him -- again.

It's headed for another Supreme Court showdown, but this time the president is on the outside looking in. That's because the Supreme Court crafted the modification that Watson applied to extended family members.

9th Circuit Will Reexamine Whether Employers Can Pay Women Less

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will take a second look at a decision that said employers can pay women less than men for the same job.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court said in April that women can be paid less based on salary histories. An en banc court will revisit that decision, which said pay disparities between men and women are lawful if the difference is not based on gender.

"If prior salary alone is responsible for the disparity, requiring an employer to consider factors in addition to prior salary cannot resolve the problem that the EEOC and the plaintiff have identified," Judge Lynn S. Adelman wrote in Rizo v. Yovino.

Three defendants in cases pending before the federal district court in the state of Arizona won their appeal to the Ninth Circuit over the district court's routine shackling of criminal defendants that appear in the courtroom. The IN RE: Rodrigo ZERMENO-GOMEZ decision, however, is less about shackling and more about judicial procedure.

A published opinion from the Ninth Circuit in May 2017 requires district courts to conduct an individualized analysis to determine whether a criminal defendant needs to be shackled in the courtroom. The three defendants that filed the appeal to the Ninth Circuit did not have that individual analysis conducted, but were forced to appear in shackles.

Unfortunately for Jay Russell Shafer, a recent Ninth Circuit decision has turned his jury verdict awarding him six figures for enduring a constitutional violation into a loss. Shafer convinced a jury that when two city police officers knocked him to the ground, face first, for refusing to drop a water balloon, one of those officers violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure.

While the appellate court found that his constitutional rights were violated due to the amount of force that was used, it also found that the officer whom the jury found liable was actually immune from liability.

Studios Win Against Streaming Movie Filters

You gotta respect video-streaming companies that clean up movies for family-friendly viewing.

After all, they are trying to to protect kids from profanity, sex, nudity, violence, and substance abuse depicted in original movies. Parents will pay to block those cringey moments when the family sits down for viewing.

But that's not a good reason to violate copyright laws, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said in Disney Enterprises, Inc. v. VidAngel, Inc. It was a victory for Hollywood studios and a benchmark in their battle against copyright piracy.

High School Football Coach Loses Prayer Case

How about a Hail Mary?

It's a traditional football pass, but a prayer on the field is going too far. At least, that's what the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District.

"Striking an appropriate balance between ensuring the right to free speech and avoiding the endorsement of a state religion has never been easy," wrote Judge Milan Smith, Jr.

It was difficult decision because the court had to consider the right of a popular football coach to kneel at the 50-yard line and pray for his players after high school football games.