U.S. Ninth Circuit - The FindLaw 9th Circuit News and Information Blog

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


Eddie Bauer, the struggling outdoor retailer, got some more bad news last Friday, when the Ninth Circuit ruled that a consumer's ADA lawsuit against the company had been wrongly dismissed. Chris Kohler, a disabled man who relies upon a wheelchair for mobility, had sued Eddie Bauer for violations of the ADA.

The district court had concluded that Kohler needed expert opinions to determine whether conditions constituted ADA barriers. That's wrong, the Ninth Circuit ruled, emphasizing that non-expert estimations are perfectly acceptable in ADA suits.

Seattle's prohibition of bus-side advertisements criticizing funding of the Israeli military doesn't violate the advertisers' free speech, the Ninth Circuit ruled last Wednesday. The ads, sponsored by the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign, had originally been accepted by the bus authority, but were rejected after public controversy. The ads were to read "Israeli War Crimes -- Your Tax Dollars at Work."

The Ninth Circuit's finding that the bus program was a limited public forum breaks from rulings in other courts. The Sixth, Third, Second, Seventh and D.C. Circuits have all found similar transit advertising programs to be designated public forums, with significantly strong free speech rights.

The Ninth Circuit has reinstated a proposed class action against Johnson & Johnson and McNeil Nutritionals over allegedly misleading health claims and the trans fat content of their Benecol butter substitute, once hailed as one of the first foods "designed to act like medicine."

Plaintiff Robert Reid contended that Benecol was improperly being marketed as a health food, particularly challenging the product label's statements that it contained "no trans fats" and touting the cholesterol-reducing powers of plant stanol esters. The unanimous decision overturned a district court's ruling that such claims were pre-empted.

Benecol, whose name is meant to evoke "good cholesterol," claims to contain no trans fats and reduce cholesterol through the inclusion of plant stanol esters. Much to Reid's chagrin, a serving of Benecol included up to half a gram of trans fats.

A California state law prohibiting "disturb[ing] or break[ing] up any assembly or meeting that is not unlawful in its character" isn't facially unconstitutional, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit has ruled.

On the other hand, the law was unconstitutionally applied to CPR for Skid Row, a homeless rights organization centered in the Skid Row neighborhood of downtown Los Angeles, home to thousands of homeless people.

By now, we know that states and local governments can't unduly burden an individual's right to own a gun. That hasn't stopped governments from coming up with other ways to enact meaningful gun regulations, though.

In addition to making bullets more expensive, cities and states have enacted laws limiting the sizes of magazines. In Sunnyvale, California, the city prohibits anyone from owning magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. The Ninth Circuit today agreed with the district court that a preliminary injunction staying enforcement of the ordinance wasn't warranted.

The Ninth Circuit has ruled that the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) erred in not considering imputed political opinion as a ground for asylum in an Armenian man's case.

Petitioner Hayk Khudaverdyan sought asylum in the United States. He claimed that he was unable to return to Armenia because he was persecuted by the military police for whistleblowing to the press.

Khudaverdyan, a manager at a hotel restaurant, was beaten by a local police chief's bodyguards after the chief was dissatisfied with the food and service. A week later, Khudaverdyan was approached by a reporter who wanted to interview him about the beating. At a second meeting with the reporter, Khudaverdyan refused to speak about the incident because he was afraid of retaliation. Immediately after this meeting, Khudaverdyan was kidnapped, interrogated, beaten, and accused of espionage by the military police. Khudaverdyan was also threatened with life imprisonment.

Another day, another iconic 1960s musician's image going to federal court over trademark disputes. In August, the Ninth Circuit said that Jimi Hendrix's post-mortem publicity rights survived in Washington state, thanks to a state statute allowing it (otherwise, publicity rights don't normally survive death).

Last week, the Ninth Circuit affirmed a jury verdict finding several companies violated the Lanham Act by using Bob Marley's image on T-shirts and other merchandise.

When we last left the City of San Jose in its ongoing battle with the behemoth known as Major League Baseball, it was trying to fast-track an antitrust lawsuit against MLB to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Well, the Ninth Circuit has decided, and with Judge Alex Kozinski at the bat, San Jose -- like Mighty Casey -- has struck out.

After losing in front of a Ninth Circuit panel, the States of Idaho and Nevada petitioned the full court for an en banc rehearing in Latta v. Otter. A majority of non-recused active judges didn't vote for en banc hearing.

But that doesn't mean some of them aren't upset! Judges Diarmuid O'Scannlain, Carlos Bea, and Johnnie Rawlinson filed a 24-page dissental arguing that "the same-sex marriage debate is not over" because the Sixth Circuit -- alone among the other circuits to decide the issue -- upheld laws prohibiting same-sex marriage.

For being "America's Toughest Sheriff," a name he invented for himself, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, gets shot down. A lot.

He has the added disadvantage of Arizona's statutes, which try to butt into space occupied by federal law every chance they can get. Once again, a federal court will teach Arizona a lesson in pre-emption.