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


The need for clean, renewable energy is growing ever more urgent in the face of worsening climate change predictions. But large scale green energy developments aren't without their environmental costs. Wind turbines can turn into deadly Cuisinarts when placed in a bird's migratory path; sprawling solar farms can displace endangered desert wildlife.

And such was the conflict in a recent Ninth Circuit case, in which the court was asked to determine if plans for an Oregon wind farm adequately calculated the impact of the project on the greater sage grouse. They had not, the court found, sending the project back for further review.

9th Cir: 2nd Amendment Also Means "Right to Buy Arms"

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals took on an eyebrow-raising tone recently when it endorsed a pro-gun advocate notion that a "right to buy arms" is implied within the Second Amendment's right to bear arms.

The decision is a major blow to Alameda County's attempts to limit gun sales and the location of gun stores. It's a page flipper, for sure.

9th Circuit Boots Judge From BarBri Case to 'Preserve Justice'

The Ninth Circuit booted U.S. District Judge Manuel Real from a now recurring antitrust case involving Kaplan and West Publishing (makers of BarBri), while reversing his ruling. The circuit's decision might have appeared inevitable to some, given that Real's rulings on previous antitrust cases involving BarBri have been reversed three times in a separate case.

There are many interesting facets to the case. One question lawyers will be left asking is what judge Real's rational was in slashing attorneys' fee numbers by 70 percent? Why ask? Because he certainly didn't provide any explanation in his now overturned opinion.

Ninth Cir. Upholds 'Neutral Timekeeping' in Employee Pay

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld what is quickly becoming doctrine in all the federal courts: neutral-timekeeping is lawful under the FLSA.

The decision comes as a blow to Andre Corbin and other hourly wage-earners like him who allege lost wages due to unfavorable rounding to the nearest quarter. But it's really no surprise given other courts' views on the matter.

When a person's competency to stand trial for a crime is in question in Washington State, state law requires the state Department of Social and Health Services to evaluate them within seven to 21 days. Because of staffing, budgeting, and other limitations, detained individuals often go weeks without an evaluation, during which they may be held in solitary confinement, often exacerbating mental illnesses.

Following a class action lawsuit on behalf of such detained individuals, a federal district required a series of reforms from the state services that included a seven-day maximum for providing competency determinations. On appeal, while the Ninth Circuit agreed that jail was "no substitute" for therapeutic evaluation and treatment, the court tossed the seven-day requirement, finding the week-long limit to go "beyond what the Constitution requires."

Arizona's identity theft laws are not facially preempted by federal immigration law, the Ninth Circuit ruled on Monday. The state's identity theft laws prohibit the use of a false identity to obtain employment. The laws had been used by the controversial sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio, to raid and arrest hundreds immigrants at their workplace.

A district court had ruled that the identity theft laws were likely to be unconstitutional last year, but the Ninth circuit disagreed, noting that Arizona's laws would not conflict with federal immigration law when applied to American citizens. The ruling raises the possibility that Sheriff Arpaio's workplace raids could recommence soon.

9th Circuit Affirms Life Sentence Despite 'Reclassification'

A state's post-conviction reclassification of a crime from a felony to misdemeanor has no bearing on a federal statute's sentencing guidelines, the Ninth Circuit said recently. Even though a criminal might get relief from his felony status years after the fact by the state, federal sentencing rules will still look to the time of conviction in meting out the proper punishment.

Criminal law practitioners would do well to educate their clients on the finer nuances that blend federal and state criminal law.

Free Speech on College Campus Addressed in 9th Cir. Ruling

Controversy has been rumbling at Fresno State since 2010 when conservative student Neil O'Brien started a chapter of Young Americans for Liberty at the school and allegedly began "harassing" professors in the Latin American Studies department there.

Last week, the Ninth Circuit effectively upheld Fresno State's view that O'Brien had expressed harassing speech. But the court also let stand his count against the school on the grounds that it retaliated against him for his conduct. The opinion has gotten mixed reactions from both sides.

Courts Can't Forcibly Medicate to Make a Defendant Stand Trial

Can the court force criminal defendants to take medication to make them competent to stand trial? Apparently, no. At least, not in the Ninth Circuit in this particular case.

The Ninth Circuit ruled that a lower district judge should not have allowed the forcible medication of defendant Nna Alpha Onuoha, the former LAX security officer who was accused of making threatening calls over the airport's phone system, calling for authorities to evacuate. Why? Because it wasn't in his best medical interests.

Consider it a silver lining: even if your law license is suspended and you're so broke former clients are now your creditors, you can still discharge that client debt in bankruptcy.

That's the conclusion of the Ninth Circuit, which ruled last Thursday that a suspended California lawyer could discharge in bankruptcy the $6,000 she owed a former client for unearned legal fees.