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


This is the weirdest application of the Americans with Disabilities Act I've ever seen. And with the Ninth Circuit's reputation, and the Supreme Court's decision to grant certiorari earlier this week, it may not be long for this world.

It's been a heck of a ride with Chief Judge Alex Kozinski at the top of the Ninth Circuit, but with his seven-year term coming to a close, prepare for a different, more subdued, albeit equally able chief: Judge Sidney R. Thomas.

The ageist numbers game that comprise the rules of succession mean that Clinton-appointed Thomas will be the next in line, and because he is a young sixty-one years of age, he should hold the spot down for the next seven years. At the end of a chief judge's term, the position goes to the most senior judge under the age of sixty-five who has not previously served as chief. Terms end after seven years or when the chief reaches the age of seventy.

Sidney Thomas is that man, a Montana man since birth and through law school, the third such man to take the top spot in the nation's busiest circuit.

Montana today became the 34th state to permit same-sex marriage after a federal district judge found the state's prohibition on gay marriage unconstitutional.

For those keeping score at home, it's now one federal circuit and two district courts in favor of same sex marriage bans, as opposed to four circuits and over 30 district courts against.

Back in 2012, Californians decided to double down on punishment for registered sex offenders. Proposition 35 required sex offenders to provide law enforcement with a list of their "Internet identifiers," which could include email addresses, Facebook accounts, or even a user name on an obscure online forum. (Note that Prop. 35 was largely about increasing penalties for human trafficking; the part about sex offender Internet accounts was barely ever mentioned.) Failure to provide law enforcement with written notice of additions or changes to these identifiers, within 24 hours, would subject the offender to criminal penalties.

On the day the proposition took effect, several registered sex offenders sued to block the law's enforcement on First Amendment grounds and on the ground that it was void for vagueness. The district court enjoined enforcement and the Ninth Circuit affirmed.

Back in February, the Ninth Circuit struck San Diego's policy of denying concealed carry permits absent a showing of "good cause." General concern for one's own safety wasn't enough; an applicant for a concealed-carry license had to come up with a pretty good reason for needing to carry a gun around in public.

Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain, relying on the U.S. Supreme Court's opinions in District of Columbia v. Heller (the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to own a gun) and McDonald v. City of Chicago (the Second Amendment applies to the states) found that, because those opinions were so rooted in "self defense" as an overarching theme of the Second Amendment, a generalized concern for safety was sufficient cause to apply for a concealed carry license.

Sirius XM -- boy, it's great, isn't it? Satellite radio gives you a separate station for every decade since the wax cylinder was invented (you'll love their "1880s on 80" station). Plus, there's Howard Stern.

But Sirius comes with a hidden price, other than listening to Howard Stern: An arbitration agreement that purports to bind the consumer, as part of the 90-day free trial that comes with a new car.

Trickle-down equality.

After Windsor. After Latta v. Otter. After all of the high-profile appellate cases comes controlling precedent and typing up loose ends.

The Montana case seems like it's headed for summary judgment. A few motions for en banc rehearing by the Ninth Circuit are pending, but likely won't be granted. And a few other states have thrown in the towel, making gay marriage legal in just a few more jurisdictions.

Here's the roundup:

In 2009, Elven Joe Swisher was convicted of wearing military medals he didn't earn. Swisher had, in fact, been a member of the military: He served in the Marines and was honorably discharged in 1957 following a combat mission in which he was injured. In 2001, he applied for a claim for service-connected PTSD, providing a narrative and supporting documents stating that he'd received several awards and suffered service-related injuries.

During this time, he wore a Purple Heart medal around, including at the trial of another Marine accused of murder. Turns out, though, that the documents Swisher provided were fraudulent. He had never been awarded any medals. A jury convicted him of several crimes, including wearing unauthorized military medals.

I will now explain the presumption of innocence and the people's burden of proof. The defendant has pleaded guilty to the charges. The fact that a criminal charge has been filed against the defendant is not evidence that the charge is true. You must not be biased against the defendant just because he has been arrested, charged with a crime, or brought to trial. A defendant in a criminal case is presumed to be innocent. This presumption requires that the people prove each element of a crime and special allegations beyond a reasonable doubt.

See the problem? "The defendant has pleaded guilty to the charges." Except, this was on the eve of trial. And there would be no trial if he had pleaded guilty. This seems like common sense. Except, as many lawyers have found out, jurors lack common sense.

After closing arguments, during deliberations, the jury sent the judge a note inquiring about the guilty plea. The judge tried to cure his error with remedial instructions and juror polls. But last week, the Ninth Circuit held that the judge's best efforts were not enough, and granted habeas relief to Bryant Keith Williams.

Las Vegas is set to become the focal point for a Fourth Amendment issue that's as brazen as it is kooky.

Suspecting several high rollers staying at Caesars Palace were engaged in an illegal bookmaking operation, the feds allegedly cut off Internet access to their $25,000-per-night private villa, then posed as repairmen to enter the villa, snoop around, and use that snooping as the basis for a subsequent search warrant.