U.S. Ninth Circuit: October 2012 News
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9th Circuit October 2012 News

Ineffective Counsel: Death Row Inmate Gets New Penalty Trial

California's longest-serving death-row inmate won an appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday. A 2-1 panel ruled that Douglas R. Stankewitz was entitled to a new penalty-phase trial based on ineffective counsel, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Stankewitz has been on death row in California since 1978, when he was convicted of kidnapping and murdering Theresa Greybeal.

NORML Files Medical Cannabis Appeal in Ninth Circuit

Things get kind of nutty when state law and federal law don't quite match. Couples in the states that recognize same-sex marriage and civil unions deal with the discord between their state marital rights and the federal lack thereof. Medical marijuana patients similarly face obstacles posed by the gap between state acceptance of medical marijuana and federal classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug.

Much as same-sex couples' DOMA challenges are gaining traction in federal courts, medical marijuana challenges are also becoming more common.

And both of these hot-button issues are currently pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

MIT Blackjack Player's Appeal Busts in Ninth Circuit

If you saw the movie 21, or read Ben Mezrich’s book Bringing Down the House, you’re somewhat familiar with the MIT Blackjack Team and advantage gamblers. An “advantage” gambler is a professional gambler who uses legal techniques, such as card counting, to win at casino table games.

While the characters and the drama in both 21 and Mezrich’s novel were exaggerated — the movie was based on the already-fictionalized book — the basic premise behind both were true. MIT had a blackjack team that practiced advantage gambling for more than a decade.

Some of the former members, like Laurie Tsao, still play. And that can lead to lawsuits.

Ninth Circuit Courthouse Named National Historic Landmark

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals usually makes headlines for the cases that are decided inside the walls of the Beaux Arts building on Mission Street in San Francisco. Now, the building itself is making headlines.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar declared the James R. Browning United States Courthouse a national historic landmark last week, describing it as a "superlative Beaux-Arts public building exhibiting a complex merger of a number of artistic disciplines: architecture, sculpture, painting, stained-glass and decorative arts," SFAppeal reports.

Phone Books Have Free Speech Rights, Too

You may not use your phone book anymore, but does that mean that a city should be allowed to force the phone book publishers to pay for their own demise?

A Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled this week that phone books may be obsolescent, but they're still entitled to First Amendment protection.

Kozinski: Bad Facts Make Bad Law. No Facts Make Worse Law.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ recently-adopted criteria for Title IX retaliation cases remains intact. Wednesday, the court denied en banc rehearing in Emeldi v. University of Oregon.

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski is not happy about the decision, which he called “bad law.”

Is California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard Unconstitutional?

If Tuesday's oral arguments before a Ninth Circuit panel are any indication, California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard is in trouble.

The standard relies on a "carbon intensity score," which measures pollution from a fuel's entire life cycle — such as the type of electricity used to produce it, or the fuel used to transport it to California — not just when it is burned in a vehicle, reports The Associated Press.

The question is whether that method of calculation qualifies as protectionism, which is prohibited under the Commerce Clause.

Ninth Circuit Says Montana Can Limit State Campaign Donations

Whether or not you agree with the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United, you have to appreciate that the case continues to generate work for lawyers. There's a job shortage out there, friends. If you can direct your practice to campaign finance law, you can stay employed during election cycles.

This week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Montana can limit campaign contributions to candidates for state office, reports The New York Times. The decision comes only one week after a federal judge struck down the campaign contribution caps as an unconstitutional restriction of free speech rights.

Special Ninth Circuit Sitting at Hawaii Law School on October 18

A trio of Ninth Circuit judges will head to Hawaii next week, but this trip is unlikely to incur the public’s ire.

Next week, Judges Stephen Reinhardt, Sidney Thomas, and Richard Paez will hear oral arguments at two sites in Honolulu: the court’s regular home at 1132 Bishop Street, and the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s William S. Richardson School of Law.

Convict Wins Appeal Based on EP2P Discovery Claim

A discovery denial could result in an overturned conviction.

Last week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals remanded a defendant's child pornography conviction to a district court based on the trial court's discovery errors.

Arizona Argues No Right to Abortion on Demand in HB 2036 Appeal

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals enjoined enforcement of provisions of Arizona House Bill 2036, which restricts abortions from 20 weeks gestational age, in August. Though the court halted the bill 12 hours before it was due to take effect, the court agreed to fast-track briefing and argument in the appeals process.

In an answering brief submitted this week, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery argued that the Ninth Circuit should uphold the law because there is no constitutional right to abortions on demand, the Arizona Daily Star reports.

How Late is Too Late? Statute of Repose Bars GARA Lawsuit

How should the General Aviation Revitalization Act's statute of repose be interpreted in a case dealing with used faulty plane parts?

Strictly, according to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Motorola Loses Interlocutory Appeal in Xbox Litigation

The Apple-Samsung case may be the most talked-about patent infringement case of the year, but it's certainly not the only case that people are talking about.

On Friday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a preliminary injunction preventing Motorola from enforcing an injunction it won in a German court against sales of Microsoft's Xbox and Windows sales in Germany, the Seattle Times reports.