U.S. Ninth Circuit: February 2013 News
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9th Circuit February 2013 News

Way back in 2007, Facebook began its march towards what many consider uber-creepiness. Their "Beacon" program connected third-party sites to Facebook and transmitted users' activities to their Facebook profile. One example were rentals from Blockbuster.com - when Jimmy rented "Sex and the City", his entire friends list would find out.

It wasn't intended to broadcast users' private information -- there was a way to prevent broadcast of such information. However, there was no opt-in. That meant a lot of accidently disclosed private info on users' profiles. Beacon was eventually discontinued.

Take a bow, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski.

What's your personal record for insulting people in a single day? Unless you are a tact-less celeb or gaffe-tastic politician, it's probably in the single digits. Judge Kozinski labeled a group of environmental activists "pirates" (using the law to back his assertion), pointed out Australia's impotence in international whaling law, and then questioned a district court judge's ability to perform his duties. In a single opinion.

That's how you run an appeals court - like a boss.

Benito Acosta's First Amendment challenge to Costa Mesa, California's ordinance restricting behavior at a city council meeting has been resurrected by the Ninth Circuit after the court agreed to rehear the case in an order released on Monday. A previous panel upheld the law in part, though it found the prohibition of "insolent" conduct to be overbroad.

In 2005, Acosta accosted the City Council during discussion over a proposal to allow local police to enforce federal immigration laws. He was twice removed from city council meetings, once for calling the Costa Mesa mayor a "f***ing racist pig" and another time after he verbally sparred with the Minuteman Project's co-founder, Jim Gilchrist.

Phone Book Free Speech Ruling Could Cost Seattle $500,000

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

That decision may end up costing Seattle $500,000, according to The Seattle Times. Thursday, the paper reported that the city has reached a tentative agreement to pay the six-figure settlement after losing its fight against the phone book publishers, according to two unnamed sources.

The Wiccans are at it again - and unlike their last challenge of the Five Faiths Policy in the Ninth Circuit, this time, they walked away semi-victorious.

California prisons provide paid chaplains for members of certain faiths - the Favored Five, if you will. These five “conventional” or “majority” faiths include a representative of the Catholic, Protestant, Islamic, Jewish, and Native American faiths, (though one wonders how one representative can cover the gamut of Native American religions).

For everyone else, there are “accommodations” and volunteer clergy.

Filipino Vets Lose Benefits Claim After Filing in Wrong Court

Veterans' benefits appeals are governed by very specific statutes that confer subject matter jurisdiction upon certain courts.

If a litigant brings an appeal in a different court, he will lose his case.

A recent decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals about Filipino World War II veterans' benefits highlights the problems with the trying to circumvent the statutorily-dictated appellate process.

If you’ve ever seen the movie Super Troopers, the tale behind this case will sound very familiar to you. Clark County Deputy Sheriff Edward J. Bylsma ordered a burger from Burger King, drove off, and feeling suspicious, he checked the burger before chowing down. He found a nice fat wad of spit, which DNA testing linked back to a fast food worker.

The worker got 90 days in jail. The officer got emotional distress, nausea, food aversion, and sleeplessness. The restaurant, meanwhile, got a lawsuit. Apparently, spitting on a cop’s burger is a no-win situation. Who would’ve thought?

Eddie Ford was driving to work on July 17, 2007, listening to music, when he noticed a police officer rapidly approach him from behind. He changed lanes to allow the officer to pass. The officer followed. He changed lanes again. The officer followed again. No lights or sirens were visible.

When they arrived at a stoplight, Ford got out of his car and approached the officer to find out why he was following him so closely. Officer Urlacher told Ford to return to his car. After they passed through the intersection, Officer Urlacher initiated a traffic stop. Ford again got out of his car and expressed his dissatisfaction verbally, though he returned to his vehicle when ordered to do so.

Ninth Circuit Judges Head Back to Hawaii for Hearings

We would understand if Ninth Circuit Court of Court of Appeals were a little hesitant to hop on a plane to Hawaii for "official business" these days.

After last year's Judicial Conference debacle — which actually sounded like a productive conference in a great location — Ninth Circuit judges need a good reason to travel to the Aloha State.

A reason like a hearing, perhaps ...

Let's say you were just locked in the back of a squad car for 30 minutes while your home was searched in connection with a murder investigation. An officer says, "Hey buddy. Care to go to the station to voluntarily answer some questions? You aren't under arrest. You can totally refuse. You just can't go home yet because we're still digging through your stuff." (Paraphrasing, obviously).

And it's midnight. And you are a young lady in Fresno.

Once you get to the station, 30 minutes away from your home, and are interrogated for two hours, you are allowed to wander freely to the bathroom and back. Nearly two hours, many murder accusations, and one more bathroom break later, the interrogation is over. And you are under arrest. Were your statements really voluntary?

The Confrontation Clause guarantees a defendant the right to face his accuser face-to-face. A witness's appearance, eye contact, and voice all affect her credibility in front of the jury or finder of fact. A clear view of the witness, therefore, is essential to a fair trial.

On the other hand, no right is absolute, even in this pantheon of liberty that is America. In Maryland v. Craig, the need to protect child victims justified the use of a one-way closed circuit television to present testimony to the court. The judge, jury, and parties could see the testifying child victim, but the victim did not have to face their alleged tormentor.