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

9th Circuit May 2013 News

Rehearing Denied in Medi-Cal Provider Payment Cuts Dispute

Newsflash: California is in the midst of a budget crisis. Also, the sky is blue.

As part of Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to curb state spending and reduce the deficit, after consulting with Secretary Kathleen Sibelius, of the Department of Health and Human Services, the governor instituted 10 percent cuts in payments paid to Medi-Cal providers.

On Friday, the Ninth Circuit upheld those cuts for the second time, issuing a revision of their opinion from late last year and denying rehearing of the case. The court noted that none of the circuit’s judges requested a vote on an en banc hearing.

Law Student Gets Hardship Discharge of Student Loan Debt

Like many law grads, Michael Headlund hasn't had the easiest time, economically. Though he graduated back in 1997, he's had the same experience as recent grads, with over $100,000 in student loan debt and no hope whatsoever of paying it off.

Ten years ago, he filed for bankruptcy after The Educational Resources Institute (TERI) and Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) demanded payments far beyond his means. TERI ended up settling for a payment plan, but PHEAA fought to prevent partial or full discharge of his remaining $85,000 or so in debt.

The bankruptcy court ruled in his favor, but the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel reversed. The Ninth Circuit vacated the BAP's holding and remanded the case for consideration the three-part Brunner test. The bankruptcy court judge passed away in the meantime, leading to more delay and a case reassignment.

Arizona's 20 Week Abortion Ban Not a Regulation, Unconstitutional

For such a hotly-debated topic, the law regarding bans and burdens on abortion hasn’t changed much. Any ban or undue burden on pre-viability abortions is unconstitutional per the Supreme Court’s holdings in Roe, Casey, and Gonzales. Since 1973, the bright line rule that a woman’s right to privacy trumps the state’s interest in “the potentiality of human life” is been repeatedly reaffirmed by the Supreme Court and the Circuit Courts of Appeal, despite many chances to modify or reject that rule.

Last year, Arizona passed H.B. 2036, which prohibited physicians from performing abortions on any fetus with a gestational age of twenty weeks or later, absent some medical emergency endangering the life of the mother. This was in addition to an existing law that prohibited abortions (absent medical emergency) at or after the point of viability.

HP Printer Settlement Voided Because Coupon Settlements Are Awful

You know what stinks about class-action settlements? Sometimes, the payout for the consumer is absolutely meaningless. This Hewlett-Packard settlement is a perfect example. Consumers sued because HP supposedly misled them about their cartridges' true ink levels (causing premature replacement), hid expiration dates, and engaged in a few other practices that made their wallets sad from 2001 to 2010.

Maybe they were right. Maybe not. They lost a number of pretrial motions, including one of three separate class certifications. The District Court pointed out the weakness of the evidence before accepting the settlement here, despite a handful of objectors (including the great class-action dissenter: Ted Frank).

What was the objection? As always, it was excessive attorneys' fees.

Did Anaheim Cops Get Too Furious, Too Fast With Deadly Force?

After an illegal left turn and near-collision with their police cruiser, Officers Matthew Ellis and Officer Daron Wyatt acted reasonably when they ran the van's plates. They even acted reasonably when they followed the van, which had previously been involved in a narcotics stop. The decision to pull the driver over after the van swerved again was likely reasonable as well.

Did they act reasonably when, minutes later, the officers struck the resisting driver, Adolf Anthony Sanchez Gonzalez, with their flashlights and possibly attempted a sleeper hold? How about seconds after that, when Officer Wyatt shot the driver at point blank?

That question is why this case, and others like it, led to race riots in Anaheim. It's also why the case reached the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Denial of Disabled Litigant's Unlicensed Advocate Not Misconduct

It ain't easy being a trial judge. Litigants of all shapes, sizes, and abilities appear before you, and for some with special needs, they are entitled to reasonable accommodation. Most of the time, that accommodation is simple, such as having an interpreter in the room.

Other times, it's not.

The anonymous complainant here, who suffers from a communications disability, is a pro se litigant who sought to have his caretaker act as his "authorized representative" and "address the court in his behalf." That, of course, sounds more like the job of an attorney, as the requested accommodation was not mere transmittal of the litigant's statements -- it was full-on representation.

Amy and Vicky, Child Porn Victims: No Joint and Several Liability

You'd have to imagine, at some point, that either Congress (ha!) or the Supreme Court will step in and clear up the confusion surrounding restitution for those depicted in child pornography, as well as the issue of joint and several liability of the present day possessors of the images. Though they've denied certiorari in Amy and Vicky cases before, the flood of circuit court confusion and circuit splintering continues.

Last September, the ABA Journal wrote an exhaustive feature on Amy and Vicky, the two victims who have had cases appear in nearly every federal Circuit Court of Appeals in the nation. In fact, they've had two opinions released regarding their restitution this week, including a writ of mandamus in the Ninth Circuit.

Restitution Awards Don't Require Juries in Petty Criminal Cases

Lawrence M. Stanfill El once worked with Kyle Carmin as fellow work-study interns with adjacent workspaces at the Department of Veteran Affairs in Portland, Oregon. It was a tranquil office, until one day, the two lads fell to fisticuffs. The outcome was poor for Mr. Carmin, as he was repeatedly struck by Mr. Stanfill El and required $3,468.03 in treatment at a local hospital.

Because the altercation occurred on federal property, the prosecution took place in federal, rather than Oregon, courts using federal law. Stanfill El was charged with assault within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, a petty offense with a maximum penalty of six months. Though he requested a jury, he was denied, and was convicted after a bench trial. He was also ordered to pay restitution for the hospital costs.

Stanfill El appealed his conviction, asserting his right to a jury under the Sixth and Seventh Amendments.