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

9th Circuit January 2017 News

On Friday, Trump issued an executive order barring visitors, immigrants, and refugees from seven majority-Muslim nations from entering the United States. Soon after, lawyers began swarming America's major airports, seeking to file habeas petitions on behalf of those detained or turned away. By Saturday night, a judge in the Eastern District of New York had issued a limited stay. Stays from district courts in California and Washington State soon followed.

Then today, as the chaos surrounding the immigration ban continued to play out, Washington State became the first state to sue the administration over the order -- putting the West Coast and the Ninth Circuit at the center of the legal battle against Trump's immigration ban.

Indian Tribes Subject to Lending Laws

The Ninth Circuit has ruled that lending companies operated by Native American tribes are subject to investigation by federal lending authorities.

According to the circuit's ruling, the companies, operated by various tribes, must comply with civil investigative demands from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The court rejected the tribes' argument that they were sovereign and that the bureau had no authority over them. The judges said that general laws apply to tribes, unless Congress excludes them.

"In the Consumer Financial Protection Act, a generally applicable law, Congress did not expressly exclude tribes from the Bureau's enforcement authority," the court said.

Court Says No Trademark Infringement for Copying Karaoke Files

When a day-jobber gets up and belts out a rendition of "New York, New York," at the local karaoke club, does anyone actually think they are hearing Frank Sinatra?

Even when Sinatra was alive, it would be hard to confuse an imitation with the King of the Hill. I mean, we're talking about the original "Voice," the "Chairman of the Board," "Ol' Blues Eyes" himself.

It's just as hard to imagine that anyone would sue over a karaoke performance as somehow confusing listeners about the origin of the music. But that's what happened, in a digital media-shifting sense, in a case recently decided by the Ninth Circuit.

No Immunity for Lying Social Workers

In an icy rebuke to Orange County social workers, a federal appeals court said they are not entitled to immunity for lying in a child custody case.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said the social workers allegedly presented false evidence to wrest custody away from the mother of Preslie Hardwick, the plaintiff in the case. The court said that no law permits false testimony, and sharply upbraided the social workers for ignoring the obvious.

"No official with an IQ greater than room temperature in Alaska could claim that he or she did not know that the conduct at the center of this case violated both state and federal law," Judge Stephen S. Trott wrote for the unanimous panel.

Apple Gets Legal Setback at the App Store: Antitrust Suit Revived

A federal appeals court has revived a lawsuit against Apple that alleges the company monopolizes the market for apps that run on its products.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said that Apple distributes third-party developers' applications directly from its App Store, giving purchasers standing to sue the company under anti-competition laws. Apple unsuccessfully argued that the plaintiffs did not have standing because they purchased the third party apps indirectly from Apple.

"Apple is a distributor of the iPhone apps, selling them directly to purchasers through its App Store," the appeals court said. The court then reversed a trial judge's dismissal of the case and remanded for further proceedings.

The Supreme Court isn't the only federal court with a longstanding empty seat. There are currently 114 outstanding federal judicial vacancies, including 17 on federal appellate courts. Four of those open appellate seats are on the Ninth Circuit.

Outstanding nominations expired when the new Congress convened on January 3rd, meaning that now-pending Obama nominees, like Judge Lucy H. Koh, won't fill those vacancies. That means that President-elect Trump could have an outsized impact on the courts, moving nominees more quickly through a Republican-controlled Senate. Here's what this could mean for the Ninth Circuit.

Law Firm Loses $1 Million Tax Deduction for Standby Airplane

To the lawyer who wanted a standby deduction for his aircraft, the Ninth Circuit said, "Oh no, that's not gonna fly."

At least, that's the gist of what the Ninth Circuit said about the lawyers' ill-fated attempt to deduct more than $1 million in travel expenses.

Engstrom, a plaintiff's firm in Los Angeles, tried to write off "standby" expenses for a Gulfstream IV and a Beechcraft King Air 350 turboprop between 2008 and 2010. Partner Walter Lack and attorney Thomas Girardi, a partner in his own firm, set up an aviation company to split the cost of keeping the aircraft.

A U.S. Tax Court found that Engstrom owed $1.12 million for improper travel expense deductions on more than 100 flights. The Ninth Circuit, in an unpublished opinion, said the tax court was correct.