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The Ninth Circuit has reinstated a proposed class action against Johnson & Johnson and McNeil Nutritionals over allegedly misleading health claims and the trans fat content of their Benecol butter substitute, once hailed as one of the first foods "designed to act like medicine."

Plaintiff Robert Reid contended that Benecol was improperly being marketed as a health food, particularly challenging the product label's statements that it contained "no trans fats" and touting the cholesterol-reducing powers of plant stanol esters. The unanimous decision overturned a district court's ruling that such claims were pre-empted.

Benecol, whose name is meant to evoke "good cholesterol," claims to contain no trans fats and reduce cholesterol through the inclusion of plant stanol esters. Much to Reid's chagrin, a serving of Benecol included up to half a gram of trans fats.

Looking Back at 2014: The 10 Most Popular Posts From the 9th Cir.

I love the Ninth Circuit. In 2014, there was not a more interesting or unpredictable docket on the planet. The Ninth Circuit dealt with many hot-button issues such as concealed carry, free speech on YouTube, and the Hobby Lobby fallout.

What did you find most interesting? Our 10 most popular posts covered all of the above topics, plus judicial gossip, nominations, and more:

1 Week to the New Chief: Montana's Sidney Thomas Takes Top Spot

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.

9 From the 9th: 4 More to SCOTUS, 1 That Won't Bore You to Tears

Medicaid enforcement. ERISA plans with fiduciary duties. And inflated natural gas prices. What do these three things have in common? None of them would pique the interest of the average American.

But immigration issues due to alleged ties to terrorism? Being locked out of a country where your U.S. citizen wife lives? That's compelling. That's something that will make the headlines when decided.

But first, let's look at the cases only the lawyers could love:

The Ninth Circuit meets in Pasadena, Portland, Seattle and San Francisco, but since we're in the Bay Area, and have firsthand experience living in San Francisco, we thought we'd take some time to give you an insider's view of the court when it sits in "The City."

If you are coming to San Francisco to argue an appeal before the Ninth Circuit, there are really three things you need to know (besides your case): food, parking and tech.

AZ's 6 New Judges Include 1st Female Native American Fed. Judge

It's been a long time coming for Arizona's short-handed federal bench.

The local federal courts have been in a declared "state of emergency" since 2011, reports AZ Central, but the long-awaited reinforcements are on the way. Included in the slate of six are Rosemary Márquez, a defense attorney whose nomination has been pending for 1,057 days, and Diane Humetewa, a former U.S. attorney who will become the first Native American woman ever named to the federal bench, and third Native American overall.

It's been a rough battle to fill the seats, and an interesting turn of events for Humetewa, who was nominated to the bench by the same president who forced her resignation from the U.S. Attorney's Office in 2009.

I've only recently added the Ninth Circuit to my roster of circuits that I cover, and it's already become one of my favorites. Is it the interesting issues that arise in the Ninth Circuit with its vast geographic scope? Nope. Is it the drama in the circuit as it fights to keep the title "most reversed circuit"? Nah.

It's the website. Really.

Which 9th Circuit Judges Failed to Recuse, Despite a Conflict?

A few weeks ago, we got a crash course in recusals and unrecusals, when Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito sold stocks and "unrecused" from two cases being before the high court.

While it's common sense that Federal judges would be required to self-recuse if their financial holdings lead to a conflict of interest, the unrecusal tax break, for when judges sell stock to remove a conflict, was a fun surprise. And as you might expect, courts have adopted conflict screening systems to ensure that these mandated recusals actually happen.

Even with a system in place, however, a few conflicts were overlooked.

The Ninth Circuit is one of the busiest circuits in the nation, with "over 1,470 pending appeals per panel," which is "two and a half times the average of other circuits," Senator Dianne Feinstein stated in her remarks for the Congressional record. In this context, Dianne Feinstein argued for Michelle Friedland's confirmation to the Ninth Circuit bench.

Despite conservatives' reservations with her previous work supporting gay rights, on Monday, Michelle Friedland was confirmed by a vote of 51-40, with only one Republican, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, crossing party lines, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Some would say this comes almost one-year too late, as President Obama originally nominated Michelle Friedland on August 1, 2013, "but the Senate failed to act," according to Courthouse News Service.

Let's take a look at Michelle Friedland's career so far.

(Judge) John Owens Confirmed for 9th Circuit Bench

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Judge John Owens.

We've followed Owens' nomination since August, when President Barack Obama nominated him along with a fellow Munger, Tolles & Olson partner and fellow Stanford alum, Michelle T. Friedland, to the bench. While Friedland's nomination is still pending, Owens was confirmed earlier this week, much to the chagrin of Idaho's Republican senators.

What should you know about Owens? And why was his nomination semi-controversial? Read on: