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

9th Circuit October 2014 News

One-Word Mistake by Judge Nixes Conviction, 50-Year Sentence

I will now explain the presumption of innocence and the people's burden of proof. The defendant has pleaded guilty to the charges. The fact that a criminal charge has been filed against the defendant is not evidence that the charge is true. You must not be biased against the defendant just because he has been arrested, charged with a crime, or brought to trial. A defendant in a criminal case is presumed to be innocent. This presumption requires that the people prove each element of a crime and special allegations beyond a reasonable doubt.

See the problem? "The defendant has pleaded guilty to the charges." Except, this was on the eve of trial. And there would be no trial if he had pleaded guilty. This seems like common sense. Except, as many lawyers have found out, jurors lack common sense.

After closing arguments, during deliberations, the jury sent the judge a note inquiring about the guilty plea. The judge tried to cure his error with remedial instructions and juror polls. But last week, the Ninth Circuit held that the judge's best efforts were not enough, and granted habeas relief to Bryant Keith Williams.

FBI Agents Cut DSL, Posed as Repairmen to Conduct Search: Motion

Las Vegas is set to become the focal point for a Fourth Amendment issue that's as brazen as it is kooky.

Suspecting several high rollers staying at Caesars Palace were engaged in an illegal bookmaking operation, the feds allegedly cut off Internet access to their $25,000-per-night private villa, then posed as repairmen to enter the villa, snoop around, and use that snooping as the basis for a subsequent search warrant.

Wash. Sup. Ct. Hears Arguments in Backpage Escort Service Ad Case

Washington's Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in a case styled J.S. v. Village Voice Media, but known better as the "Backpage" case. Backpage.com is a website, owned by Village Voice Media, that allows people to contract with "escort" services for -- well, the things that you would do with an escort.

The plaintiffs are minors who were between 15 and 17 when they were allegedly sex trafficked -- not by Backpage, but by professional pimps who posted ads for them on Backpage. They claim that Village Voice knew exactly what was going on; namely, that pimps trafficked in underage girls on Backpage, but did nothing about it because they were making a whole lot of money.

9th. Cir. Strikes Ariz. Law Denying Bail for Undocumented Immigrants

Arizona and harsh immigration laws go together like peaches and cream, Laverne and Shirley, Joe Arpaio and civil rights claims. Arizona's Proposition 100, approved by voters in 2006, denies bail to undocumented immigrants for a variety of felonies, whether or not the defendant is dangerous or a flight risk. As in: no discretion, never, nuh-uh, nada. No bail for you.

Angel Lopez-Valenzuela and Isaac Castro-Armenta sued, calling the law unconstitutional. An Arizona district court found for Arizona, and a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit agreed. Yesterday, however, after an en banc rehearing, the court reversed the district court's decision.

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:

SSM Opponents Use Statistics to Argue 9th Cir. Panel Was Stacked

Now, this is a unique way to request en banc review.

The Coalition to Protect Marriage, a conservative group opposing same-sex (or genderless) marriage, which stood in for Nevada to defend that state's ban when the state refused to do so, really wants an en banc shot. And on the surface, that seems like a long-shot: CPM isn't even really a party to the case, the panel opinion (lengthy concurrences aside) followed directly from recent precedent, and the Ninth Circuit has denied en banc review in those precedential cases.

In other words: solid decision. But, according to a statistical study presented by CPM, that solid decision might rest on a number of other solid decisions that aren't solid at all: They were the result of a stacked deck by gaming panel assignments.

9 From the 9th: Trademark Tacking, Federal Tort Tolling, Church Signs

FindLaw's "SCOTUS Week" is coming to a close -- but wait, what's that? Overtime? Extra innings?

Exactly, and you have the Ninth Circuit to thank for the bonus coverage. Why? Because the Ninth Circuit has nine cases on the Supreme Court's docket so far -- one of which, Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk, has already been argued and blogged about on our In House blog.

What about the other eight? Here's Part 1 of our Ninth Circuit SCOTUS preview:

9th Cir. Hears Oral Arguments in National Security Letter Case

Earlier this week, we mentioned In re National Security Letter was on appeal to the Ninth Circuit. In the context of Twitter's lawsuit against the DOJ, National Security Letter was Twitter's best chance for success, with Judge Susan Illston having agreed that NSLs are unconstitutional.

As it happens, a Ninth Circuit panel heard oral arguments in National Security Letter two days ago. How it went could be a gauge of Twitter's success in its suit against the DOJ.

And 2 More: 9th Cir. Strikes Idaho, Nev. Gay Marriage Bans

It's here folks, and it's exactly as expected: In a joint opinion for Latta v. Otter (from Idaho) and Sevcik v. Sandoval (from Nevada), the Ninth Circuit has struck down Idaho and Nevada's gay marriage bans, citing its own precedent from the SmithKline gay juror case:

We hold that the Idaho and Nevada laws at issue violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because they deny lesbians and gays who wish to marry persons of the same sex a right they afford to individuals who wish to marry persons of the opposite sex, and do not satisfy the heightened scrutiny standard we adopted in SmithKline.

Now that we've spoiled the non-surprise, let's get to the meaty preliminary issues of jurisdiction and the effect of a decades-old Supreme Court order which, really, were the only true undecided issues left in this case.

SCOTUS Starts Bullying Early, Reverses 9th in Habeas Appeal

Given that the Ninth Circuit is a perennial contender for most frequently reversed, it was not a huge surprise to see the Supreme Court toss one of their decisions in the shredder. It was a bit surprising, however, to see it happen so quickly -- before oral arguments began, and on the same day the Court released an orders list clearing much of its summer cert. petition backlog.

Why did the Supreme Court give the Ninth Circuit the quick and swift rejection, like a gowned and gaveled Dikembe Mutombo? It's the much-maligned Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), and more specifically, the Ninth Circuit's completely botched application of its review standard.

9th Cir. Dismisses Shareholder Lawsuit Against NVIDIA for Faulty Chips

NVIDIA Corporation makes a bunch of computer chips, including graphics processing units (GPUs) for all your sweet gaming machines. In 2006, NVIDIA began experiencing problems with some of its chips. NVIDIA initially wasn't sure what the problem was, and issued software updates to run the fans of its graphics cards faster to cool down the cards. But that didn't work.

Finally, HP concluded that the problem was the chips themselves. NVIDIA determined that the problem lay in the composition of a new kind of solder used on its chips. In 2008, NVIDIA told its manufacturers to go back to the old solder.