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

9th Circuit April 2015 News

The Yellowstone Club was to be one of the most ornate ski resorts in the West, a snowbound Shangri-la for the super rich described by The New York Times as "a ski community where there's no such thing as too much." That is, until the plan collapsed, with the club defaulting on loans worth hundreds of millions of dollars and the developer, Tim Blixseth, accused of misusing funds to support his extravagant lifestyle.

Blixseth is currently facing $250 million in judgments from creditors and has failed to account for $13.8 million in spending. That failure put him in jail for contempt of court, where a district court judge says he'll remain until a full accounting is made. He won't be getting any help from the Ninth Circuit either, as the appeals court refused his petition for release yesterday.

For the first time in awhile, Arizona seems to be getting a break when it comes to its voter registration laws. The state had been slapped down in the Supreme Court after requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration just two years ago. Last year, they lost a similar suit in the 10th Circuit over federal registration forms (no, they didn't move -- they just joined Kansas in that lawsuit).

Turns out the third time's a charm for the Grand Canyon state. The Ninth Circuit has upheld their vote registration form against allegations that it unconstitutionally discriminated against third parties.

If you need something to do on a slow night, consider heading down the Ninth Circuit -- for a movie. That's right, the halls of justice aren't just for deciding cases, they also host regular movie screenings put together by judge Alex Kozinski.

The Los Angeles Times provided a glimpse behind the scenes of one screening, in a piece published on Thursday. Kozinski provides the film and booze for free, but the pizza will cost you $10. The judge claims to do the shopping with his administrative assistant and describes the nights as way to keep in touch with the court's community.

A sentencing enhancement for committing a sexual act can be applied to child sex trafficking charges, the Ninth Circuit held on Tuesday. So can enhancements for undue influence, even if the victims entered into the arrangement voluntarily.

The case involved Tamrell and Tynisha Hornbuckle, sisters who ran a prostitution ring with both underage and adult women. They were eventually caught as part of an FBI sting and pled guilty to two counts of child sex trafficking. They challenged the application of the two enhancements to their sentences.

FBI Can't Cut DSL Line, Pose as Repairmen to Conduct Search

Last year, we brought you the bizarre story of an FBI sting into illegal gambling at some of the private villas at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. But how did the FBI get the probable cause necessary to support search warrants leading to their arrest?

Illegally, according to lawyer and SCOTUSblog co-founder Tom Goldstein, who represents Wei Seng Phua, one of the defendants. Last week, a federal district court agreed with Goldstein that  evidence obtained from the illegal search must be suppressed.

Marijuana will remain on the federal list of Schedule I drugs, next to heroin and LSD. After a five day evidentiary trial, the District Court for the Eastern District of California denied a motion to dismiss an indictment involving marijuana growing, which challenged the classification was unconstitutional.

Under the Controlled Substances Act, Schedule I drugs are those which have a high potential of abuse and "no currently accepted medical use." Defense lawyers for 16 men accused of growing marijuana challenged the listing of marijuana as a Schedule I drug, arguing that it violated the Tenth Amendment's limitations on federal power. Marijuana is legal for medical use in 23 states.

The Ninth Circuit has reversed a district court ruling granting summary judgment to Sears in a California disability law dispute. The district court had ruled that employee presented no triable claims because the evidence he offered was all self-serving.

Of course it was, the Ninth ruled when reversing. Self-serving evidence, consisting here of uncorroborated recollections, may not be of much weight to a trier of fact, but it cannot be rejected outright at the summary judgment stage.

Probationers in the great state of Arizona can't be denied their right to toke up -- for medical reasons! -- according to the state's Supreme Court. Nor can the state condition plea agreements on one's abstention from medical marijuana.

In two cases decided on Tuesday, the court recognized the "broad grant of immunity" created when the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act was passed by public referendum five years ago. AMMA prohibits penalizing qualified medical use or possession in any way. That includes forbidding its use in probation and plea agreements, the court held.

If you're an ERISA lawyer or a history nerd, the Ninth Circuit has a case just for you.

Administrators of a California firefighters' pension plan breached their trust duty when they paid their own fees and expenses from the plan's assets, the Ninth Circuit ruled on Tuesday. That's some classic self-dealing, according to the court, and a breach of the administrators' fiduciary duty.

Corporations and other non-human associations don't have a First Amendment right to serve as official proponents of ballot initiatives, the Ninth Circuit held in a unanimous en banc ruling last Friday. The case involved a local law in Chula Vista, a San Diego suburb, which required that proponents of ballot measures be electors -- in other words, actual humans.

With corporate personhood extending at least to encompass political speech, via political spending, commentators wondered if that personhood could stretch to actual legislative power. The Ninth wasn't willing to take things that far.

The case continues the process of clarifying the political rights afforded corporations following the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United.

Online credit card scammers must pay $26 million following an FTC action over the scheme. The U.S. District Court of Nevada ruled that Cardflex, Blaze Processing, Mach I Merchanting and their officers, operating together through a series of iWorks websites, had fraudulently and illegally bilked consumers out of millions of dollars.

The iWorks scam promised consumers that they could get rich quick through online advertising and obtain government grants to pay off personal debts. Instead, consumers were enrolled in membership plans and repeatedly charged for services that were not delivered.

The Supreme Court won't be hearing an appeal from high school students who sued after school administrators asked them to remove American flag T-shirts or take excused leave. That leaves intact the Ninth Circuit's ruling from a year ago, holding that the school did not violate the students' rights when it asked them to change their clothing in an attempt to avoid violence.

Plaintiffs, three students from Morgan Hill in northern California, had argued that their First Amendment free speech rights were violated when they were asked to cover up their flags on Cinco de Mayo while students in Mexican flags were not.