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

9th Circuit September 2015 News

Seattle can continue with its minimum wage hike after the International Franchise Association lost its lawsuit challenging the ordinance. The IFA had sought to halt the wage increase, which went into effect this April, but the Ninth Circuit denied their request for a preliminary injunction last Friday.

The court rejected the IFA's claims that the wage increase "illegally discriminates against franchises." The law raises Seattle's minimum wage incrementally from $10 an hour to $15 over a period of years. Small businesses are given more time to meet the new requirements; franchises, like McDonald's and Pizza Hut, are not.

The Ninth Circuit revived a seven-year-old class action lawsuit over Google's AdWords program on Monday. AdWords places brief, text-based ads on websites working with Google -- including, between 2004 and 2008, undeveloped domains and error pages. Advertisers sued, alleging that the placement of ads of such undesirable sites violated California's Unfair Competition and Fair Advertising Law.

The putative class of advertisers was originally denied certification under the theory that there was no common method for determining how much restitution each advertiser would be due. The Ninth Circuit reversed that ruling Monday, emphasizing that it's the entitlement to restitution itself, not the individual amount due, that mattered for class action certification.

Soon after Stephanie Lenz uploaded a YouTube video of her toddler dancing, she received a notice from Universal Music Group: take down the 29 second clip or risk being sued. Lenz's son had been baby-dancing to Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" ... and Universal said that use of the fuzzy background track violated copyright law.

The Pennsylvania mother didn't take down her video, however. Instead, she got pro bono representation from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and won big in the Ninth Circuit on Monday as the court announced that companies must consider fair use before sending take down notices. The ruling breaks new ground in IP law, protecting consumers from meritless copyright infringement threats.

Bees -- and their keepers -- won an important legal victory last Thursday when the Ninth Circuit ordered the EPA to cancel its approval of a toxic insecticide connected to bee deaths. The Ninth Circuit panel ruled that the EPA had approved Dow Chemical's use of sulfoxaflor as a pesticide without sufficient evidence about its potential effects.

The ruling is particularly important as sulfoxaflor, marketed commercially by Dow as Transform and Closer, is a neonicotinoid, a type of insecticide seen by many as connected to Colony Collapse Disorder, or the mass die off of bees.

For almost 60 years, visitors to Montana's Big Mountain resort have been greeted by a life-sized statue of Jesus. Occasionally dressed in ski gear, arms spread, Jesus looks out over the resort's slopes. That statue is officially known as "Big Mountain Jesus."

Big Mountain Jesus, however, makes his home on government land, for Big Mountain and its ski runs are located in Flathead National Forest. That fact doesn't make the statue an impermissible government endorsement of religion, the Ninth Circuit ruled last week, tossing a lawsuit by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

You can still be sentenced to death in California, but you can't be executed -- not since a surprise ruling last year struck down the state's death penalty program as unconstitutional. The program wasn't struck down because executions are inherently cruel punishment, but because the state was too slow to kill death row prisoners.

That case is now before the Ninth Circuit, which will decide whether the state's sluggish and arbitrary death penalty system is so dysfunctional that it's unconstitutional.