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

Recently in Ethics Category

In a recent decision by a three judge panel at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, judges that use Twitter got a little bit more clarity on when Tweeting violates judicial ethics.

The case involved an appeal of a motion for relief from judgment filed by Sierra Pacific Industries, a lumber producer, after a settlement related to a 2007 wildfire. Sierra, for their appeal, alleged that the district court erred in refusing to grant relief from the settlement that the company agreed to with the government.

The underlying motion for relief was based on a whole host of alleged fraudulent conduct on the part of the government lawyers, and curiously, on one tweet from an anonymous account, allegedly controlled by Judge Shubb, who presided over the motion.

Lawyer Discipline Challenge Violated Rooker-Feldman Doctrine

A California attorney Marilyn Sue Scheer doesn't give up easily. When a dispute with a client led to discipline from the California State Bar, Scheer refused to comply. When her refusal led to suspension, Scheer sued. When the California Supreme Court ruled against her, Scheer moved the fight over to the federal courts.

And it was there, in the Ninth Circuit, that Scheer lost again on Monday, as the Ninth reminded her that only the Supreme Court could hear appeals from "a state-court loser."

The Ninth Circuit settled a long-standing dispute between federal authorities and Nevada ranchers on Friday, ruling that the Hage family had illegally grazed cattle on federal land without a permit.

But the most noteworthy fight wasn't between renegade ranchers and the Bureau of Land Management, it was between the judges of the Ninth Circuit and District Court Judge Robert C. Jones, who "grossly abused his power" and allowed his "well-established and inappropriately strong" feelings against federal agencies to bias his rulings. This is far from Judge Jones' first time being condemned by the Ninth Circuit.

Chief Judge Kozinski Urges Action on Brady Violation 'Epidemic'

Dissents are worthless, right? After all, they're not controlling, especially dissents from orders.

This dissent from an en banc rehearing denial, by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, arguing that the frequency of Brady disclosure violations has reached epidemic proportions, is one more reason why Judge Kozinski is quickly becoming a personal favorite. It's snarky, well-written, and makes you wonder how in the heck the original panel (and the en banc deniers) got the case so wrong.

Unfortunately, it's legal effect is nill, which means the defendant, Kenneth Olsen, who was convicted of knowingly developing a biological agent (ricin) for use as a weapon (allegedly laced allergy pills), will not receive relief, absent Supreme Court intervention.

Debra Milke Set for Retrial in Son's Murder After Earlier 9th Cir Relief

After 22 years on death row, in March, Debra Jean Milke was granted relief by the Ninth Circuit. That relief may be short-lasting however, as earlier this week, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Rosa Mroz set Sept. 30 as the date for her retrial, reports the Associated Press.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, are scrambling to patch together enough evidence for a conviction, especially in light of the circuit court's decision, which recapped the investigating detective's prior misconduct and lack of creditability.

Prosecutors allege that in 1989, Milke told her 4-year-old son Christopher to dress in his best outfit, as he was headed to the mall to meet Santa Claus. Instead, Milke's roommate, James Lynn Styers and his friend, Roger Mark Scott, took the child into the desert and shot him in the back of the head three times. Both men are on death row for the killing.

Denial of Disabled Litigant's Unlicensed Advocate Not Misconduct

It ain't easy being a trial judge. Litigants of all shapes, sizes, and abilities appear before you, and for some with special needs, they are entitled to reasonable accommodation. Most of the time, that accommodation is simple, such as having an interpreter in the room.

Other times, it's not.

The anonymous complainant here, who suffers from a communications disability, is a pro se litigant who sought to have his caretaker act as his "authorized representative" and "address the court in his behalf." That, of course, sounds more like the job of an attorney, as the requested accommodation was not mere transmittal of the litigant's statements -- it was full-on representation.

Ninth Circuit to Review Judge Richard Cebull's Racist Email

Should a chief circuit judge lose his post for sending a racist email?

Last month, Richard Cebull, the chief district judge in Montana, forwarded a racist joke about President Barack Obama and his mother from his official government email address to six friends. Several forwards later, the "joke" found its way into a reporter's inbox. Judge Cebull apologized, and asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to review whether his actions qualify as judicial misconduct.

No Sympathy for Prosecutorial Misconduct Discretion Plea

Publicity, according to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, is a two-way street. This week, the Ninth Circuit rejected a motion to eliminate a prosecutor's name from an opinion that alleged the attorney had engaged in prosecutorial misconduct.

The prosecutor in question is Arizona Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerry Albert, who allegedly misrepresented a drug defendant's prior statements when trying to impeach her trial testimony. (Brief thanks to Jonathan Turley for bringing this opinion to our attention.)