Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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A tribe qualifies to have land taken into trust for its benefit under 25 U.S.C. 5108 of the Indian Reorganization Act if it (1) was "under Federal jurisdiction" as of June 18, 1934, and (2) is "recognized" at the time the decision is made to take land into trust. The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the Interior and the Ione Band of Miwok Indians in a case involving a dispute over a proposed casino in the County. The panel held that the Interior's reading of the ambiguous phrase "under Federal jurisdiction" was the best interpretation and the Interior did not err in adopting that interpretation for purposes of deciding whether the Ione Band was "under Federal jurisdiction" as of 1934. Finally, the Interior did not err in allowing the Band to conduct gaming operations on the Plymouth Parcels under the "restored tribe" exception of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), 25 U.S.C. 2719(a). View "County of Amador v. USDOI" on Justia Law

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TDY filed a complaint under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. 9613(f)(1), seeking contribution from the government for its equitable share of the cleanup costs. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of judgment in favor of the United States, which allocated 100 percent of past and future CERCLA costs to TDY. The panel agreed with the district court that some deviation from the allocation affirmed in Shell Oil Co., 294 F.3d at 1049, and Cadillac Fairview, 299 F.3d at 1022–23, was warranted by distinguishing facts. However, the panel held that encumbering a military contractor with 100 percent of CERCLA cleanup costs that were largely incurred during war-effort production was a 180 degree departure from the panel's prior case law, and the out-of-circuit authority that the district court relied upon did not warrant such a sharp deviation. In this case, the district court did not adequately consider the parties' lengthy course of dealings and the government's requirement that TDY use two of the hazardous chemicals at issue. Accordingly, the court remanded for additional proceedings. View "TDY Holdings v. United States" on Justia Law

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On remand from the Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit held that the federal government properly exercised its authority to regulate hovercraft use on the rivers within conservation system units in Alaska. The panel held that section 103(c) of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), 16 U.S.C. 3101 et seq., does not limit the Park Service from applying the hovercraft ban on the Nation River in Yukon-Charley because, under the panel's Katie John precedent, Alaska v. Babbitt, 72 F.3d 698 (9th Cir. 1995), the United States has an implied reservation of water rights, rendering the river public lands. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants. View "Sturgeon v. Frost" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, the treasurer of the National Border Patrol Council, the union for Border Patrol agents, filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to compel the disclosure of the names of 149 non-citizens who were released from detention pending a final determination whether they will be removed.The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the United States and the district court's finding that the government properly withheld former detainees' names. The panel held that the released detainees have a substantial privacy interest that outweighs the public interest in the disclosure of their names. View "Tuffley v. USDHS" on Justia Law

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Wild Wilderness, a group representing non-motorized users, filed suit challenging the Forest Service's approval of the building of Kapka Sno-Park, alleging that the Forest Service had violated both the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The panel held that the case was neither moot nor lacking redressability; the Forest Service did not violate the NFMA because Kapka Sno-Park was not inconsistent with the Deschutes Forest Plan; and the Forest Service did not violate NEPA because the agency complied with the relevant regulations, completed an environmental assessment, and issued a finding of no significant impact. The panel rejected Wild Wilderness's remaining NEPA challenges. View "Wild Wilderness v. Allen" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendants under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552, seeking records identifying CIA personnel or affiliates that have engaged in torture. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that, although the FOIA request failed to reasonably describe the records sought, this failure bears on the merits of plaintiff's claim rather than the district court's subject matter jurisdiction. In this case, the district court erred by concluding that plaintiff's request constituted a question rather than a request for records; plaintiff cannot compel defendants to disclose documents on the basis of his vague request; but, ultimately, any failure to exhaust did not bear on the district court's subject matter jurisdiction. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Yagman v. Pompeo" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's approval of a consent decree between the EPA and the Sierra Club that set a schedule for the EPA to promulgate designations whether geographic areas met national ambient air quality standards for sulfur dioxide under the Clean Air Act (CAA), 42 U.S.C. 7401. The panel rejected the States' objections to the consent decree, holding that as long as the EPA sticks to the schedule in the consent decree, the Sierra Club will not advance its lawsuit against the EPA. Therefore, the consent decree did not prohibit the EPA from promulgating designations prior to those deadlines, nor did it otherwise constrain the agency's discretion. The panel explained that, because the consent decree did not bind the States to do nor not to do anything, imposed no legal duties or obligations on them at all, and did not purport to resolve any claims they might have, the States could not block the consent decree by merely withholding their consent. View "North Dakota v. Pruitt" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the FWS in an action challenging the FWS's determination that the Sonoran Desert Area bald eagle was not a distinct population segment eligible for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C. 1533. The panel held that FWS reasonably concluded that, while the combination of unusual characteristics in a discrete population was sufficient to satisfy the persistence factor, those characteristics did not by themselves necessarily require a conclusion that the desert eagle population segment was ecologically or biologically significant for the bald eagle taxon as a whole; FWS reasonably concluded that if the desert eagle population segment were "extirpated," this would not create a significant gap in the range of the taxon; and FWS directly addressed climate change in its 2012 decision. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. Zinke" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of the Coalition's request for attorney's fees under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Coalition sought information regarding Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who had been targeted by the CIA as a terrorist and was killed in a drone attack. The panel held that the district court abused its discretion when it failed to consider and apply the relevant factors that the panel articulated in Church of Scientology v. United States Postal Serv., 700 F.2d 486 (9th Cir. 1983), for determining whether the Coalition had substantially prevailed. The panel explained that the district court's view of causation was at odds with Church of Scientology's more enlightened view that, as here, multiple factors may be at play. Furthermore, the district court judgment was inconsistent with Congress' intent that the award of FOIA counsel fees has at its fundamental purpose the facilitation of citizen access to the courts, and should not be subject to a grudging application. The panel remanded for the district court to determine the fees to which the Coalition was entitled. View "First Amendment Coalition v. USDOJ" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs challenged the Government's approval of the location, construction, and specifications for a military base in Okinawa, Japan. Plaintiffs sought claims for declaratory and injunctive relief based on the Government's alleged violations of Section 402 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), 54 U.S.C. 307101(e), and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 701 et seq. The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiffs have standing to bring declaratory relief claims limited to whether the Government's evaluation, information gathering, and consultation process discharged the Government's obligations under the NHPA and otherwise satisfied the requirements of the APA. The panel also held that plaintiffs' injunctive relief claim did not present a political question. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the district court's conclusion that plaintiffs' claims for declaratory and injunctive relief did not present a political question; reversed the district court's conclusion that plaintiffs lacked standing to seek declaratory relief; and reversed the district court's conclusion that plaintiffs' claim for injunctive relief presented a political question. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. Mattis" on Justia Law