Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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Under 47 U.S.C. 555a(a), local authorities and municipalities, involved in the regulation of cable television services within their boundaries, are exempted from civil money damages liability in any lawsuit for any claim arising from the regulation of cable services. The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's grants of summary judgment for Comcast. In this case, Comcast sought money damages against a municipality, and thus the suit arose out of the regulation of cable services pursuant to section 555a(a), which barred the only relief Comcast sought. Accordingly, the panel remanded with instructions to dismiss Comcast's lawsuit. View "Comcast of Sacramento I, LLC v. Sacramento Metropolitan Cable Television Commission" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting the Board's petition to enforce the law firm's compliance with the Board's civil investigative demand (CID) to respond to interrogatories and requests for documents. The panel held that the Board's structure was constitutionally permissible in light of Humphrey's Executor v. United States, 295 U.S. 602 (1935), and Morrison v. Olson, 487 U.S. 654 (1988). These cases indicate that the for-cause removal restriction protecting the Board's Director did not impede the President's ability to perform his constitutional duty to ensure that the laws are faithfully executed. The panel rejected the law firm's contention that the CID violated the Board's practice-of-law exclusion and held that one of the exceptions to the practice-of-law exclusion applied: 12 U.S.C. 5517(e)(3). Section 5517(e)(3) empowered the Board to investigate whether the law firm was violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule. Finally, the panel held that the CID complied with section 5562(c)(2). View "Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Seila Law LLC" on Justia Law

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Ten children in the Arizona foster care system filed a class action against the directors of the Arizona Department of Child Safety and the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, alleging that Arizona's state-wide policies and practices deprived them of required medical services, among other things, and thus subjected them to a substantial risk of harm. After the district court certified a class of all children who are or will be in the Department of Child Safety's custody, along with two subclasses, the agencies appealed. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's certification of the General Class and held that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion in its rulings on standing, commonality, typicality, and uniform injunctive relief. The panel also affirmed the district court's certification of the Non-Kinship Subclass, but vacated the Medicaid Subclass. The panel held that the district court abused its discretion by certifying the Medicaid Subclass based on an apparent misconception of the legal framework for such a claim. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "B.K. v. Snyder" on Justia Law

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After ONDA challenged the BLM's Recreation Plan, which involved the route network for motorized vehicles in the Steens Mountain Area, the Interior Board of Land Appeals approved the related Travel Plan under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), the Federal Land Policy Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), and the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Act of 2000 (Steens Act). Harney County then intervened to defend the Board's approval of the Travel Plan and cross-claimed against the BLM, challenging the Recreation Plan. The district court upheld both the Recreation Plan and the Travel Plan. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the BLM satisfied its obligation to consult the Steens Mountain Advisory Council before issuing the Recreation Plan, so its action was not arbitrary and capricious in that respect; the BLM acted arbitrarily and capriciously by changing its definition of "roads and trails" without providing a reasoned explanation for the change; the Board acted arbitrarily and capriciously by affirming the BLM's issuance of the Travel Plan; and the BLM acted arbitrarily and capriciously in issuing the Recreation Plan. Finally, the court vacated the cost award to the BLM and remanded. View "Oregon Natural Desert Assoc.v. Rose" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, small scale solar producers, filed suit alleging that CPUC's programs did not comply with the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), because CPUC incorrectly defined the amount that PURPA requires utilities to pay qualifying facilities (QFs). The district court dismissed plaintiffs' claims for equitable damages and attorney fees, entering summary judgment for CPUC on the PURPA challenges. The panel held that the district court erred in not interpreting FERC's regulations to require state utility commissions to consider whether a Renewables Portfolio Standard changed the calculation of avoided cost. Accordingly, the panel reversed as to this issue. The panel affirmed in all other respects, holding that utilities did not violate PURPA in not compensating QFs for Renewable Energy Credits and the Net Energy Metering Program did not violate PURPA's interconnection requirement. The panel also affirmed the dismissal of equitable damages and attorney fees claims. View "Californians for Renewable Energy v. California Public Utilities Commission" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order granting summary judgment for the FAA in an action seeking information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In this case, plaintiff made a FOIA request after the FAA notified him that he was ineligible for an Air Traffic Control Specialist position based on his performance on a screening test called the Biographical Assessment. The panel held that the FAA failed to show that it undertook an adequate search of the relevant documents; the records at issue were not intra-agency documents and thus not subject to Exemption 5; and the panel rejected the consultant corollary theory, which uses a functional interpretation of Exemption 5 that treats documents produced by an agency's third-party consultant as "intra-agency" memorandums. Finally, the panel rejected plaintiff's challenge to the district court and the FAA's interpretation of his FOIA request. The panel held that the FAA was not obligated under FOIA to retrieve and responsive documents, such as the underlying data to the summaries, held by APTMetrics. View "Rojas v. FAA" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of an action brought by conservationist groups to enjoin the federal government's participation in the killing of gray wolves in Idaho pending additional analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). The panel held that the conservationist groups had Article III standing because declarations from members described how USDA Wildlife Services's wolf-killing activities threatened their aesthetic and recreational interests. Therefore, the members established that the interests fell within the scope of NEPA's protections and they established an injury-in-fact. The panel noted that causation was established under the relaxed standard for procedural injuries. Finally, the panel held that the district court erred in finding that plaintiffs' injuries were not redressable and in relying on an unpublished opinion that lacked precedential value. View "Western Watersheds Project v. Grimm" on Justia Law

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The United States challenged California's enactment of three laws expressly designed to protect its residents from federal immigration enforcement: AB 450, which requires employers to alert employees before federal immigration inspections; AB 103, which imposes inspection requirements on facilities that house civil immigration detainees; and SB 54, which limits the cooperation between state and local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. The Ninth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it concluded that AB 450's employee-notice provisions neither burden the federal government nor conflict with federal activities, and that any obstruction caused by SB 54 is consistent with California's prerogatives under the Tenth Amendment and the anticommandeering rule. Therefore, the panel affirmed the district court's denial of a preliminary injunction as to these laws. The panel also affirmed the district court's denial of a preliminary injunction as to those provisions of AB 103 that duplicate inspection requirements otherwise mandated under California law. However, the panel held that one subsection of AB 103—codified at California Government Code section 12532(b)(1)(C)—discriminates against and impermissibly burdens the federal government, and so is unlawful under the doctrine of intergovernmental immunity. Therefore, the panel reversed the preliminary injunction order as to this part and remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. California" on Justia Law

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In 2015, the San Francisco Sheriff issued a Memo establishing protocols and parameters for communications between Sheriff's Department employees and ICE. In this case, plaintiffs filed suit after an undocumented alien shot and killed plaintiffs' daughter after he was released from custody by the Sheriff's Department. After the shooting, ICE stated: "If the local authorities had merely notified [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] that they were about to release this individual into the community, ICE could have taken custody of him and had him removed from the country—thus preventing this terrible tragedy." The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' general negligence claim against the City defendants. The panel held that, while it deeply sympathized with plaintiffs, the question of discretionary immunity raised in this case was controlled by California law. The panel agreed with the district court that the issuance of the Memo was a discretionary act that was entitled to immunity under section 820.2 of the California Government Code. Therefore, the panel held that California law barred plaintiffs' negligence claim. The panel also held that the district court did not err in determining immunity on a motion to dismiss; the district court appropriately considered the Memo under the incorporation by reference doctrine; although 8 U.S.C. 1373(a) and 1644 prohibit restrictions on providing certain types of information to ICE, they plainly and unambiguously did not prohibit the restriction at issue in this case regarding release-date information; and, assuming the Sheriff's actions adversely affected ICE's ability to do its job, this did not without more strip him of the discretionary authority under California law to institute the policy that he did. The panel rejected plaintiffs' claims that the Memo was a legislative act; failure to provide ICE with the alien's release date violated the California Public Records Act; and the Memo violated California Health and Safety Code section 11369. Finally, the panel rejected plaintiffs' claims under local laws and held that plaintiffs waived their request for leave to amend. View "Steinle v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Forest Service in an action challenging travel management plans implemented by the Forest Service to permit limited motorized big game retrieval in three Ranger Districts of the Kaibab National Forest. The panel held that the Forest Service did not violate the plain terms of the Travel Management Rule absent authority requiring a strictly geographic interpretation of the words "limited" and "sparingly." Determining that plaintiffs had standing to bring their claims under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the panel held that the Forest Service took the requisite hard look and its determinations were neither arbitrary nor capricious. In this case, the Forest Service did not violate NEPA by declining to prepare environmental impact statements based on the plans' environmental impacts. Finally, the panel held that the Forest Service satisfied its procedural obligations under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) by conducting the required prefield work, consulting the appropriate entities, and reaching a determination consistent with the evidence before it. View "WildEarth Guardians v. Provencio" on Justia Law