Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order correcting defendant's sentence as to one of his four counts of conviction following his partially successful motion for relief under 28 U.S.C. 2255. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it declined to conduct a full resentencing and instead corrected petitioner's sentence only as to the count of conviction affected by Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015). Even if the panel were to conclude that the counts were grouped for sentencing—something the record did not reflect here—the decision to restructure a defendant's entire sentence when only one of the counts of conviction was found to be invalid was discretionary and not mandatory. The panel held that, in any event, it was evident from the record that petitioner's counts of conviction were not actually grouped for sentencing in any material way that might have led the district court, in its discretion, to unbundle them for resentencing. Finally, the panel held that petitioner was not entitled to a certificate of appealability on his two remaining issues. View "Troiano v. United States" on Justia Law

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Consistent with the Sixth Amendment's jury trial guarantee, defendant's sentence for conspiracy to import methamphetamine could not be sustained solely by his admission that he conspired to import marijuana but it was "reasonably foreseeable" that methamphetamine would be imported. Therefore, the Ninth Circuit held that the district court plainly erred by imposing a sentence that exceeded the statutory maximum for conspiracy to import marijuana. Accordingly, the panel vacated defendant's sentence and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Jauregui" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained when a tribal officer twice searched defendant's truck. The officer initially pulled up behind the truck, which was parked on the side of the highway, to see if defendant and his young child needed assistance. The panel could not agree that the officer appropriately determined that defendant was a non-Indian just by looking at him. The panel held that the officer acted outside of his jurisdiction as a tribal officer when he detained defendant, a non-Indian, and searched his vehicle without first making any attempt to determine whether defendant was in fact an Indian. The panel held that the exclusionary rule applies in federal court prosecutions to evidence obtained in violation of the Indian Civil Rights Act's (ICRA) Fourth Amendment counterpart. The panel also held that a tribal officer does not necessarily conduct an unreasonable search or seizure for ICRA purposes when he acts beyond his tribal jurisdiction. However, tribal authority consideration is highly pertinent to determining whether a search or seizure is unreasonable under the ICRA. In this case, the officer violated the ICRA Fourth Amendment analogue by seizing defendant, a non-Indian, while operating outside the Crow Tribe's jurisdiction. View "United States v. Cooley" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit certified the following question to the Washington Supreme Court: Is the denial of a personal restraint petition final when the Washington Supreme Court denies a motion to modify an order of its Commissioner denying discretionary review of the state appellate court's denial, or is the denial not final until the Clerk of the Washington Court of Appeals issues a certificate of finality as required by Rule 16.15(e)(1)(c) of the Rules of Appellate Procedure? View "Phonsavanh Phongmanivan v. Haynes" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for bank robbery and denied his motions to suppress evidence. The panel held that the district court correctly held that the search of defendant's trunk was a lawful parole search where defendant's uncontested control over the car was sufficient to permit a warrantless search of its trunk and, in any event, his conduct also illustrated a sufficiently close nexus to the trunk itself where officers observed him putting things inside the trunk. The panel also held that the warrantless placement of a GPS tracker on the car of defendant, a parolee, did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Furthermore, cell site location information (CSLI) acquired before Carpenter v. United States, 138 S. Ct. 2206 (2018), was admissible under the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule so long as the government satisfied the Stored Communications Act's then-lawful requirements. In this case, the government reasonably relied on the Act when it obtained defendant's CSLI information. Therefore, the panel affirmed the district court's application of the Fourth Amendment's good faith exception. View "United States v. Korte" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the school district in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging that the district violated a student and his parents' First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights when it expelled the student for one year. The student was expelled for creating a hit list of students that "must die." Under the circumstances of this case, including the nature of the hit list, the student's access to firearms, and the close proximity of the student's home to the high school, the decision to discipline the student for his off-campus speech did not violate his constitutional right to free speech. The panel clarified that courts considering whether a school district may constitutionally regulate off-campus speech must determine, based on the totality of the circumstances, whether the speech bears a sufficient nexus to the school. The panel stated that there is always a sufficient nexus between the speech and the school when the school district reasonably concludes that it faces a credible, identifiable threat of school violence. Furthermore, a student's lack of intent to convey his off-campus speech to any third party is relevant to an evaluation of whether the speech constitutes a credible threat, but is not dispositive. In this case, taken as a whole, the considerations that guide application of the nexus test supported the school district. Finally, the parents' claims alleging violations of their substantive due process failed because their fundamental right to choose the student's educational forum was not infringed by the school district's discipline of the student. View "McNeil v. Sherwood School District 88J" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a habeas petition as untimely under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA). The panel rejected petitioner's contention that he waited to file his second state habeas petition until the California Supreme Court decided People v. Elizalde, 351 P.3d 1010 (Cal. 2015). The court also rejected petitioner's alternative contention that his delay was reasonable because of the size of the state court record and complexity of the case. The panel held that the district court correctly concluded that petitioner was not entitled to statutory tolling for the period following the California Superior Court's denial of his first state habeas petition. Finally, the district court did not err by not ordering the state to respond and lodge the state-court record. View "Valdez v. Montgomery" on Justia Law

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Under the facts of this case, McCoy v. Louisiana, 138 S. Ct. 1500 (2018), requires that a criminal defendant have the Sixth Amendment right to demand that counsel not present an insanity defense. Defendant was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to bodily harm, and assault with a deadly weapon resulting in serious bodily injury. The panel rejected defendant's contention that the government did not sufficiently allege and prove the jurisdiction element of 18 U.S.C. 113(a) (assault with a deadly weapon resulting in serious bodily injury). In light of McCoy, defendant's Sixth Amendment rights were violated when the trial judge permitted counsel to present an insanity defense against his clear objection; considering defendant's mental illness and "bizarre" behavior, including his diagnosis of schizophrenia, the district court did not abuse its discretion by appointing counsel; and defendant waived his Speedy Trial Act claim. View "United States v. Read" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor, sex trafficking of a minor, conspiracy to transport a minor to engage in prostitution, and transporting a minor to engage in prostitution. The panel held that the district court did not err by excluding testimony regarding one of the victim's prior prostitution activities. In this case, defendant cited no case holding that a defense such as the one he sought to present here triggers the exception in Federal Rule of Evidence 42. The panel saw no reason to depart from the persuasive authorities that held to the contrary. However, the panel held that the applicability of Rule 412 should not depend on the alleged victim's desire to testify. The panel held that, even if the district court misapplied Rule 412, any error would be harmless. Finally, the panel considered defendant's additional arguments that the government opened the door to testimony about the victim's activities and held that they lacked merit. View "United States v. Haines" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence and held that the strict liability enhancement of USSG 2K2.1(b)(4), for the commission of a crime with a stolen firearm, is constitutional. The panel joined its sister circuits and reaffirmed the holding of United States v. Goodell, 990 F.3d 497 (9th Cir. 1993), that the lack of a mens rea requirement in section 2K2.1(b)(4) does not violate due process. The panel also held that Application Note 8(B) simply serves as confirmation that Goodell's reading has always been the correct one. The panel held that subsequent Supreme Court opinions recasting the role the Guidelines play in a district court's sentencing decision did not affect Goodell. The panel failed to understand how the Supreme Court's Sixth Amendment jurisprudence requiring that all facts leading to a sentence enhancement beyond the statutory maximum be proven to a jury overrules the long-settled position that the Fifth Amendment permits a sentencing enhancement for possession of a stolen firearm to apply on a strict-liability basis. View "United States v. Prien-Pinto" on Justia Law