Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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The Ninth Circuit reversed defendant's conviction for attempted illegal reentry, holding that the supplemental instruction the district court provided the jury was erroneous and prejudicial. In this case, the jury was confused with respect to the meaning of specific intent to enter free from official restraint, and asked the district court for clarification. The panel held that the district court's confusing and legally inaccurate supplemental instruction failed to remove the jury's confusion. Consequently, it was not clear beyond a reasonable doubt that a rational jury would have convicted defendant on this record. The panel remanded for a new trial. View "United States v. Castillo-Mendez" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied petitioner's application for permission to file a second or successive petition as unnecessary and transferred the matter to the district court with instructions to treat petitioner's habeas petition as a first petition. The panel held that the current habeas petition did not attempt to challenge petitioner's underlying conviction. Rather, petitioner sought only to challenge a new and intervening judgment denying him relief with respect to his sentence. The panel also held that cognizability plays no role in the panel's adjudication of such an application, and that it was the province of the district court to consider cognizability of a habeas petition. View "Clayton v. Biter" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision, holding that petitioner's California conviction for second degree murder on an aiding and abetting theory qualified as an aggravated felony. The panel explained that the Supreme Court, in 2007, reviewed California's law on aiding and abetting, which like that of many jurisdictions looks to the natural and probable consequences of an act the defendant intended. Gonzalez v. Duenas-Alvarez, 549 U.S. 183, 191–93 (2007). The Supreme Court concluded that absent a showing that the law has been applied in some "special" way, a conviction in California for aiding and abetting a removable offense was also a removable offense. The panel held that California law has not materially changed since Duenas-Alvarez was decided and was not applied in any "special" way in petitioner's case. View "Sales Jr. v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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A criminal forfeiture action does not constitute an "alternate remedy" to a civil qui tam action under the False Claims Act, entitling a relator to intervene in the criminal action and recover a share of the proceeds pursuant to 31 U.S.C. 3730(c)(5). In this case, the Ninth Circuit held that the district court correctly denied relators' motion to intervene in the criminal forfeiture proceeding because the proper remedy was through their FCA civil action. The panel rejected relators' arguments claiming otherwise. Furthermore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying an evidentiary hearing or in declining to impose sanctions on the government. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Van Dyck" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of habeas relief to petitioner, who was convicted of two murders and sentenced to death. The panel held, after supplemental briefing regarding the impact of McKinney v. Ryan, 813 F.3d 798 (9th Cir. 2015) (en banc), that neither the Arizona Supreme Court nor the trial court applied an impermissible causal-nexus test to exclude mitigating evidence. In this case, both courts considered all of petitioner's evidence offered in mitigation and found it insufficient to outweigh the serious aggravating factors. Therefore, there was no violation of clearly established federal law. View "Greenway v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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In this case, the Ninth Circuit withdrew its previous opinion, denied as moot a petition for rehearing and petition for rehearing en banc; and filed a superseding opinion. Petitioner appealed the district court's denial of all but one of the claims raised in his petition for writ of habeas corpus and the state cross-appealed the district court's grant of relief on petitioner's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel at the penalty phase of his capital murder trial. The panel dismissed as unripe the claim the district court certified for appeal, and denied petitioner's motion to expand the certificate of appealability to include uncertified claims. The panel reversed the district court's grant of relief on the ineffective assistance of counsel claim because, under 28 U.S.C. 2254(d)(1), the California Supreme Court did not unreasonably apply Supreme Court precedent in concluding that petitioner was not prejudiced by any deficient performance by his counsel. View "Andrews v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for strangling and assaulting his wife, holding that the trial court did not err by compelling defendant's wife from testifying against him. The panel rejected defendant's argument that the Supreme Court in Trammel v. United States, 445 U.S. 40 (1980), dramatically altered the spousal privilege landscape. Rather, Wyatt v. United States's, 362 U.S. 525 (1960), "spouse as victim" holding dictates that the district court correctly compelled the testimony of defendant's wife. View "United States v. Seminole" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit took this case en banc to revisit the divisibility of California drug statutes. Defendant was convicted of illegal reentry following deportation in violation of 8 U.S.C. 1326. The en banc court held that California Health and Safety Code 11352 is divisible with regard to both its controlled substance requirement and its actus reus requirement. Therefore, the district court properly applied the modified categorical approach and correctly found that defendant pled guilty to selling cocaine, which qualified as a drug trafficking offense under the federal sentencing guidelines and subjected defendant to a 16-level enhancement to his base offense level. Furthermore, the 77-month sentence, based on a properly calculated guidelines range of 70 to 87 months, was substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Martinez-Lopez" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an Arizona state prisoner, filed suit pro se in state court that was subsequently removed by defendant to federal court. The district court dismissed the suit as frivolous and denied pending motions without separately considering plaintiff's motion seeking appointment of a representative or guardian ad litem (GAL) to protect his interests. The Ninth Circuit agreed that the suit was frivolous but ordered a limited remand to evaluate plaintiff's competence and to consider the appointment of a GAL. The panel agreed with the district court's conclusion on remand that it was not required to evaluate plaintiff's competence because he had no interest in this case that could have been protected by appointment of a GAL or issuance of another order under Fed. R. Civ. P. 17(c)(2). Because plaintiff had incurred at least three strikes from prior cases, he was already subject to the limitations imposed under 28 U.S.C. 1915(g) and could not be adversely impacted by whatever happened in this case. View "Harris v. Mangum" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of habeas relief and held that petitioner's claim was barred by her failure to exhaust available state court remedies, and was untimely under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c). Even assuming that futility persists as a potential exception to AEDPA's exhaustion requirement, it did not excuse petitioner's failure to exhaust her state court remedies in this instance. Furthermore, the fact that petitioner's claim implicates delay in California's post-conviction process did not excuse her failure to exhaust her present claim. The panel held that neither relation back nor the emergence of new facts rendered petitioner's claim timely. View "Alfaro v. Johnson" on Justia Law