Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action brought by E.V., a civilian on a military base in Japan, seeking to enjoin the release of her mental health records. Applying the framework in Larson v. Domestic & Foreign Commerce Corp., 337 U.S. 682 (1949), the panel held that sovereign immunity barred E.V.'s non-constitutional claims for injunctive relief because they were considered to be against the government and the government had not waived its immunity. Although E.V.'s constitutional claims were considered to be against Judge Robinson as an individual and were not barred by sovereign immunity, the panel held that E.V.'s constitutional claims must be dismissed on other grounds. View "E. V. v. Robinson" on Justia Law

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Section 511(a) of the Veterans' Judicial Review Act barred the Community's action against the VA for failing to reimburse the Community for the care it provided to veterans at tribal facilities. In this case, the Community sought review of the VA's determination that two provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act did not require the VA to reimburse the Community absent a sharing agreement. The panel held that such a determination fell under the jurisdictional bar of section 511(a) because it was plainly a question of law that affected the provision of benefits by the Secretary of the VA to veterans, and the relief requested could clearly affect the provision of benefits. The panel also held that the presumption in Montana v. Blackfeet Tribe of Indians, 471 U.S. 759, 766 (1985), did not apply to section 511(a). Finally, the Community's argument that the district court had jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1362 was waived. View "Gila River Indian Community v. US Department of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an action under the Federal Tort Claims Act brought by a surviving spouse, alleging wrongful death and malpractice when a medical center operated by the VA caused Randy Tunac's death. The panel held that, to the extent the complaint alleged negligence by VA healthcare employees, it had jurisdiction under the FTCA. However, the negligence claims regarding VA operations must proceed under the congressionally-mandated pathway set forth in the Veterans' Judicial Review Act (VJRA), and any appeal can be heard only by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The panel held that, to the extent the court had jurisdiction, the claims were barred by the FTCA's statute of limitations and those claims were not equitably tolled. In this case, the two year statute of limitations had long run when plaintiff filed her administrative claim and any alleged concealment by the VA of a widespread problem regarding delayed treatment did not result in concealment of the operative facts that would merit equitable tolling. View "Tunac v. United States" on Justia Law

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The federal catchall statute of limitations in 28 U.S.C. 1658(a) applies to private suits alleging violations of section 303(c) of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's action under the SCRA as time-barred. The panel held that the complaint arose under an Act of Congress enacted after 1990 and was thus governed by the four year statute of limitations period in section 1658(a). In this case, plaintiff filed suit almost six years after the sale of his home and thus his complaint was untimely. View "McGreevey v. PHH Mortgage Corp." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's tort action against the United States for the tragic death of his wife. Plaintiff's wife was a lieutenant in the Navy and she died due to a complication following childbirth. The panel held that plaintiff's medical malpractice claims were barred under the Feres doctrine, which provided governmental immunity from tort claims involving injuries to service members that were incident to military service. View "Daniel v. United States" on Justia Law

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Petitioner alleged that the Army terminated him and excluded him from his work site because he had made complaints that were protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989. The Ninth Circuit dismissed the petition for review of the Board's adverse decision, holding that the Army was the only proper respondent; petitioner received due process; and the Board's decision on the merits was supported by substantial evidence and was procedurally proper. Accordingly, the court denied in part and granted in part as to the petition for review of the Army's adverse decision, remanding for further proceedings. View "Johnen v. U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), 38 U.S.C. 4311(a), arguing that when he returned from service in the U.S. Air Force, FedEx improperly paid him a $7,400 bonus instead of the $17,700 bonus he would have earned had he not served. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision awarding plaintiff the higher signing bonus and attorney's fees. The panel held that arbitration was not required in this case; the district court properly used the reasonable certainty test to determine that plaintiff showed by a preponderance of the evidence that his military service was a "substantial or motivating factor" to cause an adverse employment action; the district court properly relied on the the escalator principle, which provides that a returning service member should not be removed from the progress of his career trajectory; the district court did not clearly err in finding that plaintiff was reasonably certain to have achieved the higher bonus status had he not left for his military service; the district court correctly concluded that plaintiff's bonus was, in part, a seniority-based benefit; and even if the signing bonus were not a seniority-based benefit, Section 4316 still would not bar plaintiff's claim. View "Huhmann v. Federal Express Corp." on Justia Law

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Ground Zero filed suit challenging the Navy's expansion of a TRIDENT nuclear submarine operating center pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq. The Ninth Circuit held that the Navy violated NEPA's public disclosure requirement by not revealing that the Safety Board withheld approval of its plan for the construction of a second Explosives Handling Wharf (EHW-2), and by withholding the now-disclosed portions of the appendices to the environmental impact statement (EIS). However, such errors were harmless. In all other respects, the Navy satisfied NEPA's requirements. Therefore, the panel affirmed summary judgment for the Navy. The panel narrowly construed the district court's order restricting Ground Zero's use of portions of the record. Even with this reading, it was not clear that the district court's order comports with the First Amendment. Therefore, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action v. US Department of the Navy" on Justia Law