Ninth Circuit

The Federal Docket

United States v. Werle (9th Cir. June 2022)

The Ninth Circuit reversed a district court’s denial of an inmate’s motion to vacate under 28 USC 2255. The Court held that the inmate had not pleaded guilty knowingly where he was not informed of the mens rea for unlawful firearm possession under Rehaif, despite evidence that he had previously been sentenced to prison for over a year and had been previously convicted of several felonies.

Sanchez v. LADOT (9th Cir. May 2022)

The Ninth Circuit rejected a plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment challenge to the LA Department of Transportation’s permit scheme, wherein LA requires e-scooter companies like Bird and Lyft to collect real-time location data for their scooters and provide it to LADOT. The Court concluded there was no reasonable expectation of privacy under the third-party doctrine.

AK Futures v. Boyd Street Distro (9th Cir. May 2022)

The Ninth Circuit held that delta-8-THC, and likely other hemp-derived cannabinoids, are not controlled substances in light of the 2018 Farm Bill. The 2018 Farm Bill excludes hemp and hemp products from the definition of marijuana and THC under the Controlled Substances Act, and the definition of “hemp” includes all cannabinoids, extracts, and derivates from cannabis as long as there is less than 0.3% delta-9-THC.

United States v. Allen (9th Cir. May 2022)

The Ninth Circuit reversed a defendant’s conviction for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the defendant’s trial and motions hearing had been closed to the public, which only had a live audio stream of the proceedings. The Court concluded this violated the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a public trial.

United States v. Begay (9th Cir. May 2022), EN BANC

Sitting en banc, the Ninth Circuit held that federal second degree murder (18 USC 1111(a)) is a “crime of violence” under 18 USC 924(c) where, employing the categorical approach, a conviction requires acting “deliberately or recklessly with extreme disregard for human life.” The Ninth Circuit distinguished reckless disregard for human life from mere recklessness but otherwise emphasized that “anything less than intentional conduct does not qualify as a crime of violence.”

United States v. Lonich (9th Cir. January 2022)

The Ninth Circuit vacated defendants’ sentences for fraud, which had been enhanced by 20 levels under USSG 2B1.1 based on the loss resulting from the closure of a bank due to defendants’ offenses. The Court held that, where an enhancement has “an extremely disproportionate effect on the sentence,” the underlying facts must be shown by “clear and convincing evidence.” Here, it was not clear and convincing that defendants had caused the bank to collapse.

United States v. Goodall (9th Cir. October 2021)

The Ninth Circuit affirmed a defendant’s conviction and sentence after he argued that they were illegal in light of US v. Davis, where SCOTUS held that conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery is not a predicate crime of violence under 924(c). The Court held that the defendant’s challenge was foreclosed by his appeal waiver, and the exception to appellate waivers from US v. Torres only applies to illegal sentences, not convictions.

United States v. Yates (9th Cir. October 2021)

The Ninth Circuit reversed the convictions of two defendants who had been convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and making false bank entries. The two bank executives had lied to shareholders about the bank’s financial status and had made unauthorized transfers to hide the bank’s poor performance. However, the defendants did not attempt to enrich themselves or deprive the bank of its funds. The Court affirmed the district court’s order of acquittal based on insufficient evidence. The bank did not have a cognizable property interest, under the fraud statute, in the accuracy of its financial interests. Nor was it deprived of its property interest in the defendants’ salaries since the defendants were doing the job they were paid for.

United States v. Lizarraras-Chacon (9th Cir. September 2021)

The Ninth Circuit reversed a district court’s denial of a motion for a sentence reduction under 18 USC 3582(c)(2), which applies when the Guidelines are retroactively amended and would have had the effect of lowering a defendant’s Guidelines range. While the district court recognized the defendant was eligible for a reduction, the Ninth Circuit held that the court had abused its discretion when it “erroneously concluded that it could not consider intervening developments affecting the mandatory minimum in its 3553(a) factor analysis.”

United States v. Wilson (9th Cir. September 2021)

The Ninth Circuit reversed a defendant’s conviction for child pornography. The district court should have suppressed evidence where the Government engaged in a warrantless search of the defendant’s email attachments, which had been forwarded to the government by Google’s automated system. Since the government was the first to review these files, the private search exception did not apply.

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