Articles Posted in U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Appellants brought quiet title actions challenging tax liens filed by the IRS against certain commercial and residential properties. Appellants held legal title to these properties. The liens arose from assessments against taxpayers based on the IRS's claim that appellants held the relevant properties as nominees of taxpayers on the assessment dates. On appeal, appellants argued that California did not recognize nominee ownership. The court held, however, that California law did recognize a nominee theory of property ownership; the district court did not err in concluding that appellants held title to the McCall and Fourth properties as nominees of taxpayers; and the district court rejected appellants' joinder claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19(a) where appellants have not established that the absent entities at issue were necessary parties under Rule 19(a) and the district court properly resolved appellants' ownership interests in the McCall and Fourth properties in their absence. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Fourth Investment LP v. United States" on Justia Law

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This dispute involved a revenue-sharing agreement between GCSD and SNW to build the Skywalk over the Grand Canyon on remote tribal land. GCSD filed suit against SNW seeking declaratory judgment that the Hualapai Tribe lacked the authority to condemn its intangible property rights and injunctive relief. After multiple hearings, the district court denied GCSD's temporary restraining order to enjoin SNW based on the principles of comity and ordered GCSD to exhaust tribal court remedies prior to review in federal court. The court affirmed and held that where, as here, a tribal court has asserted jurisdiction and was entertaining a suit, the tribal court must have acted in bad faith for exhaustion to be excused. The facts of this case did not support a finding of bad faith on the part of the tribal court. The submitted evidence supported the district court's finding that the tribal court operated independently from the tribal council and the evidence presented did not meet the narrow futility exception. The tribal court did not plainly lack jurisdiction because Montana v. United States's main rule was unlikely to apply to the facts of this case. Furthermore, the district court correctly relied on Water Wheel Camp Recreation Area, Inc. v. LaRance, which provided for tribal jurisdiction without even reaching the application of Montana. Even if the tribal consensual relationship with SNW or the financial implications of the agreement likely placed it squarely within one of Montana's exceptions and allowed for tribal jurisdiction. View "Grand Canyon Skywalk Dev. v. 'Sa' Nyu Wa Inc." on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the court considered whether San Rafael's mobilehome rent regulation violated the park owners' substantive due process rights, constituted a regulatory taking under Penn Central Transportation Co. v. New York City, or ran afoul of the public use requirement of the Fifth Amendment under the standards articulated in Kelo v. City of New London. The court concluded that the district court properly rejected the City's arguments that MHC's claims were barred by the statute of limitations and precluded by res judicata, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in allowing MHC to amend its complaint. The court also concluded that the regulation did not constitute either a Penn Central or a private taking. Because the court reached the merits of the takings issue, the court need not resolve the question of ripeness. The court further concluded that the district court did not err in granting judgment on MHC's substantive due process claims; the district court did not err in submitting the breach of settlement contract claims to the jury, denying the motion for a directed verdict on that question, denying the motion for a new trial, or awarding attorneys' fees; and in its original lawsuit, MHC waived its claim for damages in order to have a bench trial on the constitutional claims. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's holding as to the Penn Central and private takings, but affirmed the judgment in all other respects. View "MHC Limited Financing v. City of San Rafael" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed from the district court's summary judgment in favor of defendants in an action alleging wrongful foreclosure and related claims that defendants had removed to federal court. Plaintiffs argued that under the "prior exclusive jurisdiction" doctrine, or under the Colorado River abstention doctrine, the district court should have remanded sua sponte. The court affirmed the district court's remand under the prior exclusive jurisdiction doctrine, explaining that the state court had continuing jurisdiction over the water-rights decree that was the basis of the contempt action at issue, and the action before the district court arose from enforcement of the same water-rights decree. Because plaintiffs have not shown that any state proceeding relating to their house was pending concurrently with federal proceedings, the Colorado River abstention was not implicated any more than the prior exclusive jurisdiction doctrine. View "Sexton v. NDEX West, LLC" on Justia Law

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Debtors filed a Chapter 13 petition and the Trustee objected to debtors proposed bankruptcy plan on the ground that it was not proposed in good faith because of the "miniscule" payments to unsecured claims while debtors were living in a $400,000 home, making payments on various luxury and unnecessary items, and failing to commit one hundred percent of their disposable income to the plan. The bankruptcy court overruled the objection and the bankruptcy appellate panel (BAP) affirmed. The court concluded that Congress's adoption of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, 11 U.S.C. 1325(a), foreclosed a court's consideration of a debtor's Social Security income or a debtor's payments to secured creditors as part of the inquiry into good faith under section 1325(a). Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the BAP. View "In re: David Welsh, et al" on Justia Law

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FHFA, the regulator and conservator of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae (the Enterprises), issued a "directive" preventing the Enterprises from buying mortgages on properties encumbered by liens made under so-called property-assessed clean energy (PACE) programs. Plaintiffs contended that FHFA was acting as a regulator, and not a conservator. As a regulator, plaintiffs contended that FHFA must issue a regulation to effectuate its order. The court concluded that FHFA's decision to cease purchasing mortgages on PACE-encumbered properties was a lawful exercise of its statutory authority as conservator of the Enterprises. Because the courts have no jurisdiction to review such actions, the court vacated the district court's order and dismissed the case. View "County of Sonoma, et al v. FHFA, et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs alleged that defendant, the servicer of their home loan, violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), 12 U.S.C. 2605, because it did not respond adequately to three letters in which they challenged the monthly payment due on their loan. The district court granted defendant's motion to dismiss the claim because a servicer must receive a valid "qualified written request" to incur the duty to respond under section 2605, and it determined that the letters were not qualified written requests that triggered the statutory duty. Because plaintiffs' letters to defendant challenged the terms of their loans and requested modification of various loan and mortgage documents, they were not qualified written requests relating to the servicing of plaintiffs' loan. Because section 2605 did not require a servicer to respond to such requests, the district court correctly dismissed plaintiffs' claim and the court affirmed the judgment. View "Medrano, et al v. Flagstar Bank, FSB, et al" on Justia Law

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William Jefferson & Co., Inc. (William Jefferson) lost a state administrative appeal in which William Jefferson challenged the Orange County Tax Assessor's valuation of a parcel of real property. William Jefferson then filed a suit in federal district court, alleging that its procedural due process rights were violated in the course of the administrative appeal hearing. The court affirmed the district court's conclusion that the state administrative appeal did not deny William Jefferson procedural due process. In a separate memorandum disposition filed concurrently with this opinion, the court affirmed the lower court's grant of the agency's motion for a protective order and its denial of class certification. View "William Jefferson & Co., Inc. v. Board of Assessment and Appeal, et al." on Justia Law

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After Lender failed to respond to Plaintiff's correspondence regarding ownership of his loan, Lender foreclosed on Borrower's property. Plaintiff filed suit against all the actors involved (Defendants), alleging violations of the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) , seeking injunctive relief against foreclosure, and claiming breach of contract, failure to act in good faith, and wrongful foreclosure under Nevada law. The district court dismissed Plaintiff's Nevada law claims with prejudice. Plaintiff then filed an amended complaint claiming a breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The court dismissed the amended complaint without leave to amend. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (1) affirmed the district court's dismissal of Plaintiff's TILA and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing claims, as Lender was not legally required to respond to Plaintiff's correspondence in its capacity as loan servicer; and (2) vacated the district court's dismissal of Plaintiff's state law claims regarding the foreclosure of Plaintiff's property and remanded those remaining claims to the district court.

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Plaintiffs filed suit in federal court seeking damages for the 31 months during which they were barred from improving their shoreline property by the moratorium imposed by local officials on new projects. Plaintiffs asserted that the moratorium violated their substantive and procedural due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, and sought damages against the city under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The court concluded that the moratorium ordinances were validly enacted, nonarbitrary, and manifestly related to the city's legitimate municipal interests. Accordingly, the court held that the city did not violate plaintiffs' constitutional rights.