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

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Plaintiffs, cigarette vendors, appealed the district court's dismissal of their antitrust action against defendants for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiffs challenged taxes imposed by the virtue of the authority vested in an Indian tribe. The court held that the tribe did not implicitly waive its sovereign immunity by agreeing to dispute resolution procedures nor by ceding its authority to Washington State when entering into a cigarette tax contract. The court also held that federal antitrust law did not explicitly abrogate tribal immunity, and the Sherman Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. 1, was not a law of general applicability vis-a-vis the tribe. The court further held that tribal officials were protected by the tribe's sovereign immunity because they acted pursuant to the tribe's authority. The court affirmed the district court's alternative ruling that the action was barred by res judicata in light of the prior litigation in state and tribal courts. View "Miller, et al v. Wright, et al" on Justia Law

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These thirteen consolidated appeals brought by class counsel and six groups of objectors (collectively, Objectors) challenged the district court's decisions regarding attorney fee awards after the settlement of an antitrust class action against West Publishing Corp. and Kaplan, Inc. In this opinion, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals addressed nine separate appeals challenging the propriety of the district court's decision to deny attorneys' fees to class counsel McGuireWoods on account of a conflict of interest and to deny fees to objectors for their efforts in securing that decision. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that because the district court's decisions were not legally erroneous, the respective fee orders were affirmed, with the exception of the order denying fees to the Schneider Objectors, which the Court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Rodriguez v. Disner" on Justia Law

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In a class action, any settlement must be approved by the court to ensure that class counsel and the named plaintiffs do not place their own interests above those of the absent class members. In this false advertising case, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals confronted a class action settlement, negotiated prior to class certification, that included cy pres distributions of money and food to unidentified charities. The settlement also included $2 million in attorneys' fees, the equivalent of a $2,100 hourly rate, while offering class members a sum of $15. The Court set aside the class settlement, holding (1) the district court did not apply the correct legal standards governing cy pres distributions and thus abused its discretion in approving the settlement; and (2) the settlement failed because the negotiated attorneys' fees were excessive. Remanded. View "Dennis v. Berg" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs were automated teller machine (ATM) cardholders, who alleged horizontal price fixing of fees charged to the ATM owners by the banks when cardholders retrieve cash from an ATM not owned by their bank. Plaintiffs did not directly pay the allegedly fixed fee. The district court entered summary judgment against Plaintiffs and dismissed the suit for lack of antitrust standing. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) as indirect purchasers, Supreme Court precedent established in Illinois Brick Co. v. Illinois prohibited Plaintiffs from bringing this suit; (2) Plaintiffs did not qualify for the narrow exception to the Illinois Brick rule; and (3) Plaintiffs did not have standing under the Clayton Act to proceed with their Sherman Act suit. View "Brennan v. Concord EFS, Inc. " on Justia Law

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Hexcel sued BP Amoco on November 26, 2008 for antitrust injuries it allegedly suffered as a result of a carbon fiber price-fixing scheme, beginning in 1992. To avoid the effect of the applicable four-year statute of limitations, 15 U.S.C. 15b, Hexcel contended that the statute of limitations was tolled due to fraudulent concealment by BP Amoco. The court held, however, that based upon the overwhelming evidence of Hexcel's knowledge in the record, the court held that Hexcel's claims were time-barred and affirmed the judgment. View "Hexcel Corp. v. Ineos Polymers, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Attorneys General of Washington and California filed parens patriae actions in their states' courts alleging that defendants engaged in a conspiracy to fix the prices of thin-film transistor liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD) panels, and that state agencies and consumers were injured by paying inflated prices for products containing TFT-LCD panels. At issue was whether parens patriae actions filed by state Attorneys General constituted class actions within the meaning of the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1332(d). The court held that under the plain text of section 1332(d), the parens patriae suits were not class actions within the meaning of CAFA. Therefore, the district court lacked jurisdiction over the actions and properly remanded them to state court. Given this conclusion, the court need not, reach any other issue raised by the party. View "Washington State, et al. v. Chimei Innolux Corp., et al." on Justia Law

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Apple brought this action against Psystar for copyright infringement because Psystar was using Apple's software on Psystar computers. The district court held that Psystar was infringing Apple's federally registered copyrights in its operating software, Mac OS X, because Psystar was copying the software for use in Psystar's computers. Psystar subsequently appealed the district court's rejection of Psystar's copyright misuse defense, the district court's order enjoining Psystar's continuing infringement, and the district court's grant of Apple's motions to seal documents on grounds of maintaining confidentiality. The court held that Psystar's misuse defense failed because it was an attempt to apply the first sale doctrine to a valid licensing agreement. The court affirmed the district court's order enjoining Psystar's continuing infringement and Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), 17 U.S.C. 1203(b)(1), violations and held that the district court properly applied the Supreme Court's four eBay Inc. v MercExchange, L.L.C. factors. The court held, however, that there was no adequate basis on the record to support the sealing of any Apple records on grounds of confidentiality and applied the presumption in favor of access, vacating the district court's sealing orders. View "Apple Inc. v. Psystar Corp." on Justia Law

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This case arose when the Washington State Department of Health (Department) would not license Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital (Memorial) to perform certain procedures known as elective percutaneous coronary interventions (PCI) where, according to the Department, the community Memorial served did not need another PCI provider. The district court held that Memorial failed to state a claim of antitrust preemption, holding that the PCI regulations were a unilateral restraint on trade not barred by the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1-7. With regard to Memorial's claims under the dormant Commerce Clause, the district court found Memorial had standing because it alleged it would participate in an interstate market for PCI patients, doctors, and supplies. Nevertheless, the district court found that any burden on Memorial's interstate commercial activity was expressly authorized by Congress' approval of certificate of need regimes, making a dormant Commerce Clause violation impossible. The court agreed that Memorial failed to state a claim of antitrust preemption because the PCI regulations were a unilateral licensing requirement rather than an agreement in restraint of trade. The court also agreed that Memorial had standing under the dormant Commerce Clause, but reversed the district court's judgment on that claim because the Department failed to prove congressional authorization for the PCI regulations. View "Yakima Valley Memorial Hosp. v. WA Dept. of Health, et al." on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from a Mutual Strike Assistance Agreement (MSAA) that was entered into by defendants (grocers) where the MSAA included a revenue-sharing provision (RSP), providing that in the event of a strike/lockout, any grocer that earned revenues above its historical share relative to the other chains during the strike period would pay 15% of those excess revenues as reimbursement to the other grocers to restore their pre-strike shares. At issue was whether the MSAA was exempt from the antitrust laws under the non-statutory labor exemption, and if not, whether the MSAA should be condemned as a per se violation of the antitrust laws or on a truncated "quick look," or whether more detailed scrutiny was required. The court held that the MSAA between the grocers to share revenues for the duration of the strike period was not exempt from scrutiny under antitrust laws and that more than a "quick look" was required to ascertain its impact on competition in the Southern California grocery market. Given the limited judicial experience with revenue sharing for several months pending a labor dispute, the court could not say that the restraint's anti-competitive effects were "obvious" under a per se or "quick look" approach. Although the court concluded that summary condemnation was improper, the court expressed no opinion on the legality of the arrangement under the rule of reason. Accordingly, the judgment was affirmed. View "State, ex rel. v. Safeway, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a putative class of retail cable and satellite television subscribers, brought suit against television programmers and distributors alleging that programmers' practice of selling multi-channel cable packages violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1. At issue was whether the district court properly granted programmers' and distributors' motion to dismiss plaintiffs' third amended complaint with prejudice because plaintiffs failed to allege any cognizable injury to competition. The court held that the complaint's allegations of reduced choice increased prices addressed only the element of antitrust injury, but not whether plaintiffs have satisfied the pleading standard for an actual violation. Therefore, absent any allegations of an injury to competition, the court held that the district court properly dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. View "Brantley, et al. v. NBC Universal, Inc., et al." on Justia Law