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United States v. Mixon

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

July 22, 2019

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Wynona Mixon, AKA Wynonna Mixon, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued and Submitted June 13, 2019 San Francisco, California

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Arizona D.C. No. 4:14-cr-00631-JGZ-LAB-1 Jennifer G. Zipps, District Judge, Presiding

          A. Bates Butler III (argued), Tucson, Arizona, for Defendant-Appellant.

          Bradley G. Silverman (argued), Special Attorney; Helen H. Hong, Chief, Appellate Section; United States Attorney's Office, San Diego, California; for Plaintiff-Appellee.

          Before: Ronald M. Gould and Sandra S. Ikuta, Circuit Judges, and Benita Y. Pearson, [*] District Judge.

         SUMMARY[**]

         Criminal Law / Attorneys' Fees

         The panel affirmed the district court's denial of a motion for attorneys' fees under the Hyde Amendment and a motion for reconsideration filed by a criminal defendant following her acquittal.

         Agreeing with the Eighth Circuit, the panel held that a defendant is eligible for attorneys' fees under the Hyde Amendment only where there is egregious prosecutorial misconduct that renders the litigating position of the United States as a whole "vexatious, frivolous, or in bad faith." The panel held that the appellant was not eligible for attorneys' fees because she conceded that there was no prosecutorial misconduct in her case.

          OPINION

          IKUTA, CIRCUIT JUDGE

         Wynona Mixon appeals the district court's order denying her motion for attorneys' fees under the Hyde Amendment and the denial of her motion for reconsideration of that order. A defendant is eligible for attorneys' fees under the Hyde Amendment only when there is egregious prosecutorial misconduct that renders the litigating position of the United States as a whole "vexatious, frivolous, or in bad faith." 18 U.S.C. § 3006A note. Because Mixon concedes that there was no prosecutorial misconduct in her case, we affirm.

         I

         Mixon was employed as a case manager on the sex offender yard at a maximum security federal penitentiary in Tucson, Arizona. While employed as a case manager, she was the subject of two investigations.

         In 2006, an inmate alleged that Mixon was smuggling drugs to inmates at the prison. The Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) opened an investigation into this allegation. While federal agents concluded there was insufficient independent evidence to substantiate the allegation, they also determined that Mixon made a material false statement in an affidavit to investigators, and referred the alleged false statement to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tucson for possible prosecution. Prosecutors declined to charge Mixon for the alleged falsehood, but BOP initiated internal disciplinary proceedings and gave Mixon a fifteen-day suspension. While this investigation was pending, Mixon alleged to two officials of her union that the BOP investigators, including Lieutenant Alfonso Mendez, had coerced inmates into making ...


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