Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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Plaintiff filed suit against various prison officers and officials, alleging excessive force and deliberate indifference in violation of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Plaintiff's claims stem from allegations that he was beaten by prison officers while he was restrained in handcuffs and leg irons. The court reversed and remanded in regard to the excessive force claim because the record demonstrates that a genuine dispute of material fact exists as to whether defendants' use of force resulted in the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain or suffering; affirmed in regard to the deliberate indifference claim against Officer Zimmer for failure to intervene because plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies; and remanded with instructions to reassign to a different judge. View "Manley v. Rowley" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against his former employer, Roseburg, alleging hostile work environment, disparate treatment, and retaliation in violation of state and federal civil rights laws. The district court granted Roseburg’s motion for summary judgment. In regard to the hostile work environment claim, the court held that Roseburg employee Timothy Branaugh's conduct was sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile work environment, and Roseburg knew about Branaugh’s misconduct and failed to take effective remedial action. In regard to the disparate treatment claim, the court held that plaintiff demonstrated the necessary prima facie case to survive summary judgment based on Roseburg terminating plaintiff's employment and breaking into plaintiff's locker. The court held that there is a genuine dispute of fact as to Roseburg’s discriminatory intent regarding those challenged actions. Finally, in regard to the retaliatory termination claim, the court held that a reasonable trier of fact could conclude that Roseburg’s proffered reason for terminating plaintiff was pretextual. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded the claims of hostile work environment, disparate treatment, and retaliation. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiff's other claims. View "Reynaga v. Roseburg Forest Products" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit challenging the procedure for contesting parking citations pursuant to the California Vehicle Code. Plaintiff filed a putative class action against various city officials alleging 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims for due process violations, malicious prosecution, conspiracy, and Monell liability, as well as a claim under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1961 et seq. The district court dismissed plaintiff's claims with prejudice. The court rejected plaintiff's claim for violation of procedural due process based on the Code's deposit requirement given the availability of prompt post-deprivation review and correction. The court explained that plaintiff's modest interest in temporarily retaining the amount of a parking penalty is outweighed by the City’s more substantial interests in discouraging dilatory challenges, promptly collecting penalties, and conserving scarce resources. The court also rejected plaintiff's substantive due process challenge, concluding that plaintiff has failed to allege conduct so egregious as to amount to an abuse of power lacking any reasonable justification in the service of a legitimate governmental objective. Because plaintiff has not alleged a violation of his constitutional rights, he cannot maintain derivative constitutional claims based on that conduct. The court rejected plaintiff's remaining claims and agreed with the district court's denial of leave to amend based on futility. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Yagman v. Garcetti" on Justia Law

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Dr. Lawrence P. Rudolph filed suit against SCI after various SCI members accused him of official misconduct, stripped him of his awards, and kicked him out of the association. Rudolph surreptitiously recorded a conversation with his friend John Whipple, SCI's president, and posted it on YouTube to exonerate himself. Whipple and SCI filed numerous claims against Rudolph, including statutory invasion of privacy, negligence per se, and common law invasion of privacy. The district court granted Rudolph’s motion to strike under California’s anti-SLAPP statute, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code 425.16, as to four claims, but denied relief as to three claims. Rudolph appeals. The court concluded that the district court correctly denied Rudolph's motion as to the claims for violation of California Penal Code section 632, negligence per se, and common law invasion of privacy. In this case, although Rudolph can show that those claims arise from activity he took in furtherance of his right to free speech, plaintiffs can show a reasonable probability of prevailing on each of the challenged claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment; denied Rudolph's corresponding request for an additional attorney fee award; and remanded for further proceedings. View "Safari Club International v. Rudolph" on Justia Law

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After Nóirín Plunkett accused Michael Schwern of raping her and he was arrested, he filed suit against Plunkett for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and intentional interference with economic relations. Plunkett filed a special motion to strike under Oregon’s anti-SLAPP law, Or. Rev. Stat. 31.152(4), but the district court denied the motion. The court held that it has jurisdiction to review denials of Oregon anti-SLAPP motions in light of Oregon's passage of amendments to create a right of immediate appeal from denials of anti-SLAPP motions. On the merits, the court concluded that a reasonable trier of fact could not find that Schwern met his burden of production to support a prima facie case with substantial evidence. Because Schwern failed to establish a prima facie case through substantial evidence, Plunkett was entitled to relief under Oregon’s anti-SLAPP law. Accordingly, the court reversed and instructed the district court to grant the motion to strike. View "Schwern v. Plunkett" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against King County and King County Sheriff's Deputies, under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging, inter alia, that Deputy Volpe violated her Fourth Amendment rights by arresting her without probable cause, conducting an unreasonable seizure, using excessive force during the arrest, and conducting an unlawful search of her truck. Deputies Volpe, Sawtelle, and Christian appealed the district court’s denial of qualified immunity on the excessive force and unlawful search claims. The court concluded that the deputies are entitled to qualified immunity in this case because the government's interests at stake - providing life-saving emergency medical care and to protect first responders and other motorists from potential harm - outweighed any intrusion on plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights. The court thought that Deputy Volpe’s use of force in this case was reasonable in response to the totality of the circumstances. Furthermore, Deputies Sawtelle and Christian did not violate plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights when they searched her truck in an attempt to find the medications plaintiff's son had ingested in his overdose. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for entry of dismissal. View "Ames v. King County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an Arizona state prisoner and former pretrial detainee, filed suit pro se under 42 U.S.C. 1983, challenging defendants' alleged policy of allowing female guards to observe daily, from four to five feet away, male pretrial detainees showering and using the bathroom. The district court dismissed the complaint under 28 U.S.C. 1915A, concluding that Ninth Circuit precedent foreclosed plaintiff's claims. The court concluded that the fact that plaintiff is a pretrial detainee is enough to distinguish his allegations from precedent concerning convicted prisoners; even if plaintiff were a convicted prisoner, plaintiff's allegations survive section 1915A dismissal because the scope and manner of the intrusions were far broader than those the court previously has approved; the allegations of plaintiff's bodily privacy claim, taken as true, warrant an answer; and plaintiff's allegations for his cruel and unusual punishment claim, taken as true, are sufficient to meet the low threshold for proceeding past the screening stage. The court noted that it may be that the prison’s up close and personal policy of female guards observing male pretrial detainees is necessary to ensure security and provide equal work opportunities in the prison. The court explained that such considerations and their legal effect are just conjecture at this point. And conjecture is not enough to dismiss a complaint under section 1915A. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Byrd v. Maricopa County Board of Supervisors" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, the widow and children of the late spiritual leader of the Sikh Dharma faith, filed suit against defendants, alleging claims related to the control of two nonprofit entities associated with the Sikh Dharma religious community. Plaintiffs alleged several interlocking conspiracies and fraudulent activities designed to exclude them from certain management positions and to convert millions of dollars in assets from entities under the individual defendants’ control for personal benefit. The district court dismissed the complaint and concluded that plaintiffs' claims were foreclosed by the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment. The court concluded, however, that based on the pleadings, plaintiffs' claims are not barred by the First Amendment’s ministerial exception and can be resolved by application of neutral principles of law without encroaching on religious organizations’ right of autonomy in matters of religious doctrine and administration. For the reasons stated in this opinion and in the concurrently filed memorandum disposition, the court vacated in part, affirmed in part, and remanded. View "Puri v. Khalsa" on Justia Law

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After Deanna Fogerty-Hardwick lost custody of her minor children, Preslie and Kendall, Preslie filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the County and employees of the SSA. Preslie alleges that the social worker employees acting under color of state law maliciously used perjured testimony and fabricated evidence to secure her removal from her mother, and that this abuse of state power violated her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment constitutional rights to her familial relationship with her mother. After the district court denied absolute and qualified immunity to the individual defendants, they appealed. The court affirmed the district court's denial of absolute immunity where Preslie’s complaint targets conduct well outside of the social workers’ legitimate role as quasi-prosecutorial advocates in presenting the case. The court concluded that Beltran v. Santa Clara County disposes of the issue. In Beltran, the court held that social workers are not entitled to absolute immunity from claims that they fabricated evidence during an investigation or made false statements in a dependency petition affidavit that they signed under penalty of perjury, because such actions are not similar to discretionary decisions about whether to prosecute. The court also concluded that defendants' use of perjured testimony and fabricated evidence in court in order to sever Preslie’s familial bond with her mother was unconstitutional. In this case, Preslie has produced more than sufficient admissible evidence to create a genuine dispute as to whether her removal from her mother’s custody violated her clearly established constitutional rights, and defendants’ case for qualified immunity from these charges is not supported by the law or the record. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Hardwick v. County of Orange" on Justia Law

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The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, pursuant to Article XVIII, section 5(c) of the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands Constitution, restricts voting in certain elections to individuals of "Northern Marianas descent" (NMDs). Plaintiff filed suit alleging that this restriction is race-based and violates the Fifteenth Amendment. The district court granted plaintiff declaratory and injunctive relief and required that non-NMDs be permitted to vote in the November 2014 special election. The court concluded that the voting restriction in Article XVIII, section 5(c) would divide the citizenry of the Commonwealth between NMDs and non-NMDs when voting on amendments to a property restriction that affects everyone. The court explained that the Fifteenth Amendment aims to prevent precisely this sort of division in voting. Because Article XVIII, section 5(c) relies on ancestral distinctions to limit voting in a territory-wide election in the Commonwealth, it violates the Fifteenth Amendment. The court rejected the remaining arguments and affirmed the judgment. View "Davis, Jr. v. Commonwealth Election Commission" on Justia Law