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

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the county and certain county officials after she was terminated as a litigation attorney for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office (MCAO). Before her termination, county officials requested that she not be assigned further cases in which the county was a party and which involved risk management. A jury returned a verdict for plaintiff, finding that she was terminated in retaliation for her exercise of First Amendment rights in speaking to a newspaper reporter, and against certain county officials for state-law based tortious interference with her employment contract. The court concluded that no reasonable jury could conclude that the county's risk management office was not the client. Therefore, the court reversed the tortious interference with contract judgment because Defendants Wilson and Armfield's conduct was not improper. With the legally defined scope of an attorney's duties in mind, the court explained that it becomes obvious that plaintiff's comments to the newspaper could not constitute constitutionally protected citizen speech under the principles from Dahlia v. Rodriguez. Accordingly, the court reversed the First Amendment retaliation verdict. The court remanded for the district court to enter judgment for defendants and vacated the fee award. View "Brandon v. Maricopa County" on Justia Law

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Washington and Minnesota filed suit challenging President Trump's Executive Order 13769 which, among other changes to immigration policies and procedures, bans for 90 days the entry into the United States of individuals from seven countries, suspends for 120 days the United States Refugee Admissions Program, and suspends indefinitely the entry of all Syrian refugees. In this emergency proceeding, the Government moves for an emergency stay of the district court's temporary restraining order while its appeal of that order proceeds. The court noted the extraordinary circumstances of this case and determined that the district court's order possesses the qualities of an appealable preliminary injunction. The court held that the States have made a sufficient showing to support standing, at least at this preliminary stage of the proceedings, where they argued that the Executive Order causes a concrete and particularized injury to their public universities, which the parties do not dispute are branches of the States under state law. The court concluded that there is no precedent to support the Government's position that the President's decisions about immigration policy, particularly when motivated by national security concerns, are unreviewable, even if those actions potentially contravene constitutional rights and protections. The court explained that the Government's claim runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy. Therefore, although courts owe considerable deference to the President's policy determinations with respect to immigration and national security, it is beyond question that the federal judiciary retains the authority to adjudicate constitutional challenges to executive action. The court concluded that the Government has not shown that it is likely to succeed on the merits regarding its argument about, at least, the States' Due Process Clause claim, and the court noted the serious nature of the allegations the States have raised with respect to their religious discrimination claims. The court held that the procedural protections provided by the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause are not limited to citizens; rather, they apply to all persons within the United States, including aliens, regardless of whether their presence here is lawful, unlawful, temporary, or permanent. Finally, the balance of hardships and the public interest do not favor a stay. Accordingly, the court denied the emergency motion for a stay pending appeal. View "State of Washington v. Trump" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was fired for theft and dishonesty from WinCo after twelve years of employment because she took a stale cake from the store bakery to the break room to share with fellow employees and told a loss prevention investigator that management had given her permission to do so. WinCo also determined that plaintiff's behavior rose to the level of gross misconduct under the store's personnel policies, denied plaintiff and her minor children benefits under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA), 29 U.S.C. 1161(a), 1163(2), and denied plaintiff credit for accrued vacation days. Plaintiff filed suit for gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq., a claim under COBRA; and wage claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq., as well as corresponding state law claims. The district court granted summary judgment for WinCo. The court concluded that the district court erred in dismissing plaintiff's discrimination claims where ample circumstantial evidence, as well as powerful direct evidence of a supervisor's discriminatory comments, raise a material dispute regarding pretext; if WinCo fired plaintiff for discriminatory reasons, she may be entitled to COBRA benefits and thus the district court erred in dismissing that claim; and, likewise, the district court erred in dismissing the wage claims. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Mayes v. WinCo Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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Petitioner, convicted of attempted murders while he was under the influence of drug and alcohol, appealed the dismissal of his habeas petition. The court concluded that petitioner's petition was only partially exhausted and he should have been allowed to delete the unexhausted claims and proceed on the exhausted claims if his motion to stay and abey the case were denied. The court did not remand the case to allow petitioner the option of deleting his unexhausted claims because the district court should have granted his request to stay his case. Here, petitioner has established good cause because he was not represented by counsel in his state postconviction proceeding; at least one of petitioner's claims is not "plainly meritless;" and the state concedes that he has not engaged in intentionally dilatory litigation tactics. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with instructions. View "Dixon v. Baker" on Justia Law

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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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Plaintiffs filed a class action against ARS, a debt collection agency, under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692 et seq. The class consists of some four million people nationwide. At issue is whether the magistrate judge had the authority to exercise jurisdiction to approve the class action settlement without obtaining the consent of all four million class members. If so, at issue is whether the magistrate judge abused her discretion by approving the settlement as fair, reasonable, and adequate. The court concluded that the magistrate judge had the authority to enter final judgment pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 636(c); the court joined three of its sister circuits and concluded that the statute requires the consent of the named plaintiffs alone, not the consent of the four million class members not present before the district court; and section 636(c) does not violate Article III of the Constitution by permitting magistrate judges to exercise jurisdiction over class actions without obtaining the consent of each absent class member. The court concluded that the magistrate judge abused her discretion by approving the settlement because there is no evidence that the relief afforded by the settlement has any value to the class members, yet to obtain it they had to relinquish their right to seek damages in any other class action. Furthermore, ARS and the named plaintiffs likewise presented no evidence that the absent class members would derive any benefit from the settlement’s cy pres award. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded. View "Koby v. Helmuth" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of a dispute between a flight attendant and the airline about her sick leave. Plaintiff claimed an entitlement to use her December vacation leave for her child’s illness without being charged points, under the Washington Family Care Act, Wash. Rev. Code 49.12.270(1). The Department determined that plaintiff was entitled to use her December vacation leave to care for her child in May, and the airline was fined $200 for violating the statute. The district court subsequently granted summary judgment against the airline’s preemption claim under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), 45 U.S.C. 151-188. The court concluded that the state law right and the collective bargaining agreement are inextricably intertwined. Minor disputes are preempted by the RLA and must be dealt with first through a carrier’s internal dispute resolution process, and then a System Adjustment Board comprised of workers and management. In this case, the court concluded that the question whether plaintiff could use her vacation leave in advance of her scheduled time for this purpose is to be determined by the dispute resolution process in the collective bargaining agreement, not by the state claim resolution process. Because the district court erred by rejecting preemption, the court reversed and remanded. View "Alaska Airlines, Inc. v. Schurke" 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