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

Articles Posted in Civil Rights
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Plaintiffs challenged the bans on long guns and semiautomatic centerfire rifles under the Second Amendment. The district court declined to issue a preliminary injunction. The Ninth Circuit held the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to enjoin the requirement that young adults obtain a hunting license to purchase a long gun. However, the court found that the district court erred in not enjoining an almost total ban on semiautomatic centerfire rifles. The court found that the Second Amendment protects the right of young adults to keep and bear arms, which includes the right to purchase them.   The court held that the district court’s reasoning that the laws did not burden Second Amendment rights was a legal error. The court further held that the district court properly applied intermediate scrutiny to the long-gun hunting license regulation and did not abuse its discretion in finding it likely to survive. However, the district court erred by applying intermediate scrutiny, rather than strict scrutiny, to the semiautomatic centerfire rifle ban. And even under intermediate scrutiny, this ban likely violates the Second Amendment because it fails the “reasonable fit” test. Finally, the court held that the district court abused its discretion in finding that Plaintiffs would not likely be irreparably harmed. View "MATTHEW JONES V. ROB BONTA" on Justia Law

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A National Security Letter is an administrative subpoena issued by the FBI to a wire or electronic communication service provider requiring the provider to produce specified subscriber information that is relevant to an authorized national security investigation. 18 U.S.C. Section 2709(a). By statute, a National Security Letter may include a requirement that the recipient not disclose the fact that it has received such a request. Here, recipients of National Security Letters alleged that the nondisclosure requirement violated their First Amendment rights.   The Ninth Circuit amended its opinion affirming the district court’s orders denied a petition for rehearing; denied a petition for rehearing en banc, and ordered that no further petitions would be entertained. The court held that Section 2709(c)’s nondisclosure requirement imposes a content-based restriction subject to strict scrutiny.   The court held that Section 2709(c)’s nondisclosure requirement imposes a content-based restriction that was subject to, and withstood strict scrutiny. The court further held that assuming the nondisclosure requirement was the type of prior restraint for which the procedural safeguards set forth in Freedman v. Maryland, 380 U.S. 51 (1965) were required, the National Security Letters law provided those safeguards. The court concluded that the nondisclosure requirement did not run afoul of the First Amendment. View "UNDER SEAL V. JEFFERSON SESSIONS" on Justia Law

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After the Spokane County prosecutor filed charges against Plaintiffs pursuant to Wash. Rev. Code Section 77.15.265, Plaintiffs entered into a Stipulation to Police Reports and Order of Continuance (“SOC”), which provided that the charges would be dismissed if Plaintiffs complied with certain terms. Under Washington’s wildlife forfeiture statute, the entry of a SOC also resulted in the forfeiture of the wildlife and animal parts at issue. Plaintiffs successfully completed their SOCs, and the charges against them were dismissed. They brought suit alleging that the forfeiture and transfer of their property to Canada, without notice or a hearing, functionally destroyed their property interests, thus depriving them of due process.   The Ninth Circuit dismissed the due process claim as moot and affirmed the district court’s entry of judgment with respect to the constitutionality of Washington State’s forfeiture statute. The court held that because Plaintiffs signed the SOCs, which triggered the automatic forfeiture, their suit for recovery of the forfeited property was moot. To the extent Plaintiffs’ constitutional claims hinged on their argument that the seized property was not contraband, these claims were also mooted by the Plaintiffs’ agreement to forfeiture. The court reasoned that even if Plaintiffs had a property interest in the seized wildlife parts protected by the Fourteenth Amendment at the time the parts were transferred, they gave up that interest by agreeing to the ultimate forfeiture of the items to the state; Plaintiffs therefore could not maintain a concrete injury as a result of the transfer to British Columbia. View "CHAD BOCK V. STATE OF WASHINGTON" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff alleged that her former employer violated the ADA by failing to accommodate her disability and instead terminating her from her human resources job after she underwent a bone biopsy surgery on her right shoulder and arm. The district court concluded that Plaintiff failed to plead a “disability” because she did not adequately allege that she had “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limit[ed] one or more major life activities.” The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s employment discrimination action. The court concluded that Plaintiff pleaded facts plausibly establishing that she had a physical impairment both during an immediate post-surgical period and during an extension period in which her surgeon concluded that her injuries had not sufficiently healed to permit her to return to work. The court also found that the activities that Plaintiff pleaded she was unable to perform qualified as “major life activities,” which included caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, lifting, and working. Finally, the complaint adequately alleged that Plaintiff’s impairment substantially limited her ability to perform at least one major life activity. View "KAREN SHIELDS V. CREDIT ONE BANK, N.A." on Justia Law

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After nine years of litigation and in their third set of appeals, the parties asked the Ninth Circuit to decide whether California’s sales ban is preempted by the Poultry Products Inspection Act (“PPIA”) or violates the dormant Commerce Clause. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ preemption and Dormant Commerce Clause claims and its summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs on a declaratory judgment claim in an action brought by various foie gras sellers challenging California’s ban on the in-state sale of products that are “the result of force-feeding a bird for the purpose of enlarging the bird’s liver beyond normal size.” Cal. Health & Safety Code Sec. 25982.   The court held that the sales ban was neither preempted nor unconstitutional and that certain out-of-state sales were permitted by California law. that the sales ban was neither preempted nor unconstitutional and that certain out-of-state sales were permitted by California law and the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Plaintiffs leave to amend to add a new express ingredient preemption claim alleging that the sales ban operates as an “ingredient requirement” by prohibiting foie gras as an ingredient in other poultry products.  Further, rejecting Plaintiffs’ Dormant Commerce Clause claim, the court held that California’s sales ban prohibits only instate sales of foie gras, so it was not impermissibly extraterritorial. View "ASSOCIATION DES ELEVEURS V. ROB BONTA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 alleging that Defendants, prison officials, were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs, when despite his numerous complaints over a period of years and a visibly deteriorating condition, they ignored his enlarged prostate. After the district court screened Plaintiff’s complaint, he was left with two claims of deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. The remaining officials claimed that they were entitled to qualified immunity and moved for summary judgment. The district court disagreed and the Ninth Circuit affirmed the order denying qualified immunity to prison officials. The Ninth Circuit determined that only examination of the second prong of the qualified immunity analysis was necessary—whether the right was clearly established at the time of the violation—because doing so would not hamper the development of precedent and both parties expressly acknowledged that this case turned on the second prong. The court reasoned it was clearly established at the time of Plaintiff’s treatment that prison officials violated the constitution when they choose a medically unacceptable course of treatment for the circumstances and a reasonable jury could find that the prison officials did just that. View "LEWIS STEWART V. ROMEO ARANAS" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought his civil rights suit against the County of Ravalli and others. The County filed a motion for summary judgment on all claims. While its motion was still pending, the County made Plaintiff a Rule 68 offer of judgment for $50,000 plus costs and attorney’s fees. Before Rule 68’s fourteen-day window had closed, the district court granted the summary judgment motion. But the court did not enter final judgment. Rather, it said that judgment would be entered “in due course” after it issued a reasoned opinion. Within an hour of the entry of this order, Plaintiff accepted the County’s offer of judgment. The district court held that, under Rule 68, it was bound by the offer of judgment and entered judgment for Plaintiff in the amount of $50,000 plus costs and fees.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment in favor of Plaintiff, entered in accordance with Defendants’ Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 68 offer of judgment. The court held that under the plain text of Rule 68, the district court properly entered judgment according to the County’s offer of judgment. The court’s review of the rule showed that it was designed to function in a mechanical manner. The court reasoned that Rule 68 offer, once made, is non-negotiable; it is either accepted, in which case it is automatically entered by the clerk of court or rejected, in which case it stands as the marker by which the Plaintiff’s results are ultimately measured. View "ROBERT KUBIAK V. COUNTY OF RAVALLI" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff is one of the principal shareholders of Riley’s American Heritage Farms (“Riley’s Farm”) Schools within the Claremont Unified School District booked and attended field trips to Riley’s Farm. In 2018, Plaintiff used his personal Twitter account to comment on a range of controversial social and political topics. After some parents complained and a local newspaper published an article about Defendant and his Twitter postings, the School District severed its business relationship with Riley’s Farm. Plaintiff brought suit against the School District, individual members of the school board, and three school administrators (the “School defendants”), alleging retaliation for protected speech.   The Ninth Circuit (1) amended its opinion affirming in part and reversing in part the district court’s summary judgment for public school defendants in a 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 action alleging First Amendment violations, (2) denied a petition for rehearing, (3) denied a petition for rehearing en banc on behalf of the court, and (4) ordered that no further petitions shall be entertained.   The court held there was a genuine issue of material fact on the issue of whether Plaintiff’s First Amendment rights had been violated and the individual School defendants were entitled to qualified immunity as to the damages claims because the right at issue was not clearly established when the conduct took place. The court further held that Defendant failed to establish that the School District’s asserted interests in preventing disruption to their operations and curricular design because of parental complaints were so substantial that they outweighed Defendant’s free speech interests. View "RILEY'S AMERICAN HERITAGE FARM V. JAMES ELSASSER" on Justia Law

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The California Department of Transportation (“Caltrans”) coordinates and works with other government services before clearing homeless encampments. When Caltrans planned to clear high-risk encampments along the freeway, Plaintiff campers sought an injunction. The district court required Caltrans to give Plaintiffs six months to relocate and find housing before clearing the encampments.   The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court’s order finding "there is no serious question" that the ADA requires such a lengthy delay. The court also held that the district court abused its discretion when evaluating the harm the injunction caused to Caltrans and the attendant public safety concerns, and thus erred in balancing the equities.   Caltrans argued that clearing the encampments involves no ADA obligation because its properties are not open to the public. The ADA requires “only ‘reasonable modifications' that would not fundamentally alter the nature of the service provided.” Here, the court found that a six-month delay is a fundamental alteration of Caltrans’s programs, which provide for expedient clearing of level 1 encampments and include, when possible, 72 hours’ notice and coordination with local partners.   The court also held that the district court erred by incorrectly mitigating the hardships caused by the injunction. When evaluating the balance of equities, the district court noted that Plaintiffs’ potential injury was “exacerbated by the public health concerns of disbanding homeless encampments during the COVID-19 pandemic.” View "WHERE DO WE GO BERKELEY V. CALTRANS" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff alleged that law enforcement officers used excessive force in apprehending him after he escaped from a County Jail highway work crew and lived on the lam for three weeks.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s summary judgment in favor of law enforcement officials. The court held that the bodycam footage and audio did not blatantly contradict all of Plaintiff’s testimony. The court viewed the facts blatantly contradicted by the bodycam footage in the light depicted by the videotape and its audio to conclude that Plaintiff did not attempt to surrender to the officers. However, the court viewed all other facts, including Plaintiff’s allegation of the post-handcuff beating, in the light most favorable to Plaintiff on summary judgment.   The court found that there were genuine issues of material fact regarding whether the alleged post-handcuff beating and dog-biting were proportional to the threat the officer reasonably perceived by Plaintiff while handcuffed. The court also found that the officer was not entitled to qualified immunity under Sec. 1983 as to the claimed post-handcuff beating and dog-biting because it was clearly established law that beating a handcuffed convict violates the Eighth Amendment. Finally, the court found that the excessive force claims based on failure to intervene and failure to intercede against the other defendants failed. View "COREY HUGHES V. MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ" on Justia Law