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

Articles Posted in Civil Rights
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Plaintiffs are a married couple who have each been deaf since early childhood. They appealed the district court’s judgment, entered following a three-day bench trial, on their claims under (1) the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), (2) Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), (3) Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and (4) California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act (Unruh Act) against Defendant Doctors Medical Center of Modesto, Inc. (DMC), an acute care hospital. Plaintiffs alleged that DMC failed to afford them effective communication during a series of hospital stays between 2015 and 2017.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment, after a bench trial, in favor of Defendants. The panel affirmed the district court’s dismissal as moot of plaintiffs’ ADA claims for injunctive relief.   As to the Section 504 Rehabilitation Act claims, the panel held that the district court properly ruled that Plaintiffs failed to show that they were denied program benefits on the basis of their disabilities because they did not show that the hospital failed in its affirmative obligation to provide the auxiliary aids necessary to afford them effective communication. The panel held that the district court did not err by failing to apply “primary consideration,” an ADA Title II rule, to the Section 504 claims, because there is no evidence that Section 504 contains an implicit requirement that a covered entity give primary consideration to the requests of the individual with disabilities when determining what types of auxiliary aids to use. Because Plaintiffs did not establish that the hospital engaged in any disability discrimination, their California Unruh Act claims also failed. View "MARK BAX, ET AL V. DOCTORS MED. CTR. OF MODESTO, ET AL" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued Carroll College, alleging that it refused to renew its contract as a golf coach after he complained about gender inequity at the college’s athletic department. The district court ruled that Plaintiff failed to make the prima facie case that the nonrenewal of the contract was an adverse employment action.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of Defendant. The panel held that the refusal to renew a contract may be an adverse employment action for a Title IX retaliation claim because it could deter a reasonable employee from reporting discrimination. The panel remanded the case to the district court to consider Carroll College’s alternative bases for summary judgment. View "BENNETT MACINTYRE V. CARROLL COLLEGE" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed in part and vacated in part the district court’s grant of Defendants’ motion to dismiss, and remanded for further proceedings, in an action in which federally-qualified health centers operating in Arizona and their membership organization alleged that the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, which administers Arizona’s Medicaid program, and its director violated 42 U.S.C. Section 1396a(bb) and binding Ninth Circuit precedent by failing or refusing to reimburse Plaintiffs for the services of dentists, podiatrists, optometrists, and chiropractors.   First, the panel held that the court’s precedent in California Ass’n of Rural Health Clinics v. Douglas (“Douglas”), 738 F.3d 1007 (9th Cir. 2013), established that FQHC services are a mandatory benefit under Section 1396d(a)(2)(C) for which Plaintiffs have a right to reimbursement under Section 1396a(bb) that is enforceable under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. The panel rejected Defendants’ interpretation of Section 1396d(a)(2)(C)’s phrase “which are otherwise included in the plan” as applying to both the phrases “FQHC services” and “other ambulatory services offered by a [FQHC.]” The panel, therefore, rejected Defendants’ assertion that Section 1396d(a)(2)(C) only required states to cover FQHC services that are included in the state Medicaid plan.   The panel recognized that Douglas held that the mandatory benefit of “FQHC services” under § 1396d(a)(2)(C) includes “services furnished by . . . dentists, podiatrists, optometrists, and chiropractors” as well as doctors of medicine and osteopathy. The panel held that Arizona’s categorical exclusion of adult chiropractic services violated the unambiguous text of the Medicaid Act as interpreted in Douglas. View "AACHC V. AHCCCS" on Justia Law

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Defendant, a prison guard, shot Plaintiff with three sponge-tipped plastic rounds during a prison fight, breaking Plaintiff’s leg and injuring his butt and thigh. Following the fight, prison nurse assessed Plaintiff’s injuries and transferred him to an emergency room without fully completing her notes or conducting a full body examination.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment for Defendants in Plaintiff’s action alleging excessive force and deliberate indifference to medical needs. The panel first held that the district court correctly concluded that there was no constitutional violation. The guard’s decision to shoot Plaintiff with sponge rounds was not excessive use of force. He had a duty to keep prison staff and the prisoners in his care safe and he used the lowest level of force available to him. Even viewing the record in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, there was no evidence showing that Arnett had any improper motive, let alone that he acted “maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm.”   As to the nurse, rather than deliberate indifference, her actions seemed to reflect the conduct of a medical professional who quickly and successfully ensured that her patient received the appropriate level of care. The court held that Defendants were therefore entitled to protection under the doctrine of qualified immunity and summary judgment was properly entered in their favor. View "KEVIN SIMMONS V. G. ARNETT" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether police officers had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff either for reports that he followed and harassed an attorney outside a courthouse or for Plaintiff’s refusal to identify himself during an investigatory stop. Defendants asserted that they had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff on two grounds: (1) disturbing the peace under California Penal Code Section 415(2); and (2) obstructing an officer under California Penal Code Section 148(a)(1).   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of the City of Pasadena and Pasadena police officers in an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 alleging that plaintiff was unlawfully arrested. Plaintiff first argued that, because he was arrested under California Penal Code Section 148(a)(1), that means it was disputed whether probable cause existed under Section 415(2). The panel disagreed, stating first that it was well-established that if the facts support probable cause for one offense, an arrest may be lawful even if the officer invoked, as the basis for the arrest, a different offense that lacked probable cause. Second, by the time of Plaintiff’s arrest, the officers learned enough facts to believe that Plaintiff had violated Section 415(2) and therefore had probable cause to make the arrest.   Having found no violation of the Fourth Amendment, there was no need to proceed to the second question of the qualified immunity analysis—whether the unlawfulness of the officer's conduct was not “clearly established.” Further, the panel held that no “controlling authority” or “robust consensus of cases” prohibited the officer from arresting Plaintiff under the facts confronting him View "JAVIER VANEGAS V. CITY OF PASADENA" on Justia Law

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The police officers at first complied with the requirement that a warrant includes a description of the “place to be searched,” by obtaining a warrant that listed a motel room suspected of being a hub for drug trafficking. The officers then decided to search the suspect’s home as well and asked the judge over the phone to expand the scope of the warrant to include the home. The judge agreed, but the officers did not physically amend the warrant.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of qualified immunity. The panel agreed with the district court that the officers violated the Fourth Amendment because the warrant was facially defective. While a judge had orally approved the search of the home, the text of the Fourth Amendment still requires the warrant to specify the place to be searched. But the panel held that the district court erred in denying the officers qualified immunity because it was not clearly established at the time that the search would violate the Fourth Amendment. An officer could have believed—based on the lack of direct case law at the time—that he or she could search the home because the court had orally approved the search, even if the officer failed to make that change on the warrant. View "RICHARD MANRIQUEZ V. JOEL ENSLEY" on Justia Law

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The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (“FCA”) requires students serving in leadership roles to abide by a Statement of Faith, which includes the belief that sexual relations should be limited within the context of a marriage between a man and a woman. The San Jose Unified School District (the “School District”) revoked FCA’s status as an official student club at its high schools, claiming that FCA’s religious pledge requirement violated the School District’s non-discrimination policy.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of a motion for a preliminary injunction sought by a derecognized student club, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and directed the district court to enter an order reinstating the Fellowship as a student club within the San Jose Unified School District.   The panel first held that FCA National had direct organizational standing and Pioneer High School FCA had representational organizational standing to seek prospective injunctive relief. The School District’s denial of Associated Student Body (“ASB”) recognition hampered FCA National’s ability to further student engagement with the Christian faith and required it to expend significant time and resources to assist its student members.   Addressing the merits, the panel first held that Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction sought to maintain the status quo that existed before the School District’s novel scrutiny of FCA—a prohibitory injunction—so the district court erred in applying the heightened standard for mandatory injunctions. The panel held that Plaintiffs would likely prevail on the merits of its selective enforcement claim under the Free Exercise Clause. View "FELLOWSHIP OF CHRISTIAN ATHLET V. SAN JOSE UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRI" on Justia Law

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In a putative class action, Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Fourteenth Amendment, and they sought declaratory and injunctive relief. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part the district court’s dismissal of claims brought by a group of students and parents who alleged that every school district in California failed to adequately accommodate special needs students after California public schools transitioned to remote instruction in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.   The panel held that Plaintiffs lacked standing to sue school districts in which they were not enrolled and the State Special Schools, which they did not attend because they did not allege that those Defendants injured them personally. The panel held that even if the “juridical link” doctrine, provides an exception to the rule that a named plaintiff who has not been harmed by a defendant is generally an inadequate and atypical class representative for purposes of Fed. R. Civ. P. 23, ever applies outside of the Rule 23 context, it would not apply here.   The panel held that the California public schools’ return to in-person instruction mooted Plaintiffs’ claims against the California Department of Education and the State Superintendent of Public Education, as well as their claims against other defendants seeking injunctions requiring a return to in-person instruction or reassessment and services until students return to in-person instruction. The panel vacated the district court’s judgment dismissing on the merits the claims that Plaintiffs lacked standing to bring and remanded with instruction to dismiss those claims for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. View "DANIELLE MARTINEZ V. GAVIN NEWSOM" on Justia Law

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After the prosecutor used peremptory strikes against three Hispanic women during jury selection, Petitioner raised an objection pursuant to Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986). The trial court denied the challenge, and the California Court of Appeal affirmed on direct appeal. The California Supreme Court summarily denied review.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of a California state prisoner’s habeas corpus petition raising a Batson challenge to a jury conviction. The panel held that, even if a combined race and gender class such as Hispanic women is a cognizable group for purposes of Batson, that new rule would not apply to Petitioner’s case. The panel concluded that, under circuit precedent in Cooperwood v. Cambra, 245 F.3d 1042 (9th Cir. 2001), and Turner v. Marshall, 63 F.3d 807 (9th Cir. 1995), the recognition of a mixed race and gender class would be a new rule. Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288 (1989), bars the application of new constitutional rules of criminal procedure to cases that were final before the new rule was announced.   The panel further held that Petitioner did not establish a prima facie case of discrimination based on race alone because the totality of the circumstances, including a comparison between the prospective jurors the prosecutor struck and those he did not, did not raise an inference that race motivated the prosecutor to exercise a strike. Accordingly, the California Court of Appeal’s decision on Batson step one was not contrary to or an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law or an unreasonable determination of facts. View "GIANG NGUYEN V. SCOTT FRAUENHEIM" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff is a paraplegic who cannot walk or stand and requires the use of a wheelchair. In July 2019, Plaintiff visited Pepe’s Mexican Restaurant in Brea, California. During his visit, Plaintiff found that the parking spaces in front of Pepe’s had “slopes and/or cross slopes that exceed[ed] 2.0%,” making it difficult for him to enter and exit his vehicle. Ho filed a complaint in federal court alleging that Pepe’s proprietor had failed to maintain the restaurant’s accessibility in accordance with federal and state law. Plaintiff sought damages, injunctive relief, and attorney’s fees under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 42 U.S.C. Sections 12101 et seq., and California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act (Unruh Act).   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s order declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c) over Plaintiff’s state law claim under California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, and remanded for further proceedings.   The panel held that the district court erred in sua sponte declining supplemental jurisdiction without providing Plaintiff with notice of its intent to dismiss or an opportunity to respond. This was error because Plaintiff was entitled to argue his claim prior to dismissal. View "JOHN HO V. FREDERICK RUSSI" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Rights