Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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Plaintiff, a candidate for public office in California, challenged the California Elections Code, which mandated that the primary ballot list his party preference as "None" instead of the Socialist Party USA. The Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that California, at this very early stage of the litigation, failed to demonstrate as a matter of law why its ballot must describe plaintiff as having no party preference when in fact he preferred the Socialist Party USA. The panel agreed with the Secretary of State that the burden the California statutes imposed on plaintiff's First and Fourteenth Amendment rights was not severe. However, the burden imposed on plaintiff's rights was more than "slight" and warranted scrutiny that was neither strict nor wholly deferential. In this case, the primary purported justification for the statutes—avoiding voter confusion—was an important government interest, but it was unclear why less burdensome and less misleading alternatives would not accomplish the state's goals. View "Soltysik v. Padilla" on Justia Law

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A 2006 Initiative, amending Alaska’s election laws, returned the individual-to-candidate and individual-to-group limits to their pre-2003 levels of $500 per year, Alaska Stat. 15.13.070(b)(1); capped the amount a non-political party group could contribute to a candidate at $1,000; restricted the amount candidates could receive from nonresidents to $3,000 per year, and limited the amount a political party, including its subdivisions, could contribute to a candidate. The voter information packet included a statement that "Corruption is not limited to one party or individual. Ethics should be not only bipartisan but also universal. From the Abramoff and Jefferson scandals in Washington D.C. to side deals in Juneau, special interests are becoming bolder every day. They used to try to buy elections. Now they are trying to buy the legislators themselves." In 2015, Plaintiffs brought a First Amendment challenge. The Ninth Circuit held that affirmance on the individual-to-candidate and individual-to-group limits was compelled by precedent and upheld the political party-to-candidate limit. Those restrictions were narrowly tailored to prevent quid pro quo corruption or its appearance and did not impermissibly infringe constitutional rights. The court held that the nonresident limit, which at most, targeted contributors’ influence over Alaska politics, did not target an “important state interest” and therefore violated the First Amendment. View "Thompson v. Hebdon" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against Officer Jeremy Hellawell under 42 U.S.C. 1983, after the officer fatally shot and killed Ernest Foster. The district court denied the officer's motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. The Ninth Circuit held that it lacked jurisdiction to consider questions of evidentiary sufficiency on interlocutory review, and thus dismissed the officer's appeal of the district court's order with respect to the claims that the shooting violated Foster's Fourth Amendment right and plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment rights. The panel reversed the district court's denial of qualified immunity on the Fourth Amendment claims, holding that the officer's actions during the investigative stop did not violate any clearly established law. In this case, the officer had reasonable suspicion to stop and investigate Foster after the 911 call warning of an armed man matching Foster's description, and unholstering a gun during the stop did not constitute a violation of Foster's right to be free from excessive force. View "Foster v. Hellawell" on Justia Law

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A plaintiff need not plead that racism was the but-for cause of a defendant's conduct, but only that racism was a factor in the decision not to contract such that the plaintiff was denied the same right as a white citizen. Mixed-motive claims are cognizable under 42 U.S.C. 1981. Entertainment Studios, along with NAAAOM, filed suit alleging that Charter's refusal to enter into a carriage contract was racially motivated and in violation of section 1981. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Charter's motion to dismiss, holding that the complaint sufficiently alleged that discriminatory intent played at least some role in Charter's refusal to contract with Entertainment Studios and thus denied Entertainment Studios the same right to contract as a white-owned company. The panel also held that plaintiffs' 1981 claim was not barred by the First Amendment where section 1981 was a content-neutral regulation that would satisfy intermediate scrutiny. The panel noted that the fact that cable operators engage in expressive conduct when they select which networks to carry did not automatically require the application of strict scrutiny in this case. View "National Association of African American-Owned Media v. Charter Communications, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs have failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact on whether racial considerations predominated the City of Los Angeles's redistricting process. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's protective order and its order granting summary judgment for the City in an action alleging that race was the predominant motivator in drawing the boundaries of council districts in the Council District 10 redistricting ordinance. Viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiffs, the panel held that the record failed to show that successive boundary amendments were driven predominantly by racial considerations. Rather, the Commission sought to rebalance the populations in each Council District, while preserving communities and unifying as many Neighborhood Councils as possible in a single Council District. The panel also held that the legislative privilege protected local officials from being deposed. View "Lee v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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Petitioner appealed the district court's denial of his first federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for an evidentiary hearing on one of petitioner's penalty-phase ineffective assistance of counsel claims. The panel held that petitioner was entitled to equitable tolling for the period from August 29, 1998, to September 17, 1999, and thus reversed the district court's contrary ruling. The panel remanded for further proceedings as to Claims 1(C), 1(D), 1(E), 1(H), 1(I), 1(J), 9, and 14. In regard to two related claims alleging ineffective assistance of trial counsel, the panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying an evidentiary hearing as to Claim 1(A). However, the district court abused its discretion in denying an evidentiary hearing as to Claim (F). Therefore, the panel remanded for the district court to hold an evidentiary hearing so that it may properly assess whether the evidence of petitioner's childhood abuse and trauma -- in combination with the brain damage evidence that was not on its own sufficient -- gave rise to a reasonable probability that the outcome of petitioner's sentencing hearing would have been different. Finally, the panel affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's motion for relief under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). View "Williams v. Filson" on Justia Law

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The government's decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is subject to judicial review. Upon review, the Ninth Circuit held that plaintiffs are likely to succeed on their claim that the rescission of DACA is arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with law. After concluding that neither the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) nor the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) precluded judicial review, the panel held that DACA was a permissible exercise of executive discretion, notwithstanding the Fifth Circuit's conclusion that the related Deferred Action for Parent Arrivals (DAPA) program exceeded DHS's statutory authority. In this case, DACA was being implemented in a manner that reflected discretionary, case-by-base review, and at least one of the Fifth Circuit's key rationales in striking down DAPA was inapplicable with respect to DACA. Therefore, because the Acting Secretary was incorrect in her belief that DACA was illegal and had to be rescinded, the panel held that plaintiffs were likely to succeed in demonstrating that the rescission must be set aside. The panel also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in issuing a nationwide injunction; the district court properly dismissed plaintiffs' APA notice and comment claim and substantive due process rights claim; and the district court properly denied the government's motion to dismiss plaintiffs' APA arbitrary and capricious claim, due process rights claim, and equal protection claim. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the district court's grant of preliminary injunctive relief, and affirmed in part the district court's partial grant and partial denial of the government's motion to dismiss. View "Regents of the University of California v. USDHS" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a preliminary injunction and its bench trial judgment in an action facially challenging HB 2023, Arizona's 2016 election law prohibiting certain persons from collecting voters' early mail ballots. A person who knowingly collects voted or unvoted early ballots from another person is guilty of a class 6 felony under HB 2023. The panel held that H.B. 2023 was not preempted by federal laws regulating the United States Postal Service, did not violate the First Amendment's protection of speech by implicating the First Amendment rights of ballot collectors, and was not an unconstitutionally vague criminal statute where it did not violate either the fair notice or the arbitrary enforcement requirements. View "Knox v. Brnovich" on Justia Law

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After county social workers removed four children under the age of six from their family home under a suspicion of child abuse, took them to a temporary shelter, and subjected them to invasive medical examinations, without their parents' knowledge or consent and without a court order authorizing the examinations, the family filed suit against the county for violations of the parents' Fourteenth Amendment rights and the children's Fourth Amendment rights. The Ninth Circuit held that the county violates parents' Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights when it performs the Polinsky Children's Center medical examinations without notifying the parents about the examinations and without obtaining either the parents' consent or judicial authorization. The panel assumed, without deciding, that the special needs doctrine applied to the Polinksy medical examinations, but held that the searches were unconstitutional under the special needs balancing test if performed without the necessary notice and consent. In this case, the county violated the children's Fourth Amendment rights by failing to obtain a warrant or to provide these constitutional safeguards before subjecting the children to these invasive medical examinations. View "Mann v. County of San Diego" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of a state patrol officer in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action, alleging that the officer's entry into plaintiff's home without a warrant and under false pretenses violated her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The panel held that, although the officer's entry in plaintiff's home during the course of a civil fraud investigation was an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment, the officer was entitled to qualified immunity because the right to be free from a search in the context of a civil or administrative investigation related to a determination of benefits was not clearly established at the time. View "Whalen v. McMullen" on Justia Law