Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendant based on qualified immunity grounds in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging that defendant failed to disclose evidence that would have cast serious doubt on the star prosecution witness in plaintiff's trial. The panel held that the record demonstrated as a matter of law that defendant withheld material impeachment evidence under Brady v. Maryland and Giglio v. United States, and raised a genuine issue of material fact as to whether defendant acted with deliberate indifference or reckless disregard for plaintiff's due process rights. The panel also held that the law at the time of the 1997–98 investigation clearly established that police officers investigating a criminal case were required to disclose material, impeachment evidence to the defense. Finally, the panel held that the district court abused its discretion by striking the declaration of plaintiff's police practices expert. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Mellen v. Winn" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review insofar as it raised due process claims related to the district court's rejection of petitioner's United States citizenship claim. First determining that petitioner had standing to bring the due process and equal protection claims, the panel held that, because a legitimate governmental interest was rationally related to 8 U.S.C. 1433's requirement that citizen parents petition to naturalize their adopted, foreign-born children, section 1433 did not violate the Fifth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. The panel also held that the district court did not err in ruling that the INS was not deliberately indifferent to whether petitioner's mother's application for his citizenship was processed; and, even if the INS did act with deliberate indifference, petitioner's due process claim failed because he could not demonstrate prejudice. The panel held that the district court correctly concluded that the INS was not deliberately indifferent to petitioner's adult application for citizenship and he could not establish prejudice. Finally, the panel held that the BIA erred in concluding that third-degree escape under Arizona Revised Statutes section 13-2502 was a crime of violence and thus an aggravated felony that would make petitioner removable. Accordingly, the panel denied in part, granted in part, and remanded in part the petition for review. View "Dent v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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The Federal Courts Improvement Act of 1996 (FCIA) does not limit injunctive relief against an executive branch officer enforcing a court order, and the Sheriff in this case was not entitled to immunity from plaintiffs' request for declaratory and injunctive relief. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a class action challenging the constitutionality of Washington Revised Code 59.18.375, which allows tenants to be evicted from their homes without a court hearing. The panel held that original plaintiffs had standing to sue at the time they filed this action, which was the relevant time frame for analyzing Article III standing; plaintiffs who were subsequently added to the action did not have standing to sue because their circumstances left their prospects of injury too speculative to support Article III standing; and, even after original plaintiffs settled their dispute with their landlord, the action was not moot because the dispute was capable of repetition, yet evading review. On the merits, the panel held that the district court misread the statute and that the text of section 375 makes clear that a hearing was not mandatory; the Rooker-Feldman doctrine did not apply because plaintiffs were not asking the district court to review and reject the judgment entered against them in state court; the Sheriff's two alternative arguments for affirmance of the district court's judgment -- that the action must be brought under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and that the Sheriff was entitled to qualified immunity -- lacked merit; and the Sheriff's remaining arguments were without merit. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Moore v. Urquhart" on Justia Law

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Washington public school teachers filed a class action to order the Director of DRS to return interest that was allegedly skimmed from their state-managed retirement accounts. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of a stipulated motion to certify a class and dismissal of the action as prudentially unripe. The panel held that the district court erred in dismissing the teachers' takings claim as prudentially unripe because DRS's withholding of the interest accrued on the teachers' accounts constitutes a per se taking to which the prudential ripeness test in Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City, 473 U.S. 172 (1985), did not apply. In regard to the Director's alternative grounds for summary judgment, the panel held that plaintiffs stated a takings claim for daily interest withheld by the Director; the panel clarified that the core property right recognized in Schneider v. California Department of Corrections, 151 F.3d 1194 (9th Cir. 1988), covered interest earned daily, even if payable less frequently; plaintiffs' takings claim was not barred by issue preclusion or by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine; and the takings claim was not foreclosed by the Eleventh Amendment. The panel also held that the district court erred in denying the motion for class certification. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Fowler v. Guerin" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a petition for habeas relief challenging a sentencing enhancement for a prior nonjury juvenile conviction and for a gang-related crime. Petitioner argued that the evidence supporting the gang enhancement was constitutionally insufficient under Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (1979), and that the enhancement for his nonjury juvenile conviction violated Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000). The panel held that it was objectively unreasonable to conclude that the evidence was sufficient for a reasonable jury to find the robbery was committed "in association with" a gang; but it was not objectively unreasonable to conclude that the evidence was sufficient for a reasonable jury to find the robbery was committed "for the benefit of" a gang. The panel also held that the juvenile conviction claim was procedurally barred, and the sentencing enhancements based on nonjury juvenile convictions did not violate any clearly established federal law as determined by the United States Supreme Court. View "Johnson v. Montgomery" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit for violation of their First Amendment rights, seeking injunctive and declaratory relief, after they took photographs of activities at U.S. ports of entry on the United States–Mexico border, they were both stopped and searched by officers of the CBP, and their photos were destroyed. The district court dismissed plaintiffs' claims. The Ninth Circuit held that the district court erred by applying the law of the case doctrine on a motion to dismiss an amended complaint. On the merits, the panel held that the First Amendment protected the right to photograph and record matters of public interest, and whether a place was "public" depended on the nature of the location; the district court's holding that the CBP policies were the least restrictive means of serving a compelling government interest were conclusory and insufficient; and it was the government's burden to prove that the specific restrictions were the least restrictive means available. The panel held that plaintiffs have adequately pleaded their claims and that further factual development was required before the district court could determine what restrictions, if any, the government may impose in these public, outdoors areas where the photos were taken. View "Askins v. USDHS" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order declining to extend a Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), remedy to an immigrant pursuing lawful permanent resident status. In this case, an ICE Assistant Chief Counsel representing the government intentionally forged and submitted an ostensible government document in an immigration proceeding, which had the effect of barring plaintiff from obtaining lawful permanent resident status, a form of relief to which he was otherwise lawfully entitled. The panel held that a Bivens remedy was available on these narrow and egregious facts because none of the special factors outlined in Ziglar v. Abbasi, 137 S. Ct. 1843, 1857 (2017), and other Supreme Court precedent applied. The panel also held that the ICE Assistant Chief Counsel was not entitled to qualified immunity because qualified immunity could not shield an officer from suit when he intentionally submits a forged document in an immigration proceeding in clear violation of 8 U.S.C. 1357(b). View "Lanuza v. Love" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action brought by for-hire drivers challenging a Seattle ordinance that establishes a multistep collective bargaining process between "driver-coordinators," such as Uber and Lyft, and for-hire drivers who contract with those companies. The panel held that the drivers' claims under the National Labor Relations Act were unripe because they failed to allege an injury in fact that was concrete and particularized. In this case, even assuming arguendo that the disclosure of drivers' personal information to the union under the ordinance was imminent, the disclosure was neither a concrete nor a particularized injury. Furthermore, no contract or agreement was imminent. The court also held that the drivers' First Amendment claims were unripe for the same reasons. View "Clark v. City of Seattle" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of qualified immunity to a border patrol agent who, while standing on American soil, shot and killed a teenage Mexican citizen, J.A., who was innocently walking down a street in Mexico. The panel held that the agent violated the Fourth Amendment and lacked qualified immunity where it was inconceivable that any reasonable officer could have thought that he or she could kill J.A. for no reason. The panel also held that J.A.'s mother had a cause of action against the agent for money damages pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 389 (1971). The panel noted its reluctance to extend Bivens, but did so because no other adequate remedy was available and there was no reason to infer that Congress deliberately chose to withhold a remedy. View "Rodriguez v. Swartz" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit granted petitioner's motion to file a second or successive 28 U.S.C. 2254 habeas corpus petition, challenging California's second-degree felony murder rule as unconstitutionally vague under Johnson v. United States. Determining that petitioner had standing and his claim was not effectively moot, the panel held that petitioner made a prima facie showing that his claim relied on the new and retroactively applicable rule in Johnson. The panel concluded that there was a plausible position that Johnson did not limit its constitutional rule to certain features of the Armed Career Criminal Act's residual clause that the State contends was absent from California's second-degree felony murder rule. View "Henry v. Spearman" on Justia Law