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

Articles Posted in Civil Rights
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Orange County jail inmates brought 42 U.S.C. 1983 and other federal claims based on alleged failure to combat COVID-19. The district court granted provisional class certification and issued a preliminary injunction under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), which automatically expired 90 days after being issued.The Ninth Circuit dismissed an appeal as moot because the injunction and provisional class certification are no longer in effect. While the Supreme Court’s emergency stay of the preliminary injunction may have prevented the injunction from having any further effect, it did not toll the 90-day limit unambiguously detailed in the PLRA. The court rejected the County’s assertion that the appeal fell within an exception to mootness because the issue was capable of repetition but evading review, noting that circumstances had changed since the original injunction issued, Given the Supreme Court’s stay of the injunction, the chance that plaintiffs would successfully acquire another preliminary injunction, at least without significantly worse conditions than previously existed, is remote. The provisional class certification expired along with the preliminary injunction. View "Ahlman v. Barnes" on Justia Law

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Spokane Public Library hosted a children’s event called “Drag Queen Story Hour.” Because the event proved controversial, police separated 150 protesters and 300 counterprotesters into separate zones near the library. Yaghtin arrived at the event wearing a press badge and identified himself as a member of the press. Yaghtin alleges he was assigned a police “detail” to accompany him through a crowd of counterprotesters out of concern that he was “fake press.” While walking through the counterprotest zone, Yaghtin began speaking with a counterprotester, who asked him whether he was the person that had advocated for the execution of gay people. Officer Doe interrupted the exchange, and escorted Yaghtin through the counterprotest zone. Affirming the dismissal of a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the Ninth Circuit held that Doe was entitled to qualified immunity. The plaintiffs did not challenge the ordinance or permit scheme, nor the police department’s use of separate protest zones. No precedent would have alerted Doe that his enforcement would violate clearly established First Amendment law; it was not unreasonable for Doe to believe that it was lawful for him to examine the substance of Yaghtin’s speech to enforce the separate protest zone policy. The city cannot be held liable because nothing in the complaint plausibly alleged a policy, custom, or practice leading to any violation. Plaintiffs’ allegations amounted to only an “isolated or sporadic incident” that could not form the basis of liability under “Monell.” View "Saved Magazine v. Spokane Police Department’" on Justia Law

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Arizona voters may vote by mail during the last four weeks of an election. The voter must sign an affidavit that is printed on a specially provided, postage-paid envelope. A ballot with a missing signature cannot be counted. On September 10, 2020, weeks before the upcoming presidential election, the district court enjoined the enforcement of Ariz. Stat. 16-548(A), which requires early voters to have signed their ballots by 7:00 PM on Election Day in order to have their votes counted. The Ninth Circuit granted emergency motions and stayed the injunction, pending appeal.In 2021, the Ninth Circuit entered a permanent stay. The state has shown a likelihood of success on the merits. Arizona's signature deadline imposes, at most, a "minimal" burden on those who seek to exercise their right to vote. The state made a strong showing that its deadline reasonably advances important regulatory interests in reducing the burden on poll workers, especially during the days immediately following an election. The public interest is served by preserving Arizona's existing election laws. Although Arizona’s law implicated national interests, at least when the election included presidential candidates, that factor alone did not mean that strict scrutiny must apply. The court noted that the Arizona legislature “laudably amended its election code in 2019 to allow voters an extended period to correct mismatched signatures." Arizona’s decision not to grant the same extension to voters who neglect to sign the affidavit passed constitutional muster. View "Arizona Democratic Party v. Hobbs" on Justia Law

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A 16-year-old high school student and her parents filed an emergency motion for an injunction pending appeal, seeking to enjoin the school district from requiring compliance with a student vaccination mandate. The Ninth Circuit granted plaintiffs' motion in part. The court ordered that an injunction shall be in effect only while a "per se" deferral of vaccination is available to pregnant students under the school district's student vaccination mandate, and that the injunction shall terminate upon removal of the per se deferral option for pregnant students. Defendants then filed a letter and supporting declaration explaining that the deferral option for pregnant students has been removed from the mandate. Given the removal of the per se deferral option for pregnant students, the injunction issued in the November 28, 2021 order has terminated under its own terms.The Ninth Circuit issued an order providing its reasoning for why an injunction pending appeal is not warranted as to the now-modified student vaccination mandate. The court concluded that plaintiffs have not demonstrated a sufficient likelihood of success in showing that the district court erred in applying rational basis review, as opposed to strict scrutiny, to the student vaccination mandate. The court explained that plaintiffs' emergency motion fails to raise a serious question as to whether the vaccination mandate is not neutral and generally applicable; plaintiffs have not demonstrated a likelihood of success in showing that the district court erred by applying rational basis review; and plaintiffs do not argue that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their free exercise claim if rational basis review applies. The court also concluded that plaintiffs have not carried their burden of establishing that they will suffer irreparable harm if this court does not issue an injunction, or that the public interest weighs in their favor. View "Doe v. San Diego Unified School District" on Justia Law

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Erick and his tenth-grade classmates attended an end-of-year party at a park. Erick told school aide Lopez that he was going to the park’s swimming pool, which was monitored by three lifeguards. Lopez did not enter the pool area but watched Erick from a designated observation area, as required by pool rules. Lopez allegedly knew that Erick had asthma and could not swim. Lopez saw Erick leave the pool and enter the locker area. He left the observation deck to wait for Erick at the locker room exit. Unbeknownst to Lopez, Erick returned to the pool. Five minutes later, Lopez began searching for Erick. He found lifeguards trying unsuccessfully to resuscitate Erick, who had drowned.Erick’s parents sued Lopez, the school district, and others for negligence and wrongful death, with a 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim for deprivation of familial relationship. The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants. The Due Process Clause generally does not provide an affirmative right to government aid, but a state’s failure to protect may give rise to a section 1983 claim under the state-created danger exception, which applies when the state places the plaintiff in danger by acting with deliberate indifference to a known or obvious danger. The court applied a subjective standard; because the aide was unaware that Erick was in the pool area when he drowned, the defendants cannot be liable. View "Herrera v. Los Angeles Unified School District" on Justia Law

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In 2020, the Ninth Circuit held that California Government Code 32310, which bans possession of large-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, violated the Second Amendment.On rehearing, en banc, the court reversed. The court assumed, without deciding, that California’s law implicates the Second Amendment and applied intermediate scrutiny because the ban imposed only a minimal burden on the core Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Section 32310 is a reasonable fit for the important government interest in reducing gun violence. The statute outlaws no weapon, but only limits the size of the magazine that may be used. That limitation interferes only minimally with the core right of self-defense; there is no evidence that anyone ever has been unable to defend his home and family due to the lack of a large-capacity magazine. The limitation saves lives; in the past half-century, large-capacity magazines have been used in about three-quarters of gun massacres with 10 or more deaths and in 100 percent of gun massacres with 20 or more deaths. Section 32310 does not, on its face, result in a taking. The government acquires nothing by virtue of the limitation. Owners may modify or sell their nonconforming magazines; the law does not deprive owners of all economic use. View "Duncan v. Bonta" on Justia Law

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Fried worked as a manicurist, 2005-2017. Fried complained about female manicurists receiving most of the appointments and that other male manicurists also complained. In 2017, Fried became frustrated and threw a pencil at a computer because customers were requesting female manicurists more often than male manicurists. His manager disciplined him and commented that he might want to find other work. He alleges that his coworkers and customers made harassing comments and that he was told to finish a pedicure for a male customer who had solicited him for sex. Fried filed suit under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e, alleging sex discrimination, retaliation, and hostile environment.The Ninth Circuit reversed the summary judgment against Fried. A reasonable factfinder could decide that Fried’s employer created a hostile work environment. An employer can create a hostile work environment by failing to take immediate and corrective action in response to a coworker’s or third party’s sexual harassment or racial discrimination that the employer knew or should have known about. While comments made by a manager and coworkers on two occasions were insufficiently severe or pervasive to support a hostile work environment claim, an employer’s response to unwelcome sexual advances toward an employee can independently create a hostile work environment. Fried’s manager failed to take immediate corrective action and also directed Fried to return to the customer and complete his pedicure. The district court should reconsider the cumulative effect of the coworkers’ comments. View "Fried v. Wynn Las Vegas, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2017, Langley pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography and was sentenced to time served and 10 years of supervised release. As required by 18 U.S.C. 3583(d), the conditions of Langley’s supervised release included that he “not commit [a] federal, state or local crime,” “not illegally possess a controlled substance,” and “refrain from any unlawful use of a controlled substance.” In 2017, Langley unsuccessfully sought amendment of the conditions of supervised release to permit him to use medical marijuana as allowed by California state law, to alleviate pain stemming from the amputation of his lower leg. Langley renewed the motion in 2020. Langley, who submitted a physician's opinion that marijuana was the best medical solution for his pain issues, argued that he has a fundamental Due Process Clause right to use medical marijuana.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of Langley’s renewed motion. The court held that it is bound by precedent that rejected the identical substantive due process claim. Even if state laws decriminalizing marijuana could constitute additional evidence under the test for determining whether a right is protected by the Due Process Clause, the court concluded that it is bound by its 2007 decision until it is overturned by a higher authority. View "United States v. Langley." on Justia Law

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Officers stopped a Cadillac with an expired registration. Jenkins, a passenger, showed no signs of distress. When the officers discovered that Jenkins was subject to an arrest warrant, they handcuffed her and put her in a cruiser, where Jenkins vomited. Officers called for paramedics and asked Jenkins if she was detoxing. Jenkins responded: “No … I’m pregnant.” The call for paramedics was then canceled. During transport, Jenkins groaned and screamed for help. After fingerprinting Jenkins at the police station, officers returned her to the cruiser. Several minutes later they found her unconscious, called for paramedics, and began CPR. Jenkins fell into a coma and died nine days later.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a 42 U.S.C. 1983 lawsuit. The district court validly exercised its discretion in choosing to review a bodycam video that was incorporated by reference into the amended complaint and did not assign the video too much weight. The complaint did not plausibly allege that any city policy or custom “was the moving force” behind the alleged constitutional violations but suggested that that the moving force was the officers’ failure to heed their training. The complaint failed to establish either objective unreasonableness or objective deliberate indifference by individual officers. The alleged violative nature of their conduct, in failing to recognize and respond to Jenkins’ serious medical need, was not clearly established in the specific context of this case, so the officers were entitled to qualified immunity. View "J. J. v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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In 2002, Munoz digitally penetrated his daughter. He later pleaded guilty to attempted lewdness with a child under the age of 14, acknowledging that “the Court will include as part of [his] sentence . . . lifetime supervision.” A Nevada state court sentenced Munoz to 48–144 months’ imprisonment, required him to register as a sex offender, and imposed a special sentence of lifetime supervision. Munoz filed a federal habeas corpus petition challenging the lifetime supervision under 28 U.S.C. 2254. The lifetime supervision consists of a $30 monthly fee to defray the costs of his supervision; electronic monitoring; and a requirement that Munoz may reside only at a residence approved by his parole officer, and that he keep his parole officer informed of his current address.The Ninth Circuit vacated the denial of the petition for lack of jurisdiction. The conditions, individually and collectively, do not severely and immediately restrain Munoz’s physical liberty, so Munoz is not challenging his “custody,” and his claims are not cognizable in federal habeas. On remand, the district court may determine whether to allow Munoz to file an amended habeas petition that could secure jurisdiction or consider whether it would be appropriate to construe Munoz’s habeas petition to plead a claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983. View "Mounoz v. Smith" on Justia Law