Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order compelling arbitration of putative class action claims against AT&T by customers who alleged that AT&T falsely advertised their mobile service plans as "unlimited" when in fact it intentionally slowed data at certain usage levels. The panel held that there was no state action in this case, rejecting plaintiffs' claim that there was state action whenever a party asserts a direct constitutional challenge to a permissive law under Denver Area Educational Telecommunications Consortium, Inc. v. FCC, 518 U.S. 727 (1996). The panel held that Denver Area did not broadly rule that the government was the relevant state actor whenever there was a direct constitutional challenge to a "permissive" statute, and did not support finding state action here. The panel also held that the Federal Arbitration Act merely gives AT&T the private choice to arbitrate, and did not encourage arbitration such that AT&T's conduct was attributable to the state. View "Roberts v. AT&T Mobility, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against defendants, challenging on First Amendment grounds, a school uniform policy that required their two minor children to wear shirts or sweatshirts with a logo consisting of the name of the school, a stylized picture of a gopher (the school mascot), and the motto "Tomorrow’s Leaders." Given the failure of the Ninth Circuit's en banc call, the panel held that the uniform policy—both the motto requirement and the exemption—violated the First Amendment. The panel reasoned that there can hardly be interests more compelling than fostering children's educational achievement and providing a safe and supportive educational environment. However, requiring students to display the motto "Tomorrow's Leaders" on their uniforms was not narrowly tailored to serve those interests. The panel held that the Individual Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity because the applicable law was not sufficiently clear to put them on notice that the uniform policy would violate the First Amendment. However, because the Institutional Defendants were not individuals, they were not protected by qualified immunity. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Frudden v. Pilling" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the County's permitting scheme, which required individuals to obtain a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to host weddings on their properties. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' First Amendment claim; affirmed the dismissal of plaintiffs' Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc et seq., claim; vacated the denial of a preliminary injunction; and remanded. The panel applied Kaahumanu v. Hawaii, 682 F.3d 789 (9th Cir. 2012), and held that plaintiffs functioned as wedding "vendors" because they seek to profit from facilitating and providing a commercial space for weddings; because they are wedding vendors, they may suffer economic injury as a result of the CUP scheme; and an injunction may redress this harm. Therefore, plaintiffs had Article III standing to bring their First Amendment challenge. In regard to the First Amendment claim, the permitting scheme was unconstitutional because it lacked definite and objective standards and lacked a time limit. In regard to the RLUIPA equal treatment claim, the panel held that plaintiffs did not assert that they were a religious institution or assembly. View "Epona, LLC v. County of Ventura" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in an action filed by a Montana judicial candidate, Mark French, alleging that Montana's campaign-speech rule, which prohibits judicial candidates from seeking, accepting, or using political endorsements in their election campaigns, violated his First Amendment rights. The panel held that Montana has compelling interests in an impartial and independent judiciary; Rule 4.1(A)(7) of the Montana Code of Juridical Conduct was narrowly tailored to those interests because it strikes an appropriate balance between a candidate's speech and Montana's interest in an independent and impartial judiciary; and French's arguments to the contrary were foreclosed by the Supreme Court’s decision in Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar, 135 S. Ct. 1656 (2015), and the panel's decision in Wolfson v. Concannon, 811 F.3d 1176 (9th Cir. 2016) (en banc). View "French v. Jones" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a 28 U.S.C. 2254 habeas corpus petition challenging petitioner's conviction for first degree murder and rape and his capital sentence. The panel held that the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) applied to petitioner's federal habeas petition and rejected his claim that AEDPA was inapplicable because he had filed a request for appointment of counsel and a stay of execution before AEDPA's effective date; although trial counsel was deficient for retaining a psychiatrist for the penalty phase only a few days before its start and by failing to prepare him adequately, the California Supreme Court could reasonably conclude that he was not prejudiced; the California Supreme Court reasonably decided that petitioner's counsel's performance was not deficient because his counsel could have made a strategic decision to omit a witness' testimony at the penalty phase and he had not shown prejudice; the prosecutor's statements at penalty phase closing argument did not violate petitioner's constitutional rights; the panel rejected petitioner's conflict claim; and the court declined to expand the certificate of appealability to include an unexhausted claim that systemic delay in the administration of California’s death penalty rendered executions arbitrary in violation of the Eighth Amendment. View "Rowland v. Chappell" on Justia Law

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Once the government has probable cause to believe that the probationer has actually reoffended by participating in a violent felony, the government's need to locate the probationer and protect the public is heightened. This heightened interest in locating the probationer is sufficient to outweigh a third party's privacy interest in the home that she shares with the probationer. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of police officers and the city in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action. Plaintiff and her minor granddaughter alleged that their constitutional rights were violated when officers conducted a search of plaintiff's home. The officers were searching for plaintiff's daughter, who was on probation. The terms of the probation allowed warrantless searches of her person and residence. The panel held that the warrantless search of the home over plaintiff's objection was reasonable as a matter of law. View "Smith v. City of Santa Clara" on Justia Law

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Once the government has probable cause to believe that the probationer has actually reoffended by participating in a violent felony, the government's need to locate the probationer and protect the public is heightened. This heightened interest in locating the probationer is sufficient to outweigh a third party's privacy interest in the home that she shares with the probationer. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of police officers and the city in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action. Plaintiff and her minor granddaughter alleged that their constitutional rights were violated when officers conducted a search of plaintiff's home. The officers were searching for plaintiff's daughter, who was on probation. The terms of the probation allowed warrantless searches of her person and residence. The panel held that the warrantless search of the home over plaintiff's objection was reasonable as a matter of law. View "Smith v. City of Santa Clara" on Justia Law

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In a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action challenging Butte County Jail's policy prohibiting the delivery of unsolicited commercial mail to inmates, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment for defendants and the denial of plaintiff's motion to reopen discovery and for relief from judgment. Plaintiff, publisher of a magazine aimed at county jail inmates, argued that the jail's mail policy violated the First Amendment. The panel evaluated the mail policy under the test established for reviewing constitutional challenges to prison regulations in Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78 (1987), and held that the ban was rationally connected to a legitimate government interest; electronic kiosks were an adequate alternative; distributing the magazine itself would have a significant impact on the allocation of jail resources; and paper has created serious problems at the jail, and the jail's mail policy was not an exaggerated response to those problems. Finally, the panel held that plaintiff abandoned its remaining arguments. View "Crime Justice & America, Inc. v. Honea" on Justia Law

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28 U.S.C. 636(c)(1) requires the consent of all plaintiffs and defendants named in the complaint—irrespective of service of process—before jurisdiction may vest in a magistrate judge to hear and decide a civil case that a district court would otherwise hear. The Ninth Circuit vacated and remanded the magistrate judge's dismissal of a 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit brought by a civil detainee, because consent was not obtained from defendants in this case. Therefore, the magistrate judge lacked jurisdiction to dismiss the complaint. View "Williams v. King" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Glassdoor's motion to quash a grand jury subpoena duces tecum requiring disclosure of identifying information of eight users who posted anonymous reviews about another company on its Internet website. A federal grand jury sought the identifying information from Glassdoor as part of its investigation into whether a government contractor was committing wire fraud and misuse of government funds. Glassdoor argued that complying with the subpoena would violate its users' First Amendment rights to associational privacy and anonymous speech. The panel held that the good faith test the Supreme Court established in Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665 (1972), was controlling in this case. The court held that there was no evidence that the grand jury's investigation of fraud, waste, and abuse by a third party in performing a government contract was being conducted in bad faith. View "United States v. Glassdoor, Inc." on Justia Law