Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The Ninth Circuit filed an order withdrawing the prior opinion and filed a new opinion affirming the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner's guilt-phase claims regarding his first degree murder convictions. The panel held that, although trial counsel was constitutionally deficient by failing to present a diminished capacity defense based on mental illness, petitioner did not suffer any prejudice. In this case, the evidence of petitioner's specific intent to rape and kill both victims was overwhelming when compared to the relatively weak diminished capacity evidence that counsel could have presented, but failed to present. The panel also held that trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to subpoena a specific witness nor was petitioner prejudiced. View "Hernandez v. Chappell" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the sheriff in an action brought under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the sheriff violated plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment rights by failing to provide him with a bed during his three-and-a-half day stay at an inmate reception center (IRC). The panel held that the exigent circumstance of inmate disturbances and lockdowns justified denying plaintiff a bed for his three-and-a-half day stay. Even if a Fourteenth Amendment violation did occur, the district court correctly held that the sheriff was entitled to qualified immunity because the right asserted by plaintiff—not being forced to sleep on the floor during a jail lockdown—was not clearly established at the time of the events. Finally, plaintiff failed to show that the district court abused its discretion in rejecting his various ancillary claims. View "Olivier v. Baca" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against social workers under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and DSHS for negligence after two young boys were murdered by their father during a social-worker-supervised visit during dependency proceedings brought by DSHS. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the social workers, holding that there was insufficient evidence to show that the social workers recognized, or should have recognized, an objective substantial risk that the father would physically harm his sons. In this case, the social workers did not act with deliberate indifference to the boys' liberty interests and they were entitled to qualified immunity. The panel reversed the district court's dismissal of the negligence claims against DSHS, holding that material issues of fact existed regarding whether DSHS used reasonable care to avoid placing the boys in harm's way and whether DSHS's actions proximately caused the boys to be placed in harm's way. View "Cox v. Washington" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for possessing a firearm while being an alien unlawfully in the United States. The panel assumed without deciding that unlawful aliens in the United States held some degree of rights under the Second Amendment and held that 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(5) is constitutional under intermediate scrutiny. The panel held that the government's interests in controlling crime and ensuring public safety are promoted by keeping firearms out of the hands of unlawful aliens—who are subject to removal, are difficult to monitor due to an inherent incentive to falsify information and evade law enforcement, and have already shown they are unable or unwilling to conform their conduct to the laws of this country. View "United States v. Manuel Torres" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the state in an action brought by LL Liquor, claiming that Montana's Senate Bill 193 impaired the company's contract to purchase liquor with the Montana Department of Revenue, in violation of the Contracts Clause. Montana's Senate Bill 193 restructured the formula for calculating the rate at which state-approved agency franchise stores could purchase liquor from the state. The panel held that Montana's Senate Bill 193, which applied a uniform commission structure to all franchise stores in the state, did not give rise to a Contracts Clause claim by LL Liquor against the state. In this case, the state did not impair its contractual obligation within the meaning of the Contracts Clause because it did not eliminate LL Liquor's remedy for breach of its contract with the state. View "LL Liquor, Inc. v. Montana" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and state civil rights law, contending that the impoundment of their vehicles by local authorities based on plaintiffs' lack of a driver's license violated the Fourth Amendment. California Vehicle Code 4602.6(a)(1) provides that a peace officer may impound a vehicle for 30 days if the vehicle’s driver has never been issued a driver's license. Applying Brewster v. Beck, 859 F.3d 1194, 1196–97 (9th Cir. 2017), the panel held that 30-day impounds under section 14602.6 are seizures for Fourth Amendment purposes. Therefore, the only issue in this case was whether the impounds were reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. The panel held that, although the state's interest in keeping unlicensed drivers off the road is governed by the community caretaking exception of the Fourth Amendment, the exception does not categorically permit government officials to impound private property simply because state law does. Furthermore, even if the panel were to balance the state's interest against the driver's interests, the County would still be wrong to rely on a deterrence or administrative penalty rationale to support California's interests. Therefore, the panel affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for plaintiffs on the Fourth Amendment claims. The panel affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiffs claim that the County and the City were liable for money damages as final policymakers who caused the constitutional violations; affirmed the denial of class certification for lack of commonality and typicality; and affirmed summary judgment for defendants on the California Bane Act claim. View "Sandoval v. County of Sonoma" on Justia Law

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Inmates at the ADC, and the Arizona Center for Disability Law, filed suit against senior ADC officials, alleging that ADC's policies and practices governing health care delivery in ADC prisons and conditions of confinement in ADC isolation units exposed them to a substantial risk of serious harm to which defendants were deliberately indifferent. The parties eventually entered into a settlement agreement in which defendants agreed to comply with more than 100 performance measures. At issue on appeal were the district court's rulings interpreting and enforcing the settlement agreement. Determining that it had jurisdiction, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's November 10, 2016 Outside Provider Order; reversed the February 3, 2017 ruling that the Stipulation precludes it from issuing a general staffing order; and reversed the December 23, 2016 ruling that close custody inmates are part of the subclass. The panel noted that the district court may, in the future, consider ordering defendants to develop and implement a plan to increase staffing in general as a remedy for defendants' non-compliance. Furthermore, offering close custody inmates 15.5 hours or more out-of-cell time per week is sufficient to place these inmates outside of the subclass for purposes of monitoring compliance with the Stipulation. View "Parsons v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) against St. James after she was terminated from her teaching position when she told the school that she had breast cancer and would need to miss work to undergo chemotherapy. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the school, holding that, based on the totality of the circumstances test under Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. E.E.O.C., 565 U.S. 171 (2012), the First Amendment's ministerial exception did not foreclose plaintiff's claim. In this case, plaintiff did not have any credentials, training, or ministerial background; there was no religious component to her liberal studies degree or teaching credential; St. James had no religious requirements for her position; and St. James did not hold plaintiff out as a minister. View "Biel v. St. James School" on Justia Law

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After federal agencies issued two interim final rules (IFRs) exempting employers with religious and moral objections from the Affordable Care Act requirement that group health plans cover contraceptive care without cost sharing, states filed suit to enjoin the enforcement of the IFRs. The Ninth Circuit affirmed that venue was proper in the Northern District of California; affirmed that plaintiff states have standing to sue based on procedural injury where the states have shown with reasonable probability that the IFRs will first lead to women losing employer-sponsored contraceptive coverage, which will then result in economic harm to the states; affirmed the preliminary injunction insofar as it barred enforcement of the IFRs in the plaintiff states; but vacated the portion of the injunction barring enforcement in other states because the scope of the injunction was overbroad. View "California v. Azar" on Justia Law

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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