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

Articles Posted in Civil Rights
by
CalChamber filed suit, 42 U.S.C. 1983, to “vindicate its members’ First Amendment rights to not be compelled to place false and misleading acrylamide warnings on their food products.” The district court entered a preliminary injunction, prohibiting the Attorney General and related entities, including private enforcers from pursuing new lawsuits to enforce Proposition 65's requirement that “[n]o person in the course of doing business shall knowingly and intentionally expose any individual to a chemical known to the state to cause cancer . . . without first giving clear and reasonable warning.”The Ninth Circuit affirmed. CalChamber was likely to succeed on the merits of its compelled speech claim. Given the robust disagreement by reputable scientific sources over whether acrylamide in food causes cancer in humans, the warning was controversial and misleading. Proposition 65’s enforcement regime created a heavy litigation burden on manufacturers who use alternative warnings rather than the regulatory safe harbor warning. The serious constitutional issue provided sufficient reason to enjoin Proposition 65 acrylamide litigation until the case was finally decided; the injunction was not an impermissible prior restraint. CalChambers established irreparable harm, and the scope of the injunction was not impermissible; and the balance of hardships weighed in CalChamber’s favor. The injunction was in the public interest. View "California Chamber of Commerce v. Council for Education and Research on Toxics" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit denied Munoz-Gonzalez’s application to file a second or successive 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion asserting that his conviction for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence (18 U.S.C. 924(c)) was invalid because his predicate crime (racketeering) is no longer a categorical “crime of violence” under a new rule of constitutional law announced by the Supreme Court in “Davis” (2019).The new “Davis” argument was not “previously unavailable,” as required for authorization of a second or successive 2255 motion. A prisoner must show that real-world circumstances prevented him, as a practical matter, from asserting his "new rule of law" claim in his initial habeas proceeding. While pro se prisoners face unique difficulties and language barriers add to those difficulties, the limited exception to the broad prohibition on successive habeas proceedings should not be applied subjectively. Focusing on external barriers, the court noted “Davis” was issued before Muñoz-Gonzalez filed his reply brief for his initial habeas motion. He had the facts that he needed for his claim; no systemic or external barrier prevented him from presenting his claim; Muñoz-Gonzalez was clearly aware of Davis because he cited it in his reply brief in his initial habeas proceeding. View "Gonzalez v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Food manufacturer B&G sued, 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that Embry and her attorney violated B&G’s constitutional rights by suing B&G to enforce California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, Proposition 65. Proposition 65 requires businesses to notify customers if their products contain chemicals known to the state to cause cancer. Acrylamide, the chemical allegedly found in B&G’s Cookie Cakes, is on a state list of such chemicals based solely on laboratory studies in which pure acrylamide was given to rats or mice.The district court dismissed B&G’s complaint based on the Noerr-Pennington doctrine, which provides that those who petition any department of the government for redress are generally immune from statutory liability for their petitioning conduct. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. B&G’s section 1983 suit burdened Embry's petition activities; Embry's prelitigation communications and suit to enforce Proposition 65 were protected by the Petition Clause. B&G failed to show that any of the Noerr-Pennington sham exceptions applied. Even if Embry and her attorney were state actors, the suit was barred. The court remanded to allow B&G to amend its complaint. B&G proposed additional allegations concerning a sham exception that examines the objective reasonableness of a defendant’s suit and the defendant’s subjective motivation. View "B&G Foods North America, Inc. v. Embry" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit certified to the Supreme Court of California the following question: Does California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, which defines “employer” to include “any person acting as an agent of an employer,” Cal. Gov’t Code 12926(d), permit a business entity acting as an agent of an employer to be held directly liable for employment discrimination? View "Raines v. U.S. Healthworks Medical Group" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal as untimely of a complaint brought by plaintiff, a former university student, alleging civil rights claims arising from on-campus incidents where he was issued a disciplinary warning, which was later removed. Citing Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), plaintiff argues that his claims did not accrue until the university withdrew its disciplinary warning against him. However, the panel held that neither Heck nor a Heck-like rule of delayed accrual applies here. The court explained that there was no conviction or confinement here, and plaintiff's claims were not properly analogized to the tort of malicious prosecution, either factually or legally. In this case, plaintiff had complete and present causes of action by August 24, 2017, at the latest. But plaintiff did not file his complaint until January 20, 2020, more than two years later. Therefore, under traditional accrual principles, his action is untimely. View "Bonelli v. Grand Canyon University" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunctive relief in a putative class action brought by plaintiffs, two teenage transgender individuals who were born female, alleging that a provision of Arizona law, Arizona Administrative Code R9-22-205(B)(4), that precludes coverage for gender reassignment surgeries violates federal law and is unconstitutional. The panel agreed with the district court that plaintiffs sought a mandatory injunction and noted that the standard for issuing a mandatory injunction is high. Based on the preliminary record, the panel concluded that the given facts specific to remaining plaintiff Doe and the irreversible nature of the surgery, Doe had not shown that the district court's findings were illogical, implausible, or without support in inferences that could be drawn from the facts in the record. In this case, defendants had proffered competing expert testimony challenging plaintiffs' assertion that top surgery was for them medically necessary, safe and effective; Doe sought preliminary injunctive relief when he was a minor, which raised concerns as to whether he sufficiently appreciated the consequences of irreversible surgery; and Doe had serious psychiatric issues distinct from, or related to, his gender dysphoria and his expert psychiatrist had not opined as to whether Doe himself was a suitable candidate for surgery and had not met or examined Doe.The panel noted two additional points because there was ongoing litigation in the district court as to the constitutional and statutory challenges. In regard to Doe's claim under the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause, the panel noted that this court had already held in Karnoski v. Trump, 926 F.3d 1180 (9th Cir. 2019), that the level of scrutiny applicable to discrimination based on transgender status was more than rational basis but less than strict scrutiny. Furthermore, the district court's conclusion that the exclusion was not discriminatory as a threshold matter was based on an erroneous reading that Bostock v. Clayton County, 140 S. Ct. 1731 (2020), was limited to Title VII discrimination claims involving employment. View "Doe v. Snyder" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed suit alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and Nevada law against individual law enforcement officers and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Plaintiffs' claims stemmed from their arrest for chalking anti-police messages on sidewalks. On appeal, plaintiffs challenge the district court's grant of qualified immunity to Detective Tucker.The panel affirmed the district court's holding that a reasonable factfinder could conclude from the evidence that Detective Tucker violated plaintiffs' First Amendment rights. The panel reversed the district court's holding that Detective Tucker is entitled to qualified immunity because it was clearly established at the time of plaintiffs' arrests that an arrest supported by probable cause but made in retaliation for protected speech violates the First Amendment. The panel stated that plaintiffs have shown differential treatment of similarly situated individuals, satisfying the Nieves exception. In this case, the district court correctly concluded that a reasonable jury could find that the anti-police content of plaintiffs' chalkings was a substantial or motivating factor for Detective Tucker's declarations of arrest. Therefore, a reasonable factfinder could conclude that Detective Tucker violated plaintiffs' First Amendment rights. Furthermore, a reasonable officer in Detective Tucker's position had fair notice that the First Amendment prohibited arresting plaintiffs for the content of their speech, notwithstanding probable cause. View "Ballentine v. Tucker" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a habeas corpus petition where the district concluded that the petition was timely but denied petitioner's claim on the merits. Relying on Trigueros v. Adams, 658 F.3d 982 (9th Cir. 2011), petitioner argues that the California Court of Appeal's silence on timeliness triggers an exception to the general "look through" rule under which the California Court of Appeal's one-line denial of his petition would presumptively be considered a tacit affirmation of the superior court's finding of untimeliness.The panel declined to extend Trigueros to new contexts, concluding that there are at least two materially important distinctions between this case and Trigueros. First, Trigueros centers around a ruling from the California Supreme Court, while the case at hand centers around a ruling from the California Court of Appeal. Second, the California Supreme Court in Trigueros ordered "an informal response on the merits," Trigueros, while the California Court of Appeal here merely requested a general "opposition to the petition." Therefore, the panel declined to apply Trigueros in this context and concluded that the government's failure to present certain additional arguments does not prevent it from addressing these matters in this appeal. View "Flemming v. Matteson" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order, dismissing on ripeness grounds, an action brought by Twitter against the Attorney General of Texas, in his official capacity, alleging First Amendment retaliation. Specifically, Twitter alleged that the service of a Civil Investigative Demand (CID) by the OAG to Twitter after the company banned President Donald Trump for life following the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, was government retaliation for speech protected by the First Amendment. Twitter asked the district court to enjoin the AG from enforcing the CID and from continuing his investigation, and to declare the investigation unconstitutional.The panel held that the case was not prudentially ripe because the issues were not yet fit for judicial decision where the OAG has not yet made an allegation against Twitter; where facts were not yet developed; and where Twitter need not comply with the CID, could challenge its enforcement, and could challenge the CID in state court. The panel stated that, while Twitter could suffer hardship from withholding consideration, adjudicating this case now would require determining whether Twitter has violated Texas's unfair trade practices law before OAG has a chance to complete its investigation. Furthermore, any hardship to Twitter from the alleged chill of its First Amendment rights was insufficient to overcome the uncertainty of the legal issue presented in the case in its current posture. View "Twitter, Inc. v. Paxton" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of an action brought by plaintiff, a federal prisoner, alleging violation of his Eighth Amendment rights and seeking damages under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Plaintiff alleged that a correctional officer labeled him a snitch to other prisoners, offered them a bounty to assault plaintiff, and failed to protect him from the predictable assault by another prisoner.The panel construed the pro se complaint liberally and held that plaintiff's complaint alleged conduct beyond deliberate indifference. The panel applied Carlson v. Green, 446 U.S. 14 (1980), explaining that if the Supreme Court allowed a guard who is aware of and deliberately indifferent to a substantial risk that a prisoner will suffer medical harm from an asthma attack to be sued under Bivens, it was but a modest extension to allow a suit against a guard who creates the substantial risk of harm and then allows it to occur. The panel stated that, although this case represents a modest extension of Bivens, no special factors caution against extending the remedy to encompass this well-established claim, brought against a single rogue officer under the same constitutional provision applied in a well-recognized Supreme Court Bivens case. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Hoffman v. Preston" on Justia Law