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

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of police officers in an action brought by a victim of domestic abuse under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and state law. The panel held that the officers' conduct violated plaintiff's constitutional right to due process by affirmatively increasing the known and obvious danger plaintiff faced. However, the panel held that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity because it was not clear at the time that their conduct was unconstitutional. The panel held that the state-created danger doctrine applies when an officer reveals a domestic violence complaint made in confidence to an abuser while simultaneously making disparaging comments about the victim in a manner that reasonably emboldens the abuser to continue abusing the victim with impunity. The panel also held that the state-created danger doctrine applies when an officer praises an abuser in the abuser's presence after the abuser has been protected from arrest, in a manner that communicates to the abuser that the abuser may continue abusing the victim with impunity. View "Martinez v. City of Clovis" on Justia Law

by
The State appealed the district court's grant of federal habeas relief to petitioner, a state prisoner sentenced to death for the sexual assault, abuse, and felony murder of a four year old girl. The Ninth Circuit held that 28 U.S.C. 2254(e)(2), which precludes evidentiary hearings on claims that were not developed in state court proceedings, did not prohibit the district court from considering the evidence adduced at the Martinez v. Ryan hearing to determine the merits of petitioner's underlying ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC) claim. The panel explained that when a district court holds an evidentiary hearing to determine whether a petitioner's claim is excused from procedural default under Martinez, it may consider that same evidence to grant habeas relief on the underlying claim. The panel also held that the district court did not err in determining that the assistance provided by petitioner's counsel was constitutionally deficient where he failed to perform an adequate pretrial investigation into whether the victim's injuries were sustained during the time she was with petitioner, and petitioner has demonstrated prejudice due to counsel's failures. In regard to Count Four, this failure only affected the jury's determination that petitioner had acted intentionally or knowingly, but not his underlying guilt on the lesser included offense of reckless misconduct. Therefore, the panel affirmed the grant of habeas relief, but vacated the district court's remedy, remanding for further proceedings. View "Jones v. Shinn" on Justia Law

by
The en banc court dismissed an appeal from the district court's grant of summary judgment for plaintiffs in an action challenging Nevada Senate Bill 223. SB 223 amended state vicarious liability and lien collection laws to impose certain administrative requirements on labor union trusts when they pursue debt collection on behalf of union members. While this appeal was pending, the Nevada legislature repealed SB 223 and replaced it with SB 338, with the specific intent to avoid the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) preemption issues of SB 223. The en banc court joined other circuits and held that the repeal, amendment, or expiration of legislation creates a presumption that an action challenging the legislation is moot, unless there is a reasonable expectation that the legislature is likely to enact the same or substantially similar legislation in the future. Applying these principles in this case, the en banc court held that the action was moot where no live controversy remained. Accordingly, the en banc court remanded with instructions to vacate the judgment and dismiss the complaint. View "Board of Trustees of the Glazing Health and Welfare Trust v. Chambers" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction barring enforcement in several states of final federal agency rules that exempt employers with religious and moral objections from the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) requirement that group health plans cover contraceptive care without cost sharing. As a preliminary matter, the panel held that the plaintiff states had Article III standing to sue and that the appeal was not moot. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by concluding that the plaintiff states were likely to succeed on the merits of their Administrative Procedure Act (APA) claim or, at the very least, raised serious questions going to the merits. At the preliminary injunction stage, the panel held that the evidence was sufficient to hold that providing free contraceptive services was a core purpose of the Women's Health Amendment and that nothing in the statute permitted the agencies to determine exemptions from the requirement. Therefore, given the text, purpose, and history of the Women's Health Amendment, the district court did not err in concluding that the agencies likely lacked statutory authority under the ACA to issue the final rules. The panel also held that, regardless of the question of the agencies' authority under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the accommodation process likely did not substantially burden the exercise of religion. Furthermore, because appellants likely failed to demonstrate a substantial burden on religious exercise, there was no need to address whether the government had shown a compelling interest or whether it has adopted the least restrictive means of advancing that interest. Finally, the panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by concluding that the states were likely to suffer irreparable harm absent an injunction, and that the balance of equities tipped sharply in favor of the plaintiff states and that the public interest tipped in favor of granting the preliminary injunction. View "California v. The Little Sisters of the Poor" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed suit challenging both their inclusion on the No Fly List and the sufficiency of the procedures available for contesting their inclusion on the list. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the government and held that the district court properly rejected plaintiffs' as-applied vagueness challenges. The panel held that the No Fly List criteria are not impermissibly vague merely because they require a prediction of future criminal conduct or because they do not delineate what factors are relevant to that determination. Rather, the criteria are reasonably clear in their application to the specific conduct alleged in this case, which includes, for one or more plaintiffs, associating with and financing terrorists, training with militant groups overseas, and advocating terrorist violence. The panel weighed the Mathews v. Eldridge factors and held that the procedures provided to the plaintiffs were constitutionally sufficient and any error was nonprejudicial. Finally, the panel held that the district court properly dismissed plaintiffs' substantive due process claims for lack of jurisdiction under 49 U.S.C. 46110(a), which places review of TSA orders in the courts of appeals rather than the district court. View "Kashem v. Barr" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit extended the holding in Embury v. King, 361 F.3d 562 (9th Cir. 2004), and held that a State that removes a case to federal court waives its immunity from suit on all federal-law claims in the case, including those federal-law claims that Congress failed to apply to the states through unequivocal and valid abrogation of their Eleventh Amendment immunity. Plaintiffs, a group of correctional officers, filed suit alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by Nevada. Nevada then removed the case to federal court, moving for judgment on the pleadings based on state sovereign immunity from suit. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the district court's holding that Nevada waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity as to plaintiffs' FLSA claims when it removed this case to federal court. View "Walden v. Nevada" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's habeas corpus petition challenging his Nevada conviction and death sentence for four counts of first degree murder. Given that petitioner's underlying ineffective assistance of counsel claims lack merit, the panel need not resolve whether the relevant Nevada law was adequate or if it is, whether petitioner can overcome his procedural default and obtain federal review of the merits of his ineffective assistance claims. Even if the panel held in petitioner's favor in either of those questions and reached the merits of the claims, the panel would affirm the district court's denial of relief. The panel also held that the Nevada Supreme Court's determination -- that petitioner's constitutional rights were not violated when the state's expert made reference during his testimony to test results that he had obtained from petitioner's expert -- was not contrary to or an unreasonable application of controlling Supreme Court case law. Furthermore, the panel rejected petitioner's claim regarding change of venue, the testimony of the mother of the victim, and improper statements by the prosecutor. Finally, the panel declined to expand the certificate of appealability. View "Floyd v. Filson" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 action, alleging California Business & Professions Code 19858 and 19858.5 as facially unconstitutional under the Dormant Commerce Clause. The district court dismissed the action as time-barred. The panel reversed and held that, although it has not applied a state statute of limitations to a facial challenge under the Dormant Commerce Clause, it saw no reason to treat such a claim differently from facial constitutional claims under the First, Fifth, or Fourteenth Amendments. Therefore, consistent with its case law, the panel held that plaintiffs' claims were subject to the forum state's statute of limitations. In this case, the relevant statute of limitations was two years. The panel held that, assuming for the sake of analysis that sections 19858 and 19858.5 violate the Dormant Commerce Clause, plaintiffs have demonstrated a continuing violation. Therefore, plaintiffs' injuries fell within the relevant statutory period and the district court erred by concluding otherwise. View "Flynt v. Shimazu" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit withdrew its previous opinion and filed this superseding opinion affirming in part and reversing in part the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' claims as insufficiently pled. Plaintiff and his two minor children filed suit alleging that a child welfare investigation brought by county social workers violated their First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. In this case, plaintiff alleged that social workers retaliated against him in violation of the First Amendment after he questioned abuse allegations against him and criticized the county. Plaintiff was placed on the Child Abuse Central Index and a social worker coerced his ex-wife to file an ex parte custody application. The panel held that plaintiff's first amended complaint (FAC) failed to plausibly allege Fourth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, and Monell claims. However, the court held that plaintiff pleaded a viable First Amendment retaliation claim, and that the social worker was not entitled to qualified immunity on this claim. The court held that a reasonable official would have known that taking the serious step of threatening to terminate a parent's custody of his children, when the official would not have taken this step absent her retaliatory intent, violated the First Amendment. View "Capp v. County of San Diego" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a putative class action against the city and city council, alleging that the city's short-term vacation rental ordinance violates the dormant Commerce Clause. The ordinance prohibits property rentals of 30 days or less with an exception for rentals where a primary resident remains in the dwelling. The panel held that the complaint failed to allege a per se violation of the dormant Commerce Clause, because the ordinance did not directly regulate interstate commerce; the ordinance did not discriminate against interstate commerce; and the complaint did not plausibly allege that the ordinance unduly burdens interstate commerce through its incidental effects. Therefore, plaintiff failed to plausibly allege that the ordinance directly or indirectly discriminated against or burdened interstate commerce. View "Rosenblatt v. City of Santa Monica" on Justia Law