Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment and remanded with instructions to enter judgment in favor of defendant in an action brought by the owner of a mobile home park alleging that the City engaged in an unconstitutional taking. Plaintiff alleged that the City violated the Fifth Amendment when it approved a lower rent increase than he had requested. The panel applied the factors in Penn Central Transportation Co. v. City of New York, 438 U.S. 104 (1978), and held that plaintiff did not present sufficient evidence to create a triable question of fact as to the economic impact caused by the City's denial of larger rent increases; plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence supporting its investment-backed expectations claim; and the character of the City's action could not be characterized as a physical invasion by the government. Based on the evidence, the panel held that no reasonable finder of fact could conclude that the denials of plaintiff's requested rent increases were the functional equivalent of a direct appropriation of the property. View "Colony Cove Properties, LLC v. City of Carson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the County and two deputy sheriffs after plaintiff was shot during the deputies' response to a 911 call. When the deputies arrived at plaintiff's apartment, plaintiff answered the door holding a large knife. Although the jury's verdict that Deputy Rose violated plaintiff's right to be free from excessive force was sufficient to deny him qualified immunity under the first prong of the qualified immunity analysis, the panel held that plaintiff failed to identify any sufficiently analogous cases showing that under similar circumstances a clearly established Fourth Amendment right against the use of deadly force existed at the time of the shooting. Therefore, the panel affirmed the district court's ruling that Deputy Rose was entitled to qualified immunity. The panel held that the district court erroneously concluded that the California Bane Act required a separate showing of coercion beyond that inherent in the use of force. The panel held that the Bane Act required a specific intent to violate the arrestee's right and that no reasonable jury in this case could find that the deputy had a specific intent to violate plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment rights. Accordingly, the panel reversed and remanded this claim for a new trial. Finally, the panel addressed claims in defendants' cross-appeal. View "Reese v. County of Sacramento" on Justia Law

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Honolulu police obtained a warrant to open a suspicious package, intercepted at the UPS facility; it contained 500 packets labeled “bath salts” and “Spike Max.” Initial testing indicated but did not confirm that they contained methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), which was illegal in Hawaii. Six days later, the police made a controlled delivery to Smith’s home. After taking the delivery, Smith was arrested without a warrant. Hours later, the police effected controlled buys of MDPV at stores Smith owned. They seized evidence from the house and the stores. Later that day, an officer completed a sworn application; a state judicial determination of probable cause for extended restraint was signed on the second day following the arrest. The police received a lab report that confirmed that the substances were MDPV and informed Smith of his rights. Smith did not provide a statement and was released. Smith was never prosecuted. Smith filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. During jury deliberations, the court received an emergency phone call indicating that the foreperson had physically threatened another juror. After individual interviews, both attorneys stipulated to the dismissal of one juror. The jury then deliberated for four hours with six, instead of seven, jurors, returning a verdict that rejected Smith's claim of unreasonable detention. The Ninth Circuit affirmed, rejecting Smith’s arguments that the verdict was against the clear weight of the evidence and that misconduct by defense counsel and witnesses painted Smith as a “bad guy.” View "Smith v. City & County of Honolulu" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in an action under 42 U.S.C. 1983, challenging the constitutionality of California Revenue and Tax Code 19195, which establishes a public list of the top 500 delinquent state taxpayers, and California Business and Professions Code 494.5, which provides for suspension of the driver's license of anyone on the top 500 list. The panel held that taxpayer was not deprived of procedural due process and rejected taxpayer's claim that he had an inadequate opportunity to be heard prior to license revocation; taxpayer was not deprived of substantive due process and the panel rejected his claims that the statutory scheme impermissibly burdened his right to choose a profession and that the scheme was retroactive; taxpayer's equal protection claim failed because there was a rational basis for state action against a citizen for failing to pay two years' worth of past-due taxes; and the panel rejected taxpayer's claim that the combined effect of the challenged statutes was to single out the largest 500 tax debtors for legislative punishment, amounting to a bill of attainder View "Franceschi v. Yee" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit issued an order amending Judge N.R. Smith's separate opinion, denying a petition for rehearing en banc on behalf of the court, and ordering that no petitions for panel rehearing or further petitions for rehearing en banc shall be entertained. In his amended separate opinion, Judge Smith explained that the court had neither jurisdiction nor authority to hear this case because plaintiffs failed to file their notice of appeal within thirty days of the judgment. The majority of the panel, however, believed that there was jurisdiction and authority to hear the case, and Judge Smith agreed with the per curiam opinion's resolution of the merits. View "Demaree v. Pederson" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's partial grant of summary judgment for the Department and held that the Department did not violate the dormant Commerce Clause in adopting Medi-Cal policies related to reimbursement to out-of-state hospitals. The panel held that when a state was acting as a market participant, rather than a market regulator, its decisions were exempted from the dormant Commerce Clause. In this case, the Department sets rates of reimbursement to hospitals for those who were essentially insured as beneficiaries under Medi-Cal in a manner much like that of a private insurer participating in the market. Therefore, the Department was acting as a market participant, rather than a regulator and was exempt from dormant Commerce Clause requirements. View "Asante v. California Department of Healthcare Services" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's sua sponte dismissal of a complaint seeking damages under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for alleged violations of plaintiff's constitutional rights by police officers during a traffic stop. The panel disagreed with the district court that plaintiff's allegation that the officers "beat the crap out of" him was too vague and conclusory to support a legally cognizable claim. The panel explained that plaintiff's use of a colloquial, shorthand phrase makes plain that plaintiff was alleging that the officers' use of force was unreasonably excessive. The panel also held that Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), did not bar plaintiff's other claims. View "Byrd v. Phoenix Police Department" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's sua sponte dismissal of a complaint seeking damages under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for alleged violations of plaintiff's constitutional rights by police officers during a traffic stop. The panel disagreed with the district court that plaintiff's allegation that the officers "beat the crap out of" him was too vague and conclusory to support a legally cognizable claim. The panel explained that plaintiff's use of a colloquial, shorthand phrase makes plain that plaintiff was alleging that the officers' use of force was unreasonably excessive. The panel also held that Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), did not bar plaintiff's other claims. View "Byrd v. Phoenix Police Department" on Justia Law

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Heryford, Trinity County, California's District Attorney, sued American Bankers and others, on behalf of the people under California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL), alleging they had “engaged in deceptive marketing and sales practices.” Private parties may seek injunctive relief and restitution under the UCL; only a public prosecutor may pursue civil penalties. The complaint listed private law firms as “Special Assistant District Attorneys.” An agreement required the Firms to “provide all legal services that are reasonably necessary,” and to “conduct negotiations and provide representations at all hearings, depositions, trials, appeals, and other appearances” with authority to control the performance of their work “under the direction of the District Attorney,” stating that Heryford’s office did “not relinquish its constitutional or statutory authority or responsibility” and retained “sole and final authority to initiate and settle.” Heryford retained the Firms on a contingency-fee basis. American Bankers challenged the contingency-fee agreement as a violation of its federal due process rights that gave the Firms “a direct and substantial financial stake in the imposition of civil penalties and restitution,” which “compromise[d] the integrity and fairness of the prosecutorial motive and the public’s faith in the judicial process.” The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Heryford’s retention of private counsel to pursue civil penalties cannot be meaningfully distinguished from a private relator’s pursuit of civil penalties under the qui tam provisions of the False Claim Act, an arrangement that does not violate due process. View "American Bankers Management Co. v. Heryford" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit dismissed defendant's appeal from the district court's judgment on a jury's special verdict in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action. The panel held that the appeal was time-barred under 28 U.S.C. 2107, Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4, and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 58. In this case, the district court never entered a separate judgment and thus Rule 58(c)'s alternative provision for entry of judgment kicked in after 150 days. Because defendant did not file his notice of appeal until more than 30 days later, his appeal was untimely. View "Orr v. Plumb" on Justia Law