Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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Transgender individuals who serve in the military or seek to do so, joined by the State of Washington, filed suit alleging that the August 2017 Memorandum, implementing President Trump's Twitter announcement that transgender individuals would not be allowed to serve in the military, unconstitutionally discriminated against transgender individuals. The district court issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the 2017 Memorandum and defendants appealed. In the meantime, the then-Secretary of Defense studied the issue and produced a report recommending that the President revoke the 2017 Memorandum in order to adopt the report's recommendation. The President revoked the 2017 Memorandum and authorized the Secretary to implement the policies in the report (the 2018 Policy). Defendants then requested that the district court resolve the preliminary injunction on the basis of the new 2018 Policy. The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's order striking defendants' motion to dissolve the preliminary injunction and remanded to the district court for reconsideration. In light of the Supreme Court's January 22, 2019 stay of the district court's preliminary injunction, the panel stayed the preliminary injunction through the district court's further consideration of defendants' motion to dissolve the injunction. Furthermore, the panel issued a writ of mandamus vacating the district court's discovery order and directing the district court to reconsider discovery by giving careful consideration to executive branch privileges as set forth in Cheney v. U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, 542 U.S. 367 (2004), and FTC v. Warner Communications Inc., 742 F.2d 1156 (9th Cir. 1984). View "Karnoski v. Trump" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the complaint for failure to state a claim under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Plaintiff alleged that Facebook used automated telephone dialing systems (ATDS) to alert users, as a security precaution, when their account was accessed from an unrecognized device or browser. However, plaintiff was not a Facebook customer and his repeated attempts to terminate the alerts were unsuccessful. The panel held that plaintiff's allegations under the Act were sufficient to withstand Facebook's motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). In this case, the messages plaintiff received were automated, unsolicited, and unwanted. As to the constitutional issue, the panel joined the Fourth Circuit and held that a 2015 amendment to the Act, excepting calls "made solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States," was content-based and incompatible with the First Amendment. The panel severed the newly appended "debt-collection exception" as an unconstitutional restriction on speech. Therefore, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Duguid v. Facebook, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit filed an order withdrawing the original opinion and issued a new opinion affirming the district court's denial of petitioner's habeas corpus petition challenging his capital sentence for two first-degree murders. The panel held that petitioner was not entitled to relief on his Eighth Amendment claim against arbitrary and capricious sentencing, because he could not show that the jury's consideration of the facts that he poisoned a witness's dogs and threatened her property had a substantial and injurious effect on the jury's decision to impose the death penalty. The panel also held that petitioner has not presented clear and convincing evidence to rebut the California Supreme Court's finding that he validly waived his state habeas exhaustion petition. View "Kirkpatrick v. Chappell" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment granting petitioner habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. 2241, based on his challenge to the trial court's grant of a mistrial. In this case, after the jury reached a verdict but before the verdict was announced, the jurors expressed concern for their safety because of a scary-looking man in the courtroom. The panel held that the district court correctly held that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine was inapplicable in section 2241 petitions. On the merits, the panel held that the district court did not err in concluding that retrying defendant would violate the Double Jeopardy Clause, because the trial court erred in concluding that there was manifest necessity for a mistrial. Even under a more deferential standard, the trial court's manifest necessity determination was erroneous because the trial court failed to provide any meaningful consideration of alternatives to mistrial. View "Gouveia v. Espinda" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a complaint brought by three male student athletes, alleging that the University discriminated against them on the basis of their sex in violation of Title IX and violated their due process rights in connection with the University's sexual misconduct proceedings. The panel held that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), not the evidentiary presumption set forth in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973), provides the appropriate standard for reviewing, at the pleading stage, a motion to dismiss in a Title IX case. In this case, plaintiffs failed to provide sufficient, nonconclusory allegations plausibly linking the disciplinary action to discrimination on the basis of sex. The panel also held that plaintiffs' due process claims failed because they received constitutional due process through the University's disciplinary proceedings. The panel assumed, without deciding, that the student athletes have property and liberty interests in their education, scholarships, and reputation as alleged in the complaint. The panel nonetheless held that they received notice and a meaningful opportunity to be heard. View "Austin v. University of Oregon" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, the former police chief, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that defendant, the former city manager, violated the First Amendment by subjecting plaintiff to adverse employment actions in retaliation for his protected speech. Plaintiff was suspicious of the city's accounting and budgeting practices and voiced his concerns to various city council members and others. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment following a jury verdict in favor of plaintiff. The panel held that plaintiff provided sufficient detail about his speech to establish that it substantially involved a matter of public concern; plaintiff spoke as a private citizen rather than a public employee; the district court properly concluded that plaintiff's retaliation claim could be based in part on defendant's own speech acts, in the form of defamatory communications to the media; defendant waived his argument that his actions were supported by an adequate justification; and sufficient evidence supported the conclusion that defendant's retaliatory actions proximately caused plaintiff's termination, and any error in instructing the jury on proximate cause was harmless. Finally, the panel held that defendant was not entitled to qualified immunity. View "Greisen v. Hanken" on Justia Law

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The Libertarian Party challenged a state law requiring up to 1% of voters eligible to participate in its primary to sign a nominating petition for a Libertarian candidate to earn a place on the primary ballot. Affirming the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Secretary, the Ninth Circuit applied the balancing framework in Anderson v. Celebrezze, 460 U.S. 780 (1983), and Burdick v. Takushi, 504 U.S. 428 (1992), and held that the State's signature requirement imposed a minimal burden on the Libertarian Party's right to access the primary ballot and thus required a less exacting scrutiny. The panel held that the primary signature requirements reasonably further Arizona's important regulatory interests and therefore justify a modest burden on the Libertarian Party's right to ballot access. The panel also held that the Arizona law did not infringe upon the Libertarian Party's right to free association and did not violate equal protection. View "Arizona Libertarian Party v. Hobbs" on Justia Law

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Montana State Representative Brad Tschida filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the Commissioner of Montana's Commission of Political Practices (COPP), alleging that Mont. Code Ann. 2-2-136(4) violates the First Amendment. Section 2-2-136(4) prohibits public disclosure of an ethics complaint lodged with the COPP until the COPP decides either of two things. The Ninth Circuit held that the confidentiality provision of the Montana Code of Ethics is not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest. Therefore, it does not survive strict scrutiny and is facially unconstitutional. The panel reversed the district court's decision that the law was constitutional as applied to unelected public officials. However, the panel held that it was not unreasonable for the Commissioner to rely on the constitutionality of Montana's duly enacted confidentiality statute, given the differences between Montana law and the law at issue in Lind v. Grimmer, 30 F.3d 1115, 1118 (9th Cir. 1994). Accordingly, the panel held that the Commissioner was entitled to qualified immunity and affirmed the judgment in his favor. View "Tschida v. Motl" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit filed an order withdrawing the opinion and concurring opinion filed on February 9, 2018, and issued a new opinion and dissenting opinion. The panel affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants in an action brought by a former probationary police officer alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The panel held that the individual defendants were entitled to qualified immunity on plaintiff's claim of violation of her rights to privacy and intimate association, because it was not clearly established that a probationary officer's constitutional rights to privacy and intimate association are violated if a police department terminates her due to her participation in an ongoing extramarital relationship with a married officer with whom she worked, where an internal affairs investigation found that the probationary officer engaged in inappropriate personal cell phone use in connection with the relationship while she was on duty, resulting in a written reprimand for violating department policy. Circuit precedent also did not clearly establish that there was a legally sufficient temporal nexus between the individual defendants' allegedly stigmatizing statements and plaintiff's termination. Therefore, the individual defendants were entitled to qualified immunity on plaintiff's claim that the lack of a name-clearing hearing violated her due process rights. Finally, plaintiff conceded that her sex discrimination claims were not actually based on her gender. View "Perez v. City of Roseville" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order compelling arbitration in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. 1981. The panel followed the reasoning in its en banc decision EEOC v. Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps, 345 F.3d 742 (9th Cir. 2003) (en banc), and held that Title VII does not bar compulsory arbitration agreements and section 1981 claims are arbitrable. Therefore, the district court correctly determined that plaintiff's section 1981 claims can be subjected to compulsory arbitration. View "Lambert v. Tesla, Inc." on Justia Law