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

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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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

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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

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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

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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

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The Ninth Circuit amended the opinion and concurrence, and affirmed the district court's order denying an IRS agent's motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff alleged that the agent violated plaintiff's Fourth Amendment right to bodily privacy during the lawful execution of a search warrant at plaintiff's home in 2006 when the agent escorted plaintiff to the bathroom and monitored her while she relieved herself. As a preliminary matter, the panel applied the test in Ziglar v. Abbasi, 137 S. Ct. 1843 (2017), and held that plaintiff could proceed with her Bivens action against the agent. The panel held that the agent's interests in preventing destruction of evidence and promoting officer safety did not justify the scope or manner of the intrusion into plaintiff's most basic subject of privacy. Furthermore, a reasonable officer in the agent's position would have known that such a significant intrusion into bodily privacy, in the absence of legitimate government justification, is unlawful. View "Ioane v. Hodges" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Association's complaint, seeking injunctive and declaratory relief under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act regarding the Association's provision of diabetes-related care in the U.S. Army's Child, Youth, and School Services (CYSS) programs. When this action began in 2016, the Army had in place United States Army Regulation 608-10 and a 2008 Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command Memorandum (collectively, "Old Policy"), which together prohibited CYSS staff from providing essential medical care for diabetic children. In 2017, defendants revoked the Old Policy and replaced it with a New Policy that provides for possible diabetes-related accommodations. The panel held that the Association's challenge to the Old Policy was moot. In this case, defendants have satisfied their burden of clearly showing that they cannot reasonably be expected to reinstitute the Old Policy's blanket ban. Therefore, because the Association seeks only prospective relief, its challenge to the policy, and the injuries incurred thereunder, were moot. The panel also held that the Association lacked standing to challenge the New Policy, because the Association lacked organizational standing by failing to show an injury in fact, and representational standing where none of its members had standing to sue in their own right. View "American Diabetes Assoc. v. United States Department of the Army" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against officials of the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC), challenging aspects of the Arizona execution process. Plaintiffs contend that Arizona's practices violate their First Amendment right of access to governmental proceedings and violate inmates' rights of access to the courts. The Ninth Circuit held that the First Amendment right of access to governmental proceedings encompasses a right to hear the sounds of executions in their entirety. Furthermore, on the facts alleged, Arizona's restrictions on press and public access to the sounds of executions impermissibly burden that right. However, the panel held that neither the public nor the press has a First Amendment right of access to information regarding the manufacturers, sellers, lot numbers, National Drug Codes, and expiration dates of lethal-injection drugs, as well as documentation regarding the qualifications of certain execution team members. Finally, the court held that plaintiffs' claim that Arizona's restrictions violate the inmates' First Amendment right of access to the courts failed as a matter of law. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's second amended complaint. View "First Amendment Coalition of Arizona v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of his girlfriend and her daughter, appealed the district court's denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. The Ninth Circuit reversed in part, holding that petitioner demonstrated cause and prejudice to overcome the procedural default of his ineffective assistance of trial claim. In this case, post conviction counsel, whom Arizona concedes performed deficiently, failed to raise a substantial claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel in petitioner's initial state collateral proceeding. The panel remanded the claim for the district court to allow evidentiary development of petitioner's ineffective assistance of trial counsel claim. The panel affirmed the district court's conclusion that petitioner's right to due process under Ake v. Oklahoma, 470 U.S. 68 (1985), was not violated; agreed that the Arizona state courts did not improperly exclude mitigating evidence that lacked a causal connection to his crime; and declined to expand the certificate of appealability to include the three uncertified issues raised by petitioner. View "Ramirez v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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Unless a record is pertinent to an ongoing authorized law enforcement activity, an agency may not maintain it under section (e)(7) of the Privacy Act. After plaintiff discovered that he and the website Antiwar.com had been the subject of two separate threat assessment memos, he sought expungement of the memos under the Privacy Act. After addressing discovery and evidentiary challenges, the Ninth Circuit held that the FBI had not met its burden of demonstrating that the 2004 memo was pertinent to an ongoing law enforcement activity and thus it must be expunged. However, the Halliburton Memo need not be expunged because it was pertinent to an ongoing law enforcement activity. In this case, the Halliburton Memo, which primarily describes security preparations for an oft-protested meeting, only incidentally includes protected First Amendment activity, and is relevant to preparations for future iterations of the annual shareholders' meeting. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded with instructions to expunge the 2004 Memo. View "Garris v. FBI" on Justia Law

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The City filed suit alleging that the Commission's approval of an electrical grid project violated the City's due process rights. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the City's claims based on lack of standing. In light of City of South Lake Tahoe v. California Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and its progeny, the panel held that the City cannot challenge the Commission's decision on due process grounds in federal court. Furthermore, the City's claims were barred by Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity. In this case, the City never asked for leave to add a commissioner as a party and has waived its right to amend. View "City of San Juan Capistrano v. California Public Utilities Commission" on Justia Law