Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action brought by E.V., a civilian on a military base in Japan, seeking to enjoin the release of her mental health records. Applying the framework in Larson v. Domestic & Foreign Commerce Corp., 337 U.S. 682 (1949), the panel held that sovereign immunity barred E.V.'s non-constitutional claims for injunctive relief because they were considered to be against the government and the government had not waived its immunity. Although E.V.'s constitutional claims were considered to be against Judge Robinson as an individual and were not barred by sovereign immunity, the panel held that E.V.'s constitutional claims must be dismissed on other grounds. View "E. V. v. Robinson" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's order denying defendant's motion seeking discovery on a claim of selective enforcement. Defendant was convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery after he was caught in a law enforcement reverse sting operation to rob a fictitious stash house. The panel held that in these stash house reverse-sting cases, claims of selective enforcement are governed by a less rigorous standard than that applied to claims of selective prosecution under United States v. Armstrong, 517 U.S. 456 (1996). The panel held that a defendant need not proffer evidence that similarly-situated individuals of a different race were not investigated or arrested to receive discovery on a selective enforcement claim like the defendant's. Rather, a defendant must have something more than mere speculation to be entitled to discovery, and the district court should use its discretion to allow limited or broad discovery based on the reliability and strength of the defendant's showing. Because the district court applied the wrong legal standard, the panel remanded to the district court to determine in the first instance whether defendant has met his burden. View "United States v. Sellers" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of an action alleging California consumer claims against MusclePharm Corporation, a manufacturer of nutritional supplements. The complaint alleged that MusclePharm made false or misleading statements about the protein in one of its products. The Ninth Circuit held that the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) and its implementing regulations concerned only the calculation and disclosure of protein amount; the FDCA preempted a state-law misbranding theory premised on the supplement's use of nitrogen-spiking agents to inflate the measurement of protein for the nutrition panel; but the FDCA did not preempt a state-law misbranding theory premised on the label's allegedly false or misleading implication that the supplement's protein came entirely from two specifically named, genuine protein sources. In this case, plaintiff's claims were not preempted to the extent they arose under this theory. View "Durnford v. MusclePharm Corp." on Justia Law

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Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(d) is subject to the certificate of appealability requirement in 28 U.S.C. 2253(c)(1). The Ninth Circuit denied petitioner's request for a certificate of appealability (COA) to appeal the district court's denial of his motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(d)(3). Petitioner alleged that the district attorney who secured his conviction and death sentence made false sworn statements during the federal habeas proceedings, and that these statements were part of a larger scheme involving assignment of inmate informants to cells next to defendants incarcerated in Orange County, California, in hopes of obtaining incriminating admissions. The panel held that, although a COA was required in this case, petitioner was not entitled to one because regardless of how the prosecution obtained the informants' testimony or later explained its tactics to the district court, the evidence itself was not material to petitioner's conviction and sentence. View "Payton v. Davis" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that King County unconstitutionally refused to display plaintiffs' submitted ads concerning global terrorism on the exterior of its public buses. The Ninth Circuit held that the County permissible rejected the factually inaccurate ad because the First Amendment did not require the County to display patently false content in a nonpublic forum. The panel held, however, that the County's disparagement standard discriminated, on its face, on the basis of viewpoint. Finally, the disruption standard was facially valid but the County unreasonable applied the standard to plaintiffs' ad. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's grant of summary judgment to the County. View "American Freedom Defense Initiative v. King County" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's action alleging that the FBI violated his substantive and procedural due process rights by placing and maintaining him on the No Fly List. While plaintiff's action was pending, defendants removed plaintiff from the list and the district court held that his due process claims were moot. The panel held, however, that the voluntary cessation doctrine applied here and precluded a finding of mootness. In this case, plaintiff's removal from the list was more likely an exercise of discretion than a decision arising from a broad change in agency policy or procedure. Furthermore, the government has not assured plaintiff that he would not be banned from flying for the same reasons that prompted the government to add him to the list in the first place, nor has it verified the implementation of procedural safeguards conditioning its ability to revise plaintiff's status on the receipt of new information. Finally, plaintiff's removal from the list did not completely and irrevocably eradicate the effects of the alleged violations. View "Fikre v. FBI" on Justia Law

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Under the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA), the scope of the ADA's "regarded-as" definition of disability was expanded. The plaintiff must show, under the ADAAA, that he has been subjected to a prohibited action because of an actual or perceived physical or mental impairment whether or not the impairment limits or is perceived to limit a major life activity. In this case, plaintiff filed suit against HIE, alleging disability discrimination under the ADA and state law claiming that HIE terminated him because of his shoulder injury. The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiff established a genuine issue of material fact as to whether his employer regarded him as having a disability. The panel held that the district court erred in concluding, as a matter of law, that plaintiff was not regarded-as disabled. Furthermore, the district court erred in concluding that plaintiff did not meet the "physical" definition of disability under the ADA. View "Nunies v. HIE Holdings" on Justia Law

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Excessive force under the Eighth Amendment does not require proof that an officer enjoyed or otherwise derived pleasure from his or her use of force. In this case, plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging claims against the Snake River Correctional Institute's officials and corrections officers for, among other things, excessive force and deliberate indifference in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendant and remanded for a new trial. The panel held that the district court's instructions that plaintiff had to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that his alleged abuser had or derived pleasure from extreme cruelty while beating plaintiff was plainly erroneous. Furthermore, these erroneous instructions prejudiced plaintiff. The panel also vacated the district court's sua sponte grant of summary judgment to defendants on plaintiff's deprivation-of-property claim after determining that plaintiff, who was proceeding pro se at the time, failed to receive sufficient notice that the claim was at issue on summary judgment. View "Hoard v. Hartman" on Justia Law

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The DNC and others filed suit against the state of Arizona, challenging two state election practices: (1) Arizona's longstanding requirement that in-person voters cast their ballots in their assigned precinct, which Arizona enforces by not counting ballots cast in the wrong precinct (OOP policy), and (2) H.B. 2023, a recent legislative enactment which precludes most third parties from collecting early ballots from voters. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and held that the district court did not err in holding that H.B. 2023 and the OOP policy did not violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments because they imposed only a minimal burden on voters and were adequately designed to serve Arizona's important regulatory interests; the district court did not err in holding that H.B. 2023 and the OOP policy did not violate section 2 of the Voting Rights Act; DNC failed to show that minority voters were deprived of an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect candidates of their choice; and the district court did not err in holding that H.B. 2023 did not violate the Fifteenth Amendment because plaintiffs failed to carry their burden of showing that H.B. 2023 was enacted with discriminatory intent. View "The Democratic National Committee v. Reagan" on Justia Law

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California Attorney General's Form 990 Schedule B requirement, which obligates charities to submit the very information they already file each year with the IRS, survived exacting scrutiny as applied to plaintiffs because it was substantially related to an important state interest in policing charitable fraud. The Ninth Circuit held that, even assuming arguendo that plaintiffs' contributors would face substantial harassment if Schedule B information became public, the strength of the state's interest in collecting Schedule B information reflected the actual burden on First Amendment rights because the information was collected solely for nonpublic use, and the risk of inadvertent public disclosure was slight. Accordingly, the panel vacated the district court's permanent injunctions, reversed the bench trial judgments, and remanded for entry of judgment in favor of the California Attorney General. View "Americans for Prosperity v. Becerra" on Justia Law