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 a 28 U.S.C. 2241 petition in which petitioner, a federal prisoner, sought to challenge his 2014 career offender sentence. Petitioner had previously filed a 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion in Ohio that was denied. Petitioner contends that, in light of intervening Supreme Court decisions, his previous convictions do not qualify him for career offender status. See Mathis v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 2243 (2016); Descamps v. United States, 570 U.S. 254 (2013).Generally, a federal prisoner who seeks to challenge the legality of confinement must utilize a section 2255 motion. Under the "escape hatch" provision of section 2255(e), a federal prisoner may file a section 2241 petition only when the prisoner makes a claim of actual innocence and has not had an unobstructed procedural shot at presenting that claim. The district court held that petitioner failed to meet either of these requirements.The panel agreed with the district court that petitioner has not established a claim of actual innocence. In this case, petitioner does not dispute the validity of the conviction or that he committed the drug and firearm crimes leading to his sentence. Rather, petitioner claims actual innocence in light of Allen v. Ives, 950 F.3d 1184 (9th Cir. 2020). The panel distinguished Allen from this case and held that petitioner cannot show that he was actually innocent of the career offender enhancement utilized during sentencing. View "Shepherd v. Unknown Party" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Plaintiff Donald Shooter's 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging that the Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, Javan Mesnard, and the Arizona Governor's Chief of Staff, Kirk Adams, wrongfully engineered Shooter's expulsion as a representative from the Arizona House. In early 2018, Shooter was expelled from the Arizona House by a 56-3 vote after a legislative investigation into sexual harassment allegations concluded that he had created a hostile work environment. After the cause of action was removed to federal court, the district court dismissed the federal claim and remanded the state-law claims back to state court.The panel agreed that Shooter's federal cause of action under section 1983 was properly dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Because the complaint's allegations do not raise a plausible inference of sex discrimination, the panel concluded that Shooter's equal protection claim based on such a theory was properly dismissed. Furthermore, Shooter's two distinct due process theories are barred by qualified immunity. In this case, Shooter has failed to demonstrate a clearly established right to any due process protections beyond those already afforded to him by the Arizona House of Representatives. The panel concluded that the district court correctly held that Mesnard and Adams were entitled to qualified immunity. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion in failing sua sponte to grant Shooter leave to amend. View "Shooter v. Arizona" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death in California state court, was granted habeas corpus relief on numerous claims under 28 U.S.C. 2254. The State appeals and petitioner cross-appeals the district court's denial of habeas corpus relief on his constitutional challenge to California's financial-gain special circumstance.The Ninth Circuit concluded that petitioner was deprived of effective assistance of counsel at the penalty phase by counsel's unprofessional failure to investigate and present mitigating evidence pertaining to petitioner's familial history and his mental health. The panel also concluded that petitioner has shown Strickland prejudice as a result of that deficient performance. Furthermore, the California Supreme Court's denial of petitioner's claim was an unreasonable application of Strickland and, thus, petitioner is entitled to relief under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act as to the sentence of death.The panel reversed the judgment of the district court granting the habeas petition as to petitioner's conviction, affirmed the judgment of the district court granting the petition as to petitioner's death sentence, affirmed the judgment of the district court denying the petition on petitioner's claims based on a financial-gain special circumstance, and remanded to the district court to enter an appropriate order. View "Noguera v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in an action brought by plaintiffs, alleging that the Secretary violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to consider the environmental impacts of various immigration programs and immigration-related policies. Plaintiffs, organizations and individuals, seek to reduce immigration into the United States because it causes population growth, which in turn, they claim, has a detrimental effect on the environment.In regard to Count I, which challenged DHS's 2015 Instruction Manual, the panel concluded that the Manual does not constitute final agency action subject to the court's review under section 704 of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Therefore, the district court properly dismissed this count.In regard to Count II, which asserted that DHS implemented eight programs that failed to comply with NEPA, the panel concluded that Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871 (1990), squarely foreclosed plaintiffs' request for judicial review of seven non-Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs. Therefore, the panel agreed with the district court that none of these programs are reviewable because they are not discrete agency actions.In regard to Counts II, where plaintiffs challenged DACA, as well as Counts III-V, which facially challenged categorical exclusions (CATEXs), the panel concluded that plaintiffs lack Article III standing. In this case, the panel rejected plaintiffs' enticement theory and "more settled population" theory; plaintiffs made no attempt to tie CATEX A3 to any particular action by DHS; plaintiffs offered no evidence showing that population growth was a predictable effect of the DSO and STEM Rules, as well as the AC21 Rule; plaintiffs failed to show injury-in-fact or causation concerning their challenge to the International Entrepreneur Rule; any cumulative effect analysis required by NEPA did not bear on whether plaintiffs had standing to challenge the rules; plaintiffs lacked Article III standing to challenge the sufficiency of the environmental assessments and findings of no significant impact issued in relation to President Obama's Response to the Influx of Unaccompanied Alien Children Across the Southwest border. View "Whitewater Draw Natural Resource Conservation District v. Mayorkas" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting the County and law enforcement officers summary judgment, holding that plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging a claim for excessive force was barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). Plaintiff argues that her conviction after jury trial for violations of California Penal Code 148(a)(1) and her section 1983 claim are not necessarily based on the same transaction.The panel held that the relevant inquiry is whether the record contains factual circumstances that support the underlying conviction under section 148(a)(1), not whether the conviction was obtained by a jury verdict or a guilty plea. The panel concluded that Smith v. City of Hemet, 394 F.3d 689 (9th Cir. 2005 (en banc), and Beets v. City of Los Angeles, 669 F. 3d 1038 (9th Cir. 2012), controlled application of the Heck bar as found by the district court. In this case, viewed in light of binding circuit precedent, the record compels finding the jury determined that the arresting deputy acted within the scope of his duties without the use of excessive force, and that plaintiff seeks to show that the same conduct constituted excessive force. Therefore, the district court appropriately considered summary disposition of remaining legal issues under Heck and its progeny. View "Lemos v. County of Sonoma" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for municipal entities and officials in an action brought by a commercial charter business alleging that defendants violated the Rivers and Harbors Act (RHA), 33 U.S.C. 5(b)(2). The business alleged that the municipal entities and officials violated the RHA by imposing landing fees on commercial charters operating out of South Beach Harbor Marina in San Francisco Bay. The district court concluded that Congress did not intend the RHA to restrict the type of fees defendants imposed.The panel affirmed on alternative grounds, finding no indication that Congress intended to create a private right of action under section 5(b)(2). In this case, the panel applied Cort v. Ash, 422 U.S. 66 (1975), concluding that nothing in the statute's language, structure, context, and legislative history implied a private right of action. To the extent that plaintiff argues it cannot vindicate its rights if section 5(b)(2) does not include a private right of action, plaintiff overlooks that the reasonableness of the Landing Agreement is subject to challenge pursuant to the Tonnage Clause. Furthermore, even if there were no alternative mechanism for private enforcement, this alone would not require the panel to infer a private right of action. View "Lil' Man in the Boat, Inc. v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint alleging that defendant, a superior court judge, violated plaintiff's due process rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Plaintiff, an heir to the Disney fortune, alleged that defendant violated his rights by appointing a guardian without notice or a hearing, and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by commenting (apparently with questionable factual basis) that plaintiff had Down syndrome.The panel concluded that most of plaintiff's claims are now moot after defendant removed the guardian ad litem and relinquished this case to another judge. The panel also concluded that, while defendant's statement may have been inaccurate and inappropriate, any claim challenging it is barred by judicial immunity. Finally, the district court did not err in denying leave to amend where all of plaintiff's proposed amendments were futile. View "Lund v. Cowan" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's preliminary injunction ordering E.E.'s current educational placement as his "stay put" placement during the pendency of judicial proceedings in a suit brought under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).The panel concluded that the ALJ acted without legal authority in determining that E.E.'s potential future placement in the 2020 individualized education plan (IEP) constituted his current placement for purposes of E.E.'s stay put placement. Therefore, because the ALJ acted ultra vires, her stay put determination was void. Consequently, the parents' stay put motion did not seek to modify an existing stay put order, so the district court correctly entered an automatic preliminary injunction pursuant to Joshua A. v. Rocklin Unified Sch. Dist., 559 F.3d 1036, 1037 (9th Cir. 2009). Furthermore, the school district's proposed exception to the stay put provision is not supported by either the text of the IDEA or any other legal authority, and the panel declined to adopt it. View "E.E. v. Norris School District" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of injunctive relief and dismissal of state and federal claims in an action brought by Slidewaters LLC, challenging the State of Washington's imposition of COVID-19 restrictions prohibiting the waterpark from operating during 2020 and imposing capacity limits in 2021.The panel concluded that defendants have the authority under Washington law to impose the restrictions and that doing so does not violate Slidewaters' asserted rights under the U.S. Constitution. In this case, the governor had the lawful authority under Revised Code of Washington 43.06.010(12) to issue Proclamation 20-05, because the pandemic was both a public disorder and a disaster affecting life and health in Washington. Furthermore, the State Department of Labor and Industries, in promulgating an emergency rule as part of the state's efforts to curb the pandemic, Washington Administrative Code 296-800-14035, acted within its scope of authority. The panel explained that government regulation does not constitute a violation of constitutional substantive due process rights simply because the businesses or persons to whom the regulation is applied do not agree with the regulation or its application; defendants provided a rational basis for the proclamations and related rules; and the substantive due process rights of Slidewaters, its owners, and its employees are not violated by defendants' actions. Therefore, Slidewaters' application for injunctive relief was properly denied and its claims were properly dismissed. The panel also concluded that the district court did not err in consolidating Slidewaters' motion for preliminary injunction with a hearing on the merits or in reaching Slidewaters' state law claims. View "Slidewaters LLC v. Washington State Department of Labor and Industries" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal based on failure to state a claim of a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action brought by plaintiff, alleging that the City violated his Fourth Amendment rights when authorities, without a warrant, searched his massage business.The panel concluded that the Fourth Amendment permitted the warrantless searches of plaintiff's massage business where the California massage industry is a closely regulated industry and the Fourth Amendment's warrantless search exception for administrative searches of businesses applied. The panel applied the factors in New York v. Burger, 482 U.S. 691 (1987), and held that the warrantless inspections were reasonable under the Fourth Amendment because there is no question that curtailing prostitution and human trafficking is a substantial government interest; the warrant exception is necessary to further the regulatory scheme considering the potential ease of concealing violations; and the City ordinance governing massage establishments and the conditional use permit sufficiently restrained the City in both the time and purpose of each inspection. Therefore, the district court properly dismissed plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claims. View "Killgore v. City of South El Monte" on Justia Law