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

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of a 28 U.S.C. 2241 habeas corpus petition where petitioner challenged an Oregon Circuit Court order under Sell v. United States, 539 U.S. 166 (2003), authorizing involuntary medication to restore petitioner's competency to stand trial for murder. The district court applied Younger abstention and concluded that intervention by a federal court would be inappropriate in light of the important state interests at stake in the pending criminal prosecution.The panel held that the district court had subject matter jurisdiction and the authority to rule on the petition. In this case, the state mischaracterized the cognizability issue as a subject matter jurisdiction issue. Furthermore, although the basic Younger criteria are satisfied in this case, the irreparable harm exception to Younger applies and the district court erred in abstaining. The panel remanded for the district court to consider the issue of the cognizability of petitioner's claim in habeas. View "Bean v. Matteucci" on Justia Law

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Gear, a native of Australia, moved to Hawaii to work. Gear’s employer applied for, and Gear received, an “H-1B” nonimmigrant visa. Gear later returned from visiting Australia with a rifle. Gear was fired and needed a new visa. Gear created a new company and obtained a new H-1B visa. A DHS agent learned Gear was present on an H-1B visa and bragged about owning firearms, and obtained a search warrant. Before the search, Gear stated, “he couldn’t possess a firearm … because he was not a U.S. citizen.” Gear stated his ex-wife had shipped a rifle and gun safe to Hawaii but he claimed they had been discarded because “he couldn’t have it.” Gear eventually admitted that the gun and safe were in the garage.He was charged under 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(5)(B) for possessing a firearm while being an alien who had been admitted under a nonimmigrant visa. The jury was instructed the government had to prove Gear “knowingly possessed” the rifle, that had been transported in foreign commerce, and that Gear had been admitted under a nonimmigrant visa. Before Gear was sentenced, the Supreme Court decided Rehaif, holding that under section 922(g), the government must prove the defendant “knew he belonged to the relevant category of persons barred from possessing a firearm.”The Ninth Circuit affirmed Gear’s conviction. While the government must prove the defendant knew he had a nonimmigrant visa, the erroneous jury instructions did not affect Gear’s substantial rights because the record overwhelmingly indicates that he knew it was illegal for him to possess a firearm. View "United States v. Gear" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit dismissed, based on lack of jurisdiction, an interlocutory appeal of the district court's order denying qualified immunity to defendant in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging that defendant used excessive force when he shot Wayne Anderson. The panel explained that it lacked jurisdiction to review defendant's arguments because his interlocutory appeal challenges only the district court's conclusion that there is sufficient evidence to create a genuine dispute as to the factual question that will determine whether defendant's use of force was reasonable. In this case, rather than "advanc[ing] an argument as to why the law is not clearly established that takes the facts in the light most favorable to [the Estate]," which the panel would have jurisdiction to consider, defendant contests "whether there is enough evidence in the record for a jury to conclude that certain facts [favorable to the Estate] are true," which the panel did not have jurisdiction to resolve. View "Estate of Wayne Steven Anderson v. Marsh" on Justia Law

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Sandoval died of a methamphetamine overdose at the San Diego Central Jail after medical staff left him unmonitored for eight hours, despite signs that he was under the influence of drugs, and then failed to promptly summon paramedics when they discovered him unresponsive and having a seizure. A suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 was rejected on summary judgment.The Ninth Circuit reversed. The district court abused its discretion by summarily sustaining the defendants’ “frivolous” evidentiary objections. An objective standard applies to constitutional claims of inadequate medical care brought by pretrial detainees; the district court erroneously applied the subjective deliberate indifference standard. A jury could conclude that Sandoval would not have died but for the defendants’ unreasonable response to his obvious signs of medical distress and that a reasonable nurse who was told that Sandoval was shaking, tired, and disoriented, and who was specifically directed by a deputy to evaluate Sandoval more thoroughly, would have understood that Sandoval faced a substantial risk of serious harm. Failure to check on Sandoval and to promptly call paramedics were objectively unreasonable. The available law was clearly established at the time. The nurses were not entitled to qualified immunity. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, there was a triable issue of fact as to the county’s liability. View "Sandoval v. County of San Diego" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former SWAT sniper, filed suit alleging that the Department unconstitutionally retaliated against him for his protected speech when it dismissed him from the SWAT team after he commented on Facebook that it was a "shame" that a suspect who had shot a police officer did not have any "holes" in him. The district court construed plaintiff's statement as advocating unlawful violence, and ruled that the government's interest in employee discipline outweighs plaintiff's First Amendment right under the Pickering balancing test for speech by government employees.The Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the district court erred in granting summary judgment for the government because there is a factual dispute about the objective meaning of plaintiff's comment: was it a hyperbolic political statement lamenting police officers being struck down in the line of duty — or a call for unlawful violence against suspects? Furthermore, another factual dispute exists over whether plaintiff's comment would have likely caused disruption in the police department. Therefore, the panel concluded that these factual disputes had to be resolved before the district court could weigh the competing considerations under the Pickering balancing test. View "Moser v. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a habeas corpus petition challenging petitioner's Arizona state conviction and death sentence for multiple offenses including two counts of first-degree murder.The panel addressed three certified issues and concluded that (1) even assuming the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) does not bar the panel's review of petitioner's Brady claims, the delay in producing the photos and police reports, and the failure to disclose the Merrill benefits, were not material; (2) the district court did not err in denying him leave to amend his petition to add a claim that his death sentence violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments because amendment would be futile; and (3) petitioner's ineffective assistance of sentencing counsel claim is procedurally defaulted and petitioner failed to show cause under Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1 (2012), to excuse the default. Finally, the panel declined to expand the COA. View "Hooper v. Shinn" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Bank on plaintiff's claim of gender harassment under Title VII and the Washington Law Against Discrimination. Plaintiff, a former employee of the Bank, alleged that a bank customer stalked and harassed her in her workplace and that the Bank failed to take effective action to address the harassment.The panel held that to establish sex discrimination under a hostile work environment theory, a plaintiff must show she was subjected to sex-based harassment that was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of employment, and that her employer is liable for this hostile work environment. Because the panel concluded that a trier of fact could find that the harassment altered the conditions of plaintiff's employment and created an abusive working environment, it turned to the question of the Bank's liability. In this case, there is more than enough evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact as to the sufficiency of the Bank's response. Because a jury reasonably could conclude that the Bank ratified or acquiesced in the customer's harassment, the panel held that the district court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of the Bank. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Christian v. Umpqua Bank" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an elementary school student who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and severe, disability-related behavioral issues, filed suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) alleging that the school district denied him equal access to a public education because of his disability. The district court dismissed the complaint, concluding that plaintiff failed to exhaust his claim through the administrative procedures prescribed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), as required when a plaintiff seeks relief under other federal statutes for the denial of a free appropriate public education (FAPE).The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal and held that a close review of plaintiff's allegations reveals that the gravamen of his ADA claim is discrimination separate from his right to a FAPE. Therefore, the panel concluded that plaintiff's ADA claim is not subject to IDEA exhaustion. Finally, the panel concluded that there is nothing untoward—or inconsistent with Fry v. Napoleon Cmty. Sch., 137 S. Ct. 743 (2017)—in plaintiff's having followed resolution of his IDEA claims with a lawsuit alleging non-FAPE-based violations of another statute. View "D. D. v. Los Angeles Unified School District" on Justia Law

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Angelina Nunes, individually and as Guardian Ad Litem for her minor children, and Emanuel Alves filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against the County and its attorneys for unlawfully viewing the juvenile records of the children in violation of California Welfare & Institutions Code Section 827.The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of defendants' motion to dismiss on qualified immunity grounds, holding that Gonzalez v. Spencer, 336 F.3d 832 (9th Cir. 2003), did not clearly establish a constitutional privacy right in juvenile records. Therefore, the panel could not conclude that every reasonable official acting as defendants did would have known they were violating the constitutional rights of plaintiffs based on Gonzalez, the only authority on which plaintiffs relied. The panel concluded that defendants were entitled to qualified immunity and remanded for further proceedings. View "Nunes v. Stephens" on Justia Law

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On remand from the Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit reaffirmed the district court's order granting CFPB's petition to enforce the law firm's compliance with the Bureau's civil investigative demand (CID) requiring the firm to produce documents and answer interrogatories. The Supreme Court held that the statute establishing the CFPB violated the Constitution's separation of powers by placing leadership of the agency in the hands of a single Director who could be removed only for cause. The Court concluded, however, that the for-cause removal provision could be severed from the rest of the statute and thus did not require invalidation of the agency itself.The panel concluded that the CID was validly ratified, but the panel need not decide whether that occurred through the actions of Acting Director Mulvaney. After the Supreme Court's ruling, the CFPB's current Director expressly ratified the agency's earlier decisions to issue the civil investigative demand to the law firm, to deny the firm's request to modify or set aside the CID, and to file a petition requesting that the district court enforce the CID. The new Director knew that the President could remove her with or without cause, and nonetheless ratified the agency's issuance of the CID. Therefore, this ratification remedies any constitutional injury that the law firm may have suffered due to the manner in which the CFPB was originally structured. The panel explained that the law firm's only cognizable injury arose from the fact that the agency issued the CID and pursued its enforcement while headed by a Director who was improperly insulated from the President's removal authority. The panel concluded that any concerns that the law firm might have had about being subjected to investigation without adequate presidential oversight and control have now been resolved. The panel rejected the law firm's remaining contentions. View "Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Seila Law LLC" on Justia Law