Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an amended habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. 2254 as time-barred. Petitioner filed an amended habeas petition eight months after the statute of limitations under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) had run. The panel held that the facts set out in the state court order were not clearly incorporated into petitioner's original petition, and Rule 2 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States precluded the panel from construing the petition as incorporating such facts. Therefore, the district court did not err in concluding that the amended petition could not relate back to the claims in his original petition. View "Ross v. Williams" on Justia Law

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If plaintiffs in 42 U.S.C.1983 actions demonstrate that their conditions of confinement have been restricted solely because of overcrowding or understaffing at a prison facility, a deference instruction ordinarily should not be given. Similarly, if plaintiffs in 42 U.S.C. 1983 actions demonstrate that they have been subjected to search procedures that are an unnecessary, unjustified, or exaggerated response to concerns about jail safety, the court need not defer to jail officials. Plaintiff appealed the partial grant of summary judgment for defendants on her 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging inadequate medical care, and the denial of her motion for a new trial. Plaintiff challenged several conditions of her confinement and the procedures that the County used to classify her as mentally ill. The Ninth Circuit held that the magistrate judge should not have given the deference instruction to plaintiff's conditions of confinement claims, where the only justification that jail officials offered for curtailing her meals, showers, and recreation was a concern about overcrowding and understaffing in the facility. The panel also held that the magistrate judge erred in instructing the jury to give deference to the jail officials on plaintiff's claim of excessive search, because substantial evidence supporter her arguments that this search practice was an unnecessary, unjustified, and exaggerated response to jail officials’ need for prison security. Accordingly, the panel vacated and remanded. View "Shorter v. Baca" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of a petition for habeas relief based on the ineffective assistance of counsel at resentencing. The panel held that counsel performed deficiently by failing to challenge evidence that petitioner committed murder for pecuniary gain, and by failing to conduct an adequate investigation of mitigating factors; the state post-conviction court's contrary conclusion was an unreasonable application of Strickland v. Washington and Wiggins v. United States; and there was a reasonable likelihood that petitioner would have received a different sentence if counsel's performance were not deficient. Accordingly, the panel remanded with instructions to grant a conditional writ. View "White v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the denial of a petition for habeas relief and remanded with instructions to grant the writ. Petitioner argued that his sentence under the Three Strikes law was obtained in violation of his Sixth Amendment right under Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975). The panel held that petitioner's request to represent himself was timely and his appellate counsel rendered constitutionally deficient performance by failing to raise the compelling Faretta claim. Furthermore, petitioner was prejudiced by counsel's deficient performance where counsel's failure to raise that claim undermined confidence in the outcome of petitioner's appeal. View "Tamplin v. Muniz" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a complaint brought by Deborah Colbert's biological son after Colbert was killed by police officers during a response to a 911 call. The complaint alleged claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Rehabilitation Act. The district court dismissed the case, finding that plaintiff had no legally cognizable interest in his relationship with Colbert and that he was not a proper successor in interest to her under California law because he had been adopted by other parents as an infant. The panel held that California's survival statute was consistent with 42 U.S.C. 1983, and thus applied to the instant action; plaintiff did not meet the requirements for standing under California law and thus could not assert section 1983 claims on behalf of Colbert; although federal common law applied to the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act claims, plaintiff was still not an appropriate plaintiff for a survival action based on those laws; plaintiff could not bring a claim for loss of companionship with Colbert because they did not have the kind of parent-child relationship entitled to this type of constitutional protection; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying leave to amend. View "Wheeler v. City of Santa Clara" on Justia Law

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Only 25% of registered California voters participated in the June 2014 primary; only 42% voted in the November 2014 general election. To increase participation in the democratic process, California enacted the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA), modeled after Colorado’s successful election system. A ballot is automatically mailed to every registered voter 29 days before the election date, Cal. Elec.Code 4005(a)(8)(A). A voter may cast a completed ballot by mailing it in, depositing the ballot at a designated “ballot dropoff location” (a large locked mailbox), or submitting it at a “vote center.” The voter may cast his ballot as soon as he receives it. Rather than require all 58 California counties to implement this new voting system immediately, the VCA authorizes 14 counties to opt in on or after January 1, 2018. All other counties may implement the all-mailed system on or after January 1, 2020. Within six months of each election conducted under the system, the California Secretary of State must submit to the legislature a detailed report assessing turnout and other metrics of success. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction in a suit alleging that the VCA violated the Equal Protection Clause by restricting the fundamental right to vote on the basis of county of residence, without sufficient justification. View "Short v. Brown" on Justia Law

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After Gerritt Vos was shot and killed by police, Vos's parents filed suit alleging federal and state law claims. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants. In this case, officers responded to a call about Vos behaving erratically and brandishing a pair of scissors. Vos eventually charged in the officers' direction while holding the scissors above his head and officers shot him. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the facts were such that a reasonable jury could conclude that Vos was not an immediate threat to the officers, but nonetheless the officers were entitled to qualified immunity on the 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim because existing precedent did not clearly establish, beyond debate, that the officers acted unreasonably under the circumstances; because a reasonable jury could find that officers violated Vos's Fourth Amendment rights, it was appropriate to remand plaintiffs' conspiracy claims and Monell claims; defendants were not entitled to summary adjudication of plaintiffs' claims under the American with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act; and the panel reversed as to the negligence and state law claims. View "Vos v. City of Newport Beach" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit dismissed as moot plaintiffs' appeal of the district court's dismissal of their action alleging that their teacher unions' requirement to pay a fee to support political and ideological activities violated their constitutional right to free speech. The panel held that a change in plaintiffs' professional circumstances during the pendency of this appeal fundamentally altered the posture of this case. The panel also denied plaintiffs' motion to add an organization plaintiff to their suit under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21. Accordingly, the panel remanded with instructions to dismiss the case. View "Bain v. California Teachers Association" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants in an action alleging employment discrimination claims. The panel held that plaintiff, a teacher, failed to establish a prima facia case of disparate treatment based on her sex and race under Title VII because she did not show that she was subject to an adverse employment action or that similarly situated individuals outside her protected class were treated more favorably; plaintiff's hostile work environment claim failed because the few isolated and relatively mild comments that plaintiff alleged were not sufficient to show a severe and pervasive environment that altered the terms or conditions of her employment; plaintiff's retaliation claim failed because plaintiff did not establish that defendants' asserted rationale for its actions was mere pretext; and plaintiff's Title IX claims for intentional discrimination failed for essentially the same reasons that her Title VII claims failed. View "Campbell v. Hawaii Department of Education" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit certified the following question to the Supreme Court of California: Does a plaintiff suffer discriminatory conduct, and thus have statutory standing to bring a claim under the Unruh Act, when the plaintiff visits a business's website with the intent of using its services, encounters terms and conditions that deny the plaintiff full and equal access to its services, and then departs without entering into an agreement with the service provider? Alternatively, does the plaintiff have to engage in some further interaction with the business and its website before the plaintiff will be deemed to have been denied full and equal treatment by the business? View "White v. Square, Inc." on Justia Law