Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Salvation Army, in an employment discrimination action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The panel held that the religious organization exemption (ROE) applied to the Salvation Army; the ROE reached claims for retaliation and hostile work environment; and the ROE barred plaintiff's claims because the ROE was nonjurisdictional and subject to procedural forfeiture, and may be first raised at summary judgment absent prejudice. Absent prejudice resulting from the failure to timely raise the defense, the panel held that the Salvation Army permissibly invoked the ROE at summary judgment and it foreclosed plaintiff's Title VII claims. The panel also held that plaintiff failed to make out a claim under the ADA because the Salvation Army was under no obligation to engage in an interactive process in the absence of a disability. In this case, after plaintiff's clearance for work, she failed to show that she was disabled. View "Garcia v. Salvation Army" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the school district in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging that the district violated a student and his parents' First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights when it expelled the student for one year. The student was expelled for creating a hit list of students that "must die." Under the circumstances of this case, including the nature of the hit list, the student's access to firearms, and the close proximity of the student's home to the high school, the decision to discipline the student for his off-campus speech did not violate his constitutional right to free speech. The panel clarified that courts considering whether a school district may constitutionally regulate off-campus speech must determine, based on the totality of the circumstances, whether the speech bears a sufficient nexus to the school. The panel stated that there is always a sufficient nexus between the speech and the school when the school district reasonably concludes that it faces a credible, identifiable threat of school violence. Furthermore, a student's lack of intent to convey his off-campus speech to any third party is relevant to an evaluation of whether the speech constitutes a credible threat, but is not dispositive. In this case, taken as a whole, the considerations that guide application of the nexus test supported the school district. Finally, the parents' claims alleging violations of their substantive due process failed because their fundamental right to choose the student's educational forum was not infringed by the school district's discipline of the student. View "McNeil v. Sherwood School District 88J" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of HomeAway.com and Airbnb Inc.'s (the Platforms) lawsuits challenging the City of Santa Monica’s Ordinance 2535, which imposes various obligations on companies that host online platforms for short-term vacation rentals. The panel held that the district court properly dismissed the Platforms' complaints for failure to state a claim and dismissed as moot the appeals from the denial of preliminary injunctive relief. The panel rejected the Platforms' claim that the ordinance was preempted by the Communications Decency Act (CDA) because it required them to monitor and remove third-party content, and held that neither express preemption nor obstacle preemption applied to the ordinance. The panel also rejected the Platforms' contention that the ordinance impermissibly infringed upon their First Amendment rights, and held that the ordinance regulated nonexpressive conduct, specifically booking transactions, not free speech. The panel held that, even assuming the ordinance would lead the Platforms to voluntarily remove some advertisements for lawful rentals, there would not be a severe limitation on the public's access to lawful advertisements, especially considering the existence of alternative channels like Craigslist. The panel reasoned that such an incidental burden was far from a substantial restriction on the freedom of speech. View "HomeAway.com v. City of Santa Monica" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of summary judgment to a former employee of the California State Board of Equalization, based on qualified immunity, in an action alleging that the employee violated clearly established law by participating in a search of plaintiff's business following an altercation between the parties. The altercation led to the execution of a search warrant at Advanced Building by CHP officers. The panel held that the employee violated clearly established law by participating in the search. Even assuming that state law permitted warrantless inspections of business records, the panel held that the intrusive search here would not withstand scrutiny under the Fourth Amendment. In this case, no analogously pervasive regulation or special governmental interest justified a diminished expectation of privacy. The panel held that the administrative search exception did not apply and the employee's presence was not necessary to aid in the officers' execution of the warrant. View "Advanced Building & Fabrication, Inc. v. California Highway Patrol" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of habeas corpus relief to petitioner, who was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death. Petitioner argued that the Arizona Supreme Court unconstitutionally affirmed his death sentence by failing to consider mitigating evidence of his longstanding alcohol and substance abuse. The panel held that the Arizona Supreme Court's decision was contrary to clearly established Supreme Court precedent. The panel held that the Arizona Supreme Court violated Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U.S. 104 (1982), by impermissibly requiring that petitioner establish a causal connection between his longstanding substance abuse and the murder before considering and weighing the evidence as a nonstatutory mitigating factor. Because the error was not harmless, the panel reversed the district court's judgment with respect to petitioner's death sentence. View "Spreitz v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and Guam law, alleging procedural due process and equal protection violations in connection with plaintiff's attempts to be compensated for ancestral land taken by the government of Guam for the operation of A.B. Won Pat International Airport. As a preliminary matter, the Ninth Circuit held that the GIAA Defendants were not a proper party in this appeal and must be dismissed, because the GIAA was not named in either count that was at issue in this appeal. On the merits, the panel held that none of the Guam Public Laws raised by plaintiff, individually, read together, or read together with Chapter 80 of the Guam Code Annotated, gave rise to a protected property interest for purposes of a due process analysis. In regard to plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claims, the panel held that the classifications established in the Chapter 80 statutory scheme survived rational basis review. In this case, the Guam legislature's Chapter 80 statutory scheme focused on the additional issues presented by the claims of the In-Use Class and related rationally to legislative facts considered at the time to be true. View "Crawford v. Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport Authority, Guam" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's denial of petitioner's pro se 28 U.S.C. 2254 habeas corpus petition based on claims of ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC). The panel held that petitioner need only show that his IAC claims were substantial in order to excuse the procedural default of the claims under Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1 (2012). Furthermore, because the district court failed to conduct a Martinez analysis, it did not make any findings on the issue. In this case, the panel could not conclude on the record that petitioner's IAC claims were meritless under the deficient performance prong of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S.C. 668 (1984). Therefore, the panel remanded for the district court to conduct an analysis of the substantiality of the IAC claims. View "Rodney v. Filson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, three Muslim residents of California, filed a putative class action against Government Defendants and Agent Defendants, alleging that the FBI paid a confidential informant to conduct a covert surveillance program that gathered information about Muslims based solely on their religious identity. Plaintiffs argued that the investigation involved unlawful searches and anti-Muslim discrimination, in violation of eleven constitutional and statutory causes of action. The Ninth Circuit held that some of the claims dismissed on state secrets grounds should not have been dismissed outright. Rather, the district court should have reviewed any state secrets evidence necessary for a determination of whether the alleged surveillance was unlawful following the secrecy protective procedure in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The panel held that the Fourth Amendment injunctive relief claim against the official-capacity defendants should not have been dismissed, because expungement relief was available under the Constitution to remedy the alleged constitutional violations. The panel declined to address whether plaintiffs' Bivens claim remained available after the Supreme Court's decision in Ziglar v. Abbasi, 137 S. Ct. 1843 (2017), and thus remanded for the district court to determine whether a Bivens remedy was appropriate for any Fourth Amendment claim against the Agent Defendants. The panel addressed defendants' remaining claims supporting the dismissal of plaintiffs' claims and held that some of plaintiffs' allegations stated a claim while others did not. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part and reversed in part, remanding for further proceedings. View "Fazaga v. FBI" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a Washington State childcare provider, filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging that Washington's authorization for the Service Employees International Union Local 925 (SEIU) to act as the exclusive collective bargaining representative for Washington's publicly subsidized childcare providers violated plaintiff's First Amendment rights. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the state, holding that the SEIU's authorized position as the childcare providers' exclusive representative is constitutionally permissible. The court held that Minnesota State Board for Community Colleges v. Knight, 465 U.S. 271 (1984), was the most appropriate guide in this case. Even if the panel assumed that Knight was not applicable, the panel would reach the same result. View "Miller v. Inslee" on Justia Law

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The common-law agency test is the most appropriate test for determining whether an entity is a joint employer under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC brought an enforcement action under Title VII on behalf of Thai workers alleging discrimination charges against Green Acre Farms and Valley Fruit Orchards. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the EEOC's allegations regarding non-orchard-related matters, which in turn affected each of the other decisions under review. The panel held, under the common-law agency test, that the EEOC plausibly alleged that defendants were also joint employers with respect to non-orchard-related matters; the EEOC's allegations stated a plausible basis for holding Green Acre liable for discrimination relating to non-orchard-related matters; and the district court should have granted the EEOC leave to amend its complaint regarding Valley Fruit's liability with respect to such matters. View "EEOC v. Global Horizons, Inc." on Justia Law