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

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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Plaintiff, individually and on behalf of her minor daughter, alleged that Defendant, an employee of the Kauai County Police Department, deceived the Hawaii family court when she assisted the non-custodial father of Plaintiff’s daughter in obtaining a temporary restraining order that prevented Plaintiff, the sole custodial parent, from having any contact with her daughter. Plaintiff further alleged that Defendant conspired with the noncustodial father and state officials to extract the daughter from her school and place her in the father’s custody without Plaintiff’s knowledge or court order.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to dismiss, on the basis of qualified immunity, an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 alleging violations of Plaintiff’s right to familial association.The court stated that although Defendant may ultimately prove that Plaintiff’s allegations were false, at the pleading stage, the court must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true. When the alleged events in this case occurred, the law clearly established that a parent and child’s constitutional right to familial association is violated when a state official interferes with a parent’s lawful custody through judicial deception. The law also clearly established that a state official cannot remove a child from a lawful custodial parent without consent or court order unless the official has reasonable cause to believe that the child is in imminent danger and, even then, the scope and duration of the removal must be reasonable. Here, Plaintiff plausibly alleged that Defendant violated these rights by deliberately failing to inform the family court of a custody order. View "HANNAH DAVID V. GINA KAULUKUKUI" on Justia Law

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A 2014 act of Congress requires the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to convey Oak Flat to a mining company. In exchange, the mining company was to convey a series of nearby plots of land to the United States (the “Land Exchange”).Plaintiff, a nonprofit organization advocating on behalf of Apache American Indians, sued the government, alleging that the Land Exchange violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”), the Free Exercise Clause, and the 1852 Treaty of Santa Fe. The district court denied Plaintiff's request for a preliminary injunction and Plainitff appealed.On appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that, although the government's action was burdensome, it did not create a "substantial burden" under the RFRA. Next, the court held that the Plaintiff's Free-Exercise claim failed because the Land Exchange was neutral in that its object was not to infringe upon the Apache’s religious practices. Finally, the court held that Plaintiff could not establish that the Treaty of Santa Fe imposes an enforceable trust obligation on the United States. Thus, the court affirmed the district court’s order denying Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction. View "APACHE STRONGHOLD V. USA" on Justia Law

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The en banc Ninth Circuit court dismissed as moot an appeal from the district court’s summary judgment in favor of California Governor Newsom and state officials in an action brought by a group of parents and a student alleging Defendants violated federal law when they ordered schools to suspend in-person instruction in 2020 and early 2021, at a time when California was taking its first steps of navigating the Covid-19 pandemic.   The en banc court held that this was a classic case in which, due to intervening events, there was no longer a live controversy necessary for Article III jurisdiction. Nor was there any effective relief that could be granted by the court. The parents had not brought a claim for damages; they sought a declaratory judgment that Governor Newsom’s executive orders, to the extent they incorporated guidance on school reopening, were unconstitutional. Relatedly, they sought an injunction against the 2020-21 Reopening Framework. But Governor Newsom has rescinded the challenged executive orders, and the 2020-21 Reopening Framework has been revoked. Schools now operate under the 2021-22 Guidance, which declares that all schools may reopen for in-person learning. And the parents conceded that, since April 2021, there has been no “state-imposed barrier to reopening for in-person instruction.” The actual controversy has evaporated.The en banc court rejected Plaintiffs’ assertion that the case survived under two exceptions to mootness: the voluntary cessation exception and the capable of repetition yet evading review exception. Neither exception applied. View "MATTHEW BRACH V. GAVIN NEWSOM" on Justia Law

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Petitioner petitioned for review of a decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) denying his request to administratively close his removal proceedings. An immigration judge ordered Petitioner removed from the United States after he admitted that he had committed acts that disqualified him from obtaining cancellation of removal: He twice “encouraged” his eldest son to enter the United States illegally. Petitioner now argues that the “encouraged” component of the alien-smuggling statute, 8 U.S.C. Section 1182(a)(6)(E)(i), is unconstitutionally overbroad under the First Amendment, that it is unconstitutionally vague, and that it violates the equal-protection component of the Due Process Clause. He also contends that the agency abused its discretion in denying his motion for administrative closure.   The Ninth Circuit denied his petition. The court rejected Petitioner’s contention that its interpretation creates overlap with the other verbs in the section, explaining that, because no interpretation could avoid excess language here, the canon against superfluity had limited force. Further, the court explained that, even if it had doubt about its interpretation, the canon of constitutional avoidance would militate in its favor. Next, the court rejected Petitioner’s argument that section 1182(a)(6)(E)(i) is unconstitutionally vague. The court concluded that his concession that he “encouraged” his son’s unlawful entry foreclosed his facial challenge because an individual who has engaged in conduct that is clearly covered by a statute cannot complain of vagueness as applied to others. Finally, the court held that the agency did not abuse its discretion in denying administrative closure, explaining that the agency considered the applicable factors and explained its conclusions. View "J. MARQUEZ-REYES V. MERRICK GARLAND" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was on parole when she was evicted from her apartment. She sent a letter to the parole office about her eviction and provided updated contact information, but the parole office was unable to contact her with the information provided. The parole office then suspended Plaintiff’s parole and issued a “retake warrant.” Plaintiff was arrested seven years later. At the revocation hearing, the parole office decided not to revoke Plaintiff’s parole, retroactively rescinded her parole suspension, restored her parole end date to March 2015, and released her from custody. During the two months she was detained, Plaintiff lost her home, business, and pets.   The Ninth Circuit held that the parole officer permissibly suspended plaintiff’s parole. Plaintiff’s arrest was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment because the parole office had a reasonable belief that she violated her parole. Because the Fourteenth Amendment does not require notice to a parolee before a parole suspension hearing, and because plaintiff was largely responsible for the seven-year delay in her arrest, her arrest did not violate due process. Plaintiff’s state law claims failed because the defendants had no waived immunity for false imprisonment or false arrest, and she could not establish the elements of her negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims. View "ELIZABETH CORNEL V. STATE OF HAWAII" on Justia Law

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The California Insurance Commissioner filed an ex parte conservation application to place the California Insurance Company (“CIC I”) in a conservatorship after CIC I’s president attempted to consummate a purchase transaction with Berkshire Hathaway without the Commissioner’s approval, and then attempted to bypass the California insurance regulatory scheme by merging CIC I with the California Insurance Company (“CIC II”), a New Mexico-domesticated shell company formed by the president. The Superior Court granted the Commissioner’s conservatorship application and appointed the Commissioner as Conservator of CIC I. Applied Underwriters, of which the president is the Chief Executive Officer, and CIC II filed separate actions in federal court asserting causes of actions under Section 1983.   The district court dismissed both actions pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). The Ninth Circuit held that because important considerations of federalism were at stake, the district court’s reliance on Younger abstention as a ground for dismissal was in error. The court held that an insurance conservatorship is not sufficiently akin to criminal prosecution to bring it within the purview of what constitutes a similar, Younger-eligible “civil enforcement proceeding.”   The court held that dismissal of Appellants’ claims was warranted on account of the prior exclusive jurisdiction rule. Further, Appellants’ interests were well represented in the conservatorship action; they had an adequate opportunity to raise constitutional challenges; they failed to sufficiently allege that the conservatorship action was brought in bad faith; they failed to demonstrate irreparable injury arising from extraordinary circumstances which might justify an exception to the prior exclusive jurisdiction rule. View "APPLIED UNDERWRITERS, INC. V. RICARDO LARA" on Justia Law

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Denying Petitioner’s motion to recall a mandate, the Ninth Circuit wrote (1) motions that assert a judgment is void because of a jurisdictional defect generally must show that the court lacked even an arguable basis for jurisdiction, (2) Petitioner has not met that standard in arguing that the statutory “in-custody” requirement was satisfied, and (3) the additional details provided in the motion and accompanying exhibits do not demonstrate the Ninth Circuit’s holding on mootness lacked an arguable basis. View "STEPHEN MAY V. DAVID SHINN" on Justia Law

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Petitioner brought suit pursuant to the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. Section 2000cc et seq., the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, and Arizona state law. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment on the pleadings in an action brought by Petitioner, a Muslim inmate who alleged that he is unable to pray five times a day, as the Qur’an requires because he is housed with people who harass him as he prays; and who had asked the prison to accommodate his religious practice by housing him exclusively with other prisoners based on their religious beliefs and practices.   The court held that Petitioner’s RLUIPA claim failed because denying his request to be housed only with Muslims was the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest. The court held that Defendants did not violate Petitioner’s First Amendment free exercise rights because denying Petitioner’s request was also reasonably related to a legitimate penological interest—avoiding the potential legal liability of housing inmates based on their religious beliefs and practices. Denying the request was rationally related to avoiding liability because by denying Petitioner’s requested accommodation, the Arizona Department of Corrections Rehabilitation and Reentry completely eliminated its risk of litigation from other prisoners based on that claim. View "SHAYKH MUHAMMAD AL SAUD V. PANNAN DAYS" on Justia Law

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Taxpayers challenged the constitutionality of Subpart F’s ability to permit taxation of a CFC’s income after 1986 through the Mandatory Repatriation Tax (“MRT”). The district court dismissed the action for failure to state a claim, denied taxpayers’ cross-motion for summary judgment, and taxpayers appealed.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal. The court held that the MRT is consistent with the Apportionment Clause and it does not violate the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. That clause requires that a direct tax must be apportioned so that each state pays in proportion to its population. The court acknowledged that the Sixteenth Amendment exempts from the apportionment requirement the category of “incomes, from whatever source derived.” The court observed that courts have consistently upheld the constitutionality of taxes similar to the MRT notwithstanding any difficulty in defining income, that the realization of income does not determine the tax’s constitutionality, and that there is no constitutional ban on Congress disregarding the corporate form to facilitate taxation of shareholders’ income.   The court explained that the MRT serves the legitimate purpose of preventing CFC shareholders who have not yet received distributions from obtaining a windfall by never having to pay taxes on their offshore earnings that have not yet been distributed. The MRT accomplished this legitimate purpose by rational means: by accelerating the effective repatriation date of undistributed CFC earnings to a date following passage of the TCJA. View "CHARLES MOORE V. USA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued various Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation & Reentry (“ADCRR”) officials and the Arizona Attorney General (collectively “Defendants”) challenging Defendants’ proposed protocol for his execution. Plaintiff filed a motion for a preliminary injunction prohibiting his execution until such time as Defendants can assure the district court that his execution would comply with various federal statutes and the Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The district court denied the motion for a preliminary injunction and Plaintiff appealed and filed two motions to stay his execution.   The Ninth Circuit denied the motions because: (1) it deferred to the district court’s finding that Defendants’ accommodations for Plaintiff’s degenerative spinal disease preclude a finding that their lethal injection protocol creates a substantial risk of severe pain; (2) even assuming without deciding that Defendants’ Execution Protocol may give rise to a liberty interest, there is insufficient evidence that Plaintiff’s due process rights were violated; and (3) given that Defendants shall execute Plaintiff by lethal injection, he lacks standing to challenge Defendants’ protocol for execution by lethal gas. View "FRANK ATWOOD V. DAVID SHINN" on Justia Law