Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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Under the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA), the scope of the ADA's "regarded-as" definition of disability was expanded. The plaintiff must show, under the ADAAA, that he has been subjected to a prohibited action because of an actual or perceived physical or mental impairment whether or not the impairment limits or is perceived to limit a major life activity. In this case, plaintiff filed suit against HIE, alleging disability discrimination under the ADA and state law claiming that HIE terminated him because of his shoulder injury. The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiff established a genuine issue of material fact as to whether his employer regarded him as having a disability. The panel held that the district court erred in concluding, as a matter of law, that plaintiff was not regarded-as disabled. Furthermore, the district court erred in concluding that plaintiff did not meet the "physical" definition of disability under the ADA. View "Nunies v. HIE Holdings" on Justia Law

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Excessive force under the Eighth Amendment does not require proof that an officer enjoyed or otherwise derived pleasure from his or her use of force. In this case, plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging claims against the Snake River Correctional Institute's officials and corrections officers for, among other things, excessive force and deliberate indifference in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendant and remanded for a new trial. The panel held that the district court's instructions that plaintiff had to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that his alleged abuser had or derived pleasure from extreme cruelty while beating plaintiff was plainly erroneous. Furthermore, these erroneous instructions prejudiced plaintiff. The panel also vacated the district court's sua sponte grant of summary judgment to defendants on plaintiff's deprivation-of-property claim after determining that plaintiff, who was proceeding pro se at the time, failed to receive sufficient notice that the claim was at issue on summary judgment. View "Hoard v. Hartman" on Justia Law

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The DNC and others filed suit against the state of Arizona, challenging two state election practices: (1) Arizona's longstanding requirement that in-person voters cast their ballots in their assigned precinct, which Arizona enforces by not counting ballots cast in the wrong precinct (OOP policy), and (2) H.B. 2023, a recent legislative enactment which precludes most third parties from collecting early ballots from voters. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and held that the district court did not err in holding that H.B. 2023 and the OOP policy did not violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments because they imposed only a minimal burden on voters and were adequately designed to serve Arizona's important regulatory interests; the district court did not err in holding that H.B. 2023 and the OOP policy did not violate section 2 of the Voting Rights Act; DNC failed to show that minority voters were deprived of an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect candidates of their choice; and the district court did not err in holding that H.B. 2023 did not violate the Fifteenth Amendment because plaintiffs failed to carry their burden of showing that H.B. 2023 was enacted with discriminatory intent. View "The Democratic National Committee v. Reagan" on Justia Law

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California Attorney General's Form 990 Schedule B requirement, which obligates charities to submit the very information they already file each year with the IRS, survived exacting scrutiny as applied to plaintiffs because it was substantially related to an important state interest in policing charitable fraud. The Ninth Circuit held that, even assuming arguendo that plaintiffs' contributors would face substantial harassment if Schedule B information became public, the strength of the state's interest in collecting Schedule B information reflected the actual burden on First Amendment rights because the information was collected solely for nonpublic use, and the risk of inadvertent public disclosure was slight. Accordingly, the panel vacated the district court's permanent injunctions, reversed the bench trial judgments, and remanded for entry of judgment in favor of the California Attorney General. View "Americans for Prosperity v. Becerra" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of a habeas corpus petition challenging petitioner's California conviction for second degree murder. The panel held that the state court unreasonably applied Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), and related cases in holding that a detective ceased interrogation and that petitioner's waiver of the right of counsel was valid. In this case, the only reasonable interpretation of what occurred between petitioner and the interrogating detective was that the detective continued interrogating petitioner after petitioner had clearly – and repeatedly – invoked his right to counsel, and that the detective badgered petitioner into waiving that right. View "Martinez v. Cate" on Justia Law

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The summary arrest, handcuffing, and police transport to the station of middle school girls was a disproportionate response to the school's need, which was dissipation of what the school officials characterized as an "ongoing feud" and "continuous argument" between the students. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of summary judgment to defendants based on qualified immunity and grant of summary judgment for students in an action alleging that a sheriff's deputy arrested the students on campus without probable cause in violation of their Fourth Amendment rights and state law. In this case, the deputy was invited to speak to a group of girls in school about bullying and fighting. When the girls were unresponsive and disrespectful, the deputy arrested the girls. The panel applied the two-part reasonableness test set forth in New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325, 333 (1985), holding that the arrests were unreasonable because they were not justified at their inception nor reasonably related in scope to the circumstances; officers were not entitled to qualified immunity because no reasonable officer could have reasonably believed that the law authorized the arrest of a group of middle schoolers in order to teach them a lesson or to prove a point; and the evidence was insufficient to create probable cause to arrest the students for violating California Penal Code 415(1) or Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 601(a), and thus plaintiffs were entitled to summary judgment on their state false arrest claim. View "Scott v. County of San Bernardino" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of qualified immunity to an IRS agent who violated plaintiff's Fourth Amendment right to bodily privacy when, during the lawful execution of a search warrant at plaintiff's home, the agent escorted plaintiff to the bathroom and monitored her while she relieved herself. Weighing the scope, manner, justification, and place of the search, the panel held that a reasonable jury could conclude that the agent's actions were unreasonable and violated plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights. In this case, the agent's general interests in preventing destruction of evidence and promoting officer safety did not justify the scope or manner of the intrusion into plaintiff's most basic subject of privacy, her naked body. The panel also held that the law was clearly established at the time of the agent's actions. A reasonable officer in the agent's position would have known that such a significant intrusion into bodily privacy, in the absence of legitimate government justification, was unlawful. Accordingly, the agent was not entitled to qualified immunity. View "Ioane v. Hodges" on Justia Law

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In the circumstances of this case, the Ninth Circuit held that federal courts should not abstain from exercising jurisdiction over a constitutional challenge to a state criminal statute while there are ongoing state court protection order proceedings arguably related to a challenge to the criminal statute. While plaintiff was the respondent in a Washington state court temporary stalking protection order proceeding, he filed a federal action seeking to enjoin enforcement of Washington's cyberstalking statute. The panel held that the Washington state stalking protection order proceedings against plaintiff did not fit into the narrow category of state cases in which federal abstention was appropriate under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). The panel reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint, because the state protection proceedings did not present the exceptional circumstances that warranted abstention. Therefore, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Rynearson v. Ferguson" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a complaint challenging Oregon's Clean Fuels Program, alleging that it violated the Commerce Clause and was preempted by section 211(c) of the Clean Air Act (CAA). The Program regulates the production and sale of transportation fuels based on greenhouse gas emissions. Determining that Rocky Mountain Farmers Union v. Corey, 730 F.3d 1070, 1081 (9th Cir. 2013), was controlling as to the Commerce Clause claim, the panel held that, like the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard at issue in Rocky Mountain, the Oregon Program discriminated against fuels based on lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions, not state of origin. The panel also held that the complaint failed to plausibly allege that the Oregon Program was discriminatory in purpose, and the Program did not violate the Commerce Clause and principles of interstate federalism by attempting to control commerce occurring outside the boundaries of the state. The panel also held that the EPA's decision not to regulate methane was not preemptive under the CAA. View "American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers v. O'Keeffe" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the denial of a 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition for habeas relief challenging petitioner's conviction for domestic violence, assault, and vandalism. The panel held that it was error for the state trial judge not to sua sponte order a competency hearing given the numerous signs of petitioner's mental incompetency, including his suicide attempt on the eve of trial. The panel remanded to the district court with instructions to grant the writ unless, within a reasonable time, the state grants a new trial. The panel need not address petitioner's other issues and dismissed his appeals as moot. View "Anderson v. Gipson" on Justia Law