Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for an officer based on qualified immunity in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging excessive force. The panel held that the district court did not err by raising the issue of qualified immunity sua sponte and by addressing it on summary judgment. The panel also held that, in viewing the record in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the officer's use of deadly force was objectively reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. In this case, the officer could have reasonably feared that plaintiff had a gun and was turning to shoot him when the officer shot plaintiff following a traffic stop. View "Easley v. City of Riverside" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a devout Christian, alleged violations of his right to religious liberty under the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc-1, and the denial of due process. In this case, plaintiff committed a disciplinary violation and was terminated from his kitchen assignment job after he refused to work on a religious holiday. The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiff's two inmate letters did not exhaust his administrative remedies, but that he exhausted administrative remedies through the disciplinary process. The panel held that defendants did not consider plaintiff's request for accommodation and RLUIPA mandated consideration of the requested accommodation. Finally, in regard to the district court's dismissal of certain defendants at the screening stage under 28 U.S.C. 1915A, the panel held that plaintiff's complaint did not explain how the dismissed defendants violated his rights under the First Amendment or RLUIPA. Therefore, the panel reversed the district court's ruling that plaintiff failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies; affirmed the section 1915A screening decision; and remanded for consideration of the merits of plaintiff's First Amendment and RLUIPA claims. View "Fuqua v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of defendants' motion to dismiss claims under California's Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (anti-SLAPP) statute, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code 425.16. In this case, Planned Parenthood and others alleged that defendants used fraudulent means to enter their conferences and gain meetings with their staff for the purpose of creating false and misleading videos that were disseminated on the internet. The panel held that the district court did not err by reviewing defendants' motion using a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) standard. The district court did not err by denying defendants' anti-SLAPP motion challenging the legal sufficiency of plaintiffs' complaint, and did not err in declining to evaluate the factual sufficiency of the complaint at the pleading stage. View "Planned Parenthood Federation of America v. Center for Medical Progress" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against SFPD officials under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that defendants fabricated evidence against him during a murder investigation. The district court granted defendants' motions for summary judgment. The Ninth Circuit held that because Caldwell rebutted any presumption of prosecutorial independence, he established a triable issue as to whether plaintiff fabricated evidence against him. Therefore, the panel reversed and remanded as to Crenshaw. The panel held that Gerrans and Crowly's investigation techniques were not so coercive that they rose to the level of fabricated evidence, and thus affirmed as to these two defendants. View "Caldwell v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of BNSF in an action alleging a failure to accommodate plaintiff under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Applying de novo review, the panel held that it was neither appropriate nor necessary to extend the Barnett and Morton burden-shifting framework to trial. The panel reasoned that the consequences of the denial of summary judgment was not a meaningless gesture, and when weighed against the confusion and complexity likely to arise at trial, burden shifting was best confined to summary judgment. The panel held that the district court properly described plaintiff's burden as a burden of proof and properly refused his requested instruction. Finally, the district court did not err in denying plaintiff's motion for judgment as a matter of law. View "Snapp v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's dismissal of his 42 U.S.C. 1983 action, alleging that the LADWP terminated his employment in a probationary promotional position without due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendant's motion to dismiss because plaintiff lacked a constitutionally protected property interest in his probationary position. The panel also denied plaintiff leave to amend his third amended complaint and denied plaintiff's motion for reconsideration. View "Palm v. Los Angeles Department of Water and Power" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied petitioner's application for leave to file a second or successive habeas petition with the district court. The panel held that petitioner's Brady v. Maryland claim was subject to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act's (AEDPA) second or successive gatekeeping requirements because the factual predicate supporting a Brady claim existed at the time of the first habeas petition. The panel applied AEDPA's second or successive bar to petitioner's Brady claim and held that he has failed to make the requisite prima facie showing of actual innocence. View "Brown v. Muniz" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied an application for permission to file a second or successive habeas corpus petition in federal district court based on a Brady v. Maryland claim. The panel held that petitioner failed to show that he exercised due diligence in failing to discover the evidence at issue before he filed his habeas petition. Therefore, the application was denied under 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(2)(B)(i). The panel also held that petitioner failed to show by clear and convincing evidence that no reasonable factfinder would have found him guilty had the new evidence been known at trial pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(2)(B)(ii). View "Solorio, Jr. v. Muniz" on Justia Law

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The proper standard for determining which employees have the power to establish an entity's "official policy" under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 34 U.S.C. 12601 is the standard that governs under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the government in an action brought to halt racially discriminatory policing policies concerning traffic stops instituted by Joseph Arpaio, the former Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. The panel held that Arpaio acted as a final policymaker for the County; the County was liable for violations of Title VI and section 12601 stemming from its own official policies; and Arpaio adopted the racially discriminatory traffic-stop policies at issue, he acted as a final policymaker for the County, and the district court correctly held the County liable for the violations of Title VI and section 12601 caused by those policies. The panel also held that the district court properly applied issue preclusion to bar the County from relitigating the lawfulness of Arpaio's traffic-stop policies in light of prior adverse findings in Melendres v. Arpaio, 695 F.3d 990 (9th Cir. 2012). View "United States v. County of Maricopa" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction enjoining California Department of Public Health officials from enforcing the California Medical Waste Management Act (MWMA). The preliminary injunction enjoined Department officials from enforcing the Act on Daniels for the manner in which it disposed of medical waste at facilities outside of the State of California. The panel held that Daniels will likely succeed on the merits of its dormant Commerce Clause claim. Furthermore, the panel held that Department officials were entitled to qualified immunity because Daniels' constitutional rights under the dormant Commerce Clause were not clearly established at the time of the violation. Therefore, the panel reversed the denial of Department officials' motion to dismiss on the basis of qualified immunity. View "Daniels Sharpsmart, Inc. v. Smith" on Justia Law