Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's preliminary injunction in an action brought by civil detainees confined in U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities within the Tucson Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol. The detainees alleged that they were subjected to inhumane and punitive treatment. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting a preliminary injunction requiring that defendants provide detainees with mats and blankets after 12 hours, and properly applied precedent such that neither side has shown that the limited preliminary injunction was illogical, implausible, or without support in the record. In this case, the district court properly read and applied Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520 (1979). The panel also held that plaintiffs have not shown that the district court abused its discretion in issuing only a limited preliminary injunction. View "Doe v. Kelly" on Justia Law

by
In 2014, defendant-appellant Justin Werle was indicted in Washington State for the unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, and possession of an unregistered firearm. Werle pled guilty to both counts. The district court found that Werle had seven prior qualifying convictions under the Armed Career Criminal Act and was therefore subject to a fifteen-year mandatory minimum sentence. This finding was based in part on the district court’s determination that the Washington riot statute was categorically a violent felony for the purposes of the ACCA. A different panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Washington riot statute was not categorically a violent felony, and the case was remanded for resentencing in light of the opinion. On remand, the district court imposed a sentence enhancement under U.S.S.G. section 2K2.1(a) due to Werle’s prior convictions for felony harassment via a threat to kill under Washington Revised Code section 9A.46.020(2)(b)(ii), finding that those convictions were crimes of violence. The district court then calculated Werle’s sentencing guideline range to be between 130 and 162 months, and concluded that a total sentence of 140 months was appropriate. Werle appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the sentence. View "United States v. Werle" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order compelling arbitration of putative class action claims against AT&T by customers who alleged that AT&T falsely advertised their mobile service plans as "unlimited" when in fact it intentionally slowed data at certain usage levels. The panel held that there was no state action in this case, rejecting plaintiffs' claim that there was state action whenever a party asserts a direct constitutional challenge to a permissive law under Denver Area Educational Telecommunications Consortium, Inc. v. FCC, 518 U.S. 727 (1996). The panel held that Denver Area did not broadly rule that the government was the relevant state actor whenever there was a direct constitutional challenge to a "permissive" statute, and did not support finding state action here. The panel also held that the Federal Arbitration Act merely gives AT&T the private choice to arbitrate, and did not encourage arbitration such that AT&T's conduct was attributable to the state. View "Roberts v. AT&T Mobility, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed suit against defendants, challenging on First Amendment grounds, a school uniform policy that required their two minor children to wear shirts or sweatshirts with a logo consisting of the name of the school, a stylized picture of a gopher (the school mascot), and the motto "Tomorrow’s Leaders." Given the failure of the Ninth Circuit's en banc call, the panel held that the uniform policy—both the motto requirement and the exemption—violated the First Amendment. The panel reasoned that there can hardly be interests more compelling than fostering children's educational achievement and providing a safe and supportive educational environment. However, requiring students to display the motto "Tomorrow's Leaders" on their uniforms was not narrowly tailored to serve those interests. The panel held that the Individual Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity because the applicable law was not sufficiently clear to put them on notice that the uniform policy would violate the First Amendment. However, because the Institutional Defendants were not individuals, they were not protected by qualified immunity. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Frudden v. Pilling" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the County's permitting scheme, which required individuals to obtain a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to host weddings on their properties. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' First Amendment claim; affirmed the dismissal of plaintiffs' Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc et seq., claim; vacated the denial of a preliminary injunction; and remanded. The panel applied Kaahumanu v. Hawaii, 682 F.3d 789 (9th Cir. 2012), and held that plaintiffs functioned as wedding "vendors" because they seek to profit from facilitating and providing a commercial space for weddings; because they are wedding vendors, they may suffer economic injury as a result of the CUP scheme; and an injunction may redress this harm. Therefore, plaintiffs had Article III standing to bring their First Amendment challenge. In regard to the First Amendment claim, the permitting scheme was unconstitutional because it lacked definite and objective standards and lacked a time limit. In regard to the RLUIPA equal treatment claim, the panel held that plaintiffs did not assert that they were a religious institution or assembly. View "Epona, LLC v. County of Ventura" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in an action filed by a Montana judicial candidate, Mark French, alleging that Montana's campaign-speech rule, which prohibits judicial candidates from seeking, accepting, or using political endorsements in their election campaigns, violated his First Amendment rights. The panel held that Montana has compelling interests in an impartial and independent judiciary; Rule 4.1(A)(7) of the Montana Code of Juridical Conduct was narrowly tailored to those interests because it strikes an appropriate balance between a candidate's speech and Montana's interest in an independent and impartial judiciary; and French's arguments to the contrary were foreclosed by the Supreme Court’s decision in Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar, 135 S. Ct. 1656 (2015), and the panel's decision in Wolfson v. Concannon, 811 F.3d 1176 (9th Cir. 2016) (en banc). View "French v. Jones" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a 28 U.S.C. 2254 habeas corpus petition challenging petitioner's conviction for first degree murder and rape and his capital sentence. The panel held that the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) applied to petitioner's federal habeas petition and rejected his claim that AEDPA was inapplicable because he had filed a request for appointment of counsel and a stay of execution before AEDPA's effective date; although trial counsel was deficient for retaining a psychiatrist for the penalty phase only a few days before its start and by failing to prepare him adequately, the California Supreme Court could reasonably conclude that he was not prejudiced; the California Supreme Court reasonably decided that petitioner's counsel's performance was not deficient because his counsel could have made a strategic decision to omit a witness' testimony at the penalty phase and he had not shown prejudice; the prosecutor's statements at penalty phase closing argument did not violate petitioner's constitutional rights; the panel rejected petitioner's conflict claim; and the court declined to expand the certificate of appealability to include an unexhausted claim that systemic delay in the administration of California’s death penalty rendered executions arbitrary in violation of the Eighth Amendment. View "Rowland v. Chappell" on Justia Law

by
Once the government has probable cause to believe that the probationer has actually reoffended by participating in a violent felony, the government's need to locate the probationer and protect the public is heightened. This heightened interest in locating the probationer is sufficient to outweigh a third party's privacy interest in the home that she shares with the probationer. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of police officers and the city in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action. Plaintiff and her minor granddaughter alleged that their constitutional rights were violated when officers conducted a search of plaintiff's home. The officers were searching for plaintiff's daughter, who was on probation. The terms of the probation allowed warrantless searches of her person and residence. The panel held that the warrantless search of the home over plaintiff's objection was reasonable as a matter of law. View "Smith v. City of Santa Clara" on Justia Law

by
Once the government has probable cause to believe that the probationer has actually reoffended by participating in a violent felony, the government's need to locate the probationer and protect the public is heightened. This heightened interest in locating the probationer is sufficient to outweigh a third party's privacy interest in the home that she shares with the probationer. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of police officers and the city in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action. Plaintiff and her minor granddaughter alleged that their constitutional rights were violated when officers conducted a search of plaintiff's home. The officers were searching for plaintiff's daughter, who was on probation. The terms of the probation allowed warrantless searches of her person and residence. The panel held that the warrantless search of the home over plaintiff's objection was reasonable as a matter of law. View "Smith v. City of Santa Clara" on Justia Law

by
In a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action challenging Butte County Jail's policy prohibiting the delivery of unsolicited commercial mail to inmates, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment for defendants and the denial of plaintiff's motion to reopen discovery and for relief from judgment. Plaintiff, publisher of a magazine aimed at county jail inmates, argued that the jail's mail policy violated the First Amendment. The panel evaluated the mail policy under the test established for reviewing constitutional challenges to prison regulations in Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78 (1987), and held that the ban was rationally connected to a legitimate government interest; electronic kiosks were an adequate alternative; distributing the magazine itself would have a significant impact on the allocation of jail resources; and paper has created serious problems at the jail, and the jail's mail policy was not an exaggerated response to those problems. Finally, the panel held that plaintiff abandoned its remaining arguments. View "Crime Justice & America, Inc. v. Honea" on Justia Law