Articles Posted in Constitutional 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

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The Ninth Circuit granted a petition for panel rehearing, withdrew its prior opinion, and filed a superseding opinion with its order. Entertainment Studios, along with NAAAOM, filed suit alleging that Charter's refusal to enter into a carriage contract was racially motivated and in violation of 42 U.S.C. 1981. The panel held that, although the Supreme Court's decisions in Gross v. FBL Fin. Servs., Inc., 557 U.S. 167 (2009), and Univ. of Tex. Sw. Med. Ctr. v. Nassar, 570 U.S. 338 (2013), necessitated reconsideration of its section 1981 approach, the panel explained that a plaintiff in a section 1981 action need only prove that discriminatory intent was a factor in, and not necessarily the but-for cause of, a defendant's refusal to contract. In this case, the panel held that plaintiffs' allegations regarding Charter's treatment of Entertainment Studios, and its differing treatment of white-owned companies, were sufficient to state a viable claim pursuant to section 1981. Finally, the panel held that the First Amendment did not bar plaintiffs' section 1981 claim. The fact that cable operators engage in expressive conduct when they select which networks to carry does not automatically require the application of strict scrutiny in this case. The panel held that section 1981 would satisfy intermediate scrutiny because it was a content-neutral statute and was narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest in preventing racial discrimination. View "National Association of African American-Owned Media v. Charter Communications, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and California law, alleging that the city, the police department, and individual officers violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to be safeguarded from injury and his state law right to medical care while in custody. Plaintiff tried to commit suicide while he was a pretrial detainee and now suffers permanent and severe brain damage. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of qualified immunity on the section 1983 claims as to Officer Andrew Brice, because it was not clearly established at the time that a reasonable officer would perceive a substantial risk that plaintiff would imminently attempt suicide. The panel held that it lacked jurisdiction to review the denial of summary judgment on the section 1983 claims as to the municipal defendants, because the pendent Monell claim was not inextricably intertwined with a properly reviewable collateral appeal, as the panel's resolution of Officer Brice's appeal from the denial of summary judgment on qualified immunity did not "necessarily" resolve plaintiff's Monell claim. Finally, the panel affirmed the district court's denial of summary judgment on the state law claims, because a reasonable jury could conclude that Officer Brice had reason to know that plaintiff had a serious medical condition and required immediate medical care and he failed timely to summon such care. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Horton v. City of Santa Maria" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment dismissing a petition for habeas relief. After the district court conducted a through evidentiary hearing on the issue of judicial bias and concluded that no bias occurred, the panel reviewed the record, the briefs, and considered the arguments of counsel and could not say that the district court committed clear error in its factual determinations. The panel also held that Ngyuen v. Curry, 736 F.3d 1287 (9th Cir. 2013), was not controlling and the prudential law of the case doctrine did not bind the panel. Rather, the panel held that, under Davila v. Davis, 137 S. Ct. 2058 (2017), petitioner's ineffective assistance of counsel claim was not viable. View "Hurles v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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After inmates were exposed to a heightened risk of getting Valley Fever, they filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against state officials for money damages, alleging that exposing them to a heightened risk of getting Valley Fever was cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. African-American inmates also brought a challenge under the Equal Protection Clause, claiming that African-American inmates were particularly likely to get Valley Fever and suffer serious consequences. The Ninth Circuit held that several of the defendants could not be sued at all because they were not personally involved in any alleged violations. The panel also held that the officials were entitled to qualified immunity against claims that they were deliberately indifferent to a substantial risk of serious harm in violation of the Eighth Amendment, and also entitled to qualified immunity against claims that they racially discriminated against African-American inmates. In this case, it would not have been "obvious" to any reasonable official that they had to segregate prisoners by race or do more than the federal Receiver told them to do. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part and reversed in part. View "Hines v. Youseff" on Justia Law

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The en banc court reversed and remanded the district court's denial of a preliminary injunction in an action challenging the City and County's Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Warning Ordinance. The Ordinance requires health warnings on advertisements for certain sugar-sweetened beverages. The en banc court relied on the Supreme Court's decision in National Institute of Family & Life Advocates v. Becerra, 138 S. Ct. 2361 (2018), and held that plaintiffs will likely succeed on the merits of their claim that the Ordinance was an unjustified or unduly burdensome disclosure requirement that might offend the First Amendment by chilling protected commercial speech. The en banc court also held that the remaining injunction factors weighed in plaintiffs' favor. Therefore, the district court abused its discretion in denying the motion for a preliminary injunction. View "American Beverage Assoc. v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs challenged California Air Resources Board regulations regarding the first Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), which went into effect in 2011; the LCFS as amended in 2012; and the LCFS which replaced the first LCFS in 2015. The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiffs' challenges to previous versions of the LCFS have been made moot by their repeal. The panel affirmed the dismissal of plaintiffs' remaining claims against the present version of the LCFS as largely precluded by the panel's decision in Rocky Mountain Farmers Union v. Corey, 730 F.3d 1070 (9th Cir. 2013). The panel also held that plaintiffs' extraterritoriality claims against the 2015 LCFS were precluded by the law of the case and by recent circuit precedent in Am. Fuel & Petrochemical Mfrs. v. O'Keeffe, 903 F.3d 903 (9th Cir. 2018). Finally, the LCFS did not facially discriminate against interstate commerce in its treatment of ethanol and crude oil, and did not purposefully discriminate against out-of-state ethanol. View "Rocky Mountain Farmers Union v. Corey" on Justia Law