Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

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The 1936 Randolph-Sheppard Vending Stand Act (RSA), 20 U.S.C. 107(a), authorizes blind persons to operate vending facilities on federal property. The Department of Education prescribes RSA regulations and designates the state agency for issuing RSA licenses. Ohio expands the RSA to state properties. Ohio’s Bureau of Services for the Visually Impaired (BSVI) implements the RSA and Ohio-RSA.Cyrus, a blind vendor, has participated in the Ohio RSA program since 1989. Pursuant to Grantor Agreements with Lucas County and the University of Toledo, Cyrus paid $504,000 in commissions to the university and county. In 2014, the Ohio Attorney General issued a formal opinion that conditioning RSA-vending at state-affiliated universities on commission payments was illegal. Cyrus filed a grievance and stopped making payments to the university. BSVI notified the university that the commission requirement "is void.” BSVI denied Cyrus’s grievance and took no action on the county commissions. A state hearing officer denied relief. Cyrus filed an arbitration complaint under the RSA’.An RSA panel found that BSVI breached its duties by requiring commission payments to both locations The Sixth Circuit held that the RSA prohibits commissions, even for facilities on county-owned properties; prospective relief was appropriate. RSA arbitration panels are enough like civil litigation in Article III courts that sovereign immunity applies. Ohio has not waived its immunity from RSA damages awards imposed by federal arbitration panels. The panel, therefore, exceeded its authority in awarding damages and interest. View "Ohio v. United States Department of Education" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Republican Club's civil rights complaint against the City and its lessee, the Western Justice Center (WJC). The Republican Club alleged First Amendment violations arising from the Center's rescission, on the basis of political and religious viewpoint, of an agreement to rent out a space for the Republican Club's speaking event. In Burton v. Wilmington Parking Auth., 365 U.S. 715, 725 (1961), the Supreme Court held that, in certain circumstances, a private actor who leases government property must comply with the constitutional restraints as though they were binding covenants written into the lease agreement itself.The panel held that neither the circumstances under which WJC rehabilitated the building and acquired the lease, nor the terms of the lease itself, convert WJC into a state actor. To apply the ruling in Burton, the panel stated that a private party's conduct of which the plaintiff complains must be inextricably intertwined with that of the government. In this case, the Club failed to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. 1985(3) where WJC and its agents were not state actors and where the Club did not allege that the City or some other state actor participated in the alleged conspiracy to deprive the Club of its constitutional rights. Furthermore, the government does not, without more, become vicariously liable for the discretionary decisions of its lessee. Here, the undisputed facts show that the City did not delegate any final policy-making authority that caused the Club's alleged constitutional injury. View "Pasadena Republican Club v. Western Justice Center" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's action under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) based on failure to state a claim. Plaintiff, a quadriplegic who uses a wheelchair for mobility, alleges that he encountered inaccessible service counters that denied him full and equal access to a Tesla dealership and "created difficulty and discomfort." Plaintiff also alleges that Tesla's continued failure to provide accessible service counters deters him from returning to the dealership.The panel held that plaintiff's complaint did not allege facts sufficient to support his claim under the standards articulated by Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). The court concluded that the district court correctly concluded that plaintiff's complaint did not allege facts sufficient to support his ADA claim because the complaint primarily recited legal conclusions. Furthermore, Tesla was not put on notice of how its service counters prevented plaintiff from full and equal access to a Tesla dealership. Finally, the panel sua sponte addressed the issue of standing and concluded that plaintiff's allegations were sufficient to establish an injury-in-fact. View "Whitaker v. Tesla Motors, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner, who is challenging his 2012 court-martial conviction for one count of aggravated sexual assault and two counts of wrongful sexual conduct. In United States v. Hills, 75 M.J. 350 (C.A.A.F.2016), which was decided after petitioner's conviction became final, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces held unconstitutional a pattern jury instruction on Military Rule of Evidence (M.R.E.) 413 under which jurors may consider evidence of any one charged sexual offense as showing the defendant's propensity to have committed any of the other charged sexual offenses.Although Hills announced a new rule which held that the use of charged sexual offenses to show propensity to commit other charged sexual offenses violated the presumption of innocence and right to have all findings made clearly beyond a reasonable doubt, as guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment, the panel held that the rule does not fall under either exception for nonretroactivity because it is neither a substantive rule nor a watershed rule of criminal procedure implicating the fundamental fairness and accuracy of the criminal proceeding. Therefore, Hills does not apply retroactively in petitioner's case. View "Lewis v. United States" on Justia Law

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Defendants-Appellants Patrick Stein, Curtis Allen, and Gavin Wright appealed their convictions for conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against people and property within the United States, and knowingly and willfully conspiring to violate civil rights. Wright also appealed his false statements conviction. In October 2016, defendants were arrested in connection with a scheme to bomb an apartment complex and mosque in Garden City, Kansas. The arrests were the result of an extended FBI investigation involving an undercover information to joined defendants' militia, Kansas Security Force (KSF), to monitor what the FBI considered a threat to public safety. In June 2016, defendants began planning their attack on local Muslims in response to a nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. The cases were tried before a jury. The government called 15 witnesses, including the undercover informant, and introduced more than 500 exhibits. Defendants called 10 witnesses, and introduced nearly 40 exhibits, but did not testify themselves. The district court found defendants failed to establish an evidentiary basis for entrapment, and declined to instruct the jury on that defense, at defendants' request. All three defendants challenged their convictions and sentences on three grounds: (1) the method of petit jury selection violated the Jury Act, (2) the district court improperly refused to instruct the jury on entrapment, and (3) the district court erred in applying the terrorism enhancement at sentencing. Wright raised several additional challenges in which his co-defendants do not join. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions. View "United States v. Stein" on Justia Law

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In light of the surging community spread of COVID-19, California's public health and epidemiological experts have crafted a complex set of regulations that restrict various activities based on their risk of transmitting the disease and the projected toll on the State's healthcare system. California permits unlimited attendance at outdoor worship services and deems clergy and faith-based streaming services "essential," but has temporarily halted all congregate indoor activities, including indoor religious services, within the most at-risk regions of the state.South Bay challenges this restriction, along with others, under provisions of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the United States and California Constitutions. South Bay argues that the current restrictions on indoor services prohibit congregants' Free Exercise of their theology, which requires gathering indoors. The district court concluded that California's restrictions on indoor worship are narrowly tailored to meet its compelling—and immediate—state interest in stopping the community spread of the deadly coronavirus.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of South Bay's request to enjoin California's temporary prohibition on indoor worship under the Regional Stay at Home Order and Tier 1 of the Blueprint. The panel concluded that, although South Bay has demonstrated irreparable harm, it has not demonstrated that the likelihood of success, the balance of the equities, or the public interest weigh in its favor. The panel stated that California has a compelling interest in reducing community spread of COVID-19, and the Stay at Home Order is narrowly tailored to achieve the State's compelling interest in stemming the recent case surge. The panel also concluded that South Bay has not demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits with respect to its challenge to California's state-wide ban on indoor singing and chanting. In this case, the State's ban on these activities is rationally related to controlling the spread of COVID-19. The panel could not, however, conclude that the 100- and 200-person attendance caps on indoor worship under Tiers 2 and 3 of the Blueprint survive strict scrutiny. The panel explained that the State has not shown that less restrictive measures, such as basing attendance limits on the size of the church, synagogue or mosque would cause any greater peril to the public. The panel remanded to the district court with instructions to enjoin the State from imposing the 100- and 200-person caps under Tiers 2 and 3 of the Blueprint. View "South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was a preliminary injunction prohibiting the County of San Diego, its public health officer Wilma Wooten, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), and Governor Gavin Newsom from enforcing COVID-19-related public health restrictions against any business offering restaurant service in San Diego County, subject to safety protocols. Two San Diego businesses that offer live nude adult filed suit claiming the State and County restrictions on live entertainment violated their First Amendment right to freedom of expression. The State and County eventually loosened their restrictions on live entertainment, but as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, they imposed new restrictions on restaurants. These new restaurant restrictions severely curtailed the adult entertainment businesses’ operations. But these new restrictions were unrelated to live entertainment or the First Amendment. Despite the narrow scope of the issues presented, the trial court granted expansive relief when it issued the injunction challenged here. "It is a fundamental aspect of procedural due process that, before relief can be granted against a party, the party must have notice of such relief and an opportunity to be heard." The Court of Appeal determined that because restaurant restrictions were never part of the adult entertainment businesses’ claims, the State and County had no notice or opportunity to address them. The trial court therefore erred by enjoining the State and County from enforcing COVID-19-related public health restrictions on restaurants. Because the procedure used by the trial court was improper, the trial court’s actions left the Court of Appeal unable to address the substance of this challenge to restaurant restrictions. View "Midway Venture LLC v. County of San Diego" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a false advertising claim under the Lanham Act, remanding for further proceedings. At issue is whether the First Amendment shields a publisher of supposedly independent product reviews if it has secretly rigged the ratings to favor one company in exchange for compensation. The panel ruled that this speech qualifies as commercial speech only, and that a nonfavored company may potentially sue the publisher for misrepresentation under the Lanham Act.In this case, Ariix alleges that NutriSearch rigged its ratings to favor Usana under a hidden financial arrangement. The panel held that Ariix plausibly alleges that the nutritional supplement guide is commercial speech, is sufficiently disseminated, and contains actionable statements of fact. However, the panel remanded for the district court to consider the "purpose of influencing" element under the Lanham Act. View "Ariix, LLC v. NutriSearch Corp." on Justia Law

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In 1997, Kelley Maves was convicted of two sexual assaults in Colorado. He moved to Alaska in 2015, where the Department of Public Safety required him to register for life as a sex offender under the Alaska Sex Offenders Registration Act (ASORA). Maves appealed the Department’s decision to the superior court, arguing that one of the two convictions could not be used as the basis for a lifetime registration requirement because it had been set aside; with one conviction he would be required to register for only 15 years. His argument on appeal included a challenge to a 1995 departmental regulation that defined “conviction” as including those that had been set aside. The superior court affirmed the Department’s decision requiring the Maves to register for life. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the 1994 version of ASORA was not plainly intended to apply to offenders whose convictions have been set aside, and that the 1995 regulation extending the Act’s reach to those convictions was not necessary to carry out the Act’s purposes. The Court therefore reversed the superior court’s decision upholding the requirement that Maves register under ASORA for life. View "Maves v. Department of Public Safety" on Justia Law

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In 2016, Hill pleaded no contest to felony possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (case CR940896). The court suspended imposition of sentence and placed Hill on three years' felony probation. In 2019, a Clearlake police officer noticed Hill outside of a liquor store, approached, obtained Hill’s name, and conducted a records check, which revealed that Hill was on postrelease community supervision. As the officer returned, Hill “produced” a knife and placed it on a pole. Hill said he needed the knife “for protection” and that he had it shoved down his sleeve. Hill pleaded no contest to concealing a dirk or dagger (case CR953084) and admitted a probation violation in case CR940896. The plea was open with a maximum possible sentence of 32t months.The trial court revoked his probation in case CR940896 and sentenced Hill in both cases to an aggregate term of 32 months. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting Hill’s argument that his attorney was ineffective for failing to request a hearing on his eligibility for mental health diversion under Penal Code section 1001.36. Because Hill’s appeal did not attack the validity of his plea but challenged the court’s sentencing discretion relating to section 1001.36, no certificate of probable cause was required. Hill's counsel was not deficient in failing to request an eligibility hearing nor was Hill prejudiced by counsel’s failure to do so. View "People v. Hill" on Justia Law