Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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The Ninth Circuit previously affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's claims of ineffective assistance of counsel at sentencing, but the panel remanded for consideration of his claims of ineffective assistance at trial and on direct appeal. After the district court denied these claims, petitioner sought review from the Ninth Circuit. In this appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that it need not consider petitioner's argument that the district court erred in determining that some claims were outside the scope of the Ninth Circuit's remand, because that determination does not affect the scope of the issues before the panel here; counsel was not ineffective for failing to adequately present an overall defense theory; counsel need not explore the possibility of a mental incapacity defense of impulsivity where such a defense would have been counterproductive; and petitioner's claim that trial counsel was ineffective during voir dire in failing to discover that a juror had been the victim of a violent crime that would have disqualified that juror was also without merit. The panel denied a certificate of appealability as to all other claims and affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Greenway v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of preliminary injunctive relief, holding that RFC was unlikely to succeed on the merits of its First Amendment claim challenging the City of Oakland's ordinance regulating unattended donation collection boxes (UDCBs) because the ordinance was content neutral and survived intermediate scrutiny. Assuming that charitable solicitations are protected speech, the Ordinance was content neutral to the extent it regulated speech or expressive activity at all. The Ninth Circuit concluded that the Ordinance plainly served important governmental interests unrelated to the suppression of protected speech; was sufficiently narrowly tailored and left alternative avenues of communication for RFC to express its message; and, because RFC did not demonstrate that it was likely to succeed on the merits of its First Amendment claim, the court need not address RFC's irreparable harm argument. View "Recycle for Change v. City of Oakland" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit withdrew its previous opinion and dissent, filing a superseding opinion and dissent. The Ninth Circuit reversed the grant of summary judgment for plaintiffs in their suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552 et seq., against the DOD, seeking the names of foreign students and instructors at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. The Ninth Circuit held that the disclosure of the names would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. Applying a two-step test to determine whether disclosing the names would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy under FOIA Exemption 6, the Ninth Circuit concluded that the affidavits and other evidence submitted by the DOD were sufficient to carry the DOD's burden to establish that disclosure of the requested information gave rise to a nontrivial risk of harassment and mistreatment. Furthermore, the public interest did not outweigh the serious risks that would result from disclosure where any incremental value stemming from the disclosure of the names was small. View "Cameranesi v. US Department of Defense" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment to defendants in plaintiff's suit challenging the constitutionality of section 134-7 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes, which prohibit plaintiff from owning or possessing firearms because of his 1997 state law conviction for harassment. Although plaintiff stated that he challenged only section 134-7, that statute, in relevant part, merely incorporates federal law. Therefore, plaintiff's argument focuses on the latter federal statutes. The Ninth Circuit held that, as a matter of statutory construction, the unavailability of a procedure for either expungement, set-aside, pardon, or civil rights restoration does not remove plaintiff from the ambit of 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(9)'s prohibition or, by extension, section 134-7(a)'s prohibition. In regard to plaintiff's Second Amendment challenge, the Ninth Circuit held that, under intermediate scrutiny, the statute addressed a substantial governmental interest and was tailored sufficiently to satisfy intermediate scrutiny. In this case, section 922(g)(9) was not unconstitutionally applied to plaintiff where his argument that his harassment conviction occurred many years ago, and he has not committed any other crimes since that time, was not meaningfully distinguishable from the one the court rejected in United States v. Chovan. Furthermore, plaintiff failed to avail himself of the one restoration mechanism that was available to him under Hawaii law, and he was in no position to argue that Hawaii's restoration mechanisms were constitutionally insufficient. View "Fisher v. Kealoha" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff discovered that she was payed less than her male counterparts for the same work, she filed suit under the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. 206(d); Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-5; and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, Cal. Gov. Code 12940. The County conceded that it paid plaintiff less than comparable male employees for the same work, but raised an affirmative defense to a claim under the Equal Pay Act that the differential was "based on any other factor other than sex." In this case, the County claimed that the pay differential was a result of prior salary. The court concluded that Kouba v. Allstate Insurance Co. is controlling in this case. Kouba held that prior salary can be a factor other than sex, provided that the employer shows that prior salary effectuates some business policy and that the employer uses prior salary reasonably in light of its stated purpose as well as its other practices. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's denial of the County's motion for summary judgment, remanding with instructions for the district court to evaluate the business reasons offered by the County and to determine whether the County used prior salary reasonably in light of its stated purposes as well as its other practices. View "Rizo v. Yovino" on Justia Law

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Two disabled individuals filed suit against the City, alleging that the City's FlyAway bus facility and service failed to meet the accessibility standards set forth in Title II of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. 12131 et seq.; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 701 et seq.; and various California statutes. Specifically, plaintiffs alleged that the FlyAway bus facility in Van Nuys had been constructed in such a manner that it was inaccessible by disabled individuals. The City then filed a third-party complaint against AECOM and Tutor, alleging that pursuant to the contract entered into by the City and the company hired to design and construct the Van Nuys FlyAway facility (which was AECOM's predecessor-in-interest), AECOM was obligated to defend, indemnify, and hold the City harmless to all suits. The City also alleged a similar claim against Tutor. The court held that Title II of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act do not preempt a city's state-law claims for breach of contract and de facto contribution against contractors who breach their contractual duty to perform services in compliance with federal disability regulations. In this case, the court applied the presumption against preemption and concluded that Congress did not indicate a clear and manifest purpose to preempt claims for state-law indemnification or contribution filed by a public entity against a contractor. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "City of Los Angeles v. AECOM Services" on Justia Law

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Sarah Weeden was convicted in California state court of felony murder and sentenced to twenty-nine years to life in prison for her role in a bungled robbery that occurred when she was fourteen. She was not present at the scene of the crime; the prosecution’s case rested on evidence of her role in planning and facilitating the robbery. Weeden’s defense at trial consisted entirely of four character witnesses. Trial counsel did not seek an evaluation by a psychologist or present expert testimony about the effect of Weeden’s youth on her mental state. In post-trial proceedings, counsel claimed that he did not obtain an evaluation because the result might not support his defense strategy. In her habeas corpus petition, Weeden claimed that her trial counsel provided constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel. The state courts rejected this claim, finding that counsel’s refusal to investigate psychological testimony was a reasonable strategic decision. The district court denied habeas relief; the Ninth Circuit reversed. The Court concluded that had an expert's testimony been presented to the jury, "the probability of a different result is 'sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.'" View "Weeden v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Donald “Ski” Johnson of wire fraud. The district court sentenced Johnson to five years’ probation and ordered Johnson to pay $5,648.58 in restitution. On appeal, the government argued the district court erred by considering only Johnson’s fraudulent conduct that occurred in Montana (the count of conviction) when determining restitution, and thus misinterpreted the Mandatory Victim Restitution Act (“MVRA”). After review, the Ninth Circuit agreed, vacated the district court’s restitution order and remanded for determination of whether Johnson’s conduct outside of Montana was related to his scheme to defraud. View "United States v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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California state prisoner Kevin Andres appealed pro se the district court’s summary judgment in his 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging excessive force. After prison staff failed to respond to plaintiff’s grievance alleging excessive force, plaintiff filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in state court regarding his attempt to exhaust the claim. While the state court action was pending, plaintiff filed this action alleging that administrative remedies were unavailable because officials failed to process his grievance. Subsequently, the state habeas court held an evidentiary hearing and granted the habeas petition, finding that plaintiff had timely filed a grievance and ordering that the grievance be accepted and processed. The district court subsequently dismissed the excessive force claim, finding that exhaustion was not complete at the time plaintiff filed this action. The Ninth Circuit vacated and remanded. Under the circumstances present here, Andres exhausted his available administrative remedies prior to filing suit. "When prison officials fail to respond to a prisoner’s grievance within a reasonable time, the prisoner is deemed to have exhausted available administrative remedies within the meaning of the [Prison Litigation Reform Act]." View "Andres v. Marshall" on Justia Law

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A City of Berkeley ordinance required cell phone retailers to inform prospective cell phone purchasers that carrying a cell phone in certain ways may cause them to exceed Federal Communications Commission guidelines for exposure to radio-frequency radiation. CTIA, a trade association, challenged the ordinance on two grounds: (1) the ordinance violated the First Amendment; and (2) the ordinance was preempted. CTIA requested a preliminary injunction staying enforcement of the ordinance. The district court denied CTIA’s request, and CTIA filed an interlocutory appeal. Finding no reversible error, the Ninth Circuit affirmed. View "CTIA Witeless Ass'n v. City of Berkeley" on Justia Law