Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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The Ninth Circuit amended the opinion and concurrence, and affirmed the district court's order denying an IRS agent's motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff alleged that the agent violated plaintiff's Fourth Amendment right to bodily privacy during the lawful execution of a search warrant at plaintiff's home in 2006 when the agent escorted plaintiff to the bathroom and monitored her while she relieved herself. As a preliminary matter, the panel applied the test in Ziglar v. Abbasi, 137 S. Ct. 1843 (2017), and held that plaintiff could proceed with her Bivens action against the agent. The panel held that the agent's interests in preventing destruction of evidence and promoting officer safety did not justify the scope or manner of the intrusion into plaintiff's most basic subject of privacy. Furthermore, a reasonable officer in the agent's position would have known that such a significant intrusion into bodily privacy, in the absence of legitimate government justification, is unlawful. View "Ioane v. Hodges" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Association's complaint, seeking injunctive and declaratory relief under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act regarding the Association's provision of diabetes-related care in the U.S. Army's Child, Youth, and School Services (CYSS) programs. When this action began in 2016, the Army had in place United States Army Regulation 608-10 and a 2008 Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command Memorandum (collectively, "Old Policy"), which together prohibited CYSS staff from providing essential medical care for diabetic children. In 2017, defendants revoked the Old Policy and replaced it with a New Policy that provides for possible diabetes-related accommodations. The panel held that the Association's challenge to the Old Policy was moot. In this case, defendants have satisfied their burden of clearly showing that they cannot reasonably be expected to reinstitute the Old Policy's blanket ban. Therefore, because the Association seeks only prospective relief, its challenge to the policy, and the injuries incurred thereunder, were moot. The panel also held that the Association lacked standing to challenge the New Policy, because the Association lacked organizational standing by failing to show an injury in fact, and representational standing where none of its members had standing to sue in their own right. View "American Diabetes Assoc. v. United States Department of the Army" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against officials of the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC), challenging aspects of the Arizona execution process. Plaintiffs contend that Arizona's practices violate their First Amendment right of access to governmental proceedings and violate inmates' rights of access to the courts. The Ninth Circuit held that the First Amendment right of access to governmental proceedings encompasses a right to hear the sounds of executions in their entirety. Furthermore, on the facts alleged, Arizona's restrictions on press and public access to the sounds of executions impermissibly burden that right. However, the panel held that neither the public nor the press has a First Amendment right of access to information regarding the manufacturers, sellers, lot numbers, National Drug Codes, and expiration dates of lethal-injection drugs, as well as documentation regarding the qualifications of certain execution team members. Finally, the court held that plaintiffs' claim that Arizona's restrictions violate the inmates' First Amendment right of access to the courts failed as a matter of law. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's second amended complaint. View "First Amendment Coalition of Arizona v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of his girlfriend and her daughter, appealed the district court's denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. The Ninth Circuit reversed in part, holding that petitioner demonstrated cause and prejudice to overcome the procedural default of his ineffective assistance of trial claim. In this case, post conviction counsel, whom Arizona concedes performed deficiently, failed to raise a substantial claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel in petitioner's initial state collateral proceeding. The panel remanded the claim for the district court to allow evidentiary development of petitioner's ineffective assistance of trial counsel claim. The panel affirmed the district court's conclusion that petitioner's right to due process under Ake v. Oklahoma, 470 U.S. 68 (1985), was not violated; agreed that the Arizona state courts did not improperly exclude mitigating evidence that lacked a causal connection to his crime; and declined to expand the certificate of appealability to include the three uncertified issues raised by petitioner. View "Ramirez v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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Unless a record is pertinent to an ongoing authorized law enforcement activity, an agency may not maintain it under section (e)(7) of the Privacy Act. After plaintiff discovered that he and the website Antiwar.com had been the subject of two separate threat assessment memos, he sought expungement of the memos under the Privacy Act. After addressing discovery and evidentiary challenges, the Ninth Circuit held that the FBI had not met its burden of demonstrating that the 2004 memo was pertinent to an ongoing law enforcement activity and thus it must be expunged. However, the Halliburton Memo need not be expunged because it was pertinent to an ongoing law enforcement activity. In this case, the Halliburton Memo, which primarily describes security preparations for an oft-protested meeting, only incidentally includes protected First Amendment activity, and is relevant to preparations for future iterations of the annual shareholders' meeting. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded with instructions to expunge the 2004 Memo. View "Garris v. FBI" on Justia Law

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The City filed suit alleging that the Commission's approval of an electrical grid project violated the City's due process rights. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the City's claims based on lack of standing. In light of City of South Lake Tahoe v. California Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and its progeny, the panel held that the City cannot challenge the Commission's decision on due process grounds in federal court. Furthermore, the City's claims were barred by Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity. In this case, the City never asked for leave to add a commissioner as a party and has waived its right to amend. View "City of San Juan Capistrano v. California Public Utilities Commission" on Justia Law

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Montana Code section 45-8-216(1)(e)—which restricts automated telephone calls promoting a political campaign or any use related to a political campaign—violates the First Amendment. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Attorney General of Montana, holding that regulating robocalls based on the content of their messaging presents a more severe threat to First Amendment freedoms than regulating their time, place, and manner. Furthermore, prohibiting political robocalls strikes at the heart of the First Amendment, as well as disproportionately disadvantages political candidates with fewer resources. After determining that plaintiff had standing to challenge Montana's Robocall Statute, the panel held that Montana's content-based restrictions on robocalls cannot survive strict scrutiny. Although protecting personal privacy was a compelling state interest, the panel held that the statute was not narrowly tailored to further this interest, the statute was both underinclusive and overinclusive, and thus the statute's restriction on political messages did not survive strict scrutiny. View "Victory Processing, LLC v. Fox" on Justia Law

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Petitioner appealed the district court's denial of his 28 U.S.C. 2254 habeas corpus petition challenging his conviction and capital sentence for first degree murder and rape of a fifteen year old girl. The Ninth Circuit applied the habeas standards in effect prior to the implementation of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996; petitioner's numerous ineffective assistance of counsel claims, governed by Strickland v. Washington, were unavailing because he did not show that trial counsel's performance fell below an objective reasonableness standard at the time of the trial in 1987; petitioner failed to show prejudice in the few instances where counsel's performance was deficient; and petitioner's conflict of interest claim under Mickens v. Taylor, 535 U.S. 162, 171 (2002), were unpersuasive. However, the panel held that the issue of juror misconduct must be remanded to the district court in light of the panel's recent decision in Godoy v. Spearman, 861 F.3d 956 (9th Cir. 2017) (en banc). The panel otherwise denied habeas relief and affirmed the district court's denial of evidentiary hearings for all claims. View "Clark v. Chappell" on Justia Law

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Only a district judge may rule on a motion to withdraw consent to the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge under 28 U.S.C. 636(c)(4). Plaintiff filed suit pro se in 2008, alleging civil rights violations by prison officials. Plaintiff consented to magistrate jurisdiction shortly after filing his action and defendants declined consent more than seven years later in 2015. The Ninth Circuit vacated the magistrate judge's denial of plaintiff's motion to withdraw consent to the magistrate judge's jurisdiction and remanded with instructions to the district judge to consider that motion de novo. If the district court finds that plaintiff should have been permitted to withdraw consent, the district judge is to vacate the judgment entered by the magistrate judge. The panel also vacated the screening orders entered by various magistrate judges that dismissed certain of plaintiff's claims and remanded for further proceedings on those claims. View "Branch v. Umphenour" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging that his supervisors violated 42 U.S.C. 1985(2) by conspiring to deter him from testifying in a colleague's and his own civil rights cases. The district court relied on David v. United States, 820 F.2d 1038 (9th Cir. 1987), which held that only parties to the initial case who were hampered in being able to present an effective case can show injury sufficient to bring a section 1985(2) claim. The panel held that David has been abrogated by subsequent controlling Supreme Court authority to the extent that it limits section 1985(2) claims on statutory standing and injury grounds in conflict with Haddle v. Garrison, 525 U.S. 121, 126 (1998); David's limitations are irreconcilable with Haddle's proclamation that intimidation or retaliation against witnesses in federal court proceedings constitute the gist of the wrong at which the statute is directed; and, like its sister circuits have recognized, the panel held that this expanded view of section 1985(2) aligns with the Supreme Court's broad reading of the Reconstruction civil rights acts like section 1985. In light of Haddle, the panel held that the district court's reasons for granting summary judgment in this case were no longer viable. View "Head v. Wilkie" on Justia Law