Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
by
Bivens remedies are available in the circumstances of this case, where a United States citizen alleges that a border patrol agent violated the Fourth Amendment by using excessive force while carrying out official duties within the United States, and violated the First Amendment by engaging in retaliation entirely unconnected to his official duties.In this case, plaintiff owns, operates, and lives in a bed and breakfast near the United States-Canada border in Blaine, Washington. Plaintiff alleged that a border patrol agent entered plaintiff's property to question guests and used excessive force on plaintiff, ultimately retaliating against plaintiff by, among other things, contacting the IRS to seek an investigation into plaintiff's tax status.In regard to the Fourth Amendment claim, the Ninth Circuit concluded that no special factors counsel hesitation in extending a Bivens remedy to this new context. The panel stated that plaintiff, a United States citizen, brings a conventional Fourth Amendment claim based on actions by a rank-and-file border patrol agent on his property in the United States. The panel also concluded that plaintiff's First Amendment claim arises in a new context, but no special factors that counsel hesitation in extending a Bivens remedy to this new context. The panel explained that retaliation is a well-established First Amendment claim, available against governmental officers in general. Finally, the panel concluded that there are no alternative remedies available to plaintiff. View "Boule v. Egbert" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded the district court's denial of qualified immunity to Pelican Bay State Prison officials in a civil rights action brought by plaintiff, an inmate at Pelican Bay, alleging claims over prison noise stemming from the orders of a federal district court adopting recommendations of its Special Master to implement round-the-clock welfare checks to prevent inmate suicides in California's prison system.The panel held that, on the specific facts presented here, no reasonable officer would have understood that these court-ordered actions were violating the constitutional rights of the inmates. The panel explained that, even if the Pelican Bay officials haphazardly implemented the Guard One system, no reasonable official in these circumstances would believe that creating additional noise while carrying out mandatory suicide checks for prisoner safety clearly violated plaintiff's constitutional rights. In this case, where defendants were following court-ordered procedures to enhance inmate safety that are inherently loud, all Pelican Bay officials are entitled to qualified immunity. View "Rico v. Ducart" on Justia Law

by
In November 1999, the SSA filed a dependency petition on behalf of plaintiff and her sister against their parents. The juvenile dependency court assumed jurisdiction over the children, but permitted them to remain in their mother's custody and to have supervised visitation with their father. In February 2000, the dependency court ordered that the children be removed from mother's custody. In 2001, mother filed an action in California superior court alleging that Orange County social workers violated her constitutional right to familial association. The jury returned verdicts in favor of mother against all defendants except one. Plaintiff filed this 2013 federal action alleging that defendants violated her Fourteenth Amendment right to familial association and her Fourth Amendment right against wrongful seizure.The Ninth Circuit held that where constitutional familial rights are at stake, there are identical companionship rights between a parent and child that could allow a plaintiff to invoke issue preclusion to bar relitigation of issues previously decided. However, in this case, plaintiff cannot assert issue preclusion because mother litigated more than just the overlapping companionship rights in her state court case and the panel cannot determine the basis for the jury's verdict. Therefore, plaintiff failed to establish that the issues litigated in the prior state proceeding were identical to the issues raised in her federal case. View "Hardwick v. County of Orange" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit filed an amended opinion, denied a petition for rehearing, and denied on behalf of the court a petition for rehearing en banc, in appeals arising from the district court's denial of petitioner's habeas corpus petition and his motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) for relief from judgment. Petitioner argues that the state court's admission of his confession violated his due process rights because it was the involuntary product of coercion, and that his Rule 60(b) motion was a proper motion to amend his habeas petition and not a disguised second or successive petition subject to 28 U.S.C. 2244.Considering the petition under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) framework and applying a highly deferential standard, the panel held that the state court's conclusion that petitioner's confession was voluntary was not contrary to or an unreasonable application of federal law. In this case, the state court did not unreasonably conclude that petitioner was sixteen years old and considered his age, experience, and maturity as part of the totality of the circumstances of his confession. Furthermore, the state did not unreasonably conclude that the circumstances of his interview were not coercive. The panel also held that, because petitioner asserted a new claim in his Rule 60(b) motion despite the district court's previously adjudicating his habeas petition on the merits, the district court properly denied that motion as an unauthorized second or successive petition. View "Balbuena v. Sullivan" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, taxi drivers and groups representing them, filed suit challenging SFMTA's new rules favoring recent owners of taxi medallions over those who obtained theirs years ago. Plaintiffs alleged that these new rules violate equal protection, substantive due process, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and state anti-age discrimination law.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the government's motion for judgment on the pleadings, ruling that the taxi drivers failed to state plausible claims. The panel held that the rules are rationally related to the legitimate government interests of aiding beleaguered taxi drivers and easing taxi congestion at the airport. The panel also held that the 2018 Regulations are not a project per CEQA, and plaintiffs' pleadings fail to plausibly claim otherwise. Furthermore, plaintiffs' pleadings failed to plausibly allege that California Government Code section 11135 governs the taxi medallion system. Therefore, the panel affirmed the judgment on the CEQA and age discrimination claims, but remanded for the district court to consider granting leave to amend those claims in the event the taxi drivers can allege additional facts to support them. View "San Francisco Taxi Coalition v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

by
Nevada Revised Statutes section 116.3116 gives a homeowners association (HOA) a superpriority lien on properties within the association for certain unpaid assessments. By foreclosing on a property, an HOA can extinguish other liens, including a first deed of trust held by a mortgage lender. The Ninth Circuit held that this scheme does not effect an uncompensated taking of property or violates the Due Process Clause.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal, based on failure to state a claim, of Wells Fargo's quiet title action against the purchaser of real property at a foreclosure sale, an HOA, and the HOA's agent. In this case, because the enactment of section 116.3116 predated the creation of Wells Fargo's lien on the property, Wells Fargo cannot establish that it suffered an uncompensated taking. The panel also agreed with the district court's conclusion that Wells Fargo received constitutionally adequate notice of the foreclosure sale. Finally, the panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Wells Fargo's motion for reconsideration under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), because Wells Fargo failed to raise its arguments earlier where the evidence on which it relied was theoretically available when it filed its first response to the motion to dismiss. View "Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Mahogany Meadows Avenue Trust" on Justia Law

by
After the State of Hawaii filed suit against several pharmaceutical companies in state court for allegedly deceptive drug marketing related to the medication Plavix, the companies turned to federal court, seeking an injunction against the state court litigation based on a violation of their First Amendment rights.The Ninth Circuit agreed with the district court that the state court litigation is a quasi-criminal enforcement proceeding and that Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), bars a federal court from interfering with such a proceeding. The panel explained that, even though the state proceeding is being litigated by private counsel, it is still an action brought by the State of Hawaii. The panel stated that what matters for Younger abstention is whether the state proceeding falls within the general class of quasi-criminal enforcement actions—not whether the proceeding satisfies specific factual criteria. Looking to the general class of cases of which this state proceeding is a member, the panel concluded that Younger abstention is appropriate here. In this case, the State's action has been brought under a statute that punishes those who engage in deceptive acts in commerce, and the State seeks civil penalties and punitive damages to sanction the companies for their allegedly deceptive labeling practices. Because the companies' First Amendment concerns do not bring this case within the scope of Younger's extraordinary circumstances exception, they have no bearing on the application of Younger. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action. View "Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Connors" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment entered in favor of defendants in an action alleging that the individual defendants used excessive force in effecting plaintiff's arrest.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Defendant Leon and held that, even taking plaintiff's version of the facts as true, a reasonable jury would not find a Fourth Amendment violation because Leon's acts were objectively reasonable in the circumstances. In this case, a 12 year old girl called 911 to report that her mother's boyfriend had threatened her and her family with a chainsaw and that she and her family were currently hiding from him in a bedroom that he was trying to enter; Leon faced an immediate threat; plaintiff had a knife in his pocket and had lowered his hands towards the knife when the first shot came from the beanbag shotgun; and plaintiff's hands remained near the knife in his pocket at the time of the second beanbag shot.The panel reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant Rivas-Villegas where there was a genuine issue of fact as to whether the force that Rivas-Villegas used when he kneeled on plaintiff's back when he was lying face down on the ground was excessive. The panel affirmed the district court's summary judgment in favor of Defendant Kensic where Kensic lacked any realistic opportunity to intercede or to stop the excessive force. The panel remanded for the district court to consider plaintiff's Monell claim and state law claims. View "Cortesluna v. Leon" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against CoreCivil under the Wiretap Act, alleging that CoreCivic unlawfully recorded privileged telephone calls between herself and her clients who were detained in CoreCivic's detention facility in Nevada.The Ninth Circuit held that the only reasonable interpretation based on both the text and context of the Act is that "the violation" refers to each separate interception, whether the interception is a singular event or part of a larger pattern of conduct. Therefore, each interception of plaintiff's privileged telephone calls is a separate violation of the Act, and the statute of limitations is triggered anew for each call that CoreCivic recorded. The panel held that the district court correctly determined that the Act's two-year statute of limitations was first triggered when plaintiff received discovery in June 2016 that contained recordings of her privileged telephone calls. In this case, the undisputed facts establish that plaintiff had such notice of recordings made before June 27, 2016, when she received discovery from the government on that date that included recorded calls. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the district court's holding that plaintiff's claims are untimely to the extent they are based on interceptions that occurred before June 27, 2016. However, to the extent her claims are based on calls that were recorded after this date, the timeliness of such claims depends on when she first had a reasonable opportunity to discover that such calls were recorded. The panel remanded to the district court for further analysis. View "Bliss v. CoreCivic, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Andrade, the mother of Omar’s children, called 911 and reported that Omar had hit Andrade and his mother, Ventura, and had smashed Andrade’s vehicle’s window. Officer Rutledge responded to the call, which was classified as a violent domestic disturbance. When Rutledge arrived at the home, Omar was not present. While Rutledge interviewed Andrade, Omar started walking toward the home. Andrade pointed and exclaimed, “that’s him.” Andrade moved behind trash cans in the driveway as Omar approached. Officer Rutledge issued several orders for Omar to “stop.” Omar continued to advance toward Andrade and displayed a knife, asking: “Is this what you wanted?” Rutledge shouted, “[s]top or I’ll shoot.” When Omar did not stop, Rutledge fired two shots, killing Omar. Omar got within 10–15 feet of Andrade before Rutledge fired.In Ventura's suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Rutledge, on the basis of qualified immunity. No controlling precedent clearly established that Omar’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from the excessive use of deadly force by police would be violated when he was shot and killed as he advanced toward an individual he had earlier that day assaulted, while carrying a drawn knife and while defying specific police orders to stop. View "Ventura v. Rutledge" on Justia Law