Justia Constitutional Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Anthony v. TRAX International Corp.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to TRAX in a disability discrimination action brought by plaintiff under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). After TRAX terminated plaintiff from her position as a Technical Writer allegedly due to an inability or unwillingness to accommodate her disability, TRAX discovered during the course of litigation that plaintiff lacked the requisite bachelor's degree for her position. The panel held that, although McKennon v. Nashville Banner Publishing Co., 513 U.S. 352 (1995), held that after-acquired evidence cannot establish a superseding, non-discriminatory justification for an employer's challenged actions, after-acquired evidence remains available for other purposes, including to show that an individual is not qualified under the ADA. Because plaintiff did not satisfy one of the prerequisites for her position, she is not "otherwise qualified," and TRAX was not obligated to engage in the interactive process. View "Anthony v. TRAX International Corp." on Justia Law
Davis v. Facebook, Inc.
Plaintiffs filed a consolidated complaint on behalf of themselves and a putative class of people, alleging that internal Facebook communications revealed that company executives were aware of the tracking of logged-out users and recognized that these practices posed various user-privacy issues. The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiffs have standing to pursue their privacy claims under the Wiretap Act, the Stored Communications Act (SCA), and the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA), as well as their claims for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. In this case, plaintiffs have adequately alleged that Facebook's tracking and collection practices would cause harm or a material risk of harm to their interest in controlling their personal information. Therefore, plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged a clear invasion of the historically recognized right to privacy. Furthermore, plaintiffs sufficiently alleged a state law interest whose violation constitutes an injury sufficient to establish standing to bring their claims for Computer Data Access and Fraud Act (CDAFA) violations and California common law trespass to chattels, fraud, and statutory larceny. On the merits, the panel held that plaintiffs adequately stated claims for relief for intrusion upon seclusion and invasion of privacy under California law. Plaintiffs have also sufficiently alleged that Facebook's tracking and collection practices violated the Wiretap Act and CIPA. The panel held that the district court properly dismissed plaintiffs' SCA claims, because the allegations do not show that the communications were even in "storage," much less that the alleged "storage" within a URL toolbar falls within the SCA's intended scope. The district court also properly dismissed plaintiffs' breach of contract claim, because plaintiffs failed to adequately allege the existence of a contract. Finally, plaintiffs' claims for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing were rejected. View "Davis v. Facebook, Inc." on Justia Law
Colbert v. Haynes
The Ninth Circuit denied an application under 28 U.S.C. 2244(b) for leave to file a second or successive habeas corpus petition challenging the applicant's 2005 Washington state sentencing judgment. The panel held that the habeas petition applicant seeks to file is a second or successive petition under Magwood v. Patterson, 561 U.S. 320 (2010), because removal of the victim-restitution condition from applicant's sentencing judgment did not create a new, intervening judgment under Washington law. Therefore, in order to proceed with his habeas petition, applicant must satisfy the requirements for filing a second or successive petition under section 2244(b)(2), which he cannot do. In this case, none of the arguments raise in the petition related to a new constitutional rule. Likewise, each of applicant's arguments raises a procedural error that, even if proven true, has no bearing on his guilt. View "Colbert v. Haynes" on Justia Law
Berryman v. Wong
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of a petition for federal habeas relief brought by petitioner, challenging his California state murder conviction and death sentence. Petitioner alleges that he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to counsel at the penalty phase because his lawyers failed to present additional evidence of his family history and social background. The panel held that reasonable jurists could conclude that admission of this evidence would not have led to a reasonable probability of a different sentence and thus petitioner was not prejudiced by any deficiency in counsel's performance. The panel granted petitioner's motion to expand the certificate of appealability as to four additional claims. The panel held that the state court reasonably concluded that a mens rea defense theory would not have been reasonably probable to persuade the jury to acquit. Even assuming that counsel rendered deficient performance in failing to conduct further investigation, it was eminently reasonable for the court to conclude that petitioner failed to show that the omission of this argument adversely affected the outcome. Finally, the panel held that petitioner was not prejudiced by his counsel's failure to obtain a transport order and funding authorization for EEG tests and a PET scan during the guilt or penalty phase. View "Berryman v. Wong" on Justia Law
May v. Ryan
Appellant sought habeas corpus relief, arguing that he was deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel because the defense lawyer who represented him in his child molestation trial in Arizona state court was ineffective. After the jury reported that it was deadlocked and the judge declared a mistrial, the jury requested permission to resume deliberations. Appellant's counsel did not object and the jury convicted appellant on all grounds. The Ninth Circuit held that appellant's counsel was not ineffective because, on the facts of this case, it was a reasonable prediction that appellant had a better chance of a more favorable verdict from the existing jury on the existing trial record than he would from a retrial. View "May v. Ryan" on Justia Law
Milam v. Harrington
The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of a petition for habeas corpus as time-barred. The panel held that the district court erred in its refusal to consider whether petitioner's claimed impairment was the cause of the untimeliness of the federal filing, despite his representation by state habeas counsel, and that the district court applied the wrong legal standard in evaluating whether state habeas counsel's misconduct supported equitable tolling. In this case, because the district court thought abandonment was required, it did not consider whether petitioner's state habeas counsel's misconduct qualified as an "extraordinary circumstance" under all the facts of this case. Accordingly, the panel remanded for the appropriate analysis. View "Milam v. Harrington" on Justia Law
Citizens for Free Speech, LLC v. County of Alameda
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action, alleging constitutional violations arising from the County's enforcement of its billboard ordinance through an abatement proceeding. The panel agreed with the district court that all the elements required for Younger abstention were present where the abatement proceeding was ongoing, constitutes a quasi-criminal enforcement action, implicates an important state interest in its land-use ordinances and in providing a uniform procedure for resolving zoning disputes, and allows litigants to raise a federal challenge. Furthermore, plaintiffs' federal action could substantially delay the abatement proceeding, thus having the practical effect of enjoining it. The panel also affirmed the district court's order awarding attorney's fees and costs. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that plaintiffs' action was frivolous at the outset. The panel also held that the County was the prevailing party where the district court's Younger-based dismissal effected a material change in the parties' relationship because it eliminated the possibility that plaintiffs' federal lawsuit would halt or impede the County's abatement proceeding. View "Citizens for Free Speech, LLC v. County of Alameda" on Justia Law
Smith v. Davis
The en banc court affirmed the district court's denial of a habeas corpus petition as untimely. Petitioner argued that he was entitled to extend the one-year limitations period set forth in 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(1) by equitable tolling for the 66 days between the date his conviction became final in the state appellate court and the date when his attorney informed him of that unsuccessful appeal and provided him with the state appellate record. The en banc court held that petitioner failed to exercise reasonable diligence during the 10 months available after he received his record from his attorney and before the time allowed by the statute of limitations expired. In view of the historic practice of courts of equity and modern Supreme Court precedent governing equitable tolling, the en banc court made two related holdings. First, for a litigant to demonstrate "he has been pursuing his rights diligently," and thus satisfies the first element required for equitable tolling, he must show that he has been reasonably diligent in pursuing his rights not only while an impediment to filing caused by an extraordinary circumstance existed, but before and after as well, up to the time of filing his claim in federal court. Second, and relatedly, it is only when an extraordinary circumstance prevented a petitioner acting with reasonable diligence from making a timely filing that equitable tolling may be the proper remedy. In this case, the en banc court held that petitioner was not entitled to relief. View "Smith v. Davis" on Justia Law
Pakdel v. City and County of San Francisco
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a 42 U.S.C. 1983 petition raising an as-applied challenge to the Expedited Conversion Program. The Program allows property owners to convert their tenancy-in-common properties into condominium properties on the condition that the owners agree to offer any existing tenants lifetime leases in units within the converted property. The panel held that plaintiffs' takings challenge was unripe, because plaintiffs did not ask the City for an exemption from the lifetime lease requirement, and thus failed to satisfy the separate finality requirement in Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City, 473 U.S. 172 (1985). The finality requirement survived Knick v. Township of Scott, 139 S. Ct. 2162 (2019), and consequently continues to be a requirement for bringing regulatory takings claims such as plaintiffs' in federal court. Furthermore, plaintiffs knowingly waived their right to seek an exemption and their arguments to the contrary were unpersuasive. View "Pakdel v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law
Brown v. Stored Value Cards, Inc.
Plaintiff filed suit against Numi, and its partner CNB, alleging that they violated the Electronic Fund Transfers Act (EFTA), violated the Fifth Amendment Takings Clause, and were liable for conversion and unjust enrichment under Oregon state law. Numi is a for-profit, private company that returns released inmates' money via a prepaid debit card loaded with the balance of their funds. Numi earns revenue by charging fees to the cardholders, rather than the government. The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiff plausibly alleged a claim under section 1693l-1 of the EFTA and the district court erred in dismissing the case for failure to state a claim. The court explained that, because defendants marketed their cards to the general public, section 1693l-1 was applicable. In this case, defendants marketed the card program to municipalities and correctional facilities, and Multnomah County does not give released inmates a choice of whether to accept the cards. Therefore, when defendants marketed the cards to Multnomah County, they indirectly marketed them to these released inmates, and then the inmates reenter the general public. The panel also held that the district court abused its discretion when it denied plaintiff leave to file a third amended complaint; summary judgment was not proper on plaintiff's takings claim; and summary judgment was not proper on plaintiff's state law claims. View "Brown v. Stored Value Cards, Inc." on Justia Law