Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal for lack of standing of a tribal health organization's action seeking declaratory relief regarding alleged violations of a federal law concerning the provision of health services to Alaska Natives. The panel held that SCF alleges an injury in fact sufficient to confer Article III standing in two distinct ways: first, that ANTHC infringed SCF's governance and participation rights under Section 325 of the Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 1998 by delegating the full authority of the fifteen-member Board to the five-person Executive Committee; and second, that ANTHC erected informational barriers in the Code of Conduct and Disclosure Policy that deprived SCF of its ability to exercise effectively its governance and participation rights. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Southcentral Foundation v. Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated a preliminary injunction barring implementation of decisions to terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designations of Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador. The TPS program is a congressionally created humanitarian program administered by DHS that provides temporary relief to nationals of designated foreign countries that have been stricken by a natural disaster, armed conflict, or other "extraordinary and temporary conditions in the foreign state."The panel held that judicial review of plaintiffs' claim under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) is barred by 8 U.S.C. 1254a(b)(5)(A). Under the TPS statute, the Secretary possesses full and unreviewable discretion as to whether to consider intervening events in making a TPS determination. In this case, plaintiffs' attempt to rely on the APA to invoke justiciability over what would otherwise be an unreviewable challenge to specific TPS determinations, constitutes an impermissible circumvention of section 1254a(b)(5)(A).The panel also held that plaintiffs failed to show a likelihood of success, or even serious questions, on the merits of their Equal Protection claim. The district court found that the DHS Secretaries were influenced by President Trump and/or the White House in their TPS decisionmaking, and that President Trump had expressed animus against non-white, non-European immigrants. However, without any evidence linking them, the panel concluded that these two factual findings alone cannot support a finding of discriminatory purpose for the TPS terminations. View "Ramos v. Wolf" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit withdrew a memorandum disposition filed January 9, 2020; filed a published opinion affirming the district court's denial of petitioner's habeas corpus petition; denied a petition for rehearing; and denied on behalf of the court a petition for rehearing en banc. During petitioner's trial, one of the jurors had a conversation with a neighbor who is a police officer about difficulties the juror was having in the case and the police officer neighbor responded something to the effect that a defendant in a criminal trial would not be there if he had not done something wrong.The panel held that the Nevada Supreme Court's test to evaluate juror misconduct—and the application of it in petitioner's case—is not contrary to, nor does it involve an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law. The panel stated that there was no decision of the Supreme Court that precludes the Nevada Supreme Court from requiring petitioner to show a reasonable probability or likelihood that the contact affected the verdict. View "Von Tobel v. Benedetti" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff represents three certified classes which are defined to include, in relevant part, all current and future individuals who are subject to an immigration detainer issued by an ICE agent located in the Central District of California, excluding individuals with final orders of removal or who are subject to ongoing removal proceedings. The district court entered a judgment and two permanent injunctions in favor of plaintiff and the Probable Cause Subclass on Fourth Amendment claims. The State Authority Injunction enjoins the Government from issuing detainers from the Central District to law enforcement agencies (LEAs) in states that lack state law permitting state and local LEAs to make civil immigration arrests based on civil immigration detainers. The Database Injunction enjoins the Government from issuing detainers to class members based solely on searches of electronic databases to make probable cause determinations of removability.The Ninth Circuit first held that plaintiff had Article III standing to seek prospective injunctive relief when he commenced suit; second, the panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in certifying the Probable Cause Subclass pursuant to Rule 23(b)(2) with plaintiff as the class representative; third, the panel held that 8 U.S.C. 252(f)(1) does not bar injunctive relief for the claims in this case because the only provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) whose text even refers to immigration detainers is not among the provisions that section 1252(f)(1) encompasses; fourth, the panel reversed and vacated the State Authority Injunction because the presence or absence of probable cause determines whether the Government violates the Fourth Amendment when issuing a detainer, not state law restrictions; fifth, the panel reversed and vacated the Database Injunction because it is premised on legal error and lacks critical factual findings; and finally, the panel reversed summary judgment for the Government on plaintiffs' claim pursuant to Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103 (1975). View "Gonzalez v. United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants in an action brought by plaintiff under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the County and DCFS violated plaintiff's due process and privacy rights by maintaining unfounded child abuse allegations against plaintiff in California's Child Welfare Services Case Management System (CWS/CMS) without providing him notice or a hearing to challenge them.The panel held that the County has a strong interest in maintaining all reports of suspected child abuse in CWS/CMS—even those that result in "unfounded" dispositions—because doing so helps its child welfare and law enforcement agencies protect children from abuse and neglect. In this case, plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of material fact that the records of his "unfounded" allegations in CWS/CMS caused him reputational harm, or that they are used by the County to alter or extinguish his rights to employment, child placement, or child visitation. Therefore, plaintiff failed to show that his inclusion in CWS/CMS implicates his liberty interests so as to require procedural due process. Furthermore, plaintiff has not shown that the County publicly disseminates or misuses his information in a manner that would violate his constitutional right to privacy. View "Endy v. County of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against DCFS and four individual employees under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging sexual harassment in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, retaliation under the First Amendment, and other related constitutional claims.The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of qualified immunity to defendants on defendant's First Amendment retaliation claim because it was clearly established at the time of defendants' conduct that the First Amendment prohibits public officials from threatening to remove a child from an individual's custody to chill protected speech out of retaliatory animus for such speech.However, the panel reluctantly affirmed the district court's grant of qualified immunity to defendants on plaintiff's equal protection claim because the right of private individuals to be free from sexual harassment at the hands of social workers was not clearly established at the time of defendants' conduct in this case. Moving forward, the panel explicitly held that public officials, including social workers, violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment when they sexually harass private individuals while providing them social services. View "Sampson v. County of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's summary judgment dismissal of plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims against RII and its current and former employees, alleging that defendants violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by wrongfully detaining him, forcibly injecting him with antipsychotic medications, and misleading a court into extending his period of involuntary commitment for a total of 55 days.The panel held that defendants were acting under color of state law with respect to the actions for which plaintiff attempts to hold them liable. The panel stated that, given the necessity of state imprimatur to continue detention, the affirmative statutory command to render involuntary treatment, the reliance on the State's police and parens patriae powers, the applicable constitutional duties, the extensive involvement of the county prosecutor, and the leasing of their premises from the state hospital, a sufficiently close nexus between the state and the private actor existed here so that the action of the latter may be fairly treated as that of the State itself. View "Rawson v. Recovery Innovations, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Catalina in an action brought by plaintiff, a T-10 paraplegic, under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Plaintiff alleged that he was unable to use the restroom aboard the Jet Cat Express, a passenger vessel sailing between Long Beach and Santa Catalina Island, California, because the restroom's door was too narrow to allow his wheelchair to enter.The panel affirmed the district court's conclusion that plaintiff failed to meet his initial burden of plausibly showing that the costs of widening the Jet Cat Express's restroom door do not exceed the benefits such that widening the door was shown to be "readily achievable." The panel adopted a burden-shifting framework whereby plaintiffs have the initial burden at summary judgment of plausibly showing that the cost of removing an architectural barrier does not exceed the benefits under the particular circumstances. The defendant then bears the ultimate burden of persuasion that barrier removal is not readily achievable.Even if widening the Jet Cat Express's restroom door was not readily achievable, plaintiff could still prevail on his Title III discrimination claim if he establishes that Catalina chose not to make the restroom available to him even though it could have done so through alternative methods without much difficulty or expense. In this case, the district court did not evaluate whether Catalina made the restroom available to plaintiff through alternative methods. Therefore, the panel remanded for the district court to determine this issue in the first instance. View "Lopez v. Catalina Channel Express, Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellants filed suit alleging that California's winner-take-all (WTA) approach to selecting its presidential electors violates the equal protection and First Amendment rights of California residents who, like appellants, usually do not vote for the State's popular vote winner and thus enjoy no representation among the State's electors.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, holding that appellants' equal protection challenge is foreclosed by Williams v. Virginia State Board of Elections, a decades-old opinion that was summarily affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court. 288 F. Supp. 622 (E.D. Va. 1968), aff'd, 393 U.S. 320 (1969), reh'g denied, 393 U.S. 1112 (1969). The panel joined three sister circuits to have considered the issue in holding that, under Williams, a State's use of WTA to select its presidential electors is consistent with the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection.The panel also held that appellants have failed to plausibly allege that California's use of WTA to select presidential electors violates the First Amendment. The panel explained that, because appellants can participate fully in California's presidential election, including voting for their preferred candidates, their right to cast an effective vote is not burdened. Furthermore, WTA does not limit appellants' ability to associate with like-minded voters, and appellants do not allege any restrictions on their ability to petition. Even assuming that appellants had plausibly alleged that the State's use of WTA imposed some minimal burden, their claims would still fail. In this case, any burden is—at most—minimal, and California has identified an important interest: maximizing the impact of the State's electors within the Electoral College. View "Rodriguez v. Newsom" on Justia Law

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Individual parents of Hindu children in the California public schools and CAPEEM filed suit against the State Department of Education and State Board of Education, claiming discrimination against the Hindu religion in the content of the History-Social Science Standards and Framework for sixth and seventh graders.The Ninth Circuit agreed with the district court that the challenged content of the Standards and Framework, and process leading up to the Framework's adoption, did not disparage or otherwise express hostility to Hinduism in violation of the Constitution. The panel held that the district court properly dismissed the Equal Protection claims where the district court correctly characterized plaintiffs' claims as an indirect attack on curricula; Monteiro v. Tempe Union School District, 158 F.3d 1022 (9th Cir. 1998), bars plaintiffs' claims; and plaintiffs' dislike of challenged content does not constitute a violation of Equal Protection, absent a plausible allegation of discriminatory policy or intent.In regard to plaintiffs' claims under the Free Exercise clause, the panel held that the complaint did not allege interference with plaintiffs' exercise of their religion under the Constitution as required for a viable Free Exercise claim under Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, 137 S. Ct. 2012 (2017), and Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, 140 S. Ct. 2246, 2252 (2020). Furthermore, there are no expressions of hostility here as there was in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, 138 S.Ct. 1719 (2018).In regard to the Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process claim, the panel held that parents have the right to choose the educational forum, but not what takes place inside the school. The panel stated that parents do not have a due process right to interfere with the curriculum, discipline, hours of instruction, or the nature of any other curricular or extracurricular activities. Finally, in regard to the First Amendment Establishment clause claims, the panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to consider plaintiffs' expert report in its analysis; the Standards and Framework do not call for the teaching of biblical events or figures as historical fact, thereby implicitly endorsing Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; and none of plaintiffs' characterizations of the Hinduism materials as disparaging was supported by an objective reading of those materials. View "California Parents for the Equalization of Educational Materials v. Torlakson" on Justia Law