Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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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

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The Ninth Circuit withdrew its prior opinion and filed this superseding opinion in its place. The panel affirmed the district court's order granting police officers' motion for summary judgment in an action brought by plaintiffs, alleging that the officers violated plaintiffs' Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights when the officers stole plaintiffs' property during the execution of a search and seizure pursuant to a warrant. The panel held that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity because, at the time of the incident, there was no clearly established law holding that officers violate the Fourth or Fourteenth Amendment when they steal property seized pursuant to a warrant. View "Jessop v. City of Fresno" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and his children filed suit against the County, the Agency, and others, alleging 42 U.S.C. 1983 and Monell claims stemming from a child welfare investigation undertaken by defendants that allegedly violated plaintiff and his children's First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The district court dismissed the claims as insufficiently pleaded or barred by qualified immunity. The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiff's first amended complaint (FAC) failed to plausibly allege Fourth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, and Monell claims. However, the panel held that plaintiff pleaded a plausible First Amendment claim where he alleged that he engaged in protected activity, that the alleged retaliation would objectively have had a chilling effect and that retaliation was the but-for motive for the social worker's actions. Furthermore, the social worker was not entitled to qualified immunity because a reasonable official would know that taking the serious step of threatening to terminate a parent’s custody of his children, when the official would not have taken this step absent her retaliatory intent, violates the First Amendment. Therefore, defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity on the First Amendment claim. The panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Capp v. County of San Diego" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against various prison officials, alleging that they used excessive force after an incident where defendant was shot in the knee. The Ninth Circuit reversed and held that a party need not satisfy the good cause or extraordinary circumstances standard provided in 28 U.S.C. 636(c)(4) in order to withdraw magistrate judge consent before all parties have consented. In this case, the magistrate judge erroneously required such a showing by plaintiff and, under the circumstances, his motion to withdraw consent should have been granted. Therefore, the panel held that the magistrate judge did not have jurisdiction over trial proceedings under section 636(c). The panel also reversed the dismissal of Defendant Torres, holding that the 90-day window under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 25(a) was never triggered, and reversed the dismissal of plaintiff's deliberate indifference claim. View "Gilmore v. Lockard" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment for the United States in an action under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The Act prohibits any governmental authority from engaging in a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers or government agents that deprives persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. The United States filed suit against defendants, alleging that defendants engaged in a pattern or practice of violating the constitutional rights of residents who were not members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints . The panel held that the district court correctly interpreted the Act, 34 U.S.C. 12601, when it concluded that the statute does not require an official municipal policy of violating constitutional rights in order for the United States to prevail; defendants' arguments about the district court's factual findings, even if correct, did not entitle it to relief because the district court's judgment was supported on other grounds; and the district court did not err in admitting several statements that defendants challenged as hearsay. View "United States v. Town of Colorado City" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 complaint alleging that the Department violated her right to due process when it listed her name, without notice, on the State's Child Protective Services Central Registry. In this case, plaintiff's name was listed on the Registry after her husband confessed to killing their newborn baby and the criminal investigation concluded that plaintiff was not a suspect. The panel held that, because plaintiff alleged only individualized claims for deprivation of procedural due process, the normal discovery rule of accrual applies. The panel agreed with the district court that plaintiff had knowledge of the injury giving rise to her claims by May 2013, but failed to file her action within the two year statute of limitations. Furthermore, the complaint would not have been saved by any amendment and thus the district court did not err in denying plaintiff leave to amend. View "Bird v. Hawai'i" on Justia Law