Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a habeas corpus petition in which petitioner alleged that the trial judge dismissed the juror for race-related reasons and so ran afoul of the prohibition on racial discrimination in jury selection. As a preliminary matter, the panel held that Haney v. Adams, 641 F.3d 1168 (9th Cir. 2011), did not bar consideration of the merits of petitioner's equal protection claim where he challenged a judge's jury strike for cause, rather than an attorney's peremptory challenge. On the merits, the panel held that the state courts correctly determined that the judge's concerns reflected the juror's own statements of race-related bias, not discriminatory reliance by the judge on the juror's race. Likewise, petitioner's due process and Sixth Amendment claims also failed. View "Rodriguez Infante v. Martel" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against police officers and the City and County of Honolulu, alleging that defendants violated plaintiff's substantive due process right to bodily integrity under the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiff suffered serious, life-threatening injuries after an intoxicated off-duty officer (Officer Kimura) accidentally discharged his gun at the bar plaintiff was working at and shot her. The panel held that Officers Naki and Omoso, the two officers that were with Kimura, did not act or purport to act in the performance of their official duties, and thus they were not acting under color of state law. Therefore, the district court properly dismissed plaintiff's claim against Naki and Omoso. The panel agreed with the district court that plaintiff's Monell claim must be dismissed because she has not plausibly alleged that the County's inaction reflected deliberate indifference to her Fourteenth Amendment right to bodily integrity. In this case, plaintiff has not plausibly alleged that the Chief of Police was aware of prior, similar incidents in which off-duty officers mishandled their firearms while drinking. View "Hyun Ju Park v. City and County of Honolulu" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order compelling arbitration, holding that the Washington anti-arbitration statute was preempted by the federal Liability Risk Retention Act of 1986 (LRRA) as it applied to risk retention groups chartered in another state. The panel held that the McCarran-Ferguson Act does not reverse-preempt the LRRA. The panel also held that the LRRA preempts Washington's anti-arbitration statute because it offends the LRRA's broad preemption language and fails to fall into one of its exceptions. View "Allied Professionals Insurance Co. v. Anglesey" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging an as-applied Second Amendment challenge to 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(4). Section 922(g)(4) prohibits plaintiff from possessing firearms due to his involuntary commitment in 1999 to a mental institution for more than nine months after a Washington state court found plaintiff to be both mentally ill and dangerous. Plaintiff argued that the statute's continued application to him despite his alleged return to mental health and peaceableness violates the Second Amendment. The panel held that, assuming without deciding, section 922(g)(4)'s prohibition burdens Second Amendment rights, intermediate scrutiny applies. The panel also held that the prohibition on the possession of firearms by persons, like plaintiff, whom a state court has found to be both mentally ill and dangerous is a reasonable fit with the government's indisputably important interest in preventing gun violence. The panel explained that scientific evidence supports the congressional judgment that those who have been committed involuntarily to a mental institution still pose an increased risk of violence even years after their release from commitment. Therefore, in this case, the panel held that the statute's continued application to plaintiff did not violate the Second Amendment. View "Duy Mai v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action brought after the death of Arizona Senator John McCain, challenging the constitutionality of an Arizona statute that governs appointments and elections in the aftermath of a vacancy in the United States Senate. Plaintiffs argued that the November 2020 vacancy election date and the 27-month interim appointment duration violate the time constraints implicit in the Seventeenth Amendment. The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of this challenge based on failure to state a claim, because there was no authority for invalidating the state statute on this basis. Although the panel found plaintiffs' interpretation a possible one based on the text and history of the Seventeenth Amendment, the panel concluded that it was foreclosed by binding precedents. Plaintiffs also argued that the November 2020 vacancy election date impermissibly burdens their right to vote as protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of this challenge based on failure to state a claim, because important state regulatory interests justify what was a reasonable and nondiscriminatory restriction on plaintiffs' right to vote. Finally, plaintiffs challenge Arizona's statutory mandates that the Governor must make a temporary appointment and must choose a member of the same party as the Senator who vacated the office. The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of this challenge based on failure to state a claim, and rejected plaintiffs' interpretation of the relevant Seventeenth Amendment language. The panel also affirmed the district court's dismissal of the challenge based on lack of standing where there was no harm on the basis of representation by a Republican and no redressability where the Republican Governor would appoint a Republican anyway. View "Tedards v. Ducey" on Justia Law

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On remand from the Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying defendant's motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's claims under the Equal Pay Act (EPA). The en banc court held that plaintiff's prior rate of pay was not a "factor other than sex" that allows Fresno County's Office of Education to pay her less than male employees who perform the same work. The en banc court also held that only job-related factors may serve as affirmative defenses to EPA claims. The en banc court wrote that the express purpose of the Act was to eradicate the practice of paying women less simply because they are women, and that allowing employers to escape liability by relying on employees' prior pay would defeat the purpose of the Act and perpetuate the very discrimination the EPA aims to eliminate. Therefore, the en banc court held that an employee's prior pay cannot serve as an affirmative defense to a prima facie showing of an EPA violation. The en banc court overruled Kouba v. Allstate Ins. Co., 691 F.2d 873 (9th Cir. 1982), which held that prior pay could qualify as an affirmative defense if the employer considered prior pay in combination with other factors and used it reasonably to effectuate a business policy. View "Rizo v. Yovino" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of PragerU's action alleging that YouTube and its parent company, Google, violated the First Amendment and the Lanham Act, as well as state laws, when YouTube tagged several dozen of PragerU's videos as appropriate for the Restricted Mode. The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of the First Amendment claim, holding that, despite YouTube's ubiquity and its role as a public-facing platform, YouTube is a private forum, not a public forum subject to judicial scrutiny under the First Amendment. In Manhattan Cmty. Access Corp. v. Halleck, 139 S.Ct. 1921, 1930 (2019), the Supreme Court held that merely hosting speech by others is not a traditional, exclusive public function and does not alone transform private entities into state actors subject to First Amendment constraints. The panel explained that the Internet does not alter this state action requirement of the First Amendment. The panel also held that PragerU's false advertising claim under the Lanham Act also failed, because none of PragerU's alleged actions were actionable under the Act. In this case, YouTube's statements concerning its content moderation policies, as well as its designation of certain of plaintiff’s videos for Restricted Mode, do not constitute "commercial advertising or promotion." Furthermore, the panel stated that the fact that certain PragerU videos were tagged to be unavailable under Restricted Mode does not imply any specific representation about those videos. Finally, the panel wrote that YouTube's braggadocio about its commitment to free speech constitutes opinions that are not subject to the Act. View "Prager University v. Google LLC" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a 28 U.S.C. 2241 petition for habeas relief based on lack of jurisdiction. Petitioner claimed actual innocence of his sentence as a career offender. The panel held that petitioner's appeal was not moot, because petitioner had a nontrivial argument for reducing his supervised release period under 18 U.S.C. 3583(e). The panel also held that petitioner has made a cognizable claim that he is actually innocent of a noncapital sentence for purposes of qualifying for the escape hatch, and that he has not had an unobstructed procedural shot at presenting the claim. The panel clarified that Mathis v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 2243 (2016), and Descamps v. United States, 570 U.S. 254 (2013), apply retroactively when a court reviews a criminal judgment in the course of addressing a section 2241 petition or a first section 2255 motion. The panel concluded that petitioner may file a petition for habeas corpus under section 2241 and the panel remanded for reconsideration of petitioner's claim on the merits. View "Allen v. Ives" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs' challenges to HHS's 2019 Final Rule, implementing Title X of the Public Health Service Act, failed in light of Supreme Court approval of the 1988 regulations and the Ninth Circuit's broad deference to agencies' interpretations of the statutes they are charged with implementing. Section 1008 of Title X prohibits grant funds from being used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning. Specifically, plaintiffs challenged the "gag" rule on abortion counseling, where a counselor providing nondirective pregnancy counseling "may discuss abortion" so long as "the counselor neither refers for, nor encourages, abortion." The Final Rule also requires providers to physically and financially separate any abortion services from all other health care services. The panel held that the Final Rule is a reasonable interpretation of Section 1008; it does not conflict with the 1996 appropriations rider or other aspects of Title X; and its implementation of the limits on what Title X funds can support does not implicate the restrictions found in Section 1554 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The panel also held that the Final Rule is not arbitrary and capricious because HHS properly examined the relevant considerations and gave reasonable explanations; because plaintiffs will not prevail on the merits of their legal claims, they are not entitled to the extraordinary remedy of preliminary injunction; and thus the district courts' preliminary injunction orders are vacated and the cases are remanded for further proceedings. View "California v. Azar" on Justia Law

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Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 15(c)(1)(B) and 10(c) apply in habeas proceedings. The en banc court reversed the district court's dismissal of petitioner's amended habeas corpus petition as time-barred. Petitioner challenged his Nevada state conviction for theft-related offenses, asserting multiple claims, including the ineffective assistance of counsel. The en banc court held that claims in petitioner's amended petition that share core operative facts in common with those in his original petition relate back to the original petition and should not have been dismissed. However, the en banc court did not typically consider in the first instance issues not discussed by the district court, and thus the en banc court remanded for the district court to consider which of the claims in the amended petition are supported by facts incorporated into the original petition. View "Ross v. Williams" on Justia Law