Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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Plaintiff, an Idaho prisoner, filed suit alleging that the Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC) and its medical provider, Corizon, were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs and acted with negligence. Primarily at issue is whether the district court erred by excluding plaintiff's expert witnesses under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(c)(1), which was case dispositive, because he did not properly disclose his experts under Rule 26(a)(2).The panel concluded that the district court did not err because plaintiff repeatedly failed to meet his disclosure obligations, the district court reasonably concluded plaintiff's failures were not substantially justified or harmless, and he never moved for a lesser sanction. Therefore, plaintiff failed to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact for trial. The panel also concluded that the district court correctly found that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). Furthermore, the panel declined to construe plaintiff's Health Services Request as a properly filed grievance. View "Merchant v. Corizon Health, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit's order denied appellants' emergency motion for injunctive relief, which sought to prohibit the enforcement of California's COVID-19 restrictions on private "gatherings" and various limitations on businesses as applied to appellants' in-home Bible studies, political activities, and business operations. The court concluded that appellants have not demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits for their free exercise, due process, or equal protection claims, nor have they demonstrated that injunctive relief is necessary for their free speech claims.In regard to the free exercise claim, the court concluded that, when compared to analogous secular in-home private gatherings, the State's restrictions on in-home private religious gatherings are neutral and generally applicable and thus subject to rational basis review. The court believed that the best interpretation of Roman Catholic Diocese v. Cuomo, South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom, and Gateway City Church v. Newson is that rational basis review should apply to the State's gatherings restrictions because in-home secular and religious gatherings are treated the same, and because appellants' underinclusivity argument fails as they have not provided any support for the conclusion that private gatherings are comparable to commercial activities in public venues in terms of threats to public health or the safety measures that reasonably may be implemented. Therefore, appellants have not shown that gatherings in private homes and public businesses "similarly threaten the government's interest," and they have not shown that strict scrutiny applies.The court also denied as unnecessary appellants' request for an injunction on their free speech and assembly claims. Based on the district court's ruling, the State's gatherings restrictions do not apply to Appellant Tandon's requested political activities, and given the State's failure to define rallies or distinguish Tandon's political activities from Appellant Gannons' political activities, the court concluded that, on the record before it, the State's restrictions do not apply to the Gannons' political activities.Finally, the court concluded that the business owner appellants have not established a likelihood of success on their claims. The court has never held that the right to pursue work is a fundamental right and the district court did not err by applying rational basis review to the due process claims. Likewise, business owners are not a suspect class, and the district court correctly applied rational basis review to their equal protection claims. View "Tandon v. Newsom" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's judgment in favor of defendant in an action brought by plaintiff, seeking injunctive relief under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Plaintiff, who survived years of abuse, obtained Aspen as a service dog to help her cope with her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dissociative identity disorder (DID), anxiety, and depression. Because enrolling in a full training course to provide Aspen with formal certification was not a viable option for plaintiff, she began self-training Aspen to perform specific tasks she thought would ameliorate her disability and decrease her isolation. In the underlying suit, plaintiff challenged Del Amo's practice of denying admission to Aspen as a violation of Title III of the ADA and California's Unruh Civil Rights Act.The panel held that the district court erred by effectively imposing a certification requirement for plaintiff's dog to be qualified as a service animal under the ADA. The panel held that the ADA prohibits certification requirements for qualifying service dogs for three reasons: (1) the ADA defines a service dog functionally, without reference to specific training requirements; (2) Department of Justice regulations, rulemaking commentary, and guidance have consistently rejected a formal certification requirement; and (3) allowing a person with a disability to self-train a service animal furthers the stated goals of the ADA, for other training could be prohibitively expensive. The panel remanded for the district court to reconsider whether Aspen was a qualified service dog at the time of trial, and if Aspen is a service dog, whether Del Amo has proved its affirmative defense of fundamental alteration. View "C. L. v. Del Amo Hospital, Inc." on Justia Law

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The en banc court affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action brought by plaintiff, challenging Hawai'i's firearm licensing law, Hawai'i Revised Statutes section 134-9(a). Section 134-9(a) requires that residents seeking a license to openly carry a firearm in public must demonstrate "the urgency or the need" to carry a firearm, must be of good moral character, and must be "engaged in the protection of life and property."Plaintiff applied for a firearm-carry license twice in 2011, but failed to identify "the urgency or the need" to openly carry a firearm in public. Instead, plaintiff relied upon his general desire to carry a firearm for self-defense. After his applications were denied, he challenged Hawai'i's firearm-licensing law under the Second Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.After careful review of the history of early English and American regulation of carrying arms openly in the public square, the en banc court concluded that Hawai'i's restrictions on the open carrying of firearms reflect longstanding prohibitions and that the conduct they regulate is therefore outside the historical scope of the Second Amendment. The panel explained that the Second Amendment does not guarantee an unfettered, general right to openly carry arms in public for individual self-defense. Therefore, the en banc court held that Hawai'i's firearms-carry scheme is lawful. Finally, the en banc court rejected plaintiff's contention that the regulation is invalid as a prior restraint, and rejected as premature plaintiff's due process argument that the regulation does not provide adequate process to challenge the denial of a carry-permit application. View "Young v. Hawai'i" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of costs to Mercy Housing in an action brought by a former tenant under the Fair Housing Act. The panel joined the the First, Second, Fourth, and Fifth Circuits, all of which have applied the Christiansburg standard, and held that a plaintiff bringing suit under the Fair Housing Act should not be assessed fees or costs unless the court determines that his claim is frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless.The panel affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendant in a concurrently-filed memorandum disposition. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Green v. Mercy Housing, Inc." 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 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, alleging that officers used excessive force against him, lacked probable cause to arrest him, and prepared deliberately fabricated police reports.The panel concluded that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity where, at the very least, Officer Sanford's use of the reverse reap throw did not violate clearly established law. In this case, officers were called in to a "Code 3" situation involving a "violent" individual; when they arrived, plaintiff was naked and moving quickly on a busy street; and plaintiff resisted the officers' commands to stop, turning to the officers in a threatening manner with his fists clenched.In regard to the ADA claim, the panel concluded that the district court properly granted summary judgment to the City on plaintiff's claim that officers failed to make a reasonable accommodation when retaining him. The panel explained that plaintiff had not shown that a lesser amount of force would have been reasonable under the circumstances, or how personnel with different training would have acted differently given the exigencies of the situation. Furthermore, the panel could not say that the officers violated clearly established law in determining they had probable cause to arrest plaintiff after witnessing him engage in conduct that indisputably violated Nevada law. Nor did any clearly established law require the officers to conclude that probable cause had dissipated once plaintiff was discharged from the hospital. The panel rejected plaintiff's contention that his arrest was unconstitutional. Finally, the panel concluded that there is no clearly established law that would suggest that the officers committed a due process violation when they omitted from their write-ups initial accounts from an arrestee or others that the arrestee had undergone a seizure at some point before the unlawful conduct. View "O'Doan v. Sanford" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the school district in an action brought by plaintiff, a former high school football coach, alleging violation of his rights under the First Amendment and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when the school district prohibited him from praying at the end of football games while kneeling on the fifty-yard line, surrounded by players and occasionally community members.The panel held that the school district's allowance of plaintiff's conduct would violate the Establishment Clause and thus the school district's efforts to prevent the conduct did not violate plaintiff's constitutional rights nor his rights under Title VII. The panel rejected plaintiff's free speech and free exercise claims, concluding that the record before it and binding Supreme Court precedent compel the conclusion that the school district would have violated the Establishment Clause by allowing plaintiff to pray at the conclusion of football games, in the center of the field, with students who felt pressured to join him. Furthermore, plaintiff's attempts to draw nationwide attention to his challenge to the school district compels the conclusion that he was not engaging in private prayer, but was instead engaging in public speech of an overtly religious nature while performing his job duties. In this case, the school district tried to reach an accommodation for plaintiff, but that was spurned by his insisting that he be allowed to pray immediately after the conclusion of each game, likely surrounded by students who felt pressured to join him.The panel also concluded that plaintiff's Title VII claims alleging failure to rehire, disparate treatment, failure to accommodate and retaliation failed. The panel explained that plaintiff did not show that he was adequately performing his job; plaintiff's conduct is clearly dissimilar to the other personal activities of assistant coaches he cites and thus he cannot make out a prima facie case of disparate treatment; the school district could not reasonably accommodate plaintiff's practice without undue hardship; and the school district had a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for its adverse employment actions. View "Kennedy v. Bremerton School District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon, filed suit against the University, alleging claims under the Equal Pay Act, Title VII, Title IX, and Oregon law. Plaintiff claims that there is a gender disparity in pay that is department wide and is caused by the University's practice of granting "retention raises" to faculty as an incentive to remain at the University when they are being courted by other academic institutions. Plaintiff also alleges that female professors at the University are less likely to engage in retention negotiations than male professors, and when they do, they are less likely to successfully obtain a raise. The district court granted summary judgment for the University on all counts.The Ninth Circuit concluded that the district court erred in granting summary judgment on the Equal Pay Act claim because a reasonable jury could find that plaintiff and her comparators did substantially equal work. Furthermore, plaintiff has raised a genuine issue of material fact under Oregon Revised Statute 652.220 for the same reasons she has done so under the Equal Pay Act. The panel also concluded that the district court erred in granting summary judgment on the Title VII disparate impact claim where there is at least a genuine issue of material fact as to whether plaintiff established a prima facie case of disparate impact. However, plaintiff cannot establish a prima facie case of disparate treatment because equity raises and retention raises are not comparable and the panel could not say that plaintiff's comparators were treated "more favorably" than was plaintiff in this context. Consequently, summary judgment was also proper on plaintiff's claim under Oregon Revised Statute 659A.030. The panel also affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiff's Title IX claim and state constitutional claim. View "Freyd v. University of Oregon" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a habeas corpus petition challenging petitioner's Arizona state conviction for rape and murder and his death sentence. The panel concluded that the district court properly declined to grant habeas relief as to Claim I, which was based on the trial court's denial of severance. Given the Arizona Supreme Court's alternative ruling that evidence concerning each attack would have been admissible in separate trials on each attack, and petitioner's failure to assign any federal constitutional error to that dispositive ruling in his first PCR petition or his habeas petition, the panel affirmed the denial of habeas relief as to Claim 1.The panel also concluded that the district court properly declined to grant habeas relief as to claim 2, which was based on the trial court's admission of three eyewitness identifications. The panel explained that the state court's rejection of this claim was not contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, nor did it rest on an unreasonable determination of the facts. The panel further concluded that the district court properly determined that McKinney v. Ryan, 813 F.3d 798 (9th Cir. 2015) (en banc), has no impact on Claim 31 of petitioner's habeas petition; as to Claim 4, the district court properly denied petitioner leave to amend his habeas petition to add five previously withdrawn ineffective assistance of counsel claims on the grounds that those claims are untimely and do not relate back to his timely-filed claims and that petitioner unduly delayed seeking leave to amend; and as to Claim 5, the district court properly concluded that the trial court's admission of 19 purportedly "gruesome" crime scene and autopsy photos does not entitle petitioner to habeas relief because the state court's decision did not involve an objectively unreasonable application of clearly established Supreme Court precedent or an objectively unreasonable determination of the facts. View "Walden v. Shinn" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for police officers on the basis of qualified immunity in an action brought by plaintiff under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violation of his constitutional rights, including his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure. In this case, the officers tripped plaintiff so that he fell to the ground, pinned him down, and handcuffed him. Plaintiff fell on his face, sustained long-term physical injuries, and sustained emotional distress as a result of the encounter.The panel rejected the officers' contention that the Notice of Appeal failed to comply with Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 3(c). The panel also concluded that, although there are material facts in dispute, when the facts are taken in the light most favorable to plaintiff, a reasonable jury could find that plaintiff engaged in passive resistance and that the officers' take-down of plaintiff involved unconstitutionally excessive force. Furthermore, because the right to be free from the application of non-trivial force for engaging in mere passive resistance was clearly established at the time, the officers are not entitled to qualified immunity. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Rice v. Morehouse" on Justia Law