Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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The Ninth Circuit filed an order withdrawing the opinion and concurring opinion filed on February 9, 2018, and issued a new opinion and dissenting opinion. The panel affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants in an action brought by a former probationary police officer alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The panel held that the individual defendants were entitled to qualified immunity on plaintiff's claim of violation of her rights to privacy and intimate association, because it was not clearly established that a probationary officer's constitutional rights to privacy and intimate association are violated if a police department terminates her due to her participation in an ongoing extramarital relationship with a married officer with whom she worked, where an internal affairs investigation found that the probationary officer engaged in inappropriate personal cell phone use in connection with the relationship while she was on duty, resulting in a written reprimand for violating department policy. Circuit precedent also did not clearly establish that there was a legally sufficient temporal nexus between the individual defendants' allegedly stigmatizing statements and plaintiff's termination. Therefore, the individual defendants were entitled to qualified immunity on plaintiff's claim that the lack of a name-clearing hearing violated her due process rights. Finally, plaintiff conceded that her sex discrimination claims were not actually based on her gender. View "Perez v. City of Roseville" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order compelling arbitration in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. 1981. The panel followed the reasoning in its en banc decision EEOC v. Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps, 345 F.3d 742 (9th Cir. 2003) (en banc), and held that Title VII does not bar compulsory arbitration agreements and section 1981 claims are arbitrable. Therefore, the district court correctly determined that plaintiff's section 1981 claims can be subjected to compulsory arbitration. View "Lambert v. Tesla, Inc." on Justia Law

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Petitioner appealed the district court's denial of his motion for a writ of habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254(d). The Ninth Circuit, assuming without deciding that there was no procedural default and failure to exhaust, held that, although the Arizona Supreme Court erred in rejecting petitioner's proffered mental impairment mitigation evidence, the error was harmless because the state court made a reasonable determination of the facts in concluding that petitioner suffered from no mental impairment and thus did not violate Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U.S. 104 (1982). However, the panel reversed in part and held that the Arizona Superior Court erred in holding that petitioner's Sixth Amendment right to counsel was not violated by his counsel's deficient performance at the penalty phase under Strickland v. Washington. Accordingly, the panel remanded with directions to grant the writ with respect to petitioner's sentence. View "Kayer v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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Petitioner challenged the district court's limited grant of habeas relief as to his death sentence and the state cross-appealed. Petitioner was convicted of first-degree murder, first-degree robbery, rape, and sodomy. The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of habeas relief, finding that the California Supreme Court did not unreasonably apply clearly established federal law and that its holdings were not contrary to federal law. The panel held that petitioner has shown cause to overcome the procedural default of his claims for ineffective assistance of counsel and prosecutorial misconduct for the suppression of his toxicology test results. Therefore, the panel remanded for the district court to consider whether petitioner has established prejudice as to either claim. Finally, the panel declined to expand the certificate of appealability to include petitioner's uncertified claims. View "Bradford v. Davis" on Justia Law

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Hearsay does not include statements offered against a party, made by that party's employee on a matter within the scope of the employee's employment, so long as the statement was made while the employee was still employed by that party. The Ninth Circuit held that the district court erred by granting summary judgment to Frontier regarding plaintiff's failure-to-promote claim, because the district court excluded such a statement proffered by plaintiff on hearsay grounds. However, the panel held that the district court properly granted summary judgment to Frontier on plaintiff's termination claim because he failed to produce evidence raising a genuine issue of material fact regarding the claim. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part and reversed in part. View "Weil v. Citizens Telecom Services Co." on Justia Law

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On remand from the Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to a police officer in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging an excessive force claim. In this case, the officer grabbed plaintiff and took him to the ground during an investigation of a reported domestic violence incident. The panel held that it unable to find a case so precisely on point with this one as to satisfy the Supreme Court's demand for specificity. The closest case the panel found was in Hansen v. Black, 885 F.2d 642 (9th Cir. 1989), where officers, while investigating a gas station robbery and going to the plaintiff's house to see if her son was involved in the robbery, used excessive force in handcuffing plaintiff after she refused to comply with an officer's order. However, the panel distinguished this case from Hansen, because officers were investigating an incident that occurred inside defendant's home, and he had not been ruled out as a possible suspect. Therefore, the panel held that the officer was entitled to qualified immunity. View "Emmons v. City of Escondido" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of habeas relief as to the penalty phase, because petitioner's counsel rendered ineffective assistance by not investigating and presenting mitigating evidence at the penalty phase. Applying de novo review, the panel held that counsel did not properly investigate petitioner's background, and thus the trial court at the penalty phase was not presented with substantial mitigation evidence regarding petitioner's education and incarceration, his diffuse brain damage, and his history of substance abuse. The panel held that this raised a reasonable probability that, had the trial court been presented with the mitigation evidence in the first instance, the outcome would have been different. In this case, petitioner may have been spared the death penalty and been imprisoned for life instead. Accordingly, the panel remanded with instructions to grant relief against the death penalty. View "Washington v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a federal civil rights action against defendants, alleging numerous federal constitutional violations and a disparate impact claim under the Fair Housing Act. Almost simultaneously, the city filed a nuisance complaint in state court against plaintiffs and the city filed a motion for abstention, or in the alternative, a motion to dismiss the federal action. The county filed a nearly identical motion the next day. The district court granted both the city and the county's motions, concluding that abstention was appropriate under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). Determining that it had jurisdiction over the appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that the district court properly abstained under Younger in every aspect, except with respect to the allegedly unreasonable search, which must be severed from the other claims. In this case, Younger abstention was appropriate as to all claims except the unreasonable search claim, because success by plaintiffs on such claims would invalidate the code enforcement proceeding. In regard to the unreasonable search claim, the district court erred in abstaining because the relief sought on alleged Fourth Amendment violations did not meet the Court's requirement that the relief have the practical effect of enjoining the state court proceeding. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Herrera v. City of Palmdale" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting the officers' motion for summary judgment in an action alleging that police officers violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments when they stole plaintiffs' property after conducting a search and seizure pursuant to a warrant. The panel held that it need not, and did not, decide whether the officers violated the Constitution. Rather, 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 that is seized pursuant to a warrant. The panel noted that five other circuits had addressed the issue of whether the theft of property covered by the terms of a search warrant and seized pursuant to that warrant violates the Fourth Amendment. However, in the absence of binding authority or a consensus of a persuasive authority on the issue, the panel held that it was not clearly established that the officers' alleged conduct violated the Fourth Amendment. Likewise, plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment claim failed. View "Jessop v. City of Fresno" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Salvation Army, in an employment discrimination action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The panel held that the religious organization exemption (ROE) applied to the Salvation Army; the ROE reached claims for retaliation and hostile work environment; and the ROE barred plaintiff's claims because the ROE was nonjurisdictional and subject to procedural forfeiture, and may be first raised at summary judgment absent prejudice. Absent prejudice resulting from the failure to timely raise the defense, the panel held that the Salvation Army permissibly invoked the ROE at summary judgment and it foreclosed plaintiff's Title VII claims. The panel also held that plaintiff failed to make out a claim under the ADA because the Salvation Army was under no obligation to engage in an interactive process in the absence of a disability. In this case, after plaintiff's clearance for work, she failed to show that she was disabled. View "Garcia v. Salvation Army" on Justia Law