Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
by
The Ninth Circuit dismissed, based on lack of jurisdiction, an interlocutory appeal of the district court's order denying qualified immunity to defendant in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging that defendant used excessive force when he shot Wayne Anderson. The panel explained that it lacked jurisdiction to review defendant's arguments because his interlocutory appeal challenges only the district court's conclusion that there is sufficient evidence to create a genuine dispute as to the factual question that will determine whether defendant's use of force was reasonable. In this case, rather than "advanc[ing] an argument as to why the law is not clearly established that takes the facts in the light most favorable to [the Estate]," which the panel would have jurisdiction to consider, defendant contests "whether there is enough evidence in the record for a jury to conclude that certain facts [favorable to the Estate] are true," which the panel did not have jurisdiction to resolve. View "Estate of Wayne Steven Anderson v. Marsh" on Justia Law

by
Sandoval died of a methamphetamine overdose at the San Diego Central Jail after medical staff left him unmonitored for eight hours, despite signs that he was under the influence of drugs, and then failed to promptly summon paramedics when they discovered him unresponsive and having a seizure. A suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 was rejected on summary judgment.The Ninth Circuit reversed. The district court abused its discretion by summarily sustaining the defendants’ “frivolous” evidentiary objections. An objective standard applies to constitutional claims of inadequate medical care brought by pretrial detainees; the district court erroneously applied the subjective deliberate indifference standard. A jury could conclude that Sandoval would not have died but for the defendants’ unreasonable response to his obvious signs of medical distress and that a reasonable nurse who was told that Sandoval was shaking, tired, and disoriented, and who was specifically directed by a deputy to evaluate Sandoval more thoroughly, would have understood that Sandoval faced a substantial risk of serious harm. Failure to check on Sandoval and to promptly call paramedics were objectively unreasonable. The available law was clearly established at the time. The nurses were not entitled to qualified immunity. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, there was a triable issue of fact as to the county’s liability. View "Sandoval v. County of San Diego" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, a former SWAT sniper, filed suit alleging that the Department unconstitutionally retaliated against him for his protected speech when it dismissed him from the SWAT team after he commented on Facebook that it was a "shame" that a suspect who had shot a police officer did not have any "holes" in him. The district court construed plaintiff's statement as advocating unlawful violence, and ruled that the government's interest in employee discipline outweighs plaintiff's First Amendment right under the Pickering balancing test for speech by government employees.The Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the district court erred in granting summary judgment for the government because there is a factual dispute about the objective meaning of plaintiff's comment: was it a hyperbolic political statement lamenting police officers being struck down in the line of duty — or a call for unlawful violence against suspects? Furthermore, another factual dispute exists over whether plaintiff's comment would have likely caused disruption in the police department. Therefore, the panel concluded that these factual disputes had to be resolved before the district court could weigh the competing considerations under the Pickering balancing test. View "Moser v. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a habeas corpus petition challenging petitioner's Arizona state conviction and death sentence for multiple offenses including two counts of first-degree murder.The panel addressed three certified issues and concluded that (1) even assuming the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) does not bar the panel's review of petitioner's Brady claims, the delay in producing the photos and police reports, and the failure to disclose the Merrill benefits, were not material; (2) the district court did not err in denying him leave to amend his petition to add a claim that his death sentence violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments because amendment would be futile; and (3) petitioner's ineffective assistance of sentencing counsel claim is procedurally defaulted and petitioner failed to show cause under Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1 (2012), to excuse the default. Finally, the panel declined to expand the COA. View "Hooper v. Shinn" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Bank on plaintiff's claim of gender harassment under Title VII and the Washington Law Against Discrimination. Plaintiff, a former employee of the Bank, alleged that a bank customer stalked and harassed her in her workplace and that the Bank failed to take effective action to address the harassment.The panel held that to establish sex discrimination under a hostile work environment theory, a plaintiff must show she was subjected to sex-based harassment that was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of employment, and that her employer is liable for this hostile work environment. Because the panel concluded that a trier of fact could find that the harassment altered the conditions of plaintiff's employment and created an abusive working environment, it turned to the question of the Bank's liability. In this case, there is more than enough evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact as to the sufficiency of the Bank's response. Because a jury reasonably could conclude that the Bank ratified or acquiesced in the customer's harassment, the panel held that the district court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of the Bank. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Christian v. Umpqua Bank" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, an elementary school student who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and severe, disability-related behavioral issues, filed suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) alleging that the school district denied him equal access to a public education because of his disability. The district court dismissed the complaint, concluding that plaintiff failed to exhaust his claim through the administrative procedures prescribed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), as required when a plaintiff seeks relief under other federal statutes for the denial of a free appropriate public education (FAPE).The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal and held that a close review of plaintiff's allegations reveals that the gravamen of his ADA claim is discrimination separate from his right to a FAPE. Therefore, the panel concluded that plaintiff's ADA claim is not subject to IDEA exhaustion. Finally, the panel concluded that there is nothing untoward—or inconsistent with Fry v. Napoleon Cmty. Sch., 137 S. Ct. 743 (2017)—in plaintiff's having followed resolution of his IDEA claims with a lawsuit alleging non-FAPE-based violations of another statute. View "D. D. v. Los Angeles Unified School District" on Justia Law

by
Angelina Nunes, individually and as Guardian Ad Litem for her minor children, and Emanuel Alves filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against the County and its attorneys for unlawfully viewing the juvenile records of the children in violation of California Welfare & Institutions Code Section 827.The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of defendants' motion to dismiss on qualified immunity grounds, holding that Gonzalez v. Spencer, 336 F.3d 832 (9th Cir. 2003), did not clearly establish a constitutional privacy right in juvenile records. Therefore, the panel could not conclude that every reasonable official acting as defendants did would have known they were violating the constitutional rights of plaintiffs based on Gonzalez, the only authority on which plaintiffs relied. The panel concluded that defendants were entitled to qualified immunity and remanded for further proceedings. View "Nunes v. Stephens" on Justia Law

by
Calvary Chapel challenges Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak's Directive 021, which prohibits certain gatherings because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. Specifically, Calvary Chapel challenges section 11 of the Directive, which imposes a fifty-person cap on indoor in-person services at houses of worship.The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of the church's request for a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the Directive against houses of worship. The panel held that the Supreme Court's recent decision in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo, --- S. Ct. ----, 2020 WL 6948354 (2020) (per curiam), arguably represented a seismic shift in Free Exercise law, and compels the result in this case. Similar to the pandemic-related restrictions in Roman Catholic Diocese, the panel explained that the Directive treats numerous secular activities and entities significantly better than religious worship services. The panel explained that the Directive, although not identical to New York's, requires attendance limitations that create the same "disparate treatment" of religion. Because disparate treatment of religion triggers strict scrutiny review, the panel reviewed the restrictions in the Directive under strict scrutiny. Exercising its discretion, the panel concluded that, although slowing the spread of COVID-19 is a compelling interest, the Directive is not narrowly tailored to serve that interest. In this case, the Directive—although less restrictive in some respects than the New York regulations reviewed in Roman Catholic Diocese—is not narrowly tailored because, for example, "maximum attendance at a religious service could be tied to the size of the [house of worship]."Therefore, Calvary Chapel has demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of its Free Exercise claim. Calvary Chapel has also established that the occupancy limitations contained in the Directive—if enforced—will cause irreparable harm, and that the issuance of an injunction is in the public interest. The panel reversed the district court, instructed the district court to employ strict scrutiny review to its analysis of the Directive, and preliminarily enjoined the State from imposing attendance limitations on in-person services in houses of worship that are less favorable than 25% of the fire-code capacity. View "Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley v. Sisolak" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit denied applicant's application for federal habeas corpus relief from his 1997 conviction in Hawaii state court for second-degree murder where applicant seeks retroactive relief based on McCoy v. Louisiana, 138 S. Ct. 1500 (2018). The district court construed the motion as an application to file a second or successive (SOS) habeas petition and referred it to the Ninth Circuit.The panel accepted the referral and confirmed that the Rule 60(d) filing is properly construed as an application for authorization to file an SOS habeas petition. The panel held that the application does not make the required prima facie showing pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(2). The panel assumed without deciding that McCoy did indeed create a new rule of constitutional law and that it was previously unavailable to applicant, but found that the application was otherwise deficient. In this case, applicant failed to show that McCoy was made retroactive on collateral review by the Supreme Court and that his proposed petition would rely on McCoy's rule. View "Christian v. Thomas" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit denied applicant's request for authorization to file a second or successive motion under 28 U.S.C. 2255 to vacate his 2015 conviction and sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2), based on Rehaif v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 2191 (2019). Rehaif held that a conviction under section 922(g), which prohibits firearm possession for certain categories of individuals, and section 924(a)(2), which imposes penalties on those who "knowingly violate" section 922(g), requires proof that the defendant "knew he belonged to the relevant category of persons barred from possessing a firearm."The panel held that applicant failed to make a prima facie showing that Rehaif announced a new constitutional rule as required by section 2244(b)(2)(A), (b)(3)(C). The panel explained that in announcing the scope of "knowingly" in section 924(a)(2), Rehaif announced a statutory, rather than a constitutional, rule. View "Tate v. United States" on Justia Law