Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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The case involves Larry Grant and his daughter P.C. who filed an appeal against the City of Long Beach and Gabriela Rodriguez, alleging that their constitutional rights to association and due process were violated. They also raised several state-law claims. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that the appellants’ opening brief was riddled with misrepresentations and fabricated case law. The brief did not comply with the Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 28(a)(8)(A) as it did not contain the appellants’ contentions and the reasons for them, with citations to the authorities and parts of the record on which the appellant relies.The court noted that the brief cited cases that were misrepresented or did not exist, and did not provide coherent explanations of how the accurately cited cases supported the appellants’ claims. The appellants also failed to file a reply brief. The court observed that the magnitude of the appellants’ citations to apparently fabricated cases necessitated a questioning of their counsel about these cases, but the counsel did not acknowledge the fabrications.Given the extent of non-compliance with the Court rules, the Ninth Circuit court decided to strike the appellants’ brief and dismiss the appeal. The court holds that it is crucial for parties to present reliable and understandable support for their claims to ensure fair consideration of cases on appeal. View "Grant v. City of Long Beach" on Justia Law

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This case revolves around the fatal shooting of Daniel Hernandez by Officer Toni McBride of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Hernandez's estate and family members filed a lawsuit against McBride, the LAPD, and the City of Los Angeles, alleging violations of Hernandez's Fourth Amendment rights, the family members' Fourteenth Amendment rights, and several state law claims.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit concluded that a reasonable jury could find that the force McBride used in her final two shots was excessive, but she was entitled to qualified immunity because she did not violate clearly established law. The court explained that while the Fourth Amendment excessive force claim could proceed to trial, McBride was protected by qualified immunity because no prior case law established that her conduct was unlawful.The court also dismissed the Fourteenth Amendment claim, stating that plaintiffs failed to show that McBride acted with a purpose to harm without regard to legitimate law enforcement objectives. The court further ruled that the Monell claim against the City of Los Angeles and the LAPD failed because even if there was an underlying constitutional violation, plaintiffs failed to provide any basis for holding the City and LAPD liable for McBride’s actions.However, the court reversed the dismissal of plaintiffs' state law claims for assault, wrongful death, and violation of the Bane Act, determining that the reasonableness of McBride's final shots presented a question for a trier of fact. The court thus sent these claims back to the district court for further proceedings. View "In re Estate of Hernandez v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of absolute and qualified immunity to two County of San Bernardino social workers, Gloria Vazquez and Mirta Johnson. The plaintiffs, Sydney Rieman and her minor child K.B., alleged that the social workers violated their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by failing to provide them notice of a juvenile detention hearing and by providing false information to the Juvenile Court about why Ms. Rieman was not noticed for the hearing.The court held that the social workers were not entitled to absolute immunity for their actions and omissions, such as providing false information to the Juvenile Court and failing to give notice of the detention hearing. These actions were not similar to discretionary decisions about whether to prosecute. Absolute immunity did not apply to the plaintiffs' claim that the defendants failed to give them notice of the detention hearing as such notice was mandatory.The court also held that the defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity from suit for failing to provide notice of the hearing. Ms. Rieman had a due process right to such notice and that right was clearly established. The court stated that it was clear at the time that parents could not be summarily deprived of the care and custody of their children without notice and a hearing, except when the children were in imminent danger.Finally, the court held that the defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity for their misrepresentation to the Juvenile Court about why Ms. Rieman was not noticed for the hearing. The court concluded that a reasonable social worker in the defendants' shoes would have understood, based on prior decisional law, that providing incomplete and false information to the Juvenile Court about Ms. Rieman’s whereabouts to convince the court that the social workers had satisfied the due process notice requirement constituted judicial deception. View "RIEMAN V. VASQUEZ" on Justia Law

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In a dispute over the naming of a thoroughbred racehorse, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's decision, which held that the decision by the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) precluded the plaintiffs' legal action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging First Amendment violations. The plaintiffs, who owned the horse named Malpractice Meuser, brought the action after the CHRB refused their horse's registration due to its name, which they believed violated specific rules. The Ninth Circuit ruled that the district court was wrong to conclude the CHRB's decision precluded the plaintiffs' § 1983 action. The court reasoned that for a state administrative agency decision to have the same preclusive effect as a state court judgment, the administrative proceeding must be conducted with sufficient safeguards and satisfy fairness requirements. In this case, the CHRB lacked the authority under California law to decide constitutional claims, and thus, its decision had no preclusive effect. Furthermore, the court ruled that the plaintiffs' decision not to seek review of the CHRB's decision in state court did not endow that decision with preclusive effect. The court found that requiring the plaintiffs to go to state court before filing a suit under § 1983 would amount to an improper exhaustion prerequisite. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "JAMGOTCHIAN V. FERRARO" on Justia Law

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In the case under review, the plaintiff-appellant, Thomas Eugene Creech, currently on death row for the 1981 murder of David Dale Jensen, had sought commutation of his death sentence. The State of Idaho had granted Creech a commutation hearing before the Commission of Pardons and Parole, which ultimately denied his petition. Consequently, Creech filed a § 1983 action in federal court, alleging various due process violations during the commutation proceedings and sought a preliminary injunction. The United States District Court for the District of Idaho denied his motion, and he appealed.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision. The Court held that the state had met the minimal procedural safeguards required by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in the commutation proceedings. It rejected Creech's arguments that he was not given adequate notice of the issues to be considered by the Commission and the evidence to be presented at the commutation hearing. Additionally, the Court found that Creech was not entitled to the appointment of a replacement commissioner when one Commissioner recused himself. The Court also refuted Creech's claims that the Ada County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office violated his due process rights by suggesting to the Commission that Creech had committed another murder and got away with it, and by introducing misleading or fabricated evidence during the hearing. The Court found no violation or arbitrariness that would warrant judicial intervention. View "CREECH V. BENNETTS" on Justia Law

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In the case at hand, DeWitt Lamar Long, a practicing Muslim and inmate at Halawa Correctional Facility in Hawaii, brought a legal action against several prison officials under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleged that his First Amendment rights to freely exercise his religion were violated and that he was unconstitutionally retaliated against for engaging in protected First Amendment activity. Specifically, Long claimed that he was denied meals consistent with his Islamic faith, that his meal during Ramadan was delivered early and thus was cold and potentially unsafe by the time he could break his fast, and that he was transferred from a medium-security facility to a high-security facility in retaliation for filing grievances.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and vacated in part the district court’s judgment. The appellate court found that the district court erred in dismissing Long's claims for injunctive relief without allowing him a chance to amend his complaint to demonstrate the need for such relief. The court also vacated the district court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of Sergeant Lee, holding that the delivery of Long's evening meal at 3:30 p.m. during Ramadan substantially burdened his free exercise of religion. The court remanded the case to allow the district court to evaluate whether the burden was justified.However, the appellate court affirmed the district court's summary judgment in favor of Chief of Security Antonio regarding Long’s claim that he was transferred from a medium-security facility to a high-security facility in retaliation for filing grievances. The court agreed with the district court that the sequence of events leading to the transfer was insufficient to show retaliatory intent. The court also affirmed the district court’s judgment after a bench trial in favor of Sergeant Sugai and Chief of Security Antonio on Long’s free exercise of religion and retaliation claims. View "LONG V. SUGAI" on Justia Law

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In a case involving the Department of Child and Family Services of the County of Los Angeles and individual social workers, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a mixed ruling. The case arose from the removal of two minor children from their parents' custody following an anonymous report that the parents were using medical marijuana to treat one child's severe autism. The court affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s judgment.The Circuit Court reversed the district court's summary judgment for the defendants on the parents' claim of judicial deception. The court concluded that the application submitted by the defendants in support of the warrant for removal contained misrepresentations and omissions and a reasonable trier of fact could find these misrepresentations material.The Circuit Court also reversed the district court's summary judgment for defendants on the parents' intentional infliction of emotional distress claim and their Monell claim, which argued that the county had an unofficial policy of encouraging social workers to omit exculpatory information from warrant applications.However, the Circuit Court affirmed the district court’s judgment on the Fourth Amendment claim concerning the social worker's interview of one child at her school, finding that the social worker was entitled to qualified immunity. The court also found no error in the district court's handling of a jury question during trial.The court remanded the case for further proceedings on the claims of judicial deception, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and the Monell claim.The case was remanded for further proceedings on these issues. View "SCANLON V. COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES" on Justia Law

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A group of current and former inmates, or their representatives, filed a class action lawsuit against Kate Brown, the Governor of Oregon, and Patrick Allen, the Director of the Oregon Health Authority, claiming that the state's COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan, which prioritized corrections officers over inmates, violated their Eighth Amendment rights. The defendants moved to dismiss the claim, asserting immunity under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act. The district court denied the motion, and the defendants appealed.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's decision, finding that the defendants were immune from liability for the vaccine prioritization claim under the PREP Act. The court held that the statutory requirements for PREP Act immunity were met because the "administration" of a covered countermeasure includes prioritization of that countermeasure when its supply is limited. The court further concluded that the PREP Act's provisions extend immunity to persons who make policy-level decisions regarding the administration or use of covered countermeasures. The court also held that the PREP Act provides immunity from suit and liability for constitutional claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, even if those claims are federal constitutional claims. View "MANEY V. BROWN" on Justia Law

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In this case, the plaintiff, Desiree Martinez, sued Channon High, a City of Clovis police officer, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Officer High violated her due process rights by disclosing her confidential domestic violence report to her abuser, Kyle Pennington, who was also a Clovis police officer. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of qualified immunity to Officer High.The appellate court held that while Officer High did violate Ms. Martinez's due process rights under the state-created danger doctrine by disclosing her confidential domestic violence report to Mr. Pennington, the right was not clearly established at the time of the violation. The court explained that state actors are generally not liable for failing to prevent the acts of private parties, but an exception applies where the state affirmatively places the plaintiff in danger by acting with deliberate indifference to a known or obvious danger. In this case, Officer High's disclosure of Ms. Martinez's confidential report to Pennington, whom she knew was an alleged abuser, placed Ms. Martinez in actual, foreseeable danger. However, it was not clearly established in 2013 that Officer High’s actions violated Ms. Martinez’s substantive due process rights. The court clarified that going forward, an officer would be liable under the state-created danger doctrine when the officer discloses a victim’s confidential report to a violent perpetrator in a manner that increases the risk of retaliation against the victim. View "MARTINEZ V. HIGH" on Justia Law

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In this case decided by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the court considered whether the claims filed by Adriana Holt, her children, and her mother Beatriz Lukens against Orange County and several deputy sheriffs were barred by the applicable statutes of limitations. The plaintiffs alleged unlawful search and arrest and brought claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and California state law. The case involved multiple filings and dismissals in different courts, raising the question of whether the tolling provision of the supplemental jurisdiction statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1367, applied to their claims.The court held that the plaintiffs' claims were not tolled and were therefore properly dismissed as untimely. The court reasoned that § 1367 tolls the applicable statute of limitations for a federal-law claim that is contained in the same federal court complaint as a supplemental state-law claim and that is “voluntarily dismissed at the same time as or after the dismissal of the [supplemental] claim.” However, this tolling provision does not apply when the supplemental claim is voluntarily dismissed, as occurred in Holt's first suit, or when a supplemental claim is dismissed for improper joinder, as occurred in the separate class action.Finally, the court also held that the plaintiffs' state-law claims were not tolled by a Covid-19 pandemic emergency tolling order and rule because the limitations periods for those claims had already lapsed before either the order or rule went into effect. Therefore, the court affirmed the lower court's dismissal of the plaintiffs' claims as time-barred. View "HOLT V. COUNTY OF ORANGE" on Justia Law