9th Circuit Civil Rights Law News - U.S. Ninth Circuit
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A federal appeals court ruled the California legislature wrongly carved out a law to help workers' unions in lawsuits against their employers.

In a final order to elaborate its earlier decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals explained that the Legislature passed a "safe harbor" provision in Assembly Bill 1513 to gain the support of the the United Farm Workers of America. The UFW was engaged in litigation against one the plaintiffs at the time, and the safe harbor provision denied them a defense in the case.

"The only reason the carve-outs were included in the final bill was to procure the support of the UFW," the court said in upholding an Equal Protection claim while rejecting a Bill of Attainder claim. "A law making a defendant ineligible to assert an affirmative defense in a civil lawsuit simply does not fit within that category of legislative action."

Woman Shot by Police for Holding a Knife Can Bring Excessive Force Claim

An Arizona police officer must stand trial for shooting a woman who was walking in her driveway with a knife, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal reversed a lower court that had dismissed the case on a motion for summary judgment. Judge William K. Sessions III said a jury should decide whether the officer used excessive force. He also said the officer was not, without further proceedings in the excessive force case, entitled to immunity.

"(A) jury ... could find that she had a constitutional right to walk down her driveway holding a knife without being shot," Sessions said in the unanimous decision.

A Ninth Circuit panel recently upheld a new California law that requires licensed pregnancy clinics to inform women about publicly funded family planning services, including contraception and abortion services. The law was passed after the state legislature found that women often did not know about the public services available to them and that religious clinics misled them about their options.

The court rejected religious clinics' contention that the law violated their right to free speech and freedom of religion last week, ruling that the state's disclosure law did not violate the clinics' rights.

Hawaii's Open Primary Laws Are Constitutional, 9th Circuit Rules

The Democratic Party has failed to prove that Hawaii's open primary system "severely burdens" the party's associational rights, according to the Independent Voter Project. The open primary system allows members formally registered with another party to vote for nominees outside of party lines.

The decision is the correct one. The Democratic Part of Hawaii brought a rather flimsy argument that was rightfully dismissed. After all, how can the opportunity to vote outside of one's typical associated group be a violation of one's right to freely associate? Isn't that encouraging free association?

2nd Amend. Doesn't Grant Right to Carry in Public, 9th Cir. Says

The Ninth Circuit tightened the belt on gun laws in the Golden State as well as all the entirety of the nation's West Coast when an en banc court ruled that the Second Amendment does not guarantee a right to carry loaded concealed weapons in public yesterday.

It's a not-so-stunning reversal of a three-judge panel finding by the Ninth Circuit earlier that took heat and pressure from California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

When a person's competency to stand trial for a crime is in question in Washington State, state law requires the state Department of Social and Health Services to evaluate them within seven to 21 days. Because of staffing, budgeting, and other limitations, detained individuals often go weeks without an evaluation, during which they may be held in solitary confinement, often exacerbating mental illnesses.

Following a class action lawsuit on behalf of such detained individuals, a federal district required a series of reforms from the state services that included a seven-day maximum for providing competency determinations. On appeal, while the Ninth Circuit agreed that jail was "no substitute" for therapeutic evaluation and treatment, the court tossed the seven-day requirement, finding the week-long limit to go "beyond what the Constitution requires."

Free Speech on College Campus Addressed in 9th Cir. Ruling

Controversy has been rumbling at Fresno State since 2010 when conservative student Neil O'Brien started a chapter of Young Americans for Liberty at the school and allegedly began "harassing" professors in the Latin American Studies department there.

Last week, the Ninth Circuit effectively upheld Fresno State's view that O'Brien had expressed harassing speech. But the court also let stand his count against the school on the grounds that it retaliated against him for his conduct. The opinion has gotten mixed reactions from both sides.

San Diego 'Bite and Hold' Case Will Proceed to Trial: 9th Cir.

Are the San Diego's policies employing canine units to "bite and hold" an unconstitutional violation of civil rights? Reasonable minds may disagree, and that is why the Ninth Circuit has reversed a lower court dismissal of the lawsuit allowing the suit to move forward to trial.

However your opinion may lean on this issue -- we're almost sure that it didn't help when the police officer told the victim that she was "very lucky," because the dog "could have ripped [her] face off."

An attempt by the Justice Department to speed up the death penalty process survived a challenge in the Ninth Circuit last week. Under a federal program, states that provide certified, competent representation to capital prisoners can have those prisoners' federal habeas petitions "fast-tracked," dropping the time prisoners have to file habeas petitions in half, reducing delays before the guillotine falls.

Two capital defense providers sued, arguing that the new regulations made it impossible to tell if state programs would be certified, making it difficult for them to protect death row inmates' rights. But those concerns, the Ninth Circuit ruled, aren't sufficient enough to give them standing.

9th Cir. Affirms Denial of Habeas Relief to Armed Robbery Defendant

In what is certainly a confounding jumble of legal issues indeed, the Ninth Circuit affirmed a lower district court's decision to deny habeas relief to a man who'd been convicted of numerous crimes arising out of his early 2000s Washington state crime spree.

In what was not presented as a petitioned issue, the circuit concluded that although it had affirmed on the issue of habeas, the defendant was free to appeal possible constitutional violations.