9th Circuit Civil Rights Law News - U.S. Ninth Circuit
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The "machinery of death" is creaking back into action in California after a Ninth Circuit decision revived the state's capital punishment system today. In a surprising ruling last year, Judge Cormac Carney declared that the state's death penalty system was so slow and arbitrary that it constituted cruel and unusual punishment. He ordered the whole thing shut down.

But that ruling has now been overturned on a technicality, with the Ninth announcing today that the district court should not have entertained the argument in a habeas review.

Immigrants housed in civil detention facilities will have greater access to bond hearings and potential release thanks to a Ninth Circuit ruling yesterday. Currently, thousands of immigrants are held in detention facilities for extended periods of time, awaiting rulings on their immigration status.

Those detainees will now have a greater chance of gaining release on bond while they wait for their case to be settled, thanks to the Ninth Circuit.

Did Immigration Services Violate FOIA? 9th Cir. Finds Case Moot

Attorney James Mayock brought a suit against the Federal Agency claimed that USCIS had engaged in a "pattern and practice" of violating the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for well over several decades. The Ninth Circuit, however, found that Mayock failed to prove standing and that the case was actually moot.

The ruling further suggests that any immigration attorney should think twice before bringing a suit alleging personal harm that is actually the harm of his clients.

9th Cir. Reverses Lower Court ADEA Age Discrimination Case

Last August, the Ninth Circuit reversed the lower district's summary judgment in favor of the Department of Homeland Security when a border patrol agent sued the branch of the agency alleging violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, better known as ADEA.

In the lawsuit, government employee John France alleged that he had been passed over for promotion to Assistant Chief Patrol Agent with a pay scale of GS-15 because he was the oldest candidate who applied. The Department of Homeland Security demurred and the Appellate Court finally reversed, ruling that the facts did not support summary judgment.

Seattle can continue with its minimum wage hike after the International Franchise Association lost its lawsuit challenging the ordinance. The IFA had sought to halt the wage increase, which went into effect this April, but the Ninth Circuit denied their request for a preliminary injunction last Friday.

The court rejected the IFA's claims that the wage increase "illegally discriminates against franchises." The law raises Seattle's minimum wage incrementally from $10 an hour to $15 over a period of years. Small businesses are given more time to meet the new requirements; franchises, like McDonald's and Pizza Hut, are not.

For almost 60 years, visitors to Montana's Big Mountain resort have been greeted by a life-sized statue of Jesus. Occasionally dressed in ski gear, arms spread, Jesus looks out over the resort's slopes. That statue is officially known as "Big Mountain Jesus."

Big Mountain Jesus, however, makes his home on government land, for Big Mountain and its ski runs are located in Flathead National Forest. That fact doesn't make the statue an impermissible government endorsement of religion, the Ninth Circuit ruled last week, tossing a lawsuit by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

You can still be sentenced to death in California, but you can't be executed -- not since a surprise ruling last year struck down the state's death penalty program as unconstitutional. The program wasn't struck down because executions are inherently cruel punishment, but because the state was too slow to kill death row prisoners.

That case is now before the Ninth Circuit, which will decide whether the state's sluggish and arbitrary death penalty system is so dysfunctional that it's unconstitutional.

A California public defender can continue with her lawsuit against the deputy sheriff who handcuffed her and dragged her through a courthouse, the Ninth Circuit ruled last week. A district court had ruled that the deputy, who was seeking to make sure that the attorney appeared when her case was called, had qualified immunity from the suit, an argument the Ninth rejected. There's no way that the deputy could reasonably believe he had a valid Fourth Amendment reason for the arrest, the unanimous panel held in an opinion by Judge Kozinski.

The ruling revives public defender Florentina Demuth's section 1983 suit against the county and sheriff's department of Los Angeles. At the same time, however, Kozinski scolded both parties for allowing a "tiff" to extend into a lawsuit that has lasted years and cost the city more than $1 million.

States can require pharmacies to dispense birth control even if the pharmacy's owner has religious objections, the Ninth Circuit ruled yesterday. The Court upheld a Washington State law that allowed individual pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions because of religious objections, so long as another onsite pharmacist will do so.

Pharmacy owners from Washington had objected, arguing that forcing them to fill birth control prescriptions violated their religious beliefs. A unanimous Ninth Circuit panel disagreed, however, finding that the rules were a neutral, rational regulation of the pharmacy industry.

Arizona shares a border with Mexico and Mexican-Americans make up a bit under a third of its citizens. Prior to the Mexican-American War, Arizona was even a part of Mexico. Despite the facts, Arizona declared ethnic studies illegal in 2010 and quickly banned Tucson's Mexican American studies program.

The state's attorney general at the time said that high school classes focusing on Mexican American history were "propagandizing and brainwashing." Tucson school board members feared that teachers were indoctrinating students through burritos -- seriously. The Ninth Circuit, thankfully, brought a little sanity back into the conversation, ruling this Tuesday that the law was at least partially unconstitutional.