9th Circuit Civil Rights Law News - U.S. Ninth Circuit
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Prisoners' mail is almost always subject to being opened and read thoroughly by prison officials looking for contraband, which can include attempting to exchange information between gang members, for example. Legal mail, on the other hand, is supposed to be sacrosanct: Guards aren't supposed to open mail marked "legal mail" unless they suspect it's not legal mail; and even then, they can't read it that thoroughly.

Last week, the Ninth Circuit allowed a case to proceed in which a guard went well beyond scanning legal mail to make sure it's really legal mail. In a dissent, Judge Jay Bybee said that a single instance of a prisoner's mail being read one time doesn't amount to a constitutional injury.

In July, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, a group challenging an Arizona law that prohibited some immigrants from getting Arizona driver's licenses.

Yet, the law continues to be enforced against the very people who successfully challenged the law. Read on to find out why, and what they are doing about it.

Under Hobby Lobby, a closely held corporation with religious objections can refuse to pay for insurance coverage for birth control and instead request an exemption from the Affordable Care Act's so-called "birth control mandate."

Does that logic extend to pharmacists and retailers who refuse to stock such pills? It would seem to, and a group of pharmacists just filed a brief advancing that point in an appeal by the State of Washington in the Ninth Circuit, where the state is seeking to have its birth control retail regulations upheld. The regulations require retailers to stock "Plan B" and "ella" drugs, rather than refer patients to other pharmacies, even if selling these drugs conflicts with the small business owners' religious beliefs.

We've got a twin pack of updates for you on this midsummer Monday afternoon, both involving preliminary injunctions, video content, and non-traditional distribution mediums.

In one case, which pits a major television network against an alternative video distribution medium (it's almost Aereo part II), the panel declined to issue a preliminary injunction. In the other, we have a bit of backtracking (but not enough) by the panel in an amended opinion in a dangerous precedential case that imposed prior restraint on speech on the basis of a questionable copyright claim.

If we had to analogize Arizona to a child, we'd say it was suffering from "middle child syndrome." What else could explain the policies and legislation that comes out of that state? Perhaps Arizona just wants more attention from her parents the Federal Government. (Sidebar: Jan Brewer is the second child -- just saying).

The challenged Arizona law du jour is Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann 28-3153(D), which prohibits the issuance of licenses to young immigrants (under Gov. Brewer's executive order and interpretation). Read on to see why another Arizona policy didn't make the cut.

We've got a quick roundup of updates for you this morning on three major issues we've been following for awhile: gay marriage bans, conversion therapy, and the Mount Soledad Memorial Cross.

The Ninth Circuit set a single date for oral arguments in disputes out of three states, including Hawaii (which has legalized gay marriage since the case was first filed) and Nevada (where state officials have pretty much given up). Meanwhile, it seems the legal battle over gay conversion therapy is over, with California's ban remaining intact.

And finally, the Mount Soledad Cross is still standing, and may continue to do so, even with the Supreme Court denying review earlier today.

It's a big day in the Ninth Circuit for two of the biggest legal topics right now: marriage equality and national security. In one case, the appellate court declined to re-hear a case involving a Batson challenge to a gay juror, which leaves a holding that all-but-guarantees marriage equality in the Ninth Circuit remains intact.

And in a second case, now on remand to a district court in Oregon, a judge just ruled that our nation's "No-Fly List," which keeps those who are suspected of having ties to terrorism off of planes but has no procedures to challenge inclusion on the list, is unconstitutional.

On the battlefield that is women's reproductive rights, women in Arizona scored a victory on Tuesday, when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court's denial of preliminary injunction.

Now with a preliminary injunction in place, it remains to be seen whether the Arizona abortion pill law will withstand a challenge on the merits.

It's the landmark civil right battle of our time, and if you thought we'd go a week, or even a few days, without another legal maneuver in a gay marriage case, you were sadly mistaken. If you're suffering from coverage fatigue, take solace in this: we're only covering the most interesting and odd battles out of the dozens of cases that are proceeding nationwide.

In this batch of updates, a non-party reaches out to SCOTUS to put a hold on gay marriages in a state where nobody (or at least, nobody in the litigation) is opposing gay marriage, while in Idaho, the impatient state is asking to fast forward to an en banc hearing and actually has a compelling argument for doing so.

In a textbook example of the absurdity that can occur when state officials, for better or worse, decide not to defend state laws, a federal court just made gay marriage legal over the opposition of no one at all, and with no appeal likely.

Shortly before U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane handed down the thirteenth straight victory for gay marriage since Windsor, the Ninth Circuit denied a stay of further proceedings requested by a third-party organization hoping to defend the voter-approved referendum.