U.S. Ninth Circuit - The FindLaw 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

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Prisoner Has Right to Complain, Threaten to Sue

John Thomas Entler, a prisoner at Washington State Penitentiary, was in no position to complain.

But he did, telling prison officials they wrongly charged his prison account $200. He also complained about being forced to do certain work.

That got him 10 days of cell confinement and 15 days lost time in the yard and gym. After a failed complaint in federal court, an appeals court finally gave him a break in Entler v. Gregoire.

9th Cir. Decides Mistaken Identity Case: Cops Arrest Dad on Warrant for Son

There is a lesson in this police brutality case, and it's not about the Constitution. It's about having the same constitution as a suspect in a criminal case.

Merritt L. Sharp, III, shared the same name with his son, Merritt L. Sharp, IV, as well as some naturally recurring physical traits. The big differences were their age and a record; Sharp IV was a felon.

Those obvious differences escaped police officers, who arrested the dad, handcuffed him, twisted his arm and tore his rotator cuff, threw him in the back of a police car, searched him and his house -- all on a warrant for his son. You'd of thought the police would've realized their mistake a little sooner.

A civil rights class action claim filed by over 100 Seattle police officers was dismissed by a lower federal district court in 2014, and has now, finally, had that dismissal affirmed by the Ninth Circuit. The officers were challenging whether new policies regarding the use of force were constitutional under the Second Amendment. Though arguments were held in May, the decision has just issued.

The new use of force policy was the result of a 2012 federal consent decree requiring a special master be appointed to independently assess, create, and implement a use of force policy. In doing so, a policy was created that stresses de-escalation over force. After the policy was approved and implemented in 2014, this challenge followed.

Judges Push Back Travel Ban Against Family Members, Refugees

That Hawaiian judge stopped President Trump -- again.

Judge Derrick Watson, slighted by Trump's legal general as that "judge sitting on an island in the Pacific," blocked the president's controversial travel ban in March. The Trump administration appealed up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which temporarily allowed a modified ban, but one issue came back to Watson:

What about relatives of U.S. citizens who travel from those Muslim-majority nations? Watson struck the administration's ban on certain relatives, and the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with him -- again.

It's headed for another Supreme Court showdown, but this time the president is on the outside looking in. That's because the Supreme Court crafted the modification that Watson applied to extended family members.

Unfortunately for Jay Russell Shafer, a recent Ninth Circuit decision has turned his jury verdict awarding him six figures for enduring a constitutional violation into a loss. Shafer convinced a jury that when two city police officers knocked him to the ground, face first, for refusing to drop a water balloon, one of those officers violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure.

While the appellate court found that his constitutional rights were violated due to the amount of force that was used, it also found that the officer whom the jury found liable was actually immune from liability.

In 2015, Google settled a class action privacy case against them for a meager $8.5 million. The case stemmed from the alleged sale of Google users' internet search terms to third parties without consent of the users. That settlement is just now being approved, again. This time by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

The money has been tied up in appeals as none of the actual class members were ever going to see a dime. Instead, the court approved a cy pres settlement, wherein the bulk of the award would go to nonprofit organizations working to ensure online privacy for the public.

A lawsuit filed by a group of 21 young people against the federal government due to climate change is less crazy than it actually sounds. A federal district court judge in Oregon ruled the case could proceed to trial, despite the government's objections. However, due to a request for review filed by the White House, the Ninth Circuit has stayed the litigation in the district court pending its review.

While there has not been any indication of whether the Ninth Circuit will actually disturb the lower court's ruling, what is clear is that the appellate court is going to review the matter. Proponents of the case are hopeful that after review, nothing changes. Whether a briefing schedule, or call for briefs at all has been issued is not currently known. What is known is that the case is still set for trial in early 2018.

Wildlife Activist Free to Observe Bison, 9th Circuit Rules

One summer day several years ago, a herd of agitated bison crossed a Montana road oblivious that conservationists were fighting for them in court.

County sheriffs were herding the buffalo back to Yellowstone National Park, "hazing" them by horseback, cars, and all-terrain vehicles. Two weeks earlier, a federal court had outlawed hazing by helicopter.

Anthony Patrick Reed, a wildlife activist, parked his car fifty yards away to observe the operation. He was cited for obstruction, but in Reed v. Lieurance, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said he had a constitutional right to be there.

President Trump's most recent travel ban was halted yesterday evening by a federal judge in Hawaii, just hours before it was scheduled to go into effect. The executive order would have temporarily halted travel and immigration from six majority-Muslim nations, while stopping refugee resettlement generally.

In a harshly worded ruling, Judge Derrick K. Watson halted enforcement of the ban nationwide, saying that any "reasonable, objective observer" would recognize the order as disfavoring Islam, "in spite of its stated, religiously-neutral purpose".

President Trump's travel ban was halted a month ago by a federal judge in Seattle. Last Monday, the President issued a new, revised ban, a slightly adjusted version of the original executive order, now better tailored to withstand legal challenges.

The new ban is scheduled to go into effect this Thursday -- but not if several states have their way. Washington, Hawaii, and others are rushing to halt the new order before it can be implemented.