Immigration: two cases: Dimaya v. Lynch, 803 F.3d 1110 (9th Cir. 2015; Rodriguez v. Robbins, 803 F.3d 502 (9th Cir 2015)

The 9th Circuit is the best jurisdiction for illegal aliens to gain entry to the United States or impede deportation. In Rodriguez the panel held the government must hold bond hearings for those detained awaiting entry six months or longer.  To retain individuals, the federal government must present clear and convincing evidence the alien will not flee or present a danger to the public.  Good luck to the U.S. agents who must prove two negatives.  These Agents  must now waste their time trying to find out who these detained people are.  Providing  or finding information  about them, or using the wrong name or lying, is not unusual.

In the last few years Central American women and children swarmed into the United States.  The government, overwhelmed by the crowds, could hardly determine asylum in an already bulging caseload..  To handle this crowd, the district court certified a class.  How this decision satisfied Rule 23 is known only to the 9th Circuit-who approved the class and also sub classes.

And the court decision is sympathetic to those people whose alleged relatives hold numerous occupations.  What is the record of Hispanic felons  in state prisons.

Now, in a civil case (except for civil trials), we must apply the Constitution for criminal cases.  There is no end  to the flagrant decisions rendered by the 9th Circuit..

Dimaya v. Lynch,

The IJ  ordered deportation of a Philippine native who had been convicted of burglary in two trials and sentenced accordingly for a “crime of violence” under federal law. In the 9th Circuit, burglary is not a “crime of violence” according to another academic hair splitting decision of a three judge majority panel. Excellent dissent.

Mullenix v. Luna, 136 S.Ct. 305 (2015)

(Not a 9th Circuit case but relevant thereto)

When 9th Circuit judges read this Supreme Court  case, their despair will be overwhelming. No longer can the 9th Circuit, who know nothing about police street work, continue their anti law enforcement record on summary judgments in civil rights cases.

In a per curiam opinion the Justices reversed the 5th Circuit and upheld the doctrine of qualified immunity for police officers. In the all too common police chase, the officers pursued a car at 80 to 100 miles an hour as one Leuja, a fugitive from an arrest warrant and intoxicated,  raced through the streets.  On the police radio he threatened to shoot the officers if they did not terminate the chase.

In an attempt to intercept the driver with spikes, the officers laid down a set on the road they knew the driver would travel. As the car neared the spikes, one of the officers decided to shoot at the car engine in an attempt to stop it.  He drove to an overpass, and when the driver drove underneath, the officer fired his rifle. The car hit the spikes, rolled over, and killed  the driver.  At the  trial, the estate representative alleged use of police excessive force. The court denied the officer qualified immunity on his motion for summary judgment.  The 5th Circuit affirmed but the Supreme Court reversed.

The Supreme Court conceded these cases are difficult but all depend on the reasonableness of the officers’  conduct.  Citing Brosseau v. Naugen, 543 U.S. 335 ((2004), a case reversing the 9th Circuit, the Justices held the trial court must consider  all the facts and the reasonableness of the officer’s conduct.  This Court  knows spikes are not always effective and often place the officers in a dangerous position.  Given all the facts, the officer at the overpass selected an alternative to eliminate the chase and protect the other officers. Immunity granted.

Zapien v. Martel, 807 F.3d 1123 (9th Cir. 2015)

Prosecutors are required to disclose exculpatory or impeaching evidence to defense counsel in criminal cases before trial.  The cases are fact specific, and Zapien is no different.  The important distinction of this case is the decision by a three judge 9th Circuit panel to adhere to habeas corpus restrictions set by the Supreme Court.  The panel cites AEDPA, adopts deference to the state court decision,and treats the case as habeas, not appeal.  Would that all judges on the 9th Circuit adhered to this decision.

Jones v. Chappel, 806 F.3d 538 (9th Cir. 2015)

In California death penalty case Jones v. Davis, several troubling issues arose. The petitioner at the habeas corpus hearing in district court alleged the California legal system excessively delayed death penalty convictions violating the 8th Amendment prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment. Despite the prior California Supreme Court ruling to the contrary on appeal, the district court judge ignored the merits of the petition and expressed his concern the California death penalty was unconstitutional on a different ground. He allowed petitioner four days to file an amended petition to assert a “new claim” of systemic dysfunction of the state court. The petitioner complied.

After a hearing on the amended petition, the district court judge found the California death penalty post conviction process unconstitutional on 8th Amendment grounds; Jones v. Chappel, 31 F.Supp.3d 1050. The court cited no precedent, including 9th Circuit decisions having been overruled by the Supreme Court in almost every death penalty case in the last decade. The conduct of the district court, ignoring the death penalty issue written by the petitioner in the original petition, and requesting an amended petition on other grounds he suggested, is a serious question. In effect, the court ordered petitioner to file a claim of unconstitutional conduct by California courts without citing any judicial precedent or statute for systemic dysfunction and in conflict with Supreme Court decisions. Nothing more than a personal opinion, not legally sanctioned. The state appealed to the 9th Circuit.

The 9th Circuit panel wrote they were compelled to grant the appeal by the State of California, and reversing the district court order granting habeas corpus, on grounds the Supreme Court had previously filed a case prohibiting appellate courts from writing a “new rule” on habeas corpus appeals. Rarely has the 9th Circuit followed this rule over the years but the significance of the Jones case probably affected the court worrying about certiorari to the Supreme Court. The Justices have repeatedly denied 8th Amendment claims the death penalty qualifies as “cruel and unusual punishment.”

The second troubling issue arises from footnote 2 of the panel opinion suggesting petitioner seek review of the claim elsewhere as asserted in his own petition or the amended petition recommended by the district court. The options included the state court. Yet the panel opinion, after extensively discussing its inability to write a new rule on habeas petitions, and having contended to rule otherwise would more cause more delay, nevertheless suggests petitioner try “other means” in the footnote. This interpretation implies either the petitioner return to the California Supreme Court for reconsideration on the issue of systemic dysfunction, or citizens file an Initiative.

The panel could have foreclosed petitioner from proceeding in federal court by citing the federal Anti Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) requiring state prisoners to exhaust all post conviction claims in state court before filing habeas in federal court. The petitioner had not complied with the statute in district court, and never cited AEDPA to the panel. In fact, petitioner conceded he did not file either the original or amended petition in state court mandated by the exhaustion rule. The panel circumvented this issue having decided petitioner had sought a “new rule” held by the Supreme Court. By suggesting petitioner could continue his quest for challenges to the death penalty, he could conceivably go back to state court and exhaust all his claims as required by law and, if the claims were denied, come back to the district court. This incongruous recommendation defies understanding.

Undoubtedly petitioner will seek certiorari in the Supreme Court, surprising the Justices that the 9th Circuit had denied a petition for habeas corpus in a death penalty case. Absent a rehearing, the 2-1 majority in the 9th Circuit opinion will survive in Washington.

The Jones case is obviously not the first constitutional challenge to the death penalty per se on grounds of cruel and unusual punishment and despite repeated denial by the Supreme Court, but the decision does expose the California state government to criticism for its indolence, in part because the Governor, Attorney General and the Legislature will do nothing to clarify or restructure the legal system. The Governor has ignored any congestion in post conviction proceedings and merely cut the judicial budget. The Attorney General personally opposes the death penalty and is busy with the important alternative of child truancy and abandoning her promise to serve as Attorney General for four more years. The Legislature has not held a committee hearing to review post conviction remedies, and refused to adequately fund the lawyers who write habeas corpus briefs and those who do appellate work in death penalty cases.

The state government is not alone. The federal government enacted legislation in 1996 to cabin the role of federal courts, particularly the 9th Circuit, in the AEDPA. The statute, repeatedly evaded by the 9th Circuit whose panels have granted habeas corpus despite the rulings of the California Supreme Court. The latter has upheld almost all death penalty cases on overwhelming evidence and not by academic hair splitting and ineffective assistance of counsel decisions written by 9th Circuit panels. Congress should tighten AEDPA to eliminate federal rulings on state habeas as enacted in 1996.

The 9th Circuit recently requested the state supreme court to adopt a statute of limitations rule identifying the amount of time a state prisoner must file a petition for federal habeas corpus after a state judgment is affirmed. The state supreme court has not replied. The 9th Circuit justifiably warrants a “bright line” for state habeas limitation rules in order to determine its own statute of limitations filings in federal courts.

California law allows petitioner to file habeas three times independently in state court: the Superior Court; the Court of Appeal; the California Supreme Court. Assuming all these courts deny the petition, a petitioner can then seek certiorari in the Supreme Court. If denied, then file in the district court; if denied; appeal in the 9th Circuit; if denied, back to the Supreme Court.

All these California laws can be changed. There is no need for the state supreme court to hear habeas corpus on the same ground it just rejected in direct appeal. The state Attorney General, who represents the state, endorses all these identical options to assure a defendant convicted by a unanimous jury, a motion for new trial denied, and an automatic appeal to the California Supreme Court alleging violation of Constitutional rights, are protected. These endless appeals are unnecessary.

Habeas petitioners invoke two jurisdictions. The claims are identical and in some cases the federal court must return the case to the state court to exhaust local claims. After the state court rules, the petitioner files an amended petition in federal court. Two jurisdictions on the same case causing incessant delay.The amended petition in Jones complained about systemic delay in his case, and the judge ruled on his own policy. But not a word in his opinion about the 9th Circuit who have overruled the California Supreme Court in almost every death penalty case during the last decade. On policy, masked in judicial rhetoric.


Lawrence Waddington is a retired judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court and author of recently published “Disorder in the Court” at He also edits the 9th Circuit blog titled “-The 9the Circuit Watch.”


Crittenden v. Chappell, 804 F.3d 998 (9th Cir. 2015)

A 1989 conviction reversed in a 2-1 majority by a 9th Circuit panel in 2015 that will certainly be reversed on rehearing; if not, the AG will petition the Supreme Court if she has time from her child truancy work.

This case is not only one of the worst decisions of academic hair splitting and denial of Supreme Court precedent, but also a manifest injustice to the relatives and friends of two murdered people and citizens of California.   The decision had nothing to do with guilt or innocence and was reversed on a collateral matter on voir dire, questionable and wrongly  decided.

The defendant was convicted of two brutal and vicious murders and a kidnapping by a unanimous jury who voted the death penalty. The California Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, but the defendant petitioned the district court. The judge denied the petition at an evidentiary hearing because the prosecutor’s excusal of a black juror did not have a “significant” effect on the trial , in part, by race. On appeal of the petition to the 9th Circuit on habeas corpus, the petitioner did not contend his innocence but alleged the prosecutor had improperly excused a black juror who had stated she did not support the death penalty.

The 9th Circuit majority held the district court should have determined whether the prosecutor challenged the potential juror for racial reasons in “substantial” part. (try distinguishing significant from substantial).  Crittenden- v. Ayers, 624 F.3d 958 (9th Cir. 2010).

On remand, without any evidentiary hearing, the district court changed its opinion and found the prosecution challenge “substantially” played a part in racial exclusion.  The AG appealed.

The author of the 9th Circuit opinion concluded the peremptory challenge violated the Batson v. Kentucky rule, i.e.,the Supreme Court opinion which forbids prosecutors from excusing a potential juror on racial grounds, a doctrine  based on the Equal Protection Clause-which says nothing about peremptory challenges and the rule causes endless time in jury selection -. The majority author in Crittenden writes from the same record reviewed by the California Supreme Court and the district court judge who originally wrote the first decision.

According to the majority panel, just because a juror will not vote for the death penalty does not trump the racial issue.  The author of the decision knows nothing about voir dire.  Body language, voice tone, demeanor, background, education and other intangible factors in a courtroom are far different than reading a cold record.  The Supreme Court has concurred with that difference more than once.

The Supreme Court has written harsh opinions about the 9th Circuit. Habeas corpus is not an appeal; the federal rule of habeas corpus in state cases requires a finding the state courts are inextricably out of sync.  Neither of these warnings see reference to that rule in this case.

The worst part is the result: Reversed and remanded to the district court, and ultimately to the state court to re try the defendant for a 1989 case. What are the chances of finding all the witnesses, the exhibits, and other evidence? In effect, this decision releases a murderer from conviction and penalty after all this time-on a collateral penalty indifferent to the evidence at the trial.

The author of this opinion has never affirmed a death penalty case.  He and his colleagues have overruled almost every  death penalty case law for the last decade on various reasons and usually reversed by the Supreme Court.  This case will reach that result if not reheard.