Monday, October 11, 2010

Northern California Judges rule in Civil Rights cases

The Civil Rights Memorial.  Photo Courtesy of wikimedia.
Avery v. Thomspon is a pro se prisoner civil rights case. Kyle Whelan Avery wants Officer Thompson to give him his religions materials back.  The Officer explains, "the materials were confiscated because I.S.U. concluded the materials were not religious- based but propagated 'neo-Nazi' and white supremacy beliefs instead."  Mr. Avery explains that he is a white supremacist, but a peaceful one and that he needs his materials to practice his religion.

Judge Ronald Whyte noted that Officer Thompson does not dispute that the Odinism is a religion or that Mr. Avery practices it.  Rather, he merely asserts that the prison has a legitimate interest in keeping prisoners away from supremacist material.  The Court explained this argument fails.  In McCabe v. Arave, the Ninth Circuit held that a prison could not make a blanket ban on supremacist literature, rather it needed to explain how that literature caused a threat to the prison.  Judge Whyte gave both parties an opportunity to conduct discovery and try for summary judgment again.

In Pete v. City of Oakland, the plaintiff is suing the city and a parking garage for refusing to rent the parking garage to him which he argues is because of race.  He is suing stating that the refusal to rent the garage is a "threat[], intimidation or coercion" which is actionable under the Bane Act. Cal Civ Code Section 52.1.  Judge William Allsup disagreed and stated that in order to plead a Bane Act action the plaintiff must show a threat.  Since there was no stated threat he dismissed the complaint with leave to amend.

Haskins v. Ayers is a prisoner petition for habeas corpus.  After receiving a motion for summary judgment, Mr. Haskins asked Judge Claudia Wilken to appoint counsel for him in order to assist him in filing a response.  The Court explained that appointment of counsel is only permitted where 1) there is a likelihood of success on the merits and 2) the issues are complicated.  Judge Wilken found neither consideration present and denied the motion.

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