Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Northern California Judges Rule in Civil Rights Cases

The Civil Rights Memorial.  Photo Courtesy of wikimedia.

Northern California judges have recently ruled in a series of civil rights cases.

In O'Haire v. Napa State Hospital, Paul O'Haire was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1999 and has been at Napa State Hospital since.  It's not entirely clear why he is suing the hospital, but he is having some difficulty.  He has tried several time to serve defendants at the hospital, but each time the process server has been unable to reach the defendants.  Instead, the server has left the complaints in a box at the hospital signed by the person at the front desk.  Both parties agree that service is insufficient, but Judge Ronald M. Whyte gave the defendant until August 10, 2010 to complete service.  It is not immediately clear why he picked a date two months in the past.

Royal v. Martel is a petition for habeas corpus.  A jury convicted Mr. Royal of various sex crimes and the trial judge sentenced him to 79 years in prison.  He now states that his conviction was procured by prosecutorial misconduct, juror misconduct, ineffective assistance of counsel, admitted evidence was improper and there should have been a jury instruction on duress. Essentially, his attorney had to recuse himself when the prosecution put a witness on its list who conflicted out the attorney.  A juror admitted she knew the investigator.  His attorney struggled to understand the complexities of the case and had to ask the prosecutor for assistance. Judge Ronald M. Whyte denied the petition stating that these allegations are conclusory and do not indicate a procedure contrary to the precedents of the U.S. Supreme Court.

In Hall v. Tehrani, a pro se prisoner is suing a prison psychologist under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 for creating a false psychological evaluation in preparation for a 2008 parole hearing.  Mr. Hall claims this is in retaliation to his filing a number of prison grievances in violation of his First Amendment right to express himself.  Judge Ronald M. Whyte stated that he is unaware of any Constitutional right to have a properly done psychological evaluation, but this could be the proper subject for a petition for habeas corpus.  However, the retaliation allegation is a sufficient constitutional complaint.  He dismissed the evaluation claim but allowed the retaliation claim to face a motion for summary judgment.

In King v. San Francisco Community College District , the plaintiff was a student at SFCC from Fall 2006 until he was suspended in 2009.  He sues under nearly every state civil rights statute claiming,
for more than two years he was repeatedly "stalked, threatened, sexually harassed, harassed and terrorized" on the District’s campuses while he was enrolled as a student.Although he made numerous complaints to the District’s administration and police department, the stalker was allowed to remain on campus "unpunished and unchallenged." Instead of responding to his complaints, King contends that the District and named defendants retaliated against him.He was arrested by the District Police Department, suspended from classes, and prevented from completing his degree.King alleges that these actions were motivated, in part, by unlawful discrimination.He claims that the District and named defendants engage in racial profiling and also apply a "gender-based, dual standard" in responding to victims of crimes.
At this stage his complaint fails for primarily technical reasons.  He sued the District and individuals, but never served the individuals.  That claim fails because all California School Districts are state agencies which are immune from suit under the 11th Amendment. Belanger v. Madera Unified School Dist. (9th Cir. 1992) ("An analysis of the five Mitchell [v. Los Angeles Community College Dist. 9th Cir. 1988)] factors demonstrates that the school district in this case is a state agency for purposes of the Eleventh Amendment.") He sues SFPD but fails to explain their basis for liability in his complaint.  His factual allegations are too general to sustain claims under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act and "sexual harassment" without reference to a statute. Judge Richard Seeborg dismissed the complaint with leave to amend.

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