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Media Alerts - Vasquez v. Rackauckas - 9th Circuit
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December 2, 2013
  Vasquez v. Rackauckas - 9th Circuit
Case Name: Vasquez v. Rackauckas

Headline: Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of injunction barring enforcement of permanent gang injunction against a certified class of named defendants in a state case who were voluntarily dismissed by the Orange County District Attorney's Office (OCDA) , holding the OCDA violated the procedural due process rights of the class.

Area of Law: Fourteenth Amendment; Federal Civil Procedure

Issue Presented: Whether the OCDA deprived alleged gang members of constitutionally protected liberty interests by failing to provide adequate procedural safeguards when the OCDA (1) named the alleged gang members as defendants in a state public nuisance action, (2) voluntarily dismissed them from the lawsuit, and (3) served them with an Order permanently enjoining "all members of the gang" from a broad range of activities in specified public locations.

Brief Summary: OCDA and OPD (collectively "Orange") appealed district court's grant of declaratory and injunctive relief to plaintiffs, who were certified as a class of named defendants voluntarily dismissed then served with a permanent gang injunction ("the Order") by OCDA during a state action against the Orange Varrio Cypress Criminal Street Gang ("OVC") and its individual members. Plaintiffs alleged that the "dismiss-and-serve strategy" of the OCDA violated procedural due process clauses of the U.S. and California constitutions because plaintiffs were served the Order without first being provided an opportunity to challenge the Order's applicability to them.

The Ninth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the District Court and held that the OCDA's conduct violated plaintiffs' procedural due process rights because the Order implicated and interfered with a broad range of constitutionally protected liberty interests such as freedom of movement and Orange failed to provide adequate procedural safeguards or any governmental interest justifying the failure to provide such protections under Mathew v. Eldridge.

Extended Summary: OCDA named plaintiffs as defendants in its state public nuisance action against OVC to abate gang activity under California's public nuisance statutes. OCDA alleged that plaintiffs were members of OVC. OCDA sought to enjoin OVC and its members from engaging in a wide range of activities in "any public place" or place "in public view" within certain areas of the City of Orange. The Superior Court granted a preliminary injunction against OVC and defendants who did not appear. OCDA voluntarily dismissed defendants, including plaintiffs, who appeared by filing an answer.

After obtaining a default judgment and permanent injunction against OVC as an entity, OCDA served the Order on the individuals originally named as defendants but voluntarily dismissed from the lawsuit. Under the terms of the Order "all members of the Gang, whether or not named in the original lawsuit [were] subject to [its] terms." Subject to certain exceptions, the Order prohibited activites including standing, sitting, driving, gathering with other enjoined parties (including family) or merely being in a business establishment "between 10pm and 5am." The Order had no expiration date and did not provide any procedures for the Court to determine which individuals were "members" of OVC and therefore subject to its terms.

Plaintiffs were certified as a class of individual defendants in the state case who appeared in the Superior Court to defend themselves but were voluntarily dismissed by OCDA. Plaintiffs filed suit against Orange, seeking declaratory relief and an injunction barring enforcement of the Order. According to Plaintiffs, the "dismiss-and-serve strategy" violated their procedural due process rights by failing to provide an opportunity to contest the applicability of the Order to plaintiffs. The District Court granted the injunction barring enforcement of the Order and held that the OCDA deprived plaintiffs of constitutionally protected liberty interests and failed to provide adequate procedural protections under Matthews v. Eldridge.

The Ninth Circuit rejected Orange's argument that the District Court lacked authority to enjoin ongoing state court proceedings but reversed the part of the District Court's order that granted plaintiffs injunctive relief against the OCDA for violations of the California Constitution because state officials had state-law immunity when sued in their official capacity and plaintiffs sought relief against OCDA's policies for enforcing a state Order. In terms of federal law violations, the Ninth Circuit analyzed the Matthews factors and found that (1) the Order implicated and interfered with plaintiffs' rights of free movement, association and speech by "interfering with a wide swath of Plaintiffs' protected liberty interests, including: family and social relationships; educational and professional opportunities; freedom of movement; and all manner of participation in civic life;" (2) the risk of erroneous deprivation of these interests was high without an adequate hearing to contest the Order because of the difficulty of assessing whether a person had an active affiliation with a gang or a non-gang related social relation with gang members, and (3) OCDA failed to show that the Government had a substantial administrative or fiscal interest in failing to provide pre-deprivation process allowing plaintiffs to challenge their alleged active gang membership status. After weighing these factors, the Ninth Circuit found that the balance weighed in favor of the plaintiffs and upheld the grant of declaratory and injunctive relief.

Panel: Judges Berzon, Tallman, Smith

Date of Issued Opinion: February 23, 2012

Docket Number: 8:09-cv-01090-VBF-RNB

Decided: Affirmed in part and reversed in part.

Case Alert Author: Monique Midose

Author of Opinion: Judge Berzon

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Professor Glenn Koppel

    Posted By: Glenn Koppel @ 12/02/2013 05:28 PM     9th Circuit  

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