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Decisions in Habeas and Privacy Act Cases

By FindLaw Staff on February 22, 2010 12:38 PM

Today, the Ninth Circuit decided two capital habeas matters and one case under the Privacy Act.

In Robinson v. Schriro, No. 05-99007, a capital habeas case, petitioner appealed the district court's denial of his habeas petition.  The Ninth Circuit reversed in part and remanded for a new sentencing proceeding because: 1) the state courts arbitrarily found that petitioner committed the murder at issue in an especially cruel, heinous, or depraved manner in violation of the Eighth Amendment; and 2) petitioner received ineffective assistance of counsel at sentencing in violation of the Sixth Amendment.

In Harrison v. Gillespie, No. 08-16602, another capital habeas matter, the court of appeals reversed the denial of petitioner's habeas petition.  The court held that: 1) the state trial court abused its discretion by declaring a mistrial without first polling the jury, as requested by petitioner, in order to determine whether petitioner had been acquitted of the death penalty; and 2) due to double jeopardy concerns, the state could not seek the death penalty at a sentencing retrial, and no such penalty could be imposed by the court.

Finally, in Cooper v. FAA, No. 08-17074, plaintiff brought an action under the Privacy Act based on an exchange of information about plaintiff performed as part of a joint criminal investigation by multiple federal agencies.  The district court granted summary judgment for defendants on the ground that plaintiff alleged only nonpecuniary damages, and these were not compensable under the Act.  The Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that actual damages under the Privacy Act encompassed both pecuniary and nonpecuniary damages.

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