Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bertrand v. Santa Clara County (9th Cir. - Jan. 24, 2008)

That was fast.

The Ninth Circuit back in June decided an immunity case. None of the members of the panel liked it, but they were bound by circuit precedent -- a published opinion authored by Judge Paez back in November 2003 -- to find that the social worker had immunity. So Judge Reinhardt writes an opinion that grants immunity, but Judges Reinhardt, Milan Smith, and Ferguson also write separately to say that they think the circuit precedent on this point is wrong.

Thereafter, in rapid order, (1) the July case gets taken en banc, (2) it gets argued last month, and (3) within 45 days, the en banc court unanimously cranks out a per curiam opinion reversing the panel. An opinion that spans, in its entirety, all of two full pages.

Whew. That was a toughie, huh?

What I especially liked is that the en banc court unanimously overrules Judge Paez's 2003 opinion, which the court says was wrongly decided, not because of intervening precedent or anything, but rather because it was simply wrong. And who's one of the members of the unanimous en banc court to so hold? Judge Paez, of all people. Who simply signs on to the opinion; there's no separate statement that says "Oopsie" or "This is why I changed my mind" or anything like that. Just signs on with the rest of the 11-member panel.

So a quickie -- an interesting quickie -- opinion in the morning.