The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has abrogated its own precedent, and expanded the rights of Plaintiffs to have standing to sue under 42 USC §1985(2). The Bohm Law Group’s Lead Appellate Counsel, Zane Hilton, successfully argued that his client, Dr. Christian Head, should be able to maintain a §1985(2) conspiracy cause of action against his supervisors for attempting to deter his testimony in another lawsuit.
Dr. Head, a surgeon who held an appointment with the Department of Veterans Affairs sued the VA and his VA supervisors in 2014, alleging he was subjected to racial discrimination, retaliation, and a conspiracy, by his supervisors, to deter him from testifying in his own case and a case brought by a fellow VA employee.
The district court dismissed the Conspiracy claim on summary judgment, citing David v. United States (9th Cir. 1987) 820 F2d 1038, which held that only parties “who were hampered in being able to present an effective case” in their own act on can bring a conspiracy claim under §1985(2).
On appeal, Hilton argued that David was wrongly decided, and instead that a plaintiff may bring a conspiracy claim if he is harmed by a conspiracy, the aim of which was to deter testimony. The Ninth Circuit held that David had been abrogated by the US Supreme Court’s decision in Haddle v. Garrison (1998) 525 U.S. 121, 126. In Haddle the Supreme Court held that interference with a plaintiff’s employment is a cognizable injury under §1985(2)—even if such interference did not hamper his civil rights case.
As a result of this case, Dr. Head and his trial team will be able to prosecute his conspiracy claim against his supervisors. Further, more victims of discrimination will be able to pursue claims against those who attempt to deter their testimony. This will advance American civil rights law, and further effectuate Congressional intent.
Ninth Circuit Finds That a VA Surgeon’s Conspiracy Claim Against His Supervisors Can Move Forward – Law Alert – CEB