- Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
- Area(s) of Law: First Amendment
- Date Filed: 09-22-2022
- Case #: Nos. 19-16839, 20-15871
- Judge(s)/Court Below: Nelson, Circuit Judge, for the Court, joined by Collins, Circuit Judge, concurring, and Clifton, Circuit Judge, concurring in part and dissenting in part.
- Full Text Opinion
Spirit of Aloha Temple (Plaintiffs) applied for a special use permit to hold religious services and other events on agriculturally zoned property, and the County denied the application. Plaintiffs brought facial and as-applied First Amendment prior restraint claims, Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) claims, and claims under state and federal Free Exercise and Equal Protection clauses. The district court granted summary judgment in the County’s favor, and Plaintiffs appealed. A law that “makes the peaceful enjoyment of freedoms which the Constitution guarantees contingent upon the uncontrolled will of an official—as by requiring a permit or license which may be granted or withheld in the discretion of such official—is an unconstitutional censorship or prior restraint.” Epona v. County of Ventura, 876 F.3d 1214, 1222 (9th Cir. 2017). The Court reasoned that the zoning scheme violated the First Amendment because it gave officials unbridled discretion to deny a permit and ultimately limit expressive conduct. Because the County did not afford Plaintiffs full and fair adjudication, its findings had no preclusive effect on whether denying Plaintiff’s second permit application was the least restrictive means of furthering public safety. Therefore, the district court erred in holding that the findings collaterally estopped Plaintiffs’ RLUIPA, Free Exercise, and Equal Protection Claims. Reversed and vacated in part and remanded.