Reinhardt is known as one of the most liberal judges on the courts of appeals. His decisions are "reversed more often than most" judges before the Supreme Court. In 2003, Reinhardt admitted that he "was a liberal from a very young age." "I think I was born that way", he said. However, he does not believe that a Supreme Court reversal means that his opinion is "wrong" or that he "didn't follow the law." "The Supreme Court changes the law regularly. And this Supreme Court - which is the most activist Court there has ever been - is constantly changing the law. So if you really are faithful to the law, you're likely to get reversed because it has cut back on rights."
Reinhardt's former clerk, Cornell law professor Michael Dorf said that when Reinhardt "believes himself clearly bound by Supreme Court precedent with which he disagrees, he states his disagreement but follows the precedent." Dorf accounts for Reinhardt's reversal rate by stating that "Reinhardt resolves cases under existing precedent as he believes those precedents should be read, without regard to whether five or more Justices of the Supreme Court are likely to reverse him."
Examples of opinions he wrote for the Ninth Circuit that were reversed are:
- Safeco Insurance Co. of America v. Burr, 127 S.Ct. 2201 (2007)
- Gonzales v. Carhart, 127 S.Ct. 1610 (2007)
- Ayers v. Belmontes, 127 S.Ct. 469 (2006)
- Garcetti v. Ceballos, 126 S.Ct. 1951 (2006)
- Texaco Inc. v. Dagher, 547 U.S. 1 (2006)
- Pliler v. Ford, 542 U.S. 225 (2002)
- Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Echazabal, 536 U.S. 73 (2002)
- United States v. Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266 (2002)
- Major League Baseball Players Ass'n v. Garvey, 532 U.S. 504 (2001)
- Albertson's, Inc. v. Kirkingburg, 527 U.S. 555 (1999)
- Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702 (1997)
- Lambert v. Wicklund, 520 U.S. 292 (1997)
- United States v. Armstrong, 517 U.S. 456 (1997)
- I.N.S. v. Abudu, 485 U.S. 94 (1988)
- Heckler v. Lopez, 463 U.S. 1328 (1983)
The following are some of his more notable judicial opinions:
- Cardoza-Fonseca v. U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, 767 F.2d 1448 (9th Cir. 1985).
- The INS had conflated two different routes for seeking asylum and had improperly rejected an application made under one route based on the requirements of the second. This decision was upheld by the Supreme Court.
- Coleman v. Risley, 839 F.2d 434 (9th Cir. 1988).
- Standard to obtain asylum.
- Yniguez v. Arizonans for Official English, 939 F.2d 727 (9th Cir. 1991), adopted en banc, 69 F.3d 920 (9th Cir 1995).
- The English-only provision in the Arizona constitution was overly broad and violated the First Amendment right of free speech. This decision was vacated by the Supreme Court as moot because plaintiff Yniguez had voluntarily left the employment of the State of Arizona the day after the appeal was filed. 530 US 43. Justice Ginsburg's unanimous opinion for the Court also took a swipe at the Ninth Circuit for failing to certify this question to the state courts, holding that "A more cautious approach was in order. In addition, footnote 11 of Justice Ginsburg's decision chides the Ninth Circuit for failing to recognize that state courts are not bound by decisions of federal courts (except the Supreme Court), even on questions of federal law.
- Sanders v. Ratelle, 21 F.3d 1446 (9th Cir. 1994).
- The Sixth Amendment right to counsel can be infringed if counsel has a conflict of interest, even if the defendant has waived the conflict.
- Compassion in Dying v. Washington, 79 F.3d 790 (9th Cir. 1996) (en banc).
- A statute prohibiting doctors from prescribing life-ending medication for the terminally ill violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit in Washington v. Glucksberg (1997).
- Ma v. Reno, 208 F.3d 815 (9th Cir. 2000).
- An alien cannot be held indefinitely in detention in the absence of a repatriation agreement with his or her country of origin.
- Silveira v. Lockyer, 312 F.3d 1052 (9th Cir. 2002).
- The right to bear arms is a collective right, not an individual right. This ruling was overruled by the Supreme Court in D.C. v. Heller (2008).
- United States v. Approximately 64,695 Pounds of Shark Fins (9th Cir. 2008) .
- Forfeiture of the shark fins was denied on the grounds that, although according to the Shark Finning Prohibition Act of 2000 any shark fins found aboard a fishing vessel without a corresponding shark carcass may be deemed the product of illegal harvesting, the vessel from which the fins were seized was not in fact a fishing vessel within the meaning of the act. The fins had been harvested by, and bought from, other vessels.
- In The Matter of Brad Levenson (2009) .
- In his role as Chair of the Ninth Circuit’s Standing Committee on Federal Public Defenders, Reinhardt ruled that the application of the Defense of Marriage Act in denying health insurance benefits to Levenson's same-sex spouse violated the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
- Perry v. Brown (2012) .
- Writing for the majority, Reinhardt held that Proposition 8 violated the Equal Protection Clause because California had no rational basis for withdrawing the right to marry from gays and lesbians.
Read more about this topic: Stephen Reinhardt
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