Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Idaho Edward J. Lodge, District Judge, Presiding D.C. No. 1:12-cv-00255-EJL
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reinhardt, Circuit Judge
Argued and Submitted June 7, 2012-Pasadena, California
Before: Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge, Stephen Reinhardt and Marsha S. Berzon, Circuit Judges.
Nearly a decade ago, we held in the clearest possible terms that "the public enjoys a First Amendment right to view executions from the moment the condemned is escorted into the execution chamber, including those 'initial procedures' that are inextricably intertwined with the process of putting the condemned inmate to death." California First Amendment Coalition v. Woodford, 299 F.3d 868, 877 (9th Cir. 2002). The State of Idaho has had ample opportunity for the past decade to adopt an execution procedure that reflects this settled law. It can hardly complain that it has been unaware of the binding precedent, since the media coalition specifically cited California First Amendment Coalition in asking the State to alter its execution procedure prior to the November 2011 execution of Paul Rhoades. The State has nonetheless failed to bring its procedure into compliance with the law- either in the days prior to the Rhoades execution or in the succeeding months, when it met with the media coalition to discuss the matter. The State has persisted in its intransigence even after we suggested at oral argument that a voluntary amendment (like the one that Arizona recently adopted) might avert the need for an injunction. The State's complaints about the last-minute nature of this litigation ignore this history. We fault the State, not the media plaintiffs, for our need to consider this question several days before an execution: the State has missed opportunity after opportunity to bring its execution procedures into compliance with the clear law of this Circuit.*fn1
We reverse the district court's denial of a preliminary injunction and remand for the entry of such an injunction forthwith, and in any event prior to the impending execution of Richard Leavitt.
The dispute here is narrow. Under its current execution procedure, the State would allow witnesses to view the final portion of Leavitt's execution, beginning with the reading of the death warrant and concluding with the pronouncement of death. As in the Rhoades execution, however, the State does not intend to allow witnesses to view the first part of the procedure, beginning with Leavitt's entry into the execution chamber, through the insertion of intravenous lines into his body.
A coalition of media corporations filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 shortly after the issuance of the warrant for Leavitt's execution. The plaintiffs assert that, as surrogates for the public, they have a right to witness all stages of the executions conducted by the State of Idaho, rather than just the final portion, and that the State's refusal to allow such access violates the First Amendment. They seek a preliminary injunction on the basis that, without such relief, they will be irreparably damaged by the denial of their right to view Leavitt's execution in its entirety.
The State asserts what it considers to be four legitimate penological objectives that, in its view, override the First Amendment right of public access to executions in their entirety. First, it says, it wishes to preserve the condemned prisoner's privacy and dignity. Second, it wishes to respect the sensibilities of the condemned prisoner's family. Third, it wishes to do the same for his fellow death-row inmates. Fourth, it wishes to protect the anonymity of the members of the medical team who participate in the execution. Under California First Amendment Coalition, the State can prevail if the limitation of the plaintiffs' First Amendment right is "reason-ably related to legitimate penological objectives," rather than "an exaggerated response to those concerns," Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 87 (1987) (internal quotation marks omitted). See 299 F.3d at 879 (adopting the Turner standard).
 "A plaintiff seeking a preliminary injunction must establish" four elements: "that he is likely to succeed on the merits, that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tips in his favor, and that an injunction is in the public interest." Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008). "We review a district court's decision to grant or deny a preliminary injunction for abuse of discretion. In deciding whether the district court has abused its discretion, we employ a two-part test: first, we 'determine de novo whether the trial court identified the correct legal rule to apply to the relief requested'; second, we determine 'if the district court's application of the correct legal standard was . . . illogical, . . . implausible, or . . . without support in inferences that may be drawn from ...