United States v. Wallace

Defendants Wallace and Blocker appealed the jury's verdict finding them guilty on all counts of an indictment charging conspiracy and drug offenses, and the district court's rulings. The court concluded that a reasonable jury could find that defendants were guilty of the charged conspiracy and affirmed defendants' convictions as to that count; the district court did not abuse its discretion by allowing the government to present evidence of defendants' prior bad acts; Wallace's challenge to the government's notice and ultimately the district court's application of the 21 U.S.C. 851(a) sentencing enhancement was without merit; the district court did not commit plain error by finding that defendants were previously convicted of drug felonies or by sentencing them accordingly; and the court declined to address the merits of Blocker's ineffective assistance of counsel claims on direct appeal. Accordingly, the court affirmed defendants' convictions and sentences. View "United States v. Wallace" on Justia Law

Coastal Agricultural Supply v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A.

Coastal filed suit against Chase Bank, asserting claims of conversion and negligence under the Texas Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) and money had and received under the common law. At issue on interlocutory appeal was whether section 3.405 of the UCC can serve as an affirmative defense to a common law "money and received" claim and whether settlement credits in Texas reduce the nonsettling defendant's liability rather than the plaintiff's total loss. The court concluded that the money had and received claim as applied in this situation must simply incorporate the affirmative defense provided by section 3.405. Therefore, the district court did not err in its determination that section 3.405 could so be applied. Further, the district court was correct in holding that the settlement credit should be applied to reduce the nonsettling defendant's liability, not the plaintiff's total loss. On remand, however, the district court must give Coastal an opportunity to demonstrate that allocation of the settlement amount is appropriate. Accordingly, the court affirmed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Coastal Agricultural Supply v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

Kitchen v. Dallas County Texas, et al.

Plaintiff, the widow of the deceased, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging claims that individual defendants used excessive force against her husband and that defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his medical needs. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment as to all of plaintiff's claims. The court concluded that the record presented genuine issues of material fact from which a jury could conclude that excessive force was used against the husband. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded for the district court to consider in the first instance whether any or all of the individual defendants may proceed to trial on a theory of direct liability for use of force or, in the alternative, on a theory of bystander liability. The district court should also consider whether individual defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in regards to the deliberate indifference claim and the municipal liability claim for failing to provide adequate training. View "Kitchen v. Dallas County Texas, et al." on Justia Law

Fisher, et al. v. State of Texas, et al.

Plaintiff filed suit against UT alleging that UT's race-conscious admissions program violated the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court vacated the court's affirmance of the district court's grant of summary judgment to UT, holding that this court and the district court reviewed UT's means to the end of a diverse student body with undue deference. The Supreme Court ordered that this court must give a more exacting scrutiny to UT's efforts to achieve diversity. Any UT college applicant not offered admission either through the Top Ten Percent Law or through an exceptionally high Academic Index (AI) score is evaluated through the holistic review process. The court concluded that plaintiff had standing to challenge the injury she alleged, the use of race in UT's admissions program for the entering freshman class of Fall 2008; there is no clear benefit to remanding this case to the district court; on the merits, the holistic review is a necessary complement to the Top Ten Percent Plan, enabling it to operate without reducing itself to a cover for a quota system; and, in doing so, its limited use of race is narrowly tailored to this role - as small a part as possible for the Plan to succeed. The court was satisfied that UT had demonstrated that race-conscious holistic review is necessary to make the Top Ten Percent Plan workable by patching the holes that a mechanical admissions program leaves in its ability to achieve the rich diversity that contributes to its academic mission - as described by California v. Bakke and Grutter v. Bollinger. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment. View "Fisher, et al. v. State of Texas, et al." on Justia Law

Wisznia Co., Inc. v. General Star Indemnity Co.

Plaintiff filed suit against its general-liability insurer, seeking to recover costs in defending a lawsuit brought by a former client. The client asserted that plaintiff improperly designed a building and did not adequately coordinate with the builders during its construction. The court concluded that the district court correctly concluded that the insurer owed no duty to defend plaintiff because the insurance policies unambiguously excluded coverage for professional liability. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's entry of judgment for the insurer. View "Wisznia Co., Inc. v. General Star Indemnity Co." on Justia Law

United States v. American Commercial Lines

ACL contracted with ES&H and USES following an oil spill to provide cleanup services. After ACL failed to pay the outstanding amounts owed to the companies, the United States paid the balance out of the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund and then filed suit against ACL to recover its payments. The court concluded that the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA), 33 U.S.C. 2701 et seq., provides the exclusive source of law for an action involving a responsible party's liability for removal costs governed by OPA and held that ACL does not have a cause of action against the spill responders who exercised their statutory right to file claims with the Fund after ACL failed to timely pay their claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of ACL's claims against ES&H and USES as displaced under OPA. View "United States v. American Commercial Lines" on Justia Law

University of Texas System, et al. v. United States

UT filed suit against the United States, seeking refund of the Social Security component of FICA taxes it paid with respect to the service of medical residents in 2005. The court affirmed the district court's denial of UT's motion for summary judgment and grant of the United States' motion for summary judgment, concluding that UT's residents are not "students" within the meaning of the student exclusion in Texas's 42 U.S.C. 418 agreement. Section 418 allows states to voluntarily opt-in to the Social Security system by entering into an agreement with the Commissioner of Social Security. View "University of Texas System, et al. v. United States" on Justia Law

Beatty v. Stephens

Petitioner, convicted of capital murder of his mother, appealed the denial of his federal habeas petition and denial of a certificate of appealability (COA). The court concluded that petitioner's first claim involving allegations of ineffective assistance at the punishment phase of trial did not warrant full consideration on the merits; petitioner procedurally defaulted on his second claim involving allegations of ineffective assistance at the guilt phase of the trial; and, even assuming arguendo that petitioner had not procedurally defaulted on that claim, the claim did not warrant a COA. Accordingly, the court denied the application for a COA. View "Beatty v. Stephens" on Justia Law

First American Bank v. First American Trans. Title Ins.

First American appealed the district court's judgment regarding FATTIC's liability to First American under certain vessel title insurance policies. The court concluded that the district court did not err in selecting the date of the foreclosure sales as the appropriate date of valuation; it was not error, much less clear error, to find that the Ocean Jewel's value equaled its foreclosure sale price under the circumstances; there was no reversible error in the district court's calculations; and there was no manifest error in finding that First American was not due any penalties under Louisiana law because FATTIC acted in bad faith. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "First American Bank v. First American Trans. Title Ins." on Justia Law

Warren, et al. v. Chesapeake Exploration, L.L.C., et al.

Plaintiffs, the Warrens and the Javeeds, filed suit against defendants (Chesapeake entities), alleging that defendants breached royalty provisions in oil and gas leases by deducting post-production costs from the sales proceeds of natural gas. The district court held that the leases contained "at the well" royalty provisions, under decisions of the Supreme Court of Texas in Heritage Resources, Inc. v. NationsBank and Judice v. Mewbourne Oil Co., Chesapeake was authorized to make post-production deductions in determining the amount realized at the mouth of the well, despite the provisions in the Warrens' leases that the royalty would be free of certain post-production costs. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Warrens' claims for failure to state a claim. However, the court concluded that the Javeeds' claim should not have been dismissed with prejudice where it was not apparent from the face of the complaint or attachments that they could not conceivably state a cause of action. Accordingly, the court modified the district court's judgment as to the Javeeds' claims. View "Warren, et al. v. Chesapeake Exploration, L.L.C., et al." on Justia Law