Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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The Association, a trade group representing holders of permits allowing liquor retailing in the state of Texas, seek to intervene in a lawsuit between Wal-Mart and the Commission. In the suit, Wal-Mart alleges that the regulatory system administered by the Commission operates exclusively for the benefit of the Association’s members in violation of the Equal Protection, Commerce, and Comity Clauses of the United States Constitution. The district court denied the Association’s motion to intervene. The court concluded that the Association has a protectable interest that may be impaired or injured by the outcome of the lawsuit between Wal-Mart and the Commission, and that the Association has shown that the Commission may not adequately represent its interests. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court’s denial of the Association’s motion to intervene. View "Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Texas Alcoholic Beverage Comm'n" on Justia Law
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Petitioner worked as a marine carpenter and was injured while building a housing module designed for use on a tension leg offshore oil platform (TLP) named Big Foot. On appeal, petitioner challenges the Benefits Review Board's decision affirming the denial of benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA), 33 U.S.C. 901-950, and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), 43 U.S.C. 1331-1356. Big Foot, like other TLPs, is a type of offshore oil platform used for deep water drilling; the parties concede that Big Foot was not built to regularly transport goods or people. The court agreed with the ALJ that petitioner was not covered by the LHWCA because he was not engaged in maritime employment as a shipbuilder, based on his determination that Big Foot is not a “vessel” under the LHWCA. The court also concluded that, based on the specific facts of petitioner's employment, his injury does not satisfy the substantial nexus test and is not covered under the LHWCA as extended by the OCSLA. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Baker v. DOWCP" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a native and citizen of Brazil, seeks review of the BIA's order of removal. The court held that the documentation requirements of 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(7) do not apply to an alien who was previously validly admitted as a nonimmigrant, who is residing in the United States, and who applies for an adjustment of status. In this case, the BIA found that petitioner adjusted his status on the basis of a fraudulent marriage. It appears the Government had other alternatives to remove petitioner due to his fraudulent marriage. Therefore, the petition for review is granted and the BIA's judgment is vacated. The petition for review of the BIA's decision denying a motion to reopen is denied as moot. View "Marques v. Lynch" on Justia Law
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This attorneys’ fees dispute arises out of an underlying lease dispute between HDRE and RARE. HDRE appealed the district court's award of attorneys’ fees for RARE under an attorneys’ fees provision in a lease agreement between the parties that was subsequently novated by another agreement. The court held that the novation of the Lease extinguished the parties’ rights under that agreement to prevailing-party attorneys’ fees and that the district court consequently abused its discretion in awarding fees to RARE. The court disagreed with the district court’s conclusion that several provisions of the Lease evince the parties’ intent for the attorneys’ fees provision to survive a future novation. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment. View "HDRE Bus. Partners Ltd. Grp. v. RARE Hosp. Int'l" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction after pleading guilty to one count of producing and attempting to produce child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2251(a) and 2. The court rejected defendant's claim that the district court erred in accepting his plea because the video in question did not satisfy the “sexually explicit conduct” element of section 2251(a). In this case, the record unequivocally establishes qualitative and quantitative distinctions between defendant's actions and those of the defendant in United States v. Steen. The court agreed with the Government that Steen did not adopt a special per se rule for surreptitious recording cases that requires an affirmative display or sexual act by a minor. Because Steen does not compel the interpretation of section 2251(a) and “lascivious exhibition” that defendant now advances, he cannot show that the district court plainly erred in accepting his plea. The court also rejected defendant's argument that the district court plainly erred in accepting his guilty plea because his admission that the phone he used to record the victim was manufactured outside of Texas was insufficient to satisfy section 2251(a)’s interstate commerce requirement. The court rejected the argument based on the cases cited and analysis articulated in United States v. Looney. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. McCall" on Justia Law
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Petitioner, a native and citizen of Bolivia, seeks review of the BIA's dismissal of her appeal of the IJ's denial of her asylum application based on her ineligibility under the firm-resettlement bar. The court held that it must review the BIA’s factual determinations about firm resettlement and its exceptions for substantial evidence; the court declined to decide on the validity of the BIA's burden-shifting framework for determining whether firm resettlement has occurred because the framework is irrelevant in this case; and substantial evidence supports the BIA's finding that petitioner was not in Mexico only as long as was necessary to arrange onward travel. In this case, after petitioner was removed to Mexico, she renewed her work visa, lived, and worked in Mexico for five years and thus established significant ties to Mexico. She had also previously entered the United States in 2007 for the birth of one of her children; afterwards, she returned to Mexico. Although her children did not go to school in Mexico, they lived with her there. Her husband often commuted between the United States and Mexico in order to live with petitioner and their children. Accordingly, the court denied the petition. View "Lara v. Lynch" on Justia Law
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Members of the clergy, organizations, and other citizens of the State of Mississippi challenging HB 1523. HB 1523 declares that its aim is “to provide certain protections regarding a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction for persons, religious organizations and private associations.” The Act enumerates the beliefs as follows: “(a) Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman; (b) Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; and (c) Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.” The district court determined that it should preliminarily enjoin the enactment and enforcement of HB 1523. The State moved for a stay pending appeal. The court denied the State's motion for stay pending appeal and its motion to expedite this appeal. The court granted the State’s motion to consolidate this case with 16-60478, Campaign for Southern Equality, et al v. Phil Bryant, et al. The court's decision maintains the status quo in Mississippi as it existed before the Legislature’s passage and attempted enactment of HB 1523. View "Barber v. Bryant" on Justia Law

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Westchester was a commercial umbrella insurer for EMJ, a general contractor building a J.C. Penney store. During that project, EMJ subcontracted with Contract Steel for steel erection services. Contract Steel purchased a commercial umbrella policy from Hudson Insurance. After a building inspector examining Contract Steel's work fell off a ladder and suffered severe spinal injury, the inspector filed suit against a group of defendants, including EMJ. EMJ settled for five million dollars and EMJ’s primary liability insurer covered one million dollars. Westchester covered the remaining four million dollars. EMJ and Westchester filed suit against Hudson in the federal district court seeking reimbursement for the four million dollar settlement. The district court ultimately determined that the four million dollars should be apportioned between Hudson and Westchester based on their policy limits. This led the district court to determine that Hudson was responsible for paying Westchester only $667,000 in damages. The district court denied Westchester’s motion to reconsider. Both parties appealed. The court rejected Hudson's four arguments challenging coverage by its policy and concluded that Hudson was required to indemnify EMJ, at least in part, for the legal settlement from the inspector’s fall; the court rejected Hudson's two evidentiary challenges; and the district court correctly followed Mississippi law and ordered Hudson to pay Westchester 1/6th of the cost of the legal settlement. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "EMJ Corp. v. Hudson Specialty Ins." on Justia Law
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Plaintiff, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, filed suit against Coca-Cola, alleging claims under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq. Plaintiff alleged that Coca-Cola owns and operates glass-front vending machines in public spaces and that those machines are not accessible to him and others who are blind. The district court dismissed the complaint, holding that Coca-Cola’s vending machines are not themselves “places of public accommodation.” Based on the unambiguous language of 42 U.S.C. 12181(7)(E), the court concluded that Coca-Cola’s vending machines are not “sales establishments” under the plain meaning of that term and therefore are not “places of public accommodation” under Title III of the ADA. Therefore, the court need not consider whether the vending machines are “facilities” under 28 C.F.R. 36.104. The court noted that its conclusion comports with the statute’s legislative history and the DOJ’s guidance. The court acknowledged the limits of its holding and noted that vending machines may very well be subject to various requirements under the ADA by virtue of their being located in a hospital or a bus station, both of which are indisputably places of public accommodation. However, plaintiff only sued Coca-Cola in this case. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Magee v. Coca-Cola Refreshments USA Inc." on Justia Law

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SnoWizard and Southern Snow, sellers of flavored shaved ice confections, have been involved in litigation for the past ten years in state court, federal district court, and before the Patent and Trademark Office in the Federal Circuit. In this appeal, Southern Snow challenges the district court’s dismissal of its claims under Rule 12(b)(6) and SnoWizard cross-appeals the district court’s denial of its motions for sanctions against Southern Snow. Because the claims against SnoWizard are precluded, and because the claims against Morris and Tolar fail to satisfy the requirements for conspiracy, obstruction of justice, or malicious prosecution, the court affirmed the dismissal of all the claims. Given that Southern Snow advanced arguments that, although creative, were not “ridiculous,” the court affirmed the district court’s denials of sanctions. View "Snow Ingredients, Inc. v. SnoWizard, Inc." on Justia Law