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

By
Plaintiff, a white male, filed suit against the County and others, contending that a Hispanic voting bloc on the Caldwell County Commissioners Court eliminated his position due to his race, age, and age-related protected activities, violating his due-process rights along the way. The district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss the 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim and their subsequent motion for summary judgment on claims for race discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq., and retaliation under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. 623(d). The district court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's state-law whistleblower claim. The court affirmed the dismissal of the Title VII claim because plaintiff failed to show he was treated less favorably than a similarly situated comparator; affirmed as to the ADEA claim where the period of twenty-one months between plaintiff’s complaint and his termination is simply too substantial a gap to support an inference of causation; and affirmed as to the section 1983 claim where the complaint failed to properly state a cause of action. Finally, the court concluded that the district court acted within its discretion to dismiss the pendant state-law claims. View "Heggemeier v. Caldwell Cnty., TX" on Justia Law

By
Plaintiff filed suit against Officer Huerta under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging illegal detention, false arrest, and excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Plaintiff was arrested while waiting for his wife, an employee of the school, as he sat in his car in the school's parking lot. The district court granted Huerta qualified immunity. The court concluded that Huerta did not have reasonable suspicion to detain plaintiff. However, even assuming that Huerta violated plaintiff’s constitutional rights by detaining him without reasonable suspicion, the detention was not objectively unreasonable in light of clearly established law. Huerta was not put on notice that detaining an individual for a failure to provide identification on school property is definitively unlawful. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Gonzalez v. Huerta" on Justia Law

By
Plaintiff, a resident of Texas and an honorably discharged veteran of the United States Army, challenged the constitutionality of the residency requirements in the Hazlewood Act, Tex. Educ. Code 54.341. The Act provides tuition waivers at public universities for certain Texas veterans who enlisted in Texas or were residents of Texas at the time they enlisted. The district court granted summary judgment for plaintiff. Texas advances the program as a means of incentivizing behavior taking place before entry into the military. It is sufficient that Texas has a rational basis for offering benefits to Texas residents (promoting Texans’ education and enlistment by Texans); that offering the same benefit to citizens who are residents of other states would not advance those interests; and that the financial burden of offering the benefit to residents of other states would reduce Texas’s capacity to advance those same interests. The court concluded that Texas has provided reasonable justifications for the qualifications used in the Hazlewood Act to advance its interests in promoting education and military service. Without a clearer indication from the Supreme Court that Texas’s decisions violate constitutional provisions, the court is hesitant to impose further restrictions on the sovereign power of the State to regulate its own education system. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment of the district court. View "Harris v. Texas Veterans Comm'n" on Justia Law

By
Defendant appealed the dismissal of his 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion as time-barred under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), 28 U.S.C. 2255(f). The court concluded that defendant's filing of an untimely petition for writ of certiorari and the Supreme Court’s subsequent denial of that petition without comment did not reset or extend the date on which the judgment of his conviction became final. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "United States v. Wheaten" on Justia Law
By
Posted in:
Updated:

By
Defendant appealed his sentence of ten years of supervised release after being convicted for failure to register as a sex offender under 18 U.S.C. 2250(a). The government concedes that the district court erred in sentencing defendant to a ten-year term of supervised release and that the error was obvious. However, the court concluded that the term of supervised release is fair and does not call into question the integrity of judicial proceedings. In this case, the district court expressed its concern with defendant’s “temporary living arrangements” and that his life was not “squared away.” The district court also stated that, upon release, defendant had to find a “residence approved by your probation officer.” Moreover, defendant, after asking for a below-Guidelines term of imprisonment, requested that the judge impose “supervision for as much as you want.” Accordingly, the court declined to exercise its discretion to correct the error. View "United States v. Brown" on Justia Law
By
Posted in:
Updated:

By
Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that they were injured in a vehicle collision with Thomas Lee Atkinson, an employee of CFC. The district court granted summary judgment for CFC and its insurer, Amerisure. However, Atkinson remains in the litigation. The court held that, absent Rule 54(b) certification, either service or appearance by a named party will defeat appellate jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1291 if the claims involving that party are not addressed in the final judgment or prior order. Accordingly, although Atkinson has never appeared in this litigation, if he has been served, this court would lack jurisdiction under section 1291. Because it is unclear from the record whether Atkinson was ever served, the court remanded to the district court for the limited purpose of determining whether Atkinson has been served and entering an order stating its findings and conclusions as to service. View "Charles v. Atkinson" on Justia Law

By
Petitioner, a death row inmate convicted of capital murder, was granted habeas relief based on the district court's finding that the jury instructions at the sentencing phase of petitioner's trial violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights under Penry v. Lynaugh, by not allowing the jury to give full effect to petitioner's mitigating evidence. The court concluded that the jury instructions at the sentencing phase of petitioner's trial did not adequately allow the jury to consider his mitigating evidence of good character and affirmed the district court's grant of habeas relief. In this case, petitioner proffered evidence of general good character at the sentencing phase that showed he was active at church, had been a good student, was a good father to his daughter, and had maintained regular employment. The court denied petitioner's application for a certificate of appealability (COA) to appeal the denial of his habeas claims that challenge his conviction. The court concluded that petitioner is not entitled to a COA on any of his ineffective-assistance claims because reasonable jurists would not debate the district court’s determinations that petitioner failed to established error under 28 U.S.C. 2254(d)’s standard for habeas relief and that, regardless, petitioner cannot show prejudice under Strickland v. Washington in light of the overwhelming evidence of his guilt. View "Norris v. Davis" on Justia Law
By
Posted in:
Updated:

By
Plaintiff filed suit against J.B. Hunt, alleging that he was terminated in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq. The district court dismissed the claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court concluded that no statute requires that an ADA plaintiff exhaust the 49 C.F.R. 391.47 process before filing a lawsuit and thus the district court should not have dismissed this ADA claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal on alternative grounds, concluding that plaintiff could not establish a prima facie case of discrimination on the basis of disability. At the time he was terminated, plaintiff was not certified under DOT medical standards; therefore, he was not qualified for his job under the ADA and summary judgment is appropriate. View "Williams v. J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc." on Justia Law

By
The EEOC filed suit against Bass Pro pursuant to Sections 706 and 707 of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq., alleging that the company engaged in a practice of racially discriminatory hiring. EEOC seeks damages and equitable relief. The district court denied Bass Pro's motion for summary judgment, allowing the litigation to proceed. Bass Pro then filed this interlocutory appeal. The court concluded that Congress did not prohibit the EEOC from bringing pattern or practice suits under Section 706 and, in turn, from carrying them to trial with sequential determinations of liability and damages in a bifurcated framework. The court declined to imply limits upon the trial court’s management power that not only cannot be located in the language of the statute but also confound the plain language of the Federal Rules. The court rejected Bass Pro's assertions that the International Brotherhood of Teamsters v. United States model for proving pattern or practice claims would be unconstitutional, offending both due process and the Seventh Amendment. The court noted that the district court - with the flexibility afforded to it by the Rules of Civil Procedure - is in the best position to fulfill the task of enforcing the Congressional charge to protect the rights of employees. Finally, the court held that the conciliation here satisfied the Mach Mining, LLC v. EEOC standard. Since the EEOC is authorized to bring a pattern or practice suit under Section 706, the fact that it focused on pattern or practice evidence instead of individual claims during the investigation and conciliation process is of no consequence. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "EEOC v. Bass Pro Outdoor World, LLC" on Justia Law

By
Movant seeks authorization to file a successive 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion pursuant to Johnson v. United States. Movant's sentence was based in part on USSG 2K2.1(a)(1), under which one of his prior convictions was deemed a “crime of violence” pursuant to the “residual clause” of USSG 4B1.2(a)(2), which defines a “crime of violence” for purposes of section 2K2.1(a)(1). The court concluded that, although Johnson announced a new rule of constitutional law that has been made retroactive by the Supreme Court to cases on collateral review, it did not address section 4B1.2(a)(2). Nor has the Supreme Court held that a Guidelines enhancement that increases the Guidelines range implicates the same due process concerns as a statute that increases a statutory penalty. The court noted that even in direct appeals, rather than collateral review as presented here, federal courts of appeals disagree on whether Johnson applies to the Guidelines, demonstrating that the Supreme Court has not decided the question. Even if Johnson does implicate section 4B1.2(a)(2), the Supreme Court has not addressed whether this arguably new rule of criminal procedure applies retroactively to cases on collateral review. Because movant failed to show that he is entitled to authorization to proceed based on Johnson, the court denied the motion for authorization. The court also denied the motion for appointment of a federal defender. View "In re: Dequintan Arnick" on Justia Law
By
Posted in:
Updated: