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

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Defendant pleaded guilty to one count of carjacking in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2119 and 2, and to one count of using, carrying, or brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A). The court concluded that the minimal interstate commerce nexus that the court's precedent requires for prosecution under section 2119 was satisfied, and that carjacking is a "crime of violence" under section 924(c)(1). Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Jones" on Justia Law
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This case arose out of a police shooting of John Lincoln. John was shot and killed in front of his daughter, Erin. Erin and her aunt Kelly subsequently filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the Cities of Colleyville and North Richland Hills, Texas, and several officers involved in the incident, including Officer Barnes. On appeal, Barnes challenged the district court's denial of qualified immunity. Erin asserted that officers violated her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure when they took her into custody without a warrant, probable cause, or justifiable reason and interrogated her against her will for many hours, refusing her access to her family. The court concluded that the police violate the Fourth Amendment when, absent probable cause or the individual's consent, they seize and transport a person to the police station and subject her to prolonged interrogation. Because the right was clearly established at the time of the violation, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Lincoln v. Barnes" on Justia Law

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Defendant, a federal task force officer, was indicted for manslaughter after he unintentionally shot and killed an unarmed suspect while trying to arrest the suspect. The district court dismissed the indictment, applying the doctrine of Supremacy Clause immunity. The court held that the district court properly exercised jurisdiction according to the federal officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1442, and defendant's assertion of a colorable federal defense; concluded that the district court correctly granted defendant's motion to dismiss because he is entitled to immunity from state prosecution under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution; but noted that, even if a federal officer satisfies every element of the immunity standard, the Supremacy Clause cannot shield the officer from federal consequences, such as prosecution by federal authorities or civil liability under federal law. The court affirmed the judgment. View "State of Texas v. Kleinert" on Justia Law
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Plaintiff filed suit under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq., against Defendants Galliano Marine Service and C-Innovation, seeking to recover unpaid wages for overtime worked during his employment at C-Innovation. Defendants run a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) business for offshore applications and employed plaintiff as an ROV Technician and ROV Supervisor. The district court granted summary judgment against plaintiff. The court concluded that the district court erred in granting defendant's motion for summary judgment because it has not been established as a matter of law that the seaman exemption applies. In this case, competing testimonial evidence regarding whether plaintiff was a master or subject to the authority, direction, and control of the master aboard a vessel precludes summary judgment. Furthermore, the district court must determine what proportion of plaintiff's time is spent on seaman's work. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Halle v. Galliano Marine Service, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendants after he was injured when his rifle suddenly discharged, firing a bullet through his foot. Plaintiff alleged five products liability claims and one claim under Texas law. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of defendants because plaintiff's claim was time-barred. At issue was whether the district court properly applied Texas's choice of law rules, which is dependent upon whether section 71.031(a) of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code is a choice of law provision and whether the statute applies in federal court. The court concluded that Hyde v. Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc. is controlling in this case. In light of Hyde, the court concluded that section 71.031 is a choice of law provision that applies in both state and federal courts, and an analysis of section 71.031 demonstrates the result is the same regardless of whether plaintiff is considered a resident of Texas or Georgia. In this case, even assuming the rifle was first purchased in 1998, plaintiff had until 2013 to initiate his products liability suit, but he did not do so until 2015, which was more than fifteen years from the date of the sale of the rifle. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Burdett v. Remington Arms Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against law enforcement officers and the city under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of his First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights after officers pulled him over for suspicious activity and subsequently arrested him for resisting a search. The district court granted the officers' motion to dismiss all claims. The court could not conclude as a matter of law that plaintiff failed to state a Fourth Amendment claim for unlawful detention. In this case, the most the officer could have observed was a man (plaintiff) briefly looking around a vehicle in the parking lot, turning to get into a car, noticing a police car, continuing to get into the car, and beginning to drive further into the parking lot. This was not a "headlong flight," nor "evasive" behavior. The court also concluded that the officers did not have probable cause to arrest plaintiff for resisting a search under Texas law, and because no objectively reasonable officer would conclude that such probable cause did exist, the court held that plaintiff has stated a Fourth Amendment claim; and the officers are not entitled to qualified immunity from that claim at the motion to dismiss stage. The court concluded, however, that plaintiff did not state a valid claim for retaliation under either the First or Fifth Amendments. Finally, the court concluded that plaintiff's alleged injuries—though perhaps not sufficient on their own to satisfy the de minimis requirement—were enough to support a claim for excessive force at the motion to dismiss stage. Accordingly, the court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded. View "Alexander v. City of Round Rock" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff purchased property on which oil and gas operations had been conducted. Plaintiff filed suit against Hess, asserting claims for damages stemming from contamination caused by the oil- and gas-related activities on the tract. The oil and gas leases expired in 1973 and plaintiff purchased the property in 2007, when all wells had been plugged and abandoned. The district court granted Hess's motion for summary judgment, concluding that the subsequent purchaser rule barred plaintiff's claims. The court explained that a clear consensus has emerged among all Louisiana appellate courts that have considered the issue, and they have held that the subsequent purchaser rule does apply to cases, like this one, involving expired mineral leases. Because this case presented no occasion to depart from precedent, the court deferred to these precedents, and held that the subsequent purchaser doctrine barred plaintiff's claims. The court noted that although the denial of a writ is not necessarily an approval of the appellate court's decision nor precedential, the Louisiana Supreme Court has had multiple opportunities to consider this issue and has repeatedly declined to do so. Finally, the court declined to certify questions to the state court. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Guilbeau v. Hess Corp." on Justia Law

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Wise Regional, a Texas municipal hospital authority, filed suit against Aetna, an insurance plan administrator, in state court over a dispute regarding medical insurance claims Wise Regional submitted on behalf of its patients. Aetna removed to federal court under 28 U.S.C. 1442, but the district court remanded to state court, awarding attorneys' fees. The court concluded that it had appellate jurisdiction over the remand order because Aetna relied upon the federal officer removal statute in its notice of removal; remand was proper because Aetna's notice of removal was untimely; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorneys' fees where Aetna lacked an objectively reasonable basis for seeking removal of this action almost five months after expiration of the thirty-day deadline for removal. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Decatur Hospital Authority v. Aetna Health, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against his former employer, Macy's, and his former supervisor, John Lillard, in state court. Macy's removed to federal court, plaintiff moved to remand, and Lillard moved to dismiss. The district court denied plaintiff's motion to remand, granted Lillard's motion to dismiss, and entered final judgment for Lillard under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). Plaintiff alleged that defendants discriminated against him based on his PTSD condition. The court agreed with the district court that it had no reasonable basis to predict that plaintiff might be able to recover against Lillard for tortious interference because plaintiff failed to allege that Lillard was acting to serve his own personal interests. Therefore, plaintiff failed to adequately plead that Lillard acted willfully and intentionally at the expense of Macy's. The court held that once the district court determined that Lillard was improperly joined, the district court effectively dismissed plaintiff's claim against him without prejudice. The court remanded with instructions to vacate the district court's grant of Lillard's motion to dismiss his claims with prejudice. View "Alviar, Jr. v. Lillard" on Justia Law
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Defendant, owner of a wholesale salon equipment business, appealed his 36 month sentence after pleading guilty to aiding and assisting in the preparation of a false and fraudulent tax return. The court held that the district court did not clearly err when it determined, based on the circumstantial evidence, that it was more likely than not that defendant participated in his customers' structuring activities. Therefore, the court concluded that defendant's sentence was not procedurally unreasonable. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in imposing the upward variance to defendant's sentence where the district court explained that it was imposing the above-Guidelines sentence based on a variety of factors, including, inter alia, the magnitude of defendant's dishonesty and unwillingness to abide by society's rules, the aggravated nature of the criminal conduct, and defendant's exceptional business success had a significant foundation in his unlawful activity. Accordingly, the court affirmed the sentence. View "United States v. Nguyen" on Justia Law