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

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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Plaintiffs, Hispanic employees of Koch, a poultry processor, filed suit alleging harassment and abuse on the job. Koch claims that plaintiffs made up the allegations in order to benefit from the U-visa program. The U-visa program has offered temporary nonimmigrant status to victims of “substantial physical or mental abuse” resulting from certain offenses, including sexual assault, abusive sexual contact, extortion, and felonious assault. This appeal concerns Koch’s attempt to obtain concrete evidence of this malfeasance – namely, any and all records relating to plaintiffs' speculated U visa applications – through discovery. Confirming that it has jurisdiction, the court rejected Koch's waiver claim regarding plaintiffs' section 1367 claims. The court found the D.C. Circuit’s decision in In re England to be persuasive, where the D.C. Circuit construed a provision barring disclosure of certain military promotion records to any person not a member of the promotion board to forbid civil discovery of the records. In regard to section 1367's application to the EEOC, the court concluded that section 1367’s similar text and analogous purpose counsel the same result here as in England. However, section 1367 does not bar discovery of the records from the individual claimants. Their protection, if any, lies in the basic constraints of the discovery process. The court could not conclude that the district court abused its discretion in finding U visa discovery relevant and potentially probative of fraud. However, the court concluded that the discovery the district court approved would impose an undue burden and must be redefined. Accordingly, the court remanded for the district court to devise an approach to U visa discovery that adequately protects the diverse and competing interests at stake. View "Cazorla v. Koch Foods of Mississippi, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging constitutional violations arising out of his incarceration in a TDCJ prison. On appeal, defendant challenged the dismissal of his suit under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) for failure to comply with court orders. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing this action pursuant to Rule 41(b), because the district court has the authority to order financial disclosures after a plaintiff withdraws his or her in forma pauperis (IFP) application in favor of paying the filing fee; the district court's inquiry into whether plaintiff's allegations of poverty were true was well within the district court's discretion; the court rejected plaintiff's argument that his noncompliance can be excused on the ground that the district court lacked the authority to require him to complete the questionnaire after he paid the filing fee; the district court had reason to suspect that plaintiff's IFP application contained false information as this was the third time he has withdrawn his IFP application after being pressed for additional information; and plaintiff's conduct demonstrates contumaciousness. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Nottingham v. Warden" on Justia Law
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In 1967, the district court entered an initial injunction against the School Board after this desegregation suit was filed. In 2015, a dispute arose concerning the Board’s selection of the newest Chief Desegregation Implementation Officer (CDIO). The Board moved in the district court for (1) approval of its candidate as CDIO, (2) elimination of the CDIO position, or (3) revision of the CDIO job description. The district court denied the motions and appointed plaintiffs’ candidate as CDIO. The Board then filed a timely notice of appeal. The court concluded that a timely notice of appeal divests the district court’s jurisdiction, meaning it cannot grant a party’s Rule 60(b) motion unless this court remands. Therefore, the court remanded for the limited purpose of allowing the district court to rule on the matter identified in its indicative order. View "Moore v. Tangipahoa Parish Sch. Bd." on Justia Law
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Energy Coal, an Italian company, filed suit in Louisiana state court after Petroleo, a wholly-owned subsidiary of a company based in Venezuela, failed to pay for services. Instead of naming Petroleo as the defendant, Energy Coal sued a nonparty to the contracts: CITGO, a Delaware corporation with its headquarters in Houston. CITGO removed the suit to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. The district court granted CITGO's motion to dismiss. The court agreed with the district court that Delaware law governs whether CITGO can be held liable for its affiliate’s breach. Because Energy Coal acknowledges that it cannot disregard the corporate form under Delaware law, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Energy Coal S. P. A. v. CITGO Petroleum Corp." on Justia Law
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Movant is the sole shareholder of Exquisite Designs, a company that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009. On appeal, movant challenges the denial of his motion to intervene in a lawsuit between the Chapter 7 Trustee of Exquisite Designs and Bank of America. Movant also appeals the order granting the stipulation of dismissal with prejudice filed by those parties. Because the order granting the stipulation of dismissal was filed well over thirty days after the order granting the stipulation of dismissal, the court has no jurisdiction to review that order even though movant's objections go to the district court’s jurisdiction; because movant's initial brief on appeal advances no argument as to why the district court erred in denying permissive intervention, that issue has been waived; and the district court rightly denied intervention as of right because movant's motion was untimely where he knew of his alleged interest in the case long before he filed his motion and the denial of intervention would not prejudice movant. Accordingly, the court disposed of movant's remaining arguments and affirmed the judgment. View "Sommers v. Bank of America, N.A." on Justia Law
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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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Plaintiff filed suit against Chevron and Edison in Texas state court after he was captured by pirates and tortured. Chevron removed to federal court and the district court subsequently granted Chevron's motion for summary judgment, denying plaintiff's motion for leave to amend. The court vacated and remanded, concluding that the notice plaintiff gave of his intent to amend his complaint was sufficient under circuit precedent, and plaintiff's amended claims would not have been futile. View "Thomas v. Chevron" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against DyncCorp, alleging that the company failed to give him all of the pay and benefits he was owed for work he did in Kuwait. DynCorp moved to dismiss on the basis of forum non conveniens, arguing that the Foreign Service Agreement’s forum-selection clause mandates that the action be litigated in Kuwait. The district court granted the motion, concluding that the forum-selection clause is valid, enforceable, and requires dismissal under Atlantic Marine Construction Co. v. United States District Court. Under either federal law or Texas’s choice-of-law rules, the court concluded that plaintiff can prevail only if enforcing the parties’ choice of Kuwaiti law and a Kuwaiti forum would contravene a “strong” or “fundamental” public policy of Texas. Because the court concluded that it would not, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Barnett v. Dyncorp Int'l, LLC" on Justia Law
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This case arose from a suit filed by plaintiff against defendants, alleging civil rights violations. The court held that a notice of appeal of a district court’s judgment is timely filed when it is docketed in a district court’s Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) system and a notice of electronic filing of that appeal is sent to counsel. In this case, notice of electronic filing received by plaintiff reflected that her appeal was filed one day late. Accordingly, the court dismissed plaintiff's appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "Sudduth v. TX Health & Human Serv. Comm'n" on Justia Law
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Holmes filed a claim for damages with the Court Supervised Settlement Program and alleged that it qualified as a "Start Up Business." On appeal, Holmes challenges the district court's decision declining to review the Claims Administrator's reclassification of Holmes as a general business claimant. The court concluded that the Claims Administrator’s decision did not misapply the Settlement Agreement, and that Holmes’s argument that the district court was required to grant review of its particular claim is unpersuasive. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Holmes Motors v. BP Exploration" on Justia Law
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