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

Articles Posted in Election Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the constitutionality and legality of Senate Bill 14 in 2011, which requires individuals to present one of several forms of photo identification in order to vote. The district court held that SB 14 was enacted with a racially discriminatory purpose, has a racially discriminatory effect, is a poll tax, and unconstitutionally burdens the right to vote. The court vacated the district court’s judgment that SB 14 was passed with a racially discriminatory purpose and remanded for further consideration of plaintiffs’ discriminatory purpose claims, using the proper legal standards and evidence; vacated the district court’s holding that SB 14 is a poll tax under the Fourteenth and Twenty-Fourth Amendments and rendered judgment for the State on this issue; the court need not and did not address whether SB 14 unconstitutionally burdens the right to vote under the First and Fourteenth Amendments; vacated the district court’s judgment on that issue and dismissed those claims; and affirmed the district court’s finding that SB 14 violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. 10301(a), through its discriminatory effects and remanded for consideration of the appropriate remedy. Finally, the court remanded with further instructions. View "Veasey v. Abbott" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Micah Phillips (then a 12-year veteran of the Dallas Fire Department) announced his candidacy in the Democratic primary for a seat on the Dallas County Commissioners Court. At that time, city laws prevented city employees from seeking office in any county overlapping the city of Dallas (as Dallas County did). The City subsequently terminated Phillips for violating those laws. This suit was dismissed on the pleadings by the district court, and Phillips challenged those laws both facially and as applied to him. Finding no reversible error, the Fifth Circuit affirmed. View "Phillips v. City of Dallas" on Justia Law

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Leading up to the 2012 state Senate elections in Texas, Texas failed to gain preclearance of its recently enacted Senate redistricting plan as required under then-existing law. Because Texas’s new plan had not been precleared, Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit and successfully blocked the plan for the 2012 elections. A three-judge district court panel in San Antonio enjoined Texas’s plan and ordered an interim plan in its place. But after the election, the Supreme Court held that the Voting Rights Act’s coverage formula, which automatically subjected Texas to the preclearance requirement, was unconstitutional. Regardless, after the Court’s decision, Texas repealed the contested redistricting plan and adopted the court-imposed plan in its place, thus mooting Plaintiffs’ lawsuit. The district court then awarded Plaintiffs attorneys’ fees and costs. Texas appealed the award of costs. Because the Fifth Circuit concluded that the district court erroneously characterized Plaintiffs as prevailing parties, the Fifth Circuit reversed. View "Davis v. Abbott" on Justia Law

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This case involves a challenge to Mississippi's disclosure requirements for ballot initiatives proposing amendments to the state constitution. Plaintiffs, Mississippi citizens, contend that the disclosure requirements impermissibly burden their First Amendment rights. The district court agreed and enjoined Mississippi from enforcing the requirements against small groups and individuals expending "just in excess of" Mississippi's $200 disclosure threshold. The court concluded that plaintiffs have standing where they have shown that they have a legitimate fear of criminal penalties for failure to comply with Chapter 17 of the Mississippi Code's disclosure requirements; plaintiffs' as-applied challenge, asserted both as a collective group and by each plaintiff individually, failed because the record is bereft of facts that would allow the court to assume that plaintiffs intend to raise "just in excess of" $200 as a group or as individuals; the requirements that Mississippi has enacted under Chapter 17 survive plaintiffs' facial challenge under the exacting scrutiny standard where the government has identified a sufficiently important government interest in its disclosure scheme to have an interest in knowing who is lobbying for Mississippians' vote, and is substantially related to this informational interest; and, therefore, the court reversed the district court's order and rendered judgment in favor of defendants were plaintiffs' as-applied and facial constitutional challenges failed. View "Justice, Jr., et al. v. Hosemann, et al." on Justia Law

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This case arose from a dispute between plaintiffs, seven elected officials and one citizen, and Galveston County, challenging the County's redistricting following the 2010 census. At issue was whether plaintiffs were the prevailing parties, entitling them to attorney's fees. The court reversed and remanded the district court's award of fees, holding that plaintiffs were not prevailing parties because the injunctive relief plaintiffs achieved was not material to the outcome of the case and, alternatively, nor did this relief directly or materially benefit plaintiffs. View "Petteway, et al. v. Henry, et al." on Justia Law

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TFE filed suit against the Commission seeking an injunction and a declaration that the relevant portions of the Texas Election Code violated the First Amendment as applied to TFE. The district court preliminarily enjoined the enforcement of Tex. Elec. Code 253.094(a) - which prohibits corporations from making an unauthorized political contribution - and 253.003(b) - where an individual may not knowingly accept a political contribution - against TFE and the Commission appealed the injunction. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by issuing a preliminary injunction because TFE was likely to succeed on the merits and because the manifest equities weighed in favor of equitable relief. Accordingly, the court affirmed the order granting the injunction. View "Texans for Free Enterprise v. Texas Ethics Commission, et al." on Justia Law

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The Stanford Defendants brought this case under the Texas Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (TUFTA), Tex. Bus. & Com. Code 24.001 et seq., to recover approximately $1.6 million in political contributions made to various political committees by the Stanford Defendants between 2000 and 2008. Because the court concluded that (1) the Receiver could stand in the shoes of the creditors of the Stanford Defendants, (2) the Receiver's TUFTA claims were brought within one year after the transfers were or reasonably could have been discovered by the claimant, and (3) they were not preempted, the court rejected the Committees' arguments and affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Janvey v. Democratic Senatorial Campaign, et al" on Justia Law

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LULAC filed suit against the City alleging that the voting method adopted by the City Charter diluted minority voting strength, in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973. The City and LULAC settled in December 1996, and the district court entered a consent decree in accordance with the parties' settlement. At issue on appeal was whether the district court properly granted a joint motion by the City and LULAC to modify temporarily the consent decree. Because the court concluded that the district court erred in approving the temporary modification without following the procedures mandated by an earlier panel, the court vacated the district court's order and remanded for further proceedings.

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Plaintiff brought suit against various officials arising from his name not being placed on the 2010 primary election ballot in Houston, Texas. Plaintiff's complaint was dismissed for failure to state a claim. The court held that no equitable relief was appropriate either because the relief was moot or because the court determined when examining the claims for damages that no constitutional violation occurred that would support such relief. The court also held that plaintiff lacked an interest protected by procedural due process and affirmed the district court's dismissal of that cause; plaintiff's interpretation of Anderson v. Celebrezze was not applicable; plaintiff's claims were rooted in procedural due process and his substantive due process claim failed; the dismissal of the equal protection claim was reversed and remanded where further proceedings were needed to determine whether plaintiff in fact submitted a proper application and, if he did, whether the Harris County Democratic Party Chairman purposefully discriminated or simply made an error or mistake of judgment; and the challenged election statute was constitutional.

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Plaintiff brought suit against various officials arising from his name not being placed on the 2010 primary election ballot in Houston. Plaintiff appealed the dismissal of his complaint for failure to state a claim. The court held that plaintiff's procedural due process claim was properly rejected where plaintiff had no property right to be a candidate. The court also held that plaintiff's substantive due process claim failed because there were no disputed facts regarding plaintiff's application containing an incorrect residential address where plaintiff made an oral admission that he did not live at the listed address. The court further held that plaintiff's Equal Protection claim was properly denied where the actions of the official at issue did not constitute intentional or purposeful discrimination. The court finally held that plaintiff failed to establish that Section 141.032(e) of the Texas Election Code was unconstitutional. Accordingly, because plaintiff filed his application for candidacy in the last hour of the last possible day, which limited his opportunity to refile a correct application, the court affirmed the judgment.