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

Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use

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Plaintiff and his family filed suit against Lewisville for damages and injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Plaintiff and his family challenged the constitutionality of a Lewisville ordinance prohibiting registered child sex offenders from residing within 1,500 feet of "where children commonly gather." Plaintiff, a registered child sex offender, asserts that he and his family cannot find a house to rent or buy based on the challenged ordinance. The district court dismissed the claims based on lack of standing and, alternatively, as moot. The court concluded that the family's inability to find a home in Lewisville is fairly traceable to the challenged ordinance and it was likely that a judgment in the family's favor would at least make it easier for them to find a residence to rent or buy in Lewisville. Although the family has moved to another town, their claims for monetary relief are sufficient to defeat mootness. Therefore, the court reversed the judgment of the district court because the family has met the traceable and redressable requirements of standing and their claim is not moot.View "Duarte, et al. v. City of Lewisville, TX" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from a dispute between the City and RBIII where the City demolished a dilapidated building on property that RBIII owned. The City did not provide notice to RBIII before razing the structure and RBIII filed suit against the City. The district court granted summary judgment for the City on all claims except a Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process claim and a Fourth Amendment unreasonable search and seizure claim. Those claims were tried to a jury, which returned a verdict in favor of RBIII. The City then appealed. The court agreed with the City's argument on appeal that the district court's jury instructions did not accurately reflect the applicable law and that, under the correct legal standards, it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. Because the court vacated the trial court's judgment against the City, the court need not consider the other issues raised in the City's appeal. View "RBIII, L.P. v. City of San Antonio" on Justia Law

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The Church filed suit in federal district court, claiming that a now-repealed city ordinance's church-specific provisions, facially and as applied, violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc et seq., the First Amendment; the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Mississippi Constitution. The Church simultaneously filed a motion for a preliminary injunction of the challenged provisions. The court subsequently vacated the district court's order denying the Church's motion for a preliminary injunction and remanded for further proceedings. The court concluded that the issues on remand included but were not limited to: (1) whether the Church was likely to succeed on its claims challenging the validity of the newly adopted religious facilities ban; (2) whether the harm the Church would suffer absent a preliminary injunction outweighed the harm an injunction would cause the city; (3) the amount of actual damages the Church suffered on account of Sections 10.86 and 10.89 of the city's zoning ordinance, which violated RLUIPA; and (4) at the district court's discretion, whether the Church should be awarded reasonable attorneys fees as a prevailing party under 42 U.S.C. 1988(b). View "Opulent Life Church, et al v. City of Holly Springs MS, et al" on Justia Law

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The City of New Orleans filed suit against BellSouth Telecommunications, LLC, claiming that the company owed it additional compensation for the use of its public rights-of-way. The district court rejected the City's claims for additional compensation pursuant to the various contracts between the parties. The court, however, awarded the City $1.5 million in unjust enrichment damages to compensate the City for benefits the company had received from its use of the City's rights-of-way. Both parties appealed. The City then enacted an ordinance to force BellSouth to continue compensating the City in future years for the unjust enrichment identified by the district court. BellSouth moved for a preliminary injunction to enjoin the City from enforcing the ordinance, which the district court denied. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (1) affirmed the district court's findings of fact and conclusions of law, in part, to the extent the court rejected the City's claims for damages; and (2) reversed and vacated the district court's judgment awarding unjust enrichment damages to the City, holding that BellSouth had justification in contract for any enrichment it was enjoying from its use of the City's rights-of-way. Remanded with instructions to permanently enjoin enforcement of the City's ordinance. View "City of New Orleans v. BellSouth Telecomm., Inc." on Justia Law

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The City of New Orleans filed suit against BellSouth Telecommunications, LLC, claiming that the company owed it additional compensation for the use of its public rights-of-way. The district court rejected the City's claims for additional compensation pursuant to the various contracts between the parties. The court, however, awarded the City $1.5 million in unjust enrichment damages to compensate the City for benefits the company had received from its use of the City's rights-of-way. Both parties appealed. The City then enacted an ordinance to force BellSouth to continue compensating the City in future years for the unjust enrichment identified by the district court. BellSouth moved for a preliminary injunction to enjoin the City from enforcing the ordinance, which the district court denied. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (1) affirmed the district court's findings of fact and conclusions of law, in part, to the extent the court rejected the City's claims for damages; and (2) reversed and vacated the district court's judgment awarding unjust enrichment damages to the City, holding that BellSouth had justification in contract for any enrichment it was enjoying from its use of the City's rights-of-way. Remanded with instructions to permanently enjoin enforcement of the City's ordinance. View "BellSouth Telecomm., LLC v. City of New Orleans" on Justia Law

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The City appealed the district court's summary judgment enjoining it from implementing a purported housing ordinance that required all adults living in rental housing within the City to obtain an occupancy license conditioned upon the occupant's citizenship or lawful immigration status. The court concluded that the ordinance's sole purpose was not to regulate housing but to exclude undocumented aliens, specifically Latinos, from the City and that it was an impermissible regulation of immigration. The court held that the ordinance was unconstitutional and presented an obstacle to federal authority on immigration and the conduct of foreign affairs. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Villas at Parkside Partners, et al. v. City of Farmers Branch, Texas" on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from FEMA's determination that the Holy Cross School was eligible for public assistance funds to construct a new school campus on the site of Cabrini Church and Cabrini School in Gentilly to replace its old campus six miles away in the Lower Ninth Ward. Friends of Cabrini Church filed a complaint against FEMA, alleging that, inter alia, the section 106 review process, which defined the "area of potential effects" (APE), C.F.R. 800.4(a), 800.16(d), was deficient. On appeal, Friends of Cabrini Church subsequently challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of FEMA. The court held that because Friends of Cabrini Church lacked standing to bring its claims, the court vacated the judgment of the district court and remanded the case with instructions to dismiss for lack of standing.

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Plaintiffs, five individuals with disabilities, alleged that defendant recently built and altered sidewalks that were not readily accessible to them and requested injunctive relief under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12132, and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794(e). At issue was whether Title II and section 504 extended to newly built and altered public sidewalks. Also at issue was whether that private right of action accrued at the time the city built or altered its inaccessible sidewalks, or alternatively at the time plaintiffs first knew or should have known they were being denied the benefits of those sidewalks. The court held that plaintiffs have a private right of action to enforce Title II and section 504 with respect to newly built and altered public sidewalks, and that the right accrued at the time plaintiffs first knew or should have known they were being denied the benefits of those sidewalks.

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Defendant was convicted for making and subscribing to a false tax return and multiple counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, and securities fraud. Defendant appealed his sentence on the following four grounds: (1) the application of the 2001 version of the Sentencing Guidelines to his case violated the ex post facto clause; (2) the district court used improper methodology in computing the amount of loss under U.S.S.G. 2B1.1(b)(1); (3) the district court committed plain error in applying the U.S.S.G. 3B1.1(a) leader/organizer enhancement; and (4) the district court imposed a substantively unreasonable sentence. The court held that it was not plain error for the district court to apply the 2001 Sentencing Guidelines; the district court correctly calculated the amount of loss pursuant to U.S.S.G. 2B1.1; the district court did not commit plain error in applying the leader/organizer four-level enhancement; and the sentencing court imposed a substantively reasonable sentence and did not abuse its discretion. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court.

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These three closely related appeals arose out of two district court cases, each involving a different tract of land owned by the Avoyelles Parish School Board (School Board), where neither tract was accessible by public road and both shared borders with the Lake Ophelia Wildlife Refuge (Refuge), which was owned by the United States Department of Interior (Department). The School Board filed these suits against all adjoining landowners, including the Department, to fix the School Board's legal rights of passage to the respective enclosed lands. The district court fixed rights of passage that burdened Refuge lands and concluded that the Department could not impose certain desired restrictions on the School Board's actions on Refuge lands. On appeal, the court reversed both judgments in full and remanded for further proceedings.