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

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Defendant and several others were indicted on various healthcare fraud offenses stemming from a scheme in which Defendant and others would pay TRICARE beneficiaries to order certain creams and vitamins. At a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, one count of receiving an illegal kickback payment, and six counts of making illegal kickback payments. The District Court sentenced Defendant to 240 months imprisonment.On appeal, Defendant challenged, among other things, the sufficiency of the evidence pertaining to his convictions for paying illegal kickbacks. The Fifth Circuit agreed with Defendant's reasoning that he did not "induce" TRICARE beneficiaries to order the substances by paying them because the substances were for their own use. Thus, the court reversed Defendant's convictions for paying illegal kickback payments. The court affirmed Defendant's other convictions and remanded for resentencing. View "USA v. Cooper" on Justia Law

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In a previous opinion dated September 21, 2021, the Fifth Circuit issued an opinion in this immigration case agreeing with Petitioner that the Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA") "abused its discretion by entirely failing to address his CAT claim." In that opinion the court noted that a claim seeking CAT relief "is separate from . . . claims for asylum and withholding of removal and should receive separate analytical attention.” Thus, the court remanded the case to the BIA to address Petitioner's claim for relief under the Convention Against Torture ("CAT").On remand, the BIA determined that Petitioner failed to meet his burden to establish a prima facie case for CAT relief because Petitioner did not provide sufficient evidence to corroborate his alleged conversion to Christianity or his bisexuality, which bears on whether Petitioner has a clear probability of being tortured if he returns to Libya.Finding no error, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the denial of Petitioner's petition for review. View "Abushagif v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. (SFFA), a nonprofit organization committed to ending race discrimination in higher-education admissions, sued the University of Texas at Austin (UT) over its use of race in admitting students. The district court concluded SFFA has standing but dismissed its claims as barred by res judicata. It reasoned that SFFA’s claims were already litigated in a prior challenge to UT’s admissions policies. See Fisher v. Univ. of Tex. (Fisher II), 579 U.S. 365 (2016); Fisher v. Univ. of Tex. (Fisher I), 570 U.S. 297 (2013).   The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court’s judgment. The court agreed that SFFA has standing, but disagreed that res judicata bars its claims. The parties here are not identical to or in privity with those in Fisher, and this case presents different claims.   The court first explained that SFFA has associational standing to challenge UT’s race-conscious admissions policy and the district court correctly denied the motions to dismiss based on standing. The court wrote that, however, the district court erred in applying the control exception to nonparty preclusion in two key respects. First, it mistakenly rejected SFFA’s argument about the different capacities in which Fisher and Blum acted in Fisher and act in this case. Second, even if Fisher’s and Blum’s different capacities did not foreclose applying claim preclusion, the district court erred in finding that Fisher and Blum control SFFA. Further, under the court’s transactional test, SFFA’s claims are not the same as those in Fisher because the claims are not related in time and space. View "Students for Fair Admissions v. Univ of TX" on Justia Law

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The Texas Legislature limited beer-to-go sales to brewers and manufacturers that produced no more than 225,000 barrels annually “at all premises [they] wholly or partly owned.” Tex. Alco. Bev. Code Ann. Sections 62.122(a) and 12.052(a).   The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) ordered CANarchy to cease and desist after it determined that CANarchy’s facilities collectively exceeded the 225,000-barrel limit. CANarchy complied with the order but then filed suit, seeking a declaratory judgment that the 225,000- barrel threshold did not apply to barrels produced at leased premises. The district court agreed with CANarchy that “premises wholly or partly owned” do not include leased premises and granted it summary judgment.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order granting Plaintiff’s motion for a declaratory judgment. The court held that “premises wholly or partly owned” do not include leased premises and granted it summary judgment.   The court wrote, “it is the Legislature’s prerogative to enact statutes; it is the judiciary’s responsibility to interpret those statutes according to the language the Legislature used, absent a context indicating a different meaning or the result of the plain meaning of the language yielding absurd or nonsensical results.” Here, the ordinary definition of “owned,” when applied to sections 12.052(a) and 62.122(a) of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code, establishes that the 225,000-barrel production threshold set in those statutes encompasses only barrels produced at premises owned by the brewer, either in whole or in part, and not at premises leased by the brewer. View "CANarchy Craft Brewery v. Texas Alcoholic" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 lawsuit against Hunt County and numerous county employees alleging that Defendants knew her son was suffering from a heart condition but failed to treat him while he was booked into the Hunt County jail.   The individual defendants moved to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), asserting qualified immunity. The district court denied that motion and entered its “standard QI scheduling order.” Back in district court, the individual defendants moved to stay all discovery and all proceedings. They argued that “[a]ll discovery in this matter should be stayed against all Defendants, including Hunt County, and all proceedings, in this case, should be stayed, pending resolution of the Individual Defendants’ assertions of qualified immunity.” Plaintiff filed an “advisory to the court concerning depositions” indicating that, on the Monell claim, she wished to depose all eight of the individual defendants asserting qualified immunity.   The Fifth Circuit denied Plaintiff’s motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and vacated the district court’s scheduling order. The court disagreed with Plaintiff’s argument that Monell discovery presents no undue burden to the Individual Defendants because they would be required to participate as witnesses in discovery even if they had not been named as defendants.”  First, there are significant differences between naming an individual defendant and then deposing him in two capacities. Next, it’s no answer to say the defendant can be deposed twice— once on Monell issues (before the district court adjudicates the immunity defense) and once on personal-capacity issues (afterwards).  Third, Plaintiff conceded at oral argument that bifurcation of discovery would radically complicate the case. View "Carswell v. Camp" on Justia Law

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A trooper with the Louisiana State Police was responding to a car crash when a driver, driving a tractor-trailer owned by Nu Line Transport, crashed into the parked vehicle in which Plaintiff was sitting. The trooper and his wife on behalf of themselves and their two minor children (collectively “Plaintiffs”) filed a lawsuit in state court seeking damages for personal injury and loss of consortium. Plaintiffs alleged that the crash was proximately caused by (1) negligence on the part of the truck driver (for which the Plaintiffs sought to hold Nu Line vicariously liable), and (2) negligence on the part of Nu Line in its hiring, training, and supervision of the driver.   Before rendering a decision, the Fifth Circuit certified the following question of law to the Louisiana Supreme Court for rendition of a judgment or opinion concerning such questions or propositions of Louisiana law:   Under Louisiana law, can Plaintiffs, individually and on behalf of their minor children, simultaneously maintain (1) a direct negligence claim against Nu Line for negligent hiring, training, and supervision of its employee and (2) a negligence claim against the employee for which Nu Line could be held vicariously liable under respondeat superior, (3) after Nu Line has stipulated that the employee was in the course and scope of employment when the alleged negligence occurred?   The court explained that certification was appropriate because this proceeding involves a question or proposition of Louisiana state law that is determinative of said cause independently of any other questions involved in said case and that there are no clear controlling precedents. View "Fox v. Nu Line Transport" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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Plaintiff took out a home equity loan on a house in Texas (“Property”). Deutsche Bank National Trust Company (“Deutsche Bank”) is the trustee of the loan. Deutsche Bank sought a non-judicial foreclosure order on the Property.   Plaintiff sued Deutsche Bank in Texas state court, alleging violations of the Texas Debt Collection Act (“TDCA”), breach of the common-law duty of cooperation, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation. Despite the stipulation, Deutsche Bank removed the case to federal district court. Plaintiff then moved to remand the case back to Texas state court because, in his view, the amount in controversy could not exceed the stipulated maximum of $74,500. The district court denied Plaintiff’s motion to remand.   The Fifth Circuit reversed and concluded that the district court erred in denying Plaintiff’s motion to remand, and it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction when it entered final judgment. The court reasoned that Deutsche Bank failed to establish that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional floor of $75,000.   The court first noted that the bank points out that Plaintiff’s suit requested relief which might be read to suggest Plaintiff also sought injunctive relief. But the bank makes that argument only to establish that Plaintiff’s initial pleading seeks nonmonetary relief not to establish that the requested nonmonetary relief put the house in controversy. Whatever the merit of that latter contention might otherwise be, the court held that Deutsche Bank forfeited it. Moreover, the mere fact that Plaintiff pleaded a demand for specific damages cannot support bad faith. View "Durbois v. Deutsche Bank Ntl Trust" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff experienced financial difficulties and applied for a loan modification. In response, CitiMortgage mailed Plaintiff an offer to participate in a Trial Period Plan (“TPP”). The TPP provided that “the terms of your  TPP are effective on the day you make your first trial period payment, provided you have paid it on or before the last day of [January 2019].” Plaintiff effectively accepted the terms of the TPP when he made the first trial period payment of $1,293.66. CitiMortgage sent him a letter informing him that he was “ineligible” for the loan modification and then posted Plaintiff’s property for foreclosure.   Plaintiff filed suit against CitiMortgage in state court, asserting claims for breach of contract. The district court granted summary judgment to CitiMortgage concluding that Plaintiff failed to comply with the TPP’s payment deadlines.   The Fifth Circuit reversed finding that Plaintiff met his obligations under the TPP by making timely payments. CitiMortgage, by contrast, violated its obligations by refusing to grant the permanent loan modification and proceeding with foreclosure. The court explained that the TPP establishes a grace period. It accepts payment so long as it is made “in the month in which it is due.” Neither the TPP nor the parties use the term “grace period” to describe this language. But that is plainly what the text contemplates. And no one disputes that Plaintiff’s payments comply with the governing grace periods. CitiMortgage has offered no reason why favoring the monthly deadlines and ignoring the grace period would “do the least damage” to the text of the TPP. View "Burbridge v. CitiMortgage" on Justia Law

Posted in: Banking, Contracts
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A county chapter of the NAACP and four individual Plaintiffs brought suit against the district attorney (“DA”) for the Mississippi counties in which they live, claiming he regularly discriminates against black potential jurors by striking them from juries because of their race. The Plaintiffs asserted violations of their own constitutional rights to serve on juries. The district court determined that it should apply one of the Supreme Court’s abstention doctrines and dismissed the case.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed holding that Plaintiffs have not alleged a certainly impending threat or a substantial risk to their rights that would satisfy the requirements of Article III. The court explained that to prevail on a claim for prospective equitable relief, a plaintiff must demonstrate continuing harm or a “real and immediate threat of repeated injury in the future. Further, the Fourteenth Amendment protects the right of a citizen not to be excluded from a petit jury because of his or her race. A juror who alleges being struck from a jury because of race has alleged a cognizable injury for purposes of Article III standing.Here, Plaintiffs allege that their injury is the imminent threat that the DA will deny them an opportunity for jury service by excluding them because of their race. However, save one, none of the Plaintiffs have ever been struck from a jury by the DA. Further, members of the county chapter cannot demonstrate an imminent threat that they will be struck unconstitutionally from a petit jury by the DA. Thus, Plaintiffs have not established standing. View "Attala County, MS Branch v. Evans" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff led police on a high-speed chase through a residential neighborhood. Once Plaintiff exited his vehicle, Defendant sheriff's deputy tased Plaintiff. Plaintiff sued the deputy, claiming he violated Defendant's Fourth Amendment Rights. The District Court denied the deputy's claim of qualified immunity, finding there were material factual disputes as to whether a reasonable officer would have viewed Plaintiff as an immediate threat; whether Plaintiff's apparent surrender was a ploy to evade arrest; and whether Plaintiff was tased once or twice.The Fifth Circuit reversed. After considering the threat posed by Plaintiff in fleeing law enforcement as well as the force used by the deputy, the court determined that the deputy did not violate Plaintiff's clearly established constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment. Thus, Plaintiff was unable to overcome the bar of qualified immunity. View "Salazar v. Molina" on Justia Law