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

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In this case, Chad Michael Rider was convicted of three counts of producing or attempting to produce child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a) and was sentenced to 720 months’ imprisonment. The evidence presented included numerous videos that Rider had taken of minors, in various stages of undress, in places where they expected privacy such as bathrooms. Rider appealed his conviction and sentence on several bases, including arguing that his conversation with police officers, where he admitted to setting up cameras, should have been suppressed, that expert testimony about his lack of pedophilic tendencies should have been admitted, that there was insufficient evidence to support his convictions, that the jury instructions constructively amended the indictment, and that his sentence was unreasonable.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rejected all of Rider's arguments and affirmed his conviction and sentence. The court found that Rider was not in custody when he spoke to the officers, and so his statements were not involuntary. The court also found that there was no error in excluding the expert testimony, as it was not relevant to any element of the charges that the government had to prove. The court also found that there was sufficient evidence to support the convictions, as there was ample evidence that Rider had the intent and took the necessary steps to produce child pornography. The court also ruled that the jury instructions did not constructively amend the indictment. Finally, the court found that the sentence was not unreasonable, given the uniquely disturbing facts of the case and Rider's lack of remorse. View "United States v. Rider" on Justia Law

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In this case, Glen Pace, a Mississippi resident, appealed the dismissal of his claims against multiple corporate defendants over personal injuries he suffered in a Texas airplane crash. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi dismissed the claims against the out-of-state defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction and held that the two Mississippi defendants were improperly joined, which allowed removal to federal court.Upon review, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. The appellate court agreed that Pace failed to state a claim against either in-state defendant, and thus, they were improperly joined. As for the out-of-state defendants, the court found that the district court lacked personal jurisdiction over them. The court reasoned that the aircraft crash, any equipment failure, and the injuries all occurred in Texas, and Pace's subsequent medical treatment and damages in Mississippi did not constitute an actual injury felt in the state for the purpose of establishing personal jurisdiction. The court held that Pace's injuries from the crash occurred in Texas and his subsequent medical treatment in Mississippi were "consequences stemming from the actual tort injury," which do not confer personal jurisdiction.The court also denied Pace's request for jurisdictional discovery, stating that Pace failed to present specific facts or reasonable particularity regarding jurisdictional facts. The court stressed that its decision should not be interpreted as implying a view on the merits of Pace’s claims. View "Pace v. Cirrus Design Corp" on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled on a contractual dispute between Catalyst Strategic Advisors, LLC (Catalyst), a consulting firm, and Three Diamond Capital SBC, LLC, formerly known as Contractors Building Supply Company, LLC (CBS). The dispute arose when CBS refused to pay Catalyst a commission for a sale that occurred within 18 months after CBS terminated its contract with Catalyst. The court held that under the terms of the contract, Catalyst was entitled to a commission for any transaction completed within eighteen months after the termination of the contract. CBS argued that under Texas's procuring cause doctrine, Catalyst was not entitled to a commission because it did not procure the sale. However, the court held that the procuring cause doctrine was displaced by the terms of the contract. The court affirmed the district court's rulings and remanded the case to the district court for consideration of an award of appellate attorney's fees to Catalyst. View "Catalyst Strategic Advisors, L.L.C. v. Three Diamond Capital SBC, L.L.C." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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In this case, the defendant, Bobby Quinton Gentile, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute at least 500 grams of methamphetamine. He later appealed his sentence, arguing that the district court judge improperly coerced him into withdrawing his objections to the drug amount calculation in the Presentence Investigation Report by threatening to deny him his acceptance of responsibility points. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found no plain error and affirmed the district court's decision. The court held that Gentile's argument that he was judicially coerced to withdraw his objections to the drug amount calculation fails under plain error review because, even assuming arguendo that the district court erred clearly by coercing him, Gentile did not show the error affected his substantial rights. His sentence was affirmed. View "USA v. Gentile" on Justia Law

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In this case, Mike Austin Anderson, the defendant, was convicted of assault with a dangerous weapon, assault resulting in serious bodily injury, and using a gun during a crime of violence. These charges stemmed from an incident that took place on the Choctaw Indian Reservation in Mississippi, where Anderson shot Julian McMillan after an argument. On appeal, Anderson contested that the district court erred in ruling that the prosecution presented sufficient evidence for the jury to return guilty verdicts, despite the court's self-defense instruction. He also argued that the district court wrongly denied his pretrial motion to recuse the lead prosecutor and the entire United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Mississippi due to a conflict of interest. Anderson claimed that the lead prosecutor had previously represented him and his father while working as a public defender in Choctaw Tribal Court. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision, holding that the evidence against Anderson was sufficient and that the district court did not err in denying his recusal motion. The appellate court found no substantial relationship between the prosecutor's prior representation of Anderson and the current federal prosecution against him. View "USA v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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In a healthcare fraud case involving Medicare kickbacks, defendants Lindell King and Ynedra Diggs appealed their convictions and sentences. They challenged the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas's decision to admit recordings involving them and other co-conspirators, and disputed the court's calculation of the improper benefit received for the purpose of their sentence, as well as the restitution award. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit examined these arguments and ruled in favor of the lower court.The defendants were accused of receiving bribes from a Medicare provider, Dr. Paulo Bettega, for referring Medicare beneficiaries to him for unnecessary treatment or non-provided treatment. The Court of Appeals rejected the defendants' Confrontation Clause arguments, stating the recordings were not testimonial and did not violate the Confrontation Clause. It further dismissed the defendants' assertion that the recordings were impermissible hearsay.Regarding the calculation of the improper benefit, the court concluded that the government had proved by a preponderance of the evidence that the entire operation was fraudulent. The defendants failed to provide rebuttal evidence of any legitimate medical expenses that should offset the amount paid to Bettega for treatment provided to residents of their group homes.The Court of Appeals also upheld the restitution award. It rejected the defendants' argument that their maximum restitution was limited to the $70,000 they received in kickbacks. The court held the defendants jointly and severally liable for all foreseeable losses within the scope of their conspiracy.In conclusion, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment and sentence of the district court, finding no error in its proceedings or decisions. View "USA v. King" on Justia Law

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In the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the case involved Marco Antonio Abundiz, the defendant-appellant, who was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for sexually abusing his six-year-old niece, K.Z. Abundiz appealed his conviction arguing that the district court erred in several areas including: allowing the victim to testify via closed-circuit television (CCTV) which he claimed violated his Sixth Amendment right to confrontation; failing to make the necessary findings before permitting the victim to testify via CCTV; admitting evidence of a previous sexual assault; admitting evidence that he possessed child pornography; and the instructions given to the jury regarding evidence admitted under the Federal Rules of Evidence 413 and 414.After reviewing the case, the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the district court. The Court held that the district court did not err in allowing the victim to testify via CCTV. The Court determined that the district court made the necessary findings showing that the child would be unable to testify in open court due to fear and a substantial likelihood she would suffer emotional trauma.The Court also found no error in the district court's admission of evidence regarding prior sexual assaults and child pornography possession. The Court observed that the district court had appropriately exercised its discretion to admit this evidence under the Federal Rules of Evidence 413 and 414, providing that such evidence can be considered in sexual assault and child molestation cases, respectively.Lastly, the Court concluded that the district court's jury instructions regarding the use of evidence admitted under Rules 413 and 414 were not erroneous. The Court noted that the instructions appropriately informed the jury that such evidence could be used for any relevant purpose only if it was proven by a preponderance of the evidence. The instructions did not allow the jury to convict using a lower standard of proof or confuse the preponderance and beyond a reasonable doubt standards. View "USA v. Abundiz" on Justia Law

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In this case, Fieldwood Energy LLC, and its affiliates, who were previously among the largest oil and gas exploration and production companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2020 due to declining oil prices, the COVID–19 pandemic, and billions of dollars in decommissioning obligations. In the ensuing reorganization plan, some companies, referred to as the "Sureties", who had issued surety bonds to the debtors, were stripped of their subrogation rights. The Sureties appealed this loss in district court, which held their appeal to be statutorily and equitably moot. The Sureties appealed again to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, contending that a recent Supreme Court decision altered the landscape around statutory mootness and that the district court treated Section 363(m) as jurisdictional. However, the appellate court affirmed the district court’s decision, concluding that the Supreme Court’s recent decision did not change the application of Section 363(m) in this case, the district court did not treat the statute as jurisdictional, and the Sureties’ failure to obtain a stay was fatal to their challenge of the bankruptcy sale. The court also determined that the provisions stripping the Sureties of their subrogation rights were integral to the sale of the Debtors’ assets, making the challenge on appeal statutorily moot. View "Swiss Re Corporate Solutions America Insurance Co. v. Fieldwood Energy III, L.L.C." on Justia Law

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The case was brought before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The plaintiff, Jarius Brown, alleged that officers from the DeSoto Parish Sheriff's Office attacked him without provocation, leaving him to languish in a jail cell with a broken nose and eye socket. Almost two years later, Brown sued Javarrea Pouncy and two unidentified officers in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the alleged use of unreasonable force in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as under Louisiana state law for battery. However, the district court dismissed Brown's Section 1983 claim as untimely under Louisiana's one-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. Brown appealed this decision, arguing that the one-year period should not apply to police brutality claims brought under Section 1983 as it discriminates against such claims and practically frustrates litigants' ability to bring them.The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decision, holding that precedent required them to do so. The Court reasoned that while Brown's arguments that a one-year limitations period is too restrictive to accommodate the federal interests at stake in a civil rights action, the Supreme Court has yet to clarify how lower courts should evaluate practical frustration without undermining the solution it has already provided for the absence of a federal limitations period for Section 1983 claims. This was based on the principle that the length of the limitations period and related questions of tolling and application are governed by state law. The Court also noted that states have the freedom to modify their statutes to avoid being outliers in this regard. View "Brown v. Pouncy" on Justia Law

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Mario Alejos-Perez, a Mexican citizen and lawful permanent resident of the United States, sought a review of a Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) final order of removal that found him removable under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(B)(i) based on his Texas conviction for possessing a synthetic cannabinoid. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied his petition for review. The court agreed with the BIA's conclusion that Alejos-Perez failed to prove there was a "realistic probability" that Texas would use the state statute he was convicted under to prosecute the possession of drugs that are not criminalized under federal law, which would mean his conviction would not be a removable offense. Alejos-Perez argued that the "realistic probability" standard should not apply, but the court rejected his argument, citing the rule of orderliness and the law of the case doctrine. The court also found that Alejos-Perez failed to exhaust his administrative remedies regarding several authorities he cited for the first time during his appeal. View "Alejos-Perez v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law