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

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Luminant in a trespass-to-try-title action against defendants. The court concluded that Luminant demonstrated, by uncontested evidence, its adverse and peaceable possession of the tracts of land also claimed by defendants for at least ten years, satisfying Texas's adverse possession statutes. Therefore, Luminant is vested with a fee simple interest in the disputed tracts and summary judgment in its favor was proper. View "Luminant Mining Co., LLC v. PakeyBey" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit held that the Chisom decree, which created Louisiana's one majority-black supreme court district, does not govern the other six districts. Therefore, the district court properly denied Louisiana's motion to dismiss this Voting Rights Act suit for lack of jurisdiction. In this case, the state argued that the Chisom decree centralizes perpetual federal control over all supreme court districts in the Eastern District of Louisiana, which issued the decree. The court concluded that the district court rejected that reading for good reason because it is plainly wrong. Rather, the present suit addresses a different electoral district untouched by the decree. View "Allen v. Louisiana" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence, issued by the district court on remand, after he pleaded guilty to possession with the intent to distribute cocaine base. The court concluded that the district court's order, as amended, complied with the court's mandate, including the spirit of it as embodied by United States v. Evbuomwan, 992 F.2d 70, 74 (5th Cir. 1993). In this case, the district court made the three required findings for USSG 1B1.3 liability and unequivocally held defendant indirectly responsible for all of the $7,809.The court had remanded defendant's case to the district court to determine whether defendant was directly or indirectly responsible for the currency at issue, and the district court made a determination as to the latter. The court concluded that the district court's findings were plausible in light of the record, including the district court's finding that defendant was indirectly responsible for the entire amount of the currency seized from the residence at issue. View "United States v. Johnson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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After defendant was convicted of violating both the Controlled Substances Act and the Controlled Analogue Enforcement Act, the district court sentenced him to 120 years in prison. On appeal, the parties agree that the jury instructions regarding the Analogue Act were erroneous because they omitted an element of the offense. Defendant claimed that the error was structural.The Fifth Circuit concluded that there is more than enough to demonstrate defendant's knowledge of the chemical structure of the drugs he sold and the controlled substances they mimicked. The court rejected defendant's contention that United States v. Stanford, 823 F.3d 814 (5th Cir. 2016), permits the court to bypass the "thorough examination" of the "whole record" that is required in Neder v. United States, 527 U.S. 1 (1999). Rather, the court applied the Neder harmless-error standard on the same "functional, case-by-case" basis as usual, and concluded that a jury could not rationally find that the Government failed to prove the knowledge requirement in McFadden v. United States, 576 U.S. 186, 188–89 (2015). Therefore, the court concluded that the omitted element in defendant's jury instruction was harmless. The court rejected defendant's remaining arguments on appeal. View "United States v. Muhammad" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Fifth Circuit granted in part and denied in part the United States' motion for a stay pending appeal of the district court's nationwide preliminary injunction preventing the United States from relying on immigration enforcement priorities outlined in memos from DHS and ICE. On Inauguration Day, January 20, 2021, the Acting Secretary of DHS issued a memo announcing that the Department would undergo a comprehensive review of enforcement policies, announcing DHS's interim enforcement priorities, and directing an immediate 100-day pause on removals. ICE issued a memo on February 18, 2021 that incorporates the same three interim priorities.The court did not see a strong justification for concluding that the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 detention statutes override the deep-rooted tradition of enforcement discretion when it comes to decisions that occur before detention, such as who should be subject to arrest, detainers, and removal proceedings. Therefore, the United States has shown a likelihood of prevailing on appeal to the extent the preliminary injunction prevents officials from relying on the memos' enforcement priorities for nondetention decisions. The court also concluded that the remaining factors also support a partial stay.The court stated that the injunction will go into effect to the extent it prevents DHS and ICE officials from relying on the memos to refuse to detain aliens described in 8 U.S.C. 1226(c)(1) against whom detainers have been lodged or aliens who fall under section 1231(a)(1)(A) because they have been ordered removed. The court stayed the injunction pending appeal in all other respects including the reporting requirements. View "Texas v. United States" on Justia Law

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Petitioner filed a petition with the U.S. Tax Court challenging the IRS's deficiency determination and the imposition of an accuracy-related penalty. The Tax Court issued a decision upholding in part the IRS's deficiency determination and imposition of the accuracy-related penalty.After the Fifth Circuit found that collateral estoppel does not bar the Commissioner from litigating this issue, the court concluded that the Tax Court did not clearly err in finding that petitioner is not entitled to deduct his 2014 legal expenses under 26 U.S.C. 162(a). In this case, petitioner has not carried his burden of proof to show that the origin of the claims underlying his litigation to recoup his trading agreement losses—the trading agreement venture—was related to his engagement in a trade or business within the meaning of section 162(a). The court also concluded that the Tax Court did not err in finding that petitioner cannot deduct his legal expenses incurred litigating to recover on his ex-wife's indebtedness as expenses for the production of income under 26 U.S.C. 212(1). However, the court concluded that petitioner is entitled to a reasonable cause and good faith defense for his understatement attributable to deducting his trading agreement legal fees under section 162(a) rather than section 212. View "Ray v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law

Posted in: Tax Law
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The Fifth Circuit previously ruled that One Tech waived its right to arbitrate plaintiffs' state law claims in a class action alleging that One Tech duped consumers into signing for "free" credit reports that were not really free. Here, the court considered whether One Tech also waived its right to arbitrate federal claims added after remand. The court followed its precedent holding that waivers of arbitral rights are evaluated on a claim-by-claim basis and held that One Tech did not waive its right to arbitrate the new federal claims. The court concluded that the district court erred in holding otherwise. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Forby v. One Technologies, LP" on Justia Law

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This case arose from an alleged international conspiracy to secure lucrative oil and gas contracts in Nigeria in exchange for bribes involving real estate, furniture, artwork, and other gifts. LightRay, the sole shareholder of the corporate owner of the yacht, M/Y Galactica Star, appeals the district court's 2018 order striking its claims and dismissing it for lack of standing. Enron Nigeria, a judgment creditor of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, appeals the district court's 2020 order granting a consent motion that resulted in the forfeiture of the yacht.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling with respect to LightRay's appeal and dismissed Enron Nigeria's appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that LightRay deliberately withdrew its claim against the yacht and waived its argument that it did so under duress. Furthermore, the district court did not err in dismissing LightRay from the proceedings for lack of standing with respect to the Remaining Assets. The court also concluded that Nigeria's Verified Claim was at all times immune from attachment and execution under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. In this case, Nigeria did not waive its sovereign immunity by encouraging the United States Government to sell the Galactica Star. View "United States v. LightRay Capital, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit principally seeking an injunction against the Texas court system to prevent any Texas court from entertaining suits under Senate Bill 8, which authorizes private civil actions against persons who abort an unborn child with a detectable fetal heartbeat. The motions at issue arise out of defendants' appeal of the district court's denial of their motions to dismiss the case on jurisdictional grounds.The Fifth Circuit previously denied plaintiffs' emergency motion for injunction pending appeal, which was premised on plaintiffs' argument that the district court's Eleventh Amendment immunity ruling was correct, and now explained the grounds for its actions. The court concluded that SB 8 emphatically precludes enforcement by any state, local, or agency officials, and thus defendant officials lack any "enforcement connection" to SB 8 and are not amenable to suit under Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908).In regard to Mark Lee Dickson's appeal, the court concluded that jurisdictional issues presented in the proceedings against Dickson are related to the issues presented in the state officials' collateral-order appeal. Therefore, the notice of appeal divested the district court of jurisdiction over Dickson as well as the officials. Accordingly, the court denied plaintiffs' motion to dismiss Dickson's appeal; granted Dickson's motion to stay the district court proceedings pending appeal; and expedited the appeal to the next available oral argument panel. View "Whole Woman's Health v. Jackson" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of the City's motion to dismiss for lack of standing an action brought by plaintiff, a professional musician and accordionist, challenging three City ordinances which restrict busking in Houston. Plaintiff alleges that the ordinances violate his First Amendment right to free expression.The court agreed with plaintiff that the district court adopted an erroneously restrictive pleading standard for his First Amendment claim. The court concluded that, in pre-enforcement cases alleging a violation of the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause, the Supreme Court has recognized that chilled speech or self-censorship is an injury sufficient to confer standing. The court explained that a plaintiff bringing such a challenge need not have experienced "an actual arrest, prosecution, or other enforcement action" to establish standing. In this case, the complaint alleged that plaintiff intends to engage in conduct arguably affected with a constitutional interest; plaintiff's desired conduct is arguably proscribed by the ordinances; and he previously received a busking permit from the City—indicating recent enforcement of the permitting provision—which bolsters his entitlement to the substantial-threat-of-enforcement presumption. Therefore, plaintiff has adequately pleaded a justiciable injury and has standing to maintain his lawsuit at this stage. The court remanded for further proceedings. The court dismissed plaintiff's appeal of the district court's order denying his motion for reconsideration or leave to amend as moot. View "Barilla v. City of Houston" on Justia Law