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

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Three individuals and the State of Texas filed a lawsuit seeking to enjoin federal statutes that criminalize the creation of silencers for personal use without paying a $200 excise tax, applying for permission from the federal government, and, if permission is granted, registering the silencer in a federal database and labeling the silencer with a serial number. The plaintiffs argued that these federal regulations violated their Second Amendment rights. In 2021, Texas had enacted a law stating that a firearm suppressor manufactured in Texas and remaining in Texas is not subject to federal law or regulation.The United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas granted summary judgment in favor of the federal government, holding that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring their claims. The court did not address the merits of the plaintiffs' Second Amendment claims.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that the individual plaintiffs failed to demonstrate an injury in fact, a requirement for standing, because they did not express a serious intention to engage in conduct proscribed by law. The court also found that Texas did not have standing to bring the lawsuit. The state's claim that it had a quasi-sovereign interest in its citizens' health and well-being was found to be wholly derivative of the personal Second Amendment interests of its citizens. Furthermore, the court found that Texas's claim that it had a sovereign interest in the power to create and enforce a legal code was not implicated in this case. The court concluded that the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the federal statutes. View "Paxton v. Dettelbach" on Justia Law

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The case involves a trademark dispute between two appliance companies, Appliance Liquidation Outlet, L.L.C. (ALO) and Axis Supply Corporation (Axis). ALO had been operating under its name for over two decades when Axis opened a store in 2021, using a large banner with the words “Appliance Liquidation.” ALO claimed that this led to confusion among customers who believed ALO operated both stores. When Axis refused to change its name, ALO sued for trademark infringement.The district court found that ALO had valid trademarks in the words “Appliance Liquidation Outlet” and “Appliance Liquidation,” and that Axis’s banner infringed those marks. The court ruled in favor of ALO, prohibiting Axis from using ALO’s marks or causing confusion with ALO’s brand, and awarded ALO attorney’s fees.Axis appealed, arguing that the marks were not valid, its banner did not infringe those marks, and the district court erred in awarding ALO attorney’s fees. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit agreed in part, finding that the district court erred in ruling that “Appliance Liquidation” is a valid trademark, but did not err in finding that “Appliance Liquidation Outlet” is a valid mark that Axis’s banner infringed. The court reversed the judgment as to the “Appliance Liquidation” mark, affirmed as to the “Appliance Liquidation Outlet” mark, and vacated the fee award. View "Appliance v. Axis Supply" on Justia Law

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A group of individuals and businesses challenged the Affordable Care Act's requirement for private insurers to cover certain types of preventive care, including contraception, HPV vaccines, and drugs preventing HIV transmission. The plaintiffs argued that the mandates were unlawful because the agencies issuing them violated Article II of the Constitution, as their members were principal officers of the United States who had not been validly appointed under the Appointments Clause. The district court mostly agreed, vacating all agency actions taken to enforce the mandates and issuing both party-specific and universal injunctive relief.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit agreed that the United States Preventive Services Task Force, one of the challenged administrative bodies, was composed of principal officers who had not been validly appointed. However, the court found that the district court erred in vacating all agency actions taken to enforce the preventive-care mandates and in universally enjoining the defendants from enforcing them. The court also held that the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services had not validly cured the Task Force’s constitutional problems.The court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case for further proceedings. The court did not rule on the plaintiffs' challenges against the other two administrative bodies involved in the case, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the Health Resources and Services Administration, reserving judgment on whether the Secretary had effectively ratified their recommendations and guidelines. View "Braidwood Mgmt v. Becerra" on Justia Law

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The case involves Jennifer Sugg, a student who was dismissed from her Certified Registered Nurse Anesthesiology (CRNA) program at Midwestern University after failing several required courses. Sugg sued Midwestern University and EmergencHealth (EH), alleging breach of contract and fraud. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants on all causes of action, and Sugg appealed.Sugg enrolled in Midwestern's CRNA program in 2016. She failed a course in her first semester and was placed on academic leave. After retaking the course and receiving a passing grade, she was placed on academic probation due to her low GPA. Sugg later failed her first clinical rotation course and was dismissed from the program. She appealed the decision, and the dismissal was overturned so she could retake the course. However, after failing another course, she was dismissed again. Sugg appealed this decision as well, but it was upheld by the university's Promotion and Graduation Committee and the Dean of the College of Health Sciences.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision. The court found that Midwestern University did not breach the contract as it followed its guidelines and dismissed Sugg based on her academic performance. The court also found that Sugg failed to show that the university's decision was a substantial departure from accepted academic norms. Regarding the claims against EH, the court found that EH did not interfere with Sugg's contract with Midwestern University and did not make any false or misleading statements. Therefore, the court affirmed the summary judgment in favor of the defendants. View "Sugg v. Midwestern University" on Justia Law

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Randal Hall filed a civil rights case against Officer Travis Trochesset and the City of League City, Texas, alleging constitutional violations following his arrest for interference with a police investigation. The incident began when Hall's wife was involved in a minor car accident. The other driver reported the incident as a hit-and-run, leading to an investigation by Officer Trochesset. When Trochesset arrived at the Halls' home to gather information, Hall, who was not present, instructed his wife over the phone not to provide the requested information to Trochesset. As a result, Trochesset obtained an arrest warrant for Hall for interfering with public duties.The United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas dismissed Hall's suit, ruling in favor of Trochesset and the City of League City. Hall appealed the decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision. The court found that probable cause existed for Hall's arrest, as Hall had interfered with Trochesset's investigation. The court also applied the independent intermediary doctrine, which states that an officer who presents all relevant facts to an impartial intermediary (in this case, a justice of the peace) is not liable if the intermediary's independent decision leads to an arrest. The court found that Trochesset had not withheld any relevant information from the justice of the peace. Furthermore, the court ruled that Hall failed to establish that Trochesset violated the Fourth or Fourteenth Amendments. The court also dismissed Hall's claim against the City of League City, as there was no constitutional violation by Trochesset, and Hall failed to identify an official policy or custom that led to the alleged violation. The court rejected Hall's argument to discontinue the application of the qualified immunity doctrine, stating that it is bound by the Fifth Circuit rule of orderliness to follow established precedent. View "Hall v. Trochessett" on Justia Law

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Three Black citizens of Caddo Parish, Louisiana, Darryl Carter, Diane Johnson, and Theresa Hawthorne, were struck from jury duty during voir dire in 2015. They alleged that their removal violated the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, claiming that the Caddo Parish prosecutors peremptorily struck them based on their race. The plaintiffs joined an ongoing litigation challenging the Caddo District Attorney's alleged custom of racially biased peremptory strikes. They sued District Attorney James E. Stewart, in his official capacity, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.The district court dismissed all plaintiffs except Carter, Johnson, and Hawthorne. The District Attorney then moved for summary judgment, which the district court granted. The plaintiffs appealed this decision, leading to a de novo review by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that the plaintiffs could not establish a predicate constitutional violation, which is necessary for a Monell claim. The prosecutors had provided race-neutral explanations for each plaintiff's dismissal. For Carter, the prosecutor noted his expressed bias against evidence from Shreveport. For Johnson, the prosecutor highlighted her potential bias against the police department due to a family member's felony conviction. For Hawthorne, the prosecutor found her colloquies with defense counsel problematic due to her preconceived notions about firearm possession. The court found these explanations sufficient and not merely pretexts for race-based dismissals. The court also noted that the plaintiffs' statistical evidence did not prove discriminatory motive. Without an underlying Equal Protection claim, the plaintiffs' Monell claim failed. View "Pipkins v. Stewart" on Justia Law

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The case involves a group of civil rights organizations, voters, and an election official who sought to challenge recent amendments to Texas's election code, alleging that these amendments violated the United States Constitution and several federal statutes. The defendant was the District Attorney for Harris County, sued in her official capacity. The district court denied the District Attorney's motion to dismiss, holding that she was not immune from the plaintiffs' constitutional claims and that the plaintiffs had standing to bring their claims against her.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that it had jurisdiction to hear the appeal and that the district court should have dismissed the plaintiffs' constitutional claims as barred by sovereign immunity. The court did not reach the issue of standing. The court reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded the case for further proceedings.The court's decision was based on the principle of sovereign immunity, which generally protects state officials from being sued in their official capacities. However, there is an exception to this rule, known as the Ex parte Young exception, which allows federal courts to enjoin state officials from enforcing unconstitutional state statutes. The court found that the District Attorney did not have a sufficient connection to the enforcement of the challenged laws to fall within this exception. Therefore, the court concluded that the District Attorney was immune from the plaintiffs' constitutional claims. View "Mi Familia Vota v. Ogg" on Justia Law

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A group of business associations, including the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, challenged a new Final Rule issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regarding credit card late fees. The plaintiffs argued that the district court had abused its discretion by transferring their challenge to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The case had a complex procedural history, with the district court transferring venue twice under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The first transfer was reversed by a different panel because the district court lacked jurisdiction to transfer the case while the plaintiffs' appeal of the denial of its preliminary-injunction motion was pending.The district court in the Northern District of Texas had initially transferred the case to the District of Columbia, but this decision was challenged by the plaintiffs. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals had previously issued a writ of mandamus because the district court lacked jurisdiction to transfer the case while the plaintiffs' appeal of the denial of its preliminary-injunction motion was pending. The district court then transferred the case again, this time under § 1404(a), which allows for transfer for the convenience of parties and witnesses and in the interest of justice.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that the district court had misapplied the controlling § 1404(a) standard for transferring cases and that the transfer order was a clear abuse of discretion. The court granted the plaintiffs' petition for a writ of mandamus and directed the district court to vacate its transfer order. The court found that the district court had erred in considering the convenience of counsel and in finding that D.C. residents had a localized interest in the case. The court also noted that the district court's familiarity with the case due to a preliminary injunction did not lessen the weight of the court congestion factor in favor of transfer. View "In Re: Chamber of Commerce" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Deborah Strickland, an employee of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), who was suspended for 15 days without pay following a series of incidents involving her supervisor. Strickland appealed her suspension to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), claiming disability discrimination. The MSPB refused to consider the entire disciplinary decision after determining one part of the decision was correct. Strickland then appealed to the district court, which affirmed the MSPB's decision.The district court upheld the MSPB's decision and dismissed Strickland's Rehabilitation Act claims. Strickland then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The Court of Appeals found that the MSPB erred in refusing to review the VA's entire disciplinary decision and that both the MSPB and the VA erred by failing to analyze the non-exhaustive factors articulated in Douglas v. Veterans Admin. The Court of Appeals vacated the district court's and the MSPB's orders, reversed the district court in part, and remanded to the district court with instructions to remand to the MSPB for additional proceedings consistent with its opinion. View "Strickland v. Wilkie" on Justia Law

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The case involves two casino operators, PNK (Baton Rouge) Partnership, PNK Development 8 LLC, PNK Development 9 LLC, and Centroplex Centre Convention Hotel, LLC, who incentivize their patrons with rewards, including complimentary hotel stays. The City of Baton Rouge/Parish of East Baton Rouge Department of Finance and Linda Hunt, its director, discovered through an audit that the operators had not remitted state and local taxes associated with these complimentary stays for several years. The City argued that the operators needed to pay these taxes, while the operators presented various arguments as to why they did not. The City filed a lawsuit in state court, which the operators removed to federal court on diversity jurisdiction grounds.The operators' removal of the case to federal court was challenged by the City, which argued that the tax abstention doctrine (TAD) warranted abstention in this case. The United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana agreed with the City, finding that all five TAD factors favored abstention: Louisiana's wide regulatory latitude over its taxation structure, the lack of heightened federal court scrutiny required by the operators' due process rights invocation, the potential for the operators to seek an improved competitive position in the federal court system, the greater familiarity of Louisiana courts with the state's tax regime and legislative intent, and the constraints on remedies available in federal court due to the Tax Injunction Act.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the District Court's decision. The Appeals Court found that the District Court had correctly applied the TAD and had not abused its discretion in deciding to abstain. The Appeals Court agreed that all five TAD factors favored abstention and that any doubt about the propriety of removal should be resolved in favor of remand. View "City of Baton Rouge v. PNK" on Justia Law