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After a successful plugging and abandonment operation of three offshore oil and gas wells, Apache sought payment from its non-operator partner, W&T. The jury subsequently awarded Apache $43.2 million for W&T's breach of the Joint Operating Agreement (JOA). The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of W&T's motion for judgment as a matter of law, holding that Louisiana Civil Code Article 2003 did not bar Apache's entitlement to damages. The court affirmed the district court's denial of W&T's motion for summary judgment, holding that the jury needed to resolve the question of the parties' intent in light of the ambiguity of Section 6.2 of the JOA. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's denial of W&T's motion for entry of judgment and motion for a new trial, because W&T was not entitled to an offset. View "Apache Deepwater, LLC v. W & T Offshore, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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Appellants, pro se, asserted interests in a convicted criminal defendant's property that was subject to criminal forfeiture and criminal restitution. The district court denied their motions for ancillary hearings and return of property. The Fifth Circuit applied the standard of review under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12 to the pleading-stage dismissal of a petition for an ancillary proceeding; held that appellants' appeals were timely because the deadline for a civil notice of appeal applied; held that Appellant Huma's petition for ancillary hearing did not state a claim under 21 U.S.C. 853(n), where she has not demonstrated the existence of the necessary written security agreement to establish her as a secured creditor with a lien on the cash or devices, and she cannot demonstrate that she is a bona fide purchaser for value of that property; and held that Appellant Salahuddin presented no persuasive allegation that he has a priority claim to the cash senior to the restitution lien of the United States, but has adequately alleged a secured interest in the devices at issue. Therefore, the court vacated in part, remanded in part, and otherwise affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Butt" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's denial of defendant's motion for a special discovery hearing concerning the adequacy of trial counsel's representation and the district court's decision to decline to recharacterize the discovery motion as a 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion. The court held that the district court abused its discretion in declining to recharacterize defendant's special discovery motion as a section 2255 motion because it failed to construe the motion liberally and denied him the protections of the Great Writ. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded, expressing no view on the merits. View "United States v. Elam" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the employer on plaintiff's claims of discrimination based on age, disability, and national origin. The court held that an intake questionnaire, which does not contain a clear and concise statement of facts alleging unlawful employment practices, was insufficient to constitute a charge of discrimination. Therefore, plaintiff filed an untimely charge of discrimination which resulted in his failure to properly exhaust his administrative remedies. The court also held that equitable tolling did not apply in this case because plaintiff did not act with due diligence. View "Caycho Melgar v. T.B. Butler Publishing Co." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for distributing crack cocaine, aiding and abetting possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine, and conspiring to distribute powder and crack cocaine. The court held that the district court did not err in denying defendant's motion to suppress where exigent circumstances existed justifying the warrantless search, and the officers did not create the exigency. In this case, after officers knocked on defendant's motel room, they heard running throughout the room and the sound of a toilet flushing, which could reasonably suggest that the room's occupants were attempting to destroy evidence. The court also held that the district court did not commit harmful error by not requiring an adverse witness to testify, because the Sixth Amendment did not require the witness to testify. Finally, the court held that the evidence was sufficient to convict defendant, and rejected defendant's remaining contentions. View "United States v. Daniels" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision affirming the IJ's denial of petitioner's application for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). The court held that the BIA did not abuse its discretion in denying petitioner's motion to reconsider because supporting authority was wholly absent from his motion — other than the regulatory standard of review for questions of law. The court also held that substantial evidence supported the BIA' finding that petitioner did not suffer past persecution by gang threats to his family where his entire family still lived in El Salvador and have experienced no problems with the gang. Substantial evidence also supported the BIA's finding that petitioner lacked a well-founded fear of future persecution where, combined with his family's continued safety, petitioner admitted that he never attempted to relocate within his home country. View "Cruz v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for taking action that was designed to prevent or hamper his removal from the United States, in violation of 8 U.S.C. 1253(a)(1)(C). The court held that the relevant statutory phrase, "connives or conspires, or takes any other action," contains none of the contextual fuses that trigger the statutory canons of construction ejusdem generis and noscitur a sociis. Rather, the court held that the phrase's structure conveys that "takes any other action" has independent meaning, which easily encompasses defendant's solo efforts to thwart his removal. The court also held that an officer's testimony that airline personnel denied defendant boarding did not implicate the Confrontation Clause, and, even if it did, any error was harmless. View "United States v. Buluc" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit declined to reach the merits in this contract dispute, because the parties have failed to establish diversity citizenship. In this case, there was no evidence on the record of the parties' citizenship. Accordingly, the court remanded to the district court to allow it to consider additional evidence regarding jurisdiction. View "MidCap Media Finance, LLC v. Pathway Data, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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Defendant-cross claimant alleged that the city attorney violated his First Amendment right to petition for redress of grievances as well as his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection. The Fifth Circuit declined to reach the merits of the city attorney's qualified immunity defense to these arguments because defendant-cross claimant lacked standing to assert either. In this case, defendant-cross claimant's procedural injury did not impact any concrete interest and thus he lacked standing to claim that the city attorney violated his First Amendment right to petition. Furthermore, defendant-claimant did not encounter any barrier erected by the city attorney in the processing of the petition, and thus did not have standing to bring his equal protection claim. View "City of Hearne v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed in part, affirmed with modification in part, and vacated in part an injunction remedying certain constitutional deficiencies in Texas's foster care system. The court previously found that DFPS's policies violated plaintiffs' substantive due process rights by maintaining overburdened caseworkers who are responsible for the children in the permanent management conservatorship (PMC), and by failing to adequately monitor and oversee the children in the licensed foster care (LFC) subclass. The court affirmed the 24-hour-supervision requirement with the modification that it applied only to LFC placements, not unlicensed placements; vacated the face-to-face provision as being inconsistent with Stukenberg I; affirmed workload study provisions and rejected the State's argument that DFPS should be able to determine on its own how many cases, on average, caseworkers, and RCCL investigators can safely carry; invalidated the integrated computer system requirement and the accompanying access provision; vacated the court's expressed validation of the integrated computer system; vacated the missing medical records provision because there was no longer a justification for the provision; affirmed the remote access provision but modified the injunction to require that any of the Monitors' staff and consultants who have unrestricted, remote access to DFPS's systems be qualified to handle the information, be taught how to use the systems, and be given confidentiality agreements; and vacated the injunctive provision dealing with the previous third party studies. Finally, the court held that the State's objections to the modified injunction's termination provisions were waived, and the court declined to lift the stay in full. View "M.D. v. Abbott" on Justia Law