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

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The burden of proof for the four factor test that prosecutors must satisfy before a court may compel the medication of the accused in Sell v. United States, 539 U.S. 166 (2003), is by clear and convincing evidence, not just by the preponderance of the evidence. The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's judgment, because it was not clear from the record what burden of proof the district court applied and in light of the sensitivity of the interest involved. The court remanded for the district court to apply the clear and convincing evidence standard. View "United States v. James" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's sentence after defendant pleaded guilty to providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. The court held that the district court committed procedural error in concluding, as a matter of law, that the terrorism enhancement did not apply and therefore failed to determine whether, as a factual matter, the enhancement applies. Because the error was not harmless, the court vacated the original sentence and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Khan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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After O.W. was withdrawn from school, the administrative hearing officer found that the school district violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and awarded O.W. two years of private school tuition. The district court affirmed and the school district appealed. The Fifth Circuit held that the IDEA's text and structure, including its implementing regulations, compel a conclusion that the child find and expedited evaluation requirements are separate and independent such that a violation of the latter does not mean a violation of the former. Therefore, the district court erred to the extent it held otherwise. The court also held that the continued use of behavioral interventions was not a proactive step toward compliance with the school district's child find duties, and thus a child find violation occurred. In regard to claims that the district court failed to implement O.W.'s individualized education program (IEP), the district court did not err in finding that the use of the take-discipline was a significant or substantial departure from the IEP; the district court erred in concluding that eight instances of physical restraints violated O.W.'s IEP; and the single instance of police involvement did not rise to the level of an actionable violation. Furthermore, the district court correctly concluded the May 18, 2015, modification rose to the level of an actionable violation, but erred in finding the May 6, 2015, modification represented an actionable failure to implement O.W.'s IEP. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the remedy issue for reconsideration. View "Spring Branch Independent School District v. O.W." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner, who was convicted of attempted aggravated robbery and being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court rejected petitioner's claim that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his trial attorney failed to conduct a sufficient pretrial investigation. In this case, petitioner failed to show prejudice under Strickland v. Washington or other clearly established federal law, because he did not allege what a sufficient investigation would have uncovered or how it would have changed his trial outcome. View "Adekeye v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence for several health-care-related offenses in connection with recruiting and transporting individuals to Texas Tender Care (TTC) for treatment. The court held that the district court did not err by applying a two-level sentencing enhancement for offenses involving more than ten victims under USSG 2B1.1(b)(2)(A)(i); an eighteen-level enhancement for losses of more than $3.5 million under USSG 2B1.1(b)(1)(J); and a three-level enhancement for loss to a government healthcare program of more than $7 million under USSG 2B1.1(b)(7)(B)(ii). View "United States v. Ainabe" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Plaintiffs filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against a prison nurse, alleging that she violated Paul Cleveland's Fourteenth Amendment rights. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of summary judgment and held that defendant was entitled to qualified immunity. In this case, given the lack of evidence about defendant's subjective awareness of a substantial risk of serious harm to Cleveland, plaintiffs could not show a constitutional violation. Furthermore, plaintiffs failed to show a potential violation of clearly established law. View "Cleveland v. Bell" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit held that petitioner's prior Texas conviction for possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver was a violation of a state law "relating to a controlled substance" as defined in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Therefore, the court held that petitioner failed to show that the BIA erred in finding that his Texas drug delivery conviction rendered him removable. The court also held that it lacked jurisdiction to review the BIA's discretionary decision to deny cancellation of removal. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review of the BIA's decision affirming the IJ's finding of removability and discretionary denial of petitioner's application for cancellation of removal. View "Padilla v. Bar" on Justia Law

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Baker Hughes filed suit against UE for breach of contract and express and implied warranties after a containerized air booster compressor manufactured by UE ruptured and injured a Baker Hughes contractor. The express warranty pertinent to the claims at issue was contained in section 28 of the LOGIC Terms. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of UE, holding that this was a claim of breach of warranty, not breach of contract; the express warranty for defects correction expired, taking with it Baker Hughes's remedy for the defective booster; the implied warranties were displaced by Section 28's express warranty and by Section 4.3's complete allocation of responsibility for the boosters' design to Baker Hughes; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by awarding monetary sanctions against Baker Hughes in light of its delay in shipping the valve at issue. View "Baker Hughes Process & Pipeline Services, LLC v. UE Compression, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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Petitioner filed a 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition for habeas relief seeking reinstatement of his earned-release supervision (ERS) and trusty time. The district court dismissed the petition for failure to exhaust state remedies and denied Montalto's unopposed motions for sanctions and contempt, as well as criticized MDOC and its counsel for disregarding orders for production and not properly investigating the circumstances of Montalto's revocations. The Fifth Circuit held that judicial criticism amounting to an actual finding of attorney misconduct is directly appealable. Because the court was unable to determine whether the district court made actual findings of professional misconduct, the court remanded with instructions for the district court to clarify its findings regarding counsel's professional misconduct. View "Montalto v. Mississippi Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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In this Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) contract dispute, the district court determined that the provider had standing to bring this lawsuit because an anti-assignment provision in the plan was ambiguous or, in the alternative, because the anti-assignment provision was rendered unenforceable by a Tennessee statute. The Fifth Circuit held that the plan's anti-assignment clause unambiguously prohibits the beneficiary from assigning his or her right to sue under the plan to a third-party provider. The court also held that the Tennessee statute, Tenn. Code Ann. 56-7-120(a) (2012), was preempted by ERISA. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment on the issue of whether plaintiff had standing to bring this lawsuit; vacated the district court's subsequent judgments; and rendered judgment that the case shall be dismissed based on lack of jurisdiction. View "Dialysis Newco, Inc. v. Community Health Systems Group Health Plan" on Justia Law

Posted in: ERISA