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

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The Fifth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision dismissing petitioners' appeal of the IJ's denial of their application for relief under, inter alia, the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Petitioners alleged that their due process rights were infringed when the IJ failed to develop the record with respect to their CAT claim and argued that this warrants remand for further consideration. Assuming without deciding that a due process violation occurred, the court held that petitioners failed to show that the outcome of the proceedings would have been different if the IJ had developed the record further. View "Arteaga-Ramirez v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Golden Spread and Westport's tort claims against Emerson. The claims arose after Emerson installed a new control system for Golden Spread and the control system's software had been programmed incorrectly. The court held that the economic loss rule, which prevents recovery in tort for purely economic damage unaccompanied by injury to persons or property, is applicable in this case. The court reasoned that the Texas Supreme Court would conclude that the risk suffered here is better addressed in contract than in tort. In this case, the parties are sophisticated, commercial actors that actually did negotiate over the allocation of risk. Furthermore, the parties themselves were in the best position to understand and allocate the risks of their transaction ahead of time to resolve any ambiguities in the application of that rule to their circumstances. View "Golden Spread Electric Cooperative v. Emerson Process Management Power & Water Solutions" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts
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The Fifth Circuit granted a writ of mandamus directing vacatur of the district court's issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) against executive order GA-09 as applied to abortion procedures. In order to preserve critical medical resources during the escalating COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor of Texas issued GA-09, which postpones non-essential surgeries and procedures until 11:59 p.m. on April 21, 2020. The court held that the drastic and extraordinary remedy of mandamus was warranted in this case because the district court ignored the framework governing emergency public health measures, like GA-09, in Jacobson v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905); the district court wrongly declared GA-09 an "outright ban" on previability abortions and exempted all abortion procedures from its scope, rather than apply the Jacobson framework to decide whether GA-09 lacks a "real or substantial relation" to the public health crisis or whether it is "beyond all question, a plain, palpable invasion" of the right to abortion; the district court failed to apply the undue-burden analysis in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 857 (1992), and thus failed to balance GA-09's temporary burdens on abortion against its benefits in thwarting a public health crisis; and the district court usurped the state's authority to craft emergency health measures, substituting instead its own view of the efficacy of applying GA-09 to abortion. Therefore, the court found that the requirements for a writ of mandamus are satisfied in light of the extraordinary nature of these errors, the escalating spread of COVID-19, and the state's critical interest in protecting the public health. View "In re: Gregg Abbott" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's dismissal of his 42 U.S.C. 1983 complaint based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1). Plaintiff alleged that the Board of the HCC violated his First Amendment right to free speech when the Board publicly censured him. The Fifth Circuit held that plaintiff's allegations established standing and a state law claim for relief under section 1983 for a First Amendment violation. In this case, plaintiff alleged that the censure was issued to punish him for exercising his free speech rights and caused him mental anguish. Under the court's precedent, plaintiff's allegation of retaliatory censure is enough to establish an injury in fact. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded the section 1983 claim for damages for further proceedings. However, plaintiff's claims for declaratory and injunctive relief were moot because he is no longer a Board trustee. Therefore, the court granted HCC's motion for partial dismissal of plaintiff's appeal, instructing the district court to dismiss plaintiff's claims for declaratory and injunctive relief after remand. View "Wilson v. Houston Community College System" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit in Louisiana state court seeking substantial damages against one out-of-state defendant and two in-state defendants. The out-of-state defendant was served with process and immediately removed the case to federal court before the in-state defendants were served. The district court denied plaintiff's motion to remand and entered judgment on the pleadings, dismissing plaintiff's claims with prejudice. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that a non-forum defendant may remove an otherwise removable case even when a named defendant who has yet to be "properly joined and served" is a citizen of the forum state. Therefore, the case was properly retained in federal court. The court also held that the relief, purported harm, and alleged wrongdoing here show that plaintiff's claims, at heart, are in fact an unauthorized collateral attack on the arbitration. Accordingly, the district court correctly dismissed the challenge. Finally, the court denied plaintiff's motion to supplement the record, because the evidence would not change that Section 10 of the Federal Arbitration Act was the appropriate means of challenging the arbitrators' acts, and collateral attacks are not allowed. View "Texas Brine Co., LLC v. American Arbitration Ass'n, Inc." on Justia Law

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In an international oil and gas dispute, this appeal challenges the order confirming a private tribunal award of $147 million. At issue was whether an allegedly undisclosed change in the place of incorporation of one party from Texas to Delaware means there was never an agreement to arbitrate. After determining that the district court had jurisdiction to resolve the lawsuit, the Fifth Circuit upheld the order confirming the arbitration award and rejected Ukrnafta's defenses under the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. The court held that Ukrnafta consented to the arbitration despite Carpatsky's twice identifying itself as a Delaware company, and thus its capacity defense under Article V(1)(a) failed; Ukrnafta's argument, under Article V(1)(b), that American courts cannot enforce the award because it was unable to present its case failed, where Ukrnafta has not identified anything about the arbitration that was fundamentally unfair; Ukrnafta's claims under Article V(1)(c) that the award exceeded the terms of submission were rejected; Ukrnafta's claims under the Article V nonrecognition factors were waived; enforcing the award would further American policy, rather than be contrary to public policy under Article V(2)(b); and Ukrnafta's manifest disregard defense failed. Likewise, the doctrine of claim preclusion would reach the same result with state law claims. View "OJSC Ukrnafta v. Carpatsky Petroleum Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the United States and others, alleging violations of the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and seeking monetary damages associated with their loss of livestock following the implementation of a temporary fever tick quarantine. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that plaintiffs' claims were barred by the quarantine exception to the FTCA. The quarantine exception states that the statute's sovereign immunity waiver does not apply to any claim for damages caused by the imposition or establishment of a quarantine by the United States. In this case, plaintiffs' damages were caused by the implementation of the quarantine and thus defendants' challenged actions fell within the exception. View "Cascabel Cattle Co., LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff filed suit against Portfolio under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and state law, the parties reached a settlement that forgave plaintiff's debt and awarded him $1,000 in damages. The district court then determined that plaintiff's attorneys did not settle his lawsuit quickly enough and consequently sanctioned them. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's sanction order, holding that the district court abused its discretion by awarding attorney's fees sua sponte under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11. Furthermore, the reasons the district court proffered for sanctions were meritless. Because the district court judge was not biased against plaintiff, the court affirmed the denial of plaintiff's recusal motion. In this case, the judge's ire was clearly directed at the attorneys, not plaintiff. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, remanding for further proceedings. View "Tejero v. Portfolio Recovery Assoc., LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics
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Plaintiff filed suit against the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, alleging disability discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Rehabilitation Act. At issue in this appeal is the enforceability of the parties' settlement agreement. The Fifth Circuit held that the district court properly exercised jurisdiction to decide the motions to enforce and subsequent motion for reconsideration; the district court did not err in concluding that the settlement agreement does not allow plaintiff to receive $150,000 because she has not elected disability retirement; and the district court must hold an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the settlement agreement is enforceable. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for the district court to consider whether the settlement is valid and enforceable, or whether a mutual mistake warrants rescinding it. View "Wise v. Wilkie" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied the petition for review of the BIA's final order dismissing petitioner's appeal from the IJ's denial of her claims for asylum, withholding of removal, and Convention Against Torture (CAT) relief. The court held that the BIA and the IJ did not err in considering petitioner's credible fear interview when determining her lack of credibility; the court lacked jurisdiction to review petitioner's challenge to the standard of review applied by the BIA in upholding the IJ's adverse credibility determination; to the extent petitioner asserts that the BIA must rely on all of the IJ's findings in support of an adverse credibility determination, she points to no authority to support this proposition; and, considering the totality of the circumstances, no factfinder was compelled to conclude that petitioner was credible. View "Avelar-Oliva v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law