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

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CAE Integrated L.L.C. and Capital Asset Exchange and Trading, L.L.C. (collectively CAE) sued its former employee and his current employer, Moov, for misappropriation of trade secrets and then moved for a preliminary injunction. The district court denied the preliminary injunction and CAE appealed.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed the denial finding that CAE failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits of its claims. The court considered that trade secret information derives independent economic value from being not generally known or readily ascertainable through proper means. What CAE refers to as the “transactional documents” are files from Google Drive with purchase orders, invoices, customer equipment needs, and pricing history. The former employee has not had access to his MacBook since 2016 and he testified that Google Drive contained none of the transactional documents when he started at Moov. The district court found the employee’s testimony credible and the forensic analysis confirmed that before the employee began at Moov, he deleted any remaining transactional documents from his Google Drive. Therefore, the district court did not clearly err in finding that neither the employee nor Moov misappropriated trade secrets. Further, even if CAE had established that the employee or Moov misappropriated trade secrets, it failed to show the use or potential use of trade secrets. View "CAE Integrated v. Moov Technologies" on Justia Law

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Defendant pleaded guilty to illegally reentering the United States post-removal in violation of 8 U.S.C. Section 1326(a). He was sentenced to twenty-one months of imprisonment and one year of supervised release. During his sentencing hearing, the district court stated that it was imposing the “standard and mandatory conditions of supervision.” Defendant did not object. The written judgment included the standard risk notification condition contained in U.S.S.G. Section 5D1.3(c)(12). Defendant subsequently appealed the imposition of this condition, claiming that the district court plainly erred by impermissibly delegating its judicial authority to a probation officer.The Fifth Circuit affirmed. In considering United States v. Mejia-Banegas, 32 F.4th 450 (5th Cir. 2022), the court wrote that in that case, the court unequivocally held that the same “risk-notification condition does not impermissibly delegate the court’s judicial authority to the probation officer. The court held that Mejia-Banegas conclusively resolves Defendant’s appeal: The risk-notification condition is not an impermissible delegation of judicial authority. View "USA v. Pinon-Saldana" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Plaintiffs seek to hold Bodum USA, Inc., responsible for an alleged manufacturing defect in one of its French press coffee makers (“the Press”) that they claim caused it to malfunction and injure their young child. The district court granted summary judgment for Bodum, concluding that no reasonable jury could find that the Press deviated from its intended design.The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded. The court explained that a manufacturing defect may be established exclusively through circumstantial evidence and plaintiffs must allege a specific deviation from the product’s intended design that allegedly caused the injury. Here, Plaintiffs show the alleged defect was present when the Press left Bodum’s control, Plaintiffs point to French press coil assemblies advertised on Bodum’s website that also contain an outwardly protruding coil. Moreover, the court wrote that the following evidence creates a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the Press contained a manufacturing defect: (1) testimony from Plaintiffs that they purchased their Press in brand-new condition; (2) a specific alleged defect consisting of a metal coil protruding beyond its mesh enclosure; (3) the district court’s finding that “the metal mesh was intended to completely engulf the metal coil,” which is corroborated by expert testimony; (4) an expert witness who examined the Press, tested it, compared it with two exemplars, and opined that the protruding metal coil deviated from the Press’s intended design, and caused the glass to fracture and ultimately shatter; and (5) the shattering of the Press’s glass carafe allegedly during ordinary use, albeit by a five-year-old child. View "Norman v. Bodum USA" on Justia Law

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In response to sexual abuse allegations by another student, a Texas A&M panel found Plaintiff responsible for violating Texas A&M’s policy. Plaintiff sued Texas A&M and several university administrators for sex discrimination under Title IX and deprivation of constitutional due process under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. The district court ultimately granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s Title IX erroneous outcome and 1983 due process claims. Thus, only Plaintiff’s Title IX selective enforcement claim was allowed to proceed. Plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration, which the district court denied. The district court then certified its rulings for interlocutory appeal on the grounds that they turn on two controlling questions of law.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling and concluded that Texas A&M did not violate Plaintiff’s due process rights. The court explained that Plaintiff received advanced notice of the allegations against him. He was permitted to call witnesses and submit relevant, non-harassing evidence of his innocence to a neutral panel of administrators. He was represented by counsel throughout the entirety of his disciplinary proceeding. He had the benefit of listening to the accuser’s description of the allegations directly. And he and his attorney had the opportunity to submit an unlimited number of questions to the disciplinary panel. View "Van Overdam v. Texas A & M Univ" on Justia Law

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The jury convicted Petitioner and sentenced him to death. After a decade of federal proceedings, including extensive discovery and an evidentiary hearing, the district court issued Petitioner a writ of habeas corpus and granted him a new trial.The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court’s ruling granting Petitioner a writ of habeas corpus and denied him a new trial. The court explained Petitioner “possessed, or by reasonable means could have obtained, a sufficient basis to allege [the ring-of-informants Brady] claim[s] in the first petition and pursue the matter through the [state] habeas process.”. Contrary to the district court’s view, Petitioner did not rebut the state court’s findings on this point at all, much less by clear and convincing evidence as required by the federal habeas statute. See 28 U.S.C. Section 2254(e)(1). Petitioner, therefore, has not shown cause to excuse the default of these claims. And because he has not shown cause, the court wrote, it need not consider prejudice. View "Prible v. Lumpkin" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Petitioner sought habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. Section 2254 pursuant to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA). Following a state trial court’s Judgment of Conviction based on guilty pleas and a much later Order of Sentence (collectively the judgment), Petitioner, under state law, could not take a direct appeal to a state court. Nor did he seek direct review by the Supreme Court of the United States.   He contends the judgment did not become final until the 90-day period expired because Mississippi law prohibited his seeking direct state-court review of his guilty-plea convictions and sentence and, therefore, he instead could have pursued direct review by the Supreme Court of the United States (finality issue).   The Fifth Circuit granted Petitioner a certificate of appealability (COA) on this finality issue, Petitioner did not assert in district court, or in his pro se motion to our court for the COA, that the judgment became final only upon the 90-day period’s expiration. The threshold question before the Fifth Circuit considering this finality issue is whether Petitioner preserved it.   The court held Petitioner’s judgment became final upon the 90-day period’s expiration; and, therefore, his petition was filed timely. Accordingly, it is not necessary to consider Petitioner’s alternative equitable tolling issue, including whether to expand the COA.   In regards to whether Petitioner’s habeas petition was timely. The court explained that the first three steps of plain-error review are satisfied, thus the district court’s error requires reversal because it seriously affects the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial proceedings. View "Wallace v. State of Mississippi" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Petitioner was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. His conviction was affirmed on direct appeal and his state habeas petition was also unsuccessful. Through state habeas counsel, Petitioner filed a motion for the appointment of counsel, under 18 U.S.C. Sec. 3599(a)(2), to assist him in preparing a petition for federal habeas relief. Petitioner identified specific attorneys he wanted to represent him. The district court granted Petitioner's motion for counsel, but appointed an attorney other than those requested by Petitioner. Petitioner subsequently filed a motion under Sec. 3599(a)(2), seeking to substitute his court-appoitned counsel. The district court rejected Petitioner's request, holding he had not offered a sufficient basis for substituting counsel because the court-appointed conflict-free counsel was competent to handle death-penalty matters. Petitioner appealed the court's interlocutory order.On appeal, the Fifth Circuit dismissed Petitioner's appeal. The court noted that it routinely reviews challenges to the denial of a motion to substitute counsel on appeal from a final judgment. Thus, the judgment petitioner challenged did not trigger the court's jurisdiction under the collateral-order doctrine. View "Tracy v. Lumpkin" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a citizen of Mexico, entered the United States in 1990 with a border-crossing card. On August 21, 2014, the DHS initiated a case by issuing Petitioner a notice to appear (“NTA”). The NTA did not state a specific date or time for Petitioner's hearing, noting only that he was to appear before an immigration judge “on a date to be set at a time to be set.” However, the notice provided that Petitioner was given oral notice of the specific date he was supposed to appear. Petitioner appeared, conceded he was removable, and indicated he would seek cancelation of removal on the basis that his children “[would] suffer extreme, unusual and exceptional hardship if [he was] deported.”After the hearing, an immigration judge found that Petitioner did not qualify for cancellation of removal because 1.) he had not proven by a preponderance of the evidence that he had been a person of good moral character for the previous ten years and 2.) he had not met his burden of proving that his children would suffer exceptional and extremely unusual hardship if he were removed to Mexico. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed and Petitioner appealed to the Fifth Circuit.The Fifth Circuit concluded that Petitioner's challenge to the NTA in that it was defective for failing to list the place and time of his removal hearing were unexhausted. Further, the court found that Petitioner's extreme-hardship claim fell outside its jurisdiction. View "Castillo-Gutierrez v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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In this sentencing appeal following a child pornography conviction, Appellant asked the Fifth Circuit to disturb the district court’s revocation judgment, claiming the judge (1) relied on unsworn statements by the prosecutor, and (2) announced conditions of supervised release that conflicted with the written judgment.The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that the record belies both claims. For one, ample evidence supported the prosecutor’s comments—precluding any legitimate claim of plain error. Second, the record reveals that the challenged discrepancy produced nothing more than ambiguity that is resolved by the district court’s clearly expressed intent: reimposition of the original conditions of supervised release. View "USA v. Porter" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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This appeal arises from an enforcement action brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) against Appellants World Tree Financial, L.L.C. (World Tree) and its principals. After a bench trial, the district court found that the principal and World Tree engaged in a fraudulent “cherry-picking” scheme, in which they allocated favorable trades to themselves and favored clients and unfavorable trades to disfavored clients. It also found that all three Appellants made false and misleading statements about the firm’s allocation and trading practices. The court entered permanent injunctions against the principal and World Tree, ordered them to disgorge ill-gotten gains, and imposed civil penalties on each Appellant.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that Liu v. SEC, 140 S. Ct. 1936, 1940 (2020) does not require the district court to conduct its own search for business deductions that Appellants have not identified. Accordingly, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in ordering disgorgement.   The court explained that unlike in Liu, in this case, Appellants did not challenge the SEC’s proposed disgorgement amount in their pretrial or posttrial submissions—instead, they argued only that there was no “basis for disgorgement.” Nor did the principal and World Tree propose specific deduction amounts, either before the district court or to this court. View "SEC v. World Tree" on Justia Law