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

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of defendant's motion to suppress cell-site location information (CSLI), declaring the court order and warrant void. The Supreme Court held in Carpenter v. United States that if the government wants CSLI it needs a valid search warrant. On the same day Carpenter was decided, federal prosecutors in this case applied for the search warrant for the CSLI they already had. The court held that the Krull strand of the good-faith exception properly applies to the 2015 CSLI, since it was obtained pursuant to a pre-Carpenter warrantless order authorized by statute. The court stated that the government pursued the statutory order in good faith, and thus the CSLI should not have been suppressed. In regard to the 2014 CSLI, the court held that the Leon strand of the good-faith exception applied because those records were first sought and obtained under a post-Carpenter search warrant. The court stated that the government acted in good faith when applying for the search warrant and, even if the government did not act in good faith, the warrant was supported by probable cause. Finally, the court held that any suppression of toll records and subscriber information under Carpenter was erroneous because Carpenter only applies to evidence that can be used to track a person's physical movements over time. View "United States v. Beverly" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Fifth Circuit denied TDCJ's motion to vacate the district court's order granting Texas death row inmate Patrick Henry Murphy's motion seeking to stay his execution. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the stay and agreed with the district court's implicit finding that Murphy had a strong likelihood of success on the merits of his claim that the TDCJ policy violates his rights by allowing inmates who share the same faith as TDCJ-employed clergy greater access to a spiritual advisor in the death house. The court held that Murphy's claim was timely, and rejected TDCJ's exhaustion argument. View "Murphy v. Collier" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the Texas Secretary of State and the Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, alleging that the DPS System violates the Equal Protection Clause and the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment declaring defendants in violation of the Equal Protection Clause and the NVRA, holding that plaintiffs lacked Article III standing to pursue their claims. The court held that plaintiffs have not established a substantial risk that they will attempt to update their voter registrations using the DPS System and be injured by their inability to do so. Therefore, plaintiffs have not established an injury in fact sufficient to confer standing to pursue declaratory and injunctive relief. Furthermore, the capable-of-repetition-yet-evading-review doctrine was not implicated by plaintiffs' claims. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's injunction and remanded with instructions to dismiss the complaint. View "Stringer v. Whitley" on Justia Law

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In this breach of contract action, the parties dispute the district court's damages award. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's holding that Bank of the West was not entitled to contractual liquidated damages, but vacated the district court's alternative damages award and remanded for recalculation. Although the court agreed with the district court that the liquidated damages provision of the parties' contract was unenforceable because it contravened the Louisiana Lease of Movables Act, the court held that the district court erred by basing its alternative damages calculation on the expectations of the lessor's assignee, Bank of the West, rather than those of the original lessor, Summit Funding Group. View "Bank of the West v. Prince" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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After plaintiff, an employee of Centaur, was injured while offloading a generator from a crew boat to a barge, he filed suit against the owner and operator of the boat (River Ventures) and Centaur for vessel negligence under general maritime law and the Jones Act. River Ventures cross-claimed against Centaur for contractual indemnity, and the district court granted summary judgment to Centaur. The Fifth Circuit reversed, holding that the district court misapplied In re Larry Doiron, Inc., 879 F.3d 568 (5th Cir.) (en banc), cert. denied, 138 S. Ct. 2033 (2018), and erroneously concluded that the Dock Contract at issue was non-maritime. The court held that Doiron's two-part test applied as written to all mixed-services contracts: in order to be maritime, a contract must be for services to facilitate activity on navigable waters and must provide, or the parties must expect, that a vessel will play a substantial role in the completion of the contract. Applying the Doiron test, the court held that the Dock Contract at issue required services to be performed to facilitate the loading, offloading, and transportation of coal and petroleum coke via vessels on navigable waters. Furthermore, Doiron's second prong was satisfied where the Dock Contract made clear that the parties expected DB-582 to play a significant role in the completion of the work. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Barrios v. Centaur, LLC" on Justia Law

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These consolidated actions arose from fatal injuries suffered by James Andrew Brenek, II when he was electrocuted by an electrically-energized generator housing cabinet on a rig in Jefferson County, Texas. Brenek was employed by Guichard, which had leased the generator involved in the accident from Aggreko. Guichard had a primary commercial liability policy with Gray and an excess commercial liability policy with Chartis. Aggreko had a primary insurance policy with Indian Harbor. Indian Harbor appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Gray, and Gray conditionally appealed the district court's decision to apply Texas, rather than Louisiana, law to the issues before it. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, concluding that the outcome of the dispute would be the same under both Texas and Louisiana law. Therefore, the court need not engage in a conflict-of-laws analysis and applied Texas law. Under Texas law, the court held that Gray exhausted its policy limit and its duty to defend Aggreko when it paid $950,000—the remainder of its liability coverage limit—to the Breneks in exchange for the Breneks agreement not to execute any judgment against Aggreko and to recognize Aggreko's entitlement to claim a $950,000 damages credit. View "Aggreko, LLC v. Chartis Specialty Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after she was convicted of mail fraud, wire fraud, theft of public money, aggravated identity theft, and unlawful monetary transactions. The court held that the district court did not clearly err by applying a two level sentencing enhancement under USSG 3C1.1 for obstruction of justice. In light of the factual findings of this case, the district court concluded that defendant obstructed a governmental investigation that was in progress or would be coming about. View "United States v. Stubblefield" on Justia Law

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Coleman challenged the Commission's decision that its 18 working-days-late response to a citation notice that had been misplaced in the company's internal mail system demonstrated inexcusable neglect and barred the company from contesting the citations for nearly $70,000. The Fifth Circuit held that the Commission's decision misapplied Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), which applied under the Commission's own regulations. The court held that the equities weighed in favor of the Company having an opportunity to assert its defenses in OSHA's administrative proceedings. Therefore, the Commission's contrary determination denying relief from the untimely filing was legally in error and an abuse of discretion. Accordingly, the court vacated that decision, remanding for a hearing on the merits of the OSHA violations. View "Coleman Hammons Construction Co. v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission" on Justia Law

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While SEC's enforcement action against defendants was pending, the Supreme Court decided Kokesh v. SEC, 137 S. Ct. 1635, 1643 (2017), which held that disgorgement in SEC proceedings is a "penalty" under 28 U.S.C. 2462 and thus subject to a five-year statute of limitations. The Fifth Circuit held that Kokesh did not overrule the court's established precedent recognizing district courts' authority to order disgorgement in SEC enforcement proceedings. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's disgorgement order. The court also held that the district court did not deprive defendants of discovery; the district court did not abuse its discretion by ruling on the SEC's remedies motion without holding an evidentiary hearing; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining the amount of disgorgement in this case. View "SEC v. Team Resources Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Securities Law
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The Fifth Circuit denied a petition for panel rehearing and withdrew its prior opinion, substituting the following opinion. At issue was whether a claimant in a civil forfeiture proceeding may counterclaim for constitutional tort damages against the United States. The district court adopted the First Circuit's reasoning and held that a claimant may never file counterclaims of any kind. The court affirmed the district court's judgment, dismissing the counterclaims for a different reason. The court found the First Circuit's reasoning unpersuasive and declined to adopt it. Rather, the court held that the United States has not waived sovereign immunity for claims seeking damages based on alleged Fourth and Fifth Amendment violations arising from the property seizure. View "United States v. $4,480,466.16 in Funds Seized from Bank of America Account Ending in 2653" on Justia Law