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The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's judgment in favor of Western in an action alleging breach of three personal guarantees. In this case, defendant signed the guarantee agreements in conjunction with a real estate development project and Western financed the project. Western filed suit against defendant after the borrowers defaulted on the underlying loans and Western foreclosed on the property. The court held that the district court correctly identified the governing law; the two-year limitations period in TEX. PROP. CODE 51.003(a) is procedural and applied insofar as it barred Western's claim for recovery of unpaid debt under the Construction Loan; the district court shall evaluate on remand whether the Mezzanine Loan's promissory note waived notice of acceleration, and in turn, shall examine the ultimate timeliness of the Mezzanine Guarantee claim and its constituent parts under the four-year limitations period; the Completion Guarantee claim was timely; and the court upheld that district court's denial of Western's attorney’s fees and post-foreclosure construction costs. View "Western-Southern Life Assurance Co. v. Kaleh" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of a petition for habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254. The court held that petitioner's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) motion was timely filed and tolled the deadline for filing a notice of appeal until the entry of the order disposing of the motion. The court also held that this case presented one of those "extreme situations" in which the court was justified in finding a violation of the Sixth Amendment based on implied juror bias during the punishment phase of his trial. Although petitioner's conviction for possession of methamphetamine must stand, his sentence of life imprisonment could not. Accordingly, the court remanded with instructions. View "Uranga v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of two counts of forced labor and two counts of harboring an illegal alien for profit. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting the testimony of a government expert witness regarding trauma bonds; the district court did not err by permitting Mosaic Family Services to withhold documents from her under the psychotherapist-patient and attorney-client privileges; any error arising from the prosecutor's comments during rebuttal closing was harmless; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by applying the vulnerable victim sentencing enhancement under USSG 3A1.1(b)(1). View "United States v. Murra" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the city and two officers, alleging the use of excessive force under 42 U.S.C. 1983, and negligence under the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA). The Fifth Circuit held that the district court erred in disregarding plaintiff's proposed amended complaint because it stated plausible claims against the officers. The proposed amended complaint alleged that Officer Vela approached to arrest plaintiff and that she did not physically assault either Vela or her father. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded to the district court to consider whether plaintiff's pleadings survived the officers' defense of qualified immunity. The court held that the claims against the city failed. Therefore, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Pena v. Rio Grande City, Texas" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for his involvement in a drug trafficking conspiracy and for firearm offenses. The court held that defendant's convictions were supported by sufficient evidence. However, the court vacated defendant's sentence, holding that the mandatory minimum sentence of 120 months of imprisonment was inapplicable. In this case, the court could not say that the jury "surely" would have found that defendant possessed the shotgun in furtherance of a drug trafficking at the time alleged in the indictment. Therefore, the court exercised its discretion under the plain error standard of review to remand to the district court for resentencing. View "United States v. Suarez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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28 U.S.C. 1446(b)(3)'s removal clock begins ticking upon receipt of the deposition transcript. The Fifth Circuit dismissed Murphy Oil's appeal of an order of remand under section 1446(b)(3), based on lack of jurisdiction. In this case, Murphy Oil itself had no right to be in federal court in the first place, and only Avondale, its codefendant, could invoke the federal officer removal statute. Had Avondale not chosen to remove, Murphy Oil could not have asserted officer jurisdiction on Avondale's behalf. The court held that Murphy Oil experienced no concrete and particularized injury sufficient to satisfy the injury-in-fact prong of Article III standing. View "Morgan v. Huntington Ingalls, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's child pornography conviction and sentences. The court held that there was sufficient evidence to convict defendant of distributing child pornography; defendant's convictions and sentences for receiving child pornography were not multiplicitous; the district court did not reversibly err in calculating defendant's Guidelines range and applying a five-level enhancement under the 2015 version of USSG 2G2.2(b)(3)(B); the district court imposed a substantively reasonable sentence; and the court denied defendant's Sixth Amendment ineffective assistance of counsel claim without prejudice to collateral review. View "United States v. Barton" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Mobil Oil removed the underlying suits as a mass action under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA). On interlocutory appeal, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Plaintiffs Bottley and Lester's respective motions to remand. The Fifth Circuit held that Mobil Oil was permitted to remove both plaintiffs' cases to federal court as a mass action under CAFA. In this case, the Bottley consolidation motion proposed a joint trial of 100 or more plaintiffs' claims, a mass action under CAFA. The court held that CAFA applied to Bottley and Lester even though Lester commenced prior to CAFA's effective date. Finally, the district court was permitted to order consolidation under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(a) sua sponte. View "Lester v. Exxon Mobil Corp." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff in an action alleging that he was unlawfully terminated under the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA), 12 U.S.C. 5567(a)(1). Plaintiff, a car salesman, alleged that Sonic would not extend credit to minorities. The court held that nothing in section 5519(a) precluded the Department of Labor, a separate federal entity, from enforcing the anti-retaliation provision against dealers even though the CFPB could not; the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), 15 U.S.C. 1691, as applied to automobile dealers, was not a statute subject to the jurisdiction of the Bureau, and thus, as a matter of law, Sonic could not have violated section 5567(a); and a reasonable belief that discrimination was occurring under the ECOA could not extend the jurisdictional scope of the CFPA to include actors to which the statute did not apply. View "Calderone v. Sonic Houston JLR" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of ten counts of willfully failing to account for and pay over to the IRS the federal income taxes he withheld from his employees, in violation of 26 U.S.C. 7202, and one count of willfully attempting to evade and defeat payment of payroll taxes, penalties, and interest due and owing to the United States, in violation of 26 U.S.C. 7201. The court joined the Second, Third, and Ninth Circuits, in holding that section 7202 is violated when one either willfully fails to account for or pay over taxes collected. In this case, the court held that there was sufficient evidence to convict defendant of the charges. View "United States v. Sertich" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law