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

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Martinez pleaded guilty to drug and gun crimes. He filed a notice of appeal. His attorney later filed an “Anders” motion to withdraw. Martinez did not object to his attorney’s view that an appeal would be frivolous.The Fifth Circuit addressed whether a conflict existed between “the oral pronouncement of the conditions of supervised release at sentencing and the written judgment setting forth those conditions” before dismissing the appeal. Martinez’s PSR recommended the “mandatory and standard conditions of supervision” plus a search condition. The district court confirmed that Martinez had reviewed the PSR and did not object, then announced that it was adopting the PSR. The subsequent written judgment included the 17 standard conditions listed in the Western District of Texas’s Order on Conditions of Probation and Supervised Release. The only conceivable pronouncement problem is that the district court did not cite the standing order when it orally imposed the “standard conditions.” That does not provide a basis for appeal. There is no notice problem. The PSR notified Martinez that “standard conditions” would likely be imposed. Given the longstanding existence of the standing order, defense counsel certainly knew that the standard conditions being imposed were listed in the standing order and included in the judgment form created by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. View "United States v. Martinez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Fifth Circuit granted appellants' voluntary motion to dismiss this appeal involving the CDC's nationwide eviction moratorium under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 42(b). The eviction moratorium prevented landlords from exercising their state law eviction rights to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. After considering the record and the parties' oral arguments, the court found it unnecessary to decide mootness. Instead, the court granted the motion to dismiss the appeal "on terms . . . fixed by the court." View "Terkel v. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the denial of insurance benefits in an action brought by plaintiff, seeking benefits in the amount of $300,000 following her husband's death. The court concluded that plaintiff's estoppel claim failed where her reliance on NOV's statements and deductions were not reasonable because the provision of the group life insurance policy that required her husband to complete an Evidence of Insurability form before coverage could begin was unambiguous. In this case, plaintiff's husband was on notice that coverage applied for during an annual enrollment period began at midnight following the later of two conditions: (1) the first day of the next plan year; and (2) the date Unum approved his evidence of insurability form for life insurance. Furthermore, the Summary of Benefits made clear that this was also the case for changes in coverage, and that NOV's representations were not Unum's. Therefore, the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to NOV on plaintiff's estoppel claim. View "Talasek v. National Oilwell Varco, LP" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that neoprene production from the Pontchartrain Works Facility (PWF) exposed residents of St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana, to unsafe levels of chloroprene. Plaintiff filed suit against Denka and DuPont—the current and former owners of the facility—as well as the DOH and DEQ in state court. After removal to federal court, the district court denied plaintiff's motion to remand, granted each defendants' motion to dismiss, and dismissed the amended petition for failure to state a claim.After determining that removal was proper under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) and that the state agencies have consented to federal jurisdiction, the Fifth Circuit concluded that the equitable doctrine of contra non velentem tolls prescription of plaintiff's claims against DuPont and DOH. Consistent with Louisiana's contra non valentem analysis as to what plaintiff reasonably knew or should have known at the time, the court disagreed that, on the record before it, plaintiff had constructive knowledge sufficient to trigger the running of prescription over a year before she filed suit in June 2018. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's holding that plaintiff's claims were prescribed.The court concluded that plaintiff's custodial liability claims against DuPont fail for the same reason as her claims against Denka: a failure to state a plausible duty and corresponding breach. The court agreed with the district court's grant of Denka's motion to dismiss for failure to state a plausible claim of negligence and strict custodial liability arising from Denka's past and current neoprene manufacturing at the PWF. In this case, plaintiff fails to adequately allege a duty owed by Denka, and consequently whether Denka breached such a duty. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's declaratory relief claims against DEQ. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Butler v. Denka Performance Elastomer, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, tenants living in substandard conditions in a "Section 8" housing project, filed suit seeking to compel HUD to provide relocation assistance vouchers. The Fifth Circuit held that, because 24 C.F.R. 886.323(e) mandates that HUD provide relocation assistance, its alleged decision not to provide relocation vouchers to plaintiffs is not a decision committed to agency discretion by law and is therefore reviewable. Furthermore, the agency's inaction here constitutes a final agency action because it prevents or unreasonably delays the tenants from receiving the relief to which they are entitled by law. Therefore, the district court has jurisdiction over plaintiffs' Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and Fair Housing Act (FHA) claims and erred in dismissing those claims.However, the court agreed with the district court that plaintiffs failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted on their Fifth Amendment equal protection claim. In this case, plaintiffs failed to state a plausible claim of intentional race discrimination. Accordingly, the court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Hawkins v. United States Department of Housing and Urban Development" on Justia Law

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In 2008, Blackburn founded Treaty an oil and gas company whose shares were traded over the counter as “penny stocks.” Blackburn received around 400 million shares, giving him an 86.4% interest in Treaty. Though Blackburn was never a board member or an officer of Treaty, he maintained significant control. He communicated with a foreign government on behalf of Treaty, paid the company’s bills with his stock proceeds, and appointed Treaty’s officers and directors. Treaty had previously worked at a gravel company that went bankrupt. Blackburn paid over $1 million to settle the trustee’s claim that he had misappropriated company funds. Blackburn had also been convicted of four federal tax felonies. Blackburn recruited others, with clean records, to serve in public positions; they failed to disclose in public filings Blackburn’s involvement with Treaty.In 2014, the SEC asserted claims against Treaty, Blackburn, and others under the Securities Act. 15 U.S.C. 77e(a), 77q(a). The company and one defendant settled. The district court found the others liable for selling unregistered securities and misleading investors about the company’s production of oil and Blackburn’s involvement. It ordered disgorgement of the defendants’ fraud proceeds. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. Summary judgment was warranted in the SEC’s favor and the disgorgement award was “for the benefit of investors” as required by the Supreme Court’s 2020 “Liu” decision. View "Securities and Exchange Commission v. Blackburn" on Justia Law

Posted in: Securities Law
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Gardner was indicted for possession with intent to distribute a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine. He retained counsel (Bailey) and pleaded guilty without a plea agreement. Three months later, Gardner’s initial PSR was filed. On the day of sentencing, Bailey orally moved for and obtained a continuance to file objections to the PSR. Days later, Gardner, pro se, moved to appoint new counsel, saying that Bailey previously told him that objections to the PSR had already been filed and that Bailey gave him inconsistent information as to the availability of audio or video footage of the search that led to his arrest. The court granted Bailey’s subsequent motion to withdraw and appointed new counsel, Bullajian, and subsequently granted Bullajian four continuances.Gardner then moved to withdraw his guilty plea, alleging ineffectiveness by former counsel Bailey, who told him “that a motion to suppress would be filed after the entering of the plea.” The district court denied the motion to withdraw the plea without an evidentiary hearing, sentencing Gardner to 240 months’ imprisonment. The Fifth Circuit vacated. Gardner alleged sufficient facts to require a hearing upon the motion to withdraw, and if granted, his motion to suppress. View "United States v. Gardner" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the government in this tax refund action arising under the Internal Revenue Code. Taxpayers overpaid their reported 2010 tax liabilities by an amount sufficient to cover any later-determined deficiency for the 2010 tax year, and then elected on their 2010 tax return to credit the overpayment forward to their estimated 2011 tax liabilities. The IRS subsequently completed an audit of taxpayers' 2010 tax return and determined that their interest award in a prior lawsuit should have been reported as ordinary income taxable at the ordinary income rate.The court concluded that the interest award is properly classified and taxable as ordinary income. The court explained that the award portion of the judgment one of the taxpayers received was "in lieu of" what she might have earned on the fair value of her shares for the 13-year period between the merger and final judgment in the prior litigation. Therefore, the court concluded that it qualifies as ordinary income under the origin-of-the-claim doctrine. However, in the absence of clear statutory authority, the court applied the established use-of-money principle and concluded that the IRS improperly assessed underpayment interest against taxpayers from April 16, 2012 to April 15, 2017. The court remanded for the district court to enter a judgment for taxpayers as to their claim for refund of the $603,335.27 underpayment interest amount. View "Goldring v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Tax Law
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's conclusion confirming an Indian arbitration award and enjoined further litigation. In this case, after defendant secured an arbitral award for his maritime injuries, he continued to pursue litigation against the alleged wrongdoers and disputes that there was an enforceable agreement to arbitrate at all.The court rejected defendant's contention that the district court lost its jurisdiction to enforce the award in 2002, when it remanded the pre-arbitration suit to state court. Rather, the court concluded that the remand order lacked preclusive effect and the district court had subject matter jurisdiction to confirm the arbitral award. The court further concluded that it was precluded from from revisiting the issue of whether the deed contains an enforceable arbitration clause. Likewise, defendant's argument that Neptune's signature was required would have fared no better in this court. Finally, the court concluded that the state court's ruling is preclusive on the question of whether the district court erred in barring him from litigating against Talmidge, American Eagle, and Britannia because only Neptune was a party to the deed. View "Neptune Shipmanagement Services PTE, Ltd. v. Dahiya" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's putative class action against the Bank for failure to state a claim because extended overdraft charges were not "interest" under the National Bank Act of 1864. In this case, deference to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency's interpretation of these regulations is appropriate, and the agency's determination in Interpretive Letter 1082 that the type of bank fees at issue here—that the Bank refers to as extended overdraft charges—are noninterest charges is a sufficient basis to resolve this case. The court explained that, because extended overdraft charges are non-interest charges, they are not subject to the Act's usury limits. Finally, the court concluded that plaintiff already availed herself of the opportunity the district court provided to conduct discovery, and because plaintiff's complaint is deficient under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, she is not entitled to discovery. View "Johnson v. BOKF National Ass'n" on Justia Law

Posted in: Banking