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

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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Plaintiff was employed by Employer, an operator of a casino resort, from January 7, 2015, until she gave two weeks’ notice on June 28, 2019. Upon the termination of her employment, Plaintiff claimed she was subject to pregnancy and sex discrimination, harassment, and constructive discharge in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act based on the adequacy of her lactation breaks and harassment she experienced from co-workers.The district court granted summary judgment to Employer, holding that Plaintiff did not present sufficient evidence to support a prima facie case of disparate treatment, harassment, or constructive discharge. The court further noted that, even if Plaintiff could support a prima facie case of disparate treatment related to the provided lactation breaks, her claim would still fail because Employer articulated legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for not giving her breaks at the exact times requested.The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding, 1.) Plaintiff's allegations did not support a finding that her co-workers' conduct was objectively severe, 2.) Plaintiff's subjective disparagement of Employer's policies was insufficient to support her constructive discharge claim, and, 3.) Plaintiff's FLSA claims were untimely because they were first raised in response to Employer's motion for summary judgment. View "Bye v. MGM Resorts" on Justia Law

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In a dispute over the applicability of a forum selection clause contained in a franchise agreement, the Fifth Circuit held that non-signatories to a franchise agreement may be bound to the contract’s choice of forum provision under the equitable doctrine that binds non-signatories who are “closely related” to the contract. View "Franlink v. BACE Services" on Justia Law

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Petitioner petitioned for review of an order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). The order dismissed his appeal of an Immigration Judge’s denials of his claims for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture. He presented several procedural and substantive challenges on appeal.   The Fifth Circuit dismissed the petition for review in part for lack of jurisdiction  and denied in part. The court explained that the BIA did not specifically discuss the IJ’s interpretation of the evidence, but it did reference the particular testimony on the severity of his attacks, the police involvement, and the affidavits that Petitioner alleged the IJ misconstrued. Even if the BIA did not agree with Petitioner’s contention about mischaracterizations, the BIA did mention the evidence that Petitioner alleges it failed to consider meaningfully. This is sufficient.    Finally, the court concluded, that it was reasonable for the BIA to conclude that the new evidence Petitioner presented would not change the outcome of his case. The medical evaluation Petitioner sought to submit would not have altered his case because the evaluation did not discuss symptoms and injuries related to the BJP attacks. Further, it was reasonable for the BIA to conclude Petitioner’s new declaration or affidavits would not have influenced his case, considering he already supplied a declaration and his testimony describing his injuries as minor could not be remedied with his additional evidence. View "Kumar v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Following Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org., 142 S. Ct. 2228 (2022), the State of Louisiana filed an “emergency Rule 60(b) motion to vacate permanent injunction” concerning the enforcement of Act 620, which requires physicians performing abortions to have “active admitting privileges” within thirty miles of the facility at which the abortions are performed. La. R.S. 40:1299.35.2(A)(2). It requested relief forthwith or, alternatively, relief within two days of filing its motion. Two days later, the district court denied the State’s motion. The State immediately filed an “emergency motion for reconsideration” and requested a ruling by the next day. The district court again denied the State’s motion.   The Fifth Circuit dismissed the appeal holding that the court lacks appellate jurisdiction. The court explained the district court’s orders cannot be read to have denied the underlying request for relief when the district court implicitly and explicitly stated its intent to defer a ruling on the matter. Further, the court reasoned that to have the “practical effect” of refusing to dissolve an injunction, the State must show that the orders have a “direct impact on the merits of the controversy.” The court noted that the district court’s orders did not touch the merits of the State’s underlying request for relief but, for the same reasons stated earlier, acted as the functional equivalent of a scheduling order. Lastly, the court held that the State has not shown it is entitled to mandamus. View "June Medical Svcs v. Phillips" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sued Harris County and its Sheriff to enjoin enforcement of Harris County’s allegedly unconstitutional felony-bail system. While doing so, plaintiffs served subpoenas duces tecum on county district judges (Felony Judges)—the non-party movant-appellants here— seeking information about their roles in creating and enforcing Harris County’s bail schedule. The Felony Judges moved to quash on several grounds, including sovereign immunity, judicial immunity, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45’s undue-burden standard, and the “mental processes” rule. The district court denied the motion in part and granted it in part, denying sovereign immunity, judicial immunity, and the mental processes rule and allowing the bulk of the subpoenas to proceed.   The Fifth Circuit reversed explaining that the sovereign immunity bars these subpoenas and the mental processes rule might also apply. The court explained that Plaintiffs and their amicus marshal a variety of cases at common law and the Founding era in an attempt to show that sovereign immunity does not apply to third-party subpoenas. But as the Felony Judges note, these cases fail to show that subpoenas commonly issued over the objection of a public official entitled to sovereign immunity. Thus, because Burr United States v. Burr, arose in a different context and answered a question not asked in this case, it does not tip the balance when weighed against the nature of sovereign immunity as interpreted by the Supreme Court and applied by the Fifth Circuit and others in analogous contexts. View "Russell v. Jones" on Justia Law

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Pontchartrain Partners, L.L.C. (“Pontchartrain”) and Tierra De Los Lagos, L.L.C. d/b/a Bee Sand Company (“Bee Sand”) are construction companies involved in a breach-of-contract dispute. In June 2021, Bee Sand sued Pontchartrain in Texas state court. Pontchartrain removed the case to federal court in July. Later that month, Bee Sand voluntarily dismissed the case and explained to Pontchartrain that it intended to refile in September— after a new Texas law governing attorney’s fees went into effect. Bee Sand also offered to refile in federal court to spare Pontchartrain the expense of a second removal, and Pontchartrain said that it would consider the matter. In response to Pontchartrain’s declaratory judgment action, Bee Sand argued that it was anticipatory in nature, meaning that the Southern District of Texas is the proper forum for this dispute. The district court agreed and dismissed the case.The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court held that the district court’s consideration of the abstention factors provided adequate justification for granting Bee Sand’s motion. Moreover, these same reasons more than satisfy the “compelling circumstances” needed to obviate the “first-to-file” rule’s application, so the district court was not obligated to hear this case under that rule. Accordingly, the district did not abuse its discretion in dismissing Pontchartrain’s anticipatory lawsuit, and Pontchartrain’s jurisdictional and venue arguments need not be considered. View "Pontchartrain v. Tierra de Los Lagos" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought suit challenging a Texas law, which was later amended so as to moot their claims before the merits were adjudicated. Nevertheless, the district court determined that their fleeting success in obtaining a preliminary injunction rendered them “prevailing parties” under 42 U.S.C. Section 1988.   The Fifth Circuit disagreed, and accordingly reversed. The court explained that in light of the subsequent authorities from the Supreme Court and the court, the court declined Plaintiffs’ request to apply Doe’s outdated holding. Where a plaintiff’s sought-for preliminary injunction has been granted and the case is thereafter mooted before a final adjudication on the merits, Dearmore applies. As such, the legislature passed the bill with a veto-proof majority shortly thereafter, but Plaintiffs provided nothing to the district court or this court evincing that the legislature had the preliminary injunction in mind when it completed the passage of H.B. 793. And “[t]he mere fact that a legislature has enacted legislation that moots an [action], without more, provides no grounds for assuming that the legislature was motivated by” the “unfavorable precedent.” Am. Bar Ass’n v. FTC 636 F.3d 641, 649 (D.C. Cir. 2011).   The court wrote that the introduction of the ameliorative statute here, however, predated the district court’s action, and given the bill’s speedy passage through both houses and overwhelming legislative support, there is no basis to infer that the Texas legislature was motivated by a desire to preclude attorneys’ fees. View "Amawi v. Paxton" on Justia Law

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This is an appeal from a district court’s grant of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment that Defendant Biloxi H.M.A., L.L.C., doing business as Merit Health Biloxi (“Merit Health”), a hospital, has a duty to disclose that it charges a “facility fee,” also referred to as a “surcharge,” to all emergency room patients who receive care at its facility. The district court, making an Erie guess informed by the Mississippi Supreme Court’s references to, and partial application of, the Restatement (Second) of Torts Section 551, determined that Merit Health did not have a duty to disclose because the surcharge was not a “fact basic to the transaction”, and it, therefore, granted the motion to dismiss.   The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded. The court explained that in applying relevant legal precepts, the court thinks that the Mississippi Supreme Court would hold that Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged facts that Merit Health had a duty to exercise reasonable care to disclose the surcharge. First, Plaintiff alleged that the surcharge was a material fact. Second, Plaintiff alleged that Merit Health was aware that patients like her were unaware of the surcharge, but nonetheless failed to disclose it. Third, Plaintiff alleged that she had a reasonable expectation of disclosure because Merit Health holds itself out to be a “caring community-based organization” and patients like her expected Merit Health to disclose the surcharge based on the confidence and trust that they placed in the hospital. View "Henley v. Biloxi H.M.A." on Justia Law

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Texas recently enacted such a ban on new entrants in a market with a more direct connection to interstate commerce than the drilling of oil wells: the building of transmission lines that are part of multistate electricity grids. The operator of one such multistate grid awarded Plaintiff NextEra Energy Capital Holdings, Inc. the right to build new transmission lines in an area of east Texas that is part of an interstate grid. But before NextEra obtained the necessary construction certificate from the Public Utilities Commission of Texas, the state enacted the law, SB 1938, that bars new entrants from building transmission lines. NextEra challenges the new law on dormant Commerce Clause grounds. It also argues that the law violates the Contracts Clause by upsetting its contractual expectation that it would be allowed to build the new lines   The Fifth Circuit concluded that the dormant Commerce Clause claims should proceed past the pleading stage. But the Contracts Clause claim fails as a matter of law under the modern, narrow reading of that provision. The court explained that limiting competition based on the existence or extent of a business’s local foothold is the protectionism that the Commerce Clause guards against. Thus, the court reversed the Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal of the claim that the very terms of SB 1938 discriminate against interstate commerce. Further, the court held that SB 1938 did not interfere with an existing contractual right of NextEra. NextEra did not have a concrete, vested right that the law could impair. It thus fails at the threshold question for proving a modern Contracts Clause violation. View "NextEra, et al v. D'Andrea, et al" on Justia Law

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Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act prohibits health care programs that receive federal funds from discriminating against patients on the basis of sex. Section 1557 incorporates Title IX’s definition of prohibited sex discrimination. The Secretary of HHS has authority to issue regulations to implement Section 1557.In May 2016, HHS issued a rule interpreting Section 1557’s prohibition of “discrimination on the basis of sex.” Plaintiffs claimed the rule violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by defining “sex discrimination” inconsistently with Title IX. Initially, the district court issued a nationwide preliminary injunction and ultimately granted summary judgment to Plaintiffs but denied permanent injunctive relief. Significant litigation followed.In this case, HHS argues that any challenge to the 2016 Rule is now moot because the district court already vacated the parts of the rule that violated the APA, and because the 2020 Rule rescinded the 2016 Rule. The Fifth Circuit agreed. View "Franciscan Alliance v. Becerra" on Justia Law