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

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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The Port of Corpus Christi Authority of Nueces County, Texas (a governmental entity), sued The Port of Corpus Christi, L.P.(a private entity) and Kenneth Berry in state court. The claims were for trespass and encroachment on its submerged land that resulted from dredge operations occurring in a ship channel. Defendants removed the case, but the district court remanded, holding there was no basis for removal either under the federal officer removal statute or due to a federal question.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in denying removal on the basis of the federal officer removal statute. Further, the court explained that it agreed with the district court that the Port Authority’s complaint “disclaims any issue regarding permit compliance, stating its claim exclusively in terms of Texas state law: common law trespass.” The Port Authority did not allege a violation of either the Clean Water Act or the Rivers and Harbors Act. View "Port of Corpus v. Port of Corpus" on Justia Law

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Fourteen women (“Plaintiffs”) from seven states brought the present putative class action against Ashley Black and her companies (“Defendants”), alleging false and deceptive marketing practices. They take issue with various representations in Defendants’ ads about a product called the FasciaBlaster, a two-foot stick with hard prongs that is registered with the Food and Drug Administration as a massager. The district court dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims in their entirety.  Plaintiffs appealed the order striking the class allegations and the dismissal of individual claims.   The Fifth Circuit found that the district court correctly struck Plaintiffs’ class allegations and properly dismissed all but two of their claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case to the district court. The court explained that it agreed with the district court that Plaintiffs’ allegations suffer from a combination of defects, including a failure to plead adequately what representations were actually made when those representations were made, who made the representations, and where those representations occurred.   However, the court reversed the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ breach of express warranty under, respectively, California Consumer Code Sections 2313 & 10210, and Florida Statutes Sections 672.313 & 680.21. The court wrote that the district court did not apply the law of a specific jurisdiction when conducting its analysis. Plaintiffs on appeal cite various Fifth Circuit cases in addition to Texas and California state law precedents. Defendants proffer Fifth Circuit, California, and Florida precedents. Neither party, however, briefed what law should be applied to each claim. View "Elson v. Black" on Justia Law

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Appellant, his law firm, and Amberson Natural Resources (“ANR”) (collectively “Amberson”) moved for rehearing by the Fifth Circuit. Though successful in convincing a majority of the panel that it has authority to consider the argument that a claim was not arbitrable, Amberson then lost on the merits of that argument. Amberson alleged that the Fifth Circuit erred in three ways: (1) it should not have considered the arbitrator’s fact findings in deciding the validity of the state court’s compelling of arbitration; (2) the state court record does not support that all the claims were intertwined; and (3) the appellees’ state court pleadings do not support the court’s finding of alter ego.   The Fifth Circuit denied the petition for rehearing. The court explained that Amberson cites no Texas caselaw that the evidence to support the validity of interlocutory orders reviewed on appeal after a final judgment must come only from the part of the record that existed when the orders were entered. Moreover, Amberson’s briefing, though, did not meaningfully dispute the accuracy of the arbitrator’s fact-findings. The arbitrator’s opinion contained the best summary of the facts. Absent any argument that the findings were erroneous, acceptance of the summary was proper and undue deference was not given to the arbitrator as to fact-findings. View "In the Matter of: Jon Amberson" on Justia Law

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Petitioner is an illegal alien who was ordered removed in absentia. A decade and a half later, she moved to reopen her immigration proceedings on the ground that she never received notice of the time or location of her hearing. The immigration judge denied her motion. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed. The Petitioner complained that the United States informed her of her duty to provide address information where her notice to appear could be sent, but only in English, not Spanish.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed holding that the record indicates that she was warned in Spanish as well as English of the consequences of her failure to appear. And in any event, there is no legal authority to support her assertion that the United States is required to provide notice in any language other than English. View "Platero-Rosales v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Defense Distributed and the Second Amendment Foundation produce, and make accessible, information related to the 3D printing of firearms. The U.S. Government and various states have imposed restraints on the publication of that information. Plaintiffs have challenged those restraints in federal courts as violating the First Amendment. The instant case involves publication restraints that Defendant, first as Acting Attorney General, then as Attorney General, of New Jersey (“NJAG”), has placed on Plaintiffs.   On remand, the district court severed the claims against the State Department and NJAG and transferred the claims against NJAG to the District of New Jersey. On appeal, the Fifth Circuit held that that decision was a clear abuse of discretion and ordered the district court to vacate it sever-and-transfer order. The New Jersey court refused to transfer the case back to the Western District of Texas. In response, Plaintiffs moved, in the Western District of Texas, for a preliminary injunction against the publication restraints imposed by NJAG. The district court entered a short order holding that it lacked jurisdiction to consider claims against NJAG and dismissed the preliminary-injunction motion.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal holding that the court no longer has the power to hear the case or grant the relief requested. The court explained that the expectation is that circuit courts direct “the transferor district court to request that the transferee district court return the case.” The refusal of the District of New Jersey to retransfer is unprecedented in that regard. The effect of that decision permits a New Jersey district court functionally to nullify a Fifth Circuit decision. View "Defense Distributed v. Platkin" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court’s grant of a motion to dismiss and motion for summary judgment for the State after Plaintiffs alleged numerous state and federal constitutional violations in connection with the State’s Facility Need Review program (“FNR” or “FNR program”).   The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that the FNR program survives rational basis review and the Supreme Court has foreclosed Plaintiffs’ Privileges or Immunities Clause claim. The court explained that the FNR program survives rational basis review because it advances the State’s legitimate interest in enhancing consumer welfare. LDH offers many legitimate reasons for its FNR regime. Of those reasons, Plaintiffs have the most difficulty defeating the contention that LDH uses. The court held in favor of the State because Plaintiffs failed to negate “every conceivable basis which might support” the FNR program. View "Newell-Davis v. Phillips" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued Walmart and several members of law enforcement for purported injuries relating to her arrest and incarceration in 2010. In response to motions to dismiss filed by the defendants, Judge Rebecca Doherty dismissed all asserted federal claims with prejudice and all asserted state-law claims without prejudice. Plaintiff did not appeal the dismissal. In 2021, the Clerk of the Western District of Louisiana contacted the parties to inform them that Judge Doherty had owned stock in Wal-Mart while presiding over this case. Under 28 U.S.C. Section 455(b)(4), Judge Doherty ought to have recused herself. On this basis, Plaintiff filed a motion for relief from judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60, seeking a voided judgment and a new trial.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court. The court explained that there is no dispute that Judge Doherty should have recused herself from this case. The court wrote that Rule 60(b) decisions are reviewed for abuse of discretion. Applying that standard, the court saw no abuse in the district court’s determinations below. Judge Summerhays ably and succinctly applied the Liljeberg factors to the controversy. On fresh review, the court concluded likewise that after “a careful study … of the merits,” there is no “risk of injustice to the parties in th[is] particular case.” Judge Doherty’s ruling was based on firm legal principles, there is no evidence of bias or favor, and Plaintiff neither appealed Judge Doherty’s decision at the time nor refiled her state law claims in state court within the time permitted her. View "Roberts v. Wal-Mart Louisiana" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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Appellant a Louisiana attorney representing oil spill claimants in the settlement program, was accused of funneling money to a settlement program staff attorney through improper referral payments. In a disciplinary proceeding, the en banc Eastern District of Louisiana found that Appellant’s actions violated the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct and suspended him from practicing law before the Eastern District of Louisiana for one year. Appellant appealed, arguing that the en banc court misapplied the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct and abused its discretion by imposing an excessive sanction.   The Fifth Circuit found that the en banc court misapplied Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 1.5(e) and 8.4(a) but not Rule 8.4(d). Additionally, the en banc court did not abuse its discretion by imposing a one-year suspension on Appellant for his violation of 8.4(d). Accordingly, the court reversed the en banc court’s order suspending Appellant from the practice of law for one year each for violations of Rule 1.5(e) and 8.4(a). The court affirmed the en banc court’s holding that Appellant violated Rule 8.4(d). Finally, the court remanded to the en banc court for further proceedings. On remand, the court is free to impose on Appellant whatever sanction it sees fit for the 8.4(d) violation, including but not limited to its previous one-year suspension. View "In re Jonathan Andry" on Justia Law

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Appellant Sanare Energy Partners, L.L.C. agreed to purchase a mineral lease and related interests from Appellee PetroQuest Energy, L.L.C. Later, PetroQuest filed bankruptcy, and Sanare filed an adversary suit in that proceeding. Sanare argued that the lack of certain third-party consents rendered PetroQuest liable for costs associated with some “Assets” whose transfer the sale envisioned. The bankruptcy court and the district court each disagreed with Sanare.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the Properties are “Assets” under the PSA, including section 11.1, even if the Bureau’s withheld consent prevented record title for the Properties from transferring to Sanare. This conclusion is plain from the PSA’s text, which excludes Customary Post-Closing Consents such as the Bureau’s from the category of consent failures that alter the parties’ bargain. Consent failures that do not produce a void-ab-initio transfer also do not alter the parties’ bargain, so the Agreements, too, are Assets under the PSA’s plain text. View "Sanare Energy v. Petroquest" on Justia Law

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The State of Texas appeals the district court’s decision that Plaintiffs’ federal Taking Clause claims against the State may proceed in federal court. Because we hold that the Fifth Amendment Takings Clause as applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment does not provide a right of action for takings claims against a state.   The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court’s decision for want of jurisdiction and remanded with instructions to return this case to the state courts. The court explained that the Supreme Court of Texas recognizes takings claims under the federal and state constitutions, with differing remedies and constraints turning on the character and nature of the taking; nothing in this description of Texas law is intended to replace its role as the sole determinant of Texas state law. View "Devillier v. State of Texas" on Justia Law