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

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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Plaintiffs alleged that they contracted COVID-19 while working at two Tyson Foods, Inc (“Tyson”) facilities in Texas during the first few months of 2020. Some of them died as a result. They alleged that Tyson failed to follow applicable COVID-19 guidance by directing employees to work in close quarters without proper protective equipment. They also alleged that Tyson knew some of its employees were coming to work sick with COVID-19 but ignored the problem and that Tyson implemented a “work while sick” policy to keep the plant open.   Tyson argued that it was “acting under” direction from the federal government when it chose to keep its poultry processing plants open during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic and that the district courts erred in remanding these cases back to state court.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's orders. The court explained that Tyson received, at most, strong encouragement from the federal government. But Tyson was never told that it must keep its facilities open. The court wrote that from the earliest days of the pandemic all the way through the issuance of Executive Order 13917, the federal government’s actions followed the same playbook: encouragement to meat and poultry processors to continue operating, careful monitoring of the food supply, and support for state and local governments. Tyson was exhorted, but it was not directed. Thus, Tyson has not shown that it was “acting under” a federal officer’s directions” and so the court need not consider whether it meets the remaining elements of the federal officer removal statute. View "Glenn v. Tyson Foods" on Justia Law

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Defendant entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery under 18 U.S.C. Section 1951(a) and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence under 18 U.S.C. Section 924(c). The conspiracy conviction served as the predicate crime of violence for the firearm offense.Under the terms of the plea agreement, Defendant waived the right to challenge his conviction and sentence on direct appeal or through a collateral attack. However, following United States v. Davis, 139 S. Ct. 2319 (2019), Defendant brought a collateral attack on his firearm conviction under 28 U.S.C. Section 2255, claiming that notwithstanding his waiver, his conviction must be vacated because it was predicated on the residual clause held unconstitutional in Davis.The Fifth Circuit held that Defendant's plea waiver was valid, and precluded collateral attack, citing Grzegorczyk v. United States, _ U.S. _ (2022) (Kavanaugh, J., respecting the denial of certiorari). View "USA v. Caldwell" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Jennifer Leonard alleged Tyler Martin rear-ended her when she stopped in traffic. She sued Martin and his insurer, Wadena Insurance Company, in Louisiana state court seeking damages for injuries she allegedly sustained during the accident. Martin removed the lawsuit to federal court based on the existence of diversity jurisdiction. This appeal related to a Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 45 subpoena issued to third party Dr. Joseph Turnipseed requiring him to perform patient record audits and generate data about how frequently he recommends a particular course of treatment. Turnipseed, an anesthesiologist and pain management specialist, treated Leonard for neck and back pain allegedly caused by the accident. Among other treatments, Turnipseed performed a cervical radiofrequency neurotomy on Leonard. According to Turnipseed, Leonard responded favorably to the cervical neurotomy and he recommended that she undergo the procedure annually for the next five to six years. These future treatments make up a large percentage of Leonard’s life care plan and alleged damages. Defendants disputed the medical necessity of those expensive, future treatments. Turnipseed moved to quash the subpoena on undue burden grounds. The district court denied his motion to quash. He appealed. In the alternative, he sought a writ of mandamus ordering the district court to quash the subpoena. "With misgivings about the district court’s substantive ruling," the Fifth Circuit dismissed Turnipseed’s appeal for lack of jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine, and denied his alternative petition for a writ of mandamus for not having demonstrated a clear and indisputable right to the writ. View "Martin v. Turnipseed" on Justia Law

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In 2012, then-sheriff Gusman of the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office claimed constitutional violations at the Orleans Parish Prison, including inadequate housing for detainees with mental-health needs. The United States intervened that September, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997c. That same month, the sheriff brought in the city as a third-party defendant. At issue here was whether the district court abused its discretion in denying the city’s motion for relief from January and March 2019 orders, pursuant to Rule 60(b)(5). The Fifth Circuit held that '[a] Rule 60(b) motion, of course, is not a substitute for a timely appeal from the judgment or order from which relief is requested." The Court determined it had jurisdiction to review the denial of the Rule 60(b) motion, but not the underlying January and March 2019 orders. The denial of the city's Rule 60(b) motion was affirmed. View "Anderson v. City of New Orleans" on Justia Law

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Fountain of praise, a church, leased space to Central Care Integrated Health Services. Shortly after the execution of the lease, the relationship soured when the parties disagreed on the frequency and amount of rent payments. Eventually, Fountain of Praise terminated the lease and successfully evicted Central Care from the premises.Subsequently, Central Care filed for Chapter 11 reorganization. Central Care then sued Fountain of Praise in state court, claiming breach of contract and unjust enrichment. Fountain of Praise then removed the case to bankruptcy court as an adversary proceeding. The bankruptcy court entered judgment in favor of Fountain of Praise, finding that any breach was excusable due to Central Care's failure to make timely rent payments and that Central Care lacked the requisite interest in the property for an unjust enrichment claim.Central Care appealed, and the district court judge assigned to the case reassigned the case to a magistrate judge who affirmed the bankruptcy court's judgment.On appeal, the Fifth Circuit vacated the magistrate judge's order, finding that the district court improperly authorized referral of the appeal from a bankruptcy court decision to a magistrate judge. Under 28 U.S.C. Section 158, appeals from a bankruptcy court must be heard either by the district court or a panel of bankruptcy court judges. View "South Central v. Oak Baptist" on Justia Law

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Petitioners overstayed their permission to visit the United States 20 years ago, and they’ve been here ever since. For the second time after they were ordered removed, they asked the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) to reopen their removal proceedings. For the second time, the Board refused.On appeal, Petitioners focused on the BIA’s failure to consider certain evidence of changed country conditions. They argue that amounted to an abuse of discretion. (They also argue the BIA committed various other errors.)The Fifth Circuit denied their petition, holding that (A) Petitioners’ claims are number-barred. Then the court wrote that it (B) rejected Petitioners’ resort to federal regulations and instead apply the statute as written. Finally, the court (C) denied the petition without remanding it to the BIA. The court explained that the number bar is a separate impediment to relief. The INA first lays out the number bar: Petitioners generally get one and only one motion to reopen. Section 1229a(c)(7)(A). Then the statute creates one and only one exception. In the same sentence as the number bar itself, Congress said: “[T]his limitation shall not apply so as to prevent the filing of one motion to reopen described in subparagraph (C)(iv).” And everyone agrees that petitioners do not qualify for the single statutory exception to the number bar in (C)(iv). Thus, Petitioners'’ motion to reopen is number-barred. View "Djie v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was an engineer for the City of Pharr, Texas. When his supervisors asked him to sign a document he did not believe was true, Plaintiff refused. Ultimately, he was terminated and filed this case against the city and two of Plaintiff's supervisors.Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming he was entitled to qualified immunity. The district court held a hearing and denied Defendant's motion. Two days later, the court entered a minute order; however, no written order was attached. Exactly 412 days later, Defendant appealed the denial of his motion for summary judgment, claiming that the court's oral ruling was not appealable and that he is technically appealing the court's refusal to rile on his motion.The Fifth Circuit rejected Defendant's reasoning. A bench ruling can be effective without a written order and triggers appeal deadlines if it is final. Here, the court's order was final. While the district court's ruling did not comply with Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 58, an alternate interpretation would give Defendant infinite time to appeal. View "Ueckert v. Guerra" on Justia Law

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Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. (SFFA), a nonprofit organization committed to ending race discrimination in higher-education admissions, sued the University of Texas at Austin (UT) over its use of race in admitting students. The district court concluded SFFA has standing but dismissed its claims as barred by res judicata. It reasoned that SFFA’s claims were already litigated in a prior challenge to UT’s admissions policies. See Fisher v. Univ. of Tex. (Fisher II), 579 U.S. 365 (2016); Fisher v. Univ. of Tex. (Fisher I), 570 U.S. 297 (2013).   The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court’s judgment. The court agreed that SFFA has standing, but disagreed that res judicata bars its claims. The parties here are not identical to or in privity with those in Fisher, and this case presents different claims.   The court first explained that SFFA has associational standing to challenge UT’s race-conscious admissions policy and the district court correctly denied the motions to dismiss based on standing. The court wrote that, however, the district court erred in applying the control exception to nonparty preclusion in two key respects. First, it mistakenly rejected SFFA’s argument about the different capacities in which Fisher and Blum acted in Fisher and act in this case. Second, even if Fisher’s and Blum’s different capacities did not foreclose applying claim preclusion, the district court erred in finding that Fisher and Blum control SFFA. Further, under the court’s transactional test, SFFA’s claims are not the same as those in Fisher because the claims are not related in time and space. View "Students for Fair Admissions v. Univ of TX" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 lawsuit against Hunt County and numerous county employees alleging that Defendants knew her son was suffering from a heart condition but failed to treat him while he was booked into the Hunt County jail.   The individual defendants moved to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), asserting qualified immunity. The district court denied that motion and entered its “standard QI scheduling order.” Back in district court, the individual defendants moved to stay all discovery and all proceedings. They argued that “[a]ll discovery in this matter should be stayed against all Defendants, including Hunt County, and all proceedings, in this case, should be stayed, pending resolution of the Individual Defendants’ assertions of qualified immunity.” Plaintiff filed an “advisory to the court concerning depositions” indicating that, on the Monell claim, she wished to depose all eight of the individual defendants asserting qualified immunity.   The Fifth Circuit denied Plaintiff’s motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and vacated the district court’s scheduling order. The court disagreed with Plaintiff’s argument that Monell discovery presents no undue burden to the Individual Defendants because they would be required to participate as witnesses in discovery even if they had not been named as defendants.”  First, there are significant differences between naming an individual defendant and then deposing him in two capacities. Next, it’s no answer to say the defendant can be deposed twice— once on Monell issues (before the district court adjudicates the immunity defense) and once on personal-capacity issues (afterwards).  Third, Plaintiff conceded at oral argument that bifurcation of discovery would radically complicate the case. View "Carswell v. Camp" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff took out a home equity loan on a house in Texas (“Property”). Deutsche Bank National Trust Company (“Deutsche Bank”) is the trustee of the loan. Deutsche Bank sought a non-judicial foreclosure order on the Property.   Plaintiff sued Deutsche Bank in Texas state court, alleging violations of the Texas Debt Collection Act (“TDCA”), breach of the common-law duty of cooperation, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation. Despite the stipulation, Deutsche Bank removed the case to federal district court. Plaintiff then moved to remand the case back to Texas state court because, in his view, the amount in controversy could not exceed the stipulated maximum of $74,500. The district court denied Plaintiff’s motion to remand.   The Fifth Circuit reversed and concluded that the district court erred in denying Plaintiff’s motion to remand, and it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction when it entered final judgment. The court reasoned that Deutsche Bank failed to establish that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional floor of $75,000.   The court first noted that the bank points out that Plaintiff’s suit requested relief which might be read to suggest Plaintiff also sought injunctive relief. But the bank makes that argument only to establish that Plaintiff’s initial pleading seeks nonmonetary relief not to establish that the requested nonmonetary relief put the house in controversy. Whatever the merit of that latter contention might otherwise be, the court held that Deutsche Bank forfeited it. Moreover, the mere fact that Plaintiff pleaded a demand for specific damages cannot support bad faith. View "Durbois v. Deutsche Bank Ntl Trust" on Justia Law