Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Texas Legislature enacted SB 5 in 2016 to cure any statutory and constitutional violations related to SB 14 after Veasey v. Abbott, 830 F.3d 216 (5th Cir. 2016) (en banc). The district court permanently enjoined the enforcement of relevant sections of SB 14 and SB 5 and also enjoined upcoming elections under an interim order. The Fifth Circuit granted a stay pending appeal, stayed the district court's injunction orders, and stayed proceedings in the district court until a final disposition of this appeal. In this case, SB 5 allows voters without qualifying photo ID to cast regular ballots by executing a declaration that they face a reasonable impediment to obtaining qualifying photo ID. The court explained that this declaration is made under the penalty of perjury, and each of the 27 voters identified—whose testimony the plaintiffs used to support their discriminatory-effect claim—can vote without impediment under SB 5. The court held that the State has made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits because its reasonable-impediment procedure remedies plaintiffs' alleged harm and foreclosed plaintiffs' injunctive relief. The State has also made an adequate showing as to the other factors considered in determining a stay pending appeal. View "Veasey v. Abbott" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the town in plaintiff's action alleging that he was entitled to notice and an opportunity to respond before being terminated as fire chief. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to preclude summary judgment on the question whether plaintiff was a member of the Louisiana civil service and entitled to due process before losing his job. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Maurer v. Independence Town" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against national insurance companies, alleging various civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. 1981, 1985, and Title VII, as well as several related state law claims. The Fifth Circuit held that the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiffs' claims notwithstanding the district court's ruling that the complaint satisfied Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8. In this case, a complaint, such as the one at issue, may simultaneously satisfy Rule 8's technical requirements but fail to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). The court also held that the district court erred in dismissing Body by Cook's section 1981 contract claim against State Farm, but the district court properly dismissed Robert Cook's section 1981 claim against State Farm and plaintiffs' section 1981 claim against all other defendants. Furthermore, the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiffs' section 1985(3) conspiracy claims; plaintiff failed to allege that defendants retaliated against them; and Cook failed to allege facts sufficient to demonstrate the existence of a prospective employment relationship as to this Title VII discrimination and retaliation claims. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing plaintiffs another opportunity to plead their case and dismissing plaintiffs' federal claims with prejudice. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Body by Cook, Inc. v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction to enjoin the enforcement of two rules affecting his ability to speak in a public park. Plaintiff, an evangelical Christian and a branch director of Open-Air Campaigners, received a criminal trespass warning and was prohibited from returning to the park for 90 days. The court held that plaintiff failed to demonstrate a substantial likelihood of success on the merits on his claims that the structure rule and the public event rule were unconstitutional. In this case, the structure rule was narrowly tailored and left open ample alternative channels of communication; plaintiff's claim of unbridled discretion failed because the structure rule lacked a close nexus to expression; and the structure rule was not unconstitutionally vague. Finally, plaintiff's claim regarding the public event rule was moot based on defendants' concession that plaintiff's activity did not constitute a public event. View "Moore v. Dallas, Texas" on Justia Law

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Prison inmates in the Wallace Pack Unit filed suit alleging violations of the Eighth Amendment, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act due to the high temperatures in the prison housing areas. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of certification of a general class and two subclasses. The court affirmed the district court's conclusion that plaintiffs have demonstrated the presence of a question of law or fact common to the class. In this case, the district court did not clearly err in finding that TDCJ's heat-mitigation measures were ineffective to reduce the heat-related risk of serious harm below the constitutional baseline. Furthermore, the court rejected defendants' challenge to certification to both subclasses. The court found no error in the district court's finding that TDCJ's heat mitigation measures were not effective to bring the risk of serious harm below the constitutional baseline for any Pack Unit inmate—which includes the inmates within the subclasses who have some condition making them particularly susceptible to heat, and that the disability subclass had the additional common contention that TDCJ officials failed to provide reasonable accommodations to inmates suffering from disabilities that may impact their ability to withstand extreme heat. Finally, plaintiffs demonstrated that the proposed class satisfied one of the criteria articulated in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b), and the district court's Rule 23(b)(2) certification was not prohibited by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). Accordingly, the court affirmed in all respects. View "Yates v. Collier" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was arrested for felony cyberstalking for repeatedly sending mean-spirited messages to her ex-husband, but the charges were later dropped. Plaintiff then filed suit against her ex-husband and others under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that her First and Fourth Amendment rights had been violated. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff, holding that plaintiff failed to show that the ex-husband acted under color of state law. The court need not address the parties' other arguments. View "Moody v. Farrell" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 1988, alleging that defendants violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights during his arrest. The Fifth Circuit held that plaintiff presented sufficient facts to allege a violation of his constitutional right to be free from excessive force against Officers Fruge, Garza, and Nevue; the law at the time of the arrest clearly established that it was objectively unreasonable for several officers to tackle an individual who was not fleeing, not violent, not aggressive, and only resisted by pulling his arm away from an officer's grasp; the failure to intervene claim was waived; and summary judgment was appropriate as to plaintiff's municipal liability claim against Round Rock and plaintiff's failure to train or supervise claim. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Trammell v. Fruge" on Justia Law

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The limitation on voter choice expressed in Tex. Elec. Code 61.033 impermissibly narrows the right guaranteed by Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act. In this case, OCA challenged the Texas voting law, which imposes a restriction on the interpretation assistance that English-limited voters may receive. The district court entered summary judgment for OCA and issued an injunction against Texas. After determining that it had jurisdiction, the Fifth Circuit held that the VRA validly abrogated state sovereign immunity; the Texas statute could not restrict the federally guaranteed right to the act of casting a ballot by enacting a statute tracking its language, then defining terms more restrictively than as federally defined; but the injunction exceeded the scope of the parties' presentation. Accordingly, the court vacated the injunction and remanded for the entry of a new injunction. The court affirmed in all other respects. View "OCA-Greater Houston v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's dismissal of his defamation and false light claims against the New York Times (NYT) and two of its authors, under Louisiana's anti-SLAPP statute (Article 971). Plaintiff, an economics professor, alleged that the NYT misrepresented his statements in an article that attributed racist views to libertarian scholars. The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that plaintiff has created a genuine issue of material fact as to the falsity of the NYT article; dismissal for failure to create a fact issue as to actual malice was premature; and dismissal for failure to create a genuine fact issue as to whether the article had a defamatory meaning was premature. View "Block v. Tanenhaus" on Justia Law

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Petitioner challenged the dismissal of his habeas petition based on failure to exhaust available state remedies. The Fifth Circuit reversed, holding that petitioner satisfied 28 U.S.C. 2241's exhaustion requirement because he asserted his Double Jeopardy claim before every available state judicial forum, short of undergoing a second trial. The court explained that requiring petitioner to endure a second prosecution before being able to assert his claim in federal court placed him in precisely the same impermissible position as the petitioner in Fain v. Duff, 488 F.2d 218 (5th Cir. 1973): forced to forfeit the protections of his federal right before being permitted to seek its vindication in federal court. Because the district court did not address petitioner's Double Jeopardy claim and because the record was not sufficiently developed to enable the court to do so in the first instance, the court did not address it. Therefore, the court remanded for adjudication of the Double Jeopardy claim. View "Montano v. Texas" on Justia Law