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

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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The Fifth Circuit held that the Chisom decree, which created Louisiana's one majority-black supreme court district, does not govern the other six districts. Therefore, the district court properly denied Louisiana's motion to dismiss this Voting Rights Act suit for lack of jurisdiction. In this case, the state argued that the Chisom decree centralizes perpetual federal control over all supreme court districts in the Eastern District of Louisiana, which issued the decree. The court concluded that the district court rejected that reading for good reason because it is plainly wrong. Rather, the present suit addresses a different electoral district untouched by the decree. View "Allen v. Louisiana" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit principally seeking an injunction against the Texas court system to prevent any Texas court from entertaining suits under Senate Bill 8, which authorizes private civil actions against persons who abort an unborn child with a detectable fetal heartbeat. The motions at issue arise out of defendants' appeal of the district court's denial of their motions to dismiss the case on jurisdictional grounds.The Fifth Circuit previously denied plaintiffs' emergency motion for injunction pending appeal, which was premised on plaintiffs' argument that the district court's Eleventh Amendment immunity ruling was correct, and now explained the grounds for its actions. The court concluded that SB 8 emphatically precludes enforcement by any state, local, or agency officials, and thus defendant officials lack any "enforcement connection" to SB 8 and are not amenable to suit under Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908).In regard to Mark Lee Dickson's appeal, the court concluded that jurisdictional issues presented in the proceedings against Dickson are related to the issues presented in the state officials' collateral-order appeal. Therefore, the notice of appeal divested the district court of jurisdiction over Dickson as well as the officials. Accordingly, the court denied plaintiffs' motion to dismiss Dickson's appeal; granted Dickson's motion to stay the district court proceedings pending appeal; and expedited the appeal to the next available oral argument panel. View "Whole Woman's Health v. Jackson" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of the City's motion to dismiss for lack of standing an action brought by plaintiff, a professional musician and accordionist, challenging three City ordinances which restrict busking in Houston. Plaintiff alleges that the ordinances violate his First Amendment right to free expression.The court agreed with plaintiff that the district court adopted an erroneously restrictive pleading standard for his First Amendment claim. The court concluded that, in pre-enforcement cases alleging a violation of the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause, the Supreme Court has recognized that chilled speech or self-censorship is an injury sufficient to confer standing. The court explained that a plaintiff bringing such a challenge need not have experienced "an actual arrest, prosecution, or other enforcement action" to establish standing. In this case, the complaint alleged that plaintiff intends to engage in conduct arguably affected with a constitutional interest; plaintiff's desired conduct is arguably proscribed by the ordinances; and he previously received a busking permit from the City—indicating recent enforcement of the permitting provision—which bolsters his entitlement to the substantial-threat-of-enforcement presumption. Therefore, plaintiff has adequately pleaded a justiciable injury and has standing to maintain his lawsuit at this stage. The court remanded for further proceedings. The court dismissed plaintiff's appeal of the district court's order denying his motion for reconsideration or leave to amend as moot. View "Barilla v. City of Houston" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of summary judgment in an excessive force case where the district court held that a jury could conclude that an officer shot a citizen four times without warning while the citizen was turning away and empty-handed. The court explained that, because genuine disputes exist on three material facts—whether the officer warned before shooting, whether the citizen had turned away from the officer, and whether the officer could see that the citizen was unarmed—the district court properly denied a summary judgment motion invoking qualified immunity. The court agreed with the district court that there was a violation of clearly established law if the jury resolves the factual disputes in favor of plaintiff. View "Poole v. City of Shreveport" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255 because the motion was time-barred by the one-year limitations period in the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA). The court concluded that defendant is not entitled to equitable tolling or recharacterization on his pro se filings. The court found United States v. Riggs, 314 F.3d 796, 799 (5th Cir. 2002), controlling where the record showed that defendant's counsel erroneously told defendant that he had not missed the deadline. Furthermore, even if defendant were entitled to have his pro se Johnson motion recharacterized as a section 2255 motion, his current arguments alleging prosecutorial conflict of interest do not relate back to his Johnson filing under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c). View "United States v. Cardenas" on Justia Law

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Ward pled guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine. In February 2018, the district court sentenced Ward to 200 months of imprisonment. Ward unsuccessfully sought postconviction relief. In March 2020, through counsel, Ward sent a request for compassionate release to the warden, claiming that her kidney failure, other medical problems, and vulnerability to COVID-19 constituted an extraordinary and compelling reason for a sentence reduction. In May 2020, the Bureau of Prisons denied her request because Ward’s “medical condition has not been determined to be terminal within eighteen months nor end of life trajectory.”In July 2020, after exhausting her administrative remedies, Ward sought relief under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(1)(A), arguing that compassionate release would be consistent with Sentencing Guideline 1B1.13 and that the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors favor a reduction. Ward filed her medical records, and an expert’s report that her kidney disease put her “at higher risk for developing severe illness, kidney failure, or death if she becomes infected with the coronavirus.” The Fifth Circuit affirmed the denial of Ward’s motion. The district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Ward’s motion based on arguments not advanced by the government. Motions for compassionate release are inherently discretionary. The district court had the authority to consider Section 3553(a)'s sentencing factors. View "Ward v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 1899, the Barnard E. Bee chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy erected a monument of a Confederate soldier in a San Antonio Park, also placing a time capsule beneath the statue. In 1932, the Albert Sidney Johnston (ASJ) chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy formed, and that chapter functionally took the place of the Bee chapter when the Bee chapter dissolved in 1972. Over a century after the monument was erected, the City of San Antonio removed both the monument and time capsule. The ASJ chapter filed suit, claiming violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint based on lack of standing, agreeing with the district court that the ASJ chapter had no property right in the monument, time capsule, or land at the center of the park. The court rejected ASJ's contention that it possesses an easement or license to use the land. Rather, the land was generally inalienable and unassignable. Furthermore, any permission to use the land was limited. Even assuming arguendo that the 1899 document created an easement or irrevocable license, however, it transferred only to the Bee chapter and terminated with its dissolution in 1972. Therefore, the ASJ chapter's failure to establish a particularized injury undermines both of its claims. View "Albert Sidney Johnston Chapter v. City of San Antonio" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against her former employer, WTW, alleging civil conspiracy under Texas law, a hostile work environment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), disability discrimination under the ADA, racial discrimination, and wrongful termination.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of WTW's motion for summary judgment. The court concluded that, while plaintiff did exhaust her disability discrimination and failure-to-accommodate claims, she failed to exhaust her claims of race discrimination and a hostile work environment. The court also concluded that plaintiff has not raised a genuine issue of material fact as to her failure-to-accommodate and disability discrimination claims, and WTW is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The court further concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiff's motion to alter or amend the judgment and plaintiff has not shown that the district court abused its discretion in taxing costs against her. View "Jennings v. Towers Watson" on Justia Law

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In an action concerning the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) created by the Secretary of DHS on December 20, 2018, and purportedly rescinded by DHS in a memorandum on June 1, 2021, the district court concluded that DHS's purported rescission of MPP violated, inter alia, the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).After determining that the States' claims are justiciable, the Fifth Circuit denied the Government's motion for an emergency stay pending appeal of the district court's permanent injunction enjoining and restraining DHS from implementing or enforcing the June 1 Memorandum and ordering DHS to enforce and implement MPP in good faith. The court held that DHS failed to satisfy the four Nken stay factors. The court concluded that the Government is not likely to succeed on either its APA arguments or its 8 U.S.C. 1225 arguments, let alone that the Government is likely to succeed on both. Therefore, the Government has not come close to a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits. In this case, the Secretary failed to consider several relevant factors and important aspects of the problem, including the States' legitimate interests, MPP's benefits, potential alternatives to MPP, and section 1225's implications. Furthermore, the Government's counterarguments are unpersuasive.The court also concluded that the Government has not shown that it will be irreparably injured absent a stay pending appeal; the States have suffered, and will continue to suffer, harms as a result of the termination of MPP; and the Government is also wrong to say that a stay would promote the public interest by preserving the separation of powers. Finally, the court rejected the Government's contention that a stay is warranted because the district court should have remanded without vacating the June 1 Memorandum or issuing an injunction. View "Texas v. Biden" on Justia Law

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The Texas legislature enacted a "sexually oriented business" fee (SOBF) in 2007, imposing a $5-per-customer charge on businesses that serve alcohol in the presence of "nude" entertainment. The Comptroller promulgated a rule eight years later that clarified the definition of "nude" under the SOBF statute to apply to dancers who wear opaque latex over their breasts (the Clothing Rule).TEA filed suit against the Comptroller, challenging the Clothing Rule on First Amendment, due process, and equal protection grounds. The district court granted partial summary judgment to TEA on its First Amendment freedom of expression claim and its claim that the Clothing Rule violated due process. After a bench trial, the district court held that the Clothing Rule was not overbroad in violation of the First Amendment, but that it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.The Fifth Circuit agreed with the district court's conclusion that TEA had associational standing to challenge the Clothing Rule and dismissal of the Comptroller's other jurisdictional claims. On the merits, the court concluded that the Clothing Rule fails strict scrutiny under the First Amendment. In this case, the Clothing Rule is directed at the essential expressive nature of the latex clubs' business, and thus is a content based restriction subject to strict scrutiny. Furthermore, the Comptroller does not present an argument that the Clothing Rule satisfies this high burden. The court also concluded that the retroactive imposition of the SOBF upon the latex clubs via the Clothing Rule constitutes a violation of due process guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Finally, the court concluded that TEA's equal protection claim lacks merit because none of the examples proffered by TEA or employed by the district court are "in all relevant respects alike" to the latex clubs at issue. Therefore, TEA failed to prove that similarly situated individuals were treated differently. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment with respect to its jurisdictional, First Amendment, and due process rulings. The court reversed with respect to the district court's equal protection ruling and rendered judgment in favor of the Comptroller as to TEA's equal protection claim. View "Texas Entertainment Ass'n, Inc. v. Hegar" on Justia Law