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

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, 42 U.S.C. 1985, and state law, alleging claims stemming from an FBI sting operation. A government informant had assisted law enforcement officers in a drug exchange with plaintiff. Plaintiff was later acquitted of possession of heroin with intent to distribute and conspiracy. The Fifth Circuit held that plaintiff's section 1985 claims against the federal officers failed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), because section 1985(3) does not apply to federal officers; even assuming section 1985(3) covered plaintiff's proffered class of convicted felons, his claims could not survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion because he failed to link his conspiracy allegations to his status; plaintiff's section 1983 claims against Officer Barrera failed under the same standard where plaintiff failed to allege that Barrera formed any kind of agreement with anyone or that Barrera learned what transpired on the phone call between the informant and plaintiff; and the purported Bivens claim against Moody and LaBuz were not cognizable. Finally, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiff's motion for leave to file a fourth amended complaint. View "Cantu v. Moody" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of a petition for habeas relief, holding that equitable tolling was appropriate under the specific circumstances presented. The court agreed with petitioner that the district court should have equitably tolled the limitations period while he waited for notice from the TCCA that it had denied his state habeas application. Accordingly, the court remanded for consideration of the habeas petition. View "Jackson v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the hospital in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging Title VII race discrimination. Applying the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework, the court held that the hospital offered a legitimate nondiscriminatory explanation for not hiring plaintiff (she never applied for a full time position), and plaintiff failed to show that the hospital's stated explanation was mere pretext. In regard to plaintiff's termination claim, plaintiff failed to show that she was treated differently from similarly situated white nurses. Even if plaintiff had made a prima facie case, the hospital met its burden by explaining that plaintiff's schedule at her new full-time job elsewhere conflicted with the only shifts available to PRN nurses. Furthermore, plaintiff identified no evidence that would prove that the hospital's explanation was pretext. View "Hassen v. Ruston Louisiana Hospital Co." on Justia Law

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The Louisiana Small Business Development Center is not a juridical entity capable of being sued under federal law for alleged age discrimination. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action brought by plaintiff against the Center, alleging that she was fired because of age discrimination. The court held that plaintiff failed to state a claim and that the proper party to name as a defendant would have been the Board of Supervisors. However, the Board of Supervisors is an arm of the state entitled to state sovereign immunity against claims brought under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. View "Edmiston v. LA Small Business Development Center" on Justia Law

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After decedent was struck and killed by a motor vehicle as he walked along a highway in the dark, plaintiffs filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit against the county, the city, and law enforcement officers, alleging state law claims and constitutional claims. The district court granted summary judgment to the city and the officers, but denied summary judgment to the county and Deputy Fleming. Deputy Fleming appealed. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment as to the Fourth Amendment claim, holding that Deputy Fleming's seizure, detention, and transporting of the decedent at the county line for alleged vagrant-ouster purposes violated the decedent's clearly established Fourth Amendment rights. The court reversed as to the Fourteenth Amendment claim, holding that plaintiffs have not demonstrated a clearly established substantive due process right on the facts they alleged. Therefore, the court rendered judgment that Deputy Fleming was entitled to qualified immunity on the Fourteenth Amendment claim. View "Keller v. Fleming" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal, on summary judgment, of plaintiff's claims of interference and retaliation in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The court held that SCS had a good-faith reason for plaintiff's termination. In this case, SCS adhered to company policy in firing plaintiff after he had refused to conduct himself professionally and had delayed reporting a safety concern. View "Tatum v. Southern Company Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit held that the order committing defendant for a maximum of four months accords with due process. The court held that, even where the medical evidence indicates that the defendant's condition is permanent, temporary hospitalization bears some reasonable relation to the purpose for that confinement. In this case, defendant was charged with threatening to assault and murder two federal employees. The district court found that he lacked capacity to stand trial and ordered his temporary hospitalization to determine whether he might regain competency in the foreseeable future. The court joined its sister circuits in holding that such mandatory, limited confinement accords with due process. View "United States v. McKown" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied petitioner's motion for a stay of execution, holding that he failed to demonstrate that the circumstances justify the exercise of the court's equitable discretion. The court held that petitioner was unlikely to succeed on the merits of his claim that this case should proceed in federal court without the pressures of a state execution setting. Even even assuming arguendo he could establish a likelihood of success, the other factors also weigh in favor of the state and against a stay. The court explained that, at this point, a denial of his stay motion would not prevent him from fully and fairly litigating the merits of his Rule 60(b)(6) motion before the district court. View "Crutsinger v. Davis" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff's position was eliminated, he filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against the county, alleging a First Amendment retaliation claim. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the county's motions for summary judgment, judgment as a matter of law, and new trial. The court held that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine was inapplicable; plaintiff's claim was not judicially estopped based on his response in his unemployment application; and plaintiff's failure to appeal the Board's decision in state court did not preclude his First Amendment claim under section 1983. The court also held that plaintiff's position was not a policymaking position, and the jury's verdict in favor of plaintiff was supported by sufficient evidence. In this case, there was evidence that at least three of the five board members had retaliatory motive, and the evidence was legally sufficient to support the jury's verdict. View "Griggs v. Chickasaw County" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the employer on plaintiff's claims of discrimination based on age, disability, and national origin. The court held that an intake questionnaire, which does not contain a clear and concise statement of facts alleging unlawful employment practices, was insufficient to constitute a charge of discrimination. Therefore, plaintiff filed an untimely charge of discrimination which resulted in his failure to properly exhaust his administrative remedies. The court also held that equitable tolling did not apply in this case because plaintiff did not act with due diligence. View "Caycho Melgar v. T.B. Butler Publishing Co." on Justia Law