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

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
by
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concerning the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) created by the Secretary of DHS on December 20, 2018, and purportedly rescinded by DHS in a memorandum on June 1, 2021, the district court concluded that DHS's purported rescission of MPP violated, inter alia, the Administrative Procedure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

by
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

by
Plaintiff appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the employer on his state-law disability-discrimination and retaliation claims, as well as his claims for retaliation and interference under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Plaintiff's claim stemmed from his termination after taking time off of work for open-heart surgery.The court concluded that the district court properly granted summary judgment on plaintiff's disability discrimination claim under Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code where there simply is no medical evidence in the record except for plaintiff's own statements that he was qualified to return to work at any point, let alone before his FMLA leave expired; plaintiff failed to establish that he was qualified for either of two positions at work; and there was no other request for accommodations outside of the ability to attend dialysis treatments nor any reasonable explanation to account for the contradictory statements about plaintiff's physical capabilities made in the application for social security benefits. The court also concluded that plaintiff failed to support that he engaged in any protected activity under state law that led to retaliation by his employer.In regard to plaintiff's FMLA claims, the court concluded that the district court correctly determined that plaintiff did not show the prejudice necessary to prevail on an FMLA interference claim. However, in regard to plaintiff's FMLA retaliation claim, the adverse employment action occurred approximately one month after plaintiff's FMLA leave expired. The court concluded that a month is close enough in time to create a causal connection. Therefore, the burden shifts to the employer to offer legitimate, nonretaliatory reasons for the adverse reaction. Although the employer offered three reasons, the court concluded that they have been adequately rebutted for purposes of summary judgment. Accordingly, the court affirmed on all claims except for the FMLA retaliation claim, which it reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Campos v. Steves & Sons, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit, en banc, vacated the district court's permanent injunction declaring Senate Bill 8 (SB8), which prohibits a particular type of dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortion method, facially unconstitutional.The district court held that SB8 imposes an undue burden on a large fraction of women, primarily because it determined that SB8 amounted to a ban on all D&E abortions. However, viewing SB8 through a binary framework—that either D&Es can be done only by live dismemberment or else women cannot receive abortions in the second trimester—is to accept a false dichotomy. Rather, the en banc court concluded that the record shows that doctors can safely perform D&Es and comply with SB8 using methods that are already in widespread use. The en banc court also concluded that the district court, in permanently enjoining SB8, committed numerous, reversible legal and factual errors: applying the wrong test to assess SB8, disregarding and misreading the Supreme Court's precedents in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey and Gonzales v. Carhart, and bungling the large-fraction analysis. Because remanding to the district court would be futile as the record permits only one conclusion, the en banc court concluded that plaintiffs have failed to carry their heavy burden of proving that SB8 would impose an undue burden on a large fraction of women. View "Whole Woman's Health v. Paxton" on Justia Law

by
During Castilleja's 15 years as Bexar County Community Supervision and Corrections Department (CSCD) community service officer, he had multiple reprimands and termination warnings. After Castilleja was transferred in 2014, his new manager suspected Castilleja was violating overtime rules. An investigation by Assistant Chief Kelly confirmed Castilleja was routinely taking unapproved overtime and using his work computer to send union-related emails. Castilleja only received counseling and was put on a “performance improvement plan.” Castilleja’s 2015 evaluation rated him “satisfactory” overall but gave him the lowest rating in multiple categories. In 2016, Castilleja was sworn in as president of the Bexar County Probation Officers Association (BCPOA), having served in the union since 2007. Castilleja switched units and other issues came to light, resulting in an audit of Castilleja’s former cases. Brady recommended termination, citing Castilleja’s disregard of “the basic ten[e]ts of case management,” multiple policy violations, plus two instances of conducting union business while at work, and one use of work email to send union-related emails. Meanwhile, the BCPOA issued a no-confidence petition calling for Anderson’s removal. Days later, Anderson heard Castilleja’s appeal. Anderson fired Castilleja.Castilleja and the Union sued Anderson and Brady in their individual and official capacities, claiming that Castilleja was fired in retaliation for union-related speech and association in violation of the First Amendment, 42 U.S.C. 1983, 1985. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of all claims. The evidence established valid reasons for firing Castilleja. View "United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial & Service Workers International Union v. Anderson" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, a former inmate, filed suit against his nurses and his physician under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging they were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The district court denied defendants' motion for summary judgment, finding that, at that juncture, they were not entitled to qualified immunity.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. The court concluded that plaintiff has introduced evidence showing that officials knowingly furnished treatment unresponsive to his need. In this case, they ignored his inability to walk and refused to treat his lost mobility, permitting the inference that they intentionally treated him incorrectly. The court saw no meaningful distinction between an official's decision to offer plainly unresponsive treatment to a prisoner and his decision to refuse to treat him, ignore his complaints, or intentionally treat him incorrectly. Therefore, at minimum, the court concluded that plaintiff introduced evidence that officials engaged in similar conduct that would clearly evince a wanton disregard for his serious medical need. Furthermore, this rises to the level of deliberate indifference. The court also concluded that defendants had fair warning that their delay in treating plaintiff's fractured hip beyond the most cursory care violated his Eighth Amendment rights. View "Spikes v. McVea" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit dismissed plaintiff's appeal of the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants and imposition of a third strike under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). The court concluded that plaintiff is a vexatious litigant who has admitted that he files federal lawsuits against his custodians as a means of intimidating them to comply with his demands for things like antacid and high-protein food. This is his seventh of at least twelve such complaints. The court barred plaintiff from filing additional abusive suits while he is incarcerated or detained in any facility unless he is under imminent danger of serious physical injury. View "Hale v. Harrison County Board of Supervisors" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of plaintiff's former employer, a restaurant chain, and to his former manager. The court concluded that, although plaintiff presented a prima facie case that the restaurant discriminated and retaliated against him, he failed to offer persuasive evidence that the restaurant's proffered, permissible reasons for his termination were a pretext for unlawful action. In this case, plaintiff failed to demonstrate that his employer's reasons for firing him—lying and preparing a dish incorrectly—constitute pretextual reasons to cover over racial discrimination and retaliation. Furthermore, plaintiff failed to provide sufficient evidence of bad faith or malice to support his tortious interference claim. View "Jones v. Gulf Coast Restaurant Group, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Petitioner was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. Petitioner claims that the victim's parents were opposed to him receiving the death penalty and conveyed that opposition to the prosecutors prior to trial. Nevertheless, despite knowing this, the prosecutors stated during closing argument at the punishment phase of trial that all of the victim's family and everyone that loved him believed that the death penalty was appropriate. Petitioner unsuccessfully sought habeas relief in state court and subsequently in federal court.The Fifth Circuit concluded that petitioner is required to obtain a certificate of appealability (COA) to appeal the district court's dismissal of his Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) motion; the court declined to issue a COA; and the court declined to grant petitioner's motion invoking the All Writs Act. The court explained that petitioner's Rule 60(b) motion is ultimately an effort to advance "a new ground for relief" that was not contained in his initial federal habeas petition rather than an effort to redress a procedural defect in his initial federal habeas proceedings. Furthermore, the district court did not err in concluding that petitioner's motion invoking the All Writs Act should be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because 28 U.S.C. 2254 is the proper avenue for him to seek relief. The court affirmed the district court's order transferring petitioner's new section 2254 petition to this court as a second or successive petition within the meaning of section 2244(b) and dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction. The court affirmed the district court's order denying compensation to petitioner's counsel for their work on his successive state habeas proceedings. View "Storey v. Lumpkin" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the hospital because plaintiff failed to show that the hospital intentionally discriminated against him based on his deafness. The court explained that the summary-judgment evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff, is sufficient for a reasonable jury to determine that the hospital should have known that plaintiff needed an on-site interpreter. However, fatal to plaintiff's claims, the evidence is not sufficient for a reasonable jury to determine that the hospital had actual knowledge of plaintiff's need for an on-site interpreter. In this case, plaintiff made no attempt to argue in this appeal or in district court that his nominal-damage claims, if any exist, are not subject to the same intentional-discrimination standard. Furthermore, plaintiff expressly abandoned his claims for injunctive relief and has not pressed his claim for a declaratory judgment on appeal. View "Francois v. Our Lady of the Lake Hospital, Inc." on Justia Law