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

Articles Posted in Constitutional 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

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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

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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

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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

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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