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

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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Plaintiffs, tenants living in substandard conditions in a "Section 8" housing project, filed suit seeking to compel HUD to provide relocation assistance vouchers. The Fifth Circuit held that, because 24 C.F.R. 886.323(e) mandates that HUD provide relocation assistance, its alleged decision not to provide relocation vouchers to plaintiffs is not a decision committed to agency discretion by law and is therefore reviewable. Furthermore, the agency's inaction here constitutes a final agency action because it prevents or unreasonably delays the tenants from receiving the relief to which they are entitled by law. Therefore, the district court has jurisdiction over plaintiffs' Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and Fair Housing Act (FHA) claims and erred in dismissing those claims.However, the court agreed with the district court that plaintiffs failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted on their Fifth Amendment equal protection claim. In this case, plaintiffs failed to state a plausible claim of intentional race discrimination. Accordingly, the court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Hawkins v. United States Department of Housing and Urban Development" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit granted in part and denied in part the United States' motion for a stay pending appeal of the district court's nationwide preliminary injunction preventing the United States from relying on immigration enforcement priorities outlined in memos from DHS and ICE. On Inauguration Day, January 20, 2021, the Acting Secretary of DHS issued a memo announcing that the Department would undergo a comprehensive review of enforcement policies, announcing DHS's interim enforcement priorities, and directing an immediate 100-day pause on removals. ICE issued a memo on February 18, 2021 that incorporates the same three interim priorities.The court did not see a strong justification for concluding that the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 detention statutes override the deep-rooted tradition of enforcement discretion when it comes to decisions that occur before detention, such as who should be subject to arrest, detainers, and removal proceedings. Therefore, the United States has shown a likelihood of prevailing on appeal to the extent the preliminary injunction prevents officials from relying on the memos' enforcement priorities for nondetention decisions. The court also concluded that the remaining factors also support a partial stay.The court stated that the injunction will go into effect to the extent it prevents DHS and ICE officials from relying on the memos to refuse to detain aliens described in 8 U.S.C. 1226(c)(1) against whom detainers have been lodged or aliens who fall under section 1231(a)(1)(A) because they have been ordered removed. The court stayed the injunction pending appeal in all other respects including the reporting requirements. View "Texas v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal, based on lack of jurisdiction, of plaintiff's claims against the Department and the FAA based on his dissatisfaction with the FAA's response to several of his Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Construing the complaint liberally, as the district court was bound to do, the court concluded that the district court should have determined that plaintiff sufficiently alleged that the agency had improperly withheld agency records. The court explained that this was sufficient to invoke the district court's subject matter jurisdiction. View "Rutila v. United States Department of Transportation" 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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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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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the FDIC receiver (FDIC-R) and the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) dismissal of Lexon's Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) claim against the FDIC in its corporate capacity. In this case, Lexon filed suit against the FDIC-R alleging violations of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA).The court concluded that the district court did not err in sua sponte granting summary judgment. Although the district court erred in failing to notify the parties, that error was harmless. The court held that letters of credit are repudiable contracts for the purposes of 12 U.S.C. 1821(e)(1); the FDIC-R repudiated the letters of credit within a "reasonable period" under section 1821(e)(2); and Lexon lacks "actual direct compensatory damages" under FIRREA. The court also concluded that Lexon failed to establish an analogous private liability and the district court correctly dismissed Lexon's FTCA claim for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. View "Lexon Insurance Co., Inc. v. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp." on Justia Law

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Texas state prisoner Haverkamp, a biological male at birth who identifies as a transgender woman, sued, alleging violations of the Equal Protection Clause by denying Haverkamp medically necessary sex-reassignment surgery and by failing to provide certain female commissary items and a long-hair pass. Texas’s Correctional Managed Healthcare Committee has a policy concerning the treatment of gender disorders. Based on the state’s advisory, the district court ordered service of Haverkamp’s operative complaint on Dr. Murray, whom the state identified as the proper defendant if Haverkamp were seeking sex-reassignment surgery, and the nine Committee members who had not yet been named as parties. The district court subsequently denied motions to dismiss, concluding that the state was not entitled to sovereign immunity.The Fifth Circuit vacated. Haverkamp’s suit is barred by sovereign immunity because the Committee members are not proper defendants under Ex Parte Young; Haverkamp fails to allege they have the requisite connection to enforcing the policies Haverkamp challenges. In light of the state’s representations to the district court that these defendants are the proper state officials to sue, the court did not dismiss them from the case. View "Haverkamp v. Linthicum" on Justia Law

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This case arose from Port's efforts, in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps, in planning and executing the Freeport Harbor Channel Improvement Project. To construct new facilities, the Port needs land, and has consequently been acquiring properties in the East End with the goal of eventually buying up the entire neighborhood. Plaintiff filed suit alleging that defendants intentionally discriminated against East End residents during its expansion in violation of section 601 of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and denied plaintiff's administrative complaint in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).The Fifth Circuit concluded that the district court properly dismissed plaintiff's section 601 claim because plaintiff failed to sufficiently allege that the Port acted with discriminatory intent. However, the district court erred in dismissing plaintiff's APA claim. The court explained that the Corps' decision to deny plaintiff's administrative complaint was not committed to its discretion and is thus reviewable under the APA. On remand, the court instructed the district court to consider only the issue of whether the Corps correctly denied plaintiff's administrative complaint on the basis that it lacked jurisdiction due to an absence of federal financial assistance within the meaning of Title VI. View "Rollerson v. Brazos River Harbor Navigation District of Brazoria County Texas" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Health Choice's qui tam actions under the False Claims Act on behalf of the United States alleging violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute by pharmaceutical companies. As a preliminary matter, the court explained that there is a potential jurisdictional issue concerning the chronology of two events: Health Choice's voluntary dismissal and the district court's granting of the United States' motion to dismiss. The court declined to create a circuit split and concluded that the prior without-prejudice dismissals did not deprive the district court's subsequent decision of finality. The court explained that the district court's order on the motion to dismiss was final because it adjudicated all the claims against all the remaining parties in the action at the time it was entered, and the prior voluntary dismissal does not alter that conclusion.The court affirmed on the merits, construing the term "hearing" in 31 U.S.C. 3730(c)(2)(A) to require something more than a forum for a relator to convince the government not to dismiss. In this case, Health Choice got a hearing as required by section 3730(c)(2)(A). The court explained that, assuming without deciding, that the more burdensome Sequoia Orange test applies, dismissal of the Eli Lilly and Bayer cases was proper. In this case, the government has satisfied its burden of showing a rational relation between dismissal and its legitimate cost-saving purpose. Considering Health Choice's arguments and the record as a whole, the court held that Health Choice did not show that dismissal was "fraudulent, arbitrary and capricious, or illegal" under the strict Sequoia Orange standard. View "United States ex rel. Health Choice Alliance, LLC v. Eli Lilly and Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied Huawei's petition for review challenging an FCC rule barring the use of government subsidies to buy equipment from companies designated security risks to communications networks. As a preliminary matter, the court dismissed Huawei's claims related to the initial designation for lack of jurisdiction based on ripeness grounds.The court concluded that the FCC reasonably interpreted its authority under the Communications Act in formulating the rule. The court found that the agency reasonably interpreted the Act's "public interest" provisions (47 U.S.C. 254(c)(1)(D), in coordination with section 201(b)), to authorize allocation of universal service funds based on the agency's exercise of limited national security judgment. Furthermore, the agency reasonably interpreted the "quality services" provision in section 254(b)(1) to support that exercise. Therefore, the court deferred to the agency's interpretation under Chevron review and rejected Huawei's argument that the agency lacked statutory authority for the rule. The court also considered the companies' other challenges under the Administrative Procedure Act and the Constitution, finding that claims regarding adequacy of notice, arbitrary and capricious review, vagueness, and due process are unavailing. View "Huawei Technologies USA, Inc. v. Federal Communications Commission" on Justia Law