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

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
by
After the Supreme Court overturned Plaintiff’s Louisiana capital murder conviction, Plaintiff brought Section 1983 and 1988 suits against the state prosecutor and a sheriff’s detective, alleging that they fabricated evidence that deprived him of due process and a fair trial. Defendants, District Attorney and Livingston Parish Sheriff’s, each moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(c) based on assertions of absolute prosecutorial immunity. The district court denied the motions, holding that neither defendant was entitled to absolute immunity for fabricating evidence by intimidating and coercing a juvenile to adopt a false narrative the defendants had concocted out of whole cloth.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s rulings, holding that a police officer is not entitled to absolute immunity reserved for a prosecutor. The court held that neither the Detective nor the District attorney is owed absolute immunity under the facts alleged in Plaintiff’s complaint. The court reasoned that the Supreme Court has made clear that police officers, even when working in concert with prosecutors, are not entitled to absolute immunity. Nor are prosecutors when they step outside of their role as advocates and fabricate evidence. The facts and actions alleged by the complaint are fundamentally investigatory in nature, and therefore absolute immunity is not warranted. View "Wearry v. Foster" on Justia Law

by
On the panel's initial hearing of the case, Judge Higginson concluded that the restrictions on the President's removal authority under the Consumer Financial Protection Act are valid and constitutional. Judge Higginson found that neither the text of the United States Constitution nor the Supreme Court's previous decisions support appellants' arguments that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is unconstitutionally structured, and thus he affirmed the district court's judgment.More than two years later, and after conducting a vote among the circuit judges, the Fifth Circuit vacated its previous opinion and elected to hear the case en banc. View "CFPB v. All American Check Cashing, et al" on Justia Law

by
A fifteen-year-old boy was shot and killed by Defendant, a then-officer responding to a 911 call about possible underage drinking. The boy’s family and friends sued Defendant and the City of Balch Springs alleging excessive force. Later, Defendant was separately convicted of murder. The district court denied Defendant’s summary judgment motion claiming qualified immunity.On appeal, Defendant argued that the facts at the moment of the threat are undisputed and urged the court to exercise jurisdiction over the case on the issue of materiality. The court found that the resolution of this factual dispute is material because it affects both whether Defendant’s use of force was reasonable and whether the force he used violated clearly established law. The court found that if a jury accepts Plaintiffs’ version of the facts as true, particularly as to what occurred in the moments before Defendant shot at the car, the jury could conclude that the officers violated Plaintiffs’ clearly established right to be free from excessive force. Thus, because the factual dispute is material, the court ruled that it lacks jurisdiction to consider the propriety of the summary judgment denial. The court dismissed Defendant’s interlocutory appeal and remanded for further proceedings. View "Edwards v. Oliver" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs challenged President Biden’s September 9, 2021 order requiring all executive employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. After finding that the equities favored the plaintiffs and that they were likely to succeed at trial, the district court preliminarily enjoined enforcement of President Biden’s Order nationwide.The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court’s prelamination injunction. The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (“CSRA”) provides “comprehensive and exclusive procedures” for the review of employment-related disputes between civil-service employees and the federal government. The court held that the CSRA provides meaningful administrative review of the plaintiff’s claims. Because the plaintiffs failed to exhaust available review under the CRSA, the district court lacked jurisdiction to hear the plaintiffs’ claim. The court also rejected the plaintiffs' argument that their claim was "wholly collateral" to the CSRA scheme. View "Feds for Medical Freedom v. Biden" on Justia Law

by
Appellants (“Defense Distributed”) have challenged publication restraints imposed by the U.S. State Department, federal courts, and the State of New Jersey (“NJ”) after appellants published the internet computer-assisted design (“CAD”) files for a single-round plastic pistol. Although Defense Distributed is still prevented from publishing, the CAD files it published remain available on many other websites. At issue in this combined appeal and motion for mandamus relief stems from a district court’s (“DC”) order severing the case and transferring it to a federal court in NJ. The court found that the Defense Distributed satisfied the first two conditions for mandamus relief. Further, the NJ Attorney General did not carry its burden to demonstrate that transfer is more appropriate than the plaintiffs’ choice of forum.The court concluded that the DC’s order severing and transferring the claims against the NJAG to the District of New Jersey was a clear abuse of discretion, giving rise to an appropriate exercise of the court’s mandamus power. View "Defense Distributed v. Bruck" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit agreed with the district court that sovereign immunity bars the ratepayers' claims against the Mississippi Public Service Commissioners. The court also agreed that the Johnson Act does not preclude federal jurisdiction over the claims against the utility. However, the court disagreed with the accrual date the district court used in dismissing the case on limitations grounds. The court explained that the ratepayers' claims did not accrue on August 6, 2015, when the Commission approved the refund plan, or on August 16, 2016, when an economist concluded that Mississippi Power shorted them. The court affirmed the dismissal of the claims against the Commissioners but vacated the district court's dismissal of the claims against Mississippi Power on imitations grounds. Given the uncertainties in the record and the possible benefit of limited discovery on the limitations issue, the court remanded to the district court for further proceedings. View "Turnage v. Britton" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the HHS Defendants in an action challenging HHS's risk-adjustment program, implemented under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), and repromulgation of the 2017 and 2018 rules. In this case, Vista Health Plan, a health insurance company in Texas, was assessed risk-adjustment fees that exceeded its premium revenue, causing the company to cease operations.After determining that it has jurisdiction over the appeal, the court concluded that the 2017 and 2018 Final Rules adopted by HHS were not impermissibly retroactive under Landgraf v. USI Film Prods., 511 U.S. 244, 268 (1994). The court also concluded that HHS's failure to follow the Administrative Procedure Act's notice-and-comment procedures in its repromulgation of the 2017 Final Rule was at worst harmless error. Rather, the new rule actually maintained the settled expectations of insurers covered by the previous version of the rule. Finally, the court concluded that Vista's other issues on appeal regarding the administrative record before the district court, Chevron deference as to HHS's interpretation of the governing law, and the district court's "sua sponte" summary judgment on Vista's regulatory taking claim lack merit. View "Vista Health Plan, Inc. v. United States Department of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy court's judgment and held that, under the particular circumstances presented here, Ultra Resources is not subject to a separate public-law obligation to continue performance of its rejected contract, and that 11 U.S.C. 1129(a)(6) did not require the bankruptcy court to seek FERC's approval before it confirmed Ultra Resource's reorganization plan.Applying In re Mirant Corp., 378 F.3d 511 (5th Cir. 2004), the court concluded that the power of the bankruptcy court to authorize rejection of a filed-rate contract does not conflict with the authority given to FERC to regulate rates; rejection is not a collateral attack upon the contract's filed rate because that rate is given full effect when determining the breach of contract damages resulting from the rejection; and in ruling on a rejection motion, bankruptcy courts must consider whether rejection harms the public interest or disrupts the supply of energy, and must weigh those effects against the contract's burden on the bankrupt estate. Because Mirant clearly holds that rejection of a contract is not a collateral attack on the filed rate, the court concluded that FERC does not have the authority to compel continued performance and continued payment of the filed rate after a valid rejection. The court rejected any further arguments to the contrary. View "Federal Energy Regulatory Commission v. Ultra Resources" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit denied defendants' motion for a partial stay of the district court's preliminary injunction enjoining the Department of Defense, United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and United States Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro from enforcing certain COVID-19 vaccination requirements against 35 Navy special warfare personnel and prohibiting any adverse actions based on their religious accommodation requests. Specifically, defendants seek a partial stay pending appeal insofar as the injunction precludes them from considering plaintiffs' vaccination statuses "in making deployment, assignment and other operational decisions."The court weighed the Mindes abstention factors and determined that this dispute is justiciable. However, the court concluded that defendants have not carried their burden to warrant the issuance of the stay. The court agreed with the district court that defendants have not shown a compelling interest to deny religious accommodations under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 to each of the 35 plaintiffs at issue. Rather, the "marginal interest" in vaccinating each plaintiff appears to be negligible and thus defendants lack a sufficiently compelling interest to vaccinate plaintiffs. The court also concluded that the preliminary injunction does not irreparably damage the Navy and the public; partially staying the preliminary injunction pending appeal would substantially harm plaintiffs; and issuance of the requested stay would disserve the public interest. View "U.S. Navy SEALs 1-26 v. Biden" on Justia Law

by
OSHA investigated DRTG, a Houston construction company, following a worksite fatality. DRTG employees provided DRTG’s business address, which is also the home address of DRTG’s sole owner. On September 13, OSHA issued a citation and a notice of a proposed penalty to DRTG, mailed to the provided address by USPS certified mail. After an unsuccessful delivery attempt was made on September 16, USPS left a standard delivery slip saying that the certified mailing would be held at the Post Office for pick-up; DRTG never retrieved the mailing. OSHA sent the citation by UPS Next Day Air on September 23. According to UPS tracking, the citation was successfully delivered to DRTG’s doorstep on September 24. DRTG had 15 working days to file a notice of contest, which OSHA calculated from the date of the UPS delivery as October 16. DRTG did not file the notice by the deadline. The citation became a final order on October 16, 29 U.S.C. 659(a). The next day, an OSHA representative spoke with Padron regarding documentation required by the citation. A "next of kin letter" sent by OSHA to a DRTG employee who was the deceased employee’s cousin, was received on October 18, was immediately forwarded to DRTG’s counsel.On November 5, OSHA received DRTG’s notice of contest, which was ultimately rejected as untimely. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. DRTG was properly served with notice. View "D.R.T.G. Builders, L.L.C. v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission" on Justia Law