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

Articles Posted in Public Benefits
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Plaintiff and her now-adult son K.S., a former high school student with a specific learning disability, filed suit under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), alleging that the school district neither provided K.S. with a free appropriate public education (FAPE) nor complied with procedural safeguards meant to ensure such.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision affirming two administrative decisions concluding that the school district did not violate the IDEA's substantive and procedural requirements. The court reviewed the voluminous record and the magistrate judge's thorough report that the district court adopted, discerning no reversible error in the district court's holding that: (1) the school district did not violate its obligation to identify and evaluate K.S. as a student with a suspected disability; (2) the individualized education programs and transition plan created for K.S. complied with IDEA's substantive requirements; and (3) the school district's procedural foot-faults in failing to include K.S. for the first manifestation determination review and failing to consider certain relevant information were not actionable. View "H v. Riesel Independent School District" on Justia Law

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Family Rehab brought a procedural due process claim arguing that it is entitled to third step review before recoupment of Medicare overpayments. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Family Rehab, and entered a permanent injunction barring HHS from recouping the disputed funds until the completion of third step review under 42 C.F.R. 405.1036(c)–(d).However, in reaching its decision, the district court did not have the benefit of the Fifth Circuit's decision in Sahara Health Care Inc. v. Azar, 975 F.3d 523 (5th Cir. 2020), in which the court rejected a similar due process claim under nearly identical facts. In this case, Family Rehab's claims all involve documentation issues that do not require cross-examination and credibility determinations. The court explained that Family Rehab's claims could have been resolved in the first two steps of administrative review by producing the relevant documents. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment. View "Family Rehabilitation, Inc. v. Becerra" on Justia 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 affirmed the district court's decision upholding the Commissioner's denial of supplemental security income and disability insurance benefits to plaintiff. The court explained that, although the ALJ did not mention the Stone standard, it did cite Social Security Ruling (SSR) 85-28, 1985 WL 56856 (Jan. 1, 1985), a policy statement issued to clarify the agency’s process for determining non-severe impairments. The court held that SSR 85-28 comports with the Stone standard. The court also held that, even if the ALJ failed to properly apply the Stone standard, the error is harmless. In this case, plaintiff does not meaningfully address how the ALJ's application of SSR 85-28 (instead of citing Stone) produced a different outcome in her case. View "Keel v. Saul" on Justia Law

Posted in: Public Benefits
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a parent's motion for summary judgment against the school district for alleged procedural and substantive violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The court held that the district court did not err in finding that the parent failed to meet her burden of showing that the school district violated the procedural requirements of the IDEA. In this case, none of the incidents the parent claimed amounted to a procedural violation and the court was not convinced that the student was denied a free and appropriate public education.The court also held that there were no substantive IDEA violations. The court was satisfied that the school district took the necessary steps to ensure that the student was being properly serviced under this individualized education plan, despite his absences. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of the school district's motion for summary judgment. View "A. A. v. Northside Independent School District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that the school district violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by failing to develop and implement an Individual Education Plan (IEP) that was reasonably calculated to provide him with educational benefits appropriate to his circumstances.Assuming arguendo that plaintiff was able to challenge all of the IEPs that the school district designed and implemented, the Fifth Circuit ultimately held that there was no IDEA violation. The court held that the district court properly considered the four factor test articulated in Cypress-Fairbanks lndep. Sch. Dist. v. Michael ex rel. Barry F., 118 F.3d 245, 247 (5th Cir. 1997), and concluded that all factors weighed in favor of the school district. In this case, the school district expended a great amount of time and resources developing and implementing an IEP that was based on multiple in-depth evaluations of plaintiff's unique needs and abilities with significant input from plaintiff's parents and expert consultants, and plaintiff achieved at least some academic and nonacademic benefits as a result of his plan. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff on his IDEA claim and dismissal of his remaining claims. View "R. S. v. Highland Park Independent School District" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the denial of social security disability benefits to plaintiff. The court held that the denial of benefits was not supported by substantial evidence, because the ALJ failed to apply the SSA's rules regarding borderline-age situations and did not provide any explanation for putting her in a lower age category. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Schofield v. Saul" on Justia Law

Posted in: Public Benefits
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Plaintiff, a civilly committed sexually violent predator, had to pay for GPS monitoring or be prosecuted under a now-repealed Texas law. Plaintiff filed suit alleging that the pay-or-be-prosecuted penalty violated the Social Security Act's anti-attachment provision, 42 U.S.C. 407(a), which protects benefits from execution, levy, attachment, garnishment, or other legal process.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to officials based on qualified immunity, holding that plaintiff's Social Security benefits were not executed on, levied, attached, or garnished. Furthermore, criminalizing a sexually violent predator's failure to pay for GPS monitoring is not "other legal process" under section 407(a). Therefore, the district court correctly interpreted the anti-attachment provision and the officials were entitled to qualified immunity. View "Reed v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to affirm the revocation of two physicians' Medicare privileges. The court held that the physicians billed for services using their own Medicare National Provider Identifiers without providing direct supervision while traveling outside of the country; the ALJ's summary judgment dismissal of the physicians' claims was supported by substantial evidence; the physicians' constitutional claims were rejected; the court agreed with its sister circuits that have determined that participation in the federal Medicare reimbursement program is not a property interest; and the court deferred to CMS's decision to bar the physicians from re-enrolling in the Medicare program for three years. View "Shah v. Azar" on Justia Law

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Parents of C.J. filed suit under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), alleging that the school district failed to provide him with a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of the school district and rejected parents' claim that the school district's refusal to provide Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) services denied C.J. a FAPE where parents could not meaningfully claim that C.J.'s individualized education plan (IEP) was predetermined; the district court did not clearly err by finding that sufficient notice of C.J.'s eligibility for summer school classes was provided; in light of the facts, the school district did not deny C.J. a FAPE by failing to protect him from bullying; and C.J.'s transition plan did not deny him a FAPE. View "Renee J. v. Houston Independent School District" on Justia Law