Articles Posted in U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Trinity, a designer and builder of vessels, appealed the district court's holding that the tax due Trinity was $135,787.60 for 1994 and $0 for 1995. The court vacated the district court's holding as to the consistency rule and remanded for findings as to whether, in light of the district court's Phase I order, the four base period vessels at issue were sufficiently experimental to constitute qualified research. The court concluded that the district court correctly held that the report's conclusion, though admissible evidence, was neither binding nor entitled to a presumption of correctness. Therefore, while the I.R.S.'s ultimate determination of Trinity's tax liability was presumptively correct, the revenue agent report's subsidiary conclusion that the Penn Tugs met the process-of-experimentation test was neither binding on the Government nor presumptively correct. Further, the district court did not err in its analysis of the Penn Tugs. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Trinity Industries, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction for failure to register as a sex offender, contending that he was not required to register because his Wisconsin conviction for having sexual intercourse with a child age sixteen or older does not qualify as a "sex offense" within the meaning of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), 42 U.S.C. 16901 et seq. The court concluded that, based on the language, structure, and broad purpose of SORNA, Congress contemplated a non-categorical approach to the age-differential determination in the section 16911(5)(C) exception; the district court properly found that the (5)(C) exception does not apply and that defendant was required to register as a sex offender; defendant's contention that SORNA's criminal penalty and civil registration requirement exceeded Congress's power under the Commerce Clause was foreclosed by United States v. Whaley; and, therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "United States v. Gonzalez-Medina" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against defendants over a dispute regarding various, separate contracts between ARPD and individual defendants. On appeal, defendants challenged the district court's denial of a motion to compel arbitration submitted by NOV Norway. The court vacated and remanded, concluding that there was an arbitration agreement and that NOV Norway could not be held responsible for the actions of its codefendants in this case. View "Al Rushaid, et al. v. National Oilwell Varco, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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Defendants appealed the grant of partial summary judgment in favor of seven investors. The court concluded that it had jurisdiction to review all of the orders listed in defendants' notice of appeal; the district court did not abuse its discretion in striking a certified public accountant's affidavit where he lacked personal knowledge of the conclusions he was asserting; and the district court did not err in granting plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment where there had been a failure of consideration as a matter of law. In regards to the district court's holding that all defendants were liable for the return of $3.5 million, the district court did not err in finding SaiNath liable based on a failure of consideration; the district court did not err in holding K.A.P liable under a theory of unjust enrichment; but, because the district court did not have the benefit of Ogea v. Merritt when it analyzed "piercing of the veil," the court remanded for the district court to consider the application of the Louisiana court's analysis as to the facts of this case. Accordingly, the court affirmed partial summary judgment as to SaiNath and K.A.P. The court vacated and remanded as to the Karsans in their individual capacities. View "Meadaa, et al. v. K.A.P. Enterprises, L.L.C., et al." on Justia Law

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This case arose out of the sinking of a vessel owned by Hornbeck while at R&R's shipyard for repairs. R&R's liability insurer, National, filed suit to disclaim liability under its policy. Hornbeck counterclaimed. The district court found that R&R was negligent and that National was liable for the ensuing damages. The court concluded that the district court did not clearly err in finding that R&R was negligent under bailment law where the vessel was delivered to R&R afloat, R&R had full custody of the vessel, and the vessel sank while under R&R's care; even if the salvage company had been negligent, R&R would remain fully liable because this negligence was a foreseeable consequence of R&R's own negligence; under Rule 13(a), Hornbeck had standing to bring its counterclaim and the district court properly ruled on that claim after deciding R&R's liability; and the district court erred in the amount of damages it awarded and in applying an 18% interest rate. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for the entry of judgment and the appropriate assessment of interest on that judgment. View "National Liability & Fire Ins. Co. v. R & R Marine, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a native and citizen of El Salvador, petitioned for review of the BIA's dismissal of his appeal from the IJ's denial of his application for statutory withholding of removal and Convention Against Torture (CAT) protection. The court denied the petition for review as to statutory withholding where petitioner did not show that he would be persecuted on account of a protected ground because the court did not recognize economic extortion as a form of persecution under immigration law nor does it recognize wealthy Salvadorians as a protected group; granted the petition for review as to CAT protection where neither the BIA nor the IJ considered the alternative view of the evidence showing that the extortionists may have received their information about petitioner from other government officials acting in their official capacities; and remanded for further consideration of the petition for CAT protection. View "Garcia v. Holder, Jr." on Justia Law

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TAP filed suit against TCEQ under the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq., seeking an injunction prohibiting TCEQ from issuing new permits to withdraw water from rivers that feed the estuary where whooping cranes make their winter homes. The district court granted the injunction, which also required TCEQ to seek an incidental-take permit (ITP) from the FWS. Because the deaths of the whooping cranes are too remote from TCEQ's permitting withdrawal of water from the San Antonio and Guadalupe Rivers, the state defendants could not be held liable for a take or for causing a take under the Act. The court concluded that the district court misapplied proximate cause analysis and, even if proximate cause had been proven, the injunction was an abuse of discretion. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment of the district court. View "The Aransas Project v. Shaw, et al." on Justia Law

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Defendants appealed their sentences after pleading guilty to various counts related to the transportation of illegal aliens. The court concluded that the district court did not err in applying a ten-level enhancement under U.S.S.G. 2L1.1(b)(7) to defendants' sentences where defendant's actions were the but-for cause of injuries and death of the illegal aliens. View "United States v. Ramos-Delgado" on Justia Law

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U.S. Border Patrol Agent Mesa, standing in the United States, shot and killed Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca, a fifteen-year-old Mexican citizen, standing in Mexico. Hernandez's family filed suit against the United States, Agent Mesa, and Agent Mesa's supervisors, alleging a number of claims. Hernandez was gathered with a group of friends on the Mexican side of a cement culvert that separated the two countries, playing a game that involved running up the incline of the culvert, touching the barbed-wire fence, and then running back down the incline. Agent Mesa fired at least two shots at Hernandez, one of which struck him in the face and killed him. The court affirmed the judgment in favor of the United States where the United States has not waived sovereign immunity for any of the claims asserted against it; affirmed the judgment of the district court in favor of the supervisors where plaintiffs failed to establish that either supervisor was personally responsible for the alleged constitutional violations; and reversed the judgment in favor of Agent Mesa, holding that, in light of Boumediene v. Bush, plaintiffs can assert a Fifth Amendment claim against the agent and that they have alleged sufficient facts to overcome qualified immunity. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Hernandez, et al. v. United States, et al." on Justia Law

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This appeal concerns a dispute over church property between a dissident local congregation (Saint James) and the national church (AME) with which it had been affiliated for many decades. The court held that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Saint James's first-filed state court eviction action, and that federal precedent mandates that the district court abstain from the exercise of jurisdiction over AME's federal complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief while the remanded eviction action is pending in state court. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's rulings and remanded Saint James's eviction action to state court and to stay AME's federal action during the pendency of the state proceedings. View "African Methodist Episcopal Church v. Lucien, Jr., et al." on Justia Law