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

Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use
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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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Since 2011, Jonesboro’s wastewater system has spewed sewage onto Stringer’s property and into her home during heavy rains. Stringer repeatedly complained to the town and its mayor, then brought a “citizen suit” under the Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C. 1365, with constitutional claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for the uncompensated taking of her property and the mayor’s retaliation. Stringer ran against the mayor in 2014 and claims he retaliated by ignoring her pleas, getting the town to sue her frivolously, and refusing to provide sandbags. The Louisiana Departments of Health (LDOH) and Environmental Quality (LDEQ) have long known about the problems. LDEQ sent the town warning letters and issued compliance orders about unauthorized discharges, including those afflicting Stringer. LDOH issued a compliance order about the discharges on Stringer’s property, imposed mandatory ameliorative measures, and assessed a daily fine. The district court dismissed, finding that the CWA prohibits such suits when a state is addressing the problem through “comparable” state law and finding her section 1983 claims untimely under Louisiana’s one-year prescriptive period. The Fifth Circuit affirmed as to the section 1983 claims. Stringer was long aware of the underlying facts and failed to sue within a year. The Fifth Circuit reversed in part. The enforcement action to which the court pointed—the state health department’s enforcement of the sanitary code—is not “comparable” to the CWA under circuit precedent. View "Stringer v. Town of Jonesboro" on Justia Law

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After the City of Austin denied applications to digitize existing billboards, Reagan and Lamar filed suit alleging that the distinction in the City's Sign Code between on-premises and off-premises signs violates the First Amendment.The Fifth Circuit held that the City's Sign Code's on-premises/off-premises distinction is content based and the commercial speech exception does not apply. The court held that the Sign Code runs afoul of the First Amendment because the relevant provisions of the Sign Code are not narrowly tailored to serve the compelling government interest of protecting the aesthetic value of the City and public safety. In this case, the ordinance is underinclusive. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's decision to the contrary and remanded. View "Reagan National Advertising of Austin, Inc. v. City of Austin" on Justia Law

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TSRA filed suit seeking to enjoin demolitions under the city's new ordinance, DALL. CITY CODE 51A-4.501(i), which streamlined the city's procedure for demolishing dilapidated historical homes smaller than 3,000 feet. The district court dismissed TSRA's claims.The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that TSRA does not have standing to assert its claims under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) or its 42 U.S.C.1982 and 1983 claims. In regard to the FHA claim, the court held that TSRA failed to prove that its injuries are traceable to the city's alleged misconduct and that its injuries are redressable by judgment in its favor. In this case, TSRA did not put forth any separate theories of standing for its sections 1982 and 1983 claims. Therefore, even assuming that TSRA established a constitutional injury-in-fact for purposes of sections 1982 and 1983, the court held that these claims would likewise suffer the same traceability and redressability defects as its FHA claims. View "Tenth Street Residential Ass'n v. City of Dallas" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the town and its mayor, alleging that they violated his federal and state constitutional rights by seeking—and then seeking to collect on—a judgment that he owed over $50,000 for violating a local ordinance. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on the 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims, holding that plaintiff failed to establish a municipal policy that was the moving force behind the violation of any constitutional right. However, the court vacated and remanded the state-law claim for the district court to assess its jurisdiction over this claim. View "Webb v. Town of Saint Joseph" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of Cherry Knoll's complaint against the City of Lakeway, the city manager, and HDR Engineering in a dispute over a plat of land that Cherry Knoll had purchased in Lakeway. Cherry Knoll asserted a claim against the City under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for violating its rights to procedural due process, substantive due process, and equal protection by filing the Subdivision Plats without its consent and over its objection. The court held that these allegations satisfied the standard for official municipal policy under Pembaur v. City of Cincinnati and the district court erred in finding otherwise.The court also held that the district court erred in determining that the city manager was entitled to the protection of qualified immunity at the Rule 12(b)(6) stage. Finally, the court held that Cherry Knoll's well-pleaded factual allegations and supporting documents make plausible its claim that HDR was a "willful participant in joint action" for purposes of section 1983. Accordingly, the court remanded the matter and reinstated Cherry Knoll's state law claims. View "Cherry Knoll, LLC v. Jones" on Justia Law

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The city owned land and a townhome in New Orleans after 1998; its previous owner, Jett, neglected to pay his taxes. Notwithstanding its recorded ownership, the city instituted Code Enforcement proceedings against Jett in 2012. The Garretts purchased the property on October 2, 2015, and recorded the conveyance on October 14. They claim that the building was structurally sound. The city continued to pursue Jett. An administrative judgment was entered on October 30, ordering Jett to pay fines and warning that the building could be demolished. A lien was recorded on December 7. The Garretts were not named and received no notice. On January 15, 2016, their realtor noticed a sign advising upcoming demolition of the property. They contacted the city, which canceled the lien. E-mail exchanges indicated that the Garretts intended to resolve all code issues. On January 27, the city demolished the townhouse. Denying the Garretts' request for compensation, the city sent a bill for the demolition costs. They did not appeal but filed suit alleging denial of due process and just compensation. The district court dismissed the claim as jurisdictionally unripe because they failed to seek compensation in state court. The Fifth Circuit vacated, finding the due process claim, predicated on lack of notice and a hearing, ripe, given the uncertainty of remedies in a state court inverse condemnation suit. The court concluded that the other claims were ripe or would be best resolved in the same suit. View "Archbold-Garrett v. New Orleans City" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and his family filed suit against Lewisville for damages and injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Plaintiff and his family challenged the constitutionality of a Lewisville ordinance prohibiting registered child sex offenders from residing within 1,500 feet of "where children commonly gather." Plaintiff, a registered child sex offender, asserts that he and his family cannot find a house to rent or buy based on the challenged ordinance. The district court dismissed the claims based on lack of standing and, alternatively, as moot. The court concluded that the family's inability to find a home in Lewisville is fairly traceable to the challenged ordinance and it was likely that a judgment in the family's favor would at least make it easier for them to find a residence to rent or buy in Lewisville. Although the family has moved to another town, their claims for monetary relief are sufficient to defeat mootness. Therefore, the court reversed the judgment of the district court because the family has met the traceable and redressable requirements of standing and their claim is not moot.View "Duarte, et al. v. City of Lewisville, TX" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from a dispute between the City and RBIII where the City demolished a dilapidated building on property that RBIII owned. The City did not provide notice to RBIII before razing the structure and RBIII filed suit against the City. The district court granted summary judgment for the City on all claims except a Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process claim and a Fourth Amendment unreasonable search and seizure claim. Those claims were tried to a jury, which returned a verdict in favor of RBIII. The City then appealed. The court agreed with the City's argument on appeal that the district court's jury instructions did not accurately reflect the applicable law and that, under the correct legal standards, it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. Because the court vacated the trial court's judgment against the City, the court need not consider the other issues raised in the City's appeal. View "RBIII, L.P. v. City of San Antonio" on Justia Law

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The Church filed suit in federal district court, claiming that a now-repealed city ordinance's church-specific provisions, facially and as applied, violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc et seq., the First Amendment; the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Mississippi Constitution. The Church simultaneously filed a motion for a preliminary injunction of the challenged provisions. The court subsequently vacated the district court's order denying the Church's motion for a preliminary injunction and remanded for further proceedings. The court concluded that the issues on remand included but were not limited to: (1) whether the Church was likely to succeed on its claims challenging the validity of the newly adopted religious facilities ban; (2) whether the harm the Church would suffer absent a preliminary injunction outweighed the harm an injunction would cause the city; (3) the amount of actual damages the Church suffered on account of Sections 10.86 and 10.89 of the city's zoning ordinance, which violated RLUIPA; and (4) at the district court's discretion, whether the Church should be awarded reasonable attorneys fees as a prevailing party under 42 U.S.C. 1988(b). View "Opulent Life Church, et al v. City of Holly Springs MS, et al" on Justia Law