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

Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use

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Plaintiffs, five individuals with disabilities, alleged that defendant recently built and altered sidewalks that were not readily accessible to them and requested injunctive relief under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12132, and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794(e). At issue was whether Title II and section 504 extended to newly built and altered public sidewalks. Also at issue was whether that private right of action accrued at the time the city built or altered its inaccessible sidewalks, or alternatively at the time plaintiffs first knew or should have known they were being denied the benefits of those sidewalks. The court held that plaintiffs have a private right of action to enforce Title II and section 504 with respect to newly built and altered public sidewalks, and that the right accrued at the time plaintiffs first knew or should have known they were being denied the benefits of those sidewalks.

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Defendant was convicted for making and subscribing to a false tax return and multiple counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, and securities fraud. Defendant appealed his sentence on the following four grounds: (1) the application of the 2001 version of the Sentencing Guidelines to his case violated the ex post facto clause; (2) the district court used improper methodology in computing the amount of loss under U.S.S.G. 2B1.1(b)(1); (3) the district court committed plain error in applying the U.S.S.G. 3B1.1(a) leader/organizer enhancement; and (4) the district court imposed a substantively unreasonable sentence. The court held that it was not plain error for the district court to apply the 2001 Sentencing Guidelines; the district court correctly calculated the amount of loss pursuant to U.S.S.G. 2B1.1; the district court did not commit plain error in applying the leader/organizer four-level enhancement; and the sentencing court imposed a substantively reasonable sentence and did not abuse its discretion. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court.

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These three closely related appeals arose out of two district court cases, each involving a different tract of land owned by the Avoyelles Parish School Board (School Board), where neither tract was accessible by public road and both shared borders with the Lake Ophelia Wildlife Refuge (Refuge), which was owned by the United States Department of Interior (Department). The School Board filed these suits against all adjoining landowners, including the Department, to fix the School Board's legal rights of passage to the respective enclosed lands. The district court fixed rights of passage that burdened Refuge lands and concluded that the Department could not impose certain desired restrictions on the School Board's actions on Refuge lands. On appeal, the court reversed both judgments in full and remanded for further proceedings.