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

by
Plaintiff filed suit against his former employer for retaliation under the False Claims Act. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the employer and held that plaintiff demonstrated a causal connection between his protected activity and his firing. Therefore, the district court erred in holding that plaintiff failed to establish his prima facie case. The court also held that there was a genuine issue of material fact regarding pretext. In this case, as evidence of pretext, plaintiff pointed to temporal proximity between his protected activity and his firing; his dispute of the facts leading up to his termination; a similarly situated employee who was not terminated for similar conduct; harassment from his supervisor after the company knew of his protected whistleblowing conduct; the ultimate stated reason for the company's termination of plaintiff had been known to the company for years; and the company stood to lose millions of dollars if its conduct was discovered. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Garcia v. Professional Contract Services, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the denial of petitioner's motion for modification of his Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act benefits. Petitioner's appeal stemmed from the injury he sustained from a contracted IMIA employee when petitioner was employed at Avondale. In this appeal, petitioner objected to the Board's findings on the IMIA employee's employment status. The court considered the nine Ruiz factors to determine that the IMIA employee was not Avondale's borrowed servant. Therefore, the court affirmed the Board's conclusion that the ALJ's order was supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole and was in accordance with the law. The court rejected petitioner's remaining claims in support of the borrowed servant status. Finally, the court rejected Avondale's claim on cross appeal and held that Section 33(f) relief awarded by the ALJ remains in effect, and the unmodified compensation award stands following this appeal. View "Mays v. Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

by
The Fifth Circuit denied a petition for review of the the BIA's decision denying petitioner's motion for reconsideration after she was denied asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). The court held that substantial evidence supported the BIA's finding that petitioner failed to show that she was harmed on account of her membership in a particular social group—i.e., that her ex-boyfriend harmed her for being a Honduran woman unable to leave her relationship. The court also held that substantial evidence supported the IJ's finding that the Honduran police did not and would not acquiesce to petitioner's alleged torture by her ex-boyfriend. In regard to the motion for reconsideration, the court held that it had jurisdiction to entertain petitioner's argument concerning Matter of A-B-, 27 I. & N. Dec. 316 (A.G. 2018), which held that married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship did not constitute a particular social group and clarifying other points of law pertaining to asylum and withholding of removal claims. The court also held that the Grace injunction did not affect the court's ability to review A-B-, nor could it, because it did not bind courts in this circuit; the BIA correctly interpreted A-B-; A-B- was not arbitrary and capricious; and remand to the IJ was not warranted. View "Gonzales-Veliz v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine. The court held that the district court did not clearly err by applying a sentencing enhancement under USSG 2D1.1(b)(15)(A), because defendant used fear, impulse, friendship, affection, or some combination of thereof to involve his stepson in the controlled substance offense. In this case, the district court did not clearly err in determining that the stepson was not paid for his role in the offense, and the stepson did not have knowledge of the structure and sheer scope of the drug organization. View "United States v. Torres-Magana" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to UTA in an appeal arising out of a Title IX suit for damages alleging that UTA discriminated on the basis of sex in disciplining Thomas Klocke. Klocke was placed on disciplinary probation by UTA and was not allowed to attend class because he had harassed another student for being gay. Klocke committed suicide shortly afterwards. His estate filed suit against UTA, seeking damages for Klocke's suffering and anguish prior to his death. The court held that UTA's disciplinary decisions were reasonable and justifiable on non-discriminatory grounds, and an inference of gender bias in these circumstances would necessarily be speculative. The court also held that the selective enforcement claim failed because none of the cases that the estate has identified permit the inference that similarly situated female students were treated more favorably than Klocke. Finally, the estate cited no additional evidence to support a retaliation claim. View "Klocke v. University of Texas at Arlington" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit held that 28 U.S.C. 2244(b) barred movant's successive application, and thus denied his motion for authorization to file a successive application for a writ of habeas corpus and to stay execution. The court held that movant's latest filing did not present a new claim of a retroactive constitutional right recognized by the Supreme Court that was previously unavailable to him. To the extent that movant argued that he has now raised an actual Atkins claim for the first time, it would nevertheless be barred. The court stated that any claim similar to what it discussed in In re Johnson, -- F.3d – , 2019 WL 3814384 (5th Cir. 2019), and earlier in In re Cathey, 857 F.3d 221 (5th Cir. 2017), was available to movant at the time of his earlier application for a writ of habeas corpus. View "In Re: Mark Soliz" on Justia Law

by
After plaintiff was struck by a fellow inmate on the back of the head with a yard tool that the prison issued to inmates, he filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action, alleging claims of deliberate indifference and failure to train in violation his Eighth Amendment rights. The district court granted qualified immunity as to one official and denied it as to three other officials. The Fifth Circuit reversed and granted qualified immunity to all four officials, holding that Defendant Ladner and Pierce's alleged individual conduct did not rise to deliberate indifference and thus they were immune from suit. In regard to Defendant Tanner, the warden, the court held that it was not the lack of training that caused the risk to plaintiff, but rather the sufficiency of the overall protocol. In this case, there was no repeated pattern of violations and thus Tanner could not be held liable for inadequately training Pierce and Ladner. View "Jason v. Tanner" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner appealed the district court's denial of his federal habeas corpus petition seeking vacatur of his three conspiracy-predicated 18 U.S.C. 924(c) convictions on the ground that Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015), and Sessions v. Dimaya, 138 S. Ct. 1204 (2018), rendered section 924(c)(3)(B) unconstitutionally vague. The Fifth Circuit vacated and remanded for resentencing, because, while petitioner's appeal was pending, the Supreme Court held that section 924(c)(3)(B) was unconstitutional. In this case, petitioner's section 924(c) conviction allowed for an enhanced sentence on his other section 924(c) offenses. The court left it to the district court's discretion to determine the appropriate sentence. View "United States v. Reece" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
Shareholders filed suit against the Agencies after the FHFA placed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in conservatorship. In 2012, FHFA and Treasury adopted a Third Amendment to their financing agreements wherein Fannie and Freddie give Treasury nearly all their net worth each quarter as a dividend. Shareholders contend that the arrangement exceeded FHFA's statutory powers and that FHFA lacked authority to adopt the Third Amendment. The court held that shareholders plausibly alleged that the Third Amendment exceeded FHFA’s conservator powers by transferring Fannie and Freddie’s future value to a single shareholder, Treasury. Therefore, a majority of the en banc court held that this claim survived dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). A majority of the en banc court held that the Director's "for cause" removal protection was unconstitutional and therefore FHFA lacked authority to adopt the Third Amendment. The court explained that FHFA's design, an independent agency with a single Director removable only "for cause," violates the separation of powers. Finally, a different majority of the en banc court held that prospective relief was the proper remedy. Accordingly, the court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Collilns v. Mnuchin" on Justia Law

by
Mississippi requires that a public board speak and act only through its minutes, and Mississippi courts will not give legal effect to a contract with a public board unless the board's approval of the contract is reflected in its minutes. In this case, the Medical Center filed suit against Horne, alleging accounting malpractice. Horne claimed that the action must fail because there can be no accounting malpractice claim without proof of a professional relationship, and there was no record evidence on the minutes that the Medical Center ever entered into a professional relationship with Horne. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of Horne, holding that, by virtue of the minutes rule, the Medical Center never formed a contract with Horne to perform the four audits conducted from 2010 to 2013. The court held that the district court correctly concluded that the Medical Center failed to offer any competent evidence that it was in privity with Horne. View "Lefoldt v. Rentfro" on Justia Law