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

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The City of Houston contends that it is being sued for a so-called "zombie" law. The City's Charter allows only registered voters to circulate petitions for initiatives and referenda, even though the Supreme Court held a similar law unconstitutional twenty years ago. Plaintiffs, Trent and Trey Pool, sought a preliminary injunction allowing them to collect signatures for their anti-pay-to-play petition as well as a declaratory judgment that the Charter's voter-registration and residency provisions are unconstitutional, permanent injunctive relief against enforcement of those provisions, and nominal damages. Plaintiffs also filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO), which would allow them to circulate the petition through the deadline of July 9, 2019. The district court granted a TRO, allowing plaintiffs to circulate the petition for the next week, but concluded that plaintiffs had not demonstrated an injury sufficient to support standing with regard to future petitions. The district court later dismissed plaintiffs' remaining claims. Although the City now concedes that the qualified-voter requirement is unconstitutional, at issue is whether plaintiffs may obtain a permanent injunction preventing its enforcement.The Fifth Circuit held that, although there would not usually be a reasonable fear of continued enforcement of a zombie law, the history of Houston's qualified-voter requirement gives Trent Pool standing to seek an injunction that would guard against continued chilling of his speech. The court also held that the City has not met its heavy burden of showing that plaintiffs' challenges are moot. Therefore, because there is a reasonable concern that the City might enforce its unconstitutional Charter provision, the court reversed the judgment dismissing this case and remanded for further proceedings. View "Pool v. City of Houston" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit granted the petition for panel rehearing. The court withdrew its prior opinion on May 6, 2020 and substituted the following opinion.Since the prior opinion issued, the Supreme Court decided Nasrallah v. Barr, 140 S. Ct. 1683 (2020), which clarified the meaning of the statutory term "final order of removal." Without expressing an opinion as to whether Nasrallah may have partially abrogated portions of Cardoso v. Reno, 216 F.3d 512 (5th Cir. 2000), the court applied Melendez v. McAleenan, 928 F.3d 425 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 140 S. Ct. 561 (2019), to this case.Plaintiff filed suit seeking review of USCIS's legal determination declaring him ineligible for adjustment to permanent status. Although plaintiff had been granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS), he had entered the United States illegally, which would ordinarily bar the adjustment of status. The court dismissed plaintiff's complaint with prejudice; reversed the district court's holding that it lacked jurisdiction; and asserted the court's own jurisdiction over plaintiff's claim. The court followed Melendez in holding that plaintiff sought review of the government's legal interpretation of statutory provisions that govern TPS and adjustment of status. The court explained that, because this is a "pure legal task," it is a nondiscretionary decision that is not barred by the jurisdiction-stripping statute, and thus the district court erred in concluding that it did not have jurisdiction to hear plaintiff's claims. The court also held that plaintiff has failed to state a legally cognizable claim under Melendez. The court explained that those with TPS who first entered the United States unlawfully are foreclosed from applying for adjustment of status as a matter of law. View "Nolasco v. Crockett" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Plaintiff filed suit against the United States and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers for injuries suffered during an incident at the International Port of Entry Gateway Bridge in Brownsville, Texas. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the CBP officers based on qualified immunity. In this case, the court found that plaintiff was neither arrested nor unreasonably seized, and the officers did not use excessive force. The court also affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims against the United States for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction based on the customs-duty exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). View "Angulo v. Brown" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit withdrew its prior opinion and substituted the following opinion.Plaintiff filed suit against defendant under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for violations of various constitutional rights and under Louisiana tort law. In this case, after defendant approached, questioned, and reached to grab plaintiff outside of his home, plaintiff fled, fell off a fence, and dislocated his shoulder.The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the unreasonable search claim and remanded for the district court to consider qualified immunity before proceeding to the merits of the case. The court held that plaintiff's complaint plausibly alleges a trespassory search of his home where the officer's search of the curtilage of plaintiff's home was unreasonable insofar as it infringed on plaintiff's reasonable expectation of privacy and exigent circumstances were lacking. However, the court held that the complaint lacks allegations that would allow the court to draw all reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor and to conclude that he plausibly alleged a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. Therefore, the court affirmed the dismissal of the unreasonable seizure claim.The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's remaining section 1983 claims, holding that plaintiff failed to state a false arrest/false imprisonment claim because he failed to plausibly allege that his ultimate arrest was false; plaintiff failed to state a claim for malicious prosecution because, as the district court correctly observed, there is no freestanding right under the Constitution to be free from malicious prosecution; and plaintiff failed to state a claim for a violation of procedural and substantive due process because resort to a generalized remedy under the Due Process Clause is inappropriate where a more specific constitutional provision provides the rights at issue. The court also affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claim for intentional infliction of emotion distress under Louisiana law, the district court's grant of summary judgment, and the three evidentiary rulings appealed by plaintiff. View "Arnold v. Williams" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit held that the Bankruptcy Court had the equitable power emanating from 11 U.S.C. 105(a) to correct any error it may have committed in changing the date of the first creditors' meeting after the case was transferred out of the Eastern District. In this case, the Objectors reasonably relied on the issuance by the Northern District Bankruptcy Court's Clerk of a second, later date for the section 341(a) initial creditors' meeting and a corresponding new, later deadline for filing objections to discharge. The court also held that the Bankruptcy Court correctly denied debtor's discharge under section 727(a)(4)(A), and that the Bankruptcy Court was correct in finding that debtors' discharge could also be denied under section 727(a)(5). View "Yaquinto v. Ward" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy
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Plaintiffs, two brothers and their parents, filed suit seeking injunction relief under the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act to prevent Mathis Independent School District from excluding them from extracurricular activities based on their religiously motivated hairstyles. After the district court granted preliminary injunctions to both brothers, the school district appealed.The Fifth Circuit upheld the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction as to one brother and vacated as to the other. In regard to one brother, C.G., the court held that the district court's conclusion that there was no time to reasonably provide 60-day pre-suit notice was plausible in light of the record as a whole. Therefore, C.G. satisfied the statutory exception to the Act's pre-suit notice requirement and thus the school district's governmental immunity is waived and there is no jurisdictional defect in C.G.'s claim. As to the other brother, D.G., the court held that his noncompliance with the Act's pre-suit notice requirement requires that the court vacate the district court's preliminary injunction as to him. View "Gonzales v. Mathis Independent School District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against defendant, an investigator for the Texas Medical Board (TMB), alleging that defendant searched his medical office and seized documents without a warrant.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendant's motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. The court held that defendant violated plaintiff's constitutional rights when she copied documents in plaintiff's office without any precompliance review of the administrative subpoena. However, at the time, it was not clearly established that defendant's search per Texas Occupations Code 153.007(a) and 168.052, and 22 Texas Administrative Code 179.4(a) and 195.3 was unconstitutional. Therefore, defendant's right to a precompliance review was not clearly established at the time of the search. In this case, the TMB had received a complaint that plaintiff was operating an unregistered pain management clinic (PMC); even though plaintiff's license had been revoked at the time of the search, the Board still had the power to take disciplinary action against him, to issue administrative penalties, and to seek injunctions; and thus defendant's search served an administrative purpose, even if the TMB ultimately declined to take further administrative action against plaintiff. View "Cotropia v. Chapman" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit granted the petition for panel rehearing, withdrew its prior opinion, and substituted the following opinion.The court held that when a court order disposes of a habeas claim on procedural and, in the alternative, substantive grounds, a Rule 60(b) motion contesting this order inherently presents a successive habeas petition. The court affirmed the district court's conclusion that it lacked jurisdiction over petitioner's Rule 60(b) motion -- facially challenging a procedural ruling and implicitly challenging a merits determination -- because it was a successive habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. 2254. The court also affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's inherent prejudice claim, because petitioner failed to overcome the arduous standard of review in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA). In this case, petitioner identifies no clearly established law that the CCA misapplied, nor any unreasonable factual determinations on which the court based its holding. View "Will v. Lumpkin" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction of plaintiff's pro se complaint against Toyota and Diversity, alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and Mississippi state law.In this case, the amended complaint alleged that plaintiff and Diversity are citizens of the same state. Therefore, the district court was correct in holding that there is no diversity jurisdiction and thus no subject matter jurisdiction. The court stated that plaintiff's altering of the jurisdictional facts she alleges on appeal—omitting any mention of Diversity's citizenship in her appellate brief and alleging only that Diversity is "located" in Indiana in her appellate reply brief—does not alter the court's decision. Even assuming the altered jurisdictional facts are true, plaintiff has not met her burden of establishing complete diversity of the parties. View "Smith v. Toyota Motor Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a petition for habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254. Petitioner argues, under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), that the prosecution unlawfully withheld impeachment evidence concerning an eyewitness's prior federal conviction for lying on a firearms application. The court concluded that the undisclosed evidence of the eyewitness's conviction for lying does not "directly contradict" or undermine his assertions at trial; fairminded jurists could disagree as to whether the eyewitness's testimony was sufficiently corroborated to sustain confidence in the verdict; and the eyewitness's undisclosed conviction was cumulative of other evidence disclosed to the defense—including the assault and battery conviction that was revealed to the jury during the eyewitness's cross-examination. Therefore, the court found that the state court's Brady determination did not involve an unreasonable application of clearly established Federal law. The court also rejected petitioner's argument that the state court's decision was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts under section 2254(d)(2). View "Reeder v. Vannoy" on Justia Law