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

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's 120-month sentence for failing to register as a sex offender, holding that defendant's sentence is both procedurally and substantively reasonable. In regard to defendant's claims of procedural error, the court held that the district court did not err in considering a contested account contained in the PSR that was drawn from a police report, because this evidence bears sufficient indicia of reliability. Furthermore, the district court did not reversibly err by considering the opinion of a TDCJ psychologist that defendant's likelihood of reoffending was high. The court gave deference to the district court's application of the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors and concluded that defendant's sentence was not substantively unreasonable in light of his history of sexual violence and considerations for public safety. View "United States v. Parkerson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Plaintiffs filed a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) against KLLM over a minimum wage labor dispute. The district court granted plaintiffs' certification request, applying the widely used Lusardi test, a two-step method for certifying a collective.The Fifth Circuit declined to delineate the district court's notice-sending discretion under the Lusardi test, rejecting Lusardi's two-step certification rubric. The court explained that Lusardi has no anchor in the FLSA's text or in Supreme Court precedent interpreting it. The court noted that the word "certification," much less "conditional certification," appears nowhere in the FLSA. Instead, the court embraced interpretive first principles: (1) the FLSA's text, specifically section 216(b), which declares (but does not define) that only those "similarly situated" may proceed as a collective; and (2) the Supreme Court's admonition that while a district court may "facilitat[e] notice to potential plaintiffs" for case-management purposes, it cannot signal approval of the merits or otherwise stir up litigation. The court concluded that these are the only binding commands on district courts. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's grant of conditional certification and remanded for further proceedings. View "Swales v. KLLM Transport Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's order finding that the employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by firing an employee for engaging in activities protected under the Act.The court held that the Board is entitled to summary enforcement of its order remedying the employer's Section 8(a)(1) violation with respect to the no-solicitation rule. The court also held that the employer waived issues related to the employee's engagement in protected activities and the Board's finding that management had knowledge of the employee's protected conduct. The court concluded that substantial evidence supports the Board's finding of animus, and substantial evidence supports the Board's finding that the employer's purported reasons for firing the employee were pretextual. Therefore, the employer has failed to establish that it would have fired the employee absent his engagement in protected conduct. Finally, the court upheld the Board's order directing the employer to offer the employee full reinstatement and backpay. View "Cordua Restaurants, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was injured when a manlift struck her outside Harrah's Casino in New Orleans, a jury found Jazz Casino negligent, assigning it 49% of the fault. Plaintiff was awarded, among other jury awards, $1,000,000 for future pain and suffering. The Casino appealed.The Fifth Circuit held that the evidence was sufficient to support the negligent-hiring claim; the evidence was sufficient for the jury to find the Casino liable for plaintiff's injury under an operational-control theory; and the evidence was sufficient for a reasonable jury to conclude that the Casino had authorized unsafe work practices. The court also held that none of the objected-to evidence was erroneously admitted at trial. However, the court held that the jury's $1,000,000 award for future pain, suffering, mental anguish, disability, scarring, and disfigurement was excessive. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's denial of Casino's motion for judgment as a matter of law and motion for a new trial; vacated the award for future pain and suffering; and remanded for further proceedings. View "Echeverry v. Jazz Casino Co., LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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Plaintiff filed suit against Omni, alleging (1) pay discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Texas Labor Code, and the Equal Pay Act; (2) promotional discrimination under Title VII and the Texas Labor Code; and (3) retaliation for filing a charge with the EEOC and for taking leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Title VII, the Texas Labor Code, and the Equal Pay Act. The district court granted summary judgment to Omni.In regard to the pay discrimination claims as it pertains to the three men who previously held the same position as plaintiff yet were paid more, the Fifth Circuit concluded that the district court erred in concluding that plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case. Rather, plaintiff showed that she held the same position as two other employees did, at the same hotel, just a few years after they did, and that she was paid less than they were. The court also concluded that Omni failed to set forth a non-discriminatory reason for that pay disparity. Therefore, the court reversed in part and remanded. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for plaintiff's Equal Pay Act claim insofar as it relies on other unnamed male food and beverage directors from different Omni hotels, but remanded for a determination of whether plaintiff can establish a prima facie case with respect to those comparators under Title VII and the Texas Labor Code.In regard to the promotional discrimination claims, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Omni because plaintiff withdrew her name from consideration and understood that she would have been given the offer if she reconsidered. In this case, plaintiff was not rejected by Omni. Rather, she rejected the opportunity from Omni. In regard to the retaliation claims, plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of retaliation because she could not demonstrate an adverse employment action. Furthermore, plaintiff failed to establish adverse employment action in response to her requesting and taking FMLA leave; plaintiff puts forth no evidence that the deletion of the computer files was in any way motivated by retaliation; and plaintiff's constructive discharge claim failed. View "Lindsley v. TRT Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the summary dismissal of defendant's pro se 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion, in which he challenged his sentence for revocation of supervised release that resulted in an 18-month prison sentence to run consecutively with his sentence for illegal reentry. Defendant claimed that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that his due process rights were violated.The court held that a district court does not err in declining to offer sua sponte a section 2255 movant an opportunity to amend. In this case, defendant never moved for leave to amend, and United States v. Martinez, 181 F.3d 627 (5th Cir. 1999), does not establish a requirement to offer sua sponte a movant the opportunity to amend. Furthermore, defendant failed to state how he would cure his section 2255 motion if given the chance to amend. View "United States v. Hernandez-Zavala" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the written amount of restitution imposed after defendant pleaded guilty to one count of financial aid fraud. Defendant asserts that, at sentencing, the district court orally pronounced restitution of $63,221, but the written judgment mandates $106,744. The court concluded that, although the oral pronouncement was ambiguous, it does not conflict with the written judgment. In this case, the district court stated several times that the "correct" or "net" amount owed in restitution was $106,744—the amount it imposed in its written judgment. The court acknowledged that the district court could have been clearer, but that the record confirms that the district court intended to order restitution in the amount of the written judgment. View "United States v. Tanner" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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After the University terminated her employment as the head coach of the women's basketball team, plaintiff filed suit alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as well as state-law claims for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and invasion of privacy.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment as to the breach of contract and Title IX claims. The court concluded that judgment in favor of plaintiff on the breach of contract claim was proper where a reasonable jury could have concluded that plaintiff's management of funds did not give the University cause to terminate her employment. Furthermore, the University was not entitled to a new trial on plaintiff's breach of contract claim. In this case, the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to provide the requested jury instruction and any error on the district court's part was harmless. In regard to the Title IX claim, the court concluded that denial of plaintiff's jury instruction was not an abuse of discretion or grounds for a new trial. However, the court reversed the district court's judgment as to the privacy claim and concluded that it failed as a matter of law. The court explained that the facts disclosed by the University were of legitimate concern to the public and the district court clearly erred in concluding otherwise. View "Taylor-Travis v. Jackson State University" on Justia Law

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On remand from the Supreme Court, the Fifth Circuit denied the petition for review challenging the BIA's denial of equitable tolling to petitioner's motion to reopen in light of Lugo-Resendez v. Lynch, 831 F.3d 337 (5th Cir. 2016). A panel of this court dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction, but the Supreme Court reversed and remanded.The Board had concluded that petitioner did not demonstrate due diligence because he waited approximately eight months after the Fifth Circuit decided Lugo-Resendez to file his current motion. Now considering the merits, the Fifth Circuit explained that the Board's conclusion applies with even grater force in light of the conclusion in Londono-Gonzalez v. Barr, 978 F.3d 965, 968 (5th Cir. 2020), that Lugo-Resendez did not constitute an extraordinary circumstance that stood in the way of aliens seeking equitable tolling. Furthermore, petitioner presented no viable alternative from which he can show compliance with the 90-day filing deadline even with the benefit of equitable tolling. View "Ovalles v. Rosen" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's request for compassionate release from prison on account of his underlying health issues and the COVID-19 pandemic. Defendant had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that there were no extraordinary and compelling reasons to warrant compassionate release. The court acknowledged that defendant's chronic illnesses place him at a higher risk of severe symptoms should he contract COVID, but agreed with the district court that it is uncertain that defendant is at a significantly higher risk than is the general inmate population. In this case, defendant can point to no case in which a court, on account of the pandemic, has granted compassionate release to an otherwise healthy defendant with two, well-controlled, chronic medical conditions and who had completed less than half of his sentence. View "United States v. Thompson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law