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

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Texas, Indiana, and Louisiana, and seven individuals seeking to adopt Indian children filed suit against the United States, several federal agencies and officials, and five intervening Tribes, raising facial constitutional challenges to the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) and statutory and constitutional challenges to the 2016 administrative rule (the Final Rule) that was promulgated by the Department of the Interior to clarify provisions of ICWA. The Fifth Circuit held that plaintiffs had standing to bring all claims; the ICWA and the Final Rule are constitutional because they are based on a political classification that is rationally related to the fulfillment of Congress's unique obligation toward Indians; ICWA preempts conflicting state laws and does not violate the Tenth Amendment anticommandeering doctrine; and ICWA and the Final Rule do not violate the nondelegation doctrine. The court also held that the Final Rule implementing the ICWA is valid because the ICWA is constitutional, the BIA did not exceed its authority when it issued the Final Rule, and the agency's interpretation of ICWA section 1915 is reasonable. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and rendered judgment in favor of defendants on all claims. View "Brackeen v. Bernhardt" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether district courts are authorized to conduct a plenary resentencing, which would include recalculating the Sentencing Guidelines range as if the defendant were being sentenced for the first time under present law, or whether courts are limited to reductions resulting from the Fair Sentencing Act. The Fifth Circuit held that the First Step Act does not allow plenary resentencing. In this case, the court affirmed defendant's sentence, holding that the district court committed no error in continuing to apply the career criminal enhancement when deciding on a proper sentence for defendant. View "United States v. Hegwood" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion to vacate, correct, or set aside his prison sentence of 120 months and five years of supervised release following his conviction for one count of transportation of child pornography. The court held that defendant's motion was time-barred where defendant failed to provide evidence to support his assertion, under the prison mailbox rule, that he placed his motion in a housing unit mailbox in time. In this case, the motion was postmarked five days after the one-year filing deadline and the district court did not have an obligation to inform pro se litigants of the kinds of evidence they may submit to support their assertion of timeliness. View "United States v. Duran" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Plaintiffs, a mother and her three minor children, filed suit against two employees of the state's child protective services agency, claiming a constitutional violation based on defendants' taking of the three children from their mother's custody under a temporary removal order. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of defendants' motion to dismiss, holding that defendants were entitled to qualified immunity because there was no constitutional violation. In this case, there was an adequate basis for the issuance of the temporary conservatorship order and therefore there was no Fourth Amendment violation based on the Protective Services employee's affidavit. Furthermore, there was no vicarious liability that applied to the Protective Services supervisor and the claim was properly dismissed. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Marks v. Hudson" on Justia Law

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After a jury found that Allied Corporation was liable under the False Claims Act (FCA) for misrepresentations about its compliance with the Federal Housing Act underwriting guidelines, the jury awarded over $85.6 million in damages and found Defendant Hodge and Allied Capital liable under the FCA for misrepresentation. The jury awarded more damages and also found all three defendants were liable under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act (FIRREA). The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that the evidence was sufficient to convict defendants. The court rejected defendants' claims of error regarding the admission of expert testimony, and held that the district court did not err by dismissing a juror shortly before the remaining jurors reached their verdict based mainly on the juror's lack of candor and his threatening behavior. View "United States v. Hodge" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit granted the petition for panel rehearing and withdrew its prior opinion, substituting the following opinion. After Officer Doe was hit by an unidentified individual and seriously injured, he filed suit against Black Lives Matter, the group associated with the protest, and DeRay Mckesson, one of the leaders of Black Lives Matter and the organizer of the protest. The district court dismissed Officer Doe's claims on the pleadings and denied his motion to amend the complaint as futile. The Fifth Circuit remanded for further proceedings relative to Mckesson. Although the court held that Officer Doe has not adequately alleged that Mckesson was vicariously liable for the conduct of the unknown assailant or that Mckesson entered into a civil conspiracy with the purpose of injuring Officer Doe, the court found that Officer Doe adequately alleged that Mckesson was liable in negligence for organizing and leading the Baton Rouge demonstration to illegally occupy a highway. The court held that the district court erred in dismissing the action on First Amendment grounds, and thus Officer Doe has pleaded a claim for relief against Mckesson in his active complaint. The court also held that the district court erred by taking judicial notice of the legal status of Black Lives Matter, but nonetheless found that Officer Doe did not plead facts that would allow the court to conclude that Black Lives Matter was an entity capable of being sued. Therefore, the court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Doe v. Mckesson" on Justia Law

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After the district court dismissed defendant's indictment for illegal reentry following removal because an IJ in the underlying removal lacked jurisdiction, the Fifth Circuit issued an opinion in an analogous immigration appeal, Pierre-Paul v. Barr, ---F.3d---, 2019 WL 3229150 (5th Cir. July 18, 2019), that foreclosed defendant's arguments that were adopted by the district court. Determining that the case was not moot, the court held that the district court erred in concluding that the lack of a date and time on petitioner's 2003 notice to appear deprived the IJ of jurisdiction in the 2003 removal proceeding. Under Pierre-Paul's three alternative holdings, the district court's ruling was untenable, and thus the IJ did not lack jurisdiction as a result of the government's failure to include a date and time on the notice to appear. The court also held that the district court should have denied the motion to dismiss the indictment because 8 U.S.C. 1326(d) barred petitioner's collateral attack on the validity of his removal order. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Pedroza-Rocha" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law

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After the Secretary of Labor issued Wynnewood Refining multiple citations alleging safety violations at its Oklahoma refinery, Wynnewood contested the citations. The Commission modified five violations by recharacterizing them as less severe than the Secretary alleged. The Secretary appealed to the Tenth Circuit and Wynnewood appealed to the Fifth Circuit. When, as in this case, none of the petitions was filed within ten days of the challenged agency decision, the Commission shall file the record in the court in which proceedings with respect to the order were first instituted. Once the agency properly files the record where a petition for review was first filed, all courts other than the court in which the record was filed under 28 U.S.C. 2112, shall transfer those proceedings to the court in which the record was so filed. In this case, the Tenth Circuit appeal was filed first and thus the court granted the Secretary's motion to transfer the appeal to the Tenth Circuit. View "Wynnewood Refining Co., LLC v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that defendant, the newly elected district attorney, fired them because they supported his political opponent. The district court denied defendant qualified immunity on the individual and official capacity claims. The Fifth Circuit held that defendant was entitled to qualified immunity as to four of the plaintiffs and reversed based on defendant's qualified immunity. However, in regard to the individual capacity claims, the court held that genuine disputes of material fact exist as to whether Cazares, Palmira Munoz, and Maldonado were policymakers or confidential employees. Accordingly, the court dismissed the district court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Maldonado v. Rodriguez" on Justia Law

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Texas filed suit against the EEOC and the Attorney General, challenging the EEOC's guidance on employers' use of criminal records in hiring. On remand, the district court dismissed Texas's claim under the Declaratory Judgment Act (DJA), but enjoined defendants from enforcing EEOC's guidance against Texas until EEOC complied with the notice-and-comment rulemaking requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The Fifth Circuit held that the Guidance was a reviewable final agency action that the court had jurisdiction to review. Furthermore, Texas had standing to sue EEOC and the Attorney General to challenge the legality of the Guidance. On the merits, the court held that the Guidance was a substantive rule subject to the APA's notice-and-comment requirement and that EEOC overstepped its statutory authority in issuing the Guidance. Because the Guidance is a substantive rule, and the text of Title VII and precedent confirmed that EEOC lacked authority to promulgate substantive rules implementing Title VII, the court modified the injunction by striking the clause "until the EEOC has complied with the notice and comment requirements under the APA for promulgating an enforceable substantive rule." The court also modified the injunction to clarify that EEOC and the Attorney General may not treat the Guidance as binding in any respect. Therefore, the court affirmed the injunction as modified and declined to consider the DJA claim. View "Texas v. EEOC" on Justia Law