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

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Coleman challenged the Commission's decision that its 18 working-days-late response to a citation notice that had been misplaced in the company's internal mail system demonstrated inexcusable neglect and barred the company from contesting the citations for nearly $70,000. The Fifth Circuit held that the Commission's decision misapplied Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), which applied under the Commission's own regulations. The court held that the equities weighed in favor of the Company having an opportunity to assert its defenses in OSHA's administrative proceedings. Therefore, the Commission's contrary determination denying relief from the untimely filing was legally in error and an abuse of discretion. Accordingly, the court vacated that decision, remanding for a hearing on the merits of the OSHA violations. View "Coleman Hammons Construction Co. v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission" on Justia Law

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While SEC's enforcement action against defendants was pending, the Supreme Court decided Kokesh v. SEC, 137 S. Ct. 1635, 1643 (2017), which held that disgorgement in SEC proceedings is a "penalty" under 28 U.S.C. 2462 and thus subject to a five-year statute of limitations. The Fifth Circuit held that Kokesh did not overrule the court's established precedent recognizing district courts' authority to order disgorgement in SEC enforcement proceedings. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's disgorgement order. The court also held that the district court did not deprive defendants of discovery; the district court did not abuse its discretion by ruling on the SEC's remedies motion without holding an evidentiary hearing; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining the amount of disgorgement in this case. View "SEC v. Team Resources Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Securities Law
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The Fifth Circuit denied a petition for panel rehearing and withdrew its prior opinion, substituting the following opinion. At issue was whether a claimant in a civil forfeiture proceeding may counterclaim for constitutional tort damages against the United States. The district court adopted the First Circuit's reasoning and held that a claimant may never file counterclaims of any kind. The court affirmed the district court's judgment, dismissing the counterclaims for a different reason. The court found the First Circuit's reasoning unpersuasive and declined to adopt it. Rather, the court held that the United States has not waived sovereign immunity for claims seeking damages based on alleged Fourth and Fifth Amendment violations arising from the property seizure. View "United States v. $4,480,466.16 in Funds Seized from Bank of America Account Ending in 2653" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for illegally possessing drugs and firearms. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting jail phone records where the government produced sufficient evidence to authenticate the records; the calls were also admissible because the district court was convinced that the recordings accurately produced the auditory experience; the district court did not plainly err by admitting testimony regarding why drug dealers routinely use guns in their crimes because, even assuming the district court violated Federal Rule of Evidence 704(b), the error did not affect defendant's substantial rights; and the district court did not plainly err by allowing the prosecutor to suggest that the detective had no reason to lie. View "United States v. Johnson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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After M.L. was dismissed from the cheerleading squad when her coaches discovered her Twitter posts contained profanity and sexual innuendo, her mother filed suit against defendants under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violation of M.L.'s rights to free speech, due process, and equal protection. The district court held that the individual defendants were entitled to qualified immunity and dismissed M.L.'s complaint for failure to state a claim. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that no clearly established law placed the constitutionality of defendants' conduct beyond debate at the time of M.L.'s dismissal from the team. The court held that nothing in its precedent allows a school to discipline nonthreatening off campus speech simply because an administrator considers it offensive, harassing, or disruptive; it is indisputable that non-threatening student expression is entitled to First Amendment protection, even though the extent of that protection may be diminished if the speech is composed by a student on campus, or purposefully brought onto a school campus; and as a general rule, speech that the speaker does not intend to reach the school community remains outside the reach of school officials. In this case, the court held that no clearly established law placed M.L.'s right's beyond debate at the time of the sanction, particularly given the unique extracurricular context. The court also affirmed the district court's dismissal of the claims for municipal liability, vagueness, and overbreadth, because M.L. failed to plead facts that would entitle her to relief. View "Longoria v. San Benito Independent Consolidated School District" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, an inmate convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death, filed a federal petition for habeas corpus relief. After his petition was denied, he requested a certificate of appealability (COA), which was also denied. Petitioner then applied for a COA from the Fifth Circuit. The Fifth Circuit granted petitioner's COA on his Batson claim and Strickland guilt phase claim, holding that reasonable jurists could conclude that the issues presented were adequate to deserve encouragement to proceed further. However, the court denied petitioner's application for a COA on his Strickland mitigation phase claim, holding that petitioner failed to show what more trial counsel could have done at the mitigation phase. Therefore, reasonable jurists would not debate the district court's decision to uphold the state court's reasoning. View "Ramey v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and two counts of securities fraud. Defendant's conviction stemmed from her purchase of company stock through her boyfriend and others. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's convictions, and that the district court did not abuse its discretion in failing to grant a severance and try her separately from her co-conspirators. View "United States v. Tinghui Xie" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the school district in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging claims under Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) for discrimination on the basis of her national origin, sex, and age. Plaintiff alleged that the school district discriminated against her and retaliated against her when she complained of said discrimination. The court held that plaintiff's employment discrimination claim failed, because plaintiff failed to prove that the district court imposed an adverse employment action where she never received a reprimand from the school district. Rather, plaintiff was placed in a growth plan that sought to improve upon her weaknesses. The court also held that plaintiff's unsupported speculation, that the principal's failure to provide plaintiff with a recommendation letter constituted an adverse employment action, did not create a genuine issue of material fact. Finally, the court held that, at best, plaintiff's humiliation as a result of another teacher's comment was an unpleasant workplace experience, not an adverse employment action. The court also held that plaintiff's retaliation claim and constructive discharge claim failed as a matter of law. View "Welsh v. Fort Bend Independent School District" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's decision to decline discretionary review of the denial of claimant's claim for damages resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. At issue was whether a claimant's alleged unlawful conduct wholly or partially disqualifies it from the Settlement Program and, if so, what evidence is adequate to show that the claimant engaged in such conduct. The court held that the parties have been unable to give the court clear answers that were rooted in the Settlement Agreement or other law. The court found a three-way split among appeal panels on the significance of wrongdoing, and the parties have neither agreed nor persuaded the court as to what the legal framework ought to be. Therefore, and in light of the recurrence of the issues this appeal implicated, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Claimant ID 100235033 v. BP Exploration & Production, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner because he failed to show any evidence demonstrating that the State controlled, or even consented to, a government informant's activity. Therefore, there was no valid Massiah claim that could have affected the outcome of the punishment at retrial. View "Thompson v. Davis" on Justia Law