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

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The Fifth Circuit denied the petition for review of the BIA's adverse credibility determination, decision to deny withholding of removal relief, denial of petitioner's claim under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), and denial of petitioner's motion to remand for reconsideration.The court held that substantial evidence supported the agency's adverse credibility determination where the IJ identified numerous omissions and inconsistencies, several of which petitioner does not dispute occurred. In regard to withholding removal, at bottom, the court agreed with the Board's conclusion that petitioner's first proposed social group—Honduran women who have been targeted for and resisted gang recruitment after the murder of a gang-associated partner—is not cognizable. The court also agreed with the Board that petitioner failed to show her membership in her second proposed social group: Honduran women in domestic relationships who are unable to leave or are viewed as property by virtue of their position in a domestic relationship. In regard to petitioner's CAT claim, the court rejected petitioner's claim that the Board erred by failing to meaningfully consider all the evidence submitted and found the Board's conclusion that petitioner did not prove requisite state action is supported by substantial evidence. Finally, the Board did not engage in impermissible factfinding and the Board did not abuse its discretion in not remanding the case for consideration of new evidence. View "Suate-Orellana v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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This case concerns challenges to a 2017 law imposing a temporary but substantial increase in quarterly fees for large Chapter 11 debtors. The Fifth Circuit held that the fee increase is constitutional and applies in this case. The court agreed with the bankruptcy court and its sister circuits that "disbursements" includes all payments a debtor makes. The court explained that, because "disbursements" include all the payments Buffets made in 2018, its roughly $60 million of quarterly disbursements qualify for the heightened fees. The court concluded that the Amendment applies to cases like Buffets' that were pending when the Amendment took effect. The court explained that the 2017 Amendment is prospective and the court found no uniformity problem.The court held that the fee increase easily survives rational basis review where it addresses a shortfall in the U.S. Trustee System Fund, the fee increase is directly tied to the deficit, and it is reasonable to have large debtors shore up the system's finances as their cases typically place greater burdens on the system. Furthermore, taxes and user fees are not takings under the Fifth Amendment. In this case, Buffets had disbursements exceeding $1 million for each of the first three 2018 quarters. The court concluded that the fee increase applies to those disbursements even though the case was pending before the increase became law and the fee increase is constitutional. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for modification of the fee orders. View "Hobbs v. Buffets, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit treated the petition for rehearing en banc as a petition for panel rehearing, denied the petition for panel rehearing, and denied the petition for rehearing en banc. The court withdrew its prior opinion and substituted the following opinion.The court affirmed the district court's judgment, holding that the district court did not err in denying defendant's motion to suppress where probable cause still exists even if the allegedly false statements are excised in the Title III wiretap affidavit; district court did not err in denying defendant's request for a Franks hearing; the evidence was sufficient to support his drug conspiracy conviction where a rational trier of fact could have found that defendant conspired with others to distribute crack cocaine; and the district court did not err by applying a firearm enhancement and an Armed Career Criminal Offender enhancement to defendant's sentence. The court dismissed the Sixth Amendment claim of ineffective counsel without prejudice because defendant did not preserve this challenge for direct appeal. View "United States v. Kendrick" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Fifth Circuit withdrew its previous opinion and affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner. Petitioner contends that the state court's decision denying his Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause claim was contrary to and involved an unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent.The court held that Tennessee v. Street, 471 U.S. 409, 414 (1985), and Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123, 88 S. Ct. 1620, 20 L. Ed. 2d 476 (1968), do not even address the Confrontation Clause issue raised by petitioner's claims. To the extent the state district court was applying either opinion, the court concluded that it was an unreasonable application to hold they controlled as to these different facts. Rather, the court concluded that Gray v. Maryland, 523 U.S. 185 (1998), was closer factually and analytically to what occurred in this case. Nonetheless, the court concluded that any error was harmless because it did not have a substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury's verdict. View "Atkins v. Hooper" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's 151 month sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine. The court held that the district court did not clearly err in denying defendant a mitigating-role reduction where the record demonstrates that defendant understood the scope and structure of the conspiracy, exercised decision-making authority, participated in the conspiracy and performed acts to further it, and financially benefitted from the conspiracy. Though the lack of evidence regarding the degree to which defendant participated in planning or organizing the conspiracy weighs in favor of mitigation, the court has found that when some factors support the reduction, but others do not, the district court does not clearly err in denying the reduction.The court also held that defendant did not request the district court to articulate a factual basis for denying the mitigation-role reduction and thus United States v. Melton, 930 F.2d 1096, 1099 (5th Cir. 1991), is inapplicable to his case. Therefore, defendant failed to show any error, much less plain error, and remand is unnecessary. View "United States v. Pike" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Fifth Circuit joined the Second, Third, Fourth, and Ninth Circuits in adopting the fugitive tolling doctrine in the context of supervised release. The court held that 18 U.S.C. 3583(i) does not foreclose the fugitive tolling doctrine, and 18 U.S.C. 3624(e) does not preempt the fugitive tolling doctrine. As the four circuits to adopt it so far recognize, the court noted that by ensuring defendants participate in their supervision, the fugitive tolling doctrine protects the statutory scheme of post-confinement monitoring that Congress established in the Sentencing Reform Act.In this case, defendant argues that because his supervised release term ended in November 2018, the district court lacked jurisdiction over violations that occurred in October 2019. The court affirmed the district court's revocation of defendant's supervised release and held that defendant's status as a fugitive tolled his period of supervision. View "United States v. Cartagena-Lopez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Fifth Circuit denied movant's request for authorization to file a third habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. 2255 to challenge his yet-unserved sixty-month sentence for carrying and using a firearm during a crime of violence under 18 U.S.C. 924(c). Movant and his coconspirators were convicted of kidnapping and repeatedly raping a 16 year old high school student, taking turns beating her with a shovel, covering her with gasoline, and burying her alive.The court rejected movant's claim under Davis v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 2319 (2019), and held that, although Davis set aside section 924(c)(3)'s residual clause as unconstitutionally vague, it left intact the elements clause of section 924(c). Furthermore, defendant's conviction for kidnapping resulting in death satisfies the elements clause of section 924(c)(3). View "In Re: Orlando Hall" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of Speech First's First and Fourteenth Amendment challenges to several policies that intend to regulate speech at the University of Texas at Austin. Speech First sought a preliminary injunction against enforcement of these policies, but the district court dismissed the case based on lack of standing.The court held that Speech First has standing to seek a preliminary injunction. After determining that the case was not moot, the court held that the chilling of allegedly vague regulations, coupled with a range of potential penalties for violating the regulations, was, as other courts have held, sufficient "injury" to ensure that Speech First has a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy. In this case, Speech First's three student-members at the University have an intention to engage in a certain course of conduct, namely political speech; it is likely that the University's policies arguably proscribe speech of the sort that Speech First's members intend to make; and the existence of the University's policies, which the University plans to maintain as far as a federal court will allow it, suffices to establish that the threat of future enforcement, against those in a class whose speech is arguably restricted, is likely substantial. The court also held that the causation and redressability prongs are easily satisfied here. The court remanded for assessment of the preliminary injunction. View "Speech First, Inc. v. Fenves" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for harboring illegal aliens. The court held that defendant's duplicity argument is waived; even if the district court erred by applying the reckless endangerment and bodily injury sentencing enhancements, the errors were harmless; the district court did not impermissibly delegate judicial authority through the wording of two special conditions of supervised release; and defendant failed to show error, plain or otherwise, in the district court's imposition of his within-Guidelines sentence. View "United States v. Medel-Guadalupe" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed Defendants Shelton Barnes, Michael Jones, Henry Evans, Paula Jones, and Gregory Molden's convictions and sentences for offenses related to Medicare fraud. In regard to Barnes, the court held that the evidence was sufficient to support his convictions; the district court correctly concluded that the prosecution's remarks during rebuttal were improper, but they did not affect defendant's substantial rights; the district court did not abuse its discretion when it refused to admit the proffered consent forms into evidence; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to read Barnes's proffered instructions to the jury.The court also held that the evidence was sufficient to support Michael Jones's convictions. In regard to Henry Evans, the court held that there was sufficient evidence to support his convictions; there was no error in allowing a certain expert witness to testify; and the district court did not procedurally or substantively err in sentencing him. In regard to Paula Jones, the court held that there was sufficient evidence to support her convictions; the district court did not abuse its discretion when it declined to grant her severance motion; and the district court did not procedurally err when calculating the total-loss amount applicable to her sentence and restitution order. In regard to Gregory Molden, the court held that the evidence was sufficient to support his convictions; the district court did not abuse its discretion when it refused to read the proffered instructions to the jury; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in permitting the expert witness at issue to testify. View "United States v. Barnes" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law