Articles Posted in U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Kimberly Kulig and Laura Baatz worked for the Berryhill Baja Grill & Cantina on Montrose Street in Houston, a franchise-location. During their employment, the owner and operator of the restaurant sexually harassed them on numerous occasions. In this appeal, Kulig and Baatz challenged the district court's dismissal of their Title VII lawsuit against Berryhill Hot Tamales Corporation for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The court concluded that parties represented by counsel may too invoke the exceptions of the named-party requirement. Because the district court granted summary judgment on the grounds that Kulig and Baatz, as represented parties, could not rely on the exceptions to the named-party requirement, the district court did not determine whether they could fit within either the Glus v. G.C. Murphy Co. or Eggleston v. Chicago Journeymen Plumbers' Local Union No. 130 exceptions. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "EEOC v. Simbaki, Ltd." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was terminated from his position as Director of the University's art galleries after he told a member of U.S. Representative Louie Gohmert's staff that he believed Rep. Gohmert was a "fear monger," plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the University and others, alleging that he was fired in retaliation for the exercise of protected speech in violation of his First Amendment rights. Defendants appealed the district court's denial of summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds. The court concluded that defendants should have known that plaintiff's speech was protected as the speech of a citizen and that their decision to terminate plaintiff on the basis of that citizen speech would violate plaintiff's First Amendment right. The court held that the law of this circuit clearly established what a reasonable investigation was such that a reasonable official would have known that defendants' investigation was unreasonable under the circumstances. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court, concluding that every reasonable official in defendants' positions would have known based on precedent that an informal, hastily concluded investigation would be unreasonable. Accordingly, the district court did not err in finding that the law was "clearly established" at the time. View "Cutler v. Stephen F. Austin State Univ., et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the City under 42 U.S.C. 1981 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-1, for racial discrimination. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to allege an adverse employment action under Rule 12(b)(6). The court concluded that, viewing the factual allegations in the light most favorable to plaintiff, plaintiff plausibly alleged that he was subject to the equivalent of a demotion. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Thompson v. City of Waco, TX" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging excessive use of force from the shooting and death of Israel Leija, Jr. by a DPS trooper. The district court denied the trooper's motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity because multiple genuine disputes of material fact existed as to the qualified immunity analysis. The court concluded that whether Leija was posing a substantial and immediate risk of danger to other officers or bystanders, sufficient to justify the use of deadly force at the time of the shooting, is a disputed fact. Because on this record, the immediacy of the risk posed by Leija cannot be resolved as a matter of law at the summary judgment stage, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Luna, et al. v. Texas Dept. of Public Safety" on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant Marvin Washington refused to abide by the rules of his group home and was served an eviction notice. A warrant for his arrest was issued because continued residence in that group home was a condition of Washington's continued release under 18 U.S.C. 4243. The district court heard testimony from Washington's probation officer and revoked Washington's conditional release after finding: (1) Washington's eviction constituted a violation of his treatment regimen; and (2) his continued release posed a substantial risk to society. Because the doctors who crafted Washington's release plan included residence in a group home as an express element, and because the district court's substantial-risk finding was not clearly erroneous, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that court's judgment. View "USA v. Washington" on Justia Law

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Defendant Johnnie Traxler pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud in violation for making unauthorized purchases on her employer's credit cards. Traxler appealed the district court's denial of her motion to dismiss the indictment for lack of jurisdiction on grounds that the evidence was insufficient to prove she used the mails. Because the government provided sufficient evidence that Traxler used the mails in executing her ongoing fraudulent scheme, the Fifth Circuit affirmed. View "USA v. Traxler" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a corrections officer, filed suit against the County, acting through its Sheriff, alleging that plaintiff was terminated from his employment in violation of his First Amendment right to free speech. The court held that plaintiff's statements to the news reporter was ordinarily within the scope of plaintiff's duties and did not merely concern those duties. Therefore, plaintiff was not speaking as a citizen for First Amendment purposes and his communications were not constitutionally insulated from employer discipline. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court in favor of the County. View "Hurst v. Lee County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the Department seeking a declaration of rights that the Department's enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), 16 U.S.C. 703, and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (Eagle Protection Act), 76 Pub. L. No 567, 54 Stat. 250, violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. 2000bb, because it prohibits American Indians who are not members of federally recognized tribes from possessing bald and golden eagle feathers. The district court found that the Department's implementation of the Eagle Protection Act was narrowly tailored to a compelling governmental interest. The court reversed the district court's grant of the Department's motion for summary judgment because the Department did not provide sufficient evidence that the policy limiting permits for the possession of eagle feathers to members of federally recognized tribes survives the scrutiny required by RFRA. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Mc Allen Grace Brethren Church, et al. v. U.S. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, owner of a bar and nightclub, filed suit challenging the noise ordinance of Ocean Springs, arguing that the ordinance is unconstitutionally vague. The court focused on the language of the ordinance that prohibits noise that "annoys... a reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities." The court concluded that this language imposed an admittedly objective standard of conduct in its enforcement. Therefore, the court held that the ordinance sets an explicitly objective standard in accordance with Supreme Court precedent, and therefore it is not unconstitutionally vague. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Munn v. City of Ocean Springs, MS" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, three general-purpose political committees and one nonprofit corporation, raised facial and as-applied First Amendment challenges general-purpose committee regulations. Plaintiffs challenged the treasurer-appointment requirement, the ten-contributor requirement, and the 60-day, 500 dollar contribution and expenditure limit. Some plaintiffs also raised a First Amendment challenge to the corporate contribution ban as-applied to a proposed contribution of an email contact list from the nonprofit corporation to the general-purpose committee. As a preliminary matter, the court concluded that plaintiffs can invoke the disputes capable of repetition, yet evading review exception to mootness and the court had jurisdiction to hear the appeal. The court held that the treasurer-appointment requirement and the corporate contribution ban are constitutional. The court concluded, however, that the 60-day, 500 dollar contribution and expenditure limit as well as the ten-contributor requirement are facially unconstitutional under the First Amendment. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed and rendered in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Catholic Leadership Coalition v. Reisman" on Justia Law