Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

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

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Keith Thompson was killed when a county sheriff ended a two-hour high-speed chase by firing an assault rifle into the vehicle Keith had stolen. Plaintiffs, Keith's parents, filed suit against the sheriff and the County under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the sheriff used excessive force. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the district court's grant of defendants' motion for summary judgment. The court concluded that there was no constitutional violation in the sheriff's use of deadly force and he was entitled to qualified immunity. Because there was no Fourth Amendment violation of the seizure of Keith, plaintiffs' section 1983 claims failed as a matter of law. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Thompson, et al. v. Mercer, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a nursing home activities aide, filed suit against her employer, Woodland, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq., after she was discharged because she refused to pray the Rosary with a patient. Plaintiff alleged that Woodland discharged her for exercising her religious beliefs. The court found that there was no evidence in the record that Woodland knew of plaintiff's beliefs before discharging her and held that a reasonable jury would not have had a legally sufficient basis to find that Woodland violated Title VII by discharging her. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's denial of Woodland's motion for judgment as a matter of law, vacated the judgment, and remanded for entry of judgment. View "Nobach v. Woodland Village Nursing Ctr., et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging Mississippi's H.B. 1390, which requires that all physicians associated with the abortion facility must have admitting privileges at a local hospital and staff privileges to replace local hospital on-staff physicians. On appeal, the State challenged the district court's entry of a preliminary injunction enjoining the enforcement of the admitting privileges provision of H.B. 1390. The provision effectively will close the state's only abortion clinic. The court held that, assuming a rational basis inquiry is a necessary step in deciding the constitutionality of an abortion regulation, H.B. 1930 satisfied rational basis review; Gaines v. Canada instructs the court to consider the effects of H.B. 1390 only within Mississippi in conducting an undue burden analysis; JWHO, the only licensed abortion clinic in the state, has demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on its claim that H.B. 1390's admission privileges requirement imposes an undue burden on a woman's right to choose an abortion in Mississippi and is unconstitutional as applied to plaintiffs; and, to the extent the preliminary injunction enjoined enforcement of H.B. 1390 against parties other than plaintiffs, it was overly broad and was modified to apply only to the parties in this case. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court with modifications. View "Jackson Women's Health Org., et al. v. Currier, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and his family filed suit against Lewisville for damages and injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Plaintiff and his family challenged the constitutionality of a Lewisville ordinance prohibiting registered child sex offenders from residing within 1,500 feet of "where children commonly gather." Plaintiff, a registered child sex offender, asserts that he and his family cannot find a house to rent or buy based on the challenged ordinance. The district court dismissed the claims based on lack of standing and, alternatively, as moot. The court concluded that the family's inability to find a home in Lewisville is fairly traceable to the challenged ordinance and it was likely that a judgment in the family's favor would at least make it easier for them to find a residence to rent or buy in Lewisville. Although the family has moved to another town, their claims for monetary relief are sufficient to defeat mootness. Therefore, the court reversed the judgment of the district court because the family has met the traceable and redressable requirements of standing and their claim is not moot. View "Duarte, et al. v. City of Lewisville, TX" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, the widow of the deceased, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging claims that individual defendants used excessive force against her husband and that defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his medical needs. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment as to all of plaintiff's claims. The court concluded that the record presented genuine issues of material fact from which a jury could conclude that excessive force was used against the husband. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded for the district court to consider in the first instance whether any or all of the individual defendants may proceed to trial on a theory of direct liability for use of force or, in the alternative, on a theory of bystander liability. The district court should also consider whether individual defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in regards to the deliberate indifference claim and the municipal liability claim for failing to provide adequate training. View "Kitchen v. Dallas County Texas, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against UT alleging that UT's race-conscious admissions program violated the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court vacated the court's affirmance of the district court's grant of summary judgment to UT, holding that this court and the district court reviewed UT's means to the end of a diverse student body with undue deference. The Supreme Court ordered that this court must give a more exacting scrutiny to UT's efforts to achieve diversity. Any UT college applicant not offered admission either through the Top Ten Percent Law or through an exceptionally high Academic Index (AI) score is evaluated through the holistic review process. The court concluded that plaintiff had standing to challenge the injury she alleged, the use of race in UT's admissions program for the entering freshman class of Fall 2008; there is no clear benefit to remanding this case to the district court; on the merits, the holistic review is a necessary complement to the Top Ten Percent Plan, enabling it to operate without reducing itself to a cover for a quota system; and, in doing so, its limited use of race is narrowly tailored to this role - as small a part as possible for the Plan to succeed. The court was satisfied that UT had demonstrated that race-conscious holistic review is necessary to make the Top Ten Percent Plan workable by patching the holes that a mechanical admissions program leaves in its ability to achieve the rich diversity that contributes to its academic mission - as described by California v. Bakke and Grutter v. Bollinger. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment. View "Fisher, et al. v. State of Texas, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that the Board violated its First Amendment right to free speech when it denied plaintiff's application for a specialty license plate featuring the Confederate battle flag. The district court concluded that the Board had made a reasonable, content-based regulation of private speech. The court concluded that speech on specialty license plates is private speech and that the Board impermissibly discriminated against plaintiff's viewpoint when it denied the specialty license plate. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment of the district court and remanded. View "Texas Div., Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc. v. Vandergriff, et al." on Justia Law

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The Tribe filed suit against the United States and others alleging, inter alia, violations of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 500 et seq., and federal common law. The Tribe claimed that the Government breached its fiduciary duties under federal law to protect the land and natural resources subject to the aboriginal title of the Tribe. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the suit for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction because the Tribe failed to allege "agency action" sufficient to meet the requirements of the sovereign immunity waiver in section 702, which is necessary to maintain its claims against the federal government and its agencies. View "Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of TX v. United States, et al." on Justia Law

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U.S. Border Patrol Agent Mesa, standing in the United States, shot and killed Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca, a fifteen-year-old Mexican citizen, standing in Mexico. Hernandez's family filed suit against the United States, Agent Mesa, and Agent Mesa's supervisors, alleging a number of claims. Hernandez was gathered with a group of friends on the Mexican side of a cement culvert that separated the two countries, playing a game that involved running up the incline of the culvert, touching the barbed-wire fence, and then running back down the incline. Agent Mesa fired at least two shots at Hernandez, one of which struck him in the face and killed him. The court affirmed the judgment in favor of the United States where the United States has not waived sovereign immunity for any of the claims asserted against it; affirmed the judgment of the district court in favor of the supervisors where plaintiffs failed to establish that either supervisor was personally responsible for the alleged constitutional violations; and reversed the judgment in favor of Agent Mesa, holding that, in light of Boumediene v. Bush, plaintiffs can assert a Fifth Amendment claim against the agent and that they have alleged sufficient facts to overcome qualified immunity. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Hernandez, et al. v. United States, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against his former employer, the school district, asserting claims of national origin discrimination, retaliation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the removal of his suit from Texas state court and the dismissal of his entire suit. The court held that removal was proper where plaintiff's complaint included claims under Title VII. However, because the district court gave no notice to plaintiff before its sua sponte dismissal of his state law discriminatory termination claim, the court vacated the dismissal of the claim and remanded. View "Davoodi v. Austin Indep. Sch. Dist." on Justia Law