Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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Plaintiff filed suit against the United States, alleging that the Government violated his Fifth Amendment due process rights by accusing him of a crime during the course of a criminal proceeding in which he was not named a defendant. The district court granted the Government's motion to dismiss. The court concluded that plaintiff's claim accrued when the Government purportedly accused him of criminal activity without indicting him. The court reasoned that to the extent that Doe's failure to initiate suit within the limitations period was the result of his mistaken belief that he could not file suit because his claim had not yet accrued, a mistake of this nature does not provide a valid basis for tolling. Therefore, the continuing violation doctrine was inapplicable here and the statute of limitations barred review of the statements made in 2008 as well as 2012. Finally, the court noted that amending the complaint would be futile. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Doe v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a GM employee, filed suit against GM for interference and retaliation under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. 2601 et seq.; for disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq.; and for violation of Texas law. The district court granted summary judgment for GM. The court concluded that the FMLA and accompanying regulations require employees to follow their employer's "usual and customary" procedures for requesting FMLA leave absent "unusual circumstances." In this case, plaintiff failed to demonstrate that there were unusual circumstances arising from his condition that prevented him from complying with GM's call-in policy. Therefore, plaintiff failed to raise a fact issue for FMLA interference. The court also concluded that plaintiff failed to make a prima facie case of FMLA retaliation where he has not shown how his disciplinary leave was caused by his attempts to seek protection under the FMLA instead of his failure to follow GM's attendance and absence approval process; plaintiff failed to demonstrate that GM denied him a reasonable accommodation under the ADA; and plaintiff's Texas law claim also failed. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Acker v. General Motors, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a Mexican-American in his mid-40's, filed suit against the Postal Service under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. 621 et seq. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the dismissal of his Title VII retaliation claim. Plaintiff claimed that the Postal Service suspended him for two days because he complained of workplace discrimination and harassment. In this case, because the order granting partial summary judgment was interlocutory, the district court should have analyzed the motion for reconsideration under Rule 54(b) instead of Rule 59(e), which applies to final judgments. The court concluded that the procedural error was harmless. The court also concluded that plaintiff failed to state a claim for retaliation because his two-day suspension did not constitute a materially adverse action. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Cabral v. Brennan" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that defendant used excessive force against him in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The district court granted summary judgment to defendant based on qualified immunity. The court held that plaintiff met his burden of rebutting defendant's qualified immunity defense. The court concluded that plaintiff alleged facts which, when viewed in the manner most favorable to him, would establish a violation of plaintiff's Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force during a seizure. The court also concluded that the constitutional right at issue was clearly established at the time of the incident, and that defendant's conduct was objectively unreasonable in light of then-existing clearly established law. In this case, defendant stopped plaintiff for a minor traffic offense and abruptly escalated to a takedown; plaintiff presented no immediate threat or flight of risk; and plaintiff offered, at most, passive resistance, including asking whether he was under arrest. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Hanks v. Rogers" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an African-American, Mississippi lawyer, filed suit against the Governor of Mississippi, claiming that the Mississippi flag, which depicts the Confederate battle flag, violates his rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. The district court ultimately dismissed the suit for lack of standing and denied plaintiff's motion to amend. The court agreed with the district court that plaintiff failed adequately to plead injury in fact and thus failed to establish standing. In this case, the court concluded that plaintiff failed to establish that the Mississippi state flag stigmatizes him, plaintiff's hostile workplace and physical injury theories were insufficient to plead injury in fact, and plaintiff failed to allege harm to his daughter based on her exposure to the Mississippi flag in school. Accordingly, the court need not reach causation, redressability, or the political question doctrine. The court affirmed the judgment. View "Moore v. Bryant" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, former American and British soldiers assigned to protect employees of an industrial water injection facility, filed suit claiming that KBR did not responsibly handle the contamination at the facility, leading plaintiffs to suffer injuries stemming from hexavalent chromium exposure. The district court granted summary judgment for KBR. The court concluded that the political question doctrine does not bar the court's review of this case where, under Lane v. Halliburton, this appeal primarily raised legal questions that may be resolved by the application of traditional tort standards. On the merits, the court concluded that plaintiffs have not adduced sufficient evidence to prove that exposure to sodium dichromate caused their injuries based on a reasonable medical probability and scientifically reliable evidence. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "McManaway v. KBR, Inc." on Justia Law

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KPCC filed suit against KBR, a general contractor supporting the Government's military operations in Iraq, alleging claims for breach of contract, fraud, and promissory estoppel. At issue was a 2010 contract for, inter alia, KBR's leasing, with an option to purchase, a dining facility constructed by KPCC in Iraq. The district court dismissed the complaint, concluding that the political-question doctrine rendered nonjusticiable the contract dispute at issue. Applying de novo review, under the discriminating inquiry required by Baker v. Carr, the court concluded that the claims presented required resolution of contractual disputes for which there existed judicially manageable standards. Therefore, there was no justiciable political question. The court disposed of KBR's remaining claims regarding the act-of-state doctrine and regarding a contractor's defense from its strict execution of a constitutionally authorized government order. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded. View "Kuwait Pearls Catering Co. WLL v. Kellogg Brown & Root Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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AHA and Isaiah Smith filed suit against the school district, alleging that the school district's policy of inviting students to deliver statements, which can include invocations, before school-board meetings violated the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. The district court granted summary judgment for the school district. The court agreed with the district court that a school board was more like a legislature than a school classroom or event where the board is a deliberative body, charged with overseeing the district's public schools and other tasks. In Town of Greece v. Galloway, the Supreme Court stated unequivocally that the legislative-prayer exception in Marsh v. Chambers extends to prayers delivered at town-board meetings. In this case, the court concluded that the school board was no less a deliberative legislative body than was the town board in Galloway. Accordingly, the court affirmed the summary judgment in No. 16-11220, and reversed the order denying summary judgment in No. 15-11067. View "American Humanist Assoc. v. Birdville I.S.D." on Justia Law

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Air Evac filed suit against state defendants, claiming that, as applied to air-ambulance entities, Texas' workers'-compensation system was federally preempted. Air Evac argued that, because the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA), 49 U.S.C. 4173(b)(1), expressly preempted all state laws related to a price, route, or service of an air carrier, Texas may not use state laws to regulate air-ambulance services. The district court granted state defendants' motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1). The court concluded that Air Evac had Article III standing because it had a pecuniary injury that could be redressed with injunctive and declaratory relief; Shaw v. Delta Air Lines, Inc. conferred federal-question jurisdiction because Air Evac's complaint sought injunctive relief on the basis that the ADA preempted Texas law; the Ex parte Young exception applied to this case where, to the extent Ex parte Young required that the state actor "threaten" or "commence" proceedings to enforce the unconstitutional act, state defendants' pervasive enforcement satisfied that test; and the court declined to exercise abstention under Colorado River Water Conservation District v. United States. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Air Evac EMS, Inc. v. State of Texas, Department of Insurance" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a national association of charter-bus companies, sought to enjoin regulations affecting their operations enacted by the City of Austin. At issue was whether federal law preempted the City's exercise of its regulatory authority over the intrastate operation of charter buses. The court affirmed the district court's holding that the regulations were not preempted. The arguments about preemption were based on a federal statute captioned "Federal authority over intrastate transportation." See 49 U.S.C. 14501. The court agreed with the district court's conclusion that section 14501(c)(2)(A) may appropriately be considered in interpreting and applying section 14501(a)(2), because both subsections use identical language. The court concluded that the distinctions between sections 14501(a) and (c) do not persuade it to construe "safety regulatory authority" more narrowly in the former than in the latter. The court applied a test that was similar to the Ninth Circuit, concluding that, in light of the permitting regulation's expressed purpose and effect, there was a safety motivation for the ordinance, and there was a nexus between the permitting regulations and the safety concern. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United Motorcoach Association, Inc. v. City of Austin" on Justia Law