Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims under common law, Texas statutes, and 42 U.S.C. 1983. Because plaintiff's section 1983 claims should have been brought in a second state court action, the dismissal with prejudice barred those claims from relitigation. Therefore, the court held that res judicata barred all of plaintiff's claims. The court vacated the attorney fee award because the district court did not make a finding of frivolousness and approved an award supported by insufficient evidence. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Portillo v. Cunningham" on Justia Law

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After negotiations failed between plaintiff and Trans-Pecos regarding the construction of a pipeline on plaintiff's land, Trans-Pecos invoked Texas eminent domain power via Tex. Util. Code 181.004. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the denial of plaintiff's application for a preliminary injunction under the Anti-Injunction Act. The district court held that the Act barred the injunction because the injunction would enjoin a state condemnation process that culminates in a judicial proceeding. As a preliminary matter, the court denied a motion to dismiss on mootness grounds. The court then held, on alternative grounds, that plaintiff could not meet the demanding standard for issuance of an injunction. The court explained that the significant differences between the Texas delegation of power to private entities and those delegations the Supreme Court has held unconstitutional mean that plaintiff's due process challenge faced long odds. Because of plaintiff's inability to establish a likelihood of success, much less a substantial one, he was not entitled to a preliminary injunction. View "Boerschig v. Trans-Pecos Pipeline, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Texas law enforcement officers under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violation of her due process rights during a murder investigation. The Fifth Circuit dismissed Deputy Keith Pikett's appeal of the district court's denial of his motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. The court held that it lacked appellate jurisdiction because of material factual disputes concerning qualified immunity. View "Winfrey v. Pikett" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a state prisoner, filed suit pro se under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging deliberate indifference on the part of personnel at SMCI. The Fifth Circuit vacated the grant of summary judgment as to the claims against Dr. Kumar, a psychiatrist, and nurses, insofar as those claims arose out of plaintiff's July 2014 suicide attempt. The court affirmed summary judgment in all other respects. In this case, plaintiff failed to show that his psychiatric policy preferences were embodied in constitutional standards, and thus his preferences did not state a claim for a constitutional violation; the court rejected plaintiff's claims that the general course of his treatment by the medical defendants amounted to deliberate indifference; but a genuine dispute existed as to whether plaintiff attempted suicide in 2014, and if he did, whether Kumar and the nurses responded in a reasonable manner. The court vacated a narrow portion of a discovery order to allow plaintiff to renew his motion for subpoenas if the case proceeds to trial. View "Grogan v. Kumar" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the denial of a petition for habeas relief in a case where petitioner pleaded guilty in state court to failure to register as a sex offender. Based on representations by his counsel, petitioner mistakenly believed that by pleading he could receive a one-year sentence. In actuality, petitioner faced a sentence ranging from five to twenty yeras and was sentenced to twenty. The court reasoned that, even though defense counsel was ineffective in his advice about the sentence, petitioner failed to show that the state court's rejection of his claim was unreasonable because he had not shown he would have gone to trial had he known his true sentencing exposure. View "Young v. Spinner" on Justia Law

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The Texas Legislature enacted SB 5 in 2016 to cure any statutory and constitutional violations related to SB 14 after Veasey v. Abbott, 830 F.3d 216 (5th Cir. 2016) (en banc). The district court permanently enjoined the enforcement of relevant sections of SB 14 and SB 5 and also enjoined upcoming elections under an interim order. The Fifth Circuit granted a stay pending appeal, stayed the district court's injunction orders, and stayed proceedings in the district court until a final disposition of this appeal. In this case, SB 5 allows voters without qualifying photo ID to cast regular ballots by executing a declaration that they face a reasonable impediment to obtaining qualifying photo ID. The court explained that this declaration is made under the penalty of perjury, and each of the 27 voters identified—whose testimony the plaintiffs used to support their discriminatory-effect claim—can vote without impediment under SB 5. The court held that the State has made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits because its reasonable-impediment procedure remedies plaintiffs' alleged harm and foreclosed plaintiffs' injunctive relief. The State has also made an adequate showing as to the other factors considered in determining a stay pending appeal. View "Veasey v. Abbott" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the town in plaintiff's action alleging that he was entitled to notice and an opportunity to respond before being terminated as fire chief. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to preclude summary judgment on the question whether plaintiff was a member of the Louisiana civil service and entitled to due process before losing his job. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Maurer v. Independence Town" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against national insurance companies, alleging various civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. 1981, 1985, and Title VII, as well as several related state law claims. The Fifth Circuit held that the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiffs' claims notwithstanding the district court's ruling that the complaint satisfied Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8. In this case, a complaint, such as the one at issue, may simultaneously satisfy Rule 8's technical requirements but fail to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). The court also held that the district court erred in dismissing Body by Cook's section 1981 contract claim against State Farm, but the district court properly dismissed Robert Cook's section 1981 claim against State Farm and plaintiffs' section 1981 claim against all other defendants. Furthermore, the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiffs' section 1985(3) conspiracy claims; plaintiff failed to allege that defendants retaliated against them; and Cook failed to allege facts sufficient to demonstrate the existence of a prospective employment relationship as to this Title VII discrimination and retaliation claims. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing plaintiffs another opportunity to plead their case and dismissing plaintiffs' federal claims with prejudice. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Body by Cook, Inc. v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction to enjoin the enforcement of two rules affecting his ability to speak in a public park. Plaintiff, an evangelical Christian and a branch director of Open-Air Campaigners, received a criminal trespass warning and was prohibited from returning to the park for 90 days. The court held that plaintiff failed to demonstrate a substantial likelihood of success on the merits on his claims that the structure rule and the public event rule were unconstitutional. In this case, the structure rule was narrowly tailored and left open ample alternative channels of communication; plaintiff's claim of unbridled discretion failed because the structure rule lacked a close nexus to expression; and the structure rule was not unconstitutionally vague. Finally, plaintiff's claim regarding the public event rule was moot based on defendants' concession that plaintiff's activity did not constitute a public event. View "Moore v. Dallas, Texas" on Justia Law

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Prison inmates in the Wallace Pack Unit filed suit alleging violations of the Eighth Amendment, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act due to the high temperatures in the prison housing areas. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of certification of a general class and two subclasses. The court affirmed the district court's conclusion that plaintiffs have demonstrated the presence of a question of law or fact common to the class. In this case, the district court did not clearly err in finding that TDCJ's heat-mitigation measures were ineffective to reduce the heat-related risk of serious harm below the constitutional baseline. Furthermore, the court rejected defendants' challenge to certification to both subclasses. The court found no error in the district court's finding that TDCJ's heat mitigation measures were not effective to bring the risk of serious harm below the constitutional baseline for any Pack Unit inmate—which includes the inmates within the subclasses who have some condition making them particularly susceptible to heat, and that the disability subclass had the additional common contention that TDCJ officials failed to provide reasonable accommodations to inmates suffering from disabilities that may impact their ability to withstand extreme heat. Finally, plaintiffs demonstrated that the proposed class satisfied one of the criteria articulated in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b), and the district court's Rule 23(b)(2) certification was not prohibited by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). Accordingly, the court affirmed in all respects. View "Yates v. Collier" on Justia Law