Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the Board and its president, alleging that defendants unlawfully deprived him of the use of several of his properties. After a jury returned a verdict for plaintiff, the district court denied the Board's motion for judgment as a matter of law or a new trial. The Fifth Circuit affirmed and held that there was legally sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude that the Board ratified the unlawful initiation of condemnation proceedings. The court rejected the Board's challenges to the jury instructions and held that, even if the instructions were erroneous, they could not have affected the outcome of the case. View "Young v. Board of Supervisors of Humphreys County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former deputy constable, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against defendants, alleging that they violated his First Amendment rights when he was terminated for reporting the illegal acts of the then-Constable and others to law enforcement authorities. Applying Texas law, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims against the county and the Constable in his official capacity as barred by res judicata where plaintiff had previously filed a state court action against the county. The court also affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims against the Constable in his individual capacity based on qualified immunity, because it was not clearly established at the time whether a law enforcement officer's involvement in an investigation with outside law enforcement enjoyed protection under the First Amendment. Furthermore, the Constable was entitled to qualified immunity on the First Amendment's Petition Clause claim where plaintiff's grievance from his termination did not constitute a matter of public concern and plaintiff did not allege that he was treated differently than similarly situated deputy constables. View "Harmon v. Dallas County" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied petitioner a certificate of appealability (COA), dismissed his appeal for lack of jurisdiction, and sanctioned him for appealing his collateral attack on his conviction. The court held that a denial of a motion to quash a writ of execution under 28 U.S.C. 1291 is a final decision. The court affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's request to quash the government's writ of execution. The court held that the statutes governing restitution granted petitioner the right to reduce his restitution order based on subsequent civil judgments. However, the court rejected petitioner's collateral attack on the restitution order and held that he did not meet the evidentiary requirements of 18 U.S.C. 3664(j)(2). View "United States v. Parker" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit treated respondent's petition for rehearing en banc as a petition for panel rehearing and granted it, withdrawing the court's prior opinion and substituting the following. The court affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's federal application for post-conviction relief and denial of further investigative funding. The court held that no Supreme Court precedent holds that Miranda violations are not subject to harmless-error analysis, and the Court of Criminal Appeals' (CCA) decision to apply harmless-error analysis did not conflict with clearly established federal law. Furthermore, the CCA did not unreasonably apply Chapman v. California. Finally, the district court did not improperly deny petitioner investigative funding under 18 U.S.C. 3599(f) where the district court viewed the request for additional funding as effectively seeking a full retrial of the issues already litigated in the state court. View "Jones v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint, based on subject matter jurisdiction, against the University, UT High School, and various school officials, alleging claims of racketeering and "gaslighting." Plaintiff alleged that UT High School's various policies and practices regarding grading and ranking knocked him out of the running for various scholarships and admissions into prestigious colleges, and that officials conspired to do so in order to gaslight, or cause psychological harm, to him. The court held that defendants were entitled to qualified immunity under the Eleventh Amendment, because UT High School is an instrumentality of the State of Texas that enjoys sovereign immunity. Plaintiff's claims against the remaining defendants were abandoned. View "Sissom v. University of Texas High School" on Justia Law

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The district court held that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' application of Witherspoon v. Illinois and its progeny was unreasonable because the state trial court violated petitioner's constitutional right to an impartial jury under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments when it excluded a member of the venire for having moral, conscientious, or religious objections to the death penalty. The State appealed. The Fifth Circuit held that the state court proceedings concerning the exclusion of the member as a juror did not result in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States. Furthermore, the state court proceedings did not result in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding. However, the district court did not give appropriate deference to the TCCA's determination that the trial court did not violate the federal constitution when it removed the member for cause. The court also held that petitioner was not entitled to habeas relief on this claim of ineffective assistance of counsel where, even assuming counsel's performance was deficient, petitioner failed to establish prejudice. Finally, petitioner failed to cite any decision of the Supreme Court holding that the severely mentally ill are ineligible for execution. Accordingly, the court reversed in part to the extent that the district court conditionally granted habeas relief to petitioner on his first claim of relief and otherwise affirmed the judgment. View "Smith v. Davis" on Justia Law

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After petitioner was convicted of second-degree murder, the state court overturned the conviction on direct appeal. Then the State retried petitioner and reconvicted him. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner, rejecting petitioner's contention that his prior conviction should be construed as an implicit acquittal that barred the reconviction. The court held that petitioner could not surmount the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act's relitigation bar where he failed to identify any Supreme Court precedent that was opposite to or materially indistinguishable from this case. Furthermore, petitioner failed to show an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law. Finally, even if the court were to set aside AEDPA's relitigation bar and reviewed the claim de novo, petitioner still could not prove his second jury necessarily determined anything regarding his specific intent. View "Langley v. Prince" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied a motion for an order authorizing the filing and consideration of a second-or-successive habeas corpus petition under 28 U.S.C. 2254. Assuming arguendo that movant's claim was not time-barred and he could not have previously discovered the factual predicate for the claim using due diligence, the court held that he could not establish by clear and convincing evidence that, but for constitutional error, no reasonable factfinder would have found him guilty of the underlying offense. Therefore, movant failed to make a prima facie showing sufficient to warrant authorization for a second-or-successive habeas petition on the ground that the state destroyed exculpatory evidence such that it is no longer available for testing, in violation of California v. Trombetta and Arizona v. Youngblood. The court also rejected movant's claim under Giglio v. United States that the state's forensic serologist falsely referred to exculpatory serological results; claim of a Brady violation, and claim of actual innocence. View "In re: Raby" on Justia Law

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After DNA evidence exonerated Phillip Bivens, Bobby Ray Dixon, and Larry Ruffin, who spent a collective 83 years in prison for the rape and murder of a woman in Forrest County, their estates filed a civil rights law suit against the County. At issue in this appeal was whether two of the County's law enforcement liability policies require the insurers to defend the civil rights suit. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's holding that there is a duty to defend, because the policies are triggered when injuries occur during the policy period, even though the wrongful acts that caused the injuries occurred before the policy period. In this case, the provisions of the Travelers and Scottsdale policies cover bodily injuries occurring during the policy period, and the estates' complaint alleges those injuries during the relevant time periods. Therefore, both insurers have a duty to defend the County and its officers. View "Travelers Indemnity Co. v. Mitchell" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the town and its mayor, alleging that they violated his federal and state constitutional rights by seeking—and then seeking to collect on—a judgment that he owed over $50,000 for violating a local ordinance. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on the 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims, holding that plaintiff failed to establish a municipal policy that was the moving force behind the violation of any constitutional right. However, the court vacated and remanded the state-law claim for the district court to assess its jurisdiction over this claim. View "Webb v. Town of Saint Joseph" on Justia Law