Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
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Plaintiff filed suit against state prison officials, alleging Eighth Amendment violations and state-law wrongful death and survival claims arising out of her son’s death. Plaintiff discovered a year later that her son had two children and thus she substituted their natural tutors (their mothers) as plaintiffs after the expiration of the statutory limitations period. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's reversal of the tutors' wrongful death and 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims, holding that the substitution satisfied the four Giroir factors and related back to the date of the initial complaint. View "Moore v. LA Department of Public Safety" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiff's race discrimination and retaliation claims under Title VII and 42 U.S.C. 1981. In this case, plaintiff was terminated from her position as deputy clerk with the City of Houston, Mississippi as part of a group of layoffs designed to offset the City's budget shortfall. The court held that plaintiff failed to present a genuine issue of material fact that her race was a motivating factor in her termination or that there was a causal connection between her EEOC complaint and that termination. View "Harville v. City of Houston" on Justia Law

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Walmart filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against the TABC, challenging Texas statutes that govern the issuance of permits allowing for the retail sale of liquor in Texas (package store permits). TPSA later intervened as a matter of right in defense of the statutes. The Fifth Circuit held that Tex. Alco. Bev. Code 22.16 is a facially neutral statute that bans all public corporations from obtaining P permits irrespective of domicile. The court held that, although the district court correctly cited the Arlington framework, it committed clear error in finding that section 22.16 was enacted with a purpose to discriminate against interstate commerce. Therefore, the court remanded Walmart's dormant Commerce Clause challenge for reconsideration of whether the ban was enacted with a discriminatory purpose. Furthermore, a remand was necessary to allow the district court to find facts for proper application of the Pike test. The court affirmed the district court's judgment rejecting Walmart's Equal Protection challenge to the public corporation ban, holding that there was a rational basis for Texas' decision to ban all public corporations from obtaining package store permits and its legitimate purpose of reducing the availability and consumption of liquor throughout Texas. Finally, Walmart's challenges to section 22.04 and 22.05 are withdrawn. View "Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied petitioner's motion for a certificate of appealability, holding that reasonable jurists would not debate that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying petitioner's Rule 60(b) motion. In this case, petitioner failed to brief any waived claims sufficient to allow the district court to determine whether extraordinary circumstances were present, and petitioner failed to provide the court any authority that 18 U.S.C. 3599 has ever provided relief under Rule 60(b). However, in light of In re Cathey, 857 F.3d 221 (5th Cir. 2017), the court held that Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002), created a new rule of constitutional law made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court. The court granted petitioner's motion for authorization of a successive application for habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(2)(A) and stayed his execution. The court held that petitioner made a prima facie showing of intellectual disability. Finally, the court held that the district court was in a better position to determine the timeliness of petitioner's motion for a successive application. View "Johnson v. Davis" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee, filed suit against the County and county officials for allegedly violating his constitutional rights by being deliberately indifferent to his health, safety, and medical needs. Plaintiff also filed suit against a prison nurse for retaliation and the County for negligence under Texas law. In regard to the deliberate indifference claims, the court held that there was insufficient information about a deputy sheriff's driving and no evidence to allow a finding that the deputy's actual knowledge that the manner in which he was driving created a substantial risk of harm; plaintiff failed to show deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs; plaintiff's conclusory allegations were not sufficient to state a claim that the treating physicians denied him adequate pain medication and access to physical therapy; plaintiff failed to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact disputing that the nurse was hesitant to administer his medicine because of security concerns and jail policy; and claims against the official capacity defendants were properly dismissed. In regard to the retaliation claims, the court held that plaintiff failed to allege any harm from the nurse's purported retaliatory acts and there was no evidence that the nurse's reporting of medical personnel who entered plaintiff's cell had any consequences on plaintiff. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to exercise supplemental jurisdiction. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of some of the claims and grant of summary judgment for defendants on all others. View "Baughman v. Hickman" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the employer in an action brought by plaintiff, a former employee, under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The court held that plaintiff failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact regarding the employer's reason for firing him. Although the parties agreed that plaintiff made a prima face case of employment discrimination, the court held that the employer provided a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for firing plaintiff: a broad reduction in force. The court also held that plaintiff failed to show that the employer's reason for firing him was pretextual. In this case, no evidence showed that age was a factor in any of the employer's firing decisions. View "McMichael v. Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a petition for habeas relief because it was time-barred. The court held that petitioner's motion for reconsideration before the Supreme Court of Mississippi was "properly filed" under 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(2), and that his one-year limitations period under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) would have been tolled while that motion was pending decision. Even accounting for the time that petitioner's AEDPA clock was tolled while his state habeas petition was pending both consideration and reconsideration, the court held that the factual predicate for his claim would have been discoverable through the exercise of due diligence more than a year prior to the filing of his federal habeas petition in December 2013. Accordingly, the petition was time barred under section 2244(d). View "Osborne v. Hall" on Justia Law

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Texas, Indiana, and Louisiana, and seven individuals seeking to adopt Indian children filed suit against the United States, several federal agencies and officials, and five intervening Tribes, raising facial constitutional challenges to the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) and statutory and constitutional challenges to the 2016 administrative rule (the Final Rule) that was promulgated by the Department of the Interior to clarify provisions of ICWA. The Fifth Circuit held that plaintiffs had standing to bring all claims; the ICWA and the Final Rule are constitutional because they are based on a political classification that is rationally related to the fulfillment of Congress's unique obligation toward Indians; ICWA preempts conflicting state laws and does not violate the Tenth Amendment anticommandeering doctrine; and ICWA and the Final Rule do not violate the nondelegation doctrine. The court also held that the Final Rule implementing the ICWA is valid because the ICWA is constitutional, the BIA did not exceed its authority when it issued the Final Rule, and the agency's interpretation of ICWA section 1915 is reasonable. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and rendered judgment in favor of defendants on all claims. View "Brackeen v. Bernhardt" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a mother and her three minor children, filed suit against two employees of the state's child protective services agency, claiming a constitutional violation based on defendants' taking of the three children from their mother's custody under a temporary removal order. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of defendants' motion to dismiss, holding that defendants were entitled to qualified immunity because there was no constitutional violation. In this case, there was an adequate basis for the issuance of the temporary conservatorship order and therefore there was no Fourth Amendment violation based on the Protective Services employee's affidavit. Furthermore, there was no vicarious liability that applied to the Protective Services supervisor and the claim was properly dismissed. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Marks v. Hudson" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit granted the petition for panel rehearing and withdrew its prior opinion, substituting the following opinion. After Officer Doe was hit by an unidentified individual and seriously injured, he filed suit against Black Lives Matter, the group associated with the protest, and DeRay Mckesson, one of the leaders of Black Lives Matter and the organizer of the protest. The district court dismissed Officer Doe's claims on the pleadings and denied his motion to amend the complaint as futile. The Fifth Circuit remanded for further proceedings relative to Mckesson. Although the court held that Officer Doe has not adequately alleged that Mckesson was vicariously liable for the conduct of the unknown assailant or that Mckesson entered into a civil conspiracy with the purpose of injuring Officer Doe, the court found that Officer Doe adequately alleged that Mckesson was liable in negligence for organizing and leading the Baton Rouge demonstration to illegally occupy a highway. The court held that the district court erred in dismissing the action on First Amendment grounds, and thus Officer Doe has pleaded a claim for relief against Mckesson in his active complaint. The court also held that the district court erred by taking judicial notice of the legal status of Black Lives Matter, but nonetheless found that Officer Doe did not plead facts that would allow the court to conclude that Black Lives Matter was an entity capable of being sued. Therefore, the court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Doe v. Mckesson" on Justia Law