Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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The Fifth Circuit treated the petition for rehearing en banc as a petition for panel rehearing pursuant to Fifth Circuit Internal Operating Procedures under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 35. The court denied the petition for rehearing, withdrew its prior opinion, and issued the following opinion in its place. The court affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The court held that, under federal law, if an actual-innocence claim were presented in a successive federal habeas petition, a clear-and-convincing-evidence standard would be applied; federal law does not require states to apply a less demanding standard in a successive state habeas proceeding; and, in the alternative, applying a preponderance-of-the-evidence standard, the TCCA's decision denying petitioner's Atkins claim was not based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented to it. In this case, no expert has ever opined that petitioner is intellectually disabled. The court also rejected petitioner's claim that he received ineffective assistance of counsel on direct appeal, and that his trial counsel was ineffective by failing to conduct an adequate sentencing investigation or by failing to present an adequate mitigation case during the penalty phase of trial. View "Busby v. Davis" on Justia Law

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Petitioner challenged the district court's denial of his petition for habeas relief relating to his alleged incompetence to stand trial on capital sentencing. The Fifth Circuit held that the district court erroneously granted a hearing on the merits of petitioner's claims and denied relief. The court denied a certificate of appealability (COA) because petitioner's claims were procedurally barred. In the alternative, petitioner's claims lacked merit because all of the evidence brought to bear in the district court on the issue of petitioner's competency in 1995 supported the conclusion that reasonable jurists cannot debate the denial of the Pate claim; reasonable jurists could not debate the district court's decision to reject the claim that counsel provided ineffective assistance; and the claim involving the district court's retrospective competency hearing was waived. View "Gonzales v. Davis" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court's dismissal of their national origin discrimination claims under Title VII against the University. The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' disparate treatment claims, holding that plaintiffs alleged sufficient facts to state a plausible claim that the University's various actions taken against them were motivated by anti-Italian bias. In this case, the district court erred by holding plaintiffs to a heightened pleading standard. The court affirmed as to the district court's disparate impact and hostile work environment claims and remanded in part for further proceedings. View "Cicalese v. University of Texas Medical Branch" on Justia Law

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After appellants, each accompanied by a minor child, stated to Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) that they feared persecution in their home countries, they were arrested and charged with misdemeanor improper entry and detained in El Paso. Their children were transferred to the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). In these consolidated appeals, appellants argued that they should not have been criminally prosecuted because they sought asylum, and being separated from their children rendered their convictions constitutionally infirm. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of the government, holding that nothing in 8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(1)(A)(ii) prevents the government from initiating a criminal prosecution before or even during the mandated asylum process, nor have appellants shown that qualifying for asylum would be relevant to whether they improperly entered; appellants' argument that deporting them without their children amounted to cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment failed because the four deported appellants were found inadmissible during post-conviction civil immigration proceedings, rather than criminal proceedings; the court declined to apply the outrageous government conduct doctrine in this case; appellants' claims of right of access to evidence were rejected; appellants' fair trial claim repackaged appellants' unsuccessful Brady claim and failed for the same reasons; and the government did not impermissibly burden appellants' right against self-incrimination. View "United States v. Vasquez-Hernandez" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to a state prison officer in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging that the officer violated plaintiff's son's Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment. In this case, the officer saw that plaintiff's son was hanging from a noose around his neck with a bedsheet suspended from the ceiling sprinkler head. The officer could not tell whether the son was actually hanging and in need of medical assistance or was staging suicide to draw officers into the cell for an ambush. The office immediately summoned for backup and did not enter the cell until seven minutes later, where they found the son dead. The court held that the officer's actions did not amount to deliberate indifference where he faithfully adhered to operating procedure. Therefore, the court held that the officer did not effectively disregard the known risk that the son might commit suicide. View "Arenas v. Calhoun" on Justia Law

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After Jose Luis Garza died by suicide in jail, plaintiff filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging violations of the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause in the time leading up to, and immediately following, Garza's suicide. In this case, Garza had a camera in his cell that was supposed to be monitored by police department employees. Garza had obscured the camera's lens and hanged himself without any employee noticing on the camera monitors. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the City and held that plaintiff failed to set forth evidence by which the various police department employees' actions might reasonably be attributed to the City. Therefore, the City was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. View "Garza v. City of Donna" on Justia Law

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After Jerry Waller was shot and killed by a Fort Worth police officer, plaintiffs filed suit alleging that the officer did not reasonably fear for his safety when he shot Waller. The district court concluded that plaintiffs pleaded enough facts to plausibly allege that the officer did not reasonably fear for his safety when he shot Waller, and that defendant police officers conspired with the officer to veil the true circumstances of Waller's death. The Fifth Circuit agreed with the district court that plaintiffs plausibly alleged that Waller was unarmed and thus posed no reasonably perceivable threat when the officer killed him. However, the court held that plaintiffs' claims alleging that defendants denied them access to the courts were currently unripe. Finally, the court held that plaintiffs did not have standing to seek declaratory (as oppose to retrospective) relief for the past injury to Waller. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part. View "Waller v. Hanlon" on Justia Law

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After Officer John Doe was injured during a public protest, he filed suit against Black Lives Matter, the group associated with the protest and Defendant Mckesson, one of the leaders and organizers of the group. The Fifth Circuit 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. However, Officer Doe adequately alleged that Mckesson was liable in negligence for organizing and leading the Baton Rouge demonstration to illegally occupy a highway. Therefore, the district court erred in dismissing the suit on First Amendment grounds. The court also held that Officer Doe has pleaded a claim for relief against Mckesson in his active complaint. Finally, although the district court erred by taking judicial notice of the legal status of Black Lives Matter, the court agreed that Officer Doe did not plead facts that would allow the court to conclude that Black Lives Matter is an entity capable of being sued. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Doe v. McKesson" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of Cherry Knoll's complaint against the City of Lakeway, the city manager, and HDR Engineering in a dispute over a plat of land that Cherry Knoll had purchased in Lakeway. Cherry Knoll asserted a claim against the City under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for violating its rights to procedural due process, substantive due process, and equal protection by filing the Subdivision Plats without its consent and over its objection. The court held that these allegations satisfied the standard for official municipal policy under Pembaur v. City of Cincinnati and the district court erred in finding otherwise. The court also held that the district court erred in determining that the city manager was entitled to the protection of qualified immunity at the Rule 12(b)(6) stage. Finally, the court held that Cherry Knoll's well-pleaded factual allegations and supporting documents make plausible its claim that HDR was a "willful participant in joint action" for purposes of section 1983. Accordingly, the court remanded the matter and reinstated Cherry Knoll's state law claims. View "Cherry Knoll, LLC v. Jones" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff's complaint against her former employers, alleging that she was fired because of her sexual orientation (heterosexual) and Defendant Huber's reaction to plaintiff's pro-heterosexual speech. Plaintiff, the manager of PNP's human resources department, made a Facebook post criticizing a man wearing a dress and noting his ability to use the women's bathroom and/or dressing room. The court held that plaintiff's Title VII retaliation claim failed because Title VII does not protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and, even if it did, the district court did not err in finding that plaintiff could not have reasonably believed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was a prohibited practice. The court also held that the district court correctly dismissed the state claim because none of defendants were state actors and were therefore not covered by the the restrictions of Article 1, section 7 of the Louisiana constitution. View "O'Daniel v. Industrial Service Solutions" on Justia Law