Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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After plaintiff's position was eliminated, he filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against the county, alleging a First Amendment retaliation claim. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the county's motions for summary judgment, judgment as a matter of law, and new trial. The court held that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine was inapplicable; plaintiff's claim was not judicially estopped based on his response in his unemployment application; and plaintiff's failure to appeal the Board's decision in state court did not preclude his First Amendment claim under section 1983. The court also held that plaintiff's position was not a policymaking position, and the jury's verdict in favor of plaintiff was supported by sufficient evidence. In this case, there was evidence that at least three of the five board members had retaliatory motive, and the evidence was legally sufficient to support the jury's verdict. View "Griggs v. Chickasaw County" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the employer on plaintiff's claims of discrimination based on age, disability, and national origin. The court held that an intake questionnaire, which does not contain a clear and concise statement of facts alleging unlawful employment practices, was insufficient to constitute a charge of discrimination. Therefore, plaintiff filed an untimely charge of discrimination which resulted in his failure to properly exhaust his administrative remedies. The court also held that equitable tolling did not apply in this case because plaintiff did not act with due diligence. View "Caycho Melgar v. T.B. Butler Publishing Co." on Justia Law

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Defendant-cross claimant alleged that the city attorney violated his First Amendment right to petition for redress of grievances as well as his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection. The Fifth Circuit declined to reach the merits of the city attorney's qualified immunity defense to these arguments because defendant-cross claimant lacked standing to assert either. In this case, defendant-cross claimant's procedural injury did not impact any concrete interest and thus he lacked standing to claim that the city attorney violated his First Amendment right to petition. Furthermore, defendant-claimant did not encounter any barrier erected by the city attorney in the processing of the petition, and thus did not have standing to bring his equal protection claim. View "City of Hearne v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit terminated a consent decree entered in 1977, which exempts Muslim inmates from the requirement that all religious gatherings and activities in Texas state prisons attended by more than four inmates must be directly supervised by either prison staff or a prison-approved outside volunteer. The court held that the consent decree does not remain necessary to correct current and ongoing violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, the Free Exercise Clause, or the Establishment Clause. Therefore, TDCJ's motion to vacate the consent decree should have been granted. The court vacated the award of attorneys' fees, because plaintiff and Inmate Intervenors were not prevailing parties. View "Brown v. Collier" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied the petition for rehearing en banc, granted the petition for rehearing, and withdrew its prior opinion, substituting the following opinion. The court affirmed the district court's partial grant of defendants' motion to dismiss a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action claiming that the Texas Medical Board's execution of an administrative subpoena in plaintiff's office violated the Fourth Amendment. The court held that it was clearly established at the time of this search that the medical profession as a whole is not a closely regulated industry, meaning that governmental agents violate the Constitution when they search clinics that are not pain management clinics without providing an opportunity for precompliance review. The court also held that, even assuming that pain management clinics are part of a closely regulated industry, on-demand searches of those clinics violate the constitution when the statutory scheme authorizing the search fails to provide sufficient constraints on the discretion of the inspecting officers. In this case, the unlawfulness of defendants' conduct was not clearly established at the time of the search. The court also held that the search was not pretextual; the district court did not abuse its discretion in abstaining from deciding the declaratory judgment claims; Director Robinson was not deliberately indifferent in delegating her subpoena authority in light of the fact she was acting pursuant to the regulations in the same way as her predecessors and the numerous subpoenas issued each year; and, to the extent plaintiffs sought to impose section 1983 liability on Defendants Kirby and Pease, through the subdelegation argument, that law also was not clearly established. View "Zadeh v. Robinson" on Justia Law

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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 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