U.S. Fifth Circuit

U.S. Fifth Circuit - The FindLaw 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog


Volume practices get a bad rap. People assume that just because you move a lot of clients' cases through the system, that you are doing a lesser job on the cases.

Bollocks. Moving a case quickly, or more accurately, efficiently from intake to completion is good for you (because it frees up time for more clients) and great for your client (fewer billable hours, obviously).

Of course, efficiency and volume have to be balanced with diligence, ethics, and customer service. Fortunately, we've got a few resources that can help.

Sexual Harassment 101: Hague v. UT Health Science Center

The Fifth Circuit's March 28 decision in Monica Hague v. University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio underscores some of the basics of sexual harassment cases and shows one major pitfall to avoid.

Monica Hague worked on a contract basis as a nurse for the University of Texas Health Science Center. She claimed (among other things) that she was sexually harassed when a Dr. Manifold read a sexually explicit article aloud during a meeting and gave another employee a sexually explicit doll.

Hague followed internal procedures to address the behavior and eventually filed an EEOC complaint. Three days later, she was informed that her contract would not be renewed. She sued, alleging sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, and retaliation. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of her employer. The Fifth Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded in an opinion that reads reminds us of the basics of sexual harassment law.

Running a law practice costs money, and business expenses are often deductible from one's taxes. But if you've entered into a partnership, as many lawyers do, beware that your partnership agreement could greatly restrict your ability to deduct routine business expenses.

Attorney Peter McLauchlan learned that lesson the hard way. The Fifth Circuit recently ruled against him in a tax dispute after he deducted items that seemed routine (advertising, contract labor, wages) but were not listed as reimbursable in his partnership agreement.

The opinion provides guidance about being vigilant when drafting your partnership agreement, as well as when requesting reimbursement from your firm.

Texas. It's the land of steak, pick-up trucks, football, and for far too long, patent holding companies and trolls.

The Eastern District of Texas's high success rate for patent holders (57.5 percent, per a recent study [PDF] by PricewaterhouseCoopers) and decently high rankings for median damages and time to trial, are just some of the reasons why non-practicing entities (NPEs, or patent trolls) love incorporating in Texas and bringing suit in that district. Other reasons include judges' frequent deferral to juries on patent issues (meaning trials happen often, rather than summary judgment) and reticence to grant venue transfers.

That last habit may change, however, after the Federal Circuit applied the Fifth Circuit's venue transfer rule, one that is far, far more friendly to defendants than the standard initially applied by the trial court in the Eastern District of Texas.

Walmart v. Dukes is one of those landmark decisions that will confuse law students for decades to come, but it was more than an interesting legal citation. The Supreme Court's holding decertified a class of 1.5 million current female employees of the retail giant, shortly after the Ninth Circuit had already removed a separate group, former employees, from the class.

It's this last group, led by named plaintiff Stephanie Odle, which will continue its fight in a district court in Dallas, after the Fifth Circuit revived her putative class action, approximately thirteen years after she first brought suit as part of the larger Dukes class.

Texas' most recent abortion regulations, found in H.B. 2, were upheld by the Fifth Circuit on Thursday.

Finding that the district court both misapplied standards and misconstrued evidence, the Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas v. Abbott Court found that both the medical abortion and "admitting privileges" regulations were constitutional and not an undue burden to women. This ruling threatens the Fifth Circuit's other pending abortion case in Mississippi, which is scheduled for hearing in April.

How did the court come to support these abortion regulations?

Arbitration agreements often seem one-sided, and in some employment cases, they may seem downright predatory.

But as the Fifth Circuit affirmed in their most recent look at arbitration agreements, even an agreement that allows the employer to unilaterally terminate is not illusory -- it's legal.

Another admitting privileges case is making its way to the Fifth Circuit, this time from a Mississippi abortion law.

On Monday, the Fifth Circuit notified the parties that it would hear oral arguments on April 28 from both the state of Mississippi and the Jackson Women's Health Organization as to whether the Mississippi "admitting privileges" requirement should apply to the clinic.

This case should remind you of the recently passed Texas law, and it may not be coincidence that neither case has been resolved yet.

Tribal court jurisdiction can be tricky, but the Fifth Circuit seemed to simplify it in a case where a Native American minor was allegedly molested at a Dollar General.

Dolgencorp, which operates a Dollar General on a Choctaw Reservation in Mississippi, is being sued by a Choctaw minor who was employed in the store as part of a Youth Opportunity Program (YOP) training program. Unfortunately, while employed there, the minor alleges that the manager, a non-tribe member, molested him.

The Fifth Circuit found that the tribal courts do have jurisdiction over the minor's tort claim against Dolgencorp, but why?

MoveOn.org is being hauled into federal court for allegedly using Louisiana's motto on a billboard criticizing Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne filed a federal suit against MoveOn.org in his official capacity as both lieutenant governor and commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism claiming that the advocacy group used the state's service mark and motto without permission, reports The Times-Picayune.

Can a political billboard crib a state's motto like that?