U.S. Fifth Circuit

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


On Friday, the Fifth Circuit heard oral arguments on the issue of whether to issue an emergency stay of enforcement of Texas' abortion law pending resolution of the appeal.

Recall that, in August, a federal district judge held unconstitutional a part of the law requiring abortion clinics to adhere to the same standards as surgical clinics. The result of enforcing the law would be the closure of 13 of the state's 20 abortion clinics, according to The Associated Press.

The case? Thomas Roque v. Natchitoches Parish School Bd., in which Roque is alleging that he was denied a school superintendent position because of race-based discrimination.

During oral arguments for the case, Roque's attorney David Broussard got a quick lesson in Fifth Circuit appellate advocacy, courtesy of Fifth Circuit Judge E. Grady Jolly and District Court Judge Lance M. Africk (sitting by designation) in the form of a double bench-slapping.

Why? One word: interrupting. (H/T to Above the Law and NMissCommentor)

The facts of this case are pretty simple: Allen Thompson was a detective in Waco, Texas. Thompson and two other detectives were found to have falsified their time sheets. Thompson, but not the other two detectives, was subjected to written restrictions. Thompson is black; the other two detectives aren't. Hopefully you can see the Title VII employment discrimination lawsuit coming.

A federal district court dismissed Thompson's suit on the ground that he had failed to allege an adverse employment action. Last week, the Fifth Circuit reversed, finding that restrictions on his job duties were the equivalent of a demotion.

In a 153-page order issued today, a federal district judge in Louisiana ruled that the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill was the result of BP's recklessness. Heightening BP's culpability from negligence to recklessness could subject it to even greater fines.

Judge Carl Barbier's memorandum contains copious findings of fact and conclusions of law, the end product of two bench trials lasting eight months and consisting of In re Triton Asset Leasing GmbH, a suit consisting of thousands of civil claims, as well as impleader and interpleader actions by the various business entities involved with Deepwater Horizon, and United States v. BP Exploration & Production Inc., a suit against BP for civil penalties under various federal statutes.

More than 30 federal courts have ruled against state bans on gay marriage since Windsor. Until today, federal courts unanimously agreed that such bans were unconstitutional, regardless of the level of scrutiny applied -- rational basis, intermediate, or strict scrutiny.

U.S. District Court Judge Martin Leach-Cross Feldman (a Reagan appointee) made note of the unanimity before straying from the course of his colleagues, noting, "It would no doubt be celebrated to be in the company of the near-unanimity of the many other federal courts that have spoken to this pressing issue, if this Court were confident in the belief that those cases provide a correct guide."

Applying the rational basis test, Judge Feldman held that Louisiana had two interests at stake: linking children to intact families formed by biological parents and "safeguarding that fundamental social change, in this instance, is better cultivated through democratic consensus."

The obvious case is, well, obvious.

Shift Sergeant Rodricus Carltez Hurst worked in a Lee County, Mississippi jail. The operations manual at the jail stated that only the Sheriff or his "designee" could talk to the media, though the rule doesn't seem to have been enforced all that well -- the record contained multiple instances where Hurst had spoken to the media during his tenure at the jail.

This time, however, he provided information on a local college player, Chad Bumphis, who had been arrested on New Year's Day after a "big group fight" at a local bar. Sgt. Hurst was quoted in a local newspaper's coverage, which is still available online. Hurst was fired shortly thereafter for violating the Department's media relations policy.

Remember the good old days before Hobby Lobby, when free exercise cases didn't impact reproductive freedom? Boy, do I yearn for a little harmless fun with Santeria in Florida, Hare Krishnas at the airport, or nativity scenes at Christmas.

Prepare to be taken back in time as the Fifth Circuit upholds a Free Exercise challenge to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which the petitioners in McAllen Grace Brethren Church v. Salazar said prevented them from collecting bald eagle feathers to be used in religious ceremonies.

What is the scope of consent when the driver of a vehicle consents to a search of the car, but there are multiple passengers, all of whom have luggage in the trunk? The Fifth Circuit answered that question this week in U.S. v. Iraheta.

The case involved a lawful traffic stop of a car with a driver and two passengers. Deputies asked for the driver's consent to search the car, which he gave. They found duffel bags in the trunk, and not knowing which bag the driver owned, searched them all. Naturally, one of them contained cocaine and methamphetamine.

At the district court level, a magistrate granted the defendants' motions to suppress evidence on the ground that the search of the duffel bags exceeded the scope of the consent that the driver, William Iraheta, gave. After that, the government appealed.

The decision that kept Mississippi's only remaining abortion clinic open, despite a state law requiring the doctors working there to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals (which were unwilling to extend such privileges), was so unusual that we gave it the double-post treatment.

We first talked about the Fifth Circuit panel's majority opinion, which relied upon an ancient, and some might say, inapplicable school segregation case to block the Mississippi law -- a decision that was especially curious considering a substantively identical law out of Texas was approved by this same court barely a few months prior. We then covered Judge Emilio Garza's vigorous dissent.

Now? We're looking an an en banc request from Mississippi, one that we wouldn't be surprised to see granted.

If you want to form a general purpose political action committee in Texas that promotes a particular point of view, you first need to: (1) Appoint a treasurer and register with the Texas Election Commission, (2) collect contributions from 10 contributors, (3) wait 60 days before exceeding $500 in contributions and expenditures, and (4) never accept contributions from corporations unless your PAC engages only in independent expenditures.

On appeal, the Fifth Circuit upheld the treasurer requirement and (surprisingly) the ban on corporate contributions. However, it found the 60-day, $500 limit and the 10-contributor requirement unconstitutional.