U.S. Fifth Circuit

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


Court Revives Long-Running Sex-Bias Suit

A federal appeals court revived a Southern University professor's gender discrimination case, saying that she could allege a hostile work environment through continuous conduct going back two years before she filed her complaint.

The decision is significant because it clears up questions facing trial judges about the continuing violation doctrine in gender discrimination cases. The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals said it applies to claims of hostile work environment, allowing the Louisiana plaintiff to allege discriminatory conduct more than 300 days, and beyond the one-year statute of limitations, before filing the complaint.

"Claims alleging discrete acts are not subject to the continuing violation doctrine; hostile workplace claims are," the court said in Heath v. Board of Supervisors for the Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College.

"Hostile environment claims are 'continuing' because they involve repeated conduct, so the 'unlawful employment practice' cannot be said to occur on any particular day," Judge Gregg Costa wrote for the unanimous panel.

The long-running dispute over Texas's restrictive voter ID law took another turn last week, as the Department of Justice dropped one of its key objections to the law. The DOJ will no longer argue that the Texas law was enacted with discriminatory intent, the Department announced last Monday.

Texas's voter ID law, SB14, is one of the strictest in the country. After it was adopted in 2011, both the Department of Justice and civil rights groups sued, arguing that the law disenfranchised Texas voters, particularly poor and minority Texans. They won a significant victory last summer, when an en banc Fifth Circuit found that the law violated the Voting Rights Act. But the Fifth declined to rule on the DOJ's claim that the act was intentionally discriminatory, remanding that question the district court for further investigation.

Just south of New Orleans' central business district, a short walk from the Superdome, stands the Robert E. Lee Monument, a pillar-mounted statue of the Confederate general. Stands for now, that is. Lee's statue is one of four monuments celebrating the state's confederate past scheduled to come toppling down, after the City Council voted to remove the statues in 2015.

And that toppling can begin post haste, now that the Fifth Circuit has rejected a challenge to the statues' removal brought by local preservation societies and the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Fraudster to Stay in Prison for Fake Disneyland Scam

Thomas W. Lucas Jr. presented a grand vision to investors. It would be big, of course, because this was Texas.

"Frontier Disney DFW," he called it, complete with theme parks, a water park, a new airport, a train, hotels, villas, sports facilities, and a shopping mall. He showed them elaborate park maps, floor plans, and mock-ups of the facilities.

Lucas raised more than $60 million from investors to buy land around the Disney park, and then the truth came out. It was all a lie.

Injunction of TX Illegal Immigrant Harboring Law Overturned

It was as close to a win-win decision as they get, especially considering that both sides lost.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed an injunction landlords had obtained against enforcement of an anti-harboring statute, then dismissed their case and said they were not subject to prosecution under the law. Because the plaintiffs lacked standing, the court could have side-stepped the harboring issue. But instead, the court laid down the law.

"Because there is no reasonable interpretation by which merely renting housing or providing social services to an illegal alien constitutes 'harboring ... that person from detection,' we reverse the injunction and render a judgment of dismissal for want of jurisdiction," the court said.

The First Amendment includes the right to videotape police officers, subject only to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions, the Fifth Circuit ruled last Thursday.

The ruling comes after Fort Worth, Texas police officers detained a man for filming their police station from the sidewalk. And it's not terribly shocking. Every circuit court to address the issue has ruled similarly. Nonetheless, the court ruled, that right to film wasn't clearly established at the time of the detention, meaning that the detained man couldn't pursue his civil rights suit against the officers on First Amendment grounds.

Delta Can Continue Flying to Love Field

A federal appeals court got a taste of air traffic control in ruling that Delta Airlines may continue to fly out of a Dallas airport.

The City of Dallas, which owns the airport, had thrown its hands up in the air over a controversy between Delta and Southwest Airlines. The airlines were fighting about which company had the right to use certain gates, so the city asked the court to decide.

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals put a patch on the problem -- changing out one preliminary injunction for another -- and sent the matter back to a trial judge to figure out the logjam. Acknowledging the complexity of the case, the dissent said, it was going back on a wing and a prayer.

"I hope and trust that on remand, the district court will review the issues closely and assimilate all the relevant evidence before issuing its final judgment," Judge Edith Jones said.

Worker's Emotional Distress Damages for Retaliation Upheld by 5th Cir.

A federal appeals court ruled that a worker can claim emotional distress damages for an employer's retaliation on a wage claim.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals joined other federal circuits in considering remedies available to workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The appellate court said the FLSA authorizes emotional damages as "legal and equitable relief" on account of employer retaliation.

In reversing and remanding, the appeals panel said the trial court must consider additional evidence of emotional distress and award damages accordingly. Santiago Pineda won only overtime and retaliation damages at trial.

Overtime Case on Maximum Overdrive

The Fifth Circuit will expedite a case to decide whether overtime wages will potentially double for millions of Americans.

In a one-page order, the circuit court said it will fast-track the appeal of a preliminary injunction blocking overtime rules that would have taken effect on Dec. 1, 2016. A district court judge had enjoined the U.S. Department of Labor from implementing its new overtime rules, which could have raised the minimum salary level from $455 per week to $913 per week for white-collar workers.

The appeals court set a briefing schedule that will challenge the participants to work through the holidays. Briefs are due Dec. 16, 2016; Dec. 23, 2016; Jan. 17, 2017; Jan. 23, 2017; and Jan. 31, 2017. A hearing will be set to follow at that time.

Patent Infringement Can't Give Rise to Antitrust Liability, 5th Cir. Rules

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals let the air out of a $340 million verdict against a syringe manufacturer, sending the case back to the trial court for a recalculation of damages.

The court reversed the anti-trust portion of the verdict, but upheld a false advertising claim. As a result, the trial judge will have to undo damages that were awarded under the Sherman Anti-trust Act and determine any potential damages under the Lanham Act. Becton Dickinson & Co., the largest manufacturer of syringes in the country, still faces substantial liability for falsely advertising that it had the "the world's sharpest needle" and that it had "the lowest waste space."

"First, patent infringement, which operates to increase competition, is not anticompetitive conduct," the appeals court said in reversing the anti-trust decision. Second, the justices said, the false advertising claim was nonexistent for an anti-trust claim.