U.S. Fifth Circuit

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


A claim under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics is essentially a Supreme Court-created version of 42 USC 1983, a statute conferring a cause of action for state officials' violations of a plaintiff's civil rights.

Plaintiffs can get money damages under Bivens, as they can under 42 USC 1983, but can undocumented immigrants get damages for Fourth Amendment violations allegedly committed by border patrol agents?

The Fifth Circuit never fails at providing an abundance of cases for the Supreme Court to hear. With about a month and a half left in the term, the Court has several petitions from the Fifth Circuit itself -- as well as other courts in that circuit -- to consider. Here are two of the big ones that you should be watching.

Humana, as a third party service provider to an ERISA benefit plan, cannot sue under the Act to recover funds paid out, since it was not an ERISA fiduciary, the Fifth Circuit ruled on Monday. Rather, under the plan management agreement, Humana's role was simply ministerial, more akin to a lawyer or collections agent.

Humana and API entered into a plan management agreement whereby Humana would administer API's employee benefits plan. Under the PMA, API was to retain decisionmaking control over all discretionary decisions, with Humana acting within the framework of the plan's management policies. The limited discretion Humana had, even under the agreements broad subrogation terms, kept it from being treated as a true ERISA fiduciary, the Fifth Circuit found.

For a claim of age discrimination to withstand summary judgment, a plaintiff must show that he or she was treated differently from similarly, very similarly, situated employees because of his or her age, the Fifth Circuit reminded us yesterday. While those similar employees don't have to be identical they have to be fairly close.

James Hinga, a machinist who was let go after a recall, couldn't find a close enough match to support his age discrimination claim. Though he pointed to three younger employees, the fact that they had different roles and different discipline histories kept them from being appropriate comparators.

Even though it happened a little over five years, the Deepwater Horizon explosion is the gift that keeps on giving -- to the environment, and to lawyers.

This week's saga involves three Mexican states -- Veracruz, Tamaulipas, and Quintana Roo -- that sued BP, Transocean, and the other usual suspects, over damages resulting from the subsequent oil spill. The Fifth Circuit affirmed denial of their claims for lack of a "proprietary interest."

A Texas man convicted for possession and distribution of child pornography won't have his sentenced revisited, the Fifth Circuit ruled on Tuesday. Peter Groce had been convicted for receiving child pornography, with a sentencing enhancement for distributing child porn in a bartered exchange.

Groce's child porn crimes were committed through peer-to-peer file sharing programs -- the kind that are often used to share bootlegged music or movies. Since those programs don't involve direct communication, there was a question as to whether the "bargaining" enhancement could apply. With Groce, the Fifth officially adopted the rule that it does.

Today was a big day for oral arguments, but not just in D.C. While the Supreme Court grappled with gay marriage and lethal injection, the Fifth Circuit heard panel arguments over Texas's voter ID law.

Texas's law requires voters to produce specific types of identification in order to cast a ballot. A district court judge found that the law not only had discriminatory effects, but that it was also passed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose. That conclusion could be in jeopardy today, as at least one Fifth Circuit judge, Catharina Haynes, found the district court's conclusion about the law's intent to be "very troubling" and "rank speculation."

The federal government's "reverse sting" operation on five defendants was not entrapment or a violation of due process, the Fifth Circuit held on Monday, in an unpublished decision.

The defendants' unlucky story began when the group met with a disgruntled cocaine trafficker, Richard Zayas. Zayas was looking for help in robbing a stash house and the crew was happy to provide it.

Remember back in February, when District Judge Andrew Hanen said President Obama's Deferred Action for Parents or Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) was unconstitutional? That ruling put the whole program in jeopardy, and the administration filed an emergency motion to stay the court's injunction.

On Tuesday, Hanen decided that the administration wouldn't be getting a stay, setting the stage for a showdown at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Evidence of a man's possession of cocaine following a traffic stop must be suppressed because of the officer's unreasonable mistakes of law and fact, the Fifth Circuit ruled on Monday. In stopping a driver for failing to signal sufficiently before changing lanes, Texas Highway Patrol Officer was wrong not only about the law, but about the distance between the defendant's activation of his signal and his turn, rendering the stop an unreasonable seizure.

The case marks the first time that the Fifth Circuit has addressed the reasonableness in errors in estimating distances. For an error in distance to be reasonable, the court held, it must be supported with specific, articulable facts, something which was undermined by the officer's misapplication of the law.