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


In the most recent wave of federal court nominations handed down from the White House, the state of Mississippi was dealt an unexpected bit of bad news: a Mississippian wasn't nominated in the place of Judge Grady Jolly, the Mississippian that's retiring from the bench. Dropping the number of seats held by Mississippians to two.

The 17 judge judicial circuit covers Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. For the four Fifth Circuit nominations made by President Trump, none have been Mississippians. However, there is one more anticipated retirement on the circuit, Judge Edith Clement, which could potentially allow Trump to give the Mississippians what they want.

Famous Twitter Judge Nominated to the 5th Circuit

Presidents and judges can make strange bedfellows, especially when it comes to President Trump and Justice Don Willett.

It's true they come from the same conservative stamp, and they both are famous for their tweets. But it may have come to a surprise to Justice Willett when President Trump nominated him to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

That's because Justice Willett has been a long-time Twitter critic of the President. Perhaps the appeals court nomination makes sense, however, because Willett used to be on the short list for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Texas Ban on Sanctuary Cities Goes Forward

There's a shootout in Texas over sanctuary cities, and right now the new sheriff and his deputy are winning.

That sheriff would be U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and his Texas deputy would be state Attorney General Ken Paxton. Since President Trump took office, Sessions has been gunning for cities that refuse to cooperate with the President's new immigration policies.

The Texas legislature got behind Sessions and passed a law that penalizes the so-called sanctuary cities for non-compliance. A federal appeals court said, more or less, "that's pretty much the law, pardner."

The recent Texas voter ID laws that were blocked by a federal district court injunction have just had the enforcement of that order stayed pending the appeal, on the merits, by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. This means that the new voter ID laws will remain effective pending the resolution of the case, despite the district court issuing a permanent injunction enjoining their enforcement.

However, it is worth noting that the newest provision of the law, under the recently passed SB5, permits voters to submit actual ballots upon the signing of a declaration under the penalty of perjury. As the appellate court explained, this procedure nearly obviates the need for the injunctive relief requested as it supersedes SB14 and allows voters without ID to vote.

In a rare decision, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has vacated and remanded an order of a lower district keeping the documents showing the probable cause basis for a pre-indictment search warrant under seal. These decisions are usually upheld as appellate courts generally provide quite a bit of deference to the lower court's findings of fact.

The appellant in the matter, Justin Smith, was the subject of multiple searches, authorized by warrants. He sought to have the probable cause documents supporting the warrants unsealed in order to find out why. However, the district court refused. On appeal, the Fifth Circuit's rationale for vacating the order does not really touch the merits of the matter at all, but rather focuses on procedure, and surprisingly, finds the district court failed in their duty to write a good opinion.

Court Revives Slavery Quote Libel Suit Against NYT

Walter Block, an economics professor, will be remembered for his statements in the New York Times more than for his lectures.

In 2014, the Times quoted him in an article about scholars at the Mises Institute who "championed the Confederacy." Block, an adjunct instructor at the institute, described slave life as "not so bad" if it were not involuntary.

"Not so bad -- you could pick cotton and sing songs," the newspaper said. Block sued the Times and its reporters for allegedly misquoting him.

Class Action Can Be Waived in Job Agreement, 5th Cir. Rules

A federal appeals court ruled that a company may lawfully require employees to waive a class action in their employment agreements.

In Convergys Corporation v. National Labor Relations Board, the divided appellate panel said the company did not violate the National Labor Relations Act. The court said Convergys could require job applicants to sign the waiver and could lawfully enforce it.

Concluding that "the use of a class or collective action is a procedure rather than a substantive right," the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the board's ruling that the waiver interfered with workers' right to band together.

Court Cuts Back Special Ed Claim

Michelle Woody, a professor of biblical counseling, has faith that her battle with the Dallas Independent School District will end well. She has been fighting for her daughter's educational benefits for half a decade.

After losing more than $13,000 of her reimbursement claim from the school district, she appealed to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for reconsideration. The appeals court sided with her in Dallas Independent School District v. Woody, and remanded the case to a trial judge.

Woody may have to pray harder, however, because the appeals court split the baby: she is entitled to reimbursement but not for everything she claims.

T-Mobile's 'Positive Work Environment' Policy Is Valid

As T-Mobile fought cell plan wars on television, the company quietly waged another battle with its employees.

The National Labor Relations Board had sided with the workers, saying the cellular company was trying to keep them from unionizing. The battle plan was right in the employee handbook, the board said.

In T-Mobile USA v. National Relations Labor Board, however, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals said the company was just urging workers to get along.

Court Rules for Religious Freedom Law

A federal appeals court preserved Mississippi's so-called "religious freedom law" from a legal challenge by LGBT-rights activists.

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals said the plaintiffs in Barber v. Bryant lacked standing to sue the state over the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act. The law allows government employees, service providers, and businesses to deny services to gay couples and others based on religious beliefs without reprisal from the government.

The court said the plaintiffs had not shown they had any injury from the law, which opponents called the most sweeping anti-LGBT law based on religion in the country.