U.S. Fifth Circuit

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


Well, the state of campaign finance laws isn't all bad. A month or so after the Tenth Circuit said that Citizens United didn't have to disclose the contributors to its film "Rocky Mountain Heist," the Fifth Circuit upheld the constitutionality of Mississippi's campaign disclosure requirements, reversing a district court order to the contrary.

The case centers on a state law that requires disclosure when a political committee advocating for a voter-initiated amendment to the state constitution receives a donation of over $200 from a single person in a given month or when a single, unaffiliated individual spends over $200 "to influence voters."

Mad, deranged, demented, non compos mentis, unhinged, mad as a hatter, nutty, off one's rocker, not right in the head -- insane, or just plain crazy.

Or, if you prefer the politically correct term: Scott Panetti is a man suffering from mental illness -- severe schizophrenia, to be even more specific. He's also on death row. In 1992, he shaved his head (poorly) and murdered his in-laws before holding his wife and daughter captive at gunpoint. He then represented himself in a purple cowboy costume and was sentenced to death.

Texas wants to execute him on December 3. Panetti still believes that his execution is being orchestrated by Satan, working through the State of Texas, to put an end to his preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the condemned.

There's a trend happening: Each federal circuit court of appeals is redesigning its website. Though all of the new sites are visually similar, and perhaps based on a common template or codebase, each has its own pros and cons.

Previously, I wrote a long, hateful rant about the Tenth Circuit's website. Little has changed -- it is still terrible. Most of the other circuit courts' redesigns have gone far more smoothly.

But what about the Fifth Circuit's shiny new website?

Can you get a court order against nobody in particular? Apparently so, if this Fifth Circuit ruling is any indication.

World Wrestling Entertainment, like all entertainment entities, battles bootleggers. Bootleggers sell merchandise on tables in the street near WWE events. Determining the identities of these pop-up bootleg shopkeepers is nearly impossible in advance, so the WWE sought a blanket order that would basically cover anyone within "broad geographic and temporal limits," the district court noted.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the lower court wasn't convinced, but the Fifth Circuit, noting that nobody except the WWE itself has the right to peddle its merchandise, reversed and sent the case back to the court to settle other pressing issues, like whether Stone Cold Steve Austin can body slam bootleggers through their tables.

Every circuit gets its 15 minutes of fame. The Tenth Circuit drew a lot of attention this year for being the first to rule on marriage equality. The Fourth and D.C. Circuits battled for headlines by releasing conflicting Obamacare subsidy opinions on the same day. And everyone is waiting on the Sixth Circuit, which could be the first to rule against gay marriage, which would likely lead to a Supreme Court showdown on the issue.

The next few months, however, will belong to the Fifth Circuit. On December 2, a panel will hear a challenge to Obamacare based on the origination clause. And in early January, the Fifth Circuit will hear oral arguments in consolidated gay marriage cases out of Louisiana and Texas, as well as a full review of Texas House Bill 2, the controversial law that set forth broad restrictions on abortions in the state.

Last week, we covered the enormous verdict in the Trinity guardrail case: $175 million which, when tripled under federal law, could mean a verdict of $525 million. While Trinity has indicated it plans to appeal the jury verdict, that may not be necessary.

Why? The judge in the case has just referred the parties to mediation with a Duke Law professor, Francis McGovern, who is one of the foremost experts in alternative dispute resolution. On top of that, Trinity faces uneasy investors and declining stock prices, both of which would be alleviated by a resolution of the case.

The United States and Joshua Harman will split a $525 million jury award following a fraud suit in Texas federal court against Trinity Industries, a company that makes those metal highway guard rails that are supposed to stop cars. Key words: supposed to.

As it turns out, some of the rails instead turned into metal skewers, slicing through car bodies and killing at least five people, injuring even more.

Last June, Fifth Circuit Judge Edith Jones was accused of making racist comments about a person's propensity for violent crime and otherwise biased comments about the death penalty. A week later, she was pulled off of a death penalty case.

How about a year later? It turns out that Judge Jones was cleared of any wrongdoing by the Judicial Council of the District of Columbia Circuit (the complaint was transferred out of the Fifth Circuit, for obvious reasons) back in August, though the order was finally made public yesterday after the complainants filed an appeal, reports the ABA Journal.

The conclusion (for now): Jones' racial comments were not about racial predispositions, but were instead about statistics. And the death penalty comments? A mere musing on the viability of certain defenses that rarely succeed.

What are the two hottest issues in Texas? The Cowboys and the Cowboys. But for those of you who aren't sports fans, the other answer is gay marriage and the state's embattled voter ID legislation. Both are headed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and possibly to the Supreme Court.

Let's take a look at the latest developments in these two burning civil rights issues:

Just when thought it was safe to go back in the voting booth. Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued a surprise order lifting the Seventh Circuit's stay of enforcement on the district court's order in Wisconsin. All that procedural argle bargle means that Wisconsin won't be enforcing its voter ID law this November. This comes after the Court issued opposite orders in Ohio and North Carolina.

Now, Texas has entered the fray. Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas issued an opinion yesterday finding Texas' voter ID law unconstitutional and enjoining its enforcement.