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

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.

Lawyer Sanctioned for Refusing to Answer Judge's 'Yes or No' Question

In an unpublished opinion, a federal appeals court upheld a $500 sanction against a lawyer who refused to answer a judge's question.

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the sanction against William Hermesmeyer for refusing an order to answer "yes" or "no." In the opinion, the appeals court said local court rules require attorneys to comply with court orders.

"Perhaps the district court contributed to the difficulties, but an attorney must comply with court orders," the appellate panel said.

Gun-Toting Plaintiff Blows Statute of Repose

Sorry for this, but Edward Burdett shot himself in the foot.

Literally, Burdett shot himself in the foot and then sued the gunmaker. Adding insult to injury, a judge dismissed Burdett's case because he blew the statute of repose.

In Burdett v. Remington Arms Company, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals then stomped it out. Just shooting from the hip here.

The straight story goes like this:

Texas's voter identification law, widely viewed as one of the harshest in the country, was passed with a discriminatory purpose, a district court in Texas ruled yesterday. The ruling comes on remand from an en banc Fifth Circuit, which ruled last July that the law had a discriminatory effect, but sent the case back down to reconsider evidence going to whether the law was intended to discriminate. Yesterday, district court judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos answered, once again, "Yes, it was."

The ruling is particularly important, since a finding of discriminatory purpose could kill the voter ID law altogether and could constitute grounds for putting Texas under federal supervision.

Mississippi Can Keep Its Flag, 5th Cir. Rules

A federal appeals court rejected a black man's attempt to bring down Mississippi's flag, which features a Confederate battle ensign and enshrines the state's slave history.

Carlos Moore, an attorney, claimed the Confederate emblem violated his rights to Equal Protection. But the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal said he did not have standing to sue, even though he may have felt the stigma from the vestige of slavery in Moore v. Governor Dewey Phillip Bryant.

"Plaintiff's exposure to the Mississippi flag in courtrooms where he practices and his alleged physical injuries resulting from that exposure demonstrate that he strongly feels the stigmatic harm flowing from the flag," Judge Stephen Higginson wrote for the unanimous court.

However, the court explained, stigmatic injury is not injury-in-fact for standing purposes.

Crawfish Producers' Suit Revived Against Southern Natural Gas

A judge erred by not reconsidering a decision based on new evidence crawfishermen discovered in a case against a gas company, a federal appeals court said.

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed an order denying a motion for reconsideration In re. Louisiana Crawfish Producers. The appellate panel said the trial judge should have considered deposition testimony and other evidence acquired after the defendant's motion for summary judgment.

"There are 'two important judicial imperatives' relating to a motion for reconsideration: '(1) the need to bring litigation to an end; and (2) the need to render just decisions on the basis of all the facts,'" Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod wrote in the unanimous opinion.

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.