U.S. Fifth Circuit

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


We're living in a golden age of beer. Gone are the days when the question was "Budweiser or Coors?" There are literally thousands of "craft" breweries all over the country these days, responding to what's been more or less a duopoly of the Big Two beer makers. (Coors bought Miller in 2007; together Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors own 65 percent of the U.S. beer market.) Craft beers are made in smaller batches and don't garner nationwide attention, so some people think they're higher quality products.

Not that the Texas legislature cares, which is why craft beer makers are suing the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission over its distribution regulations.

Last week, President Obama announced that he would be taking the initiative to craft immigration policy in the absence of congressional action. All of his actions come under the umbrella of enforcement. The president has no power to rewrite immigration law, but as the head of the executive branch, he can prioritize enforcement.

Republicans decried the move as outside his constitutional powers and threatened to sue. Last week, the Texas Attorney General, joined by 16 other states, sued the United States in the southern district of Texas. So what's their gripe about?

A little more than a week after U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves struck down Mississippi's gay marriage ban, the Fifth Circuit propped it back up, albeit possibly temporarily.

Late last week, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay pending appeal to the state of Mississippi, allowing the state to continue to enforce its ban on gay marriage. However, the ban may not last long -- the court also consolidated the appeal with two others out of Louisiana and Texas, setting the oral argument showdown for all three states in early January.

Will Texas get its chance to execute a schizophrenic man who defended himself while wearing a purple cowboy suit and tried to call JFK and the Pope as witnesses? Not yet.

Scott Panetti, set for execution today, was granted a last-minute stay by the Fifth Circuit "to allow [the court] to fully consider the late arriving and complex legal questions at issue." No timetable has yet been set, but the court did say in its order that a briefing and oral argument schedule would follow. (H/T to Josh Lee on Twitter.)

A few months back, I got a good chuckle out of a strange notice posted on the Fifth Circuit's website about the clerk's office declining to provide change to cash-paying customers. After How Appealing's Howard Bashman poked fun at the new policy, the court's clerk Lyle Cayce explained the intelligent rationale for the change to the change policy.

Still, when I wrote a mixed review of the Fifth Circuit's website, I didn't expect a response from Cayce. And I really didn't expect the court to make changes in response to my criticisms.

But they did both.

"If gay marriage can be legal in Mississippi, the whole country can feel hope."

True indeed, Jocelyn "Joce" Pritchett. Pritchett is one of the plaintiffs in the Mississippi gay marriage case, a federal case where a judge just struck down that state's same-sex marriage ban, reports The Associated Press.

The Mississippi decision is especially notable due to the people of Mississippi's opposition to same-sex marriage, an opinion that they have made "abundantly clear through every channel in which popular opinion can be voiced," U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves in Jackson, Mississippi wrote.

Thanks to some intrepid journalism by FindLaw blogger (and native Texan) Brett Snider, we've obtained a copy of the plaintiffs' motion to lift the stay on the injunction against Texas' same-sex marriage ban.

That's a lot of prepositions. Way back in February, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas held the state's same sex marriage ban unconstitutional. The court stayed enforcement of its injunction, however, because same-sex marriage cases were pending at the Supreme Court and in other federal circuit courts of appeal.

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?