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


Justice Don Willett, the Texas Tweeter Laureate, may be a favorite of appellate lawyer Twitter (which, yes, appellate Twitter is a thing), but if the numbers are any indication, his popularity among Senators fell along strict party lines. The 50 to 47 vote went his way, but just barely.

Both Justice Willett, and James Ho, were nominated to seats on the Fifth Circuit, and this week, both had their nominations confirmed. Interestingly, Ho seemed to garner more partisan support than the social media savvy Willett. The Senate voted Ho in 53 to 43.

Court Upholds Conviction of Angry IT Guy for Damaging Computer System

Everybody knows that the IT guy can make or break a computer system.

Everybody also knows he's not supposed to break it on purpose. Michael Thomas, however, apparently didn't get that memo.

Thomas, chief technology officer for a software company, said he had permission to damage the system. In United States of America v. Thomas, the jury and the courts said, "uh, no."

A federal district court judge has been booted off the case of Robinson v. Jackson State University as a result of some questionable judgments. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the terminated university employee, however, the verdict was left to languish in a post-judgment limbo due to judicial inaction.

Then when the plaintiff's attorney attempted to spur some action from the court by requesting a judicial transfer, a year after the jury rendered its verdict, Southern District of Mississippi Judge Henry Wingate ruled that the defendants post-judgment motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (as a matter of law) was granted. Escalating matters even further, Judge Wingate awarded defendants costs. Plaintiff timely appealed what, for all intents and purposes, appeared to be a spiteful ruling.

Insurance Doesn't Cover Ponzi Scheme Losses

If somebody steals your car, your insurance should cover it. Right?

But what if you loan somebody your car, and they crash it commiting a robbery? Will your insurance pay then?

That's the gist of a deal gone wrong in an insurance case, Cooper Industries, Ltd. v. National Union Fire Insurance Company. The Fifth Circuit said the insurer didn't have to pay for a company that lost money it loaned to fraudsters in a Ponzi scheme.

'Deep Division' in Planned Parenthood Ruling

Facing a stalemate, a federal appeals court let stand a ruling that continues Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood in Louisiana.

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals split 7-7 on whether to reconsider a decision in favor of Planned Parenthood. The organization, which provides abortion services, had sued after the former governor tried to block the funding.

In Planned Parenthood of Gulf Coast v. Gee, the en banc panel of judges divided sharply. The vote is a harbinger of more litigation in other states, but the court itself will change before that happens.

The Texas Twitter Laureate, and Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals nominee, Justice Don Willett, found himself in the hot seat during his Senate confirmation hearing due to his large social media following. However, it was not just the following that drew scrutiny, but also the content of a handful of his past tweets, as well as his future social media plans (if confirmed).

After the nomination, Willett basically signed off Twitter and has only tweeted once since his nomination to the Fifth Circuit bench. The last tweet, just posted last week after a month and a half of Twitter-silence, was a famous Calvin Coolidge quote paired with a rather judicial, yet seemingly stock, image of the Constitution laid out over a U.S. flag: "To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race." While inspirational, it certainly deviates from his past focus of making light of life and the justice system.

The civil rights case of a man alleging a violation of his right to privacy against Verizon is notable for a couple reasons. But the Alexander v. Verizon matter might not be getting as much attention for the substantive part of the case, but rather for an interesting footnote.

First off, there is actually an interesting legal case that involves not-so-emerging technology and how it is now used by law enforcement, and whether service providers can be liable for bad police work.

Secondly, the case contains that rather loaded footnote discussing the great online debate of whether the word internet should be capitalized, or not, and when.

The controversial 'sanctuary cities ban' passed by the Texas legislature in the spring of 2017 had its day in court before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Earlier this year, a federal district court blocked the law from taking effect. The district court found that imposing criminal penalties on officers that do not honor immigration detention requests, as well as imposing civil fines and removal from office against officials who limit or fail to endorse immigration enforcement.

However, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit unblocked the portion of the ban about officers being required to honor the detention requests ahead of this appeal in September.

Texas Woman Wrongly Jailed Wins Appeal

Last week, FindLaw's Chris Coble covered the story of the Texas woman who is suing the county for being falsely accused and jailed. The story was among the week's most popular on social media for FindLaw's consumer audience. This means, if you are a lawyer, this is the kind of case potential clients are reading.

Jessica Jauch certainly needed a lawyer when she got out of jail.

Mississippi Federal Judge Excused From New Civil Cases Amid Backlog

Judge Henry T. Wingate has been on the federal bench for more than 30 years.

When he was appointed, it was a different world. The Soviet Union still existed. Al Gore hadn't invented the internet.

Maybe that's why the judge started to have a problem with his case backlog -- his staff didn't have computers.