U.S. Fifth Circuit

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


The federal government's "reverse sting" operation on five defendants was not entrapment or a violation of due process, the Fifth Circuit held on Monday, in an unpublished decision.

The defendants' unlucky story began when the group met with a disgruntled cocaine trafficker, Richard Zayas. Zayas was looking for help in robbing a stash house and the crew was happy to provide it.

Remember back in February, when District Judge Andrew Hanen said President Obama's Deferred Action for Parents or Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) was unconstitutional? That ruling put the whole program in jeopardy, and the administration filed an emergency motion to stay the court's injunction.

On Tuesday, Hanen decided that the administration wouldn't be getting a stay, setting the stage for a showdown at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Evidence of a man's possession of cocaine following a traffic stop must be suppressed because of the officer's unreasonable mistakes of law and fact, the Fifth Circuit ruled on Monday. In stopping a driver for failing to signal sufficiently before changing lanes, Texas Highway Patrol Officer was wrong not only about the law, but about the distance between the defendant's activation of his signal and his turn, rendering the stop an unreasonable seizure.

The case marks the first time that the Fifth Circuit has addressed the reasonableness in errors in estimating distances. For an error in distance to be reasonable, the court held, it must be supported with specific, articulable facts, something which was undermined by the officer's misapplication of the law.

Several Supreme Court Justices expressed frustration with the record in the case of Brumfield v. Cain during oral arguments on Monday. At the heart of the case is whether Louisiana is bound by the Constitution to provide a separate hearing to decide whether someone convicted of murder is mentally disabled or not. The expansive record seemed to provide no clear guidance as to how the state's determination to not provide a hearing was made.

The Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia, decided in 2002, that states may not execute mentally disabled individuals convicted of murder. But the decision also left it to the states to decide who fits into that category; now the Court must tackle with the adequacy of those determinations.

A federal judge in Texas has put a stop to the Obama administration's plans to expand coverage of Family and Medical Leave Act protections to married same-sex couples, at least temporarily. Judge Reed O'Connor, in the District Court for the Northern District of Texas, ordered the government to stay its FMLA final rule after Texas brought suit.

The stay puts a halt to an expansion which would have seen leave protections extended to all married spouses, regardless of state. The FMLA allows covered workers to take to take unpaid leave in the case of serious health conditions, to care for a spouse or child, or for the birth or adoption of a new child.

The Fifth Circuit is set to hear arguments next month in the lawsuit over President Obama's executive actions on immigration, the court has announced. Each side will be given an hour for their arguments which will take place April 17th, in New Orleans.

The case, Texas v. United States, challenged whether the president had the power to prioritize, and deprioritize, immigration enforcement. Several states, lead by Texas, sued the U.S. in order to halt Obama's immigration plan, winning in district court. The arguments scheduled for mid-April will focus on whether the federal government should be prevented from enacting its immigration plans while the case is appealed.

Last year, in Navarette v. California, the U.S. Supreme Court said that an anonymous tip alleging drunk driving was sufficient to create reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop of the car described.

Mississippi doesn't seem so sure. The state's supreme court deviated from Navarette earlier this month when it held that police lacked reasonable suspicion to stop a car based solely on an anonymous allegation of drunk driving.

Two high-ranking BP employees working on the Deepwater Horizon oil-drilling platform when it exploded on April 20, 2010, can't be charged with 23 counts of "seaman's manslaughter," the Fifth Circuit ruled last week.

The issue here is statutory interpretation, and much like the Supreme Court's recent decision that a fish is not a "record," the Fifth Circuit decided that a BP employee is not an "other person" within the meaning of the statute.

The Obama administration's deferred action plan for undocumented immigrants suffered another setback today, as a federal district judge in Texas issued a preliminary injunction ordering the administration to stop enforcing executive orders related to the Deferred Action for Parents or Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA).

Over 123 pages, Judge Andrew Hanen agreed with 26 states that the Obama administration exceeded the scope of its statutory (but not constitutional) authority in creating DAPA.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals this week reversed a district court order requiring a man convicted of sexual offenses against a 14-year-old to maintain Internet monitoring and filtering software on his computer for the rest of his life.

While acknowledging the "broad discretion" district courts have in imposing conditions of supervised release, the Fifth Circuit emphasized that supervised-release conditions must be "reasonably related" to the defendant's conduct.