The Fifth Circuit begins hearing cases again on January 6, 2014, and the court is ready to start the new year with a bang.
Here are three cases still active in 2014 that should not be overlooked:
1. Planned Parenthood v. Abbott
The battle over Texas' newest abortion law continues on Monday as a panel of three Fifth Circuit judges will hear oral arguments in Planned Parenthood v. Abbott.
The panel is notably comprised of three female Judges: Edith H. Jones, Jennifer Walker Elrod, and Catharina Haynes. Judge Jones' reappearance may mean that the investigation over her ethical misconduct is cooling down, but one hopes she spends her panel time thinking and listening and not telling judges or appellants to shut up.
The substance of the oral arguments should be the discussion of whether the admitting privileges portion of the law constitutes an undue burden to Texas women -- as the district court ruled. The Fifth Circuit may have already tipped its hand by allowing the stay on the district court's injunction, but a hearing on the merits may go slightly differently.
2. McAllen Grace Brethren Church v. Jewell
This case strangely originates from a pow-wow ceremony in McAllen, Texas, wherein a federal Fish and Wildlife agent found that the participants -- some members of the Lipan Apache tribe of Texas -- were using golden eagle feathers in both dream catchers and in costumery.
The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act ("Eagle Act"), even federally recognized Native American tribes have had their treaty rights concerning eagles abrogated by clear congressional intent.
McAllen will test whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act can be successfully used to combat the enforcement of the Eagle Act during a Native American religious ceremony.
3. DeLeon v. Perry
Although this gay marriage case has yet to reach the appellate level, DeLeon v. Perry stands to make a crucial difference in the Fifth Circuit for marriage equality. Two Texas same-sex couples filed for a preliminary injunction barring Texas from enforcing its gay marriage ban in November, and the first battle over this case will be settled in 2014.
According to Texas Public Radio, a San Antonio federal judge scheduled a hearing date for the preliminary injunction on February 12, 2014, giving both sides a chance to prepare.
And prepare they should. As Utah citizens found out in late December 2013, it is very possible for a federal district court to strike a state's gay marriage ban as unconstitutional. The same may be true for Texas in 2014.
2014 is already shaping up to be an exciting year in the Fith.
- Fifth Circuit Court Calendar January 6 - 8 (U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals)
- Texas Gay Marriage Ban Challenged in Federal Court (FindLaw's U.S. Fifth Circuit Blog)
- Supreme Court Leaves Texas Abortion Laws in Effect (FindLaw's U.S. Fifth Circuit Blog)
- Wind Farm Owner to Pay $1M for Killing Eagles, Birds (FindLaw's Decided)