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

April 2014 Archives

Move Clients' Cases More Quickly: 3 Ways FindLaw Can Help

Volume practices get a bad rap. People assume that just because you move a lot of clients' cases through the system, that you are doing a lesser job on the cases.

Bollocks. Moving a case quickly, or more accurately, efficiently from intake to completion is good for you (because it frees up time for more clients) and great for your client (fewer billable hours, obviously).

Of course, efficiency and volume have to be balanced with diligence, ethics, and customer service. Fortunately, we've got a few resources that can help.

Sexual Harassment 101: Hague v. UT Health Science Center

The Fifth Circuit's March 28 decision in Monica Hague v. University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio underscores some of the basics of sexual harassment cases and shows one major pitfall to avoid.

Monica Hague worked on a contract basis as a nurse for the University of Texas Health Science Center. She claimed (among other things) that she was sexually harassed when a Dr. Manifold read a sexually explicit article aloud during a meeting and gave another employee a sexually explicit doll.

Hague followed internal procedures to address the behavior and eventually filed an EEOC complaint. Three days later, she was informed that her contract would not be renewed. She sued, alleging sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, and retaliation. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of her employer. The Fifth Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded in an opinion that reads reminds us of the basics of sexual harassment law.

Law Firm Partnership Agreement Dooms Partner's Tax Deductions

Running a law practice costs money, and business expenses are often deductible from one's taxes. But if you've entered into a partnership, as many lawyers do, beware that your partnership agreement could greatly restrict your ability to deduct routine business expenses.

Attorney Peter McLauchlan learned that lesson the hard way. The Fifth Circuit recently ruled against him in a tax dispute after he deducted items that seemed routine (advertising, contract labor, wages) but were not listed as reimbursable in his partnership agreement.

The opinion provides guidance about being vigilant when drafting your partnership agreement, as well as when requesting reimbursement from your firm.

Will Venue Decision Make Texas Less Appealing to Patent Trolls?

Texas. It's the land of steak, pick-up trucks, football, and for far too long, patent holding companies and trolls.

The Eastern District of Texas's high success rate for patent holders (57.5 percent, per a recent study [PDF] by PricewaterhouseCoopers) and decently high rankings for median damages and time to trial, are just some of the reasons why non-practicing entities (NPEs, or patent trolls) love incorporating in Texas and bringing suit in that district. Other reasons include judges' frequent deferral to juries on patent issues (meaning trials happen often, rather than summary judgment) and reticence to grant venue transfers.

That last habit may change, however, after the Federal Circuit applied the Fifth Circuit's venue transfer rule, one that is far, far more friendly to defendants than the standard initially applied by the trial court in the Eastern District of Texas.

5th Cir. Breathes New Life Into Wal-Mart v. Dukes Offshoot Class

Walmart v. Dukes is one of those landmark decisions that will confuse law students for decades to come, but it was more than an interesting legal citation. The Supreme Court's holding decertified a class of 1.5 million current female employees of the retail giant, shortly after the Ninth Circuit had already removed a separate group, former employees, from the class.

It's this last group, led by named plaintiff Stephanie Odle, which will continue its fight in a district court in Dallas, after the Fifth Circuit revived her putative class action, approximately thirteen years after she first brought suit as part of the larger Dukes class.