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

May 2014 Archives

BP Reaches Out to Supreme Court in Oil Spill Appeal

British Petroleum made a bad bargain, a settlement that contained a formula that made it possible for parties not affected by the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster to gain windfall payouts. Though that formula was tweaked last year, and again this year, BP still wants to freeze the payouts.

Too bad, said the Fifth Circuit, both in a panel opinion and an en banc denial. Now, the oil company is reaching out to the Supreme Court in hopes that the nine justices will save the company from its own bad bargain, one that some argue has already been "fixed."

BP's Bad Bargain Deepwater Settlement Stands, For Now

Deepwater Horizon. Lots of oil. Lots of damage to businesses, homes, and nature. Lots of litigation and payouts.

In 2012, British Petroleum (BP) agreed to a settlement that, instead of requiring direct proof of damages, would set damages according to a formula that incorporated geographic distance from the spill, type of business, and other factors. The formula has led to some absurd results, like profitable businesses that were undamaged getting millions of dollars, or businesses that were already dead at the time of the oil spill getting payouts.

5th Cir: This Guy is Guilty, But Judge Still Has to Let Jury Say So

Juan Salazar was guilty. He was charged with a long list of crimes, including drug-related conspiracies. Prosecutors presented "overwhelming evidence of guilt." He even got on the stand (against his counsel's advice) and, on cross-examination, confessed to everything. Though his attorney was planning on arguing that Salazar withdrew from the conspiracy in a timely manner, by the time Salazar finished crucifying himself testifying, his stumped attorney noted, "Well, what am I going to argue? That he wasn't there? That he didn't complete the conspiracy?"

So, why was his conviction reversed? Because, as obvious as his guilt may have been, a judge telling the jury to "to go back and find the Defendant guilty" is an obvious violation of the Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury.

5th Cir. Stays Execution Because Texas D.A. Withheld IQ Tests

Robert James Campbell was about two and a half hours away from being executed, the first scheduled execution in the United States since a botched execution in Oklahoma led to 43 minutes of apparent agony for a now-deceased inmate.

Now, thanks to recently discovered IQ tests that Texas officials failed to turn over to the defense years ago, and some equitable tolling, the allegedly mentally impaired inmate, whose IQ was recently determined to be 69, will get a shot at habeas relief.

5th Clearly Botched Police Shooting Case; Was it SCOTUS-Worthy?

This was a pretty clear case where the Fifth Circuit screwed up.

A promising young baseball player is shot by police officers. He says that there was no reason for the excessive force and that he was on his knees at the time of the shooting. The officers testified that he was crouching, getting ready to attack, and that the three shots fired, one of which punctured a lung and ended his athletic endeavors, was far from excessive.

The Fifth Circuit? They sided with the police officers, and affirmed the summary judgment grant, citing qualified immunity, despite there being significant issues of fact to sort through.

It was a clear mistake, one the Supreme Court corrected, despite reservations expressed by Justices Alito and Scalia.