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

October 2014 Archives

Mediation Ordered in Trinity Guardrail Case

Last week, we covered the enormous verdict in the Trinity guardrail case: $175 million which, when tripled under federal law, could mean a verdict of $525 million. While Trinity has indicated it plans to appeal the jury verdict, that may not be necessary.

Why? The judge in the case has just referred the parties to mediation with a Duke Law professor, Francis McGovern, who is one of the foremost experts in alternative dispute resolution. On top of that, Trinity faces uneasy investors and declining stock prices, both of which would be alleviated by a resolution of the case.

Highway Guardrail Fraud Verdict: $525M to Gov't, Whistleblower

The United States and Joshua Harman will split a $525 million jury award following a fraud suit in Texas federal court against Trinity Industries, a company that makes those metal highway guard rails that are supposed to stop cars. Key words: supposed to.

As it turns out, some of the rails instead turned into metal skewers, slicing through car bodies and killing at least five people, injuring even more.

Judge Edith Jones Cleared in Bias Complaint; Appeal Coming

Last June, Fifth Circuit Judge Edith Jones was accused of making racist comments about a person's propensity for violent crime and otherwise biased comments about the death penalty. A week later, she was pulled off of a death penalty case.

How about a year later? It turns out that Judge Jones was cleared of any wrongdoing by the Judicial Council of the District of Columbia Circuit (the complaint was transferred out of the Fifth Circuit, for obvious reasons) back in August, though the order was finally made public yesterday after the complainants filed an appeal, reports the ABA Journal.

The conclusion (for now): Jones' racial comments were not about racial predispositions, but were instead about statistics. And the death penalty comments? A mere musing on the viability of certain defenses that rarely succeed.

Updates: Texas Gay Marriage, Voter ID Appeals

What are the two hottest issues in Texas? The Cowboys and the Cowboys. But for those of you who aren't sports fans, the other answer is gay marriage and the state's embattled voter ID legislation. Both are headed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and possibly to the Supreme Court.

Let's take a look at the latest developments in these two burning civil rights issues:

Texas Voter ID Law Blocked by Federal Dist. Court

Just when thought it was safe to go back in the voting booth. Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued a surprise order lifting the Seventh Circuit's stay of enforcement on the district court's order in Wisconsin. All that procedural argle bargle means that Wisconsin won't be enforcing its voter ID law this November. This comes after the Court issued opposite orders in Ohio and North Carolina.

Now, Texas has entered the fray. Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas issued an opinion yesterday finding Texas' voter ID law unconstitutional and enjoining its enforcement.

SCOTUS to Hear Fair Housing Discrimination Case From Texas

Last week, the Supreme Court granted certiorari to Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project Inc.

The grant was limited to the first question presented -- i.e., whether disparate impact claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). (Of course, this requires another inevitable question: "What's the standard for such claims?")

Last month, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held oral arguments on whether to issue an emergency stay of the district court's order enjoining enforcement of Texas' abortion law pending the outcome of the appeal on the merits. It's telling that Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod, who was the most hostile of the three judges to the opponents of the law, wrote the opinion here.

The Fifth Circuit lifted the stay yesterday, allowing the law to be enforced, which, according to The New York Times, necessitated the immediate closure of 13 abortion clinics that weren't in compliance with the questionably necessary requirements forcing abortion clinics to become little hospitals.