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

April 2015 Archives

A Texas man convicted for possession and distribution of child pornography won't have his sentenced revisited, the Fifth Circuit ruled on Tuesday. Peter Groce had been convicted for receiving child pornography, with a sentencing enhancement for distributing child porn in a bartered exchange.

Groce's child porn crimes were committed through peer-to-peer file sharing programs -- the kind that are often used to share bootlegged music or movies. Since those programs don't involve direct communication, there was a question as to whether the "bargaining" enhancement could apply. With Groce, the Fifth officially adopted the rule that it does.

Today was a big day for oral arguments, but not just in D.C. While the Supreme Court grappled with gay marriage and lethal injection, the Fifth Circuit heard panel arguments over Texas's voter ID law.

Texas's law requires voters to produce specific types of identification in order to cast a ballot. A district court judge found that the law not only had discriminatory effects, but that it was also passed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose. That conclusion could be in jeopardy today, as at least one Fifth Circuit judge, Catharina Haynes, found the district court's conclusion about the law's intent to be "very troubling" and "rank speculation."

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operation on five defendants was not entrapment or a violation of due process, the Fifth Circuit held on Monday, in an unpublished decision.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.

Fed. Judge Refuses to Stay Injunction on DAPA

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.