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

May 2015 Archives

Louisiana cannot revoke sentence-shortening "good-time credits" earned by prisoners based on legal changes that occurred after a prisoner's initial sentencing, the Fifth Circuit ruled this week.

The court granted habeas relief for Richard Price, who was sentenced for armed robbery in Louisiana in 1985, and lost all of his good-time credit after he violated parole conditions. That was an unconstitutional ex post facto application of the law, the Fifth held.

President Obama's executive actions on immigration won't be implemented anytime in the near future, after the Fifth Circuit refused this afternoon to lift a lower court's injunction against the program. After Obama took action to stem the deportation of non-citizen parents and children, 26 states sued. The states, led by Texas, argued that the president exceeded the scope of his authority and won an injunction in Texas federal court.

In a bad omen for the Obama administration, the two judges on the three judge Fifth Circuit panel found that the government is unlikely to succeed on the merits of its appeal. Following the lower court's adverse ruling, the Obama administration halted its immigration changes, which would defer the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants.

Bivens Not Available for Immigration Proceedings: 5th Cir.

A claim under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics is essentially a Supreme Court-created version of 42 USC 1983, a statute conferring a cause of action for state officials' violations of a plaintiff's civil rights.

Plaintiffs can get money damages under Bivens, as they can under 42 USC 1983, but can undocumented immigrants get damages for Fourth Amendment violations allegedly committed by border patrol agents?

Two 5th Cir. Cases That Might Be Headed to SCOTUS

The Fifth Circuit never fails at providing an abundance of cases for the Supreme Court to hear. With about a month and a half left in the term, the Court has several petitions from the Fifth Circuit itself -- as well as other courts in that circuit -- to consider. Here are two of the big ones that you should be watching.

Humana, as a third party service provider to an ERISA benefit plan, cannot sue under the Act to recover funds paid out, since it was not an ERISA fiduciary, the Fifth Circuit ruled on Monday. Rather, under the plan management agreement, Humana's role was simply ministerial, more akin to a lawyer or collections agent.

Humana and API entered into a plan management agreement whereby Humana would administer API's employee benefits plan. Under the PMA, API was to retain decisionmaking control over all discretionary decisions, with Humana acting within the framework of the plan's management policies. The limited discretion Humana had, even under the agreements broad subrogation terms, kept it from being treated as a true ERISA fiduciary, the Fifth Circuit found.

For a claim of age discrimination to withstand summary judgment, a plaintiff must show that he or she was treated differently from similarly, very similarly, situated employees because of his or her age, the Fifth Circuit reminded us yesterday. While those similar employees don't have to be identical they have to be fairly close.

James Hinga, a machinist who was let go after a recall, couldn't find a close enough match to support his age discrimination claim. Though he pointed to three younger employees, the fact that they had different roles and different discipline histories kept them from being appropriate comparators.

Mexican States Can't Sue for Damage Caused by Deepwater Horizon

Even though it happened a little over five years, the Deepwater Horizon explosion is the gift that keeps on giving -- to the environment, and to lawyers.

This week's saga involves three Mexican states -- Veracruz, Tamaulipas, and Quintana Roo -- that sued BP, Transocean, and the other usual suspects, over damages resulting from the subsequent oil spill. The Fifth Circuit affirmed denial of their claims for lack of a "proprietary interest."