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

June 2015 Archives

Employers who opt out of providing health insurance coverage for contraceptives don't have their religious exercise burdened by those opt out procedures, the Fifth Circuit ruled on Monday. The Circuit joined the Seventh, Sixth, Third, and D.C. Circuits in rejecting a challenge to Obamacare's contraception mandate by religious nonprofit organizations.

Under Obamacare, religious nonprofits can opt out of directly providing contraception to their employees. To do so, they need simply fill out a short form and send to the Department of Health and Human Services for certification. Third parties then provide contraception access. 

Religious groups have said that simply filing out the form "triggers" their participation in contraception and burdens their religious freedom. The Fifth rejected that argument yesterday, as had all other circuit courts who've addressed it.

The Supreme Court has granted cert to an appeal of the Fifth Circuit's ruling that native Indian tribal courts have jurisdiction to hear civil tort claims against nonmembers. Specifically, the Fifth Circuit found that a Dollar General store could be sued in tribal court after a store manager of a store on tribal land allegedly molested a young member of the Choctaw tribe.

The ruling was the first of its kind and suggested that businesses and individuals who enter into agreements with an Indian tribe, especially commercial ones, can be subject to the jurisdiction of the tribal courts. As the dissent in that case noted, it was an ambitious ruling, especially "coming from a circuit that decides little Indian law."

When Noel Mata, a nonresident alien living in Texas, was convicted of assault, an immigration judge ordered his removal from the country. Mata appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, but his lawyer never filed a supporting brief, causing the BIA to dismiss his appeal. After Mata got a better attorney, he filed a motion to reopen his case, arguing that he was entitled to equitable tolling due to his previous counsel's ineffective assistance.

When the case reached the Fifth Circuit, the circuit ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to hear Mata's appeal. That decision created a ten to one circuit split, with the Fifth as the lone outsider. The Supreme Court solved that disagreement on Monday, ruling that the Fifth has jurisdiction over such appeals and can hear the case -- and potentially convince a court that the should not suffer for their poor choice of counsel.

A Texas death row inmate won't be able to file a successive habeas petition, the Fifth Circuit ruled on Monday. Clinton Lee Young, who was convicted of killing two men for their cars in 2001, had sought authorization to submit a second federal habeas petition based on new claims of prosecutorial misconduct and recently discovered evidence.

The Fifth Circuit refused his request, however, finding that Young's new allegations had largely already been litigated and that, further, any new evidence advanced was not convincing enough to require another habeas hearing.

The Fifth Circuit has upheld key and controversial restrictions to a Texas abortion law today. The strict abortion law requires that abortion providers have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and that facilities meet standards for surgical centers. When passed, the law made headlines for its restrictions and the 13-hour filibuster former state Senator Wendy Davis held against it.

The Texas law imposes some of the most burdensome requirements on abortion providers in the nation and the ruling upholding it will likely force most abortion clinics in the nation's second most populous state to close.

The principle of "one person, one vote" seems abundantly straightforward in principle. In application, this principle seems to elicit never-ending conflict. In Evenwel v. Abbott, the Supreme Court will have another say in the matter.

The desire for a vote to be heard is presumably driven by a desire for fairness. That's the underlying basis of the appellant's argument: the current voting arraignment for state Senate districts in Texas in not fair.