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

June 2016 Archives

The Supreme Court ended its most recent term with a bang on Monday, reversing the Fifth Circuit and declaring that Texas's restrictions on abortion providers constituted an undue burden on a woman's access to abortion, in violation of the Constitution.

In Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, the Court rejected the Fifth Circuit's determination that uncertainty about the health risks of abortion can justify restrictions on physicians. Instead, the Court found that any such restrictions must be based on convincing medical evidence, to be evaluated by courts, not lawmakers, and any burdens those restrictions impose must be outweighed by their health benefits. The ruling is certain to affect many pending abortion lawsuits, in the Fifth Circuit and beyond.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen first started making national headlines when he blocked President Obama's immigration reform plan, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, last year. But while that decision is now before the Supreme Court, Judge Hanen isn't quite ready to let go. Last month, he put himself in charge of ethics retraining for all Department of Justice attorneys practicing in any of the 26 states involved in the suit.

And now he's seeking to collect the names and addresses of more than 50,000 undocumented immigrants in those states -- something civil rights lawyers moved rapidly to stop.

The ExxonMobile industrial complex in Baytown, Texas is a sprawling place. Stretching over nearly 2,500 acres over five square miles, the complex, the second largest oil refinery in the country, is capable of processing more than half a million barrels of oil a day -- along with significant amounts of air pollution. And according to Texas environmental groups, Exxon's plant regularly violated the terms of its operating permits, belching far more pollution into the air than what was permitted.

Six years ago, those groups brought suit under the Clean Air Act, accusing Exxon of thousands of violations at its Baytown plant. A district court found only 94 of the thousands of alleged violations to be "actionable" and refused to impose any penalties against the world's largest oil company. But those groups received some vindication from the Fifth Circuit last week, when that court ruled the district court had abused its discretion by "declining to impose any penalties, issue a declaratory judgment or grant injunctive relief in remediation of the violations at issue."