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

September 2017 Archives

Famous Twitter Judge Nominated to the 5th Circuit

Presidents and judges can make strange bedfellows, especially when it comes to President Trump and Justice Don Willett.

It's true they come from the same conservative stamp, and they both are famous for their tweets. But it may have come to a surprise to Justice Willett when President Trump nominated him to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

That's because Justice Willett has been a long-time Twitter critic of the President. Perhaps the appeals court nomination makes sense, however, because Willett used to be on the short list for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Texas Ban on Sanctuary Cities Goes Forward

There's a shootout in Texas over sanctuary cities, and right now the new sheriff and his deputy are winning.

That sheriff would be U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and his Texas deputy would be state Attorney General Ken Paxton. Since President Trump took office, Sessions has been gunning for cities that refuse to cooperate with the President's new immigration policies.

The Texas legislature got behind Sessions and passed a law that penalizes the so-called sanctuary cities for non-compliance. A federal appeals court said, more or less, "that's pretty much the law, pardner."

The recent Texas voter ID laws that were blocked by a federal district court injunction have just had the enforcement of that order stayed pending the appeal, on the merits, by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. This means that the new voter ID laws will remain effective pending the resolution of the case, despite the district court issuing a permanent injunction enjoining their enforcement.

However, it is worth noting that the newest provision of the law, under the recently passed SB5, permits voters to submit actual ballots upon the signing of a declaration under the penalty of perjury. As the appellate court explained, this procedure nearly obviates the need for the injunctive relief requested as it supersedes SB14 and allows voters without ID to vote.

In a rare decision, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has vacated and remanded an order of a lower district keeping the documents showing the probable cause basis for a pre-indictment search warrant under seal. These decisions are usually upheld as appellate courts generally provide quite a bit of deference to the lower court's findings of fact.

The appellant in the matter, Justin Smith, was the subject of multiple searches, authorized by warrants. He sought to have the probable cause documents supporting the warrants unsealed in order to find out why. However, the district court refused. On appeal, the Fifth Circuit's rationale for vacating the order does not really touch the merits of the matter at all, but rather focuses on procedure, and surprisingly, finds the district court failed in their duty to write a good opinion.