5th Circuit Civil Rights Law News - U.S. Fifth Circuit
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The decision that kept Mississippi's only remaining abortion clinic open, despite a state law requiring the doctors working there to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals (which were unwilling to extend such privileges), was so unusual that we gave it the double-post treatment.

We first talked about the Fifth Circuit panel's majority opinion, which relied upon an ancient, and some might say, inapplicable school segregation case to block the Mississippi law -- a decision that was especially curious considering a substantively identical law out of Texas was approved by this same court barely a few months prior. We then covered Judge Emilio Garza's vigorous dissent.

Now? We're looking an an en banc request from Mississippi, one that we wouldn't be surprised to see granted.

Barry Bobbitt and his law firm, Sullo & Bobbitt P.L.L.C., had a great idea for getting new clients: send mailings to every single person who gets a ticket using information on the court's docket.

Alas, there was a problem: They had trouble accessing the records in time. Prospective clients were often required to respond to their ticket within 21 days, but the public records weren't available in most cases until as much as 30 days after the incident, reports Texas Lawyer.

The firm's solution? Argue "right of access" to the records within 24 hours. Let's see how the Fifth Circuit felt about it:

A Fifth Circuit panel on Tuesday upheld an injunction against the enforcement of a Mississippi statute requiring physicians providing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital as it applied to the state's last remaining clinic. It did so despite binding authority from earlier this year -- a different panel's decision upholding a substantially similar law out of Texas.

The majority justified the split from authority by pointing to a 1938 segregation-in-education case -- an Equal Protection holding, even though this is a Due Process dispute. Circuit Judge Emilio Garza was so dumbfounded by the majority's reasoning that his dissent more than doubles the length of the opinion -- from 18 to 37 pages long.

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Two states. Two laws. Both laws are pretty much the same: Abortion providers have to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. And despite everyone's expectations to the contrary, the Fifth Circuit just jumped in and issued a seemingly contradictory ruling, protecting a Mississippi abortion clinic.

How?

"Today, we follow the principle announced by the Supreme Court nearly fifty years before the right to an abortion was found in the penumbras of the Constitution ... "

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In case you missed it, the Fifth Circuit recently ruled that Texas has to honor the Sons of Confederate Veterans' request to issue Confederate Flag license plates. The majority's ruling was that the denial of the plate was a viewpoint-based restriction on free speech, and that Texas impermissibly dismissed the SCV's argument that the flag "is a symbol of sacrifice, independence, and Southern heritage," while crediting the view that "the Confederate flag is an inflammatory symbol of hate and oppression."

Hate. Pride. Rebel. Heritage. Whatever.

The real issue in this case, one that we've seen repeatedly, and which is pending in a Supreme Court petition for certiorari, is whether a license plate is government speech (restrict away!) or private speech (raise yer flags!).

In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court made a curious ruling: it held that a federal ban on animal crush videos was unconstitutional.

Animal crush videos are despicable depictions of torture, dismemberment, and killing of animals, often in a sexually fetishized context. Few would argue that these videos deserve the protections of the First Amendment, but the Supreme Court ruled the way it did because of the text of the statute: an overly broad wording that could've been applied to hunting and husbandry.

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Robert James Campbell was about two and a half hours away from being executed, the first scheduled execution in the United States since a botched execution in Oklahoma led to 43 minutes of apparent agony for a now-deceased inmate.

Now, thanks to recently discovered IQ tests that Texas officials failed to turn over to the defense years ago, and some equitable tolling, the allegedly mentally impaired inmate, whose IQ was recently determined to be 69, will get a shot at habeas relief.

This was a pretty clear case where the Fifth Circuit screwed up.

A promising young baseball player is shot by police officers. He says that there was no reason for the excessive force and that he was on his knees at the time of the shooting. The officers testified that he was crouching, getting ready to attack, and that the three shots fired, one of which punctured a lung and ended his athletic endeavors, was far from excessive.

The Fifth Circuit? They sided with the police officers, and affirmed the summary judgment grant, citing qualified immunity, despite there being significant issues of fact to sort through.

It was a clear mistake, one the Supreme Court corrected, despite reservations expressed by Justices Alito and Scalia.

Texas' most recent abortion regulations, found in H.B. 2, were upheld by the Fifth Circuit on Thursday.

Finding that the district court both misapplied standards and misconstrued evidence, the Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas v. Abbott Court found that both the medical abortion and "admitting privileges" regulations were constitutional and not an undue burden to women. This ruling threatens the Fifth Circuit's other pending abortion case in Mississippi, which is scheduled for hearing in April.

How did the court come to support these abortion regulations?

Another admitting privileges case is making its way to the Fifth Circuit, this time from a Mississippi abortion law.

On Monday, the Fifth Circuit notified the parties that it would hear oral arguments on April 28 from both the state of Mississippi and the Jackson Women's Health Organization as to whether the Mississippi "admitting privileges" requirement should apply to the clinic.

This case should remind you of the recently passed Texas law, and it may not be coincidence that neither case has been resolved yet.