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

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Texas's voter identification law, widely viewed as one of the harshest in the country, was passed with a discriminatory purpose, a district court in Texas ruled yesterday. The ruling comes on remand from an en banc Fifth Circuit, which ruled last July that the law had a discriminatory effect, but sent the case back down to reconsider evidence going to whether the law was intended to discriminate. Yesterday, district court judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos answered, once again, "Yes, it was."

The ruling is particularly important, since a finding of discriminatory purpose could kill the voter ID law altogether and could constitute grounds for putting Texas under federal supervision.

Mississippi Can Keep Its Flag, 5th Cir. Rules

A federal appeals court rejected a black man's attempt to bring down Mississippi's flag, which features a Confederate battle ensign and enshrines the state's slave history.

Carlos Moore, an attorney, claimed the Confederate emblem violated his rights to Equal Protection. But the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal said he did not have standing to sue, even though he may have felt the stigma from the vestige of slavery in Moore v. Governor Dewey Phillip Bryant.

"Plaintiff's exposure to the Mississippi flag in courtrooms where he practices and his alleged physical injuries resulting from that exposure demonstrate that he strongly feels the stigmatic harm flowing from the flag," Judge Stephen Higginson wrote for the unanimous court.

However, the court explained, stigmatic injury is not injury-in-fact for standing purposes.

The long-running dispute over Texas's restrictive voter ID law took another turn last week, as the Department of Justice dropped one of its key objections to the law. The DOJ will no longer argue that the Texas law was enacted with discriminatory intent, the Department announced last Monday.

Texas's voter ID law, SB14, is one of the strictest in the country. After it was adopted in 2011, both the Department of Justice and civil rights groups sued, arguing that the law disenfranchised Texas voters, particularly poor and minority Texans. They won a significant victory last summer, when an en banc Fifth Circuit found that the law violated the Voting Rights Act. But the Fifth declined to rule on the DOJ's claim that the act was intentionally discriminatory, remanding that question the district court for further investigation.

Injunction of TX Illegal Immigrant Harboring Law Overturned

It was as close to a win-win decision as they get, especially considering that both sides lost.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed an injunction landlords had obtained against enforcement of an anti-harboring statute, then dismissed their case and said they were not subject to prosecution under the law. Because the plaintiffs lacked standing, the court could have side-stepped the harboring issue. But instead, the court laid down the law.

"Because there is no reasonable interpretation by which merely renting housing or providing social services to an illegal alien constitutes 'harboring ... that person from detection,' we reverse the injunction and render a judgment of dismissal for want of jurisdiction," the court said.

The First Amendment includes the right to videotape police officers, subject only to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions, the Fifth Circuit ruled last Thursday.

The ruling comes after Fort Worth, Texas police officers detained a man for filming their police station from the sidewalk. And it's not terribly shocking. Every circuit court to address the issue has ruled similarly. Nonetheless, the court ruled, that right to film wasn't clearly established at the time of the detention, meaning that the detained man couldn't pursue his civil rights suit against the officers on First Amendment grounds.

Company Policy Must Bend to State Gun Laws

A man who, contrary to his employer's policy, kept a locked gun in his car in the company parking lot can sue for wrongful termination under Mississippi law, says the Fifth Circuit.

This case is fundamentally about the clashing of state laws with company policy with regard to dangerous arms. The circuit court's ruling recognizes a new public policy exception to the doctrine of at-will employment.

Mississippi's governor and its executive director of the state's Department of Human Services are asking the Fifth Circuit to stay a federal court's preliminary injunction against the state's Religious Liberty Accommodations Act, known as HB 1523. That law seeks to protect opponents of gay marriage in both public and private services, who take actions "based upon or in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction."

Judge Carlton W. Reeves blocked the law just moments before it would have gone into effect on July 1st. "There are almost endless explanations for how HB 1523 condones discrimination against the LGBT community, but in its simplest terms it denies LGBT citizens equal protection under the law," Judge Reeves wrote. Afterword, the Mississippi attorney general refused to appeal that ruling. Now the governor and human services director are stepping into his place.

Texas Voter ID Law Deemed Unconstitutional by 5th Circuit

The Fifth Circuit has just ruled that a Texas law requiring persons to produce a government-issued ID before casting their ballots is discriminatory and is in violation of the Voting Rights Act, according to Reuters. What is most surprising is that this circuit court is generally known to be one of the most conservative in the nation.

The decision was lauded by U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch. "This decision affirms our position that Texas's highly restrictive voter ID law abridges the right to vote on account of race or color and orders appropriate relief before yet another election passes," she said.

5th Circuit: No Fundamental Right to Machine Guns Under 2nd Amendment

According to the Fifth Circuit, citizens do not have a fundamental right to own or possess machine guns under the Bill of Rights. It's a blow to Rambo and Commando fans nationwide.

The case of Hollis v. ATF might very well be the next case to draw a line in the sand after Heller with respect to Americans and their guns.

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.