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


Immigrants Scrutinized Over Foreign Addresses

Jose Nicolas Ramos-Portillo lived in a Salvadoran village where literally everybody knew him.

But he fled the village in fear of gangs, and found his way to the United States. When immigration officials asked for an address, he gave them the village address because his family would get his mail for him there.

He didn't expect it to become a federal case, but a lawyer had to argue about it to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. That's because the government issued a deportation order against him without sending any notice.

In-N-Out Burger, everyone's favorite West Coast burger chain, and one with a reputation for treating employees better than its competitors, recently found itself in hot water with the NLRB over a "Fight for $15" pin worn by a couple employees. The "Fight for $15" campaign is all about food service workers banding together to fight for a $15 minimum wage.

The burger-maker appealed the NLRB order to the Fifth Circuit, while the NLRB filed a request that the appellate court enforce their order. And though the public may like the burgers, the appellate court agreed with the NLRB, and denied In-N-Out's appeal.

5th Circuit Rejects Texas Teen Love Triangle Case

Zamora v. Stephens would hardly merit a case note, except for one sensational thing: Diane Zamora murdered her boyfriend's teenaged lover.

It stemmed from a one-night stand that turned into years of stories, a book, a movie, and life sentences for Zamora and David Graham, who was also convicted in a love-triangle that ended the life of Adrianne Jones. They were all teenagers.

Zamora is 40 now, and just lost her appeal in a civil rights suit against a prison. In four pages, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals said she didn't have a case.

5th Circuit Nominee Andrew Oldham Approved -- Just Barely

The Senate confirmed Andrew Oldham to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals by one vote, 50-49.

But sometimes one vote is all it takes to change everything. For the Trump administration, the latest appointment is one more step in an overhaul of the federal judiciary.

With Oldham, Trump has put three judges on the Fifth Circuit and a total of 44 nominees on the federal bench around the country. With another coming to the U.S. Supreme Court, the approval process is getting much more political.

Judges Feuding Over Texas Fetal Burial Case

Trial judges and appeals courts have disagreements all the time. Of course, the appellate court almost always wins.

On occasion, a trial court will be vindicated by a superseding opinion from a court of last resort. Once in a Texas moon, however, trial judges and appellate judges will feud till the cows come home.

That's what's happening in a federal circuit right now in Whole Woman's Health v. Smith. This time, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals started it.

Judge Lynn Hughes' federal district courtroom may have earned itself a reputation as one litigators want to avoid. Simply put, wild-card judges often cause appealable issues, and appeals are expensive, and Judge Hughes is proving to be one such wild-card.

Judge Hughes isn't yelling for attorneys to get off his lawn, though based on the remarks the Fifth Circuit is blasting him over this time, he probably would. Apparently Judge Hughes actually said the following to a woman prosecutor:

"It was lot simpler when you guys wore dark suits, white shirts and navy ties ... We didn't let girls do it in the old days."

Judge Hughes also berated the attorney over her management of the prosecution, and dismissed the underlying criminal matter with prejudice due to delayed discovery production. As the appellate court explained, his actions and statements were both an abuse of discretion, in error, and disgraceful.

Nurse Kymberli Gardner's case against the nursing home where she used to work got some much needed attention from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed the grant of summary judgment, allowing her case to proceed to trial.

Nursing homes and employees may want to pay careful attention to this case, as might other institutional employers and employees. That's because the case involves an employer's liability for a third-party-created hostile work environment in a setting where third-parties are expected to misbehave.

DOL Fiduciary Rule Is Officially Dead

For investment advisers, the late 'fiduciary rule' of the U.S. Department of Labor could have made sense.

But for salespeople and brokers, it imposed a duty they had never known. It would have required them to act in the best interests of their clients when selling or buying investment products.

That's not how the industry works, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals said in announcing the death of the rule in Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America v. United States Department of Labor.

If there was a prize for most tragic case dismissed on appeal, the case filed by John Gorman's wife would certainly be a contender.

The facts of Gorman v. Sharp really are tragic. After a recent promotion, Gorman attended an officer firearm safety training session, which he was required to attend for his job as the director of investigations with the Mississippi Gaming Commission. Unfortunately, the Special Agent in charge of training, Robert Sharp, forgot to replace his regular real firearm that he carried with a dummy firearm for a roleplaying exercise. As a result of the instructor's own negligence, he shot and killed John Gorman during that exercise.

Despite a recent ruling from the United States Supreme Court seeming to put Bobby Moore in relative safety (well, off death row), it was not long lived thanks to Texas's Supreme Court.

The state high court took the opinion of the nation's High Court quite literally and adopted the DSM-5 standard for intellectual disability. Then, it applied the new standard to Moore's case and concluded that Moore was not intellectually disabled, and thus could be executed. However, whether that will actually happen is a different, more political, story.