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

December 2012 Archives

After Seven Years, Will Texas Inmate Finally Receive Kosher Meals?

This really shouldn't have taken this long to decide. Max Moussazadeh is serving a seventy-five year sentence for murder. He is also a practicing Jew and his family kept kosher throughout his life. In 2005, he filed an administrative grievance over the unavailability of kosher foods.

After properly exhausting administrative remedies, he filed suit in October 2005, alleging that the failure to provide kosher meals violated RLUIPA and the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The suit was stayed to facilitate settlement talks, and though his facility at the time began to serve kosher meals, the suit was not settled because the Texas Department of Correctional Justice refused to ensure that they would continue to do so permanently. Nonetheless, the suit was eventually dismissed by the court as moot.

Court Vacates Cop's Manslaughter Conviction in Katrina Shooting

This week, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that a former New Orleans police officer convicted of manslaughter for a post-Katrina shooting suffered specific and compelling prejudice because a trial court refused to sever his case from two co-defendants' cases, The Times-Picayune reports.

The appellate court vacated his conviction and granted a new trial in the matter.

Stored Communications Act: Cell Phone Images, Texts Not Protected

Images and text messages store in a cell phone are not protected by the Stored Communications Act (SCA), according to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Fanny Garcia, a former police dispatcher for the City of Laredo, Texas, was fired for violating department policy. The department based its decision on information obtained from Garcia's cell phone, which the department accessed without her permission. Garcia sued the city, arguing that the SCA protects all text and data stored on a personal cell phone. The courts disagreed.

Courts Can Consider Unconvicted Arrests in Sentencing

Perhaps people are capable of change. As individuals, we can forgive, look forward, and move on. Courts don't really do that.

A judge doesn't just let bygones be bygones. She can look to a defendant's past — both convictions and unconvicted arrests— when determining a sentence. And the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is okay with that.

Laches? Unclean Hands? It's All Greek to the Fifth Circuit

If you were ever in a fraternity or a sorority, you probably received a paddle. It’s part of the Big Bro/Little Bro, Big Sis/Little Sis tradition. The “Little” makes or buys a paddle for the “Big.”

If you purchased a paddle after 1961, you may have bought it from today’s Fifth Circuit litigant: Thomas Abraham.

Yes, folks; we have officially located the most frat-tastic opinion ever published by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. (Phi Chi Chi Alpha, if you will.)

Shocker: Multiple Confessions Sufficient to Support Conviction

Police officers executed a warrant to search Travis Hunter Blank’s home after he emailed a video clip depicting child pornography, triggering an investigation. While the cops poked around the house, Blank voluntarily spoke with Detective Jeff Rich.

Blank was refreshingly forthcoming in their conversation. He told Rich that he sent the clip and that he had viewed child pornography for the last 10 years. He completed a written statement admitting that he had viewed 1,000 pictures. While Blank was in custody awaiting trial, several of his phone calls to family members were recorded and later admitted into evidence at trial. In one call, he stated, “I’ve done it before and it’s never been caught” and “I hate to say it, but I should have been caught a long time ago.”

He was convicted.