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

July 2013 Archives

Religious Candy Cane Case Dismissed For Failure to Mail

Petitioners who have continued their litigation against a Texas school district for dampening their free expression rights have been denied due to a failure to send by certified mail.

The heart of Morgan v. Plano Independent School District, a Texas case involving a school district's refusal to allow students to distribute candy canes with religious messages on school grounds, turns on an anticlimactically boring jurisdictional issue, which the Fifth Circuit dispatches with procedural ease.

Guess the Morgans should have asked for stamps for Xmas.

Weak Cocaine Still Measured by Weight: 5th Cir

In a slightly less ludicrous move than returning illegal drugs which aren't strong enough, the Fifth Circuit denied a federal convict who complained that the government shouldn't consider his weak cocaine by weight for sentencing purposes since it is so impure.

David Villarreal argued before Court that it was unreasonable for the district court to use the 5.9 kilograms of 3.2% pure cocaine found in his car because it was "substantially diluted," even though it substantially enhanced his sentence.

Does being a really poor quality drug distributor allow you to reinterpret federal law?

Oil Spill Damages Remanded Due to Sloppy Analysis

If anyone can remember law school, did you have a paper that was sent back to you with the damning message "REDO" or "See Me" in fat red ink on the title page?

Well, the Fifth Circuit's decision in U.S. v. Citgo is pretty much their version of that, spanking the Western District of Louisiana court for failing to do the admittedly complicated analysis required to calculate damages from a 2006 Citgo oil spill.

Evidently, even federal courts can be called to task for doing lazy legal analysis.

No Whistleblower Protection Without Informing SEC: 5th Cir.

Whistleblowers are all the rage this season, unless you count the increasingly unpopular Edward Snowden, but unfortunately for overseas employees, this whistleblowing craze is only available if you inform the SEC.

In Asadi v. G.E. Energy (USA), L.L.C., the appellant Khaled Asadi learned this lesson the hard way, having the Fifth Circuit teach him a lengthy lesson about statutory interpretation and knock loose his dreams of being a rock star whistleblower.

So what happens if you don’t really blow the whistle to the SEC?

Transocean Not Entitled to Restitution From Seaman's Fraud

In a strange and salty case, the Fifth Circuit refused to essentially create a new remedy by right for maritime employers who are tricked into paying for employees' fake injuries.

The Boudreaux v. Transocean Deepwater court dealt with an offshore drilling company who wanted to extract all the benefits it had erroneously paid to a former employee, Boudreaux, due to his lying about a pre-existing condition that contributed to an at-work injury.

The key here is how Transocean asked the court to remedy the problem.

Failure to Consult MJ Farmer on Appeal is Ineffective Assistance

Jaded lawyers and criminal defendants might think that it is nearly impossible for a court to find ineffective assistance of counsel in a criminal case.

Not so, says the Fifth Circuit in U.S. v. Pham, you can be found ineffective when you totally neglect to tell your client about the option to directly appeal your sentence, even if done under a plea bargain!

Consent to Search Luggage in Vehicle Limited

Law enforcement vehicle searches have become increasingly expansive over the last few decades, but sometimes the Fifth Circuit just has to put its foot down.

In U.S. v. Cotton, the Court determined that Marvin Cotton, who was stopped and searched by an officer on suspicion of drug trafficking, did not give consent to have an officer search his vehicle, only his luggage.