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

August 2014 Archives

Corrections Officer's Leak to Press Was Grounds For Termination

The obvious case is, well, obvious.

Shift Sergeant Rodricus Carltez Hurst worked in a Lee County, Mississippi jail. The operations manual at the jail stated that only the Sheriff or his "designee" could talk to the media, though the rule doesn't seem to have been enforced all that well -- the record contained multiple instances where Hurst had spoken to the media during his tenure at the jail.

This time, however, he provided information on a local college player, Chad Bumphis, who had been arrested on New Year's Day after a "big group fight" at a local bar. Sgt. Hurst was quoted in a local newspaper's coverage, which is still available online. Hurst was fired shortly thereafter for violating the Department's media relations policy.

5th Cir. Allows Religious Exemption for Collecting Eagle Feathers

Remember the good old days before Hobby Lobby, when free exercise cases didn't impact reproductive freedom? Boy, do I yearn for a little harmless fun with Santeria in Florida, Hare Krishnas at the airport, or nativity scenes at Christmas.

Prepare to be taken back in time as the Fifth Circuit upholds a Free Exercise challenge to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which the petitioners in McAllen Grace Brethren Church v. Salazar said prevented them from collecting bald eagle feathers to be used in religious ceremonies.

Police Must Ask Who Owns Which Bag When Searching Car: 5th Cir.

What is the scope of consent when the driver of a vehicle consents to a search of the car, but there are multiple passengers, all of whom have luggage in the trunk? The Fifth Circuit answered that question this week in U.S. v. Iraheta.

The case involved a lawful traffic stop of a car with a driver and two passengers. Deputies asked for the driver's consent to search the car, which he gave. They found duffel bags in the trunk, and not knowing which bag the driver owned, searched them all. Naturally, one of them contained cocaine and methamphetamine.

At the district court level, a magistrate granted the defendants' motions to suppress evidence on the ground that the search of the duffel bags exceeded the scope of the consent that the driver, William Iraheta, gave. After that, the government appealed.

Miss. Wants an En Banc Shot at Abortion Law Appeal

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.

5th Cir. Upholds, Strikes Parts of Texas Campaign Finance Law

If you want to form a general purpose political action committee in Texas that promotes a particular point of view, you first need to: (1) Appoint a treasurer and register with the Texas Election Commission, (2) collect contributions from 10 contributors, (3) wait 60 days before exceeding $500 in contributions and expenditures, and (4) never accept contributions from corporations unless your PAC engages only in independent expenditures.

On appeal, the Fifth Circuit upheld the treasurer requirement and (surprisingly) the ban on corporate contributions. However, it found the 60-day, $500 limit and the 10-contributor requirement unconstitutional.

Lawyer's Right of Access to Traffic Ticket Records Claim Fails

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:

BP has taken its last gasp of air as it seeks it's one and only option in the ongoing saga of the oil-spill settlement agreement the company hastily signed. After unsuccessful attempts with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the oil giant is now trying its hand with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Whether the Supreme Court will grant cert. remains to be seen, but in the meantime, let's take a look at the legal backdrop of the case.

Citizens United Is Now Affecting Your Grandma's Bingo Game

Even though Texas generally outlaws gambling, it does allow bingo halls to operate, subject to some restrictions. One of these is that bingo halls can't use their proceeds from bingo for political advocacy.

A group of nonprofit organizations licensed to conduct bingo sued the state lottery commission, alleging that the restrictions unconstitutionally burden their freedom of speech.

After Citizens United, SpeechNow.org, and McCutcheon, the stage is set for the next great challenge to political advocacy restrictions -- plus, there's bingo. And everyone loves bingo.