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

Recently in Civil Rights Law Category

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.

In an appeal to the Fifth Circuit, an injured former employee of Tyson Foods sought to reverse the trial judge's refusal to grant a new trial, as well as a peculiar request seemingly on behalf of the appellant's attorney involving the jury.

In short, the underlying case, Benson v. Tyson Foods, involved a claim of disability discrimination, which was undercut at trial by evidence and testimony the jury relied on to find that the plaintiff-appellant was not actually disabled. Although the plaintiff did suffer a severe injury, medical experts testified that the injury had fully healed, and the plaintiff testified that she was able to play basketball and work two jobs where she stood for most of the time.

5th Circuit Upholds Texas Voter ID Law

A federal appeals court upheld a controversial voter ID law in Texas, concluding that the state legislature remedied discriminatory elements that were at issue in a previous version of the law.

The prior law -- SB14 -- had required residents to present government identification when they voted, resulting in a judicial ruling that the law discriminated against certain minorities. Then the legislature incorporated changes proposed by the federal court into SB5.

Opponents then sued to invalidate the new law, but the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals said it was acceptable in Veasey v. Abbott.

Federal Judge OKs Challenge to Male-Only Draft

Women aren't suing for equal everything, like registering for the military draft.

But the National Coalition for Men wants to change all that. The organization sued, alleging that male-only mandatory enlistment discriminates against men, and a judge says the plaintiffs have a case.

However, they still have a long way to go in National Coalition of Men v. Selective Service System. They filed in 2013, and just got standing to proceed.

Judge Throws Out 'Clock Boy' Discrimination Case

Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old student, made a clock and took it to school.

But it looked like a bomb, his teacher said. The principal agreed and summoned police, who arrested the teenager.

It turned out to be a clock, but blew up in a media storm and an invitation to the White House for the baffled "clock boy." His parents sued unsuccessfully, apparently because there is no case for being smarter than your teacher.

It is no secret that the justice system tends to favor the wealthy. People with more money are better able to afford the cost of accessing justice. And it's not just paying the costs for private attorneys and experts in civil cases, in the criminal justice system simply being able to afford bail provides the wealthy with a significant privilege and advantage compared to those who can't afford any amount of bail.

The Fifth Circuit recently weighed in on the Harris County bail system which relies on fixed bail amounts for various charges, and which been recently been upended by a district court ruling that could have potential released many pretrial detainees. Both courts agreed and ruled the fixed bail amounts were unconstitutional as a result of due process and equal protection violations, but the circuit court had to reign in the lower court's order for going a bit too far.

The civil rights case of a man alleging a violation of his right to privacy against Verizon is notable for a couple reasons. But the Alexander v. Verizon matter might not be getting as much attention for the substantive part of the case, but rather for an interesting footnote.

First off, there is actually an interesting legal case that involves not-so-emerging technology and how it is now used by law enforcement, and whether service providers can be liable for bad police work.

Secondly, the case contains that rather loaded footnote discussing the great online debate of whether the word internet should be capitalized, or not, and when.

Texas Woman Wrongly Jailed Wins Appeal

Last week, FindLaw's Chris Coble covered the story of the Texas woman who is suing the county for being falsely accused and jailed. The story was among the week's most popular on social media for FindLaw's consumer audience. This means, if you are a lawyer, this is the kind of case potential clients are reading.

Jessica Jauch certainly needed a lawyer when she got out of jail.

Texas Ban on Sanctuary Cities Goes Forward

There's a shootout in Texas over sanctuary cities, and right now the new sheriff and his deputy are winning.

That sheriff would be U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and his Texas deputy would be state Attorney General Ken Paxton. Since President Trump took office, Sessions has been gunning for cities that refuse to cooperate with the President's new immigration policies.

The Texas legislature got behind Sessions and passed a law that penalizes the so-called sanctuary cities for non-compliance. A federal appeals court said, more or less, "that's pretty much the law, pardner."

The recent Texas voter ID laws that were blocked by a federal district court injunction have just had the enforcement of that order stayed pending the appeal, on the merits, by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. This means that the new voter ID laws will remain effective pending the resolution of the case, despite the district court issuing a permanent injunction enjoining their enforcement.

However, it is worth noting that the newest provision of the law, under the recently passed SB5, permits voters to submit actual ballots upon the signing of a declaration under the penalty of perjury. As the appellate court explained, this procedure nearly obviates the need for the injunctive relief requested as it supersedes SB14 and allows voters without ID to vote.