Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
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Plaintiff sued Walmart and several members of law enforcement for purported injuries relating to her arrest and incarceration in 2010. In response to motions to dismiss filed by the defendants, Judge Rebecca Doherty dismissed all asserted federal claims with prejudice and all asserted state-law claims without prejudice. Plaintiff did not appeal the dismissal. In 2021, the Clerk of the Western District of Louisiana contacted the parties to inform them that Judge Doherty had owned stock in Wal-Mart while presiding over this case. Under 28 U.S.C. Section 455(b)(4), Judge Doherty ought to have recused herself. On this basis, Plaintiff filed a motion for relief from judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60, seeking a voided judgment and a new trial.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court. The court explained that there is no dispute that Judge Doherty should have recused herself from this case. The court wrote that Rule 60(b) decisions are reviewed for abuse of discretion. Applying that standard, the court saw no abuse in the district court’s determinations below. Judge Summerhays ably and succinctly applied the Liljeberg factors to the controversy. On fresh review, the court concluded likewise that after “a careful study … of the merits,” there is no “risk of injustice to the parties in th[is] particular case.” Judge Doherty’s ruling was based on firm legal principles, there is no evidence of bias or favor, and Plaintiff neither appealed Judge Doherty’s decision at the time nor refiled her state law claims in state court within the time permitted her. View "Roberts v. Wal-Mart Louisiana" on Justia Law

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Appellant a Louisiana attorney representing oil spill claimants in the settlement program, was accused of funneling money to a settlement program staff attorney through improper referral payments. In a disciplinary proceeding, the en banc Eastern District of Louisiana found that Appellant’s actions violated the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct and suspended him from practicing law before the Eastern District of Louisiana for one year. Appellant appealed, arguing that the en banc court misapplied the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct and abused its discretion by imposing an excessive sanction.   The Fifth Circuit found that the en banc court misapplied Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 1.5(e) and 8.4(a) but not Rule 8.4(d). Additionally, the en banc court did not abuse its discretion by imposing a one-year suspension on Appellant for his violation of 8.4(d). Accordingly, the court reversed the en banc court’s order suspending Appellant from the practice of law for one year each for violations of Rule 1.5(e) and 8.4(a). The court affirmed the en banc court’s holding that Appellant violated Rule 8.4(d). Finally, the court remanded to the en banc court for further proceedings. On remand, the court is free to impose on Appellant whatever sanction it sees fit for the 8.4(d) violation, including but not limited to its previous one-year suspension. View "In re Jonathan Andry" on Justia Law

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Appellant Sanare Energy Partners, L.L.C. agreed to purchase a mineral lease and related interests from Appellee PetroQuest Energy, L.L.C. Later, PetroQuest filed bankruptcy, and Sanare filed an adversary suit in that proceeding. Sanare argued that the lack of certain third-party consents rendered PetroQuest liable for costs associated with some “Assets” whose transfer the sale envisioned. The bankruptcy court and the district court each disagreed with Sanare.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the Properties are “Assets” under the PSA, including section 11.1, even if the Bureau’s withheld consent prevented record title for the Properties from transferring to Sanare. This conclusion is plain from the PSA’s text, which excludes Customary Post-Closing Consents such as the Bureau’s from the category of consent failures that alter the parties’ bargain. Consent failures that do not produce a void-ab-initio transfer also do not alter the parties’ bargain, so the Agreements, too, are Assets under the PSA’s plain text. View "Sanare Energy v. Petroquest" on Justia Law

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The State of Texas appeals the district court’s decision that Plaintiffs’ federal Taking Clause claims against the State may proceed in federal court. Because we hold that the Fifth Amendment Takings Clause as applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment does not provide a right of action for takings claims against a state.   The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court’s decision for want of jurisdiction and remanded with instructions to return this case to the state courts. The court explained that the Supreme Court of Texas recognizes takings claims under the federal and state constitutions, with differing remedies and constraints turning on the character and nature of the taking; nothing in this description of Texas law is intended to replace its role as the sole determinant of Texas state law. View "Devillier v. State of Texas" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs allege that Boeing and Southwest Airlines defrauded them by, among other things, concealing a serious safety defect in the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft. The district court certified four classes encompassing those who purchased or reimbursed approximately 200 million airline tickets for flights that were flown or could have been flown on a MAX 8.In reviewing Defendants' interlocutory appeal, the Fifth Circuit reversed the district court. The court found that Plaintiffs lacked Article III standing because they failed to allege any concrete injury. View "Earl v. Boeing" on Justia Law

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These consolidated appeals involve a dispute over the enforceability of a Texas state court judgment after it had been made executory by a Louisiana state court and the judgment creditors then sought to make it executory in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. That federal court dismissed the case on res judicata grounds, but the Fifth Circuit concluded instead that the district court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the case because Plaintiffs failed to satisfy 28 U.S.C. Section 1332(a)’s amount-in-controversy requirement for diversity of citizenship jurisdiction.   Accordingly, the Fifth Circuit vacated the district court’s judgment dismissing Plaintiffs’ complaint on the basis of res judicata and remanded with instructions that the district court dismiss this case without prejudice for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The court explained that the $1,313.16 in prejudgment interest awarded in the Texas Judgment is included in determining the amount in controversy. However, the 5.00% interest from the date of the Judgment until paid in full is not. The total amount in controversy thus comes to $58,832.63. Because the amount in controversy does not exceed the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interests and costs, the district court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction under Section 1332(a). View "Cleartrac, et al v. Lanrick Contractors, et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, who identify as Moorish Americans, sought to enter the Caddo Parish Courthouse to file documents with the court clerk. Upon arriving at the security-screening station, plaintiffs informed the officers on duty that they wished to enter without passing through the security screening. After Plaintiffs’ repeated refusals to depart, the officers stated they would count to three and, if Plaintiffs refused to leave, they would be arrested. They did not depart and were arrested, charged with violating Louisiana Revised Statutes Section 14:63.3.Plaintiffs brought a litany of claims against various officials serving in Caddo Parish and the Louisiana state government based on their actions taken during the arrest. Plaintiffs also moved for recusal of the magistrate judge, which the district court denied.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Plaintiffs have pointed to no precedent that abrogates the general “search incident to arrest” rule when religious headwear is involved. Accordingly, the district court correctly granted summary judgment on the ground of qualified immunity. Further, the court held that there was no error in the district court’s denial of Plaintiffs’ motion for recusal of the magistrate judge. The magistrate judge did not work on this case in private practice nor work with Defendants’ counsel in the practice of law while he was working on this case. Nor is there evidence of any bias or knowledge of the case that would have required the district court, in its discretion, to order recusal. View "Foley Bey v. Prator" on Justia Law

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Believing Texas intends to enforce its abortion laws to penalize their out-of-state actions, Plaintiffs sued Texas Attorney General (Petitioner). Petitioner moved to dismiss the suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiffs then issued subpoenas to obtain Petitioner’s testimony. Petitioner moved to quash the subpoenas, which the district court initially granted. On reconsideration, however, the district court changed course, denied the motion, and ordered Petitioner to testify either at a deposition or evidentiary hearing. Petitioner petitioned for a writ of mandamus to shield him from the district court’s order.   The Fifth Circuit granted the writ, concluding that the district court clearly erred by not first ensuring its own jurisdiction and also by declining to quash the subpoenas. The court explained that the district court committed a “clear abuse of discretion” by finding that exceptional circumstances justified ordering Petitioner to testify. Petitioner has therefore shown a clear and indisputable right to relief. The court further found that the errors are ones that cannot be rectified as the case progresses. Petitioners compelled testimony cannot be undone or corrected by the district court or a reviewing court once it occurs. Accordingly, the court was satisfied that, under the circumstances, it should exercise its discretion to issue the writ. View "In Re: Ken Paxton" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was dismissed from her role as a Cadre On-Call Response Employee (CORE) for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 2017. Plaintiff claimed that her dismissal resulted from race-based discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Following administrative proceedings in which an administrative law judge rejected her complaint, Plaintiff filed suit in federal district court. Plaintiff appealed the district court’s order granting FEMA summary judgment and denying her motion for additional time to conduct discovery, arguing that the court abused its discretion by declining to grant a continuance under Rule 56(d) as required by Chandler v. Roudebush.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that because Plaintiff failed to diligently pursue her limited discovery needs during the two-month continuance, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying her Rule 56(d) motion. Further, Chandler cannot be construed as demanding further discovery where, as here, the government acquiesces, but the employee fails to diligently pursue it. Plaintiff received a de novo trial and treatment equal to that afforded to a private-sector employee. The district court did not contravene Chandler by denying further discovery and granting the summary judgment motion. View "Dominick v. DHS" on Justia Law

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This mandamus petition concerns a qui tam action brought against Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc., and five Texas-based affiliates. Relator filed the initial complaint on February 5, 2021, alleging that Petitioners presented millions of dollars of false or fraudulent claims for payment under the Medicaid system.Petitioners moved to dismiss both complaints, and the district court denied those motions in large part in April of 2022. Petitioners then sought reconsideration of that order, which the district court denied in July of 2022. Discovery proceeded meanwhile; tens of thousands of documents were exchanged and several motions to compel were raised by both parties and ruled on.Seven months after the case was unsealed, Petitioners moved to transfer to the Austin Division of the Western District of Texas, arguing that it is a more convenient forum than the Amarillo Division of the Northern District of Texas, where the case was originally filed and remains pending. The district court denied the motion. Petitioners then sought mandamus relief.The Fifth Circuit affirmed, finding that Petitioners failed to show that the district court clearly abused its discretion in denying their motion to transfer. As a result, they failed to demonstrate that they are entitled to the extraordinary remedy of a writ of mandamus. View "In re Planned Parenthood Federation of America" on Justia Law