Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
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On appeal, the St. Martin Parish School Board (the “School Board”) challenges the district court’s (1) exercise of remedial jurisdiction over the case, (2) denial of its motion for unitary status, and (3) imposition of additional equitable relief. The Fifth Circuit concluded that hat the district court properly retained remedial jurisdiction over the action; the court otherwised affirmed in part and reversed in part.The court explained that the district court did not clearly err in determining that the School Board failed to achieve unitary status in student assignment, faculty assignment, and the quality of education. The denial of unitary status was, therefore, not clearly erroneous. However, the court found that the district court abused its discretion in closing Catahoula Elementary School. The record demonstrates that progress has been made and progress can continue through the implementation of other reasonable, feasible, and workable remedies. Accordingly, the court reversed the closing of Catahoula Elementary School and remanded for consideration of other methods of addressing that concern. View "Borel v. Sch Bd Saint Martin Parish" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff claimed her employment was terminated in retaliation for complaining she was going to be paid late. She filed a complaint against a department head within the Texas A&M Engineering Station in his individual capacity (“DH”), alleging he violated the anti-retaliation provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”)  DH moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s retaliation claim because the suit was barred by sovereign immunity, and in the alternative, that he was entitled to qualified immunity. The district court determined that neither immunity applied.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed the rejection of sovereign immunity as a defense, affirmed the denial of the defense of sovereign immunity and vacated the judgment denying the defense of qualified immunity. The court held that holding public officials individually liable for retaliation under the FLSA also is consistent with the court’s prior holdings regarding individual liability in other FLSA contexts. However, the court wrote it discovered no Fifth Circuit opinion that holds qualified immunity is a defense under the FLSA. The court concluded that Plaintiff’s claim would be barred by qualified immunity because she does not allege that DH violated a clearly established law. However, the antecedent question is whether qualified immunity applies to the FLSA to begin with. The court, therefore, remanded for the district court to decide this question in the first instance. View "Stramaski v. Lawley" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued Defendant in a Texas federal court to recover unpaid legal fees. The federal rules allow service under the law of the state “where service is made,” Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(e)(1), so Plaintiff tried serving Defendant by publication under Florida law. But that publication notice was defective. Noting that defect, Defendant moved to vacate his default. Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(c). But the district court declined and soon entered a default judgment.The Fifth Circuit vacated and remanded the district court’s judgment. The court held that it was an error for the district court to decline to consider Defendant’s objection to improper service. The court explained that because Defendant was never properly served, he showed good cause to set aside his default and the default judgment that followed. View "Espinoza v. Humphries" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are nine female detention service officers working at the Dallas County Jail who are employed by Defendant-Appellee Dallas County Sheriff’s Department. Dallas County (“the County”). A gender-based scheduling policy went into effect and only male officers were given full weekends off whereas female officers were allowed two weekdays off or one weekday and one weekend day off. Plaintiffs alleged that they were told that it would be safer for the male officers to be off during the weekends as opposed to during the week.   Plaintiffs filed suit against the County for violations of Title VII and the Texas Employment Discrimination Act (the “TEDA”). On appeal, Plaintiffs argued that the district court erred by considering whether the County’s scheduling policy constituted an adverse employment action rather than applying the statutory text of Title VII and the TEDA. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s motion to dismiss The court held that Plaintiffs’ did not plead an adverse employment action, as required under the Fifth Circuit’s Title VII precedent. The court explained that the conduct complained of here fits squarely within the ambit of Title VII’s proscribed conduct: discrimination with respect to the terms, conditions, or privileges of one’s employment because of one’s sex. Given the generally accepted meaning of those terms, the County would appear to have violated Title VII. However, the court explained it is bound by the circuit’s precedent, which requires a Title VII plaintiff to establish a prima facie case of discrimination by showing that she “suffered some adverse employment action by the employer.” View "Hamilton v. Dallas County" on Justia Law

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In accordance with powers vested in him by the Texas Legislature, Governor Greg Abbott promulgated Executive Order GA-38 to unify the State’s response to COVID-19. Among other things, GA-38 prohibited school districts from imposing mask mandates. Some students sued. Then the district court permanently enjoined the Texas Attorney General from enforcing GA-38.   The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court’s injunction and remand with instructions to dismiss the suit without prejudice. The court held that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The court explained that Plaintiffs have not presented an injury in fact sufficient to satisfy Article III. To establish such an injury, plaintiffs must show they “suffered an invasion of a legally protected interest that is ‘concrete and particularized’ and ‘actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical.’” Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 578 U.S. 330, 339 (2016). The court wrote that Plaintiffs haven’t carried that burden here because (1) the injury they’ve alleged is not a cognizable injury in fact, and (2) they may not relabel their injury as something it’s not. View "E.T. v. Paxton" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a 1983 civil rights complaint against various employees of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) who worked at the Wallace Pack Unit. Plaintiff, who is Muslim, alleged that when he was evacuated from the Stringfellow Unit (a state prison) to the Wallace Pack Unit due to Hurricane Harvey, he was not provided with kosher meals, even though such meals were received by similarly situated Jewish inmates.   The district court granted Defendants’ summary judgment motion. The court noted that Plaintiff had never submitted an amended complaint, and it explained that it could not consider any new allegations that Plaintiff had presented in his response to the defendants’ motion for summary judgment.   The Fifth Circuit previously instructed the district court to make sure that, on remand, Plaintiff had an “adequate opportunity to cure the inadequacies in his pleading,” despite his status as a pro se litigant. Plaintiff argued that the district court erred by not giving him an opportunity to cure the inadequacies in his complaint.   The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded explaining that the district court read the court’s mandate too narrowly. The court wrote that the record indicates that the district court only explicitly “informed” Plaintiff of its requirement that a motion for leave to amend must be accompanied by a proposed amended complaint. For a pro se litigant, such a denial of a motion to amend is not, by itself, an adequate opportunity to cure. At a minimum, the district court should have construed Plaintiff’s reply to Defendants’ answer as a proposed amended complaint, which it should have accepted. View "Lozano v. Schubert" on Justia Law

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The State of Texas sought to enjoin the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo from holding live-called and electronic bingo. The district court granted the injunction and the Fifth Circuit upheld it under its prior decisions.   In light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Texas v. Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, 955 F.3d 508 (5th Cir. 2020), overruled by No. 20- 493, 2022 WL 2135494 (2022), the Fifth Circuit vacated the district court’s judgment and remanded for further proceedings. The court wrote that the Supreme Court granted the Pueblo’s petition and rejected Texas’s contention that Congress has allowed all of the state’s gaming laws to operate as surrogate federal law enforceable on the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Reservation.   Under the Court’s interpretation of the Restoration Act, “if a gaming activity is prohibited by Texas law”—that is, absolutely “banned in Texas”—then “it is also prohibited on tribal land as a matter of federal law.” But if the gaming activity is merely regulated by Texas law—that is, “by fixing the time, place, and manner in which the game may be conducted”—then it’s only “subject to tribal regulation” and “the terms and conditions set forth in federal law, including [the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act] to the extent it is applicable.” View "State of TX v. Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, et al" on Justia Law

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The Louisiana Independent Pharmacies Association (“LIPA”) sued Express Scripts on behalf of its members, seeking a declaratory judgment on whether La. Rev. Stat. Ann. Sections 22:1860.1 and 46:2625 are preempted by Medicare Part D.1 Express Scripts moved to dismiss LIPA’s request for declaratory judgment regarding the reimbursement provision for failure to state a claim, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), on the basis that Medicare Part D preempts the reimbursement provision for prescriptions covered by Part D plans The district court concluded, however, that Express Scripts failed “to meet its burden of showing preemption or any other basis for dismissal.” Express Scripts moved to certify the order denying its motion to dismiss for interlocutory appeal under 28 U.S.C. Section1292(b). The district court granted certification,   The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court’s order concluding that the court lacks both federal question and diversity jurisdiction. The court explained that here, LIPA seeks a declaration that Express Scripts’ state law and related contractual obligation to reimburse LIPA’s member pharmacies for the provider fee is not preempted by federal law. Applying the well-pleaded complaint rule requires the court to imagine a hypothetical coercive lawsuit brought by Express Scripts against LIPA’s member pharmacies. But none is conceivable, thus, because Express Scripts has no possible ground for a coercive lawsuit, no federal question arises for purposes of jurisdiction in LIPA’s declaratory judgment case. Accordingly, the court concluded that LIPA must make the same showing to satisfy the amount in controversy requirement. View "LA Indep Pharmacies v. Express Scripts" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellee Preble-Rish Haiti, S.A. filed this case pursuant to Rule B of the Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. It sought to attach assets to secure a partial final arbitration award against the Republic of Haiti and the Bureau de Monétisation de Programmes d’Aide au Developpement (BMPAD). Garnishee BB Energy USA, L.L.C.(BB Energy) admitted to holding credits belonging to BMPAD located in the Southern District of Texas.   Although BB Energy raised BMPAD’s sovereign immunity from prejudgment attachment again, the district court stated it had already decided that issue and cited its August 10, 2021 order. BB Energy appealed the January 4, 2022 order pursuant to the collateral order doctrine   The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling and vacated the writ of attachment. The court explained that to satisfy Section 1610(d), an explicit waiver of immunity from prejudgment attachment must be express, clear, and unambiguous. Anything short of that is insufficient. Here, because there is no such explicit waiver in the contract or elsewhere, the district court erred in concluding BMPAD waived its sovereign immunity from prejudgment attachment. View "Preble-Rish Haiti, S.A. v. BB Energy USA" on Justia Law

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Beatriz Ball, LLC, is a Louisiana company doing business as Beatriz Ball and Beatriz Ball Collection. Barbagallo Company, LLC is a New Jersey company doing business as Pampa Bay. Plaintiff alleged that Pampa Bay has been marketing and distributing products that infringe on Beatriz Ball’s registered copyrights and its unregistered trade dress for its “Organic Pearl” line of tableware.   Plaintiff challenged the district court’s conclusions that (1) the company lacked standing under the Copyright Act because the plaintiff did not obtain a valid assignment of its claim, and (2) it failed to establish a protectable trade dress under the Lanham Act.   The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the district court erred in its standing determination and that certain errors in its analysis of the trade dress claim require reconsideration by the district court. The court explained that whether Beatriz Ball’s trade dress has acquired secondary meaning is considered a question of fact reviewed on appeal for clear error. Here, the record indicates that the district court clearly erred in analyzing three of the factors: volume of sales, the nature of the use of Organic Pearl trade dress in newspapers and magazines, and the defendant’s intent in copying the trade dress. Ultimately, a visual comparison of Pampa Bay’s products to the Organic Pearl line makes it difficult to deny that there was intent to copy. The designs are not just alike, they are indistinguishable in some cases. Thus, the sum of errors in the district court’s analysis of secondary meaning requires reconsideration of the evidence and overall re-weighing of the factors. View "Beatriz Ball v. Barbagallo Company" on Justia Law