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Judicial Reform Fifth Circuit

United States Court of Appeals: 5th Circuit

Leans Pro Freedom
Total Judgeships: 

17 (2 vacancies)

Political Makeup: 

5 Dem – 10 GOP

Location(s): 
New Orleans, Louisiana, Fort Worth, Texas, Jackson, Mississippi
Jurisdictions: 
Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas
Caseload: 

7,765

About The Court:

The Fifth Circuit Court was established on June 16, 1891 and is known for its history of involvement in crucial civil rights decisions in the 1960’s. On June 25, 1948, the Panama Canal Zone was added to the Fifth Circuit, and on March 31, 1982, the Court lost jurisdiction as the Canal Zone transferred to Panamanian control.

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decided

Student's Internet Activity is Protected Free Speech

Fri, 12/12/2014

Bell v. Itawamba City School Board: Plaintiff, a high school student and his mother, filed suit against the school board for violating the student’s 1st Amendment free speech rights and the mother’s 14th Amendment parental authority. The student was suspended and transferred to another school for posting “vulgar and violent” rap lyrics on Facebook, and posting a song on YouTube that criticizes two coaches at his school who molested female students. The district court issued summary judgment for the school board, confirming the disciplinary action taken on the student.

Decision

The Circuit Court reversed the district court decision in regard to the 1st Amendment violations, finding the school board “did not demonstrate that [the student’s] song caused a substantial disruption of school work and discipline.”

Read the full decision here
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Suicidal Man Killed by Officer; Cop and Insurance Company Protected

Mon, 10/27/2014

Rice, et al. v. Reliastar Life Ins. Co.: Deputy Arnold shot and killed plaintiff’s father after responding to a call from deceased’s son that his father was suicidal and had a gun. Police responded to the call and entered the home without a warrant. After negotiations failed and deceased would not drop his gun, deceased entered the kitchen where the officers were, stating that he wished to commit suicide. In response, Deputy Arnold fired four shots and as a result, the suicidal Rice was killed. Rice filed suit against the officers claiming violations of state and federal laws by the officers that resulted in his father being shot. Rice also filed suit against Reliastar Insurance, alleging the group owes Rice and family under accidental death policy. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the officers and Reliastar.

Decision

Circuit Court affirms district court judgment, officers and Reliastar are granted summary judgment.

Read the full decision here
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Qualified Immunity Denied in High Speed Chase

Thu, 08/28/2014

Luna, et al. v. Texas Dept. of Public Safety: The Circuit court reviewed district court’s denial of summary judgment based on qualified immunity to the police officer involved. Leija was followed by officers to arrest him for committing misdemeanors on probation. After some discussion with the officer, Leija fled the scene, leading to a high speed car chase. Officers who were properly trained to do so set up three spike strips. DPS trooper Mullinix responded to this chase and intended to set up spike strips at an overpass, but instead decided to set up to shoot at Leija’s vehicle in attempt to disable it. He was not trained nor had experience or reasonable cause to believe this would be effective. As Leija’s vehicle passed, Mullinix shot six rounds at Leija’s vehicle. The vehicle hit spike strips and drove into the median, flipping twice. Leija died from the encounter and the cause of death was later determined to be a bullet in his neck; four bullets hit his upper chest area.

Decision

Circuit court affirms district court ruling, denies qualified immunity to DPS trooper Mullinix. Plaintiff sufficiently proved violation through demonstrating Leija suffered an injury, from direct use of force excessive to the need, and that force was objectively unreasonable.

Read the full decision here
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Court Strikes Down a Burdensome Regulation

Tue, 07/29/2014

Jackson Women’s Health Org., et. al. v. Currier, et. al.: Plaintiffs challenged the Mississippi law, H.B. 1390, which would require all physicians who work at the state’s abortion clinic to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and staff privileges to replace local hospital on-staff physicians. This would close the state’s only abortion clinic. The district court issued a preliminary injunction against enforcing H.B. 1390 until a final determination was made.

Decision

The Fifth Circuit Court ruled generally in support of the district court’s decision. In the case, the State argued that the law did not affect a woman’s right to choose because they can go to nearby states. But, the court placed the law under rational basis inquiry and determined that the law is an undue burden. FreedomWorks supports this decision because H.B. 1390 imposes a burdensome regulation that interferes with a business’s ability to hire labor as it sees fit.

Read the full decision here
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Fifth Circuit Upholds Freedom of Speech

Mon, 07/14/2014

Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc. v. Vandergriff, et al.: The Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and two of its officers filed suit against the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board for violating their 1st Amendment right to free speech by denying their application for a specialty license plate with the Confederate battle flag. The District Court ruled in favor of the Board, concluding that the regulation was reasonable and content-based.

Decision

The Fifth Circuit reversed the decision and remanded, ruling that speech on specialty license plates is private speech and the Board engaged in impermissible viewpoint discrimination.

Read the full decision here
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Employers Have the Right to Define a Workweek

Mon, 07/14/2014

Johnson, et al. v. Heckmann Water Resources, Inc., et al.: Kevin Johnson and Brad Smith sued their former employer seeking unpaid overtime compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). They argued for the workweek to be redefined as Thursday through Wednesday, which would result in them receiving more paid overtime hours. The District Court ruled in favor of the employer, concluding that the employer has the right to establish a workweek.

Decision

The Fifth Circuit upheld the decision, concluding that the employer did not violate the overtime wage requirements of the FLSA.

Read the full decision here
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Overtime Pay Not an Entitlement for Working Weekends

Mon, 07/14/2014

Johnson, et al. v. Heckmann Water Resources, Inc., et al.: Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) employers have the right to determine when their employees’ work week begins and ends. Heckmann requires their workers to work Monday through Sunday. Johnson, a Heckmann employee, filed suit against Heckmann seeking compensation for working overtime since he has to work weekends.

Decision

The 5th Circuit Court upheld the precedent and requirements established by the FLSA, ruling that Heckmann had set his hours to include weekends and therefore, overpay compensation is not required to be paid. As a result, Heckmann is not enforced to pay the demanded compensation to the plaintiffs.

Read the full decision here
decided

A Taking Based in Endangered Species Act Reversed

Mon, 06/30/2014

The Arkansas Project v. Bryan Shaw: The Arkansas Project (TAP) filed suit against the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) under the Endangered Species Act as a result of TCEQ’s withdrawal of water from rivers where whooping cranes nest for the winter. TAP was granted an injunction prohibiting TCEQ’s actions by the District Court.

Decision

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the District Court. The Circuit Court concluded that since the death of the whooping cranes could not directly be proven as a result of the water withdrawal, the District Court had no right to issue an injunction, that acts similarly to a government taking. Therefore, since there is no proximate cause, the Court determined that the injunction was an abuse of discretion by the lower court.

Read the full decision here
decided

Tabling Religious Freedom

Tue, 06/03/2014

Morgan, et al. v. Plano Independent School District, et al.: For an in-class winter party gift exchange, Morgan and his son brought candy canes attached to Bible verses.The principle restricted the religious materials, removing the candy canes to be placed on a back desk, excluding the son from the gift exchange. The father sued alleging a violation of his son’s Second Amendment Rights. The District Court dismissed the case, granting immunity to the principle stating that the principle handled the situation prudently as a professional.

Decision

The Fifth Circuit Court upheld the decision and affirmed that the principle’s actions of excluding the child from the gift exchange and placing the religious material on the back table was what any “responsible” public professional would do. In addition, the Court dismissed the case based on its finding that the father’s argument cannot clearly establish that he and his son had an asserted constitutional right to distribute the candy canes in the first place.

Read full decision here
decided

Licensing Against Freedom of Speech

Mon, 06/02/2014

Kagan, et al. v. City of New Orleans: The City of New Orleans passed a rule requiring tour guides to be licensed in order to lead city historical and cultural tours. Four tour guides filed suit against the city stating that the licensing limited their freedom of speech by controlling what they say while guiding tourists. The District Court declared a summary judgment in favor of New Orleans after its explanation that it licenses to ensure tour quality, not to strictly dictate tour content.

Decision

The Circuit Court upheld and affirmed the decision stating that New Orleans’ licensing law does not infringe upon the tour guides’ freedom of speech. The court stated that they fully understand the motive the city has behind requiring licensing and acknowledges that tour guides still have freedom over their words and actions during their tours.

Read the full decision here

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