Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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The ATF revoked Cash Cow Pawn Shop's federal firearms license (FFL) after numerous violations of the Gun Control Act. The district court affirmed the revocation decision. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment against Cash Cow, holding that a single willful violation of the Act sufficed to sustain the ATF's revocation decision; in the alternative, the mere fact that Cash Cow's other violations were paperwork violations did not make them any less serious or less willful; the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Cash Cow's motion to compel the ATF to turn over its internal investigation file on Cash Cow because the district court found that it needed no additional evidence beyond the administrative record to rule on the pending motion for summary judgment; and the court was unclear as to what relief Cash Cow was seeking by raising a challenge to the district court's decision to decline to enforce an automatic stay under FRCP 62(a). View "Fairmont Cash Management v. James" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was injured while riding her bicycle over a ramp at DeSoto National Forest, she filed suit against government officials under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 2671-2680. Plaintiff alleged that defendants failed to inspect and maintain the bicycle trails, and failed to warn her of the hazard. The district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss. The court concluded that the FTCA's discretionary function exception barred plaintiff's claim. In this case, the relevant Manual and Handbook provisions contemplate an element of choice as to how USFS employees inspect and maintain the trails, and the manner in which the USFS officials inspected and maintained the trails was susceptible to policy considerations. In regard to plaintiff's failure to warn claim, the court explained that it was difficult to conceive of a provision mandating the USFS to take specific action to warn the public about unknown hazards. Even if the court did not accept the district court's findings with respect to the USFS having no knowledge of the bridge, the court concluded that the discretionary exception would still apply. Here, plaintiff failed to identify specific provisions that mandate an approach to creating or placing closure signs in these circumstances, and the USFS's decision about how to post notice of the closed trail was based on considerations of social, economic, or political public policy. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Gonzalez v. United States" on Justia Law

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Air Evac filed suit against state defendants, claiming that, as applied to air-ambulance entities, Texas' workers'-compensation system was federally preempted. Air Evac argued that, because the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA), 49 U.S.C. 4173(b)(1), expressly preempted all state laws related to a price, route, or service of an air carrier, Texas may not use state laws to regulate air-ambulance services. The district court granted state defendants' motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1). The court concluded that Air Evac had Article III standing because it had a pecuniary injury that could be redressed with injunctive and declaratory relief; Shaw v. Delta Air Lines, Inc. conferred federal-question jurisdiction because Air Evac's complaint sought injunctive relief on the basis that the ADA preempted Texas law; the Ex parte Young exception applied to this case where, to the extent Ex parte Young required that the state actor "threaten" or "commence" proceedings to enforce the unconstitutional act, state defendants' pervasive enforcement satisfied that test; and the court declined to exercise abstention under Colorado River Water Conservation District v. United States. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Air Evac EMS, Inc. v. State of Texas, Department of Insurance" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a national association of charter-bus companies, sought to enjoin regulations affecting their operations enacted by the City of Austin. At issue was whether federal law preempted the City's exercise of its regulatory authority over the intrastate operation of charter buses. The court affirmed the district court's holding that the regulations were not preempted. The arguments about preemption were based on a federal statute captioned "Federal authority over intrastate transportation." See 49 U.S.C. 14501. The court agreed with the district court's conclusion that section 14501(c)(2)(A) may appropriately be considered in interpreting and applying section 14501(a)(2), because both subsections use identical language. The court concluded that the distinctions between sections 14501(a) and (c) do not persuade it to construe "safety regulatory authority" more narrowly in the former than in the latter. The court applied a test that was similar to the Ninth Circuit, concluding that, in light of the permitting regulation's expressed purpose and effect, there was a safety motivation for the ordinance, and there was a nexus between the permitting regulations and the safety concern. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United Motorcoach Association, Inc. v. City of Austin" on Justia Law

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Seymour filed suit challenging DHHS's decision, founded on a manual that defined "primary roads" as numbered federal highways and defined "secondary roads" as non-primary roads, that it was not a critical access hospital. The district court granted summary judgment for DHHS. The court applied deference under Skidmore v. Swift & Co., and concluded that DHHS's approach was neither arbitrary nor unreasoned nor did it rely on irrelevant considerations in attempting to fulfill Congressional intent. In this case, the agency considered, among other things, more than a road's alphanumeric designation, and the agency's premise was that ordinarily, federal highways are likely to be bigger, better-maintained, and more well-traveled than state highways. DHHS's decision reflected the general conclusion that federal highways offer superior conditions than state highways. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Baylor County Hospital District v. Price" on Justia Law

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Delek petitions for review of OSHA citations for violations of its process safety management rules, which govern an employer’s responsibility to inspect, and to develop inspection and recording regimes for, machinery that handles large volumes of hazardous chemicals. Item 4 alleges a failure to resolve open findings and recommendations identified during process hazard analyses that occurred in 1994, 1998, 1999, 2004, and 2005—prior to Delek purchasing and taking possession of the refinery. Item 8 alleges an inadequate monitoring and inspection regime for certain equipment involved in process safety management. Item 12 alleges that Delek failed to determine and document a response to the findings of a 2005 compliance audit in a timely manner. Item 12 was also conducted before Delek took possession of the refinery. The court concluded that citations for Items 4 and 12 are barred by the six-month statute of limitations in 29 U.S.C. 658(c). Accordingly, the court vacated those items. The court also concluded that the regulations relevant to the citation for Item 8 are ambiguous and the Secretary's interpretation is reasonable. The court affirmed the citation for Item 8. View "Delek Refining, Ltd. v. OSHC" on Justia Law

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West Texas LTC Partners, Inc., doing business as Cedar Manor Nursing & Rehabilitation Center ("Cedar Manor"), appealed a Departmental Appeals Board ("DAB") of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ("HHS") decision. In 2013, Cedar Manor was surveyed by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services ("DADS"). The surveyor found Cedar Manor out of compliance with three regulations after observing the care provided to two wheelchair-bound residents, Resident #1 and Resident #4. Early the next year, DADS found additional violations of several regulations. The surveys were conducted by a designated state agency on behalf of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services ("CMS") of HHS. The findings were reviewed by CMS, and civil money penalties ("CMPs") or other remedies may be imposed by the Secretary of HHS if the facility was found noncompliant. For the two sets of violations, CMS recommended two CMPs: $6,050 per day for three days, and $350 per day for forty-two days, to run consecutively from the end of an "immediate hazard" penalty. Cedar Manor appealed the findings and CMPs and requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). CMS moved for summary judgment on all of the violations after the briefing and evidence were submitted. The ALJ granted summary judgment and upheld the CMPs. On de novo review, the DAB affirmed. The Fifth Circuit found that the DAB decision was neither arbitrary and capricious nor unsupported by substantial evidence, it denied Cedar Manor's petition for review. View "West Texas LTC Partners, Inc. v. Dept. of Health & Hum. Svcs." on Justia Law

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A group of Houston-area pastors and a council representing the interests of Houston-area pastors challenged the dismissal of their claims against Annise Parker, the former mayor of Houston. This case stemmed from a heated dispute surrounding the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance ("HERO"), enacted by the city council in 2014. HERO was controversial; its supporters claimed it was a garden-variety non-discrimination ordinance mainly designed to prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered ("LGBT") persons, while its opponents maintained that it granted LGBT individuals special privileges and that, to avoid rejection, it was rammed through the council instead of being put to referendum. The district court found, variously, that plaintiffs lacked standing, that they failed to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), that they failed to show Parker was not immune from suit, and that res judicata barred their claims. Because the claims are non-justiciable, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal. View "Williams v. Parker" on Justia Law

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The Commission issued two citations to Noranda and assessed penalties for the citations. Noranda's upper management and counsel later realized that the assessment had been paid even though Noranda apparently had intended to contest the citations rather than pay the assessment. Noranda petitions for review of the Commission's order denying a motion to reopen, seeking to adjudicate the citation and penalty on the merits. Because the Commission has not applied its "internal processing system" rule consistently, the court found that the Commission abused its discretion by arbitrarily denying Noranda’s motion to reopen. Accordingly, the court granted the petition and remanded for further proceedings. On remand, the court noted that the Commission may very well deny Noranda’s motion to reopen, but it must do so with more clarity than it showed in the first instance. View "Noranda Alumina, LLC. v. Perez" on Justia Law

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Integrity and Buentello filed suit against the City, alleging that its refusal to include them on the non-consent tow list violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. On appeal, the City challenged the district court's order requiring it to include plaintiffs on the City's non-consent tow list and to develop neutral criteria for that list. The court has previously held that a class-of-one equal-protection claim is unavailable in a public employment context. The court concluded that this conclusion logically applies as well to a local government’s discretionary decision to include or not include a company on a non-consent tow list. In the alternative, the court concluded that Integrity and Buentello’s class-of-one equal-protection claim fails because they have not shown that the City had a discriminatory intent and because the City has a rational basis for excluding them. Accordingly, the court reversed and rendered a judgment of dismissal for the City. View "Integrity Collision Center v. City of Fulshear" on Justia Law