Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
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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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Petitioners Wages and White Lion Investments, LLC, d/b/a Triton Distribution (“Triton”) and Vapetasia, LLC (“Vapetasia”) sought to market flavored nicotine-containing e-liquids for use in open-system e-cigarette devices. Petitioners needed to submit premarket tobacco product applications as required by 21 U.S.C. Section 387j—which the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) deemed applicable to e-cigarette tobacco products. FDA denied the requested marketing authorizations, finding that Petitioners failed to offer reliable and robust evidence (such as randomized controlled trials or longitudinal studies) to overcome the risks of youth addiction and show a benefit to adult smokers. Petitioners sought review of those marketing denial orders (“MDOs”), and prior to the consolidation of the two cases. Petitioners argued that the FDA lacks the authority to impose a comparative efficacy requirement and that FDA acted arbitrarily and capriciously by “requiring” scientific studies.   The Eleventh Circuit denied the petitions for review. The court explained that Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (“TCA”) in an active effort to protect public health. Relevant here, the Deeming Rule subjected e-cigarette manufacturers to the TCA’s prior authorization requirement—manufacturers of “new tobacco product[s]” must submit premarket tobacco product applications (“PMTAs”). The court held that the FDA’s consideration of the lack of cessation as a risk and comparing that risk between new tobacco products and old tobacco products “fall[s] squarely within the ambit of the FDA’s expertise and merit[s] deference.”  As such, the court cannot say that FDA acted arbitrarily and capriciously by disagreeing with Petitioners as to the significance of the evidence they presented. View "Wages and White Lion Investmen v. FDA" on Justia Law

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After a man was found incompetent to stand trial, and his civil commitment proceeding was dismissed, he stayed in jail for six more years. Plaintiff, the man’s guardian, filed suit against the District Attorney, Sheriffs, and Clay County under Section 1983, challenging the man’s years-long detention.   The district court first dismissed the District Attorney from the case. However, the court determined that the Sheriffs were not entitled to qualified immunity on the detention claim because their constitutional violations were obvious. It denied summary judgment to Clay County too, finding that there was strong evidence that the Sheriffs were final policymakers for the county.   The Fifth Circuit dismissed Clay County’s appeal for lack of jurisdiction and affirmed the district court’s denial of summary judgment as to the Sheriffs.  The court first held that it lacked jurisdiction over the ruling keeping Clay County in the case. The Court explained that, unlike the Sheriffs, municipalities do not enjoy immunity. Further, the court wrote it did not have pendent party jurisdiction over Clay County. Defendants assume that if Clay County’s liability is “inextricably intertwined” with that of the individual officers, that provides “support [for] pendent appellate jurisdiction.” But the court has never permitted pendent party (as opposed to pendent claim) interlocutory jurisdiction.   Further, taking the evidence in Plaintiff’s favor, the Sheriffs violated the man’s due process right by detaining him for six years in violation of the commit-or-release rule and the circuit court’s order enforcing that rule. The court explained that it was clearly established that the Sheriffs could be liable for a violation of the man’s clearly established due process right. View "Harris v. Clay County, MS" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs were tenants at Arbor Court, a Houston apartment complex that received subsidies from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”). After flooding that occurred during Hurricane Harvey, Arbor Court’s owner failed to maintain the property in decent, safe, and sanitary condition. Accordingly, HUD approved a transfer of the complex’s subsidy to a different property, offering Arbor Court tenants a choice between moving at no cost to the new property or receiving housing vouchers that they could use at new housing of their choice. After choosing the latter option, Plaintiffs sued HUD, seeking relocation assistance under the Uniform Relocation Act (“URA”). The district court dismissed the complaint.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal. The court held that Plaintiffs are not entitled to relocation assistance under the URA. The court explained, as required by statute, Plaintiffs have not pled that they moved from Arbor Court “as a direct result of a written notice of intent to acquire or the acquisition of such real property [i.e. Arbor Court] in whole or in part for a program or project undertaken by a Federal agency or with Federal financial assistance.” Plaintiffs argued that under the applicable Department of Transportation (“DOT”) regulations, the Section 8(bb) subsidy transfer from Arbor Court to Cullen Park qualifies as “such other displacing activity.” However, this regulation merely defines the phrase “program or project.” It does not prescribe any “displacing activit[ies]” that cause one to become a “displaced person” under the URA. View "Jackson v. HUD" on Justia Law

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In this case involving a dispute related to Texas liquor laws, the court previously certified the following two questions to the Supreme Court of Texas:1.) Does Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code Section 22.16(f) “continue[] to exempt a public corporation if that corporation sells some or all its shares to a non-exempt corporation, and, if so,2.) Whether the exempt corporation can acquire additional package store permits.The Supreme Court of Texas affirmatively answered both questions, resolving the appeal. Thus, the court reversed the district court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Gabriel Invst v. Texas Alcoholic" on Justia Law

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On December 14, 2021, the Fifth Circuit issued an opinion in this case, upholding the district court's rejection of Plaintiff's challenge to an ATF rule determining that bump stocks are "machineguns" for purposes of the National Firearms Act (NFA) and the federal statutory bar on the possession or sale of new machine guns.However, after a majority of the eligible circuit judges voted in favor of hearing the case en banc, the court vacated its prior opinion so the entire court could hear the case. View "Cargill v. Garland" on Justia Law

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The Texas Legislature limited beer-to-go sales to brewers and manufacturers that produced no more than 225,000 barrels annually “at all premises [they] wholly or partly owned.” Tex. Alco. Bev. Code Ann. Sections 62.122(a) and 12.052(a).   The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) ordered CANarchy to cease and desist after it determined that CANarchy’s facilities collectively exceeded the 225,000-barrel limit. CANarchy complied with the order but then filed suit, seeking a declaratory judgment that the 225,000- barrel threshold did not apply to barrels produced at leased premises. The district court agreed with CANarchy that “premises wholly or partly owned” do not include leased premises and granted it summary judgment.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order granting Plaintiff’s motion for a declaratory judgment. The court held that “premises wholly or partly owned” do not include leased premises and granted it summary judgment.   The court wrote, “it is the Legislature’s prerogative to enact statutes; it is the judiciary’s responsibility to interpret those statutes according to the language the Legislature used, absent a context indicating a different meaning or the result of the plain meaning of the language yielding absurd or nonsensical results.” Here, the ordinary definition of “owned,” when applied to sections 12.052(a) and 62.122(a) of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code, establishes that the 225,000-barrel production threshold set in those statutes encompasses only barrels produced at premises owned by the brewer, either in whole or in part, and not at premises leased by the brewer. View "CANarchy Craft Brewery v. Texas Alcoholic" on Justia Law

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The Department of Public Safety and Corrections (“DPSC”) regularly engages local parish jails to house convicted state prisoners. Five of the locally housed prisoners brought claims under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 against local jail officials and DPSC officials. They alleged that the DPSC officials, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, looked away from the administrative failure they knew was leaving prisoners in jail who had served their sentences. The DPSC officials challenged the district court’s denial of qualified immunity.   Plaintiffs proceeded against Defendants under two theories, arguing that DPSC officials violated the Plaintiffs’ clearly established right to timely release from prison by: (1) failing to adopt policies ensuring the timely release of DPSC prisoners; and (2) directly participating in the conduct that caused their over detention.   The Fifth Circuit concluded that a reasonable jury could find that Defendants knew of a “pattern of similar constitutional violations,” such that their inaction amounted to a disregard of an obvious risk. DPSC’s Lean Six Sigma study revealed that 2,252 DPSC prisoners were annually held past their release date. Defendants cannot avoid the evidence that the study exposed unlawful detentions of prisoners. A reasonable factfinder could conclude that Defendants’ awareness of this pattern of delays and their conscious decision not to address it rises to the level of deliberate indifference. Further, because a reasonable jury may find that Defendants’ inaction was objectively unreasonable in light of this clearly established law, they have failed to show they are entitled to qualified immunity. View "Crittindon, et al v. LeBlanc, et al" on Justia Law

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The City of New Orleans (the “City”) implemented a program called the Automated Traffic Enforcement System (“ATES”), which used mail to collect fines for traffic violations captured by street cameras. Plaintiffs alleged that the city violated the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments by confiscating their property and keeping it without just compensation. The City moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim and on interlocutory appeal under 28 U.S.C. Section 1292(b) certified one question: whether the failure to comply with a state court judgment may be construed as a taking?   The Fifth Circuit answered in the negative. The court reasoned that Plaintiffs do not and could not argue that the extraction of fines under ATES was a taking. The court explained that takings are generally effected through the power of eminent domain. In this case, the City acquired Plaintiffs’ money not through eminent domain nor through any other lawful power, but rather through ultra vires implementation of ATES. That posture makes this case unlike prototypical takings actions. Further, Plaintiffs conceive of the city as “taking” their money in 2019, even when that money had been in the city’s possession since 2010 at the latest. And they insist that the City’s conduct from 2008 to 2010 was necessary to effect a taking that did not actually arise until 2019. Such a theory sits uneasily with a linear conception of time and is not rooted in the text of the Fifth Amendment. Thus, Plaintiffs are left with no plausible allegation that the city has effected a taking of their property. View "Lafaye v. City of New Orleans" on Justia Law

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Appellant is a pipeline-inspection company that hires inspectors and sends them to work for its clients. When Plaintiff was hired, Appellant had him sign an Employment Agreement that contained an arbitration clause. That arbitration provision explained that Plaintiff and Appellant agree to arbitrate all claims that have arisen or will arise out of Plaintiff’s employment. Appellant staffed Plaintiff on a project with Defendant, a diversified energy company that stores and transports natural gas and crude oil.   Alleging that the Fair Labor Standards Act entitled him to overtime pay, Plaintiff filed a collective action against Defendant; he brought no claims against Appellant. Appellant moved to intervene. The magistrate judge granted that motion, explaining that Appellant met the criteria for both permissive intervention and intervention as of right. Appellant claimed that it was an “aggrieved party” under Section 4 of the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) and thus could compel arbitration. The magistrate judge rejected all the motions. The district court affirmed.   The Fifth Circuit dismissed for lack of jurisdiction Appellant’s appeal. The court held that Appellant is not an aggrieved party under Section 4 of the FAA and cannot compel arbitration. The court explained it is only where the arbitration may not proceed under the provisions of the contract without a court order that the other party is really aggrieved. Here, Plaintiff only promised to arbitrate claims brought against Appellant. Claiming that Plaintiff did not arbitrate its claims with Defendant is therefore not an allegation that he violated his agreement with Appellant. View "Hinkle v. Phillips 66 Company" on Justia Law