US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Opinions
June Medical Svcs v. Phillips
Opinion Date: September 21, 2022
Judge: E. Grady Jolly
Areas of Law: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law
Following Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org., 142 S. Ct. 2228 (2022), the State of Louisiana filed an “emergency Rule 60(b) motion to vacate permanent injunction” concerning the enforcement of Act 620, which requires physicians performing abortions to have “active admitting privileges” within thirty miles of the facility at which the abortions are performed. La. R.S. 40:1299.35.2(A)(2). It requested relief forthwith or, alternatively, relief within two days of filing its motion. Two days later, the district court denied the State’s motion. The State immediately filed an “emergency motion for reconsideration” and requested a ruling by the next day. The district court again denied the State’s motion.
The Fifth Circuit dismissed the appeal holding that the court lacks appellate jurisdiction. The court explained the district court’s orders cannot be read to have denied the underlying request for relief when the district court implicitly and explicitly stated its intent to defer a ruling on the matter. Further, the court reasoned that to have the “practical effect” of refusing to dissolve an injunction, the State must show that the orders have a “direct impact on the merits of the controversy.” The court noted that the district court’s orders did not touch the merits of the State’s underlying request for relief but, for the same reasons stated earlier, acted as the functional equivalent of a scheduling order. Lastly, the court held that the State has not shown it is entitled to mandamus.
US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Opinions
NetChoice v. Paxton
Opinion Date: September 16, 2022
Judge: Andrew S. Oldham
Areas of Law: Constitutional Law
This case involves HB 20, a Texas statute that regulates large social media platforms. The law regulates platforms with more than 50 million monthly active users (“Platforms”), such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Tex. Bus. & Com. Code Section 120.002(b). In enacting HB 20, the Texas legislature found that the Platforms “function as common carriers are affected with a public interest, are central public forums for public debate, and have enjoyed governmental support in the United States.” The platforms urged the Fifth Circuit to hold that the statute is facially unconstitutional and hence cannot be applied to anyone at any time and under any circumstances.
The Fifth Circuit vacated the preliminary injunction, explaining that the court rejects the idea that corporations have a freewheeling First Amendment right to censor what people say. The court explained that the Platforms’ attempt to extract freewheeling censorship right from the Constitution’s free speech guarantee. The Platforms are not newspapers. Their censorship is not speech. They’re not entitled to pre-enforcement facial relief. And HB 20 is constitutional because it neither compels nor obstructs the Platforms’ own speech in any way. The district court erred in concluding otherwise and abused its discretion by issuing a preliminary injunction.
Louisiana Supreme Court Opinions
Carollo v. Louisiana Dept. of Transportation & Development
Opinion Date: September 9, 2022
Judge: John L. Weimer
Areas of Law: Civil Procedure, Government & Administrative Law, Personal Injury
Certiorari was granted in this case to resolve a split in the decisions of the Louisiana courts of appeal regarding the relationship between La. C.C.P. art. 425 and the res judicata statutes, La. R.S. 13:4231 and 13:4232. Particularly, the Supreme Court considered whether Article 425 was an independent claim preclusion provision apart from res judicata such that identity of parties was not required to preclude a subsequent suit, or whether Article 425 merely referenced the requirements of res judicata and thus a claim could not be precluded unless it was between the same parties as a prior suit. After reviewing the law and the arguments of the parties, the Louisiana Supreme Court found Article 425 functioned simply as a measure that put litigants on notice at the outset and, during the course of litigation, all causes of action arising out of the transaction or occurrence that is the subject matter of the litigation must be asserted. "Rather than have independent enforcement effect, Article 425 operates in tandem with and is enforced through the exception of res judicata. Because Article 425 is enforced through res judicata, all elements of res judicata–including identity of parties–must be satisfied for a second suit to be precluded."
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Loggerhead Holdings v. BP
Opinion Date: September 2, 2022
Judge: Leslie H. Southwick
Areas of Law: Energy, Oil & Gas Law, Personal Injury
Loggerhead Holdings, Inc., a holding company that owned a scuba diving cruise business, was one of many plaintiffs who brought suit against an oil company because of the explosion of an offshore drilling rig and the resulting discharge of a massive quantity of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Loggerhead’s claims were dismissed on summary judgment.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court explained that Loggerhead had been able to continue operations for several years despite its fraught financial condition, and indeed despite reporting net losses on its taxes for the three years preceding the disastrous events of April 2010 in the Gulf. Whether it could have continued to survive, if not thrive, had the April events not occurred presents a fact question. Thus, the court concluded that a reasonable factfinder could find the requisite causal link between the Deepwater Horizon disaster and Loggerhead’s demise. Summary judgment should not have been granted.
However, because Loggerhead was not able to offer more than Dixon’s allegations and an unsupported estimate — evidence “so weak or tenuous on an essential fact that it could not support a judgment in favor of the nonmovant” — the district court properly granted BP’s motion for summary judgment on the Section 2702(b)(2)(B) claim.
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