Most Viewed Decisions

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT

MARSHALL HUNN, Agent of Hunn Designs, Plaintiff Appellant, v. DAN WILSON HOMES, INCORPORATED; DAN WILSON; BEN J. LACK, Defendants Appellees.

The owner of an architectural design firm appeals judgment against him on his suit alleging that a client and his employee had a secret agreement to cut him out of the business relationship with the client. In light of conflicting testimony, as well as the district court's credibility determinations, the district court did not clearly err in its finding that virtual files contained the same information as the paper files. The employment agreement is devoid of any reference to the topic of confidential information; thus, Fielding's holding-that when an employee expressly promises not to disclose confidential information, an employer impliedly promises to provide that confidential information-is inapposite. The plaintiff created an implied nonexclusive license when he delivered plans (through his agent) without restriction. The district court's judgment is affirmed. HUNN v. DAN WILSON HOMES INC., 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 13-11297, 6/15/15.

13-11297 c/w No. 14-10365
JENNIFER WALKER ELROD

Practice Areas: Intellectual Property

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT

DANIEL F. DEY, Plaintiff - Appellant v. STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant - Appellee

One day after the jury awarded damages of $229,400, the appellee, an insurer, filed a motion to amend the judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). The insurer argued to the district court that the appellant’s recovery was limited to $100,000 because his basis for recovery was his uninsured motorist policy which had a limit of $100,000. The district court granted the motion. A Rule 59(e) motion may be used to correct a manifest error of law or fact. The district court’s judgment is affirmed. DEY v. STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE CO., 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 14-60300, 6/17/15.

14-60300
LESLIE H. SOUTHWICK

Practice Areas: Insurance Law

COURT OF APPEALS OF TEXAS, EIGHTH DISTRICT, EL PASO

IN THE INTEREST OF D.V., A CHILD.

A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to a child. The trial court’s findings under Texas Family Code §161.001(1) are supported by evidence in the record including the appellant’s inability to extract herself from a violent relationship. The trial court’s failure to sua sponte appoint a guardian ad litem was not an abuse of discretion, even considering the appellant’s mental health issues; trial counsel didn’t request an ad litem, and the record shows that counsel presented an admirable case. The trial court’s judgment is affirmed. IN THE INTEREST OF D.V., El Paso Court of Appeals, No. 08-15-00037-CV, 6/3/15.

08-15-00037-CV
ANN CRAWFORD McCLURE

Practice Areas: Family Law

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT

ALBERT WOODFOX, PetitionerAppellee, v. BURL CAIN, Warden, Louisiana State Penitentiary; James Caldwell, RespondentsAppellants.

The district court entered an unconditional writ releasing the petitioner and prohibiting retrial, and it declined to stay its order. The state moves for an emergency stay of the release pending appeal. There is a presumption that a prisoner who has been granted habeas relief is entitled to release from custody, but it is rebuttable. The state is likely to succeed on the merits. The unique and extreme facts of Schuster — in which a defendant was permanently discharged from custody despite the defendant's allegedly clear guilt — are completely inapposite to the case at hand. There is a substantial interest in staying the release of a person, twice convicted of murder, from being released from a life sentence without the possibility of parole. The state's motion for a stay is granted, and the appeal is sua sponte ordered expedited. WOODFOX v. CAIN, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 15-30506, 6/12/15.

15-30506
JERRY E. SMITH

Practice Areas: Criminal Law

COURT OF APPEALS OF TEXAS, FOURTEENTH DISTRICT, HOUSTON

JAMES ALAN JENKINS, Appellant v. THE STATE OF TEXAS, Appellee

The appellant challenges his conviciton of allegedly illegally voting in an election in which he knew he was not eligible to vote. Texas Penal Code §8.03 by its terms may be applied to negate the culpable mental state of an alleged offense when an accused contends that he reasonably believed his conduct was not criminal based on his reasonable reliance on official statements or interpretations of the law. The affirmative defense of mistake of law is not subject to the confession and avoidance doctrine. The appellant was not required to admit to the commission of a criminal offense or concede that he erroneously relied on the law to be entitled to a jury instruction on mistake of law. The trial court’s judgment is reversed and remanded. JENKINS v. STATE, Houston’s 14th Court of Appeals, No. 14-13-00662-CR, 6/4/15.

14-13-00662-CR
Ken Wise

Practice Areas: Criminal Law

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT

JOSE MANUEL RODRIGUEZ-AVALOS, Petitioner v. ERIC H. HOLDER, JR., U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL, Respondent

The Board of Immigration Appeals held that the prison sentence the petitioner served following his conviction for allegedly falsely and willfully representing himself as a United States citizen, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §911, barred him from demonstrating the "good moral character" necessary to be statutorily eligible for relief from removal pursuant to 8 U.S.C. §1229b(b)(1). The unambiguous plain text of 8 U.S.C. §1101(f)(7) renders the petitioner statutorily ineligible for cancellation of removal based on his incarceration in excess of 180 days as a result of conviction, regardless of whether his conviction is categorically a crime involving moral turpitude. The BIA's interpretation of the stop time rule of 8 U.S.C. § 1229b(d)(1) is reasonable. Tthe 10-year period during which a petitioner must establish good moral character for purposes of cancellation of removal is measured backward from the date of the final administrative decision regarding the petitioner's application for cancellation of removal. The petition for review is denied. RODRIGUEZ-AVALOS v. HOLDER, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 13-60736, 6/9/15.

13-60736

Practice Areas: Immigration Law

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT

IRONSHORE SPECIALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff - Appellant v. ASPEN UNDERWRITING, LIMITED; DORNOCH, LIMITED, Defendants - Appellees

The defendants contend that insurance policies incorporate a $5 million limit because the policies refer to a master services agreement with a minimum insurance provision. As an Erie guess, the "Insured Contract" provision was a sufficient ground in Deepwater Horizon to incorporate the Drilling Contract's limitation on coverage for above-surface pollution. The nearly identical language here compels the result that the limitation applies. The district court’s summary judgment in favor of the defendants is affirmed. IRONSHORE SPECIALTY INSURANCE CO. v. ASPEN UNDERWRITING LIMITED, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 13-51027, 6/10/15.

13-51027
GREGG COSTA

Practice Areas: Insurance Law

COURT OF APPEALS OF TEXAS, FIFTH DISTRICT, DALLAS

JEFFREY LEIBOVITZ AND SEQUOIA FRANKFORD SPRINGS 23, L.P., Appellants v. SEQUOIA REAL ESTATE HOLDINGS, L.P., Appellee

The appellants challenge the trial court's judgment enjoining them from breaching a settlement agreement, awarding one appellant damages of $2,500 against the other appellant for breach of the settlement agreement, and awarding the appellee attorney's fees of $200,000 against both appellants. In some situations, the parties can agree in the contract to waive the right to assert fraud as a defense to breach of the contract by expressly disclaiming reliance. Under the six factors in Forest Oil Corp., the agreement's provision that appellants disclaimed the element of reliance necessary to bring a fraudulent concealment, fraudulent inducement, or fraud by nondisclosure affirmative defense is enforceable against appellants as a matter of law. The trial court’s judgment is affirmed. LEIBOVITZ v. SEQUOIA REAL ESTATE HOLDINGS L.P., Dallas Court of Appeals, No. 05-14-00125-CV, 5/29/15.

05-14-00125-CV
LANA MYERS

Practice Areas: Appellate Law - Civil

COURT OF APPEALS OF TEXAS, FOURTEENTH DISTRICT, HOUSTON

JOEL NAVARRO, Appellant v. THE STATE OF TEXAS, Appellee

The state argued that a finding of intoxication under the per se theory of intoxication could be based on the alcohol content of appellant's blood plasma rather than his whole blood. The state concedes error but argues that the judgment should be reformed to reflect a conviction for a Class B misdemeanor, and the case should be remanded for a new punishment hearing only. A person's alcohol concentration level is an element of the offense and not a basis for enhancement. “Blood" as used in the definition of "alcohol concentration" does not mean "blood plasma" or any other "component" of blood. A judgment of acquital is rendered on the Class A misdemeanor for driving while intoxicated. As to the Class B alleged offense, the trial court’s judgment is reversed and remanded for new trial. JOEL NAVARRO, Appellant v. THE STATE OF TEXAS, Appellee 14-13-00706-CR, 5/28/15.

14-13-00706-CR
Tracy Christopher

Practice Areas: Criminal Law

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee v. SANDRA LISSETH CEBALLOS, Defendant-Appellant

The appellant challenges her conviction for allegedly transporting, allegedly attempting to transport, and allegedly engaging in a conspiracy to transport an alien within the United States for private financial gain. A permissible waiver of the right of confrontation is not contingent on evidence that the defendant affirmatively agreed to counsel's stipulation; she just must not dissent from that decision. Stephens, holding that counsel in a criminal case may waive his client's Sixth Amendment right of confrontation by stipulating to the admission of evidence, remains binding in the 5th Circuit. The conviction is affirmed. UNITED STATES v. CEBALLOS, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 13-50786, 6/16/15.

13-50786
EDWARD C. PRADO

Practice Areas: Criminal Law