Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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Five voters filed suit against defendants, alleging that they had been disqualified in an election in violation of their rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Fifth Circuit held that this appeal presented a state election contest for a legislative seat and thus the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal. View "Keyes v. Gunn" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed and rendered the district court's permanent injunction enjoining Senate Bill 14 and 5, which concerned the state's former photo voter ID law. SB 14 generally required voters to present one of five forms of government-issued identification in order to vote at the polls. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's finding that SB 14 had an unlawful disparate impact on African American and Hispanic voters in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. However, the en banc court reversed and remanded. The district court then entered an interim remedy whereby in-person voters who lacked an SB 14 ID could cast a regular ballot upon completing a Declaration of Reasonable Impediment and presenting a specified form of identification. SB 5 was subsequently enacted as a legislative remedy to cure and replace SB 14. The district court subsequently entered a remedial order permanently enjoining SB 14 as well as SB 5, vacating the interim remedy, and reinstating the pre-SB 14 law that lacked any photo voter ID requirement. This court then granted the State's emergency motion and stayed the district court's orders until the final disposition of the appeal. The court held that the appeal was not moot and the district court's overreach in its remedial injunction and proceedings was an abuse of discretion meriting reversal. The court held that, under the circumstances of this case, the district court had no legal or factual basis to invalidate SB 5, and its contemplation of Section 3(c) of the VRA relief also failed. View "Veasey v. Abbott" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former Austin City Councilmember, filed suit challenging four provisions of Austin's campaign-finance law: a base limit on contributions to candidates; an aggregate limit on contributions from persons outside of the Austin area; a temporal restriction prohibiting all contributions before the six months leading up to an election; and a disgorgement provision requiring candidates to distribute excess campaign funds remaining at the end of an election. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision upholding the base limit; holding that plaintiff lacked standing to challenge the aggregate limit because he had not established a sufficient injury-in-fact traceable to that limit; holding that Austin had failed to establish that the six-month temporal limit on fundraising served the interest of preventing actual corruption or its appearance; and holding that plaintiff had standing to challenge the disgorgement provision and the disgorgement provision was unconstitutional. View "Zimmerman v. Austin, Texas" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former Austin City Councilmember, filed suit challenging four provisions of Austin's campaign-finance law: a base limit on contributions to candidates; an aggregate limit on contributions from persons outside of the Austin area; a temporal restriction prohibiting all contributions before the six months leading up to an election; and a disgorgement provision requiring candidates to distribute excess campaign funds remaining at the end of an election. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision upholding the base limit; holding that plaintiff lacked standing to challenge the aggregate limit because he had not established a sufficient injury-in-fact traceable to that limit; holding that Austin had failed to establish that the six-month temporal limit on fundraising served the interest of preventing actual corruption or its appearance; and holding that plaintiff had standing to challenge the disgorgement provision and the disgorgement provision was unconstitutional. View "Zimmerman v. Austin, Texas" on Justia Law

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The Texas Legislature enacted SB 5 in 2016 to cure any statutory and constitutional violations related to SB 14 after Veasey v. Abbott, 830 F.3d 216 (5th Cir. 2016) (en banc). The district court permanently enjoined the enforcement of relevant sections of SB 14 and SB 5 and also enjoined upcoming elections under an interim order. The Fifth Circuit granted a stay pending appeal, stayed the district court's injunction orders, and stayed proceedings in the district court until a final disposition of this appeal. In this case, SB 5 allows voters without qualifying photo ID to cast regular ballots by executing a declaration that they face a reasonable impediment to obtaining qualifying photo ID. The court explained that this declaration is made under the penalty of perjury, and each of the 27 voters identified—whose testimony the plaintiffs used to support their discriminatory-effect claim—can vote without impediment under SB 5. The court held that the State has made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits because its reasonable-impediment procedure remedies plaintiffs' alleged harm and foreclosed plaintiffs' injunctive relief. The State has also made an adequate showing as to the other factors considered in determining a stay pending appeal. View "Veasey v. Abbott" on Justia Law

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The limitation on voter choice expressed in Tex. Elec. Code 61.033 impermissibly narrows the right guaranteed by Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act. In this case, OCA challenged the Texas voting law, which imposes a restriction on the interpretation assistance that English-limited voters may receive. The district court entered summary judgment for OCA and issued an injunction against Texas. After determining that it had jurisdiction, the Fifth Circuit held that the VRA validly abrogated state sovereign immunity; the Texas statute could not restrict the federally guaranteed right to the act of casting a ballot by enacting a statute tracking its language, then defining terms more restrictively than as federally defined; but the injunction exceeded the scope of the parties' presentation. Accordingly, the court vacated the injunction and remanded for the entry of a new injunction. The court affirmed in all other respects. View "OCA-Greater Houston v. Texas" on Justia Law