Take the Fifth: March 18, 2021 opinions

Designated for publication

  • Franco v. Mabe Trucking Co., 19-30316, appeal from W.D. La.
    • Dennis, J. (King, Jones, Dennis), Jones, J., dissenting; negligence, timeliness, transfer of venue
    • Reversing summary judgment in favor of defendant in car-wreck case on grounds of timeliness/prescription, and remanding for further proceedings.
    • This suit arose from a wreck that happened in Louisiana three miles from the Texas border. The plaintiff filed suit two days before the one-year anniversary from the wreck in the Eastern District of Texas. Finding that it would not have personal jurisdiction over the defendant and that venue was therefore improper, the Eastern District of Texas transferred the matter to the Western District of Louisiana “in the interests of justice,” though without overtly citing to 28 U.S.C. § 1631. The Western District of Louisiana, on reconsideration of an earlier denial of a motion to dismiss, held that the plaintiff had not interrupted the one-year prescriptive period under Louisiana law by filing suit in the Eastern District of Texas because that court was not “a court of competent jurisdiction and venue” under La. Civ. Code art. 3462.
    • 28 U.S.C. § 1631 provides, “Whenever a civil action is filed in a court as defined in section 610 of this title … and that court finds that there is a want of jurisdiction, the court shall, if it is in the interest of justice, transfer such action or appeal to any other such court … in which the action or appeal could have been brought at the time it was filed …, and the action or appeal shall proceed as if it had been filed in … the court to which it is transferred on the date upon which it was actually filed in … the court from which it is transferred.” In a question of first impression in the Fifth Circuit, the Court held that “want of jurisdiction” in § 1631 encompasses a lack of either subject-matter jurisdiction or personal jurisdiction.
    • The Court then held that, because the Texas district court’s transfer order invoked the lack of personal jurisdiction and the “in the interest of justice” standard, the Louisiana district court correctly held in its initial ruling that the transfer was a § 1631 transfer in every respect but name. “Therefore, the provisions of § 1631 apply irrespective of the Texas district court’s invocation of § 1406(a).”
    • The Court then rejected the defendant’s argument that § 1631’s provision that a transferred action should be treated “as if” it had been originally filed in the transferee court was in conflict with substantive Louisiana law regarding the interruption of prescription. The Court held first that Erie did not command the disregarding of the federal statute; “The Erie doctrine is not implicated when a valid federal rule or statute directly governs the matter at issue. … There is little doubt that § 1631 falls within Congress’s authority to prescribe rules for the operation of federal courts.” The Court therefore held that the plaintiff’s suit was timely filed within Louisiana’s one-year prescriptive period. “[T]he plain language of the statute governs when and where Franco’s claim must be considered to have been filed. To regard Franco’s action as filed on any date other than the day it was filed in the Texas district court would be to ignore § 1631’s directive that the date of filing shall be fixed as ‘the date upon which it was actually filed in … the court from which it is transferred.’ And to treat Franco’s claim as if it were filed in an incompetent court would be to write out § 1631’s mandate that ‘the action or appeal shall proceed as if it had been filed in … the court to which it is transferred.'”
    • Judge Jones dissented, opining that the majority opinion “ignores” half of Louisiana Civil Code article 3462, “thus depriving state prescription law of its complete meaning.”


  • Smith v. France, 19-30575, appeal from E.D. La.
    • per curiam (Jones, Elrod, Higginson), Americans with Disabilities Act
    • Affirming injunctive relief and damages against Superdome operator SMG under the ADA, but vacating injunctive relief award against SMG’s CEO.
  • U.S. v. Mobley, 19-60862, appeal from S.D. Miss.
    • per curiam (Owen, Haynes, Costa), criminal
    • Affirming convictions for assaulting a postal service driver and brandishing and discharging a firearm during the assault.
  • U.S. v. Robinson, 20-10616, appeal from N.D. Tex.
    • per curiam (Clement, Higginson, Engelhardt), criminal, sentencing
    • Affirming 360-month prison sentence for conviction on one count of sexual exploitation of children.
  • Fernandes v. Garland, 20-60386, petition for review of BIA order
    • per curiam (Owen, Haynes, Costa), immigration
    • Denying Indian citizen’s petition for review of BIA dismissal of his appeal from an order of the IJ denying his application for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture.