5th Circuit Blog

Daily Round-Up (Aug. 26, 2014)

By Razvan Ungureanu on August 27, 2014

Published opinions:

1) McClendon v. Springfield, No. 13-41030 - Bankruptcy - After a state trial court entered judgment in favor of Springfield for $341,000 on his defamation claim, McClendon filed for bankruptcy.  In the bankruptcy court, Springfield successfully sought to have the debt arising from the defamation judgment declared nondischargeable under 11 U.S.C. § 526(a)(6), which provides that debts for "willful and malicious injury by the debtor to another" are nondischargeable.  Affirming, the Fifth Circuit rejected McClendon's argument that he made the defamatory statements under an honest but mistaken belief that they were true and held that the bankruptcy court was free to disregard his testimony.

2) U.S. v. Pringler, No. 12-10029 - Criminal Law - After Pringler met a sixteen-years-old girl who had ran away from foster care, he introduced her to his girlfriend, who had been prostituting herself and advertising her services on Backpage.  Soon thereafter, the girlfriend introduced the minor to her trade.  After undercover agents responded to online ads and arranged to have sex with the two in a motel room paid for by Pringler, Pringler was arrested and eventually convicted of aiding and abetting sex trafficking of a minor.  On appeal, Pringler challenged the sufficiency of the evidence, his trial counsel's effectiveness, and the application of two Guidelines enhancements.  The interesting part of the opinion discusses the application of the Guidelines' computer use enhancement.  Under the Guideline language, Pringler qualified for the enhancement.  Under the Guideline commentary, Pringler did not.  Finding that the commentary was inconsistent with the plain language of the Guideline, the Fifth Circuit held that the district court correctly followed the plain language of the Guideline alone. 

3) Davis v. Fort Bend Cnty., No 13-20610 - Religious Discrimination/Title VII - A very interesting opinion exploring the evidence required to survive summary judgment on the bone fide religious belief element of a plaintiff's prima facie religious discrimination case.  The majority opinion holds that, under Supreme Court precedent, the inquiry focuses on the plaintiff's motivation and asks whether the plaintiff's belief is, "in his own scheme of things," religious.  The majority concludes that Davis presented enough evidence to survive summary judgment through her deposition testimony that she "needed" to attend a particular church event as a religious matter.  The dissent argues that the proper inquiry focuses not only on sincerity, but also on whether a particular belief is in fact religious in nature.  The dissent concludes Davis presented insufficient evidence to establish that she "needed" to attend the church event as a religious matter as opposed to a personal preference.



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