Top Five List: Most Interesting Opinions from the Fifth Circuit

By Robyn Hagan Cain on December 21, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

At each year's end, lists dominate the Internet as writers determine the best of the best and the worst of the worst. It's arbitrary and lazy, but readers love lists. So who are we to deny the people?

Thus, in the spirit of populist pandering, we bring you our top five list featuring the most interesting Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals cases from 2011.

  1. Adar v. Smith. In this Full Faith and Credit clause-based appeal, a California same-sex couple challenged a Louisiana policy that prohibits issuing revised birth certificates for Louisiana-born children with two, unmarried, adoptive parents. The couple argued that the state had to recognize both adoptive parents pursuant to a valid New York adoption decree. The Fifth Circuit ruled that Full Faith and Credit clause applies to the courts, but not state officials, and denied the couple's request.
  2. Morgan v. Swanson. We call this one the candy cane case. Parents sued on behalf of their minor children after school officials stopped the kids from handing out gifts with religious messages -- including candy canes -- at school. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the officials erred in restricting the students' free speech rights, but they were protected by qualified immunity because "the general state of the law in this area is abstruse."
  3. Dediol v. Best Chevrolet. For the first time, the Fifth Circuit ruled that age discrimination can form the basis of a hostile work environment claim. The facts of this case make it one of the most interesting employment law opinions we've read this year. If you don't have time to read it, keep this in mind: The Fifth Circuit thinks there's an issue of material fact for a hostile work environment claim if a manager calls his 65-year-old employee "old mother******" for two months, and assaults the elderly employee in front of a crowd.
  4. Fisher v. University of Texas. In January, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the University of Texas' (UT) race-conscious admissions policy over the plaintiff's arguments that race-neutral, state university admissions policies create a diverse student population that exceeds the Supreme Court's Grutter standard. The Supreme Court is still considering a cert petition in this affirmative action appeal.
  5. U.S. v. Miguel Carrillo. If a suspect wants police questioning to stop, he can't just hint that he wants a lawyer. "I wish I had a lawyer right here" won't cut it. A suspect must specifically request a lawyer and invoke his right to remain silent.

Did any of your Fifth Circuit favorites make our top five list? Here is to a new year full of fascinating opinions from the 5th.

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