Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
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Since 2011, Jonesboro’s wastewater system has spewed sewage onto Stringer’s property and into her home during heavy rains. Stringer repeatedly complained to the town and its mayor, then brought a “citizen suit” under the Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C. 1365, with constitutional claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for the uncompensated taking of her property and the mayor’s retaliation. Stringer ran against the mayor in 2014 and claims he retaliated by ignoring her pleas, getting the town to sue her frivolously, and refusing to provide sandbags. The Louisiana Departments of Health (LDOH) and Environmental Quality (LDEQ) have long known about the problems. LDEQ sent the town warning letters and issued compliance orders about unauthorized discharges, including those afflicting Stringer. LDOH issued a compliance order about the discharges on Stringer’s property, imposed mandatory ameliorative measures, and assessed a daily fine. The district court dismissed, finding that the CWA prohibits such suits when a state is addressing the problem through “comparable” state law and finding her section 1983 claims untimely under Louisiana’s one-year prescriptive period. The Fifth Circuit affirmed as to the section 1983 claims. Stringer was long aware of the underlying facts and failed to sue within a year. The Fifth Circuit reversed in part. The enforcement action to which the court pointed—the state health department’s enforcement of the sanitary code—is not “comparable” to the CWA under circuit precedent. View "Stringer v. Town of Jonesboro" on Justia Law

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After the City of Austin denied applications to digitize existing billboards, Reagan and Lamar filed suit alleging that the distinction in the City's Sign Code between on-premises and off-premises signs violates the First Amendment.The Fifth Circuit held that the City's Sign Code's on-premises/off-premises distinction is content based and the commercial speech exception does not apply. The court held that the Sign Code runs afoul of the First Amendment because the relevant provisions of the Sign Code are not narrowly tailored to serve the compelling government interest of protecting the aesthetic value of the City and public safety. In this case, the ordinance is underinclusive. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's decision to the contrary and remanded. View "Reagan National Advertising of Austin, Inc. v. City of Austin" on Justia Law

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TSRA filed suit seeking to enjoin demolitions under the city's new ordinance, DALL. CITY CODE 51A-4.501(i), which streamlined the city's procedure for demolishing dilapidated historical homes smaller than 3,000 feet. The district court dismissed TSRA's claims.The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that TSRA does not have standing to assert its claims under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) or its 42 U.S.C.1982 and 1983 claims. In regard to the FHA claim, the court held that TSRA failed to prove that its injuries are traceable to the city's alleged misconduct and that its injuries are redressable by judgment in its favor. In this case, TSRA did not put forth any separate theories of standing for its sections 1982 and 1983 claims. Therefore, even assuming that TSRA established a constitutional injury-in-fact for purposes of sections 1982 and 1983, the court held that these claims would likewise suffer the same traceability and redressability defects as its FHA claims. View "Tenth Street Residential Ass'n v. City of Dallas" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the town and its mayor, alleging that they violated his federal and state constitutional rights by seeking—and then seeking to collect on—a judgment that he owed over $50,000 for violating a local ordinance. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on the 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims, holding that plaintiff failed to establish a municipal policy that was the moving force behind the violation of any constitutional right. However, the court vacated and remanded the state-law claim for the district court to assess its jurisdiction over this claim. View "Webb v. Town of Saint Joseph" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of Cherry Knoll's complaint against the City of Lakeway, the city manager, and HDR Engineering in a dispute over a plat of land that Cherry Knoll had purchased in Lakeway. Cherry Knoll asserted a claim against the City under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for violating its rights to procedural due process, substantive due process, and equal protection by filing the Subdivision Plats without its consent and over its objection. The court held that these allegations satisfied the standard for official municipal policy under Pembaur v. City of Cincinnati and the district court erred in finding otherwise.The court also held that the district court erred in determining that the city manager was entitled to the protection of qualified immunity at the Rule 12(b)(6) stage. Finally, the court held that Cherry Knoll's well-pleaded factual allegations and supporting documents make plausible its claim that HDR was a "willful participant in joint action" for purposes of section 1983. Accordingly, the court remanded the matter and reinstated Cherry Knoll's state law claims. View "Cherry Knoll, LLC v. Jones" on Justia Law

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The city owned land and a townhome in New Orleans after 1998; its previous owner, Jett, neglected to pay his taxes. Notwithstanding its recorded ownership, the city instituted Code Enforcement proceedings against Jett in 2012. The Garretts purchased the property on October 2, 2015, and recorded the conveyance on October 14. They claim that the building was structurally sound. The city continued to pursue Jett. An administrative judgment was entered on October 30, ordering Jett to pay fines and warning that the building could be demolished. A lien was recorded on December 7. The Garretts were not named and received no notice. On January 15, 2016, their realtor noticed a sign advising upcoming demolition of the property. They contacted the city, which canceled the lien. E-mail exchanges indicated that the Garretts intended to resolve all code issues. On January 27, the city demolished the townhouse. Denying the Garretts' request for compensation, the city sent a bill for the demolition costs. They did not appeal but filed suit alleging denial of due process and just compensation. The district court dismissed the claim as jurisdictionally unripe because they failed to seek compensation in state court. The Fifth Circuit vacated, finding the due process claim, predicated on lack of notice and a hearing, ripe, given the uncertainty of remedies in a state court inverse condemnation suit. The court concluded that the other claims were ripe or would be best resolved in the same suit. View "Archbold-Garrett v. New Orleans City" on Justia Law