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Fifth Circuit Court Disses Houston Federal Judge, Reassigns Case

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In January, we took issue with U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Hughe's bizarre ruling in a suit against a Houston police officer who shot and killed an unarmed man in 2011, and now the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is taking issue with another Hughes ruling.

Texas Lawyer reports that, "in an extremely rare move," the circuit court has for the second time reversed Hughes' decision in a suit accusing Shell Exploration of withholding at least $19 million in royalties owed to the U.S. government -- only this time the higher court has ordered the case remanded to a different judge.

According to Texas Lawyer, two government whistleblowers sued Shell under the False Claims Act, and Hughes dismissed their case on summary judgment. The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded, but in 2014, Hughes again dismissed the claims, this time with prejudice.

In both cases, the Circuit court ruled that Hughes erroneously relied on the False Claim Act's provision barring government employees from filing a qui tam suit -- where plaintiffs get a share of the recovered funds -- if the bad act was already publicly disclosed.

Circuit Court Judge Eugene Davis wrote that Hughes' decision had "few citations to either record evidence or relevant legal authority -- not surprising, given that neither the summary judgment evidence nor the law support the conclusions he reached," according to Reuters. Davis added that Hughes "reached the same conclusion he reached in his previous opinion by employing the same overly broad reasoning that we rejected before."

Well, at least Hughes is consistent.

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