Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Arkansas Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court denying Defendant's motion for mistrial, holding that the circuit court's decision to admit into evidence a translation of a letter Defendant wrote in Spanish did not violate Ark. R. Evid. 1009 or Defendant's Sixth Amendment right to confrontation. Defendant was convicted of rape. On appeal, the Supreme Court held (1) there was no reversible error as a result of the bailiff's response to the jury foreman's question regarding the verdict forms, which resulted in the foreman mistakenly signing the forms for both rape and attempted rape, as shown by polling the members of the jury individually; and (2) Defendant did not have a constitutional right to confrontation because the translated statements were attributable to Defendant and, therefore, nontestimonial, and the accompanying affidavit to the letter substantially complied with Rule 1009. View "Garcia-Chicol v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court finding that Defendant had the capacity to knowingly and intelligently waive his postconviction remedies, including his Ark. R. Crim. P. 37.5 petition, was not clearly erroneous and affirmed the circuit court's dismissal of Defendant's Rule 37.5 petition, holding that the court did not err. Defendant was convicted was capital murder and other crimes. Defendant later filed for postconviction relief pursuant to Ark. R. Crim. P. 37.5, arguing that counsel was constitutionally ineffective for failing to investigate sufficiently whether he was intellectually disabled. Counsel subsequently advised the circuit court that Defendant desired to waive his postconviction remedies, including his Rule 37.5 petition, which counsel asked the court to dismiss. After a hearing to determine whether Defendant had the capacity to waive his postconviction remedies, the circuit court concluded that Defendant's waiver was made knowingly and intelligently. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in dismissing Defendant's Rule 37.5 petition. View "Lard v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Plaintiff's illegal exaction suit against the City of Blytheville and its Sewer Department (collectively, the City), holding that the circuit court properly granted summary judgment. In her complaint, Plaintiff claimed that a $5 fee for sewer system repairs and upgrades, imposed pursuant to a city ordinance, was a tax and constituted an illegal exaction in violation of article 16, section 13 of the Arkansas Constitution. The circuit court granted the City's motion for summary judgment and dismissed all of Plaintiff's claims with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court correctly found that the fee was not a tax and, therefore, not an illegal exaction. View "Watson v. City of Blytheville" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Appellant's amended petition for postconviction relief pursuant to Ark. R. Crim. P. 37.5, holding that there was no error in the circuit court's order denying Rule 37 relief. Defendant was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. Numerous proceedings followed. This appeal concerned Defendant's petition for postconviction relief. The circuit court entered an order denying Defendant relief on every claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was no deficient performance by trial counsel under the Strickland standard; (2) the circuit court did not err in denying relief on the issue of Defendant's competency to stand trial; (3) Defendant's claim of juror misconduct was not cognizable in this postconviction proceeding; and (4) Defendant's remaining claims did not warrant reversal of his convictions. View "Roberts v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Appellant's pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. 16-112-101, holding that Appellant stated no basis for the writ. Appellant pleaded guilty to capital murder, attempted capital murder, and unlawful discharge of a firearm. Appellant later filed his petition for writ of habeas corpus, arguing that the State lacked jurisdiction to try him for the offenses because they were referred to as "international terrorism" committed by a "foreign terrorist organization" and that he was not afforded effective assistance of counsel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the fact that Appellant's conduct could have been charged as a crime under a federal statute did not prohibit the State from trying him in state court; and (2) Appellant's claims of ineffective assistance of counsel were not cognizable as a ground for the writ. View "Muhammad v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court concluding that the district court's assessment of installment fees violated due process, holding that the circuit court correctly denied a directed verdict on the due process claim and that the City of Little Rock was properly held liable for the district court judge's actions. Plaintiff filed the underlying class action against the City alleging that the Little Rock District Court's installment fee practice constituted an illegal exaction and violated due process under the Arkansas Civil Rights Act, Ark. Code Ann. 16-123-101 to -108. The jury returned a verdict for Plaintiff, concluding that the installment fee practice violated due process and that the City was liable for the violation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in holding that the installment fee practice violated due process; and (2) the due process violation arising from the district court judge's installment fee policy may be imputed to the City. View "City of Little Rock v. Nelson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying the motion filed by the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) to dismiss Plaintiffs' amended complaint alleging violations of the Arkansas Civil Rights Act, holding that sovereign immunity barred Plaintiffs' claims. In their complaint, Plaintiffs alleged, individually and on behalf of their three minor children, that the entrance of a DHS investigator and law enforcement into their children's private school for the purpose of investigating possible child maltreatment was illegal and unconstitutional. DHS filed a motion to dismiss, asserting sovereign immunity and other defenses. The circuit court denied the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in denying DHS's motion to dismiss based on sovereign immunity. View "Arkansas Department of Human Services v. Harris" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the circuit court's order awarding damages under the Arkansas Civil Rights Act to Alexander Apartments, LLC and certain tenants after determining that the City of Little Rock violated Appellees' due process rights under the Arkansas Constitution, holding that the circuit court correctly found that the City violated Appellees' due process rights but incorrectly awarded damages. On appeal, the City argued that it did not violate Alexander Apartments' or the tenants' due process rights under the Arkansas Constitution. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the circuit court was correct as a matter of law that the City violated Alexander Apartments' and the tenants' due process rights under the Arkansas Constitution; (2) substantial evidence supported the circuit court's award of damages to Alexander Apartments in the amount of $432,744.33; and (3) the circuit court erroneously considered events and circumstances that were unrelated to the City's due process violations in determining the tenants' damages awards. View "City of Little Rock v. Alexander Apartments, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the circuit court's order granting a motion to dismiss filed by the Arkansas Governor and Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission Deputy Director and dismissing Plaintiff's claims pursuant to the Arkansas Whistle-Blower Act, Ark. Code Ann. 21-1-601 et seq., as well as the state and federal constitutions, holding that sovereign immunity barred Plaintiff's claims against Defendants in their official capacities but was no defense to Plaintiff's claims against Defendants in their individual capacities. In his complaint, Plaintiff alleged that he was terminated because he refused to violate state policy. The circuit court dismissed all claims against Defendants solely on the basis of sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) sovereign immunity precluded Plaintiff's official capacity claims; but (2) the circuit court erred when it found that sovereign immunity barred Plaintiff's claims against Defendants in their individual capacities. View "Harris v. Hutchison" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court denying Appellant's petition for post conviction relief pursuant to Ark. R. Crim. P. 37.1, holding that the circuit court correctly denied Appellant's Rule 37.1 petition. Specifically, the Court held that the circuit court (1) did not clearly err by finding that trial counsel's failure to obtain a forensic evaluation prior to Appellant's pleading guilty was not ineffective assistance; (2) did not err in finding that trial counsel was not ineffective by failing to file any pretrial motions to suppress or motions in limine before permitting Appellant to enter his plea; and (3) did not apply the wrong legal standard in ruling on Appellant's petition. View "Roos v. State" on Justia Law