Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil
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At issue in this appeal was a question of the due process rights of an unwed biological father who had established a relationship with his two-month-old child through frequent visits before the child’s maternal grandfather filed a petition to adopt the child. Under Idaho Code sections 16-1504 and 16-1513, the magistrate court determined that the grandfather’s filing of the adoption petition permanently and irrevocably barred the father from establishing paternity or objecting to the adoption. The Idaho Supreme Court vacated the magistrate court's decision because the father’s relationship with his child may have been sufficient to confer parental rights protected by the due process provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and the statutes relied upon in the magistrate court’s decision unconstitutionally risk termination of these rights without due process. View "Jane Doe I & John Doe I" on Justia Law

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In 2017, Dennis and Linda Nelson, the maternal grandparents of C.E., S.E., and A.E., filed a petition at magistrate court relying on Idaho Code section 32-719 to establish visitation rights after Stephanie and Brian Evans, the granddaughters’ parents, terminated contact between the children and the grandparents. Although the magistrate court initially dismissed the petition in its entirety, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed the dismissal, concluding that “Idaho Code section 32-719 does not restrict when a grandparent may petition a court for visitation rights” and that “there [wa]s a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the Evanses’ decision to terminate all contact between the Nelsons and their children was in their children’s best interests.” On remand to the magistrate court, the Evanses moved for a determination that Idaho Code section 32-719 unconstitutionally interfered with their fundamental parental rights. The magistrate court denied the motion, and the matter proceeded to trial. After a three-day trial, the magistrate court found that, while the Evanses were fit parents, their decision to terminate all contact between the children and the grandparents was not in the best interests of the children. However, the magistrate court also found that Linda’s actions on the whole had not been in the best interests of her granddaughters and that her actions had undermined the Evanses efforts to parent their children. The magistrate court nevertheless imposed a visitation schedule. The magistrate court ordered that the Nelsons attend counseling to address the issues it identified before the Nelsons could exercise their visitation award. This appeal followed. The Idaho Supreme Court found that “[p]arents have a fundamental right to maintain a familial relationship, and to the ‘custody, care and control’ of their children; this right is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. ... Because section 32-719 does not limit standing or provide meaningful guidance for how to apply the best interests test, it is not narrowly tailored. As a result, section 32-719 does not pass constitutional muster. We hold that Idaho Code section 32-719 is facially unconstitutional." The magistrate court's visitation order was reversed and the case was dismissed without remand. View "Nelson v. Evans" on Justia Law

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The Idaho Supreme Court held a hearing on August 3, 2022 to address specific procedural matters. The only issues in dispute were whether the Court should stay the enforcement of Idaho Code section 18-622(2) (“Total Abortion Ban”) and whether it should continue to stay the enforcement of Senate Bill 1309 (“Civil Liability Law”). The Court denied Petitioners’ request to stay the enforcement of Idaho Code section 18-622 in Docket No. 49817-2022; and vacated the stay of the enforcement of Senate Bill 1309 entered by the Court on April 8, 2022 in Docket No. 49615-2022. View "Planned Parenthood v. Idaho" on Justia Law

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Petitioner-appellant Melvin Savage was convicted of first-degree arson. He filed a post-conviction petition alleging his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to advise him of his right against self-incrimination during a deposition that took place in a civil lawsuit involving the arson allegation. Following an evidentiary hearing, the district court found that counsel’s failure to advise Savage of his right to remain silent constituted deficient performance; however, Savage failed to prove he was prejudiced by that deficient performance because he was already intent on resolving his criminal case by entering a guilty plea at the time of the civil deposition. Savage unsuccessfully moved for reconsideration. Appealing to the Idaho Supreme Court Savage argued the district court erred by limiting its prejudice analysis to an evaluation of whether Savage would have gone to trial instead of considering whether Savage demonstrated that the outcome of the plea process would have been different with competent advice. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Savage v. Idaho" on Justia Law

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In 2017, Ronald Van Hook was declared a vexatious litigant pursuant to Idaho Court Administrative Rule 59; this declaration was upheld by he Idaho Supreme Court. In 2021, “on behalf of his minor son” G.V.H., Van Hook filed a 28-page “Request for Leave to File Habeas Corpus and Juvenile Post-Conviction Relief” (“the Filing Request”). In the Filing Request, Van Hook alleged eight sets of “complaints” and asserted that numerous fundamental rights had been violated. He further requested a hearing on the Filing Request. Without holding a hearing on the matter, the district court denied the request because: (1) Van Hook, as a non-lawyer, could not engage in the unauthorized practice of law by representing his son in a civil court proceeding; (2) the petition for writ of habeas corpus was without merit; and (3) Van Hook was attempting to re-litigate prior court decisions that had been finally decided against him. Van Hook appealed, and the Supreme Court entered an Order Conditionally Dismissing Appeal, which stayed the proceedings, but allowed Van Hook time “to make application with the presiding district court judge permitting the notice of appeal to be filed, pursuant to I.C.A.R. 59(j).” The district court granted Van Hook permission to appeal “the narrow issue of whether [the district court’s] decision to deny Mr. Van Hook’s motion for leave to file litigation was arbitrary and capricious and/or in violation of his due process rights.” The Supreme Court withdrew its conditional order, allowing appeal on the narrow issue identified by the district court. As a matter of first impression, the Supreme Court first determined the proper standard of review to apply when reviewing a presiding judge’s denial of a vexatious litigant’s request to file new litigation pursuant to Rule 59(i) was the same standard used when reviewing a district court’s granting of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6): “The issue is not whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but whether the party is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims.” The Court found the district court did not err in denying Van Hook's request for leave to file new litigation, and his due process rights were not violated. View "Van Hook v. Idaho" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a petition asserting the Idaho Commission for Reapportionment (“the Commission”) violated Idaho Code section 72-1506 when it adopted Plan C03, the congressional reapportionment plan, following the 2020 federal census. Petitioner Christopher Pentico argued the Commission failed to timely submit its plan and final report, and that Plan C03 violated Idaho Code section 72-1506 by splitting local precinct boundary lines. Pentico requested the Idaho Supreme Court issue a writ of prohibition to restrain the Secretary of State from transmitting a copy of the Commission’s Final Report and Plan C03 to the President Pro Tempore of the Idaho Senate and the Speaker of the Idaho House of Representatives. The Supreme Court declined, finding the Commission filed its Final Report within the ninety-day deadline, and pursuant to Idaho Code section 72-1506(7), a commission need not retain local precinct boundary lines with respect to its congressional plan if it determines it cannot complete its duties for a legislative district while retaining precincts. View "Pentico v. Idaho Commission for Reapportionment" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of multiple petitions challenging the constitutionality of Plan L03, the legislative redistricting plan adopted by the Idaho Commission for Reapportionment (“the Commission”) following the 2020 federal census. Petitioners generally argued that Plan L03 split more counties than was required to comport with federal constitutional requirements, rendering Plan L03 unconstitutional under the Idaho Constitution. The petitions were filed in the Idaho Supreme Court's original jurisdiction. Petitioners requested the Court issue a writ of prohibition to restrain the Secretary of State from transmitting a copy of the Commission’s Final Report and Plan L03 to the President Pro Tempore of the Idaho Senate and the Speaker of the Idaho House of Representatives. Finding there was no constitutional violation, the Supreme Court declined to issue the writ. View "Durst et al v. ID Comm. for Reapportionment" on Justia Law

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Two petitions reached the Idaho Supreme Court, both seeking to declare two statutes unconstitutional and to issue extraordinary writs: a writ of mandamus and a writ of prohibition. First, Michael Gilmore sought a declaration that Idaho Code section 34-1805(2), as amended by SB 1110, violated the people’s constitutional initiative and referendum rights. SB 1110 requires that, for an initiative or referendum to appear on the ballot, organizers must obtain a threshold number of signatures from “each of the thirty-five (35) legislative districts” in the state. Gilmore argued this violated the equal protection clause of the Idaho Constitution and unconstitutionally divides the people’s legislative power. Gilmore also petitioned for a writ of mandamus ordering the Idaho Secretary of State “not to implement” the statute as amended. In the second petition, Reclaim Idaho (“Reclaim”) and the Committee to Protect and Preserve the Idaho Constitution, Inc. (“the Committee”), sought a declaration that the new signature threshold mandated by SB 1110, requiring signatures from every legislative district, was unconstitutional. They also challenged the constitutionality of another statute, Idaho Code section 34-1813(2)(a), amended in 2020, stating that an initiative may not become effective earlier than July 1 of the year following the vote in which it was passed. Reclaim and the Committee contended both amended statutes nullify the people’s fundamental constitutional right to legislate directly. They also sought a writ of prohibition to prevent the Secretary of State from enforcing these statutory provisions. After review, the Supreme Court: (1) dismissed Gilmore's petition because he lacked standing; (2) granted Reclaim and the Committee's petition in part by declaring that section 34-1805(2) violated Article III, Section 1 of the Idaho Constitution, and the SOS and Legislature failed to present a compelling state interest for limiting that right. Furthermore, the Court declared section 34-1813(2)(a), violated Article III, Section 1 of the Idaho Constitution because it infringed on the people’s reserved power to enact legislation independent of the legislature. Accordingly, the Court granted Reclaim and the Committee’s petition for a writ of prohibition preventing the Secretary of State from enforcing this provision. View "Reclaim Idaho/Gilmore v. Denney" on Justia Law

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Jane Doe (Mother) and John Doe (Father) were a married couple and the biological parents of E.W. (Child). Mother and Father were both incarcerated from 2015 until 2020. Mother gave birth to Child while incarcerated and asked her friend Jane Doe I (Guardian Mother) and her husband John Doe I (Guardian Father) to care for Child until Mother was released. Guardians raised Child since her birth and presently act as legal guardians for her. Guardians filed a petition seeking to terminate the parental rights of Mother and Father and to adopt Child. A termination trial was held by the magistrate court, after which the magistrate court terminated the parental rights of both Mother and Father. The magistrate court found that Mother had neglected Child and was unable to discharge her parental responsibilities. The magistrate court further found that Father had abandoned and neglected Child and was also unable to discharge his parental responsibilities. The magistrate court then granted Guardian’s petition for adoption. The Idaho Supreme Court reversed, finding the Guardians’ Verified Petition failed to allege any facts supporting termination of Mother’s and Father’s parental rights, thereby violating the parents' due process right to notice regarding the bases upon which termination was sought. The case was remanded to the magistrate court with instructions to dismiss the petition without prejudice. View "Doe I v. Doe" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit certified a question of law to the Idaho Supreme Court. The federal court asked whether an Idaho state court order reducing a defendant’s judgment of conviction for felony burglary to a judgment of conviction for misdemeanor petit theft under Idaho Code 19-2604(2) changed the operative conviction for the purposes of Idaho Code 18-310, which prohibited the restoration of firearm rights to those citizens convicted of specific felony offenses. In 2019, defendant Antonio Gutierrez was indicted in the District of Montana on four charges: (1) conspiracy to commit robbery affecting commerce; (2) robbery affecting commerce; (3) possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence; and (4) felon in possession of a firearm. These charges resulted from a robbery of Dotty’s Casino in Billings, Montana, that involved a firearm. The felon in possession of a firearm charge stemmed from Gutierrez’s previous convictions under Idaho state law for burglary. In 2000, Gutierrez pleaded guilty to two counts of felony burglary. He was sentenced to the Idaho State Correctional Institution for a fixed term of two years and a subsequent indeterminate term of three years. In 2003, acting pursuant to Idaho Code section 19-2604(2), an Idaho district court ordered Gutierrez’s burglary convictions “REDUCED to Misdemeanor Petit Theft.” The order specified that Gutierrez was “not to be considered a convicted felon because he has successfully complied with the terms and conditions of probation and paid all restitution/reimbursement and fines in full.” Based on the plain language of Idaho Code section 19-2604 the Idaho Supreme Court's answer to the Ninth Circuit’s question was no. "A grant of leniency under Idaho Code section 19-2604(2) does not remove a defendant originally convicted of an enumerated felony from the reach of section 18-310(2) and (3)." View "United States v. Gutierrez" on Justia Law