Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil
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In 2004, a jury found Azad Haji Abdullah guilty of first-degree murder, first-degree arson, three counts of attempted first-degree murder, and felony injury to a child. He was sentenced to death for the murder. Abdullah filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which was dismissed by the district court in 2011. Abdullah then filed a consolidated appeal that included a direct appeal from his convictions and sentences and an appeal from the district court’s dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Idaho Supreme Court, in Idaho v. Abdullah, 348 P.3d 1 (2015), affirmed the convictions, sentences, and denial of post-conviction relief. In 2013—after the district court issued its order dismissing the petition for post-conviction relief, but prior to the Supreme Court’s issuance of Abdullah in 2015—Abdullah filed a successive petition for post-conviction relief. The Successive Petition was amended in 2016 and 2017. Abdullah also filed a pro se supplement to the successive petition that was incorporated with the successive petition. The successive petition and supplement included substantive claims, claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel, and claims of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. The district court determined that Abdullah was not entitled to post-conviction relief and summarily dismissed his successive petition and Supplement. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s dismissal. View "Abdullah v. Idaho" on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs were indigent defendants represented in criminal actions by attorneys provided through Idaho’s public defense system. They alleged that numerous inadequacies in Idaho’s public defense system, as administered by the State and the Idaho Public Defense Commission (“PDC” or together “Respondents”), violated the rights of the named plaintiffs, as well as those of similarly situated criminal defendants across Idaho, under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 13 of the Idaho Constitution. In 2019, the district court denied cross motions for summary judgment, citing a lack of precedent as to the controlling legal standard to be applied, and requested this appeal. The Idaho Supreme Court granted the district court’s request for permissive appeal to determine the standard of review. The central issue presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on how to properly evaluate the deficiencies in Idaho’s public defense systems alleged by Appellants. In sum, Appellants insisted that a broader view was sufficient, while Respondents demanded the district court examine this issue closely. The Supreme Court held that both views were necessary: "a close up view, which allows for greater specificity, must be applied to the individual claims of at least one of the named plaintiffs whose allegations formed the basis of standing; however, a more distant view, which allows for greater overall perspective, is permissible for the examination of the systemic constitutional shortcomings alleged by Appellants." View "Tucker v. Idaho" on Justia Law

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Appellants were five individuals and one Idaho limited liability company (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) who owned real property in the City of Boise (“City”) and paid ad valorem taxes to Ada County, Idaho. Plaintiffs brought an action in district court challenging ordinances the City passed that allocate tax increment financing (“TIF”) revenues to Capital City Development Corporation (“CCDC”), the City’s urban renewal agency. Specifically, the ordinances approved the allocation of TIF revenues for CCDC’s use in the Shoreline District Urban Renewal Project Area and Gateway East Economic Development District Project Area. Because Plaintiffs’ alleged injuries were solely predicated upon their status as taxpayers, the district court dismissed their complaint for lack of standing. On appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court, Plaintiffs alleged they had standing under Koch v. Canyon County, 177 P.3d 372 (2008), in which the Supreme Court held that no particularized harm was necessary to establish taxpayer standing where a violation of article VIII, section 3 of the Idaho Constitution was alleged. Because the Supreme Court determined here that, as a matter of law, the ordinances Plaintiffs challenged did not violate article VIII, section 3, it affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Hoffman v. City of Boise" on Justia Law

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In this case, the Idaho Supreme Court was asked to revisit its decision in Idaho v. Clarke, 446 P.3d 451 (2019), and determine whether its holding was applicable in an administrative proceeding regarding the suspension of driving privileges based on an alleged case of driving under the influence (“DUI”). The Idaho Transportation Department (“ITD”) appealed a district court’s decision overturning its one-year suspension of Jasmine Reagan’s driving privileges. ITD based the administrative license suspension (“ALS”) on Reagan’s arrest for misdemeanor driving under the influence of alcohol and the results of subsequent testing of her blood alcohol content (“BAC”). The arresting officer, acting on a citizen’s report of a possible intoxicated driver, did not personally witness Reagan operating or in control of a vehicle. Reagan failed field sobriety tests administered at her home and, after being arrested, failed a breathalyzer test. Reagan received notice that her driver’s license was suspended for one year, which she appealed. An administrative hearing officer for ITD, relying on Idaho Code section 49-1405, upheld the license suspension. However, on appeal the district court overturned the suspension pursuant to Clarke, reasoning that because the misdemeanor DUI was completed outside the officer’s presence, the arrest required a warrant. On certiorari review, the issues presented were: (1) whether the breathalyzer test was administered pursuant to a lawful arrest; and (2) if the arrest was unlawful, whether test results obtained pursuant to an unlawful arrest are admissible in an ALS hearing before the ITD. The SupremeCourt concluded Idaho Code section 49-1405, as applied in this case, violated the Idaho Constitution. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court's decision to overturn ITD's suspension of Reagan's license. View "Reagan v. Idaho Transportation Department" on Justia Law

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Citizens Against Linscott/Interstate Asphalt Plant (“CAL”) challenged a conditional use permit (“CUP”) issued by the Bonner County, Idaho Board of Commissioners (“the County”). The CUP was based on a recent amendment to Bonner County zoning ordinances (“the Amendment”) and authorized Interstate Concrete and Asphalt Company (“Interstate”) to operate an asphalt batch plant within Frank and Carol Linscott’s gravel mine in Sagle, Idaho. In its petition for judicial review by the Bonner County district court, CAL challenged both the validity of the Amendment and the County’s decision to issue the CUP. The district court determined that CAL had standing to file its petition for judicial review of the CUP and that CAL had timely filed its petition. However, the district court concluded that it could not declare the Amendment invalid in a proceeding for judicial review under Idaho Local Land Use Planning Act (“LLUPA”) and the Idaho Administrative Procedure Act (“IDAPA”). Accordingly, the district court upheld the County’s decision to grant the CUP, giving the County deference in applying its own land-use ordinances. During the pendency of this appeal, CAL filed an action for declaratory relief before another district court judge to have the Amendment declared void. In that proceeding, the County admitted that the Amendment had been adopted without proper public notice and stipulated to a judgment and order declaring the Amendment void. On appeal of the administrative decision to the Idaho Supreme Court, CAL argued, among other things, that the subsequent voiding of the Amendment also invalidated the CUP or that the CUP was not issued in conformity with Bonner County zoning laws. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed in part, and reversed in part. The Court found the CUP authorizing the relocation of the Interstate asphalt batch plant to the Linscotts’ gravel mine was invalid because it was based on a void amendment to Bonner County Code. Further, the County acted in a manner that was arbitrary and capricious in refusing to address the gravel pit’s compliance with the nonconforming use provisions of BCRC. View "Citizens Against Linscott v. Bonner County Board of Commissioners" on Justia Law

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Greg and Cyndi Gomersall filed suit on behalf of their minor child, W.G.G., claiming he received negligent medical treatment at St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center (SLRMC) in Boise when he was injured in December 2010. W.G.G. was 6 years old at the time of the incident. The Gomersalls filed suit against SLRMC on January 25, 2019, more than eight years after W.G.G. was alleged to have been injured. SLRMC moved for summary judgment on the basis that the Gomersalls’ medical malpractice action was time-barred under Idaho Code sections 5-219(4) and 5-230. The district court granted SLRMC’s motion and dismissed the complaint with prejudice. The Gomersalls contended on appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court that the district court erred because Idaho Code section 5-230 was unconstitutional. Specifically, they argued that section 5-230 violated W.G.G.’s due process and equal protection rights by failing to toll the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims until the age of majority. They also contended the district court erred when it held that the doctrine of equitable estoppel did not preclude SLRMC’s statute of limitations defense. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decision granting summary judgment in favor of SLRMC. View "Gomersall v. St. Luke's Regional Medical Center" on Justia Law

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This case arose from an Idaho Industrial Commission determination denying an application for unemployment benefits. William Wittkopf appealed pro se the Commission’s determination that he was ineligible for unemployment benefits because he voluntarily quit his job without good cause and he willfully made a false statement or willfully failed to report a material fact in his unemployment application. On appeal, Wittkopf challenged the factual findings made by the Commission and argued it violated his right to due process by taking into consideration the fact that he voluntarily terminated his employment approximately two and a half years prior to applying for unemployment benefits. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court concluded: (1) Wittkopf failed to provide a cogent argument on appeal regarding whether his right to due process was violated; (2) the Commission’s determination that Wittkopf voluntarily terminated his employment at Stewart’s Firefighter without good cause and without exhausting all reasonable alternatives was supported by substantial and competent evidence; and (3) the Commission’s determination that Wittkopf willfully made a false statement or willfully failed to report a material fact in order to obtain benefits was supported by substantial and competent evidence. Accordingly, the Commission’s decision and order denying Wittkopf’s application for unemployment benefits was affirmed. View "Wittkopf v. Stewart's Firefighter Food Catering, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 1985, Gerald Pizzuto Jr. murdered Berta and Delbert Herndon. Pizzuto was convicted of two counts of murder in the first degree, two counts of felony murder, one count of robbery, and one count of grand theft. He was sentenced to death for the murders. Between 1986 and 2003, Pizzuto filed five petitions for post-conviction relief. His fifth petition for post-conviction relief was predicated on the holding in Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002), in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that the execution of an intellectually disabled person constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In his fifth petition, Pizzuto asserted that his death sentence should be “reversed and vacated” because he was intellectually disabled. The district court summarily dismissed Pizzuto’s petition. The Idaho Supreme Court held that the district court did not err when it dismissed Pizzuto’s fifth petition for post-conviction relief on the basis that Pizzuto had failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact supporting his claim that he was intellectually disabled at the time of the murders and prior to his eighteenth birthday. Pizzuto pursued this same claim in a federal habeas corpus action. In 2016, the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho denied Pizzuto’s successive petition for writ of habeas corpus after holding a four-day evidentiary hearing in 2010. Although it affirmed the federal district court’s decision denying Pizzuto’s successive petition for writ of habeas corpus, the Ninth Circuit stated in dicta that its decision does not preclude Idaho courts from reconsidering whether Pizzuto was intellectually disabled at the time of the murders. Based on this dicta, Pizzuto filed a motion with the district court to alter or amend the judgment dismissing his fifth petition for post-conviction relief in accordance with Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6). The district court denied Pizzuto’s Motion in early 2020. Because the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Pizzuto’s Motion, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decision. View "Pizzuto v. Idaho" on Justia Law

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Daniel Chernobieff appealed a district court’s decision on intermediate appeal to uphold a magistrate court’s summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief. Chernobieff was convicted of a misdemeanor for driving under the influence with an excessive blood alcohol content in June 2014. After the Idaho Supreme Court upheld his conviction on direct appeal, Chernobieff filed a petition for post-conviction relief on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel. He alleged that his defense counsel’s decision to object to testimony at a suppression hearing suggesting that the on-call magistrate could not be reached to obtain a warrant because his cell phone ringer was off was unreasonable and prejudicial. He argued that the objection to the ringer testimony prevented him from arguing at trial that the State did not have good cause for the on-call magistrate's unavailability. The magistrate court granted the State's motion for summary dismissal, reasoning the objection was an unreviewable strategic decision and would not have changed the outcome of the case. The district court, sitting in an appellate capacity, affirmed. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court also affirmed. View "Chernobieff v. Idaho" on Justia Law

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A group of prisoners (“Petitioners”) sought a writ of habeas corpus based on the conditions of their confinement during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Petitioners were all incarcerated at the Elmore County Jail (“Jail”), contending the conditions of confinement constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. More specifically, the Petitioners claimed they were in imminent danger because officials at the Jail did not implement any discernable mitigation measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Elmore County Sheriff Mike Hollinshead and Lieutenant Shauna Gavin (collectively “Officials”) denied this assertion, contending that Petitioners’ request for a writ of habeas corpus should have been denied because the Petitioners did not exhaust their administrative remedies. The Officials filed a motion for summary judgment with the district court, which was granted. The district court also awarded the Officials their attorney fees. Petitioners timely appealed the district court’s decisions to the Idaho Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the appeal on an expedited basis. After that review, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decision granting summary judgment, but reversed the district court’s award of attorney fees. View "Williams v. Hollinshead" on Justia Law