Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil
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The issue this appeal presented centered on a non-summary contempt proceeding arising out of a divorce, and former litigation in Oregon over spousal support Steven Abell owed his ex-wife Debra Abell. After a judgment of contempt was entered against him in Oregon for failure to pay support, Steven allegedly continued to refuse to pay Debra. Roughly one year later, Debra brought the underlying contempt proceeding in Idaho, charging Steven with contempt for failure to comply with the payment terms in the Oregon contempt judgment, and requesting relief from the Idaho district court, where Steven resided. The district court found Steven in willful contempt of the Oregon contempt judgment, and imposed an unconditional sanction of $5,000, making both determinations through a summary judgment procedure. Steven appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court found the sanction imposed by the district court was criminal in nature, and it was imposed in error because Steven was not afforded certain protections owed an alleged contemnor in a criminal contempt proceeding. In addition, regardless of whether a civil or criminal sanction is sought or imposed, when an alleged contemnor is not in default and denies the charge of contempt, the non-summary contempt proceeding cannot be adjudicated through a summary judgment procedure. Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 75 requires a trial. Accordingly, the district court’s judgment of contempt was vacated, its decisions underlying its judgment were also vacated, and the case was remanded for further proceedings that had to start over, at the initial pleading stage, in order to proceed appropriately. View "Abell v. Abell" on Justia Law

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Petitioner-appellant John Bradbury was resident of the City of Lewiston, Idaho and was an elected member of its city council. While serving in that capacity, he filed a petition alleging nine causes of action concerning various City funds and services, including those related to water, sanitation, wastewater, city streets, the library, and the municipally-owned Bryden Canyon Golf Course. Bradbury contended the City had been collecting excessive utility fees and improperly spending municipal funds. Bradbury sought declaratory and equitable relief. He appealed when the district court dismissed most of his claims at summary judgment, and raised additional errors for appellate review. The Idaho Supreme Court determined only that the district court erred in determining that the Idaho Tort Claims Act (“ITCA”) precluded recovery on a constitutional claim seeking equitable relief. The Court determined a remand was unnecessary where Bradbury conceded he was seeking no such remedy for himself. The Court affirmed the district court in all other respects. View "Bradbury v. City of Lewiston" on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from a 2019 lease by Respondents the City of Sandpoint (“the City”) to The Festival at Sandpoint (“The Festival”), a nonprofit corporation, to operate a multi-day music concert series in War Memorial Field Park. The Festival had a long-standing policy of prohibiting festival patrons from bringing weapons, including firearms, into the event. On August 9, 2019, Scott Herndon and Jeff Avery purchased tickets to the festival and attempted to enter. Avery openly carried a firearm and Herndon possessed a firearm either on his person or in a bag (the record was unclear on this point). Security personnel for the event denied entry to both. After discussions with a City police officer and the City’s attorney, who was coincidentally attending the same event in his private capacity, Herndon and Avery eventually left the music festival and received a refund for their tickets. Appellants Herndon, Avery, the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance, Inc., and the Second Amendment Foundation, Inc. subsequently sued the City and The Festival, asserting several claims, including seeking injunctive relief prohibiting the Respondents from violating the Idaho and United States Constitutions, particularly the Second Amendment and the Idaho Constitution’s provision securing the right to keep and bear arms in public for all lawful purposes. The district court ultimately granted the Respondents’ motions for summary judgment, awarded both the City and The Festival attorney fees and costs, and dismissed all the Appellants’ claims with prejudice. The issue raised on appeal was whether a private party who leased public property from a municipality may govern those who come and go from the property during the lease. The Idaho Supreme Court responded in the affirmative, and affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Herndon v. City of Sandpoint" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Todd Wood appealed after his driving privileges were suspended following breath alcohol testing (BAC) by the Idaho State Policy. After a lawful traffic stop, Wood submitted to BAC testing. His results were 0.178 and 0.175, both in excess of Idaho’s legal limit of 0.08. However, during the fifteen-minute pretest observation period, the deputy sheriff admittedly did not observe Wood for roughly three minutes to ensure mouth alcohol was not present by way of burp, external contaminant, or otherwise prior to evidentiary testing. Wood challenged his suspension and argued that his BAC results were inadmissible because they had not been obtained in compliance with the required fifteen-minute pretest observation procedure. The ALS hearing officer disagreed, reasoning that ISP had promulgated rules making the pretest observation period only discretionary; thus, Wood’s BAC test results were not based on unlawful procedure. Wood petitioned for judicial review and argued the BAC rules allowing for a discretionary observation period are violative of “due process” and “fundamental fairness.” Wood further argued that the automatic admission of BAC results in his ALS hearing, pursuant to section 18-8004(4), unconstitutionally usurped the judicial branch’s power over the admission of evidence. The district court rejected Wood’s arguments and upheld his administrative license suspension. Wood appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court on the same grounds, which likewise upheld the suspension. View "Wood v. ITD" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Idaho Supreme Court's review centered on whether the Idaho Constitution protects abortion from the legislature's broad power to enact laws concerning the public’s health, welfare, and safety. Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky, and Caitlin Gustafson, M.D., on behalf of herself and her patients (collectively “Petitioners”), brought three petitions, each seeking a writ of prohibition and declaratory relief blocking implementation and enforcement of recently enacted laws in Idaho. Petitioners also raised various facial challenges, claiming these laws offend important constitutional principles, such as equal protection, due process, the special laws provision, the separation of powers doctrine, and purported “informational privacy” protections under the Idaho Constitution. Petitioners further claimed that the Idaho Human Rights Act limited the legislature’s ability to regulate abortion through the Total Abortion Ban and 6-Week Ban. After careful consideration of the issued raised, the Idaho Supreme Court denied Petitioners’ requests for extraordinary writs of prohibition and declaratory relief. View "Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, et al. v. Idaho" on Justia Law

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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