Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Kentucky Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court vacated the portion of the opinion of the court of appeals holding that the section of Ky. Rev. Stat. 342.7305 treating hearing loss workers' compensation claimants differently from other types of traumatic injury claimants violated constitutional equal protection guarantees, holding that a rational basis existed for the unequal treatment. Under section 342.7305, workers' compensation claimants suffering hearing loss may not receive income benefits unless their whole person impairment rating is at least eight percent, but other types of non-hearing loss traumatic injury claimants need not meet this threshold impairment rating to qualify for income benefits. The court of appeals held that section 342.7305(2) was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals' opinion and affirmed the ALJ's determinations that the claimants in this case did not qualify for income benefits based on their impairment ratings, holding that a rational basis existed for the eight percent impairment threshold for income benefits. View "Teco/Perry County Coal v. Feltner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that an offender placed on post-incarceration supervision does not receive a constitutionally sufficient final revocation hearing before the Kentucky Parole Board under the current procedures. David Wayne Bailey was convicted of first-degree sexual abuse, and after serving a sentence, was released to a period of post-incarceration supervision (supervision). When Bailey failed to complete sex offender treatment as directed, a final revocation hearing was held. Bailey was not provided notice of the time and place of the hearing, did not have counsel to represent him, and was not able to present witnesses or further testimony on the alleged violations. After the hearing, the Parole Board revoked Bailey's post-incarceration supervision. Bailey filed a petition for a writ of mandamus challenging the Board's procedures on due process grounds. The circuit court dismissed the petition for failure to state a claim. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the reversal of the order of dismissal, holding that Bailey's due process rights were violated but that Ky. Rev. Stat. 31.110 does not provide an offender a statutory right to counsel at a revocation hearing; and (2) reversed the appellate court's holding regarding due process requirements and section 31.110. View "Jones v. Bailey" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court that invalidated the submission of a proposed constitutional amendment to Kentucky voters in a single-sentence ballot question, holding that the proposed amendment as submitted to the voters in the form of the present ballot question was invalid. Senate Bill 3 (SB 3) was delivered to the Secretary of State (Secretary) to be published and submitted to the electorate at the November 6, 2018 election. Appellees brought this action seeking a declaration that the ballot question failed to inform the voters adequately of the substance of the amendment. The circuit court agreed and allowed the question to appear on the ballot but enjoined the Secretary from certifying the ballots cast for or against the proposed amendment. The Supreme Court held (1) section 256 of the Kentucky Constitution requires the general assembly to submit the full text of a proposed constitutional amendment to the electorate for vote and requires the Secretary to publish the full text of the proposed amendment at least ninety days before the vote; and (2) the proposed amendment was void in this case because the form of the amendment submitted to the electorate for a vote was not the full text. View "Westerfield v. Ward" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the trial court denying Defendant's motion to suppress blood test results obtained via a court order directing the hospital at which Defendant was treated after an accident to test Defendant's blood for drugs and alcohol, holding that the trial court properly denied Defendant's motion to suppress. Defendant was driving while intoxicated when she struck and killed two pedestrians standing on a sidewalk. After Defendant was transported to the hospital to be treated for minor injuries, the hospital tested Defendant's blood. In her motion to suppress Defendant argued that the testing violated her Fourth Amendment rights because the court order was not a search warrant. The trial court denied the motion, and Defendant pled guilty to second-degree manslaughter. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court order was for all intents and purposes a valid search warrant and that no violations of Defendant's Fourth Amendment rights occurred. View "Whitlow v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s denial of Defendant’s post-conviction motion requesting that the trial court declare him to be intellectually disabled, which would preclude the imposition of the death penalty, holding that Ky. Rev. Stat. 532.130(2), a statute with an outdated test for ascertaining intellectual disability, is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Defendant was sentenced to death for the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a teenage girl. Eventually, Defendant filed a Ky. R. Civ. P. 60.02 and 60.03 motion alleging that he is intellectually disabled. The trial court denied the motion without conducting a hearing. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case to the trial court to conduct a hearing consistent with this opinion, holding that section 532.130(2) does not go far enough in recognizing that, in addition to ascertaining intellectual disability using a bright-line test to determine death-penalty-disqualifying intellectual disability, prevailing medical standards should always take precedence in a court’s determination. View "Woodall v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court ordering that the results of blood alcohol tests obtained by the police be suppressed, holding that no statutory violation occurred in this case. After Defendant was arrested, the arresting officer read the pertinent portion of the statutory implied consent warning to Defendant and asked him to submit to an intoxilyzer test. Defendant agreed to do so, and the result of the test was a .266 blood alcohol level. The district court denied Defendant’s motions to suppress his .266 intoxilyzer result and to dismiss his third offense DUI charge. The circuit court reversed, determining that Defendant had been denied his statutory right to obtain an independent blood test and that his due process right had been violated since the results of the independent test may have provided exculpatory evidence. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) because Defendant failed to argue that any additional assistance by the officer could have resulted in Defendant obtaining a blood test, no statutory violation occurred; and (2) Defendant received due process. View "Commonwealth v. Riker" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals vacating Defendant’s sentence as a persistent felony offender (PFO) in the first degree to ten years’ imprisonment in connection with his conviction of third-degree assault on the grounds that Defendant’s second trial violated his rights against double jeopardy, holding that Defendant’s retrial was barred by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Section 13 of the Kentucky Constitution. After a mistrial, the Commonwealth indicted Defendant as a PFO, first-degree. After a second trial, Defendant was convicted of one count of third-degree assault. The Court of Appeals vacated the conviction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant’s retrial was barred by both the United States and Kentucky Constitutions because jeopardy had clearly and unrefutably attached in Defendant’s case and there was no manifest necessity for a mistrial. View "Commonwealth v. Padgett" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of first-degree assault, first-degree sexual abuse, and first-degree unlawful imprisonment and sentence of sixty years as a persistent felony offender, holding that any error in the proceedings below was harmless. Specifically, the Court held (1) Defendant’s right to a speedy trial was not violated; (2) the trial court did not err in failing to appoint Defendant substitute counsel; (3) the trial court did not commit reversible error in advising Defendant of the right to or appoint stand-by or hybrid counsel; (3) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress; (4) any error in the trial court’s decision to exclude evidence under the Rape Shield Law was harmless; and (5) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in advising Defendant of his right to recall a witness. View "Henderson v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment to Plaintiffs on their suit challenging the validity of Senate Bill 151 (SB 151), holding that the passage of SB 151 did not comply with the three-readings requirement of section 46 of the Kentucky Constitution and that the legislation was, therefore, constitutionally invalid and declared void. SB 151 was passed during the 2018 session of the Kentucky General Assembly and purportedly made modifications to various state government employee pension plans, including pension plans for teachers, state police, and county employees. The circuit court voided the bill, holding that, in passing SB 151, the legislature violated section 46 by failing to give the bill a reading on three different days in each legislative chamber. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that SB 151, as finally enacted, never received the required three readings in either legislative chamber. View "Bevin v. Commonwealth ex rel. Beshear" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court dismissing constitutional challenges to the validity of the Kentucky Right to Work Act, 2017 Ky. Acts ch. 1, 15, holding that the trial court did not err. In 2017, the Kentucky legislature passed, and the Governor signed, the Act. The Act amended Ky. Rev. Stat. 336.130(3) to provide that no employee is required to become, or remain, a member of a labor organization, or to pay dues, fees, or assessments to a labor organization. Plaintiff-unions filed an action challenging the Act on several Kentucky constitutional grounds. Specifically, Plaintiffs claimed that the Act violated the Kentucky Constitution’s provisions requiring equal protection of the laws, prohibiting special legislation, and prohibiting takings without compensation and that the Act was improperly designated as emergency legislation. The trial court granted the Commonwealth’s motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Unions’ constitutional challenges to the Act were without merit. View "Zuckerman v. Bevin" on Justia Law