Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Kentucky Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction and sentence for first-degree sexual abuse and of being a first-degree persistent felony offender (PFO1), holding that there was no reversible error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) Defendant's argument that he was denied a unanimous verdict because the jury was only instructed on one count of sexual abuse when two separate allegations were introduced at trial was not subject to appellate review; and (2) Defendant was not entitled to a new trial because the jury pool was not tainted due to a social media post. View "Rudd v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals concluding that the searches and seizures leading to Defendant's conviction were illegal under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and section 10 of the Kentucky Constitution, holding that the circuit court's suppression order was insufficient for appellate review. Defendant entered a conditional Alford plea to one count of possession of a controlled substance, third degree, and a conditional Alford plea to one count of possession of marijuana. On appeal, Defendant challenged the denial of his motions to suppress evidence obtained as a result of a traffic stop. The court of appeals upheld the denial of his motions to suppress. The Supreme Court remanded the case for entry of sufficient findings of fact, holding (1) the court of appeals erred in analyzing Defendant's claim that the searches and seizures were illegal under the state and federal constitutions; but (2) the circuit court's order of suppression was factually insufficient for appellate review of Defendant's claim that his detention was unlawful and that the evidence must be excluded as fruit of the poisonous tree. View "Warick v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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In this dependency, neglect, and abuse proceeding the Supreme Court vacated the order of the court of appeals reversing the family court's decision denying an indigent mother's request for expert funding and finding the child to be a neglected child, holding that the court of appeals lacked jurisdiction. After the family court made a finding of neglect, the mother failed timely to file her notice of appeal. The family court, however, permitted a belated appeal, citing excusable neglect. In reversing the family court's expert funding decision, the court of appeals found that the mother's due process rights were impacted by her inability to hire an expert. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals' order, holding that the court lacked jurisdiction to consider the mother's appeal because the mother failed timely to file her appeal, and there was no excusable neglect in this case. View "Commonwealth v. H.C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the appellate court's opinion reversing Defendant's murder conviction and ordering a new trial, holding that there was not a reasonable probability that the outcome of the trial would have been different but for any of defense counsel's purported deficiencies. On appeal, the court of appeals reversed Defendant's conviction and remanded the case to the trial court for a new trial, concluding that Defendant's counsel was ineffective in representing Defendant during his murder trial. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that while defense counsel did make some mistakes at trial, those mistakes did not render his assistance ineffective. View "Commonwealth v. Ferguson" on Justia Law

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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