Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Kentucky Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court held that because the Medical Review Panel Act, Ky. Rev. Stat. 216C delays access to the courts of the Commonwealth for the adjudication of common-law claims, chapter 216C violates Section 14 of the Kentucky Constitution. This case presented a legal challenge to chapter 216C, which establishes a mandatory process to delay certain medical-malpractice claimants’ ability to access immediately the Commonwealth courts by creating medical-review panels and requiring a panel’s opinion about the merits of the claimant’s proposed complaint against health-care providers before the claimant may file suit. The trial court declared the Act unconstitutional on several grounds. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that chapter 216C violates section 14 of the Kentucky Constitution, which acts as a restraint on the power of all departments of state government infringing on the right of the people to seek immediate recess for common-law personal-injury claims. View "Commonwealth, Cabinet for Health & Family Services, ex rel. Meier v. Claycomb" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeal reversing the circuit court’s interlocutory judgment concluding that Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government (LFUCG) properly exercised its power of eminent domain in the taking of a permanent easement on Appellee’s land for the public purpose of constructing a storm water culvert and drainage system, holding that the circuit court’s finding was not clearly erroneous. Specifically, the Court held that the court of appeals (1) failed to give appropriate deference to the circuit court’s finding that LFUCG acted in good faith; (2) improperly extended the holding in Sprint Communications v. Leggett, 307 S.W.3d 109 (Ky. 2010); and (3) failed to follow controlling precedent by requiring that local governments condemn property in fee simple when a lesser interest would be equally effective. View "Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government v. Moore" on Justia Law

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At issue was various statutory amendments to the Kentucky Affordable Prepaid Tuition Fund (KAPT) contracts previously purchased by Appellants. The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the trial court concluding that the 2014 statutory changes affecting the 2003 contracts for prepaid college tuition entered into by Maze and the Board did not alter Appellants’ contracts, concluding that Appellants had expressly agreed to be bound by amendments to the contracts imposed by future statutory and regulatory changes. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the KAPT contracts entered into by Appellants, and the underlying enabling statutes, did not authorize the contractual changes imposed by the retroactive application of the statutory amendments at issue in this case; and (2) the retroactive imposition of those amendments upon Appellants unlawfully impaired their contracts in violation of U.S. Const. art. I, 10 and Ky. Const. 19. View "Maze v. Board of Directors for the Commonwealth Postsecondary Education Prepaid Tuition Trust Fund" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the former Mayor of the City of Audubon Park and individual members of the City Council were personally liable for excess sanitation funds generated by a monthly assessment for the stated purpose of paying for sanitation services that was not devoted to trash collection and recycling but had been spent for other municipal purposes. The circuit court dismissed this action, brought by a taxpayer pursuant to section 180 of the Kentucky Constitution and Ky. Rev. Stat. 92.330 and 92.340, for failure to state a cause of action due to lack of injury to the City. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Defendants were liable for the excess sanitation funds. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded, holding (1) the complaint stated a cause of action because the statutes prohibit the use of the sanitation tax revenue for other non-sanitation purposes; but (2) liability was not absolute if the individuals who acted on behalf of the City could establish that the tax revenue was spent for valid City obligations. View "Scalise v. Sewell-Scheuermann" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s first-degree robbery conviction and sentence, vacated his persistent felony offender (PFO) conviction and sentence, which was predicated upon the underlying first-degree robbery conviction, and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings, holding that the trial court erred when it failed to direct a verdict on the first-degree robbery charge. After a jury convicted Defendant of first-degree robbery Defendant pleaded guilty to the PFO charge. The Supreme Court reversed in part and vacated in part, holding (1) the trial court did not err by failing to dismiss the indictment for an alleged violation of Defendant’s right to a speedy trial; (2) the trial court erred when it denied Defendant’s motion for a directed verdict on the first-degree robbery charge; and (3) the trial court should have conducted further review of Defendant’s request to make opening and closing statements himself. View "Lang v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Supreme Court in this interlocutory appeal from the circuit court’s review of an agency ruling was whether Kentucky courts can undertake a statutorily created judicial review of an administrative agency’s final order when the appellant does not have a concrete injury. The Supreme Court adopted the United States Supreme Court’s test for standing as set forth in Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-561 (1992), and held (1) the existence of a plaintiff’s standing is a constitutional requirement to prosecute any action in the Commonwealth courts; (2) Kentucky courts have the responsibility to ascertain, upon the court’s motion if the issue was not raised by a party opponent, whether a plaintiff has constitutional standing to pursue the case in court; and (3) in the instant case, the putative petitioner did not have the requisite constitutional standing to pursue her case in Kentucky courts. View "Commonwealth v. Sexton" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s convictions of two counts of murder and sentence of life without the possibility of parole for twenty-five years, holding that the trial court abused its discretion by proceeding with voir dire without Defendant present. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court improperly conducted voir dire when Defendant was unable to be present and that the court erred when it failed to grant immunity pursuant to Ky. Rev. Stat. 503.085(1). The Supreme court reversed, holding (1) Defendant was deprived of his constitutional right to be present at jury selection pertaining to thirty-one jurors that were questioned in his absence, and the error was not harmless; and (2) the trial court did not commit reversible error when it failed to grant immunity pursuant to Ky. Rev. Stat. 503.085. View "Truss v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the circuit court’s denial of Defendant’s Ky. R. Crim. P. 11.42 motion without a hearing, holding that counsel’s failure to advise a client of the sex offender registration requirement constitutes deficient performance. Defendant pled guilty to criminal attempt to commit kidnapping of a minor victim and other offenses. After he was released from prison, Defendant learned that, as a consequence of his guilty plea, he was required to register under Ky. Rev. Stat. 17.510 as a person who had committed sex crimes or crimes against minors. Defendant filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence pursuant to Rule 11.42, claiming that counsel had failed to discuss the sex offender registration requirement with him. The circuit court denied the motion without a hearing, ruling that counsel’s failure to advise his client about registration did not warrant relief under Rule 11.42. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a defendant has a right to effective assistance of counsel concerning the requirement to register as a sex offender. View "Commonwealth v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed and remanded Defendant’s conviction for two counts of first-degree sexual abuse and affirmed his conviction for two counts of first-degree sodomy, holding that the jury instructions on the sexual abuse counts violated the unanimity requirement. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial court erred in allowing duplicitous instructions on sexual abuse in violation of the unanimity requirement for jury verdicts; (2) the jury instructions for sexual abuse and for sodomy did not subject Defendant to double jeopardy; (3) the trial court did not err in the method of impeachment of the victim’s testimony or in admitting a recorded interview; (4) the trial court erred by admitting a recorded phone call as an adoptive admission, but the error was harmless; and (5) any error in running Defendant’s sentences consecutively instead of concurrently will be cured on remand. View "King v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the Court of Appeals, holding that Defendant was entitled to a new persistent felony offender (PFO) and sentencing trial because because the proceedings were fundamentally unfair. A jury found Defendant guilty of robbery and two counts of kidnapping and found Defendant to be a PFO. On appeal, the Supreme Court reversed the two kidnapping charges, but before Defendant was retried on the kidnapping charges, he filed a RCr 11.42 motion alleging that he received ineffective assistance of counsel stemming from a juror’s presence on the jury who was biased toward Defendant. The circuit court denied the motion. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial. The Supreme Court held (1) the guilt phase of trial was not fundamentally unfair where no one knew of the juror’s bias toward Defendant during voir dire or the guilt phase of the trial; but (2) once the juror realized that he was Defendant’s former victim prejudice could be presumed, and Defendant was entitled to a new PFO and sentencing trial. View "Commonwealth v. Douglas" on Justia Law