Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Oklahoma Supreme Court
by
This case, decided by the Supreme Court of the State of Oklahoma, involved a dispute between the Governor of Oklahoma and the state's legislative leaders. The Governor sought a declaration that the legislative leaders did not have the authority to pass two bills related to Tribal compacts on behalf of the state.The case has its roots in previous US Supreme Court decisions that allowed Oklahoma to tax tobacco products sold on Indian lands to non-tribal members and to enter into agreements with tribal nations regarding these taxes. Following these decisions, Oklahoma's governor negotiated and entered into compacts with tribal nations regarding excise taxes on tobacco products and motor vehicle licensing and registration fees.The current dispute revolves around compacts negotiated in 2013. The Governor argued that the legislature lacked the authority to pass two bills extending the expiration of these compacts, alleging that the bills were the product of an unlawful concurrent special legislative session, that they violated the separation of powers by exercising powers that belong to the Executive branch, and that they contradicted his exclusive authority to negotiate state-tribal compacts.The court held that the legislature had the constitutional authority to consider the bills during a concurrent special session, and that the legislation did not exceed the call of the special session. The court also held that the Governor's authority to negotiate state-tribal compacts is statutory, not constitutional, and that the passage of the bills was not an infringement on the Governor's statutory authority to negotiate and enter into state-tribal compacts. Therefore, the court denied the Governor's request for declaratory relief. View "Stitt v. Treat" on Justia Law

by
The appellants in this case filed an action to permanently enjoin enforcement of five Acts of the Oklahoma Legislature. Each Act concerned the termination of a pregnancy. The appellants' challenges were based upon Oklahoma law and not federal law. They argued there was a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy under the Oklahoma Constitution. The trial court denied a temporary injunction on three of the Acts, which was the basis of this appeal. The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted a temporary injunction pending appeal, vacated the trial court's order denying temporary injunction, directed it to grant a temporary injunction and remanded the matter for further proceedings on the merits. View "Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice v. Drummond" on Justia Law

by
Howard Berkson, Esq. ("Lawyer") filed an action to challenge a ten-dollar fee collected for the Lengthy Trial Fund ("LTF") when a new case is filed. State defendants the administrative director of Oklahoma Courts and other district court clerks, all moved to dismiss. The Tulsa County District Court granted the two motions to dismiss and Lawyer appealed. The Supreme Court ultimately concluded Berkson's petition failed to state a claim that 28 O.S. § 86 was an unconstitutional special law and the trial court properly granted the two motions to dismiss filed by the two defendants. View "Berkson v. Oklahoma ex rel. Administrative Director of the Courts" on Justia Law

by
Petitioners filed this original proceeding objecting to two pieces of legislation passed by the Oklahoma legislature during the 2022 legislative session: S.B. 1503 and H.B. 4327. Both acts prohibited abortion after certain cutoff points while providing for a civil enforcement mechanism; both acts prohibited enforcement by the State, its subdivisions, and its agents--instead, the bills created a cause-of-action maintainable by any person for performing, or aiding and abetting the performance of, an abortion in violation of the acts. Petitioners challenged the bills on many grounds, but the Oklahoma Supreme Court did not address them here. The Court held both bills were unconstitutional; the Court found it unnecessary to address the Petitioners' request for injunctive relief and/or writ of prohibition or Respondents' claims that Petitioners did not have a justiciable claim against them. Petitioners' request for injunctive relief and/or a writ of prohibition was denied. View "Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice v. Oklahoma" on Justia Law

by
After the Carter County, Oklahoma District Court adjudicated S.J.W. (child) as deprived, Parents-appellants appealed. S.J.W., through child's attorney, filed a motion to dismiss the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. S.J.W. claimed the Chickasaw Nation had exclusive jurisdiction pursuant to 25 U.S.C. § 1911(a) based on the plain language in the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), because S.J.W. resided within the Chickasaw reservation, notwithstanding the fact that S.J.W. was an Indian child and member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Parents raised two issues to the Oklahoma Supreme Court: (1) whether Oklahoma courts have subject matter jurisdiction over a nonmember Indian child's deprived case arising in Carter County, which was completely within the external, territorial boundaries of the Chickasaw reservation; and (2) if the court did have jurisdiction, whether a delay in the adjudication hearing deprived Parents of their due process rights. With respect to the first issue, the Supreme Court held the district court had subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate S.J.W. deprived. Pursuant to 25 U.S.C. § 1911(b), the State of Oklahoma shared concurrent territorial jurisdiction with an Indian child's tribe when the Indian child is not domiciled or residing on the Indian child's tribe's reservation. "In our dual federalism system, an Oklahoma district court's subject matter jurisdiction may be limited by the Oklahoma or U.S. Constitution. U.S. Const., amend. X; Okla. Const. art. I, §§ 1, 7(a)." In addition, the Supreme Court found no violation of the Parents' right to due process of law as any delay was not "arbitrary, oppressive or shocking to the conscience of the court," and Parents had a meaningful opportunity to defend throughout the proceeding. View "In the Matter of S.J.W." on Justia Law

by
During the summer of 2021, Appellants Edmond Public School Board Members and Edmond Public School District Superintendent, Angela Grunewald, (collectively "District") anticipated a complete return to in-person instruction for the 2021-2022 school year. Prior to the start of the school year, the Oklahoma City County Health Department ("OCCHD") expressed to District that quarantines should be recommended rather than required. In response, District prepared a standard letter that alerted parents when their child was exposed to a positive COVID-19 case, which left the responsibility "for carrying out a quarantine or not" up to the parents. School began on Thursday, August 12, 2021. By the fourth day of school, District reported 140 positive cases of COVID-19 which rose to 170 positive cases on the fifth day of the school year. The District thereafter implemented a policy consistent with the OCCHD’s recommendation and informed parents of the policy by email. As a result of the Policy, several unvaccinated students were required to quarantine due to being identified as a close contact. The Appellees, parents of children enrolled in Edmond Public Schools affected by the Policy ("Parents"), individually and on behalf of their children, filed a Petition for Declaratory Judgment and Injunctive Relief and an Application for Temporary Restraining Order ("TRO") alleging the policy violated state statutory and federal constitutional rights. District objected, and the TRO was denied. The trial court denied relief on all three counts pleaded in the Petition, but granted a Temporary Injunction based on Parents' Equal Protection Clause argument and enjoined District from implementing or enforcing the Policy. The District appealed. The trial court determined Parents were likely to succeed on the merits of their Equal Protection Clause claim against District but were unlikely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the Policy violated 70 O.S.Supp.2021, § 1210.189(A)(1). The Oklahoma Supreme Court found the trial court improperly interpreted § 1210.189(A)(1) and incorrectly concluded Parents were unlikely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the Policy violated § 1210.189(A)(1). Because the Supreme Court determined the policy violated 70 O.S.Supp.2021, § 1210.189(A)(1), it did not address the Equal Protection Clause argument. The trial court’s order was vacated and a declaratory judgment was granted in favor of the Parents. View "Shellem v. Gruneweld" on Justia Law

by
Petitioners were healthcare providers and an advocacy group, the Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice. Respondents were various state officials: the Attorney General of the State of Oklahoma, the district attorneys of Oklahoma and Tulsa counties, and the heads of various Oklahoma medical agencies. Petitioners filed this original proceeding asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to assume original jurisdiction and grant declaratory relief concerning the constitutionality of two statutes, 21 O.S. 2021, § 8612 and 63 O.S. Supp. 2022, § 1-731.43, which criminalized performance of certain abortions. They requested the Supreme Court either issue an injunction preventing the enforcement of these statutes or, alternatively, issue a writ of prohibition preventing the Respondents from enforcing these statutes. Petitioners alleged the two statutes violate inherent rights and substantive due process rights guaranteed by sections 24 and 75 of article II of the Oklahoma Constitution. The gravamen of their argument was, following the recent decision of the United States Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Org., 142 S. Ct. 2228 (2022), that the Oklahoma Constitution provides an independent right to terminate a pregnancy and that right was unaffected by the Dobbs opinion. In addition, Petitioners alleged the statutes were unconstitutionally vague and that § 861 was repealed by implication by § 1-731.4. The Supreme Court held that the Oklahoma Constitution created an inherent right of a pregnant woman to terminate a pregnancy when necessary to preserve her life. "Absolute certainty is not required, however, mere possibility or speculation is insufficient." The Court made no ruling on whether the Oklahoma Constitution provides a right to an elective termination of a pregnancy, i.e., one made outside of preserving the life of the pregnant woman. "Regulations that significantly impair an inherent right must survive strict scrutiny." View "Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice v. Drummond" on Justia Law

by
The plaintiffs/appellees, doctors, parents, and the Oklahoma State Medical Association, (collectively, doctors) brought a declaratory judgment action against the State of Oklahoma and the Governor seeking: (1) a declaration that Senate Bill 658 (codified as 70 O.S. Supp. 2021 Ch. 15, §§1210-189 and 190), which restricted school districts of local control of public schools from making decisions about mask wearing to school in order to protect all students from contracting or spreading a highly contagious and infectious disease, only when the Governor declared a state of emergency was unconstitutional; and (2) an injunction enjoining the alleged unconstitutional legislation from being enforced. The trial court granted a temporary injunction, enjoining the State from enforcing portions of Senate Bill 658. The State and Governor appealed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that 70 O.S. Supp. 2021 §§1210-189 and 190, were an unconstitutional, impermissible delegation of Legislative authority. However, because the objectionable provision was stricken, the remainder of the statutes could be upheld. View "Ritter v. Oklahoma" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed an action challenging rules adopted by the Oklahoma Board of Tests for Alcohol and Drug Influence at one of its meetings. Those rules were subsequently used by the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety in actions to revoke plaintiffs' driver's licenses. The district court held an evidentiary hearing and concluded: (1) the Board violated the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act; and (2) rules adopted by the Board at its meeting were invalid. Defendants appealed and the Court of Civil Appeals concluded a willful violation of the Open Meeting Act did not occur and reversed the district court. Plaintiffs petitioned for certiorari review, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Civil Appeals: the evidence was insufficient to make a prima facie case that the Board's Director willfully violated the Open Meeting Act when he failed to send the email notice of the special meeting to the Secretary of State. "The evidence showed a single event of an official's forgetfulness and omission when he sent an email notice to many individuals and failed to include the Secretary of State's address on the email, and additional evidence showed this omission was not a willful violation of the Act." View "Bailey, et al. v. Oklahoma ex rel. Bd. of Tests for Alcohol & Drug Influence" on Justia Law

by
The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority petitioned the Oklahoma Supreme Court to approve the issuance of ratepayer-backed bonds pursuant to the February 2021 Regulated Utility Consumer Protection Act, 74 O.S.2021, ch. 110A-1, sections 9070-9081. The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority sought to issue bonds to cover the debt incurred by Summit Utilities Oklahoma from unprecedented fuel costs during a February 2021 winter weather event. Summit Utilities’ ratepayers would then fund the bond payments through a monthly charge. The ratepayer-backed bonds would allow customers to pay their utility bills at a lower amount over a longer period of time. No protestants challenged the proposed bonds. The Supreme Court assumed original jurisdiction and held that the ratepayer-backed bonds were properly authorized under the Act and were constitutional. View "In the Matter of the Application of the Oklahoma Development Finance Authority" on Justia Law