Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Oklahoma Supreme Court
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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

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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

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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 Public Service Company of Oklahoma from unprecedented fuel costs during a February 2021 winter weather event. Public Service Company of Oklahoma's 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

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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 Oklahoma Natural Gas Company from unprecedented fuel costs during a February 2021 winter weather event. Oklahoma Natural Gas Company's 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. Protestants challenged the proposed bonds on several grounds, focusing on the constitutionality of the 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

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In February 2021, the State of Oklahoma endured record cold temperatures. The severe cold weather resulted in a shortage of the natural gas supply and in turn extraordinary natural gas costs for regulated utilities operating in Oklahoma. The cost of natural gas for the Oklahoma utilities during the two weeks of extreme cold exceeded their entire fuel acquisition cost in 2020. As a result, the Oklahoma Legislature enacted the February 2021 Regulated Utility Consumer Protection Act, 74 O.S.2021, ch. 110A-1, sections 9070-9081, to provide financing options to lower the economic impact on the utility customers. Most Oklahomans could not afford a one-time, cost recovery payment imposed by the utility, and the Legislature provided a new mechanism to spread the fuel cost recovery over a longer period to minimize the financial impact on utility customers. The Act authorized the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (Commission) to approve the recovery of costs through securitization. The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority requested that the Oklahoma Supreme Court assume original jurisdiction and approve the issuance of ratepayer-backed bonds pursuant to the Act. The Supreme Court assumed original jurisdiction and held the ratepayer-backed bonds were properly authorized under the Act and were constitutional. View "In re: Application of OK Dev. Finance Auth." on Justia Law

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Petitioner challenged the legal sufficiency of Oklahoma State Question No. 818, Initiative Petition No. 432. State Question 818, Petition No. 432 sought to create a new article to the Oklahoma Constitution, Article 31, which would: (1) replace the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority with a new state agency--the "Oklahoma State Cannabis Commission" and define its duties; and (2) expand the statutory framework regarding regulation and taxation of medical marijuana. Petitioner Paul Tay, alleged State Question No. 818, Petition No. 432 was unconstitutional because: (1) it was preempted by federal law; (2) signatures gathered on and elections held on tribal land would be invalid; and (3) its gist was insufficient. After review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held Petitioner failed to establish clear or manifest facial unconstitutionality. State Question No. 818, Initiative Petition No. 432 was therefore legally sufficient for submission to Oklahomans for voting. View "Tay v. Green" on Justia Law

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Petitioner challenged the legal sufficiency of Oklahoma State Question No. 818, Initiative Petition No. 432. State Question 818, Petition No. 432 sought to create a new article to the Oklahoma Constitution, Article 31, which would: (1) replace the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority with a new state agency--the "Oklahoma State Cannabis Commission" and define its duties; and (2) expand the statutory framework regarding regulation and taxation of medical marijuana. Petitioner Paul Tay, alleged State Question No. 818, Petition No. 432 was unconstitutional because: (1) it was preempted by federal law; (2) signatures gathered on and elections held on tribal land would be invalid; and (3) its gist was insufficient. After review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held Petitioner failed to establish clear or manifest facial unconstitutionality. State Question No. 818, Initiative Petition No. 432 was therefore legally sufficient for submission to Oklahomans for voting. View "Tay v. Green" on Justia Law

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In 2019, Appellant Vickie McBee ("McBee") filed separate lawsuits against multiple parties involved in the design and construction of her personal residence. McBee filed her suit against Shanahan Home Design, LLC ("Shanahan Home") and Biggs Backhoe, Inc. ("Biggs Backhoe"); McBee's counsel did not immediately have summonses issued for service on the defendants. On May 18, 2020, the Canadian County court clerk's office issued summonses for both Biggs Backhoe and Shanahan Home. McBee served Biggs Backhoe on July 8, 2020, and Shanahan Home on July 16, 2020. Service was accomplished by certified mail, return receipt requested, delivery restricted to the addressee. Shanahan Home and Biggs Backhoe each filed special appearances, reserving additional time to answer McBee's petition. Each defendant moved to dismiss McBee's lawsuit. Biggs Backhoe's motion raised several arguments, including that McBee failed to serve her petition and summons within 180 days, and therefore should have been deemed dismissed as of May 19, 2020. Shanahan Home also raised several arguments, but noted that it would defer to the trial court's judgment on whether the Covid-19 related administrative orders affected the time limit in section 2004(I). In response, McBee maintained that the joint SCAD orders suspended the period for service of process, and therefore dismissal was improper. On October 7, 2020, the trial court issued and filed an order sustaining the motion to dismiss. The trial judge concluded, "because the Summons had not been issued prior to the Covid-19 issues that were addressed by the Supreme Court Directives (SCAD 2020-24; SCAD 2020-29; SCAD 2020-36), the directives do not apply." The trial judge further held that the 180-day period for service of summons was not stayed by the joint emergency orders. The Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed, finding the trial judge erroneously sustained the motion to dismiss based on untimely service. "This Court's emergency orders acted to suspend or toll the period under section 2004(I); therefore, plaintiff timely accomplished service of process when the period between March 16, 2020, and May 15, 2020, is excluded from computing the deadline." View "McBee v. Shanahan Home Design" on Justia Law

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An opioid manufacturer appealed a $465 million verdict following a bench trial in a public nuisance lawsuit. The district court held the opioid manufacturer liable under Oklahoma's public nuisance statute for its prescription opioid marketing campaign. The State of Oklahoma counter-appealed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court retained the appeal and held that the opioid manufacturer's actions did not create a public nuisance. The district court erred in extending the public nuisance statute to the manufacturing, marketing, and selling of prescription opioids. View "Oklahoma ex rel. Attorney General of Oklahoma v. Johnson & Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari review for a second time in this case. Appellant Richard Dopp, appealed the trial court's dismissal of the refiling of his petition pursuant to 12 O.S. 2011, section 100, and his motion to reconsider the order of dismissal. The Appellant was an inmate, and his name appeared on the Oklahoma Registry of Frivolous or Malicious Appeals three or more times. The trial court dismissed without prejudice his first case because he had not prepaid the required filing fees pursuant to 57 O.S. 2011, section 566.2. Appellant then filed a motion to reconsider within ten days of that order, which the trial court denied. He appealed those orders to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court dismissed his appeal for failure to pay the required appellate cost deposit after the Court ordered him to pay it. Appellant refiled his petition. The trial court dismissed the petition as being untimely, finding that he did not file it within one year of the date of the order dismissing his first case. The trial court determined that his motion to reconsider was void ab initio pursuant to section 566.2. The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals affirmed, finding that only a validly filed appeal would extend the time to refile a petition pursuant to section 100 and the Appellant's first appeal was not valid. The Supreme Court vacated the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals' opinion, reversed the trial court, and remanded for further proceedings, holding the Appellant's first appeal was valid and the one-year period to refile began to run the day after the first appeal was final. View "Dopp v. Kirkendall" on Justia Law