Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
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The Supreme Court answered a question certified to it by the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia by concluding that West Virginia does not recognize a private right of action for monetary damages for violations of W. Va. Const. art. III, 6.Plaintiff brought this complaint alleging several state law claims, including violations of Article III, Section 6, and several federal law claims. Defendants filed a partial motion to dismiss, seeking dismissal of Plaintiff's claim for relief under the West Virginia Constitution on the grounds that state constitutional claims are not supported by the law. The district court then submitted its certified question to the Court. The Supreme Court answered that West Virginia does not recognize a private right of action for monetary damages for a violation of Article III, Section 6 of the West Virginia Constitution. View "Fields v. Mellinger" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court that ordered the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to grant the application for a motor vehicle salesperson license submitted by Timothy McCabe, holding that W. Va. Code 17A-6E-4(c)(5) is rationally related to the State's legitimate interest in preventing fraudulent activity in the motor vehicle industry and is not arbitrary or discriminatory.McCabe was denied a permanent motor vehicle salesperson license pursuant to section 17A-6E-4(c)(5), which prohibits the issuance of a motor vehicle salesperson license to an applicant previously convicted of a felony involving financial matters or the motor vehicle industry. The circuit court ordered that McCabe's application for a motor vehicle salesperson license be granted, concluding that the statute cannot lawfully be applied to applicants who were convicted of felonies prior to the enactment of the statute, that Defendant was denied due process, and that the statute is both constitutionally overbroad and overly narrow. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) section 17A-6E-4(c)(5) is a regulatory statute that does not violate the prohibition against ex post facto laws; (2) Defendant was afforded his procedural due process rights; and (3) the statute is neither overly broad nor overly narrow. View "Frazier v. McCabe" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction and sentence for attempting to solicit a minor using a computer, holding that the warrantless seizure of Defendant's cell phone was reasonable under the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement and did not violate Defendant's Fourth Amendment rights.Defendant moved to suppress the evidence obtained from the search of his cell phone, arguing that the plain view exception to the warrant requirement did not cover law enforcement's seizure of his phone. The circuit court denied Defendant's motion, apparently based on the plain view exception to the warrant requirement. After Defendant was convicted he appealed, arguing that the temporary warrantless seizure of his cell phone violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court properly denied Defendant's motion to suppress. View "State v. Deem" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted Petitioner's requested writ of prohibition prohibiting the circuit court from enforcing a ruling that found an audio/video recording of a voluntary statement made to law enforcement officers by H.D., the defendant in the underlying criminal proceeding, violated H.D.'s privilege against self-incrimination, holding that a defendant's Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination is not violated by the admission into evidence and/or publication to the jury during a criminal proceeding of an audio/video recording of the defendant's voluntary statement made to law enforcement officers. Because H.D. was in a non-custodial setting when he made his incriminating statement and affirmatively waived his rights, H.D. may not now assert the privilege against self-incrimination in his criminal proceeding to avoid the admission into evidence and/or publication to the jury of that recording. View "State ex rel. Wade v. Honorable David W. Hummel, Jr." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction for incest, sexual assault in the third degree, and sexual abuse by a parent, guardian, custodian or person in a position of trust to a child, holding that there was no error.Defendant's first trial resulted in a hung jury, and his second trial resulted in a conviction on nine counts. The Supreme Court affirmed the convictions, holding (1) the first trial did not result in Defendant's acquittal based on the circuit court's manner of polling the jury; (2) the circuit court did not err when it continued Defendant's first trial past the first term of court over Defendant's objection; (3) there was no error in the circuit court's decision to allow the jury to hear the State's DNA evidence; (4) the circuit court did not err in refusing to dismiss a juror who admitted to knowing the victim and the prosecutor; and (5) the doctrine of cumulative error did not apply in Defendant's case. View "State v. Jeremy S." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court denying Defendant's' motion to dismiss the indictment in his case, holding that West Virginia's felon in possession of a firearm statute is not void for vagueness.Defendant entered a conditional guilty plea to the charge of felon in possession of a firearm. Defendant later appealed the order of the circuit court denying his motion to dismiss the indictment, arguing (1) the felon in possession of a firearm statute, W. Va. Code 61-7-7(b), is void for vagueness; or (2) in the alternative, the predicate statute that served as the basis for his conviction was not a crime of violence against the person of another. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 61-7-7(b) is constitutional; and (2) a prior felony conviction for wanton endangerment in the first degree is a crime of violence against the person of another within the meaning of section 61-7-7(b). View "State v. Mills" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court affirming Defendant's conviction for one count of domestic battery, holding that law enforcement officers' entry into Defendant's home was reasonable under the emergency doctrine exception to the warrant requirement.After a magistrate court jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of domestic battery of his wife and sentenced to ten days in jail. The circuit court affirmed, holding that the officers' entry into Defendant's home fell under the exigent circumstances exception to the Fourth Amendment and that, therefore, the officers acted reasonably. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the warrantless entry into Defendant's home fell within the emergency doctrine exception to the warrant requirement; and (2) Defendant was not entitled to reversal on his remaining allegations of error. View "State v. Rexrode" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the rulings of the circuit court finding that the Workplace Freedom Act (the Act) infringes upon the rights to associate, as well as the liberty and property rights, of labor unions that are member organizations of the AFL-CIO (Labor Unions), holding that the Act does not violate constitutional rights at issue.In 2016, the Legislature enacted the Act, which prohibits collective bargaining agreements that require an employee to pay any dues, fees, assessments, or other similar charges as a condition of employment, or as a condition for the continuation of employment, when the employee has chosen not to join a union. On remand, the circuit court ruled that the Act unconstitutionally fringes on the rights of the Labor Unions, who represent both private and government workers in West Virginia. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Act does not violate the West Virginia Constitution's protections of association, property, and liberty rights. View "Morrisey v. West Virginia AFL-CIO" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court giving Petitioner credit for twelve days of time served toward the sentence he received for his felony conviction although Petitioner spent additional time in confinement for other charges that were dismissed in the universal plea agreement, holding that to grant Petitioner additional credit for time served would do little more than reward Petitioner for habitual criminal behavior.Petitioner was charged with several crimes and agreed to resolve the pending charges against him in a universal plea agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, Petitioner agreed to plea guilty to the charge of felony carrying a concealed firearm by a prohibited person. In exchange, the State agreed to drop the remaining charges. After he was sentenced, Petitioner argued that, in addition to the twelve days of credit for time served he was granted, he was constitutionally entitled to credit for time served while he was incarcerated for charges that were resolved in the universal plea agreement. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner's circumstances implicated neither double jeopardy nor equal protection of the law such that additional credit for time served was constitutionally mandated. View "State v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Petitioners' Rule 50(b) motion for judgment as a matter of law, Rule 59(a) motion for a new trial, and Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend the judgment, as provided for by the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure, holding that the circuit court did not err.Respondent filed a complaint alleging that Petitioners, two correctional officers, used excessive force against him. The jury found that Petitioners used excessive force on Respondent and committed the civil tort of battery on Respondent. The jury award compensatory damages of $0 and punitive damages of $4,500. Petitioners filed a Rule 50(b) motion for judgment as a matter of law and motions pursuant to Rules 59(a) and (e) for a new trial and/or to alter or amend the judgment, arguing that there was no reasonable relationship between the compensatory damages and punitive damages award. The circuit court denied the motions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in (1) allowing punitive damages to be recovered by Respondent without an accompanying award of compensatory or nominal damages; and (2) failing to apply the provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. 1997e, to Petitioners. View "Lunsford v. Shy" on Justia Law