Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the circuit court dismissing Jefferson County Foundation, Inc.'s suit seeking a declaration that a series of transactions were an unlawful "de facto tax abatement," holding that there was no error.After the West Virginia Economic Development Authority (WVEDA) adopted a resolution to undertake a series of transactions with Roxul USA, Inc. (Rockwool) to finance the construction of a manufacturing plant the Foundation filed a complaint seeking a declaration that the transactions were a de facto tax abatement for Rockwool that violates both statute and the West Virginia Constitution. The business court dismissed the suit with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) WVEDA was statutorily authorized to engaged in the transactions; (2) the transactions were not an exemption from tax; (3) the West Virginia Economic Development Act does not conflict with W. Va. Code 11-3-9; and (4) the transactions did not violate W. Va. Const. art. X, 1. View "Jefferson County Foundation, Inc. v. W. Va. Economic Development Authority" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court denying Defendant's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that the circuit court did not err in denying the petition.Defendant was convicted of first-degree robbery, conspiracy, and entry of a dwelling. In his habeas petition, Defendant alleged that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance and that the State violated his constitutional rights by presenting false testimony. The circuit court denied the habeas petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant failed to prove ineffective assistance of counsel and that Defendant's second assignment of error lacked merit. View "Goodman v. Searls" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court answered in the affirmative two questions certified by the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, holding that there is no separate cause of action for excessive force by police officers during the course of arrest within the plain language of W. Va. Const. Art. III, 10.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) West Virginia applies to its constitution the rule established in Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989), and United States v. Lanier, 520 U.S. 259 (1997), which requires a constitutional claim that is covered by a specific constitutional provision to be analyzed under the standard specific to that provision and not under substantive due process; and (2) in light of Fields v. Mellinger, 851 S.E.2d 789 (W. Va. 2020), a claim for excessive force by police officers brought under W. Va. Const. art. III, 10 is redundant to a claim brought under Article III, Section 6. View "Stepp v. Cottrell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing this complaint alleging violations of the West Virginia Human Rights Act (WVHRA), W. Va. Code 5-11-1 to -20, holding that Respondent was not entitled to qualified immunity under the WVHRA, and Petitioner's complaint sufficiently stated her claims.Petitioner, a former commercial driver's license instructor for Respondent, Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College, filed a complaint alleging that Respondent's decision to terminate her employment was predicated upon illegal age and sex discrimination. The circuit court granted Respondent's motion to dismiss, concluding that Respondent was entitled to qualified immunity and that Petitioner had failed to satisfy the heightened pleading standard. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Petitioner's complaint pleaded sufficient facts to survive a W. Va. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. View "Judy v. Eastern West Virginia Community & Technical College" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed two of Defendant's convictions in this case arising from a fatal drug overdose and remanded the case to the circuit court to resentencing, holding that the convictions violated the constitutional prohibition against putting an individual twice in jeopardy.Defendant was convicted of delivery of a controlled substance (methamphetamine), delivery of a controlled substance (Fentanyl), conspiracy to commit a felony, drug delivery resulting in death, and possession of Fentanyl. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the circuit court erred in permitting Defendant to be convicted of both delivery of a controlled substance and delivery of a controlled substance causing death; and (2) there was no error in regard to Defendant's remaining two issues. View "State v. Duke" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court that re-sentenced Defendant, for purposes of appeal, to an indeterminate term of not less than ten nor more than twenty years in connection for his conviction of one count of sexual abuse by a parent or person in a position of trust to a child, holding that there was no error.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by denying Defendant's motion to suppress his recorded confession and allowing Defendant's interview at the police department to be played for the jury; (2) the circuit court did not err by failing to give two jury instructions proffered by Defendant; and (3) Defendant's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel was not properly before this Court on direct appeal. View "State v. Campbell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court preliminarily enjoining the West Virginia Paycheck Protection Act, passed by the Legislature in 2021, from taking effect, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion when it granted Respondents injunctive relief.Respondents - labor unions, employee associations, and individual members of such groups - sought to enjoin the enforcement of the Act, which prohibits state employers from continuing to deduct union dues and employee association membership fees from public employees' wages. The circuit court concluded that the law violated certain of Respondents' constitutional rights and that its enforcement would irreparably harm them. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion when it did not deny injunctive relief to Respondents. View "Justice v. W. Va. AFL-CIO" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the West Virginia Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act (West Virginia Act), W. Va. Code 62-1D-1 through 16, runs afoul of the First Amendment to the federal Constitution and W. Va. Const. art. III, 7 and is unconstitutional as appleid to the extent that it allows a civil action to be maintained against an innocent third party who publishes information of public concern that was obtained by the unlawful interception of wire, oral, or electronic communication in violation of the statute but who did not participate in the unlawful interception of the communication.Petitioners, public school employees, alleged that the mother of A.P., a special education student in their classroom, violated both the West Virginia Act and its federal construct by placing a secret audio recording device in A.P.'s hair, purporting to show Petitioners physically and verbally abusing students. After Petitioners resigned, they brought this complaint alleging that Respondents, various media groups or outlets, violated the West Virginia Act by using and disclosing Petitioners' intercepted communications. The circuit court granted Respondents' motions to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in dismissing the case. View "Yurish v. Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Plaintiff's claims against Activate Healthcare, LLC under W. Va. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), holding that the circuit court did not err in concluding that Plaintiff's factual allegations against Activate were insufficient to establish a claim of aiding and abetting under the West Virginia Human Rights Act.Plaintiff was working at Constellium Rolled Products Ravenswood, LLC when she requested a change in her duties to accommodate her medical condition. Plaintiff was directed to Activate, Constellium's on-site medical provider, for a physical activity report, but Activate issued more than one report. Constellium terminated Plaintiff based on one of the reports and later returned to work. After Plaintiff unsuccessfully filed a grievance seeking lost wages during her break in employment she sued Constellium, Activate, and other defendants, alleging retaliation and discrimination. The circuit court dismissed Plaintiff's aiding and abetting claim against Activate for failure to state a claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that nothing in the complaint could be construed to establish the elements of an aiding and abetting claim. View "Boone vs. Activate Healthcare, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit granting summary judgment for Defendants on all claims contained in Plaintiffs' second amended complaint seeking class certification, relief in mandamus, lost wages, and other monetary damages against six State Offices and their respective officeholders, holding that summary judgment was proper.In 2014, the Legislature amended W. Va. Code 6-7-1, changing the pay cycle for state employees from a semi-monthly to a bi-weekly basis. Plaintiffs, state employees who were paid one pay cycle in arrears pursuant to the provisions of section 6-7-1, claimed that when the statue was amended the result was a taking of five days of salary from every state employee in violation of W. Va. Const. Art. III, 10 or, alternatively, the imposition of a second arrearage beyond what is authorized by the statute. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that summary judgment was proper. View "Wilkinson v. W. Va. State Office of the Governor" on Justia Law