Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

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The Supreme Court reversed Petitioner’s convictions for four felony counts of driving under the influence (DUI) causing death, two felony counts of child neglect resulting in death, and three misdemeanors, holding that the trial court’s comments at the beginning of the jury selection process tainted Petitioner’s presumption of innocence and deprived him of a fair trial. In this case involving multiple casualties, the trial court informed the jury pool that Petitioner decided to plead guilty and that he “probably did everyone a favor by doing the plea. It was a pretty tragic case.” The court later repeated this sentiment. The Supreme Court held that the trial court expressed its opinion on a material matter at trial - that of Petitioner’s guilt - and once Petitioner decided to reject the plea deal and proceed to trial, this jury pool was irrevocably tainted with the knowledge that Petitioner was willing to plead guilty in this case. View "State v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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A condition of parole prohibiting Respondent, a registered sex offender, from possessing or having contact with a computer or other device with internet access was unconstitutional under the First Amendment. Respondent challenged the West Virginia Parole Board’s decision to revoke his parole. The circuit court vacated the Board’s decision, partly on the ground that Respondent’s special condition of parole prohibiting his possession or contact with a computer with internet access was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Respondent’s condition of parole was broader than the statute struck down in Packingham v. North Carolina, 137 S.Ct. 1730 (2017), which barred registered sex offenders from accessing social media networking websites, it was an overboard restriction of free speech in violation of the First Amendment. View "Mutter v. Ross" on Justia Law

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A condition of parole prohibiting Respondent, a registered sex offender, from possessing or having contact with a computer or other device with internet access was unconstitutional under the First Amendment. Respondent challenged the West Virginia Parole Board’s decision to revoke his parole. The circuit court vacated the Board’s decision, partly on the ground that Respondent’s special condition of parole prohibiting his possession or contact with a computer with internet access was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Respondent’s condition of parole was broader than the statute struck down in Packingham v. North Carolina, 137 S.Ct. 1730 (2017), which barred registered sex offenders from accessing social media networking websites, it was an overboard restriction of free speech in violation of the First Amendment. View "Mutter v. Ross" on Justia Law

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The felony offense of driving on a license revoked for driving under the influence (DUI) does not involve actual or threatened violence. Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment under the recidivist statute based upon a predicate felony conviction for unlawful assault and two prior felony convictions for driving while license revoked for DUI. Defendant appealed, arguing that his life sentence was not proportionate because the two prior felony offenses did not involve actual or threatened violence. The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s sentence, holding that the recidivist life sentence imposed on Defendant based upon the predicate felony conviction for unlawful assault, together with two prior non-violent felony convictions, violated the proportionality principle in W. Va. Const. art. III, 5. View "State v. Kilmer" on Justia Law

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In this dispute between the West Virginia State Lottery, the Lottery Commission, the Lottery Director (collectively, the State Lottery) and certain entities issued permits to operate limited video lottery game terminals (Permit Holders), the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the circuit court denying the State Lottery’s denial of its motion to dismiss on the grounds that it waived its sovereign and qualified immunity defenses. The dispute arose after the State Lottery instructed the Permit Holders that they would be required to use a different software program at their expense. The Permit Holders alleged a taking without just compensation, deprivation of property without due process, and civil conspiracy. The Supreme Court held (1) the State Lottery did not waive its rights to sovereign and qualified immunity; and (2) because the circuit court did not make any findings or inquiries relating to qualified immunity, this case must be remanded for a determination of whether the State Lottery was qualifiedly immune under the circumstances. View "West Virginia Lottery v. A-1 Amusement, Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether double jeopardy principles were violated by Petitioners’ respective convictions for three counts of robbery in the first degree. Petitioners, three defendants, were tried together before a jury. Each was convicted on charges of one count of burglary, three counts of robbery in the first degree, three counts of assault during the commission of a felony, and one count of conspiracy. The Supreme Court reversed Petitioners’ respective sentencing orders and remanded the cases to the circuit court for entry of new sentencing orders, holding that, under the facts of this case, Petitioners should have been indicted, tried and convicted on only a single count of robbery in the first degree. View "State v. Henson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying Petitioner relief in his petition for a writ of error coram nobis and remanded the case for further proceedings. Petitioner entered a Kennedy plea of guilty to the felony crime of unlawful assault. A few days before Petitioner was set to be released from prison, the Department of Homeland Security notified him that, as a result of his felony conviction, he would be processed for deportation to the place of his birth, Jamaica. During the pendency of the deportation proceedings, Petitioner filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis, alleging that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his trial counsel failed to inform him that his guilty plea to unlawful assault would result in his being deported from the United States. The circuit court ultimately denied relief. The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s order and granted Petitioner coram nobis relief, holding that, under the facts of this case, Petitioner satisfied the four-part test for coram nobis relief. The court directed that, upon remand, Petitioner will be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea and stand trial for the offenses for which he was indicted. View "State v. Hutton" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court upholding the decision of the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) affirming the order of the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) revoking Petitioner’s driver’s license, despite a nearly two-year delay between Petitioner’s arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) and the license revocation. On appeal, Petitioner argued that the procedural delays were so unreasonably excessive that they violated his constitutional rights to due process. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the circuit court correctly found that Petitioner demonstrated no prejudice by either the delay of the DMV in issuing the revocation order or the delay in the OAH’s issuing its final order. View "Straub v. Reed" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court concluding that a large inventory of jet engine repair parts were not exempt from ad valorem property taxation. Petitioner maintained a vast inventory of jet engine repair parts at its West Virginia facility. Petitioner argued that the repair parts were exempt from ad valorem taxation pursuant to the Freeport Amendment contained in the West Virginia Constitution. The county assessor determined that the repair parts were not exempt from ad valorem taxation. The state tax commission upheld the determination. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the inventory of repair parts did not fall within the Freeport Amendment exemption. View "Pratt & Whitney Engine Services v. Steager" on Justia Law

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The circuit court erred in granting a preliminary injunction that stopped the implementation of West Virginia’s new “right to work” law - Senate Bill 1, enacted in the 2016 Regular Session of the Legislature. Plaintiffs, several unions, argued that the right to work law was unconstitutional because it was unfair to unions and their members. Defendants, state officials, argued that the law is fair because it protects workers who do not want to join or pay dues to a union. The circuit court imposed a preliminary injunction, ruling that the provisions of Senate Bill 1 would not go into effect until the court ruled on the merits of Plaintiffs’ arguments. The Supreme Court reversed and dissolved the preliminary injunction, holding that the unions failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits of their constitutional claims. View "Morrisey v. West Virginia AFL-CIO" on Justia Law