Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

by
In this matter arising from a condemnation proceeding initiated by the West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways, the Supreme Court accepted questions certified by the circuit court and answered, among other things, that when the DOT initiates a condemnation proceeding that involves a partial taking of land in connection with a highway construction project and when, as a result of the project, a residue tract not needed by the State for public road purposes has been rendered landlocked, a court cannot require the Division of Highways to acquire the landlocked residue by condemnation. The federally-funded highway construction project in this case resulted in residue property being rendered landlocked. The Supreme Court answered questions certified to it by the circuit court and answered, under the circumstances of this case, that (1) the question of whether the residue has become an "uneconomic remnant" is not a question of fact to be determined by a jury; (2) the Division of Highways, over the objection of the landowner, may mitigate the damage to the residue by restoring reasonable public road access thereto; and (3) the trial court cannot require the Division to acquire the landlocked residue by condemnation. View "West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways v. Echols" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s denial of Petitioner’s petition for writ of prohibition seeking to prohibit the municipal court's prosecution of him, holding that the prosecution of Petitioner pursuant to this complaint was in violation of W. Va. art. VIII, 11 and W Va. Code 8-11-1(a). Petitioner was charged with a criminal complaint issued from the Masontown Municipal Court with ten violations of the West Virginia Code. In his petition, Petitioner argued that he was not prosecuted within the statute of limitations. The circuit court denied the petition. Petitioner appealed, arguing that the prosecution was outside the statute of limitations and raising two issues of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Supreme Court remanded with instructions that the circuit court grant the writ of prohibition, holding (1) the record was devoid of any evidence that Masontown adopted, as municipal ordinances, any provisions of the West Virginia Code upon which the complaint against Petitioner was based; and (2) therefore, the Municipal Court of Masontown was proceeding in excess of its jurisdiction. View "Lewis v. Municipality of Masontown, W. Va." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court granted the writ of prohibition sought by Petitioner, the Honorable Margaret L. Workman, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, and halted the impeachment proceedings against her, holding that the prosecution of Petitioner for the allegations set forth in Article IV, Article VI, and Article XIV of the Articles of Impeachment was prohibited. Petitioner was impeached on three of the eleven Articles of Impeachment approved by the House of Delegates. Articles IV and VI alleged that Petitioner improperly authorized the overpayment of senior-status judges, and Article XIV included charges that Petitioner and three other justices failed to implement various administrative policies and procedures. Petitioner filed this proceeding to have the Articles of Impeachment against her dismissed, naming as Respondents the president and president pro tempore of the Senate, the clerk of the Senate, and the West Virginia Senate. The Supreme Court granted a writ of prohibition, holding (1) the prosecution of Petitioner for the allegations at issue violated the separation of powers doctrine; (2) Respondents lacked jurisdiction over the alleged violations in Articles IV and VI and lacked jurisdiction over the alleged violation in Article XIV as drafted; and (3) the failure to set forth findings of fact and to pass a resolution adopting the Articles of Impeachment violated due process principles. View "State ex rel. Workman v. Carmichael" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s complaint claiming wrongful discharge against the Wetzel County Commission and the Wetzel County Assessor on the basis that the Assessor was entitled to qualified immunity and that all of Plaintiff’s claims lacked merit, holding that the circuit court erred in granting the motion to dismiss all of Plaintiff’s claims. After Plaintiff was terminated from his employment, Plaintiff sued Defendants claiming wrongful discharge. The circuit court dismissed the case pursuant to W.Va. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). In reversing, the Supreme Court held (1) Plaintiff alleged sufficient facts to demonstrate that the Assessor and the Commission were his joint employers, and Plaintiff’s allegations were sufficient to overcome dismissal of the Commission as a party; (2) Plaintiff’s allegations preluded application of qualified immunity in the context of a motion under Rule 12(b)(6); and (3) Plaintiff sufficiently pled several causes of action for purposes of surviving a Rule 12(b)(6) challenge. View "Burke v. Wetzel County Commission" on Justia Law

by
The circuit court erred in admitting evidence seized as the result of an unlawful, warrantless search, a search that failed to satisfy any of the exceptions to the warrant requirement. Petitioner was convicted and sentenced for possession of a controlled substance, cocaine, with intent to deliver. On appeal, Petitioner argued that the circuit court erred by admitting evidence seized from his person because the evidence was obtained without a search warrant and that none of the exceptions to the warrant requirement were satisfied. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed Petitioner’s conviction, holding that the evidence was seized unlawfully and that the admission of the evidence was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The Court remanded the case for a new trial. View "State v. Barefield" on Justia Law

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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