Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Missouri
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court in favor of several unions (Unions) and issuing a permanent injunction enjoining the State from altering existing collective bargaining agreements with the Unions pursuant to Senate Bill No. 1007 and ordering the State to bargain in good faith with the Unions without constraint from SB 1007, holding that the circuit court's judgment erroneously declared and applied the law.SB 1007 removed most state employees from the merit system by designating their employment statuses as at-will. The circuit court determined that SB 1007 did not impact collective bargaining or mandate at-will employment and that SB 1007 violated Mo. Const. art. I, 29 and 13. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) SB 1007 mandates at-will employment and restricts the State's ability to agree to terms of employment inconsistent with at-will employment; and (2) SB 1007 does not violate the right to bargain collectively as guaranteed by article I, section 29 of the Missouri Constitution. View "American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, Council 61 v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the circuit court that the solar energy system owned by Springfield Solar 1, LLC was tax-exempt as a "solar energy system not held for resale" pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. 137.100(10), holding that the statute is unconstitutional because the Missouri Constitution does not grant the legislature the power to exempt solar energy systems not help for resale from taxation.Springfield Solar appealed the Assessor for Greene County's 2017 assessment of its solar energy system (the equipment), arguing that the equipment was tax-exempt under section 137.100(10), which states that solar energy systems not help for resale are exempt from taxation for state, county, and local purposes. The Commission concluded that the equipment was exempt from taxation under section 137.100(10). The Assessor filed a petition for judicial review, arguing that the Commission's decision was unlawful. The circuit court entered judgment in favor of Springfield Solar, finding that the statute was constitutional. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the tax exemption created by section 137.100(10) is unconstitutional. View "Johnson v. Icet" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Appellant's medical malpractice case without prejudice for failure to file an affidavit of merit within 180 days pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. 538.225, holding that there was no error.On appeal, Appellant argued (1) section 538.225 violates multiple provisions of the Missouri Constitution, (2) the defense of failure to file an affidavit of merit was waived, and (3) he substantially complied with the statute. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellant's constitutional claims were without merit; (2) section 538.225 is not an affirmative defense that can be waived if not pleaded in an answer; and (3) to the extent substantial compliance with section 538.225 is possible, Appellant failed to substantially comply. View "Giudicy v. Mercy Hospitals East Communities" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of three counts of first-degree statutory sodomy and three counts of incest and sentencing him to a total of eighty-seven years' imprisonment, holding that there was no error.On appeal, Defendant argued that the circuit court erred in admitting evidence pursuant to Mo. Const. art. I, 18(c), overruling objections to the State's closing argument, admitting expert testimony and particular exhibits, and finding sufficient evidence to support the convictions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no error, plain or otherwise, or abuse of discretion in the proceedings below. View "State v. Minor" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of tampering with a judicial officer and second-degree harassment of his probation officer, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his allegations of error.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) Defendant's facial overbreadth challenge to the second-degree harassment statute, Mo. Rev. Stat. 565.091, was without merit; (2) there was sufficient evidence to support Defendant's conviction for second-degree harassment; and (3) the district court did not violate Defendant's right to be free from double jeopardy when it sentenced Defendant for both tampering with a judicial officer and second-degree harassment. View "State v. Collins" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this appeal from the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment on one of Respondent's three claims, holding that the circuit court's judgment was not a "final judgment" for purposes of Mo. Rev. Code 512.020(5).Respondent, Jefferson County 9-1-1 Dispatch, filed an action seeking a declaratory judgment, a writ of mandamus, and injunctive relief preventing Appellant, the Director of the Department of Revenue, from enforcing Mo. Rev. Stat. 190.327.5. Respondent argued that the statute violated three different provisions of the Missouri Constitution. The circuit court entered judgment for Respondent on one of its claims, but the remaining two claims were neither denied nor dismissed. Appellant appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that the circuit court's judgment was not a final judgment for purposes of section 512.020(5). View "Jefferson County 9-1-1 Dispatch v. Plaggenberg" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the circuit court granting the State's Rule 74.06(b)(5) motion for relief from its 2016 judgment permanently enjoining the State from enforcing Mo. Rev. Stat. 67.287 and Mo. Rev. Stat. 479.359.2, holding that the circuit court erred.In 2016, the circuit court permanently enjoined the State from enforcing sections 67.287 and 479.359.2 after finding those sections to be unconstitutional special laws. Three years later, the Supreme Court decided City of Aurora v. Spectra Communications Group, LLC, 592 S.W.3d 764 (Mo. banc 2019), which restored the rational basis analysis for social law claims. Thereafter, the State filed a motion for relief from judgment. The circuit court granted the motion. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding that the circuit court improperly assumed a change in decisional law was sufficient to warrant relief from judgment pursuant to Rule 75.06(b)(5). View "City of Normandy v. Parson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court sustaining the State's motion for judgment on the pleadings and dismissing Plaintiffs' action seeking a declaration that the Second Amendment Protection Act (SAPA), Mo. Rev. Stat. 1.410 through 1.485, is unconstitutional and requesting injunctive relief, holding that Plaintiffs had no adequate remedy at law other than to pursue their declaratory judgment action.Plaintiffs - the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, and Jackson County - brought this action challenging SAPA. The State filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, alleging that Plaintiffs had adequate remedies at law. The circuit court sustained the motion, finding that Plaintiffs had an adequate remedy at law because multiple individual lawsuits were pending in which Plaintiffs could bring their constitutional challenges. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiffs lacked an adequate remedy at law in which to adjudicate their specific constitutional challenges. View "City of St. Louis v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of fifteen counts of unlawful possession of a firearm following a jury trial, holding that the circuit court committed reversible error by allowing the jury to hear a prejudicial, out-of-court statement made by a witness who never appeared or testified at trial.After Defendant was arrested on allegations of domestic violence against his wife, Beckey, Beckey told officers that Defendant illegally possessed numerous firearms. Defendant was subsequently charged with fifteen counts of unlawfully possessing a firearm. During trial, the out-of-court statement made by Beckey, who did not appear at trial, was elicited during an officer's testimony. The circuit court ruled that Beckey’s statement could be considered as substantive evidence. Defendant was subsequently convicted. The Supreme Court vacated the conviction, holding that the circuit court prejudicially erred in allowing the officer's testimony over Defendant's violation. View "State v. Hollowell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court reducing the jury's punitive damages award against HALO Branded Solutions, Inc., holding that the circuit court's application of the punitive damages cap in Mo. Rev. Stat. 510.265 did not violate All Star Awards & Ad Specialities Inc.'s right to a jury trial, and the reduced award did not violate HALO's due process rights.All Star brought this action against HALO and All Star's employee, Doug Ford. A jury found HALO tortiously interfered with All Star's business expectancy, that Ford breached his duty of loyalty to All Star, and that HALO conspired with Ford to breach this duty of loyalty. The jury awarded All Star $525,542 in actual damages and assessed $5.5 million in punitive damages against HALO. The circuit court applied section 510.265 and capped the punitive damages award at five times All Star's actual damages - or $2,627,709 - and entered final judgment in accordance with the jury's verdicts. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court properly reduced All Star's award of punitive damages; and (2) the reduced award was within the constitutional parameters of due process. View "All Star Awards & Ad Specialties, Inc. v. HALO Branded Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law