Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Missouri
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court determining that Mo. Rev. Stat. 595.201, as applied to defense attorneys, is constitutionally invalid and that the passage of Senate Bill 569 (SB 569) was procedurally proper, holding that the circuit court did not err in its judgment.Plaintiffs - five public defenders and three criminal defendants - brought this action for declaratory and injunctive relief challenging the constitutional validity of statutes relating to victims of sexual offenses, including SB 569 and section 595.021, which requires criminal defense attorneys to provide information to victims of sexual assault offenses. The circuit court (1) declared section 595.201 constitutionally invalid as as applied to defense counsel because it violated defense attorneys' rights to freedom of speech, and (2) rejected procedural challenges to SB 569 as a whole. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court properly determined that (1) section 595.201.2(4)'s requirements violate defense attorneys' free speech rights, and (2) the General Assembly complied with the procedural limitations imposed by the Missouri Constitution in passing SB 569. View "Fox v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the circuit court entering a declaratory judgment that Mo. Rev. Stat. 115.646 violated public officials' right to free speech and was void for vagueness, holding that the circuit court erred.Section 115.646 prohibits officials from directly using public funds to advocate, support, or oppose a ballot measure or candidate for public office. Plaintiffs initiated a lawsuit seeking a judgment declaring section 115.646 unconstitutional. The circuit court sustained Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, declaring that section 115.646 violated the officials' First Amendment rights. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding (1) because section 115.646 regulates the use of public funds, not the officials' speech, it does not implicate the free speech clause of the First Amendment; and (2) the circuit court erred in declaring certain words and phrases in the statute to be unconstitutionally vague. View "City of Maryland Heights v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court issuing a declaratory judgment invalidating Mo. Rev. Stat. 116.180 and 116.334.2, which prohibit the collection of referendum petition signatures before the Secretary of State has certified the referendum's official ballot title and affixed it to the petition, holding that there was no error.In invalidating sections 116.180 and 116.334.2, the circuit court declared that those provisions interfere with and impede the right of referendum, therefore conflicting with Mo. Const. art. III, 49 and 52(a). The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment declaring those statutes constitutionally invalid, holding that the statutes' prohibition on collecting referendum petition signatures before the Secretary certifies the official ballot title unreasonably shores the timeframe for petition circulation, thus interfering with and impeding the constitutional right of referendum reserved to the people. View "No Bans on Choice v. Ashcroft" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction for second-degree felony murder and armed criminal action, holding that the circuit court's evidentiary rulings infringed on Defendant's constitutional right to present a complete defense, as guaranteed by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments.Defendant's convictions arose from an alleged robbery during which Defendant shot and killed Mathew Haylock. During trial, Defendant attempted to present evidence that he shot Haylock in self-defense after Haylock attempted to rob him. Each time Defendant raise the issue of presenting his own version of events the circuit court denied him the right to provide such evidence. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding that by prohibiting Defendant from presenting evidence about the ultimate issue int his case, the circuit court prevented Defendant from presenting a complete defense, in violation of his constitutional rights. View "Missouri v. Gates" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court overruling Defendant's Rule 29.15 motion for postconviction relief without holding an evidentiary hearing, holding that the circuit court did not clearly err in determining that Defendant failed to plead facts not refuted by the record that, if true, resulted in prejudice entitling him to an evidentiary hearing.Defendant was found guilty of four felony sexual offenses. The court of appeals. Defendant subsequently filed a Rule 29.15 motion to vacate, set aside, or correct the judgment, alleging several instances of ineffective assistance of counsel. The circuit court overruled the motion without conducting an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not clearly err in denying Defendant's postconviction claims without an evidentiary hearing. View "McLemore v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of two counts of statutory rape in the second degree, holding that the circuit court erred in permitting witness testimony via two-way live video, in violation of Defendant's right to confrontation under the United States and Missouri Constitutions.Defendant was charged in connections of sexual assault by I.S. At trial, the circuit court allowed the virtual testimony of Erik Hall, a crime laboratory employee who collected a buccal swab from Defendant and completed a DNA analysis and laboratory report. Defendant was found guilty of two count of statutory rape. On appeal, Defendant argued that Hall's two-way live video feed testimony violated his constitutional right to confrontation and due process. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in admitting Hall's two-way live video testimony, and the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "State v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the circuit court finding that Juvenile committed acts that would constituted first-degree statutory sodomy if committed by an adult, holding that the circuit court erroneously declared and applied the law in admitting two-way video testimony, in violation of Juvenile's right to confrontation.Prior to his adjudication hearing, Juvenile filed an objection to a virtual adjudication and request to appear in person, arguing that he had a constitutional and statutory right to face-to-face confrontation of witnesses against him. The objection was overruled, and the court held the hearing in a "hybrid" format that utilized videoconferencing technology due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After the hearing, the circuit court sustained the allegation of first-degree statutory sodomy beyond a reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding that the circuit court's general statements concerning COVID-19 did not satisfy the requisite standard for admitting two-way video testimony, in violation of Juvenile's confrontation rights. View "In re C.A.R.A." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the circuit court finding that J.A.T. committed acts that would constitute first-degree assault and armed criminal action if committed by an adult, holding that requiring J.A.T. to attend the adjudication hearing via two-way live video violated his constitutional rights to due process and confrontation.While J.A.T. repeatedly asserted his right to be physically present at his adjudication hearing to defend himself, the circuit court required J.A.T. to attend his adjudication hearing via two-way video to limit the exposure of germs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court's judgment, holding (1) generalized concerns about the COVID-19 virus may not override a juvenile's due process right to be physically present for his juvenile adjudication hearing at which his guilt or innocence will be determined; and (2) the circuit court erred in requiring J.A.T.'s attendance and participation via two-way video, in violation of J.A.T.'s due process right to be physically present at his adjudication hearing. View "In re J.A.T." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court sustaining Defendant's motion to suppress a cell phone and electronic data stored on that cell phone, holding that the circuit court did not err in sustaining the motion to suppress.The circuit court concluded that the search warrant failed to describe with sufficient particularity the thing to be seized and was so facially deficient that the executing officers could not reasonably have presumed it to be valid. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the seizure of a cell phone at the sheriff's office was outside the scope of the warrant, so the evidence was not validly seized; and (2) the officer conducting the search did not have a good faith basis when he executed the search warrant at the sheriff's office, contrary to the clear directions of the search warrant to search a cell phone located at a particular address. View "State v. Bales" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of the Defendants and dismissing Plaintiffs' action seeking a declaratory judgment that Mo. Rev. Stat. 321.320 is an unconstitutional special law and that House Bill No. 1446 (HB 1446) violates the single-subject provision of the Missouri Constitution, holding that the circuit court erred.The City of De Soto and James Acres brought this action against the governor and the attorney general challenging section 321.320 and HB 1446. The De Soto Fire Protection District intervened as a defendant. The circuit court entered judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment below, holding that HB 1446 violates the prohibition against multiple subjects in Mo. Const. art. III, 23 and that the entire bill is invalid and may not be enforced. View "City of De Soto v. Parson" on Justia Law