Articles Posted in Virginia Supreme Court

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Defendant was convicted of rape, four counts of aggravated sexual battery, and one count of aggravated sexual battery for offenses committed against his stepdaughter. As a condition of Defendant’s probation, the court ordered that Defendant submit to warrantless, suspicionless searches of his person, property, residence, and vehicle at any time by any probation or law enforcement officer. Defendant challenged this probation condition on appeal. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the condition was reasonable under the facts of this case. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the probation condition at issue was not reasonable in light of the offenses for which Defendant was convicted, his background, and the surrounding circumstances. View "Murry v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suits against Defendants, alleging that she was injured by Defendants’ course of conduct while she was incarcerated in the Richmond City Jail. Plaintiff was not incarcerated when she filed her lawsuits. Plaintiff asserted state law claims and later amended her complaint to assert federal claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The circuit court (1) sustained Defendants’ pleas in bar to Plaintiff’s state law causes of action based on the statute of limitations in Va. Code Ann. 8.01-243.2, and (2) sustained Defendants’ special pleas and affirmative defense of the statute of limitations to the amended complaint, concluding that the section 1983 claims did not relate back to the original filings of the state law claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the statute of limitations in section 8.01-243.2 applies when the plaintiff is no longer incarcerated at the time she files her action relating to the conditions of her confinement, and thus, the circuit court did not err in finding that Plaintiff’s state law claims were time barred; and (2) the circuit court did not err in not granting leave for Plaintiff to file a second amended complaint. View "Lucas v. Woody" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff worked for the City of Alexandria from 2008 until 2011, when the City terminated his employment. Plaintiff sued the City, alleging that the City unlawfully retaliated and discriminated against him by terminating his employment in response to complaints he made about a director of the department in which Plaintiff worked. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiff and awarded damages of $104,096 in back pay. The circuit court subsequently granted Plaintiff’s motion to include liquidated damages to the back pay award, which doubled the award. Plaintiff then filed a motion for additional relief, including reinstatement or, in the alternative, an award of front-pay, and an award for his loss of pension benefits. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s denial of an award of reinstatement, front pay, or pension compensation, holding that the court did not abuse its discretion in determining that Plaintiff was made whole through his other awards against the City and that Plaintiff’s claim for pension compensation was “subject to too much speculation.” View "Lewis v. City of Alexandria" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of malicious wounding and robbery. Petitioner was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment for malicious wounding and five years’ imprisonment for robbery, to be served concurrently. On appeal, Petitioner asserted that the trial court erred in instructing the jury as to the elements of malicious wounding and that insufficient evidence supported the convictions. The court of appeals denied the appeal. Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, arguing, among other things, that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to object to the malicious wounding jury instruction. The habeas court denied relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court improperly instructed the jury and the elements of malicious wounding; but (2) Petitioner was not prejudiced by his counsel’s failure to object to the instruction, as the erroneous malicious wounding instruction did not render the trial fundamentally unfair. View "Dominguez v. Pruett" on Justia Law

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The American Tradition Institute and Robert Marshall (collectively, “ATI”) sent a request to the University of Virginia (“UVA”), seeking all documents that Dr. Michael Mann, a climate scientist and former professor, had produced and/or received while working for UVA. When ATI failed to receive the documents, it filed a petition for mandamus and injunctive relief in the trial court. The trial court conducted an in camera review of some of the documents UVA designated as exempt from disclosure, and subsequently entered an order finding UVA carried its burden of proof that the records withheld under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act met each of the requirements for exclusion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err by denying the request for disclosure of the documents at issue; and (2) the trial court did not err in allowing UVA to demand a reasonable fee for the cost of reviewing the documents sought under the statutory exclusions. View "American Tradition Inst. v. Rector & Visitors of Univ. of Va." on Justia Law

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Defendant, a teacher at a vocational school who also supervised students on the sidewalk outside his classroom, was indicted on three counts of taking indecent liberties with a minor by a person in a custodial or supervisory relationship. A jury convicted Defendant on all three counts. At issue on appeal was whether the evidence showed Defendant had a custodial or supervisory relationship over A.G., a student at the school, who was not one of Defendant’s students but whom Defendant saw every day when he monitored the sidewalk. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was sufficient evidence from which the jury could find that the proscribed acts occurred while Defendant maintained a custodial or supervisory relationship with A.G. View "Linnon v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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George Huguely was convicted in 2012 of murdering his former girlfriend. Huguely's trial received extensive publicity. Virginia Broadcasting Corporation (VBC), the owner of a television station, filed a request to have a camera in the courtroom to broadcast Huguely's sentencing hearing. After a hearing, the trial court denied VBC's request. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err (1) by failing to apply a "good cause shown" standard in its initial determination whether to permit coverage of Huguely's sentencing hearing; and (2) in holding that VBC's newsgathering and reporting activities via electronic media were entitled to no protection under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution or the Virginia Constitution. View "Virginia Broad. Corp. v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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In 1989, Appellant was convicted of aggravated sexual battery and attempting to commit forcible sodomy. In 2005, Appellant was found not to be a sexually violent predator pursuant to the Civil Commitment of Sexually Violent Predators Act. In 2008, Appellant was found guilty of violating his parole and was reincarcerated for his 1989 sexual offenses. Prior to his release from incarceration, the Commonwealth filed a second petition in 2011 to civilly commit Appellant as a sexually violent predator. Appellant moved to dismiss the petition, arguing that it was barred by res judicata. The circuit court denied the motion. The court subsequently found Appellant was a sexually violent predator and ordered him committed. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's denial of Appellant's motion to dismiss, holding that the application of res judicata was inappropriate in this case where the 2011 petition was not dependent upon the same evidence as the 2005 proceeding, nor did the 2011 petition arise from the same conduct, transaction, or occurrence. View "Rhoten v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was a Project that provided for the design and construction of a new Midtown Tunnel. The Commonwealth Transportation Board affirmed the Project and specifically approved and ratified the imposition and collection of tolls on the Project as contemplated by a Comprehensive Agreement entered into by Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Elizabeth River Crossings OpCo, LLC (ERC). Plaintiff and other individuals filed a complaint against ERC and VDOT, alleging, inter alia, that the General Assembly, through its enactment of the Public-Private Transportation Act (PPTA), unconstitutionally delegated its power of taxation to VDOT and ERC in violation of the Virginia Constitution. The circuit court concluded that the General Assembly exceeded its authority in this case. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Project tolls were user fees and not taxes, and therefore, the General Assembly did not delegate its power of taxation to agencies such as VDOT in violation of the Virginia Constitution; (2) the General Assembly properly delegated to VDOT and ERC the legislative power to impose and set the rates of user fees in the form of tolls under the terms of the PPTA; and (3) the Comprehensive Agreement did not abridge the Commonwealth's police power. View "Elizabeth River Crossings OpCo, LLC v. Meeks" on Justia Law

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After the mass shooting at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 2007, the administrators of the estates of two of the victims of the shooting filed wrongful death suits against the Commonwealth, claiming that the Commonwealth was liable for the actions of the Commonwealth's employees at the university pursuant to the Virginia Tort Claims Act. Specifically, the administrators claimed that a special relationship existed between the Commonwealth's employees at the university and the victims that gave rise to the Commonwealth's duty to warn the victims of third party criminal acts. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the Administrators. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, without deciding that a special relationship existed between the Commonwealth and the university students, no duty to warn students of harm by a third party criminal arose under the circumstances of this case. View "Commonwealth v. Peterson" on Justia Law