Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals

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In 2009, GameStop, Inc., which operated retail stores that sold video games and video gaming software, hired Petitioner as an assistant manager. When she began her employment, Petitioner received a store associate handbook. In a document included with the handbook was an arbitration agreement. Petitioner signed and dated an acknowledgment of the handbook and rules including arbitration. In 2011, Petitioner sued GameStop and some of its managers (collectively, GameStop) for wrongful discharge, sexual harassment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other causes of action. The circuit court dismissed the complaint pending Petitioner's submission of her claims to final and binding arbitration. Petitioner appealed, arguing that she did not enter into a valid arbitration with GameStop or, in the alternative, the arbitration agreement was unconscionable and unenforceable. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Petitioner and GameStop entered into a valid agreement to arbitrate Petitioner's claims; and (2) the arbitration agreement was neither procedurally nor substantively unconscionable. View "New v. GameStop, Inc." on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of sexual abuse by a parent, guardian or custodian, and distribution and display of obscene matter to a minor. The victim, who was four years old at the time of the offenses, was found to be incompetent to testify. During trial, the trial court admitted certain of the victim's out-of-court statements. The Supreme Court affirmed the convictions, holding (1) even if the admission of the victim's out-of-court statements was error under Crawford v. Washington and State v. Mechling, any error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; and (2) any error in the State's closing argument did not result in manifest injustice that would require the reversal of Petitioner's conviction. View "State v. Lambert" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree and malicious wounding. Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for the murder count and up to ten years' imprisonment for the malicious wounding count. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions and sentences, holding (1) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant's pretrial motion to dismiss the indictment on the basis of perjured testimony because the jury was made fully aware that a false statement was made to Defendant's grand jury; (2) sufficient evidence supported Defendant's convictions; and (3) the trial court did not err by permitting the State to introduce two prior acts of violence that Defendant committed against the victim. View "State v. Carter" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment on appeal. Defendant later filed a petition for habeas relief. After an omnibus hearing, the circuit court found that Defendant was denied effective assistance of counsel because trial counsel failed to investigate a confession by a third party that he had killed the victim. The State appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's order granting Defendant habeas relief in the form of a new trial, holding that Defendant's counsel provided constitutionally deficient performance and that, but for counsel's errors, there was a reasonable probability the results of the proceedings would have been different. View "Ballard v. Ferguson" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, wanton endangerment, and carrying a concealed weapon without a permit. Defendant appealed, arguing, among other things, that he was denied his constitutional right to an effective cross-examination when the trial court interrupted defense counsel's cross-examination of a key witness and directed counsel to meet with prosecutors and the witness to prepare questions for the continuation of the cross-examiantion. The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's convictions and remanded for a new trial, holding that the circuit court deprived Defendant of his constitutional right to an effective cross-examination by requiring defense counsel to prepare the witness in advance for the continuation of cross examination. View "State v. Garner" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of child neglect. Thereafter, a jury convicted Defendant on recidivist charges, for which Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment. The trial court subsequently granted Defendant a new trial on the underlying child neglect felony. After a retrial, Defendant was found guilty of child neglect. Defendant was subsequently sentenced to a second recidivist life sentence. Defendant filed a writ of habeas corpus, contending that his second recidivist life sentence was invalid because he was not arraigned on the recidivist information during the same term of court in which he was convicted on retrial for the underlying offense. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the recidivist life imprisonment sentence was void and unenforceable because (1) the State failed to comply with the requirements of W. Va. Code 61-11-19 insofar as Defendant was not arraigned on the information during the term of court in which he was convicted of the principal offense; and (2) a recidivist sentence under section 61-11-19 is automatically vacated whenever the underlying felony conviction is vacated. View "Holcomb v. Ballard" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction, holding (1) Defendant was not prejudiced by the trial court's exclusion of members of the press from pretrial hearings; (2) the circuit court did not commit reversible error by failing to strike two potential jurors for cause; (3) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by excluding evidence of malfunctions within Defendant's gun; (4) the circuit court did not err by refusing to instruct the jury on manslaughter; (5) the circuit court erred by admitting the testimony of certain witnesses, but the errors were harmless; and (6) the trial court erred by admitting disputed W. Va. R. Crim. P. 404(b) "bad character" evidence, but the error was harmless. View "State v. Bowling" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of one count of child neglect resulting in death and two counts of gross child neglect creating a substantial risk of serious bodily injury or of death. The Supreme Court affirmed Petitioner's convictions, holding (1) the indictment, which charged Petitioner with child neglect causing injury, did not result in the trial court imposing an illegal sentence on Petitioner for child neglect resulting in death because the indictment provided Petitioner with enough information to defend against the charge of child neglect resulting in death; and (2) the evidence at trial was clearly sufficient to convict Petitioner of child neglect creating a substantial risk of bodily injury. View "State v. Chic-Colbert" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of one count of second degree sexual assault and sentenced to a suspended sentence of ten to twenty-five years in prison. Petitioner appealed, alleging several assignments of error. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new trial, holding that the circuit court erred by allowing the State to question the victim regarding Petitioner's sexual history, as the victim's answers, which attacked Petitioner's reputation and character as an alleged sexual predator, constituted the type of character evidence that is barred by W. Va. R. Evid. 404(a). View "State v. Maggard" on Justia Law

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Respondent began employment with Employer in 2005. In 2006, Respondent was terminated for refusing to take a drug test, but he was re-hired one month later. In 2007, Respondent suffered a compensable back injury and later underwent surgery. Respondent filed a worker's compensation claim and later agreed to a settlement for his claim. A few weeks later, Respondent was terminated. Respondent filed a civil action against Employer, asserting discrimination and that his receipt of the workers' compensation settlement was a significant factor in Employer's decision to discharge him. The jury found for Respondent. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in denying Employer's motion for judgment as a matter of law; (2) the circuit court did not err in its denial of Employer's motion for a new trial; (3) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in providing a punitive damages instruction to the jury; and (4) Employer suffered no prejudice emanating from a late disclosure of Respondent's recent employment with Walmart. View "JWCF, LP v. Farruggia" on Justia Law