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The Supreme Court affirmed as modified the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission’s determination that because Robert Casey’s exposure to asbestos occurred while he was employed by Employer, its insurer (Insurer), was liable to Dolores Murphy, Casey’s widow, for benefits under Mo. Rev. Stat. 287.200.4. Casey died from mesothelioma caused by repeated exposure to asbestos in the workplace. An administrative law judge (ALJ) found Employer liable and awarded section 287.200.4’s enhanced mesothelioma benefits to Murphy and Casey’s eight children. The Commission largely affirmed, limiting recovery to Murphy and determining Murphy to be the sole proper claimant because the amended claim did not identify Casey’s child as dependents or claimants. The Supreme Court modified the Commission’s decision to include Casey’s children in the final award and otherwise affirmed, holding (1) Insurer was liable for the enhanced mesothelioma benefits; (2) section 287.022 is constitutional as applied; and (3) because section 287.200.4 does not limit recovery to dependent children and because the children were properly listed on the amended claim, they should have been included in the final award. View "Accident Fund Insurance Co. v. Casey" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Father’s parental rights to his child pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 22, 4055(1)(A)(1)(a) and (B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(iv), holding that Father failed to present a prima facie case of ineffective assistance of counsel and that the record evidence supported the court’s findings and discretionary determinations. On appeal, Father argued that his counsel’s withdrawal two months before the termination hearing amounted to ineffective assistance of counsel. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding that Father did not demonstrate prejudice from counsel’s performance. View "In re Child of Stephen E." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of assault, holding that Defendant was not denied a fair trial because one of the jurors reported that she had felt pressured to return a guilty verdict. After the court informed the parties of the juror’s statement and invited the parties to be heard, the court concluded that there was no evidence of juror misconduct and that the guilty verdict would stand. The Supreme Judicial Court held that Defendant was not deprived of a fair trial because there was no evidence of outside influence, bias, or misconduct, and therefore, the juror’s statement that she felt pressured to return a guilty verdict fell within the categories of evidence prohibited from use by Me. R. Evid. 606(b)(1). View "State v. Leon" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion for a new trial in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging that a police officer used excessive force by slamming plaintiff's head into the bars and wall of his holding cell. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied plaintiff's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a) motion for a new trial when it determined that the jury's verdict could be harmonized and thus plaintiff was not entitled to compensatory damages as a matter of law. The court also held that, when attempting to harmonize a seemingly inconsistent verdict, the court was not limited to the specific theories of the case presented by the parties, but may adopt any reasonable view of the case that was consistent with the facts and the testimony adduced at trial. In this case, the jury's causation finding was ambiguous and might have referred only to the de minimus injuries that plaintiff suffered while being forced into the holding cell. View "Ali v. Kipp" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant’s convictions for unlawful imprisonment in the second degree and abuse of family or household members, holding that the prosecutor’s statements during closing argument amounted to an unwarranted attack on the person character of defense counsel and, by extension, Defendant, and the misconduct warranted vacating Defendant’s convictions. At issue on appeal was the propriety of the prosecutor’s remarks suggesting that opposing counsel attempted to induce the complaining witness to give false testimony during cross-examination. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed the judgment, holding that there was no reasonable possibility that the prosecutor’s comment contributed to Defendant’s convictions. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the nature of the prosecution’s remarks during closing argument, the lack of any effective curative instruction, and the relative weight of the evidence, considered collectively, made clear that there was a reasonable possibility that the error might have contributed to Defendant’s convictions; and (2) the improper remarks did not clearly deny Defendant a fair trial, and therefore, the protections of double jeopardy were not implicated. View "State v. Underwood" on Justia Law

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Megan Parocha fled from New Jersey to Colorado to escape her abusive spouse. Her husband, who knew that she had come to join her family in Colorado, contacted her almost daily. When she expressed reservations about returning to New Jersey, the frequency and tone of his contact intensified. He called her, emailed her, and texted her repeatedly, and she felt threatened. When Megan sought a civil protection order, her husband claimed that Colorado courts had no jurisdiction to offer her this protection because he was an absent non-resident. This case presented the Colorado Supreme Court the first opportunity to address whether and when a civil protection order was available to a victim of alleged domestic abuse who comes to Colorado seeking refuge from a non-resident. The Court concluded an out-of-state party’s harassment of, threatening of, or attempt to coerce an individual known by the non-resident to be located in Colorado was a tortious act sufficient to establish personal jurisdiction under the state’s long-arm statute, section 13-1-124, C.R.S. (2017). The Court also concluded such conduct created a sufficient nexus between the out-of-state party and Colorado to satisfy the requisite minimum contacts such that the exercise of jurisdiction by a Colorado court to enter a protection order comports with traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. View "Parocha v. Parocha" on Justia Law

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Appellee David Ehrnstein was convicted by jury of incest against L.E. He filed a motion for a new trial, alleging that one of his trial prosecutors and the victim advocate in his case had instructed L.E. to avoid a defense subpoena. Prior to holding a hearing on that motion, the trial court found that it was compelled by the rules of professional conduct to appoint a special prosecutor for purposes of the hearing. Pursuant to sections 16-12-102(2) and 20-1-107(3), C.R.S. (2017), the district attorney filed an interlocutory appeal with the Colorado Supreme Court, which was faced with deciding whether the trial court abused its discretion in appointing the special prosecutor. The Court concluded the trial court abused its discretion because it misapplied the law when it concluded that Colo. RPC 3.7 required the appointment of a special prosecutor for purposes of the hearing on the new trial motion in this case. View "Colorado v. Ehrnstein" on Justia Law

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The Jim Hutton Educational Foundation, a surface-water user, claimed that a statute prohibiting any challenge to a designated groundwater basin that would alter the basin’s boundaries to exclude a permitted well was unconstitutional. The water court dismissed that claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that the surface-water user had to first satisfy the Colorado Groundwater Commission that the water at issue was not designated groundwater. The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed that dismissal, because jurisdiction vests in the water court only if the Colorado Groundwater Commission first concludes that the water at issue is designated groundwater. Therefore, the water court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the Foundation's claim. View "Jim Hutton Educ. Found. v. Rein" on Justia Law

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In 2011, the City of Aspen adopted an ordinance which imposed a regulatory scheme designed to meet the city council’s “duty to protect the natural environment and the health of its citizens and visitors.” Under the ordinance, grocery stores within Aspen’s city limits were prohibited from providing disposable plastic bags to customers, though they could still provide paper bags to customers, but each bag is subject to a $0.20 “waste reduction fee,” unless the customer was a participant in a “Colorado Food Assistance Program.” This case presented the question of whether Aspen’s $0.20 paper bag charge was a tax subject to voter approval under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (“TABOR”). The trial court held that this charge was not subject to TABOR because it was not a tax, but a fee. The court of appeals concurred with this holding. The Colorado Supreme Court also agreed, finding the bag charge was not a tax subject to TABOR. View "Colorado Union of Taxpayers Found. v City of Aspen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for murder in the first degree and other offenses, affirmed the trial judge’s order denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial, and declined to reduce or set aside Defendant’s convictions under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. During trial, the defense attorney failed to adhere to the judge’s courtroom rules, made inappropriate comments in the presence of the jury, and interrupted the judge on multiple occasions. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the judge’s admonishments to defense counsel were well within the judge’s authority, and the judge’s jury instructions mitigated any potential prejudice that might have resulted from the jury observing the disputes; (2) the reconstruction of a missing portion of the record was proper and adequate; (3) there was no evidentiary error; and (4) any purported error in the Commonwealth’s closing statement was not prejudicial. Further, the Court declined to exercise its section 33E power based on friction generated as a result of the judge having to rein in defense counsel’s inappropriate courtroom conduct. View "Commonwealth v. Imbert" on Justia Law