State v. Abdullah

After a bench trial, Defendant was convicted of first degree assault. Defendant appealed, arguing (1) there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction, (2) the sentence was excessive, and (3) his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance. The court of appeals affirmed, holding (1) the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction, (2) the sentence was not excessive, and (3) Defendant’s ineffective assistance of counsel claims were without merit because Defendant made insufficient allegations of fact that would support findings of prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the evidence supported Defendant’s conviction and sentence; and (2) Defendant failed to make sufficiently specific allegations of deficient conduct regarding one of his ineffective assistance of trial counsel claims, but the merits of Defendant’s remaining two ineffective assistance of trial counsel claims could not be reviewed upon the trial record, and therefore, the court of appeals erred in determining that these claims were alleged with insufficient specificity and thus lacked merit. View "State v. Abdullah" on Justia Law

In re Trust Created by Nabity

In 1998, a trust was established for the care of Evelyn A. Nabity. In 2011, Evelyn amended the trust agreement that changed the identity of the trustees. In 2012, Evelyn’s son, Robert, petitioned for the appointment of a guardian, conservator, and guardian ad litem for Evelyn and for registration and administration of the trust. Robert argued that Evelyn had not been competent to amend the trust agreement and requested a determination of the proper trustees. In the trust administration proceeding, the county court found that Evelyn was not competent to execute the trust amendment and entered an order declaring Robert and his brother cotrustees. In the guardianship proceeding, the county court set aside a health care power of attorney Evelyn executed in 1998 and ordered Robert to serve as Evelyn’s permanent guardian and conservator. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was clear and convincing evidence that Evelyn was incompetent to execute the amendments to the trust agreement; and (2) the appointment of a permanent guardian and conservator for Evelyn did not deny her the benefit of a valid health care power of attorney. View "In re Trust Created by Nabity" on Justia Law

deNourie & Youst Homes, LLC v. Frost

Debtors contracted with Builder to finish construction on a house. After Debtors defaulted on progress payments, Builder sued Debtors and Bank, claiming that Defendants falsely represented or concealed material information about whether Debtors could pay for the work. The district court sustained Defendants’ motions for summary judgment on Builder’s fraud and conspiracy claims. Debtors then confessed judgment on Builder’s breach of contract claim. After a bench trial, the district court ruled for Defendants on Builder’s equitable and promissory estoppel claims. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the court erred in granting summary judgment to Debtors on Builder’s fraud claim and to Debtors and Bank on Builder’s civil conspiracy claim; and (2) during trial, the court did not err in finding that Builder had failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that Bank promised to fund Builder’s work that was definite enough to induce Builder’s foreseeable reliance on the statement, but these factual findings did not preclude Builder’s proof of the same facts for its fraud claims. Remanded. View "deNourie & Youst Homes, LLC v. Frost" on Justia Law

State v. Mamer

In 2011, Appellant, who was not a citizen of the United States, pled guilty to attempted sexual assault in the first degree. After Appellant was released from incarceration he filed a motion to withdraw his plea and vacate the judgment, alleging that not allowing him to withdraw his plea would result in “manifest injustice” because his trial counsel failed to advise him of the immigration consequences of his guilty plea. The district court dismissed the motion, determining that Appellant could have brought his Padilla v. Kentucky claim in an earlier postconviction action. Appellant appealed, arguing that postconviction relief was never available to him because he could not have reasonably discovered the factual predicate of his claim while incarcerated, as he did not receive notice of the government’s decision to deport him until after his release. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) in the exercise of due diligence, Appellant should have discovered and brought his Padilla claim while incarcerated through a postconviction action; and (2) therefore, the district court properly dismissed Appellant’s claim for manifest injustice relief. View "State v. Mamer" on Justia Law

State v. Lavalleur

Defendant was charged with first degree sexual assault and attempted first degree sexual assault. Before trial, Defendant sought to offer evidence that the complaining witness had an intimate relationship with a third party, arguing that the relationship showed that the complaining witness had a motive to falsely report that she had not consented to sexual activities with Defendant. The district court ruled that the rape shield statute prohibited Defendant from introducing the evidence. The jury found Defendant not guilty of first degree sexual assault but guilty of attempted first degree sexual assault. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that evidence of an intimate relationship, standing alone, is not within the scope of the rape shield statute, the relationship was relevant, the exclusion of the evidence was not harmless. Remanded for a new trial. View "State v. Lavalleur" on Justia Law

Speece v. Allied Prof’ls Ins. Co.

At issue in this case was whether federal law preempts Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-2602.01(f)(4), which generally prohibits mandatory arbitration clauses in insurance contracts. Here, Allied Professionals Insurance Company (APIC), which is registered with the Nebraska Department of Insurance as a foreign risk retention group, issued a professional liability insurance policy to Dr. Brett Speece that included a provision requiring binding arbitration. After Speece filed an action seeking a declaration that APIC was obligated to provide coverage for his defense in a Medicaid proceeding, APIC filed a motion to compel arbitration. The district court overruled the motion, concluding that the arbitration clause in the policy was not valid and enforceable pursuant to section 25-2602.01, and that neither the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) nor the Liability Risk Retention Act of 1986 (LRRA) preempted the state statute. The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s order overruling APIC’s motion to compel arbitration, holding (1) the FAA does not preempt section 25-2602.01(f)(4), but the LRRA does preempt application of the Nebraska statute to foreign risk retention groups; and (2) therefore, the district court erred when it determined that section 25-2602.01(f)(4) prohibited enforcement of the arbitration clause in the parties’ insurance contract in this case. View "Speece v. Allied Prof'ls Ins. Co." on Justia Law

Gaytan v. Wal-Mart

Jose Dominguez was working for D & BR Building Systems, Inc. (D&BR) on the roof of a building being constructed for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. when he was killed in an accident. D&BR had subcontracted with with Graham Construction, Inc. (Graham), the general contractor on the project, to install the steelwork necessary for the building. Guadalupe Gaytan, the special administrator of Dominguez’s estate, brought this negligence action against Wal-Mart and Graham. The district court granted summary judgment for Wal-Mart and Graham. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) summary judgment was properly granted to Wal-Mart, as no genuine issues of material fact existed as to any of Gaytan’s claims against Wal-Mart; and (2) there were genuine issues of material fact with respect to Gaytan’s direct negligence claim against Graham arising from Graham’s alleged retention of control over the use of safety equipment on the roof. Remanded. View "Gaytan v. Wal-Mart" on Justia Law

State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. Dantzler

State farm Fire & Casualty Company issued a rental dwelling policy to Jerry Dantzler. The tenants of Dantzler’s rental property sued Dantzler for personal injuries allegedly sustained by a Dantzler’s tenant as a result of exposure to lead-based paint. Dantzler tendered the claim to State Farm. State Farm subsequently filed an action for declaratory judgment against Dantzler and the tenants asking for a determination of whether its policy precluded coverage for the tenants’ personal injury claim. The district court granted summary judgment for State Farm, concluding as a matter of law that the pollution exclusion barred coverage under State Farm’s policy. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether the tenant’s injuries were the result of a “discharge, dispersal, spill, release or escape of pollutants” as described in the pollution exclusion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that all manners of exposure to lead-based paint involve discharge, dispersal, spill, release, or escape, and therefore, the manner of exposure was not a material fact that prevented summary judgment. Remanded. View "State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. Dantzler" on Justia Law

McDougle v. State ex rel. Bruning

Eric McDougle held licenses as a mental health practitioner and as a provisional alcohol and drug counselor. The director of the Division of Public Health of the Department of Health and Human Services (Department) issued an order revoking McDougle’s licenses after finding that McDougle engaged in unprofessional conduct. McDougle petitioned for judicial review, naming the Department and the State as parties to the petition and timely serving process upon them. The State filed a motion to dismiss the petition for review on the ground that McDougle failed to timely request preparation of the official record upon the Department. The district court granted the motion. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the Department was a “party of record” under the Administrative Procedure Act such that McDougle was not required to timely request the preparation of the official record as a prerequisite to the district court’s jurisdiction over the petition for review. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Department was properly a party to the petition for review and was properly served with a copy of that petition, and therefore, McDougle was not required to separately serve the Department with a copy of the petition and a request to prepare the official record. Remanded. View "McDougle v. State ex rel. Bruning" on Justia Law

State ex rel. Loontjer v. Gale

The Nebraska Constitution generally prohibits the Legislature from authorizing games of chance but contains an exception for live horseracing under certain conditions. At issue in this case was L.R. 41CA, a resolution to amend Neb. Const. art. III, 24 by permitting wagering on “replayed” horseraces in addition to wagering on live horseraces and specifying how the Legislature must appropriate the proceeds from a tax placed on wagering for live and replayed horseraces. The Secretary of State granted the writ of mandamus sought by the relator in this case, holding (1) the separate-vote provision of Neb. Const. art. XVI, 1 requires the Legislature to present constitutional amendments to voters in a manner that allows them to vote separately on distinct and independent subjects; and (2) L.R. 41CA violates the separate-vote provision, and therefore, article XVI, section 1 bars its placement on the November 2014 general election ballot. View "State ex rel. Loontjer v. Gale" on Justia Law