Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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After two commitment hearings, the juvenile court entered an order committing Alan L. to the Office of Juvenile Services (OJS) for commitment at a youth rehabilitation and treatment center. In its first order, the court concluded that the State had not proved the necessary conditions for commitment, but the court subsequently found that the evidence supported a commitment order. Alan appealed, arguing (1) claim preclusion barred the State from presenting any new evidence at the second commitment hearing that was available to it before the first commitment hearing; and (2) the commitment hearing violated his right to due process because he could not confront and cross-examine individuals who provided adverse information against him. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Alan was not deprived of his right to procedural due process despite the State’s failure to comply with case law for seeking a new disposition or commitment to OJS; and (2) new evidence at the second commitment hearing, which became available after the first hearing, showed a change of circumstances warranting Alan’s commitment to OJS, and claim preclusion does not bar consideration of changed circumstances. View "In re Interest of Alan L." on Justia Law

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Defendant, whose native language was Dinka Bor, pleaded no contest to first degree murder. After a colloquy, the trial court accepted Defendant’s plea, finding that Defendant had entered his plea freely, voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently. The trial court sentenced Defendant to life in prison. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant’s plea was voluntary because he could comprehend the proceedings and communicate in English; and (2) Defendant’s counsel was not ineffective for failing to ensure that Defendant understood his constitutional rights, failing to stop the plea hearing, and failing to request an interpreter. View "State v. Bol" on Justia Law

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Susan Edwards slipped on a piece of watermelon while shopping at a grocery store operated by Hy-Vee, Inc. and fell. Approximately six feet from where Edwards fell a man was handing out watermelon samples to customers. Plaintiff sued Hy-Vee for her injuries. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of Hy-Vee, concluding that Hy-Vee did not create the hazardous condition or have constructive knowledge of the watermelon on the floor. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that summary judgment was appropriate where there was no genuine issue of material fact as to whether Hy-Vee created or had actual or constructive knowledge of the condition. View "Edwards v. Hy-Vee, Inc." on Justia Law
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The Weitz Company, LLC, a general contractor, submitted a bid on a planned nursing facility. Weitz’s bid incorporated the amount of a bid submitted to Weitz by H&S Plumbing and Heating for the plumbing work and the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning parts of the job. The project owner awarded the project to Weitz, but H&S reneged on its bid. Weitz used other subcontractors to complete the project at greater expense. Weitz later sued H&S, claiming breach of contract and promissory estoppel. The court determined that the parties had not formed a contract but enforced H&S’s bid under promissory estoppel, awarding Weitz damages of $292,492. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment and the amount of damages, holding that the district court did not err by entering a judgment for Weitz on its promissory estoppel claim and correctly measured Weitz’s damages. View "Weitz Co., LLC v. Hands, Inc." on Justia Law

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Jennifer Lorenzen filed a complaint seeking to dissolve her marriage to David Lorenzen. The parties reached an agreement on certain issues, but a trial was required to determine other property-related issues, including the division of the parties’ retirement plans. The trial court determined that the entire marital portion of David’s pension plan should be included in the marital estate and divided equally between the parties. David appealed, arguing that the court erred when it included a certain portion of his pension plan as marital property because the court determined that Jennifer’s future Social Security benefits should not be considered part of the marital estate. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that David’s proposal was effectively a direct offset from the marital estate based on the fact that Jennifer was expected to receive Social Security benefits and David was not, and such an offset is prohibited by precedent and federal law. View "Lorenzen v. Lorenzen" on Justia Law
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Defendant was convicted of driving under the influence (DUI), third offense, with a blood alcohol concentration of .15 or greater. The district court sentenced Defendant to a period of twenty-four months’ probation and, as a condition of probation, ordered Defendant to serve sixty days in the county jail. Defendant appealed, arguing that the court erred in imposing a jail term as a condition of probation, as that is no longer permissible under Neb. Rev. Stat. 29-2262. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a jail term is still available as a condition of probation for a felony DUI because Neb. Rev. Stat. 60-6,197.03(6) is more specific and therefore controls over section 29-2262. View "State v. Thompson" on Justia Law
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Defendant pleaded guilty to robbery. In a separate criminal case, Defendant pleaded no contest to attempted robbery, use of a firearm to commit a felony, and manslaughter. A few days before the sentencing hearing, Defendant moved to withdraw his pleas in both cases, citing newly discovered evidence. After a hearing, the court overruled Defendant’s motion to withdraw his guilty and no contest pleas. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the court did not err by overruling Defendant’s motion to withdraw his pleas because of newly discovered evidence; and (2) Defendant entered the pleas freely, intelligently, voluntarily, and understandingly. View "State v. Carr" on Justia Law
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Defendant entered a plea of no contest to sexual assault of a child, third degree. At sentencing, the district court considered the effect of certain amendments made to Nebraska’s sentencing laws by 2015 Neb. Laws, L.B. 605, which reduced the penalties for a variety of felonies and amended the indeterminate sentencing scheme for Nebraska felonies. The court eventually sentenced Defendant to a prison term of fifty-nine to sixty months. Defendant appealed, arguing that the district court erred in finding that he was not entitled to the reduction in penalties for Class IIIA felonies implemented by L.B. 605. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the reduced penalties for Class IIIA felonies did not apply retroactively to Defendant because he committed his offense before the effective date of L.B. 605; and (2) Defendant’s sentence was within the statutory limits and was not plain error. View "State v. Aguallo" on Justia Law
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After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of theft by unlawful taking, more than $500 but less than $1500, a class IV felony. The conviction was based on the accusation that Defendant unlawfully took two items belonging to Hymark Towing: a vehicle and a combine trailer. Defendant was charged with one Class III felony under the theory that the values of the vehicle and the combine trailer could be aggregated because they were “pursuant to one scheme or course of conduct.” The jury found Defendant guilty of unlawfully taking both items but found that the items were not taken pursuant to one scheme or course of conduct. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a finding of “one scheme or course of conduct” is not an essential element of the crime of theft, regardless of whether the State is attempting to aggregate amounts pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. 28-518(7), and therefore, the district court was correct in determining, based on the jury verdict, that Defendant was guilty of a Class IV felony theft offense; and (2) there was sufficient evidence to support Defendant’s conviction. View "State v. Duncan" on Justia Law
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In 2006, a Colorado court entered a decree for adult adoption making Plaintiff, who was fifty-eight years old at the time, the heir of Merrill Maddocks under the intestacy laws. In 2014, Merrill died without leaving any surviving children. Plaintiff subsequently filed a complaint to quiet title to a section of farmland, arguing that he was the owner of the property because he was the “eldest son” of Merrill under the will of Merrill’s great-uncle. Defendant, the person who takes the property if Plaintiff is not Merrill’s “eldest son,” argued that Plaintiff was not Merrill’s eldest son under the will because “it was not legally possible to adopt an adult” in Nebraska when the great-uncle died. The trial court quieted title in the property in Plaintiff, concluding that Plaintiff was Merrill’s eldest son because the Colorado decree was entitled to full faith and credit in Nebraska. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because Merrill and Plaintiff did not have a parent-child relationship, Plaintiff was not Merrill’s “eldest son” under the great-uncle’s will. Remanded with directions to quiet title to the property in Defendant. View "Burnett v. Maddocks" on Justia Law
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