Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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In 2012, as the result of a change in the way the Custer County assessor classified irrigated grassland for purposes of valuation, the assessor increased the assessed value of the property owned by Appellant from $734,968 to $1,834,924. Appellant filed petitions with the Tax Equalization and Review Commission (TERC) pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. 77-1507.01 challenging the valuation increase. After two separate hearings on Appellant’s petitions, TERC affirmed the assessor’s valuations for 2012. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that TERC’s consideration of Appellant’s petitions using the appellate standard of review described in Nev. Rev. Stat. 77-5016(9) constituted plain error. Remanded. View "Cain v. Custer County Bd. of Equalization" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to fifty years to life imprisonment. The Supreme Court affirmed. Defendant later filed a motion for postconviction relief, arguing that his trial and appellate counsel provided ineffective assistance. The district court denied the motion without holding an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the district court’s decision to deny Defendant an evidentiary hearing on his claim that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the admission of certain exhibits; and (2) affirmed the decision of the district court in all other respects. Remanded. View "State v. Huston" on Justia Law

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The water appropriation in this case was a surface water right to divert a specified volume of water from the North Loup River to “be used for irrigation purposes only.” Appellant held the appropriation and the lands covered by it. The Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (Department) issued a notice of preliminary determination of nonuse of the appropriation to Appellant. The Department cancelled the appropriation in its entirety, concluding that the lands designated under the appropriation had not been irrigation for more than five consecutive years and that Appellant had failed to establish sufficient cause for nonuse. The Supreme Court affirmed the Department’s order of cancellation, holding that Appellant failed to establish sufficient cause to excuse its nonuse of the appropriation and that the Department’s decision was not arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable. View "In re Appropriation A-7603" on Justia Law

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After a bench trial, Defendant was convicted of driving under the influence (DUI), first offense. Defendant appealed, arguing that the county court erred when it overruled his motion to suppress because the warrantless drawing of his blood did not satisfy any exception to the requirement of a search warrant under the Fourth Amendment. The district court affirmed the conviction, concluding that Defendant gave informed consent to the blood draw, and therefore, a search warrant was not necessary. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a blood draw of an arrestee in a DUI case is a search subject to Fourth Amendment principles, and when the State claims the blood draw was proper pursuant to the consent exception to the warrant requirement, actual voluntary consent is to be determined by reference to the totality of the circumstances, one of which is the existence of an implied consent statute; and (2) the county court did not err when it determined that Defendant consented to the search and, therefore, did not err in overruling Defendant’s motion to suppress. View "State v. Modlin" on Justia Law

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Otoe County School District 66-0111 (the District) and Facilities Cost Management Group, LLC (FCMG) entered into a contract whereby FCMG provided services in connection with the construction and renovation of three schools within the District. FCMG later filed suit against the District, alleging breach of contract for the District’s failure to pay the full amount due under the contract. The parties filed cross-motions for partially summary judgment on the issue of whether the contract was ambiguous, specifically sections 11.2 and 12.7. The district court determined that sections 12.7 and 11.2 were not ambiguous and granted summary judgment in favor of FCMG. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court did not err when it determined that section 12.7 of the contract is not ambiguous, but the court erred when it determined that section 11.2 is not ambiguous; and (2) therefore, the district court committed prejudicial error when it instructed the jury that “the contract in this case is not ambiguous.” Remanded for a new trial. View "Facilities Cost Mgmt. Group v. Otoe Cty. Sch. Dist." on Justia Law
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After a trial, Defendant, who is Chinese and only speaks “some English,” was convicted of driving under the influence, third offense. Defendant appealed the denial of his motion to suppress evidence of a chemical breath test, arguing he was not properly advised of his right to obtain an evaluation by an independent physician and additional laboratory testing because, despite an obvious language barrier, the arresting officer failed to ensure that he understood his rights in a language he could understand. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction, holding that the district court did not err when it determined that there was neither a statutory nor constitutional requirement for the officer to advise Defendant of his right to independent evaluation and testing under Neb. Rev. Stat. 60-6,199, and therefore, the officer’s failure to give an advisement in a language Defendant understood was not a violation of his due process or equal protection rights. View "State v. Wang" on Justia Law

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The County of Sarpy Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution amending an overlay district zoning ordinance. The revised ordinance exempted properties platted before the effective date of the original ordinance. The owner of nonexempt property brought a declaratory judgment action against the county claiming that the exemption was unconstitutional. The district court entered judgment in favor of the county. The owner appealed, arguing that the court erred in determining that the exemption did not constitute special legislation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the exemption was not unconstitutional special legislation because it did not create a closed class and its application was not arbitrary or unreasonable. View "Dowd Grain Co. v. County of Sarpy" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of two counts of first degree assault, two counts of second degree assault, and two counts of use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions and sentences, holding (1) Defendant’s convictions and sentences for both first degree assault and second degree assault with respect to each victim did not violate his rights against double jeopardy; (2) the district court’s evidentiary rulings were not erroneous and did not violate Defendant’s right of confrontation or his right to present a complete defense; and (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Defendant’s motion for a new trial. View "State v. Ballew" on Justia Law

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Under Neb. Rev. Stat. 71-1207, a mental health board “shall” hold a hearing within seven days after the subject is taken into emergency protective custody. Appellant was convicted of sexual assault on a child. Before Appellant finished his sentence, the Mental Health Board of the Fourth Judicial District (Board) issued a warrant directing that Appellant remain in custody under the Sex Offender Commitment Act (SOCA) until a commitment hearing. The hearing was held approximately five weeks later. The Board determined that Appellant was a dangerous sex offender and placed him in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services for inpatient treatment. Appellant petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus alleging that the Board’s failure to hold a hearing within seven days violated the SOCA and his right to due process. The district court dismissed Appellant’s habeas petition, concluding that the seven-day time limit in section 71-1207 is directory, not mandatory. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the seven-day time limit for holding a hearing under the statute is directory, and therefore, the untimeliness of the commitment hearing in this case did not deprive the Board of jurisdiction. View "D.I. v. Gibson" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with three counts of third degree domestic assault arising from the same incident. Each count alleged that Defendant had violated a different subsection of the same statute. The court subsequently dismissed one count. The jury proceeded to convict Defendant of one count and acquitted her of the other. On appeal, Defendant argued that the State could not charge her with multiple counts under a single statute if each count arose from the same incident. The district court concluded that the presence of multiple counts in the information required it to reverse Defendant’s conviction. The Supreme Court sustained the State’s objection to the district court’s judgment, as the State did not punish Defendant multiple times for the same offense or subject her to multiple prosecutions. View "State v. Kleckner" on Justia Law
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