Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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Defendant appealed his conviction for first degree sexual assault of a child, rendered after a jury trial, and his conviction of thirty-five to fifty years’ imprisonment with credit for 129 days served. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) although Defendant was represented at trial by an individual who failed to meet the substantive requirements to be a licensed attorney at trial, there was no per se violation of Defendant’s constitutional right to trial because the lead attorney for Defendant’s trial was a qualified, licensed attorney; (2) Defendant’s counsel were not constitutionally ineffective; (3) there was sufficient evidence to sustain a guilty verdict; and (4) there was no abuse of discretion in the sentence imposed. View "State v. Loding" on Justia Law

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Appellant appealed the district court’s order that overruled his motion for postconviction relief without conducting an evidentiary hearing. Appellant pled no contest to one count of first degree false imprisonment and one count of use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony. In his postconviction motion, Appellant claimed that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance in several respects. After reviewing all of Appellant’s claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, the Supreme Court held that the district court did not err when it overruled Appellant’s motion for postconviction relief without conducting an evidentiary hearing. View "State v. Barrera-Garrido" on Justia Law

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This matter arose from Plaintiff’s termination against Nebraska Machinery Company (NMC) after thirty-eight years of employment. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint against NMC seeking damages for wrongful discharge in violation of Nebraska’s Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act (FEPA), and public policy. After a hearing, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of NMC. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff’s assignments of error were without merit and that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of NMC. View "Oldfield v. Nebraska Machinery Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs were three same-sex couples who sought to enjoin Defendants from enforcing a 1995 administrative memorandum and from restricting gay and lesbian individuals and couples from being considered or selected as foster or adoptive parents. Plaintiffs generally alleged that the policy violated equal protection and due process and violated 42 U.S.C. 1983. The court ordered the memorandum rescinded and stricken and enjoined Defendants and those acting in concert with them from enforcing the memorandum and/or applying a categorical ban such as the one at issue in this case. Defendants appealed, arguing that Plaintiffs lacked standing to bring this case, that there was no case or controversy, and that the lawsuit became moot when the policy memorandum was removed from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) website after Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment was filed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the underlying action was justiciable; and (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding costs and attorney fees. View "Stewart v. Heineman" on Justia Law

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The Nebraska Cooperative Republican Platte Enhancement (N-CORPE), a political subdivision of the State of Nebraska, brought condemnation proceedings against Appellant seeking an easement across Appellant’s real estate. In response, Appellant filed a complaint for injunction against board members of the N-CORPE project and N-CORPE (collectively, Appellees), alleging, inter alia, that N-CORPE does not have the power of eminent domain. In addition, Appellant filed an application for temporary restraining order and a motion for temporary injunction, both of which the district court denied. The district court then granted Appellees’ motion for summary judgment and dismissed the complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) N-CORPE had the authority to exercise the power of eminent domain; (2) N-CORPE did not need certain permits and approvals as alleged by Appellant; (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Appellant’s motion to amend the complaint; (4) N-CORPE is not prohibited by common law from removing ground water from overlying land; and (5) there is not material issue of fact regarding whether the condemnation is for a public use. View "Estermann v. Bose" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of first degree murder and use of a firearm to commit a felony. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the district court did not err by (1) failing to grant Defendant’s motion to suppress Defendant’s statements made to law enforcement because the statements were not obtained in violation of Miranda v. Arizona; (2) denying Defendant’s Batson challenge claiming that the prosecution impermissibly struck prospective jurors on the basis of race; and (3) denying Defendant’s motion for mistrial that alleged that the court improperly allowed testimony in violation of Brady v. Maryland. View "State v. Clifton" on Justia Law

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When he was seventeen years old, Defendant pled guilty to first degree murder. Defendant was sentenced to a mandatory term of life imprisonment. Pursuant to Miller v. Alabama, Defendant’s sentence was vacated. After a hearing, Defendant was resentenced to ninety years to life imprisonment. Defendant appealed, alleging, inter alia, that his sentence violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments and the principles set forth in Miller and Graham v. Florida. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant’s sentence did not violate Miller; (2) Defendant’s sentence was not disproportionate; and (3) the district court adequately considered Defendant’s age and age-related characteristics and used adequate procedural safeguards when sentencing Defendant. View "State v. Nollen" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of first degree murder, use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony, and tampering with a witness. The Supreme Court affirmed on appeal. Defendant subsequently filed a fourth amended motion for postconviction relief, alleging, in part, that trial counsel provided constitutionally ineffective assistance. The district court denied postconviction relief on all grounds. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err by not finding trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective; and (2) the district court did not err in not finding Defendant’s constitutional rights were violated because he was allegedly unable to understand one of the court interpreters during trial. View "State v. Alarcon-Chavez" on Justia Law

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Defendant pled guilty to kidnapping, a crime he committed when he was sixteen years old. Defendant was initially sentenced to life imprisonment. After the U.S. Supreme Court decided Graham v. Florida and Miller v. Alabama, Defendant filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus. The district court determined that Defendant was entitled to relief under Graham and vacated his life sentence. Thereafter, Defendant was resentenced to ninety years to life imprisonment. Defendant appealed that sentence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the sentence was not excessive, nor did it violate the 8th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution or the principles set forth in Graham. View "State v. Smith" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of first-degree murder, first-degree assault, robbery, attempted robbery, and four counts of use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s Batson challenge regarding a prospective juror who had been removed by the State using a peremptory strike; (2) any error in sustaining the State’s objection to evidence Defendant wanted to offer to impeach one of the State’s witnesses was harmless; (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant’s motion for new trial on grounds of prosecutorial misconduct and newly discovered evidence; and (4) there was sufficient evidence to support Defendant’s convictions. View "State v. Lester" on Justia Law