Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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David Leon Frederick sent a public records request to the City of Falls City administrator requesting certain records in the physical custody of Falls City and the Falls City Economic Development and Growth Enterprise, Inc. (EDGE). The administrator provided records in the physical custody of Falls City, but EDGE’s executive director refused to provide the requested records to Frederick or Falls City, claiming that EDGE was not a public entity and that its records were not public records. The Supreme Court agreed with EDGE and reversed the district court’s order compelling EDGE to produce the requested records. After Frederick learned that Falls City did not produce all requested records in its possession pursuant to his public record request, he filed a motion to reopen his case against the City and EDGE. The district court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in overruling Frederick’s motion to reopen the case because reopening the case would not lead to any remedy for Frederick. View "Frederick v. City of Falls City" on Justia Law

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After a bench trial on stipulated facts, Defendant was found guilty of refusal of a chemical test in violation of Neb. Rev. Stat. 60-6,197. Defendant appealed, arguing, primarily, that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress because the traffic stop was conducted without reasonable suspicion and that section 6-6,197.09 and related statutes are unconstitutional because they are void for vagueness. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress; (2) section 60-6,197.09 is not unconstitutionally vague; and (3) Defendant was not denied due process when he was denied probation. View "State v. Arizola" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of driving under the influence and refusing to submit to a chemical test. Both convictions were second offenses. Defendant appealed, challenging the county court’s refusal to grant his motion to quash the charge of refusal to submit to a chemical yes and his motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of his arrest. Specifically, Defendant argued that criminalizing refusal was a violation of the constitutional rights to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures and that there was not probable cause to support his arrest. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the county court did not err when it overruled Defendant’s motion to quash and his motion to suppress; and (2) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s convictions. View "State v. Pester" on Justia Law

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After a jury-waived trial, Defendant was convicted of first degree sexual assault committed while he was a juvenile. The district court sentenced Defendant to one year’s imprisonment, ordered him to register under Sex Offender Registration Act for life, and found that Defendant was subject to lifetime community supervision. Defendant appealed, arguing that the lifetime requirements were cruel and unusual punishments because he was a juvenile while the crime was committed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in (1) sentencing Defendant to lifetime sex offender registration and lifetime community supervision when he committed the aggravated offense as a juvenile; and (2) sentencing Defendant to lifetime community supervision. View "State v. Boche" on Justia Law

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Kristina Hartley filed a gender discrimination action against Metropolitan Utilities District of Omaha (MUD) under the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act (NFEPA), alleging that she was not promoted because of gender discrimination and that MUD’s stated reasons for promoting a male colleague instead of her were pretextual. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Hartley. The district court awarded Hartley $56,800 for attorney fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in excluding post promotional performance evaluations of Hartley; (2) the evidence was sufficient to support the jury’s verdict; and (3) the attorney fees awarded to Hartley were not excessive. View "Hartley v. Metropolitan Utilities District of Omaha" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a trooper with the Nebraska State Patrol, was an applicant for a lateral transfer to the position of “Executive Protection Trooper.” After another applicant was awarded the position, Plaintiff filed a public records request under Neb. Rev. Stat. 84-712 seeking records relating to the interview and selection process for the Executive Protection Trooper position. The State Patrol denied Plaintiff’s request. Plaintiff sought a writ of mandamus in the district court again seeking the records that were the subject of his public records request. The trial court denied Plaintiff’s petition, concluding that the records could be withheld under section 84-712.05(7). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in denying Plaintiff’s petition for writ of mandamus because the records Plaintiff sought to view were exempted under section 84-712.05(7). View "Steckelberg v. Nebraska State Patrol" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of driving under the influence (DUI), fourth offense, with refusal to submit to a chemical test, and for driving during revocation. The court of appeals affirmed. Defendant petitioned for further review, arguing that the district court erred in overruling his motion for mistrial because the State violated due process and the state and federal constitutions by improperly commenting during closing arguments on Defendant’s pretrial silence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, although the prosecutor’s closing remarks about Defendant’s postarrest, pre-Miranda silence were questionable, they did not prejudice his right to a fair trial. View "State v. Mitchell" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of refusal to submit to a chemical test. Defendant was sentenced to six months’ probation. The district court and court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in affirming the judgment and conviction, as (1) Defendant’s arrest for driving under the influence of drugs was supported by probable cause; (2) the county court did not err by directing a verdict on the charge of refusing a chemical test; and (3) the county court did not err by refusing to give Defendant’s proposed jury instructions defining “chemical test” and “drug.” View "State v. Rothenberger" on Justia Law

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Defendant pled guilty to possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person and, after a jury trial, was found guilty of second degree murder and of using a deadly weapon to commit a felony. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions and sentences on direct appeal. Thereafter, Defendant filed a motion for postconviction relief, raising several claims ineffective assistance of counsel. The district court held an evidentiary hearing on some of the claims Defendant raised and then denied postconviction relief. Defendant appealed, alleging four assignments of error regarding his claims of ineffective assistance. Defendant assigned that it was plain error for the trial court to accept his guilty plea. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion. View "State v. Harris" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with motor vehicle homicide, manslaughter, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs causing serious bodily injury, and other charges arising out of an accident in which the driver of another vehicle was killed by a vehicle driven by Defendant. Before trial, the district court granted Defendant’s motion to suppress blood and urine samples taken from him. After the State unsuccessfully appealed the denial of the motion to suppress, Defendant filed a motion for absolute discharge, arguing that his statutory right to a speedy trial had been violated. The Supreme Court denied Defendant’s motion, concluding that the time during which the appeal was pending was excludable from the statutory speedy trial calculation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly denied the motion for absolute discharge because the speedy trial clock was tolled while the State pursued the appeal. View "State v. Hood" on Justia Law