Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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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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In this mandamus action, the State Court Administrator appealed from the district court’s denial of his motion for summary judgment and issuance of the writ of mandamus ordering the disclosure, pursuant to Nebraska’s public records statutes, of Judicial Branch Education (JBE) records regarding judicial educational programs on child custody and parenting time. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in concluding that the JBE records constitute public records and do not fall within any exception to the public records definition; and (2) the application of the public records statutes to the JBE records does not violate separation of powers as set forth in the Nebraska Constitution. View "State ex rel. Veskrna v. Steel" 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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Defendant was convicted and sentenced for refusing to submit to a chemical test, refusing to submit to a preliminary breath test, and driving without a license. On appeal, Defendant challenged the district court’s determination that Neb. Rev. Stat. 60-6,197, the chemical test implied consent statute, was valid, facially and as applied, and constitutional. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and in part vacated and remanded, holding (1) section 60-6,197 is unconstitutional as applied to Defendant for his conviction for refusing to submit to a chemical blood test; and (2) there was no merit to Defendant’s remaining assignments of error. View "State v. McCumber" on Justia Law