Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The defendant, Melvin Lear, was charged with a felony offense by the State of Nebraska. Lear requested a continuance in order to conduct additional discovery, which was granted by the court. However, the continuance extended the trial date beyond the statutory six-month period. Lear then filed a motion for absolute discharge on statutory speedy trial grounds. The district court denied the motion, finding that Lear had waived his statutory right to a speedy trial by requesting a continuance that extended the trial date beyond the statutory limit. Lear appealed the decision, arguing that the waiver provision in Neb. Rev. Stat. § 29-1207(4)(b) only applies to a continuance granted at the sole request of the defendant, not a request joined in by the State. The Nebraska Supreme Court rejected Lear's argument, interpreting the waiver provision to apply to a continuance granted at the request of the defendant or his or her counsel, regardless of whether the State joins the request, when the period of delay resulting from the continuance extends a trial date beyond the statutory six-month period. The court therefore affirmed the district court's decision to deny Lear's motion for absolute discharge. View "State v. Lear" on Justia Law

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In Nebraska, a man named Hope T. Npimnee was convicted of first-degree sexual assault and sentenced to 35 to 40 years in prison. The victim, identified as S.M., claimed that she was intoxicated when Npimnee had non-consensual sexual contact with her. Npimnee appealed his conviction, arguing that the jury instructions were incorrect and contradictory, that there was insufficient evidence to support the theory that S.M. was so intoxicated as to be incapable of resisting, that the court failed to instruct the jury on the defense of consent, and that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance. The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s conviction and sentence, finding that the jury instructions were correct and that there was sufficient evidence to support the theory that S.M. was so intoxicated as to be incapable of resisting. The Court also found that there was no need for an additional instruction on the defense of consent, as the jury was already required to find that the sexual contact was without consent in order to convict Npimnee. Npimnee's claims of ineffective assistance of counsel were dismissed due to insufficiently specific allegations. View "State v. Npimnee" on Justia Law

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The appellant, Jordon J. Miller, was convicted and sentenced for second degree murder following a plea agreement. The charge stemmed from an incident when shots were fired at a passing vehicle, resulting in the death of Jade Lea. Miller appealed, claiming that the district court erred in overruling his motion to withdraw his plea, that his statutory right to a speedy trial was violated, that the court imposed an excessive sentence, and that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The Nebraska Supreme Court found no abuse of discretion in the overruling of Miller's motion to withdraw his plea, noting that a defendant’s change of mind alone is not a fair and just reason to withdraw a guilty or no contest plea. The court also found that the record on appeal was not sufficient to review Miller's claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Finally, the court found no abuse of discretion in Miller's sentencing. As such, the court affirmed Miller’s conviction and sentence. View "State v. Miller" on Justia Law

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This case involves two consolidated appeals related to Sanitary and Improvement District No. 596 of Douglas County, Nebraska (SID 596) and THG Development, L.L.C. (THG), a real estate owner whose property adjoins but is outside of SID 596's boundaries. The first appeal is from a condemnation action in which SID 596 sought to condemn part of THG's property for public use and the second appeal is from a separate action in which SID 596 sought to levy a special assessment on THG's property, which is outside of SID 596's boundaries, alleging that the property received special benefits from improvements made by SID 596.On the first appeal, the Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's judgment, finding no merit in THG's claims that the lower court erred in allowing the mention of "special benefits" and in permitting certain expert testimony. The Supreme Court also found no merit in the claim that the trial court erred in denying THG's motion for a new trial based on alleged improper conduct by SID 596's counsel during closing argument.In the second appeal, the Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's judgment granting THG's motion for summary judgment and dismissing SID 596's complaint. The court interpreted the relevant statute, § 31-752, as not authorizing an SID to levy a special assessment on property located outside of the SID's boundaries. As such, the court concluded that SID 596's complaint seeking to levy a special assessment on THG's property was without merit. The court also found no merit in THG's cross-appeal arguing that the lower court erred in denying its motion for attorney fees. View "SID No. 596 v. THG Development" on Justia Law

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In the case before the Nebraska Supreme Court, Kathryn Wright was employed as a customer service agent for Southwest Airlines Co. (Southwest). In her volunteer role on a workplace social committee, she was found to have not kept adequate records of expenditures and to have spent committee funds for personal purposes. Consequently, Southwest terminated her employment. Wright then applied for unemployment insurance benefits, which were initially granted by the Nebraska Department of Labor (DOL) adjudicator. However, this decision was overturned by the DOL appeal tribunal, disqualifying her from receiving unemployment benefits for the week of the discharge and the 14 weeks thereafter. The district court affirmed this decision and Wright appealed.The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the district court's decision, holding that Wright had committed misconduct connected with her work under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 48-628.10 (Reissue 2021). The court found that Wright's failure to keep a ledger and maintain supporting documentation for all committee expenses was misconduct connected with her work, regardless of the fact that her work on the committee was volunteer and separate from her paid job duties. The court also disagreed with Wright's argument that the committee funds were not Southwest's but her coworkers'. The court reasoned that the funds were contributed to the committee organized, promoted, supported, and regulated by Southwest, which had an interest in ensuring that the funds were spent appropriately. Therefore, Wright's failure to follow the rules harmed Southwest and was misconduct connected with her work. View "Wright v. Southwest Airlines Co." on Justia Law

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In this case, John Edward Griffith II and Christina M. Griffith sued LG Chem America, Inc., and Shoemaker’s Truck Station, Inc., after lithium-ion rechargeable batteries purchased at a Shoemaker's Truck Station store in Nebraska exploded in Mr. Griffith's pocket in Pennsylvania, causing him serious burns and permanent injuries.The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's decision that Nebraska lacked personal jurisdiction over LG Chem America, a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Atlanta, Georgia. The court found that LG Chem America had no substantial connection to Nebraska related to the case. The company's activities in Nebraska, which included renting warehouse space for the storage of petrochemical products and selling those products to two customers in the state, were unrelated to the sale and distribution of the lithium-ion batteries at issue in the case.The court also affirmed the lower court's decision to apply Pennsylvania's two-year statute of limitations to the Griffiths' negligence and loss of consortium claims, given that the injury occurred in Pennsylvania. The court found that Pennsylvania had a more significant relationship to the occurrence and the parties than Nebraska, where the batteries were purchased. As a result, the Griffiths' claims, filed more than two years after the injury, were time-barred under Pennsylvania law. View "Griffith v. LG Chem America" on Justia Law

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This case revolves around a long-standing dispute between two Nebraska families, the Zeilers and the Reifschneiders, over rights to divert water from their neighboring farmland. The dispute lead to a consent judgment in 1988, where Zeiler's father was ordered to remove a dike and level the area to a uniform elevation to allow for the drainage of surface waters from the Zeiler property to the Reifschneider property. Years later, Michael Zeiler filed a contempt action against Kenneth E. Reifschneider, alleging that Reifschneider had violated the consent judgment by raising the elevation level along the property boundary line, causing water to pool on Zeiler's farmland. The district court found Reifschneider in contempt, concluding he had willfully violated the consent judgment.However, the Nebraska Supreme Court vacated the district court's decision and dismissed the appeal. The Supreme Court concluded that Zeiler lacked standing to pursue the contempt action because the consent judgment did not impose any obligations on Reifschneider. The judgment was a compromise conclusion to the earlier litigation between Reifschneider and Zeiler's father, where the defendant provided consideration in exchange for the plaintiff's dismissal of suit. The court clarified that its decision determined only that Zeiler lacked standing to pursue a contempt action, and made no evaluation of whether Zeiler would have standing or could obtain relief against Reifschneider via a different legal theory. View "Zeiler v. Reifschneider" on Justia Law

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In the case before the Nebraska Supreme Court, the defendant, Favion Lara, appealed from the District Court for Hall County, arguing that his sentences should be vacated and the case remanded for resentencing before a different judge. Lara was convicted on five felony charges related to firing gunshots toward law enforcement officers.The court found that there was no breach in the plea agreement. Lara claimed that a letter from a police officer (who was also a victim of Lara's crime) asking for a harsher sentence than the prosecution recommended was a violation of the plea agreement. The court disagreed, noting that the letter was treated as a victim's opinion, and the officer was not acting as an agent of the prosecution when submitting it. There was no evidence that the officer participated in the plea negotiations or consented to act on behalf of the prosecution.Regarding Lara's claim of excessive sentences, the court found no abuse of discretion. The sentencing court considered the relevant factors, such as Lara's age, mentality, education and experience, social and cultural background, past criminal record or record of law-abiding conduct, motivation for the offense, the nature of the offense, and the amount of violence involved in the commission of the crime.Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "State v. Lara" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In this case, Christopher Mathiesen, the owner of a limited liability company, appealed a court's order dismissing his complaint against Kristi Kellogg, who was alleged to be a co-owner of the company. The court dismissed the complaint after it was consolidated with another case involving the same parties and the same basic underlying facts. The main issue was whether the Nebraska Supreme Court had jurisdiction over Mathiesen's appeal of the order dismissing his complaint. The court found that it did not have jurisdiction because the order was not a final order that decided all the claims between all the parties. Instead, it was an order that only dismissed some of the claims and did so without the required express direction for the entry of judgment and express determination that there was no just reason to delay an appeal. The court also held that when cases are consolidated in Nebraska, they become a single case, and so the order dismissing the complaint did not fully dispose of the entire case. As a result, the court dismissed Mathiesen's appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "Mathiesen v. Kellogg" on Justia Law

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The case concerned the valuation of agricultural land owned by Donald V. Cain Jr. for the 2013 tax year. Cain appealed the decision of the Custer County Board of Equalization, which upheld the assessed values of his land as determined by the county assessor. The Nebraska Tax Equalization and Review Commission (TERC) affirmed the decision of the Board. Cain then appealed to the Nebraska Supreme Court, arguing that the valuation attributed to the property for the 2012 tax year should have been used for the 2013 tax year. The Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed TERC's decision. The Supreme Court held that each year’s assessment is separate and a property's valuation for one year depends upon the evidence pertaining to that year. The Court also found sufficient evidence of the actual value that the Assessor and the Board attributed to the property, and that the Assessor's mass appraisal methodology was appropriately conducted and supported the assessed valuation of the property. View "Cain v. Custer Cty. Bd. of Equal." on Justia Law