Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court convicting Defendant of driving under the influence, fifth offense, and aggravated driving under the influence (DUI), fifth offense, holding that Defendant’s trial counsel provided effective assistance and that Defendant’s sentence was not excessive. The primary issue on appeal was whether Defendant’s trial counsel was ineffective by failing to offer at an enhancement hearing available evidence that purportedly would have established that the State was precluded from relitigating a Wisconsin court’s determination that a prior conviction was invalid for enhancement purposes. The Supreme Court held (1) issue preclusion does not apply to sentence enhancement proceedings, and therefore, Defendant was not prejudiced by his trial counsel’s failure to offer into evidence at the enhancement hearing the Wisconsin motion to preclude; and (2) the district court did not err by imposing excessive sentences. View "State v. Spang" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the district court convicting Defendant of three counts of possession of a controlled substance and one count of possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person, holding that the trial court did not err in overruling Defendant’s motion to suppress. Defendant was arrested after law enforcement stopped and searched his person and belongings. In their search, the officers found illegal drugs and brass knuckles. The court of appeals affirmed the district court’s decision overruling Defendant’s motion to suppress after applying the community caretaking exception to the Fourth Amendment to justify Defendant’s continued detention after officers completed their initial investigation related to a reported altercation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the initial detention and investigation were reasonable and did not amount to a de facto arrest; (2) Defendant’s continued detention following the initial investigation was reasonable; and (3) the warrantless search of Defendant’s person did not violate the Fourth Amendment. View "State v. Shiffermiller" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court denying Appellant’s motion for postconviction relief, holding that there was no merit to Appellant’s claims that his counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to preserve objections to certain evidence introduced at trial. Appellant was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to fifty years to life imprisonment. Appellant filed a motion for postconviction relief, which was denied without an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court reversed with respect to certain ineffective assistance of trial counsel claims and remanded for an evidentiary hearing. Thereafter, the district court held an evidentiary hearing and denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in denying Appellant postconviction relief. View "State v. Huston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions and sentences for first degree sexual assault of a child and felony child abuse, holding that the trial court did not violate Defendant’s constitutional right of confrontation and that Defendant’s remaining claims of error were without merit. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial court erred in hearing the alleged victim’s testimony outside Defendant’s presence without adequately safeguarding Defendant’s confrontation rights, but the error was harmless; (2) the record was not sufficient to review Defendant’s claims of ineffective assistance of counsel; (3) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s convictions; and (4) the district court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing Defendant. View "State v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated in part the judgment of the district court overruling Plaintiff’s motion to recuse and granting summary judgment to Defendants on all of Plaintiff’s remaining claims, holding that the judge should have recused himself. Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant, her former employer, claiming retaliation, hostile work environment, and other claims. The district court granted summary judgment on the latter three claims. Defendant then moved for summary judgment on the retaliation and hostile work environment claims. When the district court judge assigned to the case became aware that his brother-in-law was a potential witness Plaintiff moved for recusal. Plaintiff then amended her complaint and added a claim under the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. 206(d). The district court overruled the motion to recuse and granted summary judgment on the remaining claims. The Supreme Court affirmed to the extent of the claims disposed of before the assertion of the Equal Pay Act claim and vacated as to all other claims, holding that because the judge’s brother-in-law was likely to be a material witness, Neb. Rev. Stat. 5-302.11(A)(2)(d) mandated disqualification of the judge. View "Thompson v. Millard Public School District No. 17" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of second-degree degree murder and other offenses, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress and that Defendant’s other assignments of error lacked merit. On appeal from his convictions and sentences, Defendant argued, among other things, that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress cell site location information (CSLI) in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Carpenter v. United States, __ U.S. __ (2018). The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) even though the acquisition of CSLI violated Defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights, the district court did not err by denying Defendant’s motion to suppress because the exclusionary rule did not apply; (2) suppression is not an available remedy for violation of the Stored Communications Act; (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion by allowing certain testimony; and (4) the district court id not abuse its discretion in sentencing Defendant. View "State v. Brown" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order affirming the findings and modifying a cease and desist order of the Lower Loup Natural Resources District (LLNRD) Board directing Appellant to suspend use of ground water wells, holding that LLNRD had authority to impose a suspension of ground water access for noncompliance with LLNRD’s annual reporting requirements. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court did not err in determining that LLNRD had authority to impose a suspension of ground water access for noncompliance with reporting requirements; (2) Appellant’s due process rights were not violated in the proceedings before the Board; (3) Appellant was not denied the possibility of competent judicial review; (4) the suspension of Appellant’s ground water access was not a taking without just compensation; (5) the district court did not err in declining to supplement LLNRD’s record and receive exhibits 4 and 5; (6) Appellant was not entitled to attorney fees because he was not the prevailing party; and (7) the district court did not err in its modification of the duration of Appellant’s penalty. View "Prokop v. Lower Loup Natural Resources District" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the orders of the district court making paternity and custody determinations concerning one child but declining to do so with respect to the other child at issue in this case, holding that Mother failed to comply with Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-520.02, and therefore, the district court lacked jurisdiction to enter the relief sought. Specifically, the district court found that Mother did not properly serve Appellee and that it lacked jurisdiction to establish paternity and award custody with respect to one child. The court also failed to find that it was in the children’s best interests to remain in the United States rather than return to Guatemala. Mother challenged these findings on appeal. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that Mother did not comply with section 25-520.01, and therefore, her constructive service was improper and the district court lacked personal jurisdiction over Appellee. View "Francisco v. Gonzalez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of possession of methamphetamine and sentencing her to two years’ probation, holding that the trial court did not err in overruling Defendant’s motion to suppress. On appeal, Defendant argued that the odor of marijuana alone no longer provides probable cause to support a warrantless search a vehicle because due to the legalization of marijuana in Colorado. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) when an officer detects the odor of marijuana emanating from a readily mobile vehicle, the odor alone furnishes probable cause to suspect contraband will be found, and the vehicle may be lawfully searched under the automobile exception to the warrant requirement; and (2) in this case, the odor of marijuana coming from inside the car furnished probable cause to suspect contraband would be found in the car, and therefore, the warrantless search was lawful. View "State v. Seckinger" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was whether the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to consider Azar Webb’s 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim in the same lawsuit in which the court considered an appeal from a contested case under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and whether, as a result, the court lacked the authority to award Webb attorney fees. After the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) ended Webb’s Medicaid benefits and denied his petition for reinstatement, Webb filed a claim in the district court under the APA for unlawful termination of Medicaid eligibility, adding a claim of violation of his federal rights under section 1983. The district court reversed DHHS’ decision and ordered reinstatement of Webb’s coverage and reimbursement of medical expenses that should have been covered. The court further found in favor of Webb as to his 1983 claim and enjoined DHHS officials from denying Webb Medicaid eligibility. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that once the district court resolved Webb’s APA claim, the court had the authority to grant Webb relief under section 1983 and his request for attorney fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1988. View "Webb v. Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services" on Justia Law