Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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An interlocutory appeal is not authorized under Nebraska’s “three strikes” prison litigation statute, Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-3401, which prohibits a prisoner who has previously filed at least three frivolous civil actions from proceeding in forma pauperis (IFP) without leave of court. In this action alleging civil rights violations relating to Appellant’s treatment by prison officials and the conditions of his confinement, the district court initially sustained Appellant’s motion to proceed IFP. Upon Appellees’ motion to reconsider, the district court vacated the prior order allowing Appellant to proceed IFP pursuant to the “three strikes” provision because Appellant had previously filed three district court cases in which he had been denied IFP status. Appellant appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction Appellant’s interlocutory appeal, holding that neither section 25-3401 nor the general IFP statute statute provides a right to interlocutory appeal of a “three strikes” denial. View "Robinson v. Houston" on Justia Law

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In this criminal case, the district court did not err in denying Defendant’s plea in bar to charges of sexual assault of a child. During his criminal trial, Defendant moved for a mistrial based upon the court’s decision to grant the State’s motion to amend the information and a jury instruction after the jury had begun deliberations. The court sustained the motion and declared a mistrial. Thereafter, Defendant filed a plea in bar asserting that a new trial would subject him to double jeopardy because the State created the need for a mistrial. The district court denied the plea in bar. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that double jeopardy did not bar a new trial because Defendant failed to show that the State provoked him into moving for a mistrial and that double jeopardy did not prevent a new trial. View "State v. Bedolla" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of first degree murder and two counts of possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person and sentencing him to life imprisonment on the murder conviction and fifteen to twenty years’ imprisonment on the possession convictions. The court held that the district court did not err in (1) overruling Defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence obtained during the search of a vehicle; (2) overruling Defendant’s motion in limine seeking to exclude certain testimony; (3) denying Defendant’s motion to strike a statement made by the State in rebuttal closing argument; (4) failing to find that Defendant was denied effective assistance of counsel; and (5) overruling Defendant’s motion to dismiss and motion for directed verdict. View "State v. Hill" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendant’s amended and supplemental motions for postconviction relief. Defendant was convicted of second degree murder and use of a firearm to commit a felony. Defendant filed amended and supplemental motions for postconviction relief, claiming that the jury instructions given in his case denied him due process and that he received ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel. The district court denied the motions after an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the holdings in State v. Smith, 806 N.W.2d 383 (Neb. 2011), did not apply to Defendant retroactively on collateral review; (2) Defendant’s convictions did not offend his due process rights; and (3) Defendant’s claims of ineffectiveness of trial and appellate counsel were without merit. View "State v. Glass" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court dismissing Appellants’ complaint without leave to amend. The complaint stemmed from Nebraska Department of Natural Resources’s (DNR) issuance of closing notices to holders of surface water permits, which barred Appellants from using the surface waters of the Republican River and its tributaries to irrigate their crops. Appellants alleged claims for relief under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and that they had been subject to an inverse condemnation. Appellants also alleged that their due process rights had been violated and sought restitution. The district court dismissed the amended complaint pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. 6-1112(b)(6) without leave to amend. The Supreme Court held (1) Appellants failed to state a claim for inverse condemnation; but (2) the district court erred in failing to find that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Appellants’ claims for relief under 42 U.S.C. 1983, due process, and restitution. The court remanded with directions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction those claims barred by sovereign immunity. View "Cappel v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial, without an evidentiary hearing, of Appellant’s motion for postconviction relief. In his motion, Appellant alleged that counsel was ineffective in several respects. After he was denied relief, Appellant appealed, arguing that his trial counsel was ineffective in various ways and that the district court erred in denying his motion for postconviction relief without a hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err when it determined that Appellant’s motion for postconviction relief did not allege facts that constituted a denial of his constitutional rights and accordingly denied the motion. View "State v. Custer" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied the district court’s order denying Defendant’s second plea in bar asserting a double jeopardy violation. After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of attempted first degree sexual assault. The Supreme Court reversed the conviction and remanded for a new trial. On remand, the State filed an amended information again charging Defendant with attempted first degree sexual assault, alleging, for the first time, that the victim was mentally or physically incapable of consenting. The district court denied Defendant’s plea in bar. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, concluding that capacity to consent could not be relitigated as to the attempted first degree sexual assault charge. On remand, the State filed a second amended information alleging only that Defendant attempted to subject the victim to penile penetration without her consent. After Defendant filed a motion in limine seeking to prohibit testimony concerning capacity to consent and the court overruled the motion, Defendant filed a second plea in bar. The district court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the second amended information did not place Defendant at risk of double jeopardy, and therefore, the district court was correct in denying his plea in bar. View "State v. Lavalleur" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of two counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder. The court held (1) the search warrant that authorized police to search for and seize any and all firearms in Defendant’s residence was constitutional because it was sufficiently particular to enable police to know what times they were authorized to search for and seize; and (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting a recording of a telephone conversation that Defendant made to his ex-girlfriend from jail because the risk of unfair prejudice did not substantially outweigh the probative value of those statements. View "State v. Baker" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated appeals, the Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the district court denying Defendants’ motions for absolute discharge. Gerard Bridgeford and Judith Bridgeford were charged with several drug-related crimes. Both defendants eventually filed separate motions for absolute discharge alleging that their statutory and constitutional speedy trial rights had been violated. The district court overruled the motions, reasoning that, under the plain language of Neb. Rev. Stat. 29-1207(4)(b), Defendants permanently waived their statutory right to a speedy trial when they requested a continuance that resulted in a trial date within the statutory six-month period’s being moved to a date outside of the statutory six-month period. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendants both permanently waived their statutory right to a speedy trial; and (2) there was no merit to Defendants’ assertions that the district court erred in failing to grant their motions for absolute discharge on the ground that their constitutional right to a speedy trial was violated. View "State v. Bridgeford" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s grant of qualified immunity to county deputy sheriff James Roark in this action brought by Marilyn Walton pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983. In her complaint, Walton alleged a violation of her Fourth Amendment rights when Roark entered Waldron’s home to serve a warrant on Waldron’s grandson. Specifically, Waldron alleged that Roark violated the knock-and-announce rule and that her arrest was unlawful. The district court ultimately granted summary judgment in favor of Roark on the basis that he was entitled to qualified immunity. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Waldron did not meet her burden of showing that Roark violated a clearly established right in any of Waldron’s claims. View "Waldron v. Roark" on Justia Law