Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court denying Defendant’s motion for absolute discharge, holding (1) the district court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion for discharge based on Defendant’s statutory right to a speedy trial under Neb. Rev. Stat. 29-1207(4)(b) because Defendant had permanently waived his statutory right to a speedy trial by asking for a continuance that resulted in extending the trial date beyond the statutory six-month period; and (2) there was no merit to Defendant’s constitutional speedy trial claim. View "State v. Gill" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of Defendant’s motion for a new trial, holding that the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule applied in this case. Defendant was convicted of driving under the influence (DUI). The following day, the United States Supreme Court held in Birchfield v. North Dakota, __ U.S. ___ (2016), that a blood test may not be administered without a warrant as a search incident to an arrest for DUI. Defendant timely moved for a new trial, arguing that, in light of the new rule of constitutional law announced in Birchfield, it was error to admit the result of a warrantless test of his blood. The district court overruled the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the good faith exception applies to warrantless blood draws connected prior to the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Birchfield. View "State v. Hoerle" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment in favor of Plaintiff, a former officer at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution, and against Scott Busboom, an officer at the facility, holding that Busboom was entitled to qualified immunity on Defendant’s claim that he was denied due process when he was placed on unpaid investigatory suspension without any opportunity to be heard. The district court determined that Busboom was not entitled to qualified immunity in his individual capacity because Busboom had signed the letter suspending Plaintiff while acting under color of state law and that “any reasonable officer” in his position would have understood that Plaintiff was entitled to a hearing before being deprived of a protected property interest. In reversing, the Supreme Court held (1) when Plaintiff was suspended without pay, the law did not clearly establish that a public employer must first provide notice and an opportunity to respond to allegations of misconduct to an employee with a protected property interest in continued employment, and therefore, Busboom was entitled to qualified immunity; and (2) Plaintiff failed to show that he was deprived of due process because he did not receive a posttermination hearing. View "White v. Busboom" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the county court erred in overruling Defendant’s motion to suppress. The county court overruled Defendant’s motion after finding that the community caretaking exception to the Fourth Amendment applied. The district court and court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals, albeit on different grounds, holding (1) because the initial police-citizen encounter did not amount to a seizure, it was not necessary to invoke the community caretaking exception; but (2) the circumstances clearly established reasonable suspicion that a crime was being committed, and therefore, the detention that followed the stop of Defendant’s vehicle was constitutionally permitted. View "State v. Rivera" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the district court sustaining Defendants’ motion for summary judgment and overruling Plaintiff’s motion to alter or amend the judgment in this action brought by Plaintiff against the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska and Kevin Ruser. In her complaint, Plaintiff asserted claims of discriminatory wage and employment practices based on her sex, as well as claims of employment retaliation arising from occurrences while she was a supervising attorney for the civil clinic law program at the University of Nebraska College of Law. The district court concluded that Plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of wage discrimination, failure to promote because of sex, retaliation, and retaliation in violation of public policy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err when it sustained Defendants’ motion for summary judgment with respect to Plaintiff’s claims and did not abuse its discretion when it overruled Plaintiff’s subsequent motion to alter or amend the judgment. View "Knapp v. Ruser" on Justia Law

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Defendant pled no contest to first degree murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Defendant was sixteen years old at the time of the murder. Defendant’s life sentence was later vacated pursuant to Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), and Defendant was granted a resentencing. The district court resentenced Defendant to imprisonment for eighty years to life after a hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s resentencing, holding (1) the sentencing court did not impose a de facto life sentence in violation of the Eighth Amendment and Neb. Const. art. I, 9 and 15; (2) the district court did not err when it did not make specific findings of fact regarding age-related characteristics; and (3) Defendant’s sentence of eighty years’ to life imprisonment with parole eligibility at age fifty-six was not unconstitutionally disproportionate. View "State v. Jones" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence seized during the detention and search of a vehicle in which she was a passenger, as well as the sentence imposed for Defendant’s possession of a controlled substance conviction. In regard to her motion to suppress, Defendant argued that the initial encounter with the lead law enforcement officer amounted to a seizure when she was detained after the officer determined that the wanted individual was not in the vehicle and that the investigatory stop was not supported by reasonable suspicion. The Supreme Court held (1) the lead officer had reasonable suspicion of illegal activity to justify the detention of the vehicle’s passengers after the officer determined that the wanted individual was not in the vehicle; and (2) the sentence imposed did not constitute an abuse of discretion. View "State v. Rogers" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court that overruled Defendant’s motion for postconviction relief without an evidentiary hearing. Defendant pled guilty to five counts of first degree murder and five counts of use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony. Defendant’s motion for postconviction relief raised numerous claims of ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel. The Supreme Court held (1) with respect to each of Defendant’s ineffective assistance of counsel claims, the district court did not err when it concluded that Defendant failed to allege sufficient facts to demonstrate a violation of his constitutional rights and that the record affirmatively showed that Defendant was not entitled to relief; and (2) the district court did not err when it overruled Defendant’s motion for postconviction relief without holding an evidentiary hearing. View "State v. Vela" on Justia Law

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In Hike I, Leo and Joanna Hike filed a petition of appeal seeking compensation after the State exercised its power of eminent domain in 2008 to acquire a parcel of the Hikes’ property for an expansion of a highway. The Supreme Court affirmed the jury verdict rendered in the case. In 2011, before the trial in Hike I, the State’s independent contractor began construction on the property taken from the Hikes. That same month, Leo noticed damage to the brick veneer of his and Joanna’s residence. The court precluded the Hikes from offering any evidence concerning the structural damage. In 2015, the Hikes filed the instant action claiming the same structural damage that they attempted to offer as evidence in Hike I. The trial court dismissed the complaint, finding that the claim was barred by the relevant statute of limitations. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the two-year statute of limitations period set forth in section 25-218 governs inverse condemnation actions against the State; and (2) the district court did not err in determining that the Hikes’ claim is barred by the two-year statute of limitations. View "Hike v. State" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction, rendered after a jury trial, for possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver. Defendant argued, among other things, that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence found during a search with a warrant that was obtained as a result of observing defaced firearms during a prior warrantless search for a possible intruder at the request of a houseguest. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the facts reasonably warranted an immediate intrusion of a residence into areas where a burglar might be hiding, and therefore, the trial court did not err in overruling Defendant’s motion to suppress; (2) Defendant was not prejudiced by the admission, without a limiting instruction, of evidence of his drug use around the time specified in the information; and (3) the prosecutor did not commit misconduct during closing arguments. View "State v. Rodriguez" on Justia Law