Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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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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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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The defendant, Tristan T. Horne, was charged with attempted possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. As part of a plea agreement, Horne was admitted into a problem-solving court program (Wellness Court) designed to assist defendants with mental health diagnoses. The program defers sentencing and provides treatment, supervision, and judicial oversight. Successful completion of the program may result in the defendant being allowed to withdraw their plea and have their charges dismissed. However, if the participant is removed from the program or withdraws before successful completion, the conviction stands and the case proceeds to sentencing.Throughout Horne's participation in the program, he repeatedly violated program requirements. These violations included missed drug tests, dishonesty with probation officers, not completing community service hours ordered by the District Court, failing to successfully complete multiple residential treatment programs, testing positive for marijuana, removing his court-ordered GPS monitoring device, and failing to report to jail as ordered after leaving a treatment program. Following these violations, the State moved to remove Horne from the program. The District Court accepted Horne's admission to the violations and removed him from the program. Subsequently, Horne was sentenced to a term of imprisonment.On appeal, Horne challenged his removal from the program, the fact that the District Court did not order a presentence investigation before sentencing him, and the length of his sentence. The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the District Court's decision, finding no reversible error. It held that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in removing Horne from the program given his multiple failures to comply with program requirements. The Supreme Court also held that the District Court did not plainly err in not ordering a presentence investigation before sentencing Horne. Lastly, the Supreme Court found that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing Horne. View "State v. Horne" on Justia Law

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In this case, the Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed a lower court's decision, finding that the Middle Republican Natural Resources District (NRD) violated the due process rights of two landowners, Merlin Brown and Uhrich & Brown Limited Partnership, by having the same attorneys act as both prosecutors and participants in the adjudicatory process of the case. The court held that such a combination of prosecutorial and adjudicatory functions in the same individuals posed an intolerably high risk of actual bias, thus, infringing on the landowners' right to a fair trial by an impartial tribunal. In this case, the NRD had accused the landowners of violating certain ground water management rules. The case was initially heard by the Board of Directors of the NRD, whose decision to impose penalties on the landowners was informed by the same attorneys who had prosecuted the case on behalf of the NRD. The landowners appealed the Board's decision under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), leading to the district court's reversal. The NRD then appealed to the Nebraska Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court's ruling. View "Uhrich & Brown Ltd. Part. v. Middle Republican NRD" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction of possession of a controlled substance and vacated his sentence, holding that the Nebraska Probation Administration Act (the Act) does not permit the increase of the term of probation to which the offender was sentenced before a hearing where the violation of probation is established by clear and convincing evidence.The State charged Defendant with possession of a controlled substance, methamphetamine, based on items found in his bedroom following a probation search. The district court denied Defendant's motion to suppress, concluding that Defendant was still on probation and subject to his probation terms at the time of the search. Defendant was subsequently convicted and sentenced. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Defendant did not voluntarily consent to the search, and the special needs exception to the warrant requirement did not apply; (2) Defendant was not subject to conditions of probation and was not obligated to permit the search at issue; (3) the search of Defendant's bedroom was unreasonable, and the items found therein should have been suppressed; and (4) because the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to sustain Defendant's conviction, double jeopardy did not bar a second trial. View "State v. Simons" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court awarding Mother sole legal and physical custody of the parties' minor child and making some of Mother's requested findings to support an application to obtain special immigrant juvenile (SIJ) status for the child under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(27)(J) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, holding that there was no abuse of discretion.Mother and Father were married in Mexico and had one child, Max. The parties later moved to Nebraska, where they separated. Mother filed a complaint for dissolution, requesting sole legal and physical custody of Max. The district court dissolved the marriage and awarded Mother custody. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err by refusing to make all the SIJ findings that Mother requested; and (2) Mother's second assignment of error was without merit. View "Hernandez v. Dorantes" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed Appellant's appeal of the judgment of the district court affirming the order of the Nebraska Police Standards Advisory Council denying Appellant admission into the basic officer certification training at the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center, holding that the district court lacked jurisdiction, and therefore, so did this Court.Appellant sought judicial review of the decision of the Council upholding the denial by the Director of the Training Center of Appellant's application for entrance into basic training for failure to meet the minimum requirements for admission. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court dismissed Appellant's appeal, holding that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to consider Appellant's petition because he failed properly to make the Director a party to the proceedings for review. View "Swicord v. Police Standards Advisory Council" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court upholding the decision of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services Appeals Board (Appeals Board) upholding the decision of the Institutional Disciplinary Committee (IDC) to sanction Appellant for drug use while in prison, holding that there was no plain error.Appellant, an inmate incarcerated under the custody of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS), was issued a misconduct charge for "Drug or Intoxicant Abuse" in violation of an NDCS rule. After a hearing, the IDC found that Appellant had violated the rule. The Appeals Board upheld the decision, and the district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not commit plain error in concluding that the evidence was sufficient to uphold the IDC's finding that Appellant violated the rule at issue. View "Haynes v. Neb. Dep't of Correctional Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the district court finding that the city council of the City of Fremont (Council) and the City of Fremont (City) lacked reasonable sufficient evidence to terminate a contract with the Dodge County Humane Society for animal control, holding that the district court lacked petition in error jurisdiction to review the decision.At a regularly scheduled meeting, the Council approved a motion authorizing Fremont's mayor to terminate the contract for animal control. The Humane Society later filed a petition in error alleging that the Council and the City had no cause to terminate the contract. Thereafter, the district court entered a temporary injunction / temporary restraining order in favor of the Humane Society. The County and City moved to dismiss, asserting that the Council's decision to authorize the mayor to send a letter was not an action that could support a petition in error. The district court sustained the petition in error and ordered the contract to be reinstated. The Supreme Court vacated the order below, holding (1) the Council did not exercise a judicial or quasi-judicial function in voting on the motion to send the disputed letter to the Humane Society; and (2) therefore, the district court lacked jurisdiction to review this action. View "Dodge County Humane Society v. City of Fremont" on Justia Law