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The common-law rule in contracts that common-law rule that the release of one joint obligor on a promissory note operates to release all represents settled law in Nebraska and should have been applied by the district court in this case. Eric Cano brought this action against Michael Walker and Billy Claborn alleging that they had failed to pay amounts due on a promissory note, which imposed joint and several liability on Walker and Claborn. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of Cano. The court entered judgment on the promissory note. Thereafter, without the consent of Walker, Cano and Claborn entered into a stipulation that operated as an unconditional release of Claborn once he satisfied the terms of the stipulation. Walker filed a motion to discharge the judgment premised on the common-law rule that “[t]he unconditional release of one of several makers of a joint and several promissory note, without the consent of the other makers thereof, operates as a release of all.” The district court overruled the motion for discharge. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded with directions to grant the requested discharge, holding that, under the common-law rule, the unconditional release of Claborn from the judgment operated as a release of Walker. View "Cano v. Walker" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the probate court denying the application of the decedent’s wife (Wife) to be treated as an omitted spouse under a section of the Nebraska Probate Code after the decedent made no provision for her in his will. The decedent’s estate resisted the application, arguing that Wife waived her rights to the estate in a prenuptial agreement. The probate court found that the prenuptial agreement was valid and that Wife had waived the right to take as an omitted spouse. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the probate court did not err in concluding that Wife executed the waiver voluntarily and in denying her application to take as an omitted spouse. View "In re Estate of Psota" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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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 right of an intervenor to offer evidence in a quiet title action is not restricted by the lis pendens statute. After Jacobsen Land and Cattle Company and the State entered into a purchase agreement for the sale of a parcel of Jacobsen’s land that included property fenced in with Terry Brown’s property, Brown filed and recorded a lis pendens with the county register of deeds. Brown then filed a quiet title action against Jacobsen, alleging ownership by adverse possession of the disputed property. The State moved for leave to intervene in the quiet title action. The court allowed the State to intervene. At trial, the court concluded that the State’s status as a subsequent purchaser under the lis pendens statute prevented the State from presenting evidence related to the adverse possession claim. After a trial, the court quieted title to the disputed property in Brown as against Jacobsen and any other entities claiming any interest therein. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the State was not permitted to offer evidence at trial, the matter remanded for a new trial. View "Brown v. Jacobsen Land & Cattle Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions of terroristic threats, use of a weapon to commit a felony, and negligent child abuse but vacated his sentences and remanded the cause for resentencing, finding plain error in the sentencing. On appeal, Defendant arguing that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance in various respects and that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction of negligent child abuse. The court of appeals rejected Defendant’s claims and affirmed his convictions and sentences. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and in part vacated and remanded for resentencing, holding (1) the court of appeals did not err in rejecting Defendant’s claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel and in affirming Defendant’s convictions on all counts; but (2) the district court imposed unauthorized sentences. View "State v. Mendez-Osorio" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s decision granting Defendant’s motion for DNA testing, holding that it was “plainly evident from the record” that the DNA testing Defendant sought in his motion was not within the purview of the DNA Testing Act (Act). After the district court granted Defendant’s request for DNA testing, Defendant received pharmaceogenetic testing. Based on the results, Defendant asserted that the dosage of the Zoloft medication he was taking at the time of the murder for which he was convicted was too high for his body to properly metabolize, causing him to be violent and homicidal. Defendant argued that he was entitled to relief under the Act because new scientific evidence could contribute to and establish defenses at trial of an inability to formulate intent, intoxication, or insanity. The district court denied Defendant’s motion for new trial or new sentencing hearing based on the pharmacogenetic testing results. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded with directions to dismiss Defendant’s motion for DNA testing, holding that the district court committed plain error in granting Defendant’s motion for DNA testing. View "State v. Robbins" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s summary judgment orders that determined Mutual of Omaha Bank held a valid and enforceable deed of trust against Robert Watson’s homestead property. The court concluded that the primary deed of trust had first priority as an encumbrance on the property, ordered an execution sale, and foreclosed Watson from asserting any interest in the property. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred in concluding that Watson and his then-spouse intended to encumber their homestead through the primary deed of trust. The Supreme Court held that, although its reasoning differed from the district court, the court did not err in finding that the primary deed of trust was valid and enforceable. View "Mutual of Omaha Bank v. Watson" on Justia Law

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This case presented the Supreme Court’s first opportunity to address postrelease supervision as enacted by 2015 Neb. Laws, L.B. 605. Defendant was convicted of third degree sexual assault of a child and requested to register under the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA). Defendant later pleaded no contest to failing to register as required to SORA and was sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment and twelve months’ supervised release. Defendant appealed, arguing that his sentence was excessive and that certain conditions of postrelease supervision were unconstitutional. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant’s sentence was not an abuse of discretion; and (2) Defendant waived any objection to the conditions imposed. View "State v. Phillips" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the county court’s denial of Petitioners’ petition for removal of the personal representative of the estate of the decedent pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. 30-2454. Petitioners, devisees under the decedent’s will, disagreed with the personal representative’s decision to enter into a purchase agreement for the sale of a farm, arguing that the sale price was not in the best interests of the estate because, according to Petitioners’ appraiser, the value of the land was substantially higher. The county court denied relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the county court did not err in concluding that Petitioners did not show cause for removal of the personal representative of the estate. View "In re Estate of Etmund" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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Defendant was arrested in Wyoming, waived extradition, was returned to Nebraska, and was charged with one count of theft by unlawful taking. Defendant filed in the trial court a motion for absolute discharge for violation of his constitutional rights, alleging that his extradition was procedurally improper and that his arrest warrant was defective. The trial court denied the motion. Thereafter, Defendant was found guilty. After Defendant was sentenced, the appeal from the denial of his motion for absolute discharge was voluntarily dismissed. The court of appeals affirmed Defendant’s convictions and sentences on direct appeal. Defendant then filed an application in the district court for a writ of habeas corpus alleging that his conviction and sentence were void because the trial court lacked jurisdiction to continue with his trial while his appeal from the denial of the motion for absolute discharge was pending. The court dismissed Defendant’s application. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the trial court’s denial of Defendant’s motion for absolute discharge was not a final order, the trial court was not divested of jurisdiction when Defendant filed this interlocutory appeal. View "Dugan v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law