Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting the State's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's negligence claim based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that the State was immune from Plaintiff's claims because they arose out of an assault.Plaintiff, an inmate, claimed that the State was negligent in its handling of security when it placed an inmate who had killed Plaintiff's brother in Plaintiff's housing unit. Plaintiff, afraid for his safety, assaulted the other inmate and was later himself stabbed in retaliation. Plaintiff's negligence claims were brought against the State pursuant to Nebraska's State Tort Claims Act (STCA), Neb. Rev. Stat. 81-8,209 to 81-8,235. The district court concluded that the State was immune under the intentional tort exception to the STCA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff's claim arose out of an assault and was therefore barred by the intentional tort exception. View "Williams v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court entering judgment upon the jury's general verdict in favor of Homeowners in their complaint against the builder of their house (Builder), holding that there was no error.Homeowners brought this suit alleging defects in the construction of their home and in the preparation of the lot it was built on. The jury found in a special verdict form that Homeowners' claims were not barred by the statute of limitations and rendered a general verdict in favor of Homeowners. Builder appealed, challenging the amount of damages and the court's statute of limitations rulings. Builder cross-appealed, challenging the damages award. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in refusing to determine the statute of limitations as a matter of law, in giving its instructions on the statute of limitations, or in failing to order remittitur or setoff of the damages award; and (2) did not err in excluding evidence of stigma damages. View "de Vries v. L & L Custom Builders, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Construction Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court affirming a county court's conviction and sentence for bigamy, holding that a voidable marriage will support a bigamy prosecution.On appeal from his bigamy conviction, Defendant argued that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction because his prior marriage was legally invalid where a Nebraska marriage license was obtained but the solemnization occurred in Texas. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant's prior marriage, even if not statutorily valid, was at least a voidable marriage; (2) a voidable marriage is treated as valid until judicially declared otherwise and will support a bigamy prosecution; and (3) Defendant's conviction was supported by the evidence and was neither arbitrary, capricious, nor unreasonable. View "State v. Johnson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the county court denying Appellant's motion for absolute discharge under the speedy trial statutes, holding that there was no merit to Appellant's appeal.Appellant was charged with assault and battery under the Omaha Municipal Code. The district court continued Appellant's trial for good cause, citing administrative orders regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Thereafter, Appellant filed a motion seeking absolute discharge on the ground that the State failed to bring him to trial within six months. The county court denied the motion. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in affirming the county court's order that found good cause for the continuances related to the pandemic. View "State v. Gnanaprakasam" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed in part as modified and reversed in part the judgment of the district court finding that the City of Bellevue, Nebraska unconstitutionally impaired its contractual obligations and ordering the City to insert certain language into the document governing the retirement plan, holding that the district court erred in part.After the City increased the amount it regularly deducted from its police officers' paychecks to fund their retirement plan, a group of officers and their union (collectively, Plaintiffs) filed suit, alleging that the City had violated the Contracts Clauses and Takings Clauses of the state and federal constitutions. The district court granted the motion in part, finding that the City unconstitutionally impaired its contractual obligations and ordering the City to insert certain language into the retirement plan. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the district court's order should be modified to remove the language in question; and (2) the district court made a legal error by finding that Plaintiffs were not the prevailing parties. View "Abbott v. City of Bellevue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Defendant's motion for postconviction relief following an evidentiary hearing, holding that the district court did not err in denying the motion.In his petition, Defendant asserted that his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to present an alibi defense and in failing to investigate and present evidence of other suspects and that the district court erred in denying his request to depose expert witnesses. The district court denied the petition after holding an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying relief. View "State v. Stricklin" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Defendant's petition for postconviction relief following an evidentiary hearing, holding that there was no error.Defendant was convicted of two counts of first degree murder, three counts of use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony, attempted intentional manslaughter, and possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person. In his motion for postconviction relief, Defendant argued, in part, that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate and present an alibi defense. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant's appeal was without merit. View "State v. Newman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court denying Defendant's petition for postconviction relief, holding that Defendant was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on one of his claims.Defendant was convicted of kidnapping, use of a firearm to commit a felony, and conspiracy to commit kidnapping. Defendant later filed a petition for postconviction relief. The district court granted an evidentiary hearing on three of Defendant's claims and denied Defendant's remaining claims without holding an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) because Defendant alleged ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to object on remand to the unauthorized sentence of life imprisonment without parole on the conspiracy conviction, the case must be remanded for an evidentiary hearing; and (2) with respect to the remaining claims, Defendant failed to allege facts showing that he was entitled to relief. View "State v. Betancourt-Garcia" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of first degree sexual assault of a child, holding that there was no merit to Defendant's claims of trial error, and Defendant was not entitled to relief on his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel.On appeal, Defendant argued (1) the trial court erred by, inter alia, refusing to appoint him a DNA expert and by sustaining the prosecution's objection to further use of a forensic video to refresh the victim's recollection; and (2) trial counsel provided ineffective assistance in numerous ways. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant's claims of trial error were without merit; and (2) all of Defendant's claims of ineffective assistance of counsel were without merit with the exception that this Court did not reach the merits of one of Defendant's ineffective assistance arguments. View "State v. Wood" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction for violating a municipal ordinance prohibiting driving under the influence, holding that there was no error.The State charged Defendant with several offenses arising out of a traffic stop. The State's theory at trial was that Defendant was under the influence of his prescription medications. On appeal, Defendant argued that his medications did not qualify as "any drug" under the relevant ordinance and, alternatively, that there was insufficient evidence that he was under the influence of those prescription medications. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the phrase "any drug" refers to all drugs, including Defendant's prescription medications; and (2) there was sufficient evidence that Defendant was under the influence of his prescription medications. View "State v. Taylor" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law