Justia Arkansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Appellant's habeas corpus petition challenging a 1983 circuit court judgment reflecting Appellant's guilty plea to first-degree murder and the life sentence imposed, holding that Appellant did not demonstrate clear error by the circuit court. In his petition, Appellant alleged that he was actually innocent of the charge because he had been unaware when he entered his plea that he had a viable defense of justification and that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate and develop a justification defense. The circuit court denied the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant failed to meet his burden of demonstrating a basis for the writ to issue. View "Crockett v. Kelley" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's order finding that Emily White Lengefeld was a certified candidate for the position of Arkansas Court of Appeals District 4, Position 2, holding that the circuit court correctly determined that Lengefeld was a certified candidate for the position. Stephanie Potter Barrett, also a candidate for Position 2, filed a petition in the circuit court requesting a writ of mandamus and declaratory judgment declaring Lengefeld's petition for candidacy and political-practices pledge invalid and seeking removal of Lengefeld from the ballot for the March 3, 2020 election. The trial court found that Lengefeld was a certified candidate for the position. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err. View "Barrett v. Thurston" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court denying Appellant's petition to proceed in forma pauperis after seeking judicial review of Arkansas Department of Correction disciplinary proceedings under the Administrative Procedure Act, holding that Appellant failed to allege a basis for judicial review. Appellant, an inmate at the ADC, argued that he was prevented from presenting evidence and calling witnesses at his disciplinary hearing in violation of ADC policy and that his due process rights were violated thereby. The circuit court denied Appellant's petition to proceed as a pauper. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court properly denied Appellant's petition to proceed in forma pauperis because Appellant's underlying petition clearly failed to state a colorable cause of action. View "Perry v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's order granting Tyray Carr's petition for writ of mandamus and declaratory judgment declaring James Winfield Wyatt ineligible to file for, be elected to, or hold the office of circuit court judge, holding that the circuit court did not err by removing Wyatt from the March 2020 ballot. Wyatt filed to be placed on the ballot as a candidate for the office of Sixth Judicial District, Division Fourteen circuit court judge in the March 3, 2020 election. Carr, a registered voter, filed a petition for writ of mandamus and declaratory judgment alleging that Wyatt was ineligible to run for public office because he had been found guilty of three misdemeanor hot-check violations. The circuit court found that Carr met his burden of proving that Wyatt had been convicted of an infamous crime and a public trust crime, rendering Wyatt ineligible to run for the office of circuit judge. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court (1) was correct in its application of the preponderance of the evidence burden of proof in deciding Carr's petition; (2) did not err in granting Carr's petition for writ of mandamus and motion for declaratory judgment; and (3) did not abuse its discretion in failing to award attorney's fees. View "Wyatt v. Carr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Appellant's wrongful death complaint as barred by the applicable statute of limitations, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion when it dismissed the complaint as being untimely filed. Appellant, as personal representative of the estate of David Henson, filed a pro se wrongful death complaint against the Benton County Jail, the Benton County Sheriff's Office and Kelly Cradduck, individually and in his official capacity. Appellant later abandoned certain claims and defendants. The circuit court found that Appellant's claims were time-barred by the applicable statutes of limitations and granted all motions to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the complaint was properly dismissed as time-barred. View "Henson v. Cradduck" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the denial by the trial court of Appellant's pro se petition for postconviction relief pursuant to Ark. R. Crim. P. 37.1, holding that the trial court did not err by denying Appellant's numerous claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and that the trial court properly denied the petition without an evidentiary hearing. Appellant was convicted of capital murder, aggravated robbery, and kidnapping. The Supreme Court affirmed the convictions. Appellant later filed a petition for postconviction relief, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. The trial court denied relief without holding an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in denying postconviction relief and that Appellant was not entitled to an evidentiary hearing. View "Dennis v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court concluding that the district court's assessment of installment fees violated due process, holding that the circuit court correctly denied a directed verdict on the due process claim and that the City of Little Rock was properly held liable for the district court judge's actions. Plaintiff filed the underlying class action against the City alleging that the Little Rock District Court's installment fee practice constituted an illegal exaction and violated due process under the Arkansas Civil Rights Act, Ark. Code Ann. 16-123-101 to -108. The jury returned a verdict for Plaintiff, concluding that the installment fee practice violated due process and that the City was liable for the violation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in holding that the installment fee practice violated due process; and (2) the due process violation arising from the district court judge's installment fee policy may be imputed to the City. View "City of Little Rock v. Nelson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting a motion for attorneys' fees filed by Plaintiff, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in granting Plaintiff's motion for attorneys' fees to Plaintiff as the class representative. Plaintiff filed an illegal exaction lawsuit seeking to recover fees that City of Little Rock illegally imposed on traffic court defendants in Little Rock District Court over a certain period of years. Plaintiff moved for class certification of her claims under the Arkansas Civil Rights Act (ACRA), Ark. Code Ann. 16-123-101 to -108. The circuit court dismissed the illegal exaction claim and granted a motion to certify a class of defendants who had paid traffic court installment fees at least thirty days early. The circuit court ultimately found that the City violated ACRA in charging excessive installment fees in traffic court. Plaintiff then filed a motion seeking attorneys' fees in the amount of $225,000 and an enhancement of $10,000. The circuit court granted the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in awarding the attorneys' fees. View "City of Little Rock v. Nelson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying the motion filed by the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) to dismiss Plaintiffs' amended complaint alleging violations of the Arkansas Civil Rights Act, holding that sovereign immunity barred Plaintiffs' claims. In their complaint, Plaintiffs alleged, individually and on behalf of their three minor children, that the entrance of a DHS investigator and law enforcement into their children's private school for the purpose of investigating possible child maltreatment was illegal and unconstitutional. DHS filed a motion to dismiss, asserting sovereign immunity and other defenses. The circuit court denied the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in denying DHS's motion to dismiss based on sovereign immunity. View "Arkansas Department of Human Services v. Harris" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied Petitioner's petition to reinvest jurisdiction in the trial court to file a petition for writ of error coram nobis and audita querela in his criminal case, holding that Petitioner's claims did not establish a ground for the writ. In his petition, Petitioner argued that the trial court erred in failing to apply the criminal code section that was in effect at the time was committed and that the prosecutor committed a Brady violation by withholding a medical report pertaining to an examination of the victim. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding that the existence of medical records that described the absence of corroborating physical evidence was known to defense counsel and that, even if the prosecutor had withheld this medical report, the outcome of the trial would not have changed as a result. View "Tolston v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law