Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court terminating Mother's parental rights to her son, holding that the circuit court did not commit reversible error by denying Mother's counsel's motion to withdraw. The Arkansas Department of Human Services opposed the motion to withdraw, arguing that Mother had been served under Ark. R. Civ. P. 5 and that she had over a month to fire her attorney and hire a new one. The circuit court denied the motion. On appeal, Mother argued that, by denying the motion, the circuit court violated her Sixth Amendment right to counsel of one's choosing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the denial of the motion to withdraw was not an issue preserved on appeal and that, even if this Court were to consider the merits of Mother's constitutional claims, her argument would still fail. View "Langston v. Arkansas Department of Human Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's denial of Appellant's petition for postconvicton relief pursuant to Ark. R. Crim. P. 37, holding that the performance of Appellant's trial counsel was not deficient, and therefore, the circuit court's denial of Appellant's Rule 37 petition was not clearly erroneous. Appellant was convicted of one count of first-degree battery and one count of second-degree battery. After Appellant's convictions and sentences were affirmed on direct appeal, Appellant filed a petition for postconviction relief alleging that his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to investigate and call certain witnesses. The circuit court denied Appellant's petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant failed to meet his burden under the first prong of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), because he did not demonstrate that his trial counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. View "Hinton v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed Appellant’s appeal from an order entered in the circuit court dismissing without prejudice Appellant’s pro se civil rights complaint for failure to provide proof of service in compliance with Ark. R. Civ. P. 4(i)(1), holding that the order appealed from was not final. The Supreme Court noted that a plaintiff who has had his case dismissed without prejudice under Rule 4(i) may refile those claims. Because this was the first dismissal of Appellant’s underlying complaint, his complaint may be refiled under the provisions of Ark. R. Civ. P. 41. Therefore, the Court held that there was no final order on the merits and this Court did not have appellate jurisdiction. View "Nooner v. Kelley" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Appellant’s conviction for first-degree murder, for which she was sentenced to life imprisonment, holding that the trial court violated Appellant’s fundamental right to a public trial by closing the courtroom to the public during the testimony of a State witness. For her first point on appeal, Appellant argued that the closure of the courtroom during the testimony of the State witness violated her constitutional right to a public trial. At issue on appeal was whether the test set forth in Waller v. Georgia, 467 U.S. 39, 48 (1984), for determining when the right of an accused to a public trial may give way to other rights or interests was met. The Supreme Court held that the trial court did not make the findings necessary to support the closure, and therefore, the case must be remanded for a new trial. View "Mitchell v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Appellant’s petition for postconviction relief pursuant to Ark. R. Crim. P. 37, holding that the circuit court did not err in summarily denying Appellant’s claim that his trial counsel was ineffective and that appellate counsel was not ineffective. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) contrary to Appellant’s argument on appeal, Appellant’s trial counsel did not provide ineffective assistance when he compared Appellant’s case to the O.J. Simpson case; and (2) appellate counsel was not ineffective by failing to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence on direct appeal. View "Woods v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court denying Appellant’s petition for postconviction relief filed under Ark. R. Crim. P. 37, holding that the circuit court’s decision to deny the petition was not clearly erroneous. Appellant was convicted of first-degree murder and possession of a firearm and was sentenced to a term of life imprisonment. Appellant’s convictions and sentences were affirmed. Appellant later filed a petition for postconviction relief under Rule 37, arguing, among other things, that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to present proper jury instructions on extreme-emotional-disturbance manslaughter. On remand, the circuit court denied the petition without a hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant was not entitled to a jury instruction on extreme emotional disturbance, and therefore, Appellant was not entitled to postconviction relief. View "Douglas v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court in this dispute over reimbursement for costs arising out of a settlement, holding that some of the circuit court’s findings were proper and that others were inconsistent with this Court’s remand order. The circuit court granted the State’s petition for reimbursement for costs of care out of funds received by Appellant in connection with the settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed against a city and a county. The Supreme Court remanded and directed the circuit court to enter findings that were statutorily mandated before disbursing funds to the State pursuant to the State Prison and Inmate Care and Custody Reimbursement Act, Ark. Code Ann. 12-29-501 to -507. After the circuit court issued its findings, Appellant appealed. The Supreme Court held (1) neither restitution nor attorney’s fees were owed by Appellant, and Appellant’s previous claims were not subject to further review; (2) the circuit court’s findings with respect to the amounts of money owed to Appellant, as well as Appellant’s entitlement to an offset for liens and obligations were inconsistent with this Court’s remand order; and (3) the circuit court’s finding that Appellant’s father had a legally enforceable right to support was uncontested and therefore affirmed. View "Harmon v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied the motions filed by Warden James Gibson to dismiss Appellant’s appeal of the circuit court’s dismissal of his civil petition seeking an order directing the Warden to preserve certain evidence regarding an incident in which Appellant alleged he had been confined for sixteen hours in a cell flooded with raw sewage and to grant him additional time to file a brief, holding that the basis raised to dismiss the appeal was frivolous. Warden Gibson moved to dismiss the appeal because Appellant filed a handwritten brief. Gibson also requested in a separate motion that the Court stay briefing and grant him an additional thirty days after the decision on the motion in which to file a brief. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding (1) under Ark. Sup. Ct. R 4-7(b)(1), briefs may be handwritten; and (2) Gibson provided no reason why he should not be required to file an appropriate brief that addresses the arguments and failed to provide adequate reasons why the Court should grant his request for additional time in which to submit a brief. View "Berger v. Gibson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Rights

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The Supreme Court dismissed Appellant’s appeal from the circuit court’s denial of his motion for reconsideration of an order that set a partial filing fee of twenty dollars with respect to Appellant’s pro se civil complaint in tort against four persons, holding that the circuit court did not err when it denied the motion for reconsideration. The circuit court denied Appellant’s request for reconsideration because it was not timely filed pursuant to Ark. R. Civ. P. 60(a). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Appellant did not ask for reconsideration of the circuit court’s order until 155 days after the order had been entered, Appellant’s motion was untimely, and therefore, the circuit court did not err in denying it. View "Whitney v. Jenkins" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court denying Appellant’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that the circuit court did not err in dismissing the petition. Appellant was convicted for a string of robberies he committed when he was seventeen years old. In his habeas corpus petition, Appellant argued that the 240-year cumulative sentence he was serving was a de facto life sentence in violation of Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010) and that he sentence was grossly disproportionate to his crimes. The circuit court denied the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) where Appellant had multiple sentences and no individual sentence was a life sentence, Graham did not apply; and (2) Appellant’s argument that his sentence was grossly disproportionate to the crimes he committed was not preserved for review. View "Proctor v. Kelley" on Justia Law