Justia Arkansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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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

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The Supreme Court remanded the instant appeal of the circuit court’s order denying Appellant’s pro se petition for leave to proceed in forma pauperis in which Appellant sought to proceed with a civil-rights complaint against certain Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC) employees, holding that the order was not sufficient for review, and therefore, the case must be remanded for findings of fact. The order at issue found that Appellant was not indigent and must pay the statutory filing fee for the action. The Supreme Court held (1) contrary to the assertion of Appellee, the director of the ADC, the order was appealable; and (2) the cause must be remanded for a supplemental order on the in forma pauperis petition that contains adequate findings of fact on the issue of whether Appellant was indigent. View "Berger v. Kelley" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s conviction of possession of methamphetamine, holding that the circuit court erred by denying Defendant’s motion to suppress because the search of Defendant’s wallet violated the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Defendant was arrested and charged with possession of methamphetamine after the arresting officer discovered the drug in Defendant’s wallet. In his suppression motion, Defendant argued that the officer did not have a reasonable, articulable suspicion to search him for weapons and lacked probable cause or reasonable suspicion to search his wallet. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the officer did not have probable cause to search Defendant’s wallet, and because Defendant did not consent to the search of his wallet, the search violated the Fourth Amendment. View "Shay v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying Appellant a resentencing hearing and imposing a sentence of life with parole eligibility pursuant to the Fair Sentencing of Minors Act of 2017 (the Act), holding that Appellant was entitled to resentencing in accordance with the Court’s decision in Harris v. State, 547 S.W.3d 64. In 1983, Appellant pled guilty to capital murder. Appellant was seventeen years old at the time of the murder and received a mandatory sentence of life without parole. Following the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Miller v. Alabama, 467 U.S. 460, 479 (2012), Appellant filed a petition for habeas corpus arguing that his sentence was unconstitutional. The circuit court granted the petition, vacated the sentence, and remanded Appellant’s case for resentencing. Although Appellant’s sentence had been vacated before the Act was enacted, the circuit court relied on the Act’s provision in resentencing him to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after thirty years. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) based on this Court’s decision in Harris, the circuit court erred in applying the Act to Appellant’s case; and (2) Appellant was entitled to a hearing to present Miller evidence for consideration upon resentencing. View "Robinson v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s denial of Appellant’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that Appellant’s arguments lacked merit. Appellant was convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery and sentenced to life imprisonment for each conviction. In his petition for writ of habeas corpus, Appellant argued that Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010), rendered his life sentence for aggravated robbery unconstitutional because he was a minor at the time of the offense and that Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S.460 (2010, and Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S. Ct. 718 (2016) precluded his sentence even for his homicide offense. The circuit court denied the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellant’s Miller-based argument was without merit; and (2) Graham had no application to Appellant’s case. View "Early v. Kelley" on Justia Law