Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the judgment of the circuit court granting in part and denying in part Appellant’s unverified petition for postconviction relief pursuant to Ark. R. Crim. P. 37, holding, inter alia, that a fair-cross-section-of-the-jury violation is structural and therefore cognizable in Rule 37 proceedings. Specifically, the Court held (1) the circuit court did not clearly err in finding that Appellant failed to demonstrate a reasonable probability that the jury’s decision would have been different had evidence of Appellant’s other crimes been excluded; (2) the circuit court clearly erred by requiring Appellant to prove that he was prejudiced by his counsel’s failure to pursue a fair-cross-section claim, and therefore, the court erred in denying Appellant’s ineffective assistance claim; and (3) the circuit court did not clearly err in its determination that trial counsel was ineffective for his failure to call a certain witness during the penalty phase and in thus vacating Appellant’s death sentence. View "Reams v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the circuit court’s order dismissing Appellant’s complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Director of the Arkansas Department of Correction, holding that the circuit court (1) properly dismissed Appellant’s claim that executing him after twenty-five years in solitary confinement would be cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment; but (2) erred in dismissing Appellant’s claim that Ark. Code Ann. 16-90-506(d)(1) violates his due process rights under the United States and Arkansas Constitutions by vesting sole discretion in the Director to determine whether a prisoner is competent to be executed. The Court remanded the case to the circuit court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. View "Greene v. Kelley" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s complaint against several individuals (collectively, the State) seeking injunctive and declaratory relief and challenging his competence to be executed, holding that Ark. Code Ann. 16-90-506(d)(1) is unconstitutional and violates the Due Process Clause of both the United States Constitution and the Arkansas Constitution. Plaintiff, an inmate scheduled to be executed, argued that the statute unconstitutionally delegates the competence inquiry to the Director of the Arkansas Department of Correction and denies an incompetent prison access to the court to obtain an evidentiary hearing to determine whether he is competent to be executed. The circuit court granted the State’s motion to dismiss the complaint, concluding that Plaintiff failed to state a claim. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiff had standing to bring this action; (2) the constitutional issues were preserved for appellate review; and (3) section 16-90-501(d)(1) is unconstitutional on its face and violates due process guarantees. View "Ward v. Hutchinson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s order entering a declaratory judgment finding that Senate Joint Resolution 8 was not referred in accord with article 19, section 22 of the Arkansas Constitution and issuing a writ of mandamus ordering Secretary of State Mark Martin to refrain from counting, canvassing, or certifying any votes cast for or against the resolution. Appellee filed a complaint seeking a declaration that the resolution at issue, designated as “Issue No. 1” on the ballot for the November 6, 2018 general election, was unconstitutional, along with a request for either a writ of mandamus or injunctive relief. The circuit court granted Appellee’s request for declaratory relief, finding that Issue No. 1 violates article 19, section 22. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the submission of Issue No. 1 violates article 19, section 22; and (2) therefore, Appellee was entitled to both a declaratory judgment and a writ of mandamus. View "Martin v. Humphrey" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied the petition filed by Petitioners claiming that the popular name and ballot title of Issue Number 4, a proposed constitutional amendment concerning casino gambling, were insufficient, holding that Issue Number 4 was proper for inclusion on the November 6, 2018 ballot. Specifically, the Court held that all of the twenty-seven challenges brought by Petitioners in support of their claims failed, that there was no fatal infirmity with the popular name or ballot title of Issue Number 4, and that the proposed amendment’s popular name and ballot title were sufficient. View "Stiritz v. Honorable Mark Martin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied the original action brought by Petitioner, individually and on behalf of Citizens for Local Choice, challenging the sufficiency of the ballot title with regarding to Issue Number 4, which provides for the issuance of four casino licenses in the state, holding that Petitioner did not meet his burden of proving that the ballot title was insufficient. Specifically, the Court held that Issue No. 4 was proper for inclusion on the November 6, 2018 ballot because (1) the popular name and ballot title of the issue gave voters a fair understanding of the issues presented, and (2) the scope and significance of the proposed changes in law were not misleading and allowed voters to reach an informed decision for or against the proposal. View "Knight v. Martin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s order entering a preliminary injunction in favor of Plaintiff in his challenge to Act 633 of 2017, which concerns verification of voter registration, holding that Plaintiff failed to demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits because Act 633 comports with the requirements in Amendment 51 to the Arkansas Constitution for its amendment. The circuit court entered a preliminary injunction order prohibiting and enjoining Appellants from enforcing the requirements of Act 633. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding (1) this action was not subject to the sovereign-immunity defense; (2) Plaintiff had standing to challenge the Act’s constitutionality; but (3) Act 633’s constitutional amendment is germane to Amendment 51 and consistent with its policy and purpose and is therefore constitutional. View "Honorable Mark Martin v. Haas" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed the State’s appeal from the circuit court’s order granting Defendant’s motion to dismiss the charges against her based on a speedy-trial violation, holding that this was not a proper State appeal under Ark. R. App. P.-3(d). Defendant was convicted of thirty-one counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty in district court. Defendant appealed her convictions to the circuit court. Defendant later moved to dismiss the charges against her based on speedy-trial grounds. The circuit court found that Defendant’s right to a speedy trial had been violated and dismissed the charges against her. The State appealed. The Supreme Court granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss, holding that the State’s appeal was not authorized under Rule 3. View "State v. Seigel" on Justia Law

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Zimmerman was arrested for theft of property over $25,000 and second-degree forgery on September 10, 2012. An information was filed on December 6. Zimmerman was arraigned on December 11 and was ordered to appear on February 19, 2013. On that date, she obtained a continuance. The circuit court subsequently granted her four additional continuance. On October 21, 2013, the state orally moved to nolle prosequi the charges, apparently based on Zimmerman’s agreement to pay restitution. The motion was orally granted. A written order granting the motion was filed on March 17, 2014. The state filed a new criminal information on August 7, 2014. Hearings were set for September 16, 2014, January 20, 2015, and April 21, 2015. On each date, Zimmerman failed to appear. On April 29, 2015, Zimmerman was arrested on a warrant issued when the charges were refiled. She appeared and was granted several continuances. On March 24, 2017, Zimmerman unsuccessfully moved to dismiss for failure to provide her with a speedy trial. The Supreme Court of Arkansas granted Zimmerman’s petition for certiorari. The nolle prosequi became effective when the written order was entered. The trial court erred in determining that speedy trial was tolled from October 21, 2013, to March 17, 2014. Adding 290 days to the 309-day period during which the trial court found that speedy trial was not tolled brings the total over the 365-day limit. Zimmerman’s right to speedy trial was violated. View "Zimmerman. v. Circuit Court of Miller County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment and dismissal of Plaintiff’s civil rights and tort complaint on the ground of failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Plaintiff, an inmate incarcerated in the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC), filed a complaint against ADC officials in their individual capacities under the Arkansas Civil Rights Act of 1993 (ACRA), Ark. Code Ann. 16-123-101 to -108. Plaintiff alleged that Defendants violated his due process rights when they failed timely to release him from punitive isolation and that Defendants committed the torts of false imprisonment, negligence, and excessive confinement. The circuit court found that Plaintiff had failed to exhaust his due process and tort claims as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PRLA), 42 U.S.C. 1997e. Because the PRLA is a federal law that is not applicable to actions brought against public officials in their individual capacities under ACRA and Arkansas tort law, the circuit court erred in granting Defendants’ motion for summary judgment and dismissing Plaintiff’s case for failure to exhaust. View "Harmon v. Jackson" on Justia Law