Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

by
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

by
The Supreme Court dismissed Appellant’s appeal from the circuit court’s dismissal of Appellant’s pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus, wherein Appellant alleged that his life sentence was illegal pursuant to Miller v. Alabama, 467 U.S. 460 (2012). In his petition, Appellant argued that because he was seventeen when he committed first-degree murder, his life sentence was void pursuant to Miller. The Supreme Court held (1) because Appellant’s life sentence was discretionary, the holding in Miller was not applicable and did not render Appellant’s life sentence facially illegal; and (2) because Appellant’s sentence of life imprisonment now carries with it the possibility of parole under the Fair Sentencing of Minors Act of 2017, Appellant’s contention that his sentence violated the requirements of Miller was incorrect. View "Johnson v. State" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s dismissal of Appellant’s petition for writ of habeas corpus, holding that the circuit court did not err when it found Appellant failed to state a ground for the writ. In 1997, Appellant pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, aggravated robbery, and other offenses. Appellant argued in the instant habeas petition that he was innocent, among other claims. The circuit court found that Appellant’s claims were not cognizable in a writ of habeas corpus. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant failed to state a ground for the writ or to demonstrate probable cause for the issuance of the writ. View "Collier v. Kelley" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court denied Petitioner’s motion to reinvest jurisdiction in the trial court to consider a petition for a writ of audit querela, which the Court treated as a petition to reinvest jurisdiction in the trial court to consider a writ of error coram nobis, or alternatively, for leave to file a postconviction petition in the trial court pursuant to Ark. R. Crim. P. 37.2(a). The Court held (1) Petitioner failed to raise sufficient allegations that established entitlement to relief under coram nobis; and (2) because Petitioner’s Rule 37.2 petition was filed outside the three-year statute of limitations, he was not entitled to relief unless his assertions would render the judgment void, and the adequacy of Miranda warnings does not implicate a fundamental right that is capable of voiding the judgment. View "Munnerlyn v. State" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed Appellant’s convictions for negligent homicide, driving while intoxicated, and reckless driving, holding (1) because the refusal to submit to a blood test pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. 5-65-202 would result in the imposition of criminal penalties, as applied to Appellant, the statute is unconstitutional, and therefore, the circuit court clearly erred in finding that the blood draw from Appellant did not implicate the Fourth Amendment; and (2) the totality of the circumstances did not establish that Appellant either impliedly or voluntarily consented to the warrantless blood draw. View "Dortch v. State" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s denial of Appellant’s pro se petition for postconviction relief filed pursuant to Ark. R. Crim. P. 37.1, holding that the trial court did not provide sufficient written findings to demonstrate that Appellant was not entitled to relief on his ineffective assistance claims. The trial court denied relief without conducting an evidentiary hearing. The Court remanded to the trial court with directions to conduct a postconviction hearing limited to the two claims of ineffective assistance of counsel preserved by Appellant in this appeal. View "Collins v. State" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the circuit court’s denial of Appellant’s petition for postconviction relief filed pursuant to Ark. R. Crim. P. 37. Appellant, who was convicted of first-degree murder and possession of a firearm, argued in his petition that he received ineffective assistance of counsel due to counsel’s failure to present certain jury instructions. The circuit court denied the petition without holding an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court did not err in denying Appellant’s claim that trial counsel was ineffective in failing to present the proper jury instruction on justification; but (2) because the circuit court failed to make written findings in accordance with rule 37.3(a) in regards to Appellant’s claim that trial counsel was ineffective in failing to present the proper jury instruction on extreme-emotional-disturbance manslaughter, the case must be remanded for the court to make such findings. View "Douglas v. State" on Justia Law

by
Article 5, section 9 of the Arkansas Constitution applies to both elected and appointed public offices and applied in this case to an appointed municipal chief of police. The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting a preliminary injunction requested by Appellee, individually and on behalf of a class of similarly situated Arkansas taxpayers, and finding that Chief of Police Geoffrey Herweg’s 2002 Texas conviction of lying to a police officer rendered him incapable of holding the office of Jacksonville police chief. Herweg was appointed by the mayor of Jacksonville. The Court held (1) Appellee had standing in this action and presented a justiciable controversy; (2) article 5, section 9 of the Arkansas Constitution applies to the office of the chief of police; (3) Herweg’s 2002 Texas conviction was an “infamous crime” under article 5, section 9 that precluded his eligibility to serve as Jacksonville’s police chief; and (4) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in granting Appellee’s motion for preliminary injunction. View "City of Jacksonville v. Smith" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional Law

by
The circuit court correctly determined that the immunity provisions of Ark. Code Ann. 16-105-502 barred Appellants’ noise-based lawsuit against Brown-Wright Post No. 158 of the American Legion, Department of Arkansas, Inc. (the Legion) and correctly found that the immunity statute did not constitute a taking under the Arkansas Constitution. Appellants filed a complaint alleging that noise from a shooting range that the Legion had built interfered with the use and enjoyment of their land and constituted a nuisance. The Legion filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the complaint should be dismissed because it was based only on noise, and Ark. Code Ann. 16-105-502 grants shooting ranges immunity for noise-based lawsuits if the range is in compliance with local noise-control ordinances. The circuit court granted the Legion’s motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Legion was entitled to immunity as long the shooting range did not violate any local noise ordinances; and (2) section 16-105-52 did not violate Appellants’ constitutionally protected property rights. View "3 Rivers Logistics, Inc. v. Brown-Wright Post No. 158 of the American Legion, Department of Arkansas, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying, without a hearing, Appellant’s pro se petition for postconviction relief filed pursuant to Ark. R. Crim. P. 37.1. In his petition, Appellant alleged that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance in multiple instances. The trial court disagreed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellant failed to meet the two-prong analysis set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984) that his counsel’s performance was deficient and that the deficient performed prejudiced his defense; and (2) the circuit court did not err in denying the petition for postconviction relief without an evidentiary hearing. View "Gordon v. State" on Justia Law