Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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Appellant, who was convicted of murder in the first degree with a firearm enhancement and attempted murder in the first degree, filed a petition for postconviction relief pursuant to Ark. R. Crim. P. 37, asserting that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance. The circuit court denied the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant’s trial counsel’s performance was not constitutionally deficient for any of the reasons stated by Appellant, as Appellant failed to establish prejudice under the standard set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). View "Edwards v. State" on Justia Law

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The circuit court determined that appropriations made by ordinances or resolutions of the cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock (Appellants) to the cities’ chambers of commerce and related economic development entities were in violation of article 12, section 5 of the Arkansas Constitution. The court concluded that Appellants had appropriated city funds to private corporations using “service contracts” that violated article 12, section 5 and were invalid due to lack of consideration and absence of benefits to the taxpayers. The court permanently enjoined Appellants from passing such ordinances or resolutions. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the circuit court with instructions to lift the injunction and dismiss Appellees’ complaint, holding that an amendment to article 12, section 5 rendered the basis for the circuit court’s injunction moot. View "Stodola v. Lynch" on Justia Law

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Keep Our Dollars in Independence County (KODIC), a local-option ballot question committee, sponsored a petition to allow Independence County voters to decide whether to permit the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages in the county. Tracey Mitchell, the Independence County Clerk, determined that the petition was insufficient to be placed on the November 8, 2016 ballot because 424 otherwise valid signatures had not been counted on the grounds that those signatures appeared on petition parts also containing the signature of someone outside Independence County in violation of Ark. Code Ann. 3-8-811(b)(6). KODIC and taxpayer Carol Crosby appealed, arguing that section 3-8-811(b)(6) is unconstitutional. The circuit court affirmed Mitchell’s certification of insufficiency. The Supreme Court dismissed the parties’ appeal and the cross-appeal, holding that the issues raised on direct appeal and on cross-appeal were moot because the November 8, 2016 general election has already occurred. View "Keep Our Dollars in Independence County v. Mitchell" on Justia Law

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Roby Lowery Stapleton was murdered in 1963. Her murder remains unsolved. In 2013, through the Keech Law Firm, Stapleton’s family made a formal written request to the Department of Arkansas State Police (ASP) for a copy of the case file and other materials relating to ASP’s investigation into Stapleton’s murder. ASP denied the request. Keech then filed a complaint against ASP asking the circuit court to compel disclosure under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) . ASP maintained that the material was exempt under FOIA because it was the subject of an open and ongoing investigation into Stapleton’s murder. The court ordered ASP to turn over the file, concluding that the case was not an “open and ongoing” law enforcement investigation and, therefore, the claimed exemption did not apply. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court’s finding that this investigation was not open and ongoing was not clearly erroneous; and (2) this case falls squarely within the purpose of FOIA. View "Department of Arkansas State Police v. Keech Law Firm P.A." on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Appellant was found guilty of capital murder. Appellant was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. The Supreme Court affirmed. Appellant later filed a petition for postconviction relief under Ark. R. Crim. P. 37.1, raising two claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. The trial court denied relief, concluding that counsel was not ineffective. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court’s factual findings support its apparent conclusion that Appellant failed to satisfy either prong of the test set forth in Strickland v. Washington, and those findings were not clearly erroneous. View "Williams v. State" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of capital murder. Appellant was sentenced as a habitual offender to life without parole. The Supreme Court affirmed. Appellant subsequently filed a pro se petition for postconviction relief pursuant to Ark. R. Crim. P. 37.1, making numerous allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel and an allegation of prosecutorial misconduct. The trial court denied the petition. Appellant appealed and filed two motions related to the appeal. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and declared the motions moot, holding that the trial court did not err when it concluded that the conduct of both trial and appellate counsel alleged to be deficient by Appellant did not constitute ineffective assistance of counsel. View "Nichols v. State" on Justia Law

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The City of Hot Springs passed an ordinance annexing two tracts of property under Ark. Code Ann. 14-40-501. Certain property owners filed a complaint to set aside the annexation, arguing that the statutory scheme authorizing the annexation was unconstitutional and, alternatively, that the annexed area did not fall within the statutory range. The circuit court dismissed the complaint with prejudice, concluding that the statute was constitutional and that the annexed area met the requirements set forth in section 14-40-501. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the statute is constitutional; and (2) the annexed area was properly annexed under the statute. View "Pritchett v. City of Hot Springs" on Justia Law

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Appellant, an inmate, filed a petition seeking judicial review of a decision of the Arkansas Parole Board that denied Appellant’s application for parole. In his petition, Appellant contended that the Board had deprived him of liberty without due process and had retroactively applied a parole statute in violation of the ex-post-facto prohibition in the United States and Arkansas Constitutions. Appellant filed a petition to proceed in forma pauperis in connection with his petition for judicial review. The circuit court summarily denied Appellant’s petition to proceed in forma pauperis on the basis that Appellant had not stated a colorable claim. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded, holding that Appellant failed to state a colorable claim based on the allegation that the denial of his parole eligibility constituted a violation of his right to due process but did state sufficient non-conclusory facts to assert a colorable claim for judicial review of an alleged violation of the ex-post-facto prohibition, and therefore, Appellant was entitled to proceed in forma pauperis. View "Ruiz v. Felts" on Justia Law

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Larry Teeter, Donna Teeter, Amy Teeter Thomas, and Kevin Teeter (collectively, the Teeters) were awarded attorneys’ fees in a judgment arising from a condemnation proceeding. The City of Benton appealed, challenging the circuit court’s award of attorneys’ fees on the grounds that there is no statutory authority for awarding such fees against a municipality in a condemnation proceeding. The Teeters cross-appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred in denying their request for payment of expert-witness fees. The Supreme Court reversed on direct appeal and affirmed on cross-appeal for the reasons stated in City of Benton v. Alcoa Storage Inc., handed down this same date. View "City of Benton v. Teeter" on Justia Law

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Alcoa Road Storage, Inc. was awarded attorneys’ fees in a judgment arising from a condemnation proceeding. The City of Benton appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred in awarding attorneys’ fees because there is no statutory authority for awarding such fees against a municipality in a condemnation proceeding. Alcoa cross-appealed, challenging the circuit court’s denial of its request for payment of expert-witness fees. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the circuit court (1) erred in awarding attorneys’ fees because attorneys’ fees are not expressly provided for in Ark. Code Ann. 18-15-307(c); and (2) did not err in finding that expert-witness fees incurred by a landowner to establish the calculation of its just compensation are not “costs occasioned by the assessment” pursuant to section 18-15-307(c). View "City of Benton v. Alcoa Road Storage Inc." on Justia Law