Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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In Pavan v. Smith, 137 S. Ct. 2075 (2017), the United States Supreme Court held that Arkansas’s birth-certificate law, Ark. Code Ann. 20-18-401, is unconstitutional to the extent it treats similarly-situated same-sex couples differently from opposite-sex couples. The Court thus reversed the judgment of the Arkansas Supreme Court and remanded for further proceedings consistent with the opinion of the Court. The Arkansas Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court, which “impermissibly rewrote the statutory scheme” and remanded for entry of a final judgment consistent with the mandate of the United States Supreme Court. On remand, the circuit court should award such relief as necessary to ensure that same-sex spouses are afforded the same right as opposite-sex spouses to be listed on a child’s birth certificate in Arkansas, as required under Pavan v. Smith. View "Smith v. Pavan" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for the kidnapping and murder of his girlfriend. A jury sentenced Defendant to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for murder plus forty years imprisonment for kidnapping. In affirming the convictions on appeal, the Supreme Court held that the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s challenges to the State’s use of three peremptory strikes against black potential jurors during jury selection because the State provided sufficient race-neutral explanations to justify its use of the peremptory strikes. View "Woods v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants in this illegal-exaction suit alleging that certain acts of 2015, which appropriate funds from the Arkansas General Improvement Fund to eight planning and development districts, are unconstitutional. Both parties appealed the circuit court’s rulings. The Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court correctly found that Plaintiff had taxpayer standing in this illegal-exaction suit; (2) Plaintiff’s appeal is not moot; and (3) the circuit court erred in granting summary judgment because the challenged acts violate article 5, section 29 of the Arkansas Constitution. View "Wilson v. Walther" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Appellant’s conviction for possession of a controlled substance with purpose to deliver, for which Appellant was sentenced to five years’ probation and ordered to pay a $5000 fine. The court held (1) the trial court did not err by denying Appellant’s motions for directed verdict; (2) the trial court did not err by failing to give Appellant’s proffered jury instruction regarding constructive possession; and (3) the trial court did not commit clear error in denying Appellant’s motion to suppress evidence seized as a result of a search. View "Pokatilov v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s ruling that defense counsel was not ineffective for failing to dismiss the drug offense charges against Defendant based on a speedy-trial violation. The circuit court found that sufficient excludable time periods should be charged against Defendant such that no speedy-trial violation occurred. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the circuit court did not err in finding that counsel’s failure to raise a speedy-trial argument was not deficient because there was no speedy-trial violation and that Defendant failed to meet the first prong of Strickland. View "Turner v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s conclusion that Appellant’s attempt to waive his right to counsel and represent himself at trial was equivocal and the court's decision to proceed with Appellant’s original counsel. After Appellant requested to waive his right to counsel and represent himself at trial, Appellant engaged in multiple instances of uncertainty while being told of the consequences of self-representation. Therefore, the trial court ruled that Appellant’s invocation was equivocal. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that Appellant’s attempt to waive counsel and self-represent was not sufficiently unequivocal. View "Reed v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s denial of Appellant’s petition for writ of mandamus alleging that his rights had been violated by the denial of his parole. The circuit court found, among other things, that Appellant failed to establish that he had a right to be paroled, that the Due Process Clause does not create a protected liberty interest for an inmate to have a specific release and parole-eligibility date, and that the denial of Appellant's parole was not a new punishment in violation of double jeopardy. In affirming, the Supreme Court held that Appellant failed to establish a right or a performance of a duty for which the writ should issue. View "Warren v. Felts" on Justia 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