Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court dismissing with prejudice this administrative appeal from final orders of the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission (AOGC), holding that the circuit court erred in concluding that the doctrine of sovereign immunity barred its consideration of the petition for review of the AOGC orders. In addition to dismissing the administrative appeal, the circuit court declared the adjudicatory provisions of the Arkansas Administrative Procedure Act (APA) unconstitutional and declared the AOGC orders at issue void ab initio. The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s order in its entirety, holding (1) sovereign immunity was not implicated in this case because the role of the AOGC was that of a quasi-judicial forum and the AOGC was not “made defendant” within the meaning of Ark. Const. art. V, 20; and (2) because the circuit court erred in concluding that sovereign immunity applied to bar its consideration of the petition for review of the AOGC orders, the rulings declaring the adjudicatory provision of the APA unconstitutional and the AOGC’s orders void ab initio must also be reversed. View "Arkansas Oil & Gas Commission v. Hurd" 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

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s order dismissing Appellant’s counterclaim for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS), holding that the Court was unable to address the sole issue raised by Appellant on appeal. On appeal, Appellant argued that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to consider her counterclaim because DHS was entitled to sovereign immunity and that her case should be dismissed without prejudice due to lack of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant failed to preserve her sovereign-immunity argument, and therefore, the circuit court properly dismissed the counterclaim. View "Wilson v. Arkansas Department of Human Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Appellant’s petition for writ of habeas corpus, holding that the circuit court did not err in denying the petition because the charges did not violate double jeopardy. Appellant sent an email to an undercover police officer with an attachment containing thirty photographs depicting child pornography. Appellant pleaded guilty to thirty counts of distributing, possessing, or viewing matter depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a child. Appellant later filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus alleging that his convictions on twenty-nine of the thirty counts violated double jeopardy because he sent only one email with one attachment. The circuit court denied relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that each photograph that was distributed could support a separate charge, and the fact that the thirty photographs were attached to the email in a single file was not relevant in this case. View "Pelletier v. Kelley" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying Appellant’s pro se petition for postconviction relief filed pursuant to Ark. R. Crim. P. 37.1 without holding an evidentiary hearing, holding that the petition and record conclusively showed that Appellant was entitled to no relief. In his petition for postconviction relief, Petitioner alleged that trial counsel was ineffective in seven separate instances. The trial court denied the petition without an evidentiary hearing, concluding that Petitioner failed to allege explicit grounds for postconviction relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no merit in Petitioner’s arguments and that Petitioner was not entitled to postconviction relief. View "Gordon v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the circuit court denying without a hearing Appellant’s petition for postconviction relief pursuant to Ark. R. Crim. P. 37, holding that because the circuit court failed to make written findings in accordance with Rule 37.3(a), the case must be remanded to the circuit court for written findings in compliance with Rule 37.3(a). Appellant was sentenced to a term of life imprisonment for first-degree murder and an additional fifteen years’ imprisonment for possession for a firearm. In his petition for postconviction relief, Appellant argued that trial counsel was ineffective in failing to present the proper jury instructions on justification and extreme emotional disturbance manslaughter. The circuit court denied relief. On appeal, the Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court did not clearly err in denying Appellant’s claim regarding the jury instruction on justification; and (2) the circuit court failed to comply with the dictates of Rule 37 as to Appellant’s claim regarding the jury instruction on extreme emotional disturbance manslaughter, and the case must be remanded for entry of findings with respect to this claim. View "Douglas v. State" on Justia 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