Justia Arkansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s dismissal of Appellant’s petition for judicial review under the Arkansas Administrative Procedure, declaratory relief, and petition for writ of mandamus, holding that the circuit court did not err in denying relief. In his petition, Appellant challenged the decision of the Arkansas Board of Parole denying him parole for an additional year. The circuit court held that Appellant failed to state a claim establishing a constitutional violation that would allow for judicial review or injunctive relief. The court denied the petition for writ of mandamus, concluding that the Board’s decision was discretionary. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court (1) did not abuse its discretion in finding that Appellant’s speculative claim could not survive a motion to dismiss; and (2) did not err in denying the writ of mandamus. View "Null v. Arkansas Parole Board" on Justia 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 and remanded this case to the Workers’ Compensation Commission for further proceedings, holding that the evidence indicating that Deputy Cleon Morgan was an independent contractor and, therefore, there was not substantial evidence to support the Commission’s decision that Morgan was an employee at the time of his injury. The Commission found that, at the time of his injury, Deputy Morgan had two employers, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department and Brookshire Grocery Company. The Commission concluded that both were liable for Deputy Morgan’s workers’ compensation benefits as “joint employers.” Brookshire appealed. The Supreme Court reversed the Commission’s decision, holding that where all the factors that are to be considered in determining if Deputy Morgan was an employee or an independent contractor indicate that Deputy Morgan was an independent contractor, the case must be remanded for further proceedings for a determination as to whether Brookshire was indeed liable for workers’ compensation benefits. View "Brookshire Grocery Co. v. Morgan" on Justia Law

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At issue was the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission’s (MMC) process that resulted in a decision awarding five top scoring applicants medical-marijuana-cultivation-facility licenses. Naturalis Health, LLC, one of the applicants that did not obtain a license, brought this complaint asserting that the MMC carried out the application process in a flawed, biased, and arbitrary and capricious manner. The circuit court agreed and went further to conclude that the MMC’s licensing process and decisions violated Amendment 98 of the Arkansas Constitution, were ultra vires, and violated due process. The court declared the MMC’s licensing decisions null and void and enjoined the MMC from issuing the cultivation-facility licenses. The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed the appeal brought by Appellants - MMC and others - holding that the circuit court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction under the Administrative Procedure Act. View "Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration v. Naturalis Health, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the circuit court’s dismissal of Appellant’s pro se petition for declaratory judgment and writ of mandamus challenging the Arkansas Department of Correction’s (ADC) calculation of his parole eligibility. In his petition, Appellant alleged that the ADC incorrectly included certain felony convictions in its calculation of his multiple-offender classification and therefore misclassified him as a fourth offender for purposes of parole eligibility. In addition, Appellant argued that including his 1981 convictions for burglary and robbery resulted in an ex post facto violation. The circuit court ruled that Appellant had failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted because the ADC had not erred in its calculation as to either issue. The Supreme Court held (1) there was no ex post facto violation; but (2) the ADC incorrectly included Appellant’s perjury conviction in its calculation of Appellant’s status as a habitual offender. View "Davis v. Kelley" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and affirmed as modified in part the decision of the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission awarding benefits to Employee for injuries that arose out of and in the course and scope of Employee’s employment with Employer. As pertinent to this appeal, the Commission found (1) Employee was entitled to a permanent anatomical-impairment rating of twenty-nine percent for his brain injury and twenty-four percent for his left-eye injury, both to the body as a whole; and (2) Employee was not entitled to benefits based on a permanent anatomical-impairment rating based on pain. Employer appealed, and Employee cross-appealed. The Supreme Court held (1) the Commission’s decision that Employee was entitled to a permanent anatomical-impairment rating of twenty-nine percent for his brain injury to the body as a whole for his brain injury was supported by substantial evidence; (2) the Commission’s finding of 100 percent impairment to Employee’s left eye was proper, but the award is modified to reflect that it is a scheduled injury; (3) the Commission’s decision denying twenty-four percent whole-body impairment rating for cranial nerve V and trigeminal nerve damage was supported by substantial evidence. View "Multi-Craft Contractors, Inc. v. Yousey" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s order granting Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s refund action pursuant to Ark. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(8) based on the doctrine of res judicata, holding that res judicata did not bar Plaintiff’s suit. After receiving the Faulkner County Assessor’s valuation of its personal property, Plaintiff challenged the assessments. The Faulkner County Board of Equalization upheld the assessments, as did the Faulkner County Court. The circuit court dismissed Plaintiff’s valuation appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. During the discovery process in the valuation appeal, Plaintiff learned of errors regarding the issues in the first complaint. Plaintiff then filed a claim in the Faulkner County Court for a refund of its 2012 ad valorem taxes under Ark. Code Ann. 26-35-901 based on an erroneous assessment of its personal property and on the taxation of its exempt intangible property. The county court dismissed the refund action under Ark. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(8) because the earlier case involved the same parties and arose out of the same occurrence. Plaintiff appealed. The circuit court dismissed the refund action, finding that the refund claims were precluded by res judicata. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the valuation appeal was dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, there was no valid judgment in that case by a court with proper jurisdiction, and all of the required elements of claim preclusion were not satisfied. View "Desoto Gathering Co. v. Hill" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission that one-half of Oscar Gerard’s attorney’s fees must be paid by the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission (AG&F). Gerard sustained a compensable injury, and AG&F accepted the injury as compensable and paid medical and indemnity benefits. After three surgeries related to his injury, Gerard sought additional benefits. The administrative law judge (ALJ) awarded Gerard additional benefits. Gerard then requested that the ALJ find AG&F responsible for his one-half of attorney’s fees. The ALJ ordered AG&F to deduct Gerard’s one-half of attorney’s fees from the additional benefits awarded and to pay that amount to his attorneys. The full Workers’ Compensation Commission affirmed and adopted the ALJ’s findings. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission correctly found that one-half of Gerard’s attorney’s fees must be paid by the AG&F. View "Arkansas Game & Fish Commission v. Gerard" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission finding that, at the time of his injury, Deputy Cleon Morgan, Sr., had two employers, Brookshire Grocery Company and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, and holding that all the factors to be considered in determining if Deputy Morgan was an employee or an independent contractor indicated that Morgan was an independent contractor. On appeal, Brookshire argued that Deputy Morgan, an off-duty sheriff’s deputy, was an independent contractor when he was injured while working part-time for Brookshire, and therefore, Brookshire was not responsible for Deputy Morgan’s workers’-compensation coverage and claims. The Supreme Court reversed after considering the factors set out in section 220 of the Restatement (Second) of Agency and remanded the case to the Commission for further proceedings. View "Brookshire Grocery Co. v. Morgan" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s order granting summary judgment for the City of Blytheville and against Mississippi County. The court held (1) the circuit court erred by defining “prisoners of municipalities” as only those detainees who are charged with violating a municipal ordinance because the term includes those offenders who are arrested by municipal law enforcement officers and delivered to the county jail for incarceration, from the point of intake until they are charged, sentenced, and released; and (2) the circuit court erred by applying an offset on the amount of taxes paid under the 1995 “exclusive jail tax” that support only the County jail by residents of the City to the calculation of “reasonable expenses” under Ark. Code Ann. 12-41-506(a)(2). View "Mississippi County, Arkansas v. City of Blytheville" on Justia Law