Justia West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Rights
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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's recidivist life sentence imposed in connection with Defendant's conviction of second offense failure to register as a sex offender, holding that Defendant's recidivist life conviction, as applied, was unconstitutionally disproportionate. Defendant was sentenced to ten to twenty-five years in prison for his offense. Because of his prior convictions, Defendant received a recidivist life sentence under W. Va. Code 61-11-18(c). Defendant appealed both his conviction and his sentence. The Supreme Court affirmed the conviction but reversed the sentence, holding (1) the circuit court properly denied Defendant's motions for acquittal based on the sufficiency of the evidence and Defendant's contention that the trial court incorrectly instructed the jury that time was not of the essence of the alleged offense; but (2) the sentence imposed by the trial court for Defendant's offense was unconstitutionally disproportionate under W. Va. Const. art. III, 5 and the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. View "State v. Hoyle" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Petitioner relief on his second petition for writ of habeas corpus, holding that Petitioner was not entitled to relief on his three arguments on appeal. Petitioner was convicted of burglary by entering without breaking and other offenses. In his second habeas corpus petition Petitioner raised four grounds for relief. The circuit court summarily dismissed the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the errors Petitioner raised in this appeal were either not raised below and therefore waived or were previously and finally adjudicated on the merits and not clearly wrong. View "Lewis v. Ames" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts (WVDEA) on Petitioner's claims brought under the West Virginia Human Rights Act (Act), W. Va. Code 5-11-1 through -21, holding that the circuit court properly granted summary judgment on Petitioner's failure-to-accommodate and constructive discharge claims. Prior to resigning from her position of employment for the WVDEA Petitioner asked the WVDEA to permit her to work weekends from home rather than requiring her to take paid leave for her required weekly absences due to medical treatments. WVDEA did not accommodate that request. Petitioner ultimately sued alleging that she was unlawfully denied a reasonable accommodation and that she was constructively discharged as a result of the denial of her requested accommodation. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the WVDEA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Petitioner did not require a work-from-home accommodation; and (2) Petitioner's constructive discharge claim, premised on the denial of her request for accommodation, failed as a matter of law. View "Burns v. West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court dismissing Plaintiff's claims against a sheriff's deputy, a county, and its sheriff's department alleging that his earlier arrest violated his constitutional rights and was intentional infliction of emotional distress and battery, holding that Plaintiff's claims were time barred and that Plaintiff's motions for disqualification were properly denied. The circuit court dismissed Plaintiff's claims because he did not file within the two-year statute of limitations. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the circuit judge should have been disqualified from the case and that the tolling provision of W. Va. Code 55-17-3(a) should have applied once he gave notice of his claim to the sheriff's department. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the tolling provision of section 55-17-3(a) did not apply because the sheriff's department is not part of the executive branch of state government; and (2) Plaintiff's allegations that the circuit judge should have been disqualified were properly adjudicated by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and were without merit. View "Patton v. County of Berkeley, West Virginia" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Appellant's petition for a writ of habeas corpus in which Appellant asserted ineffective assistance of counsel, holding that there were no grounds upon which to find that Appellant's trial counsel was ineffective. After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree for fatally shooting his wife. Defendant was sentenced to life with mercy. After the circuit court denied Defendant's petition for a writ of habeas corpus Defendant appealed, raising eight separate instances of ineffective assistance of counsel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in denying Appellant's petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus. View "Coleman v. Binion" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court denying Petitioner's petition for writ of habeas corpus asserting ineffective assistance of counsel, holding that there were no grounds upon which to find Petitioner's counsel was ineffective. After a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of murder in the first degree. Petitioner's habeas petition asserted numerous grounds to support his claims of ineffective assistance of both trial and appellate counsel. After an omnibus hearing, the circuit court denied the petition. Petitioner appealed, raising eight separate instances of ineffective assistance of counsel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner received effective assistance of counsel. View "Coleman v. Binion" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Petitioner's petition for writ of habeas corpus, holding that the circuit court did not err in finding that Petitioner was not denied due process or effective assistance of trial counsel when he did not receive a sex offender evaluation pursuant to W.Va. Code 62-12-2(e). Petitioner pleaded guilty to one count of sexual abuse by a parent. Petitioner later filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus alleging due process violations and ineffective assistance of counsel based on his allegation that neither his attorney nor the circuit court informed him that the State would have provided a sex offender evaluation at no cost to him. The circuit court denied habeas relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner was not entitled to relief because he failed to prove that he was deprived of due process by his failure to undergo a sex offender evaluation or that the outcome of his sentencing hearing would have been different so as to establish a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. View "Christopher H. v. Martin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court denying Petitioner's second amended motion for writ of habeas corpus, holding that the circuit court did not err. Petitioner pled guilty by information to first-degree murder. Petitioner later filed his second amended habeas petition asserting (1) his guilty plea by information was illegal under the West Virginia Constitution and Rule 7 of the West Virginia Rules of Criminal Procedure because he faced a life sentence; (2) his guilty plea was involuntary; and (3) his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) while the guilty plea by information did not comport with Rule 7, Petitioner waived his argument as to that irregularity when he waived his constitutional right to an indictment; (2) Petitioner's guilty plea was voluntary; and (3) Petitioner failed to establish deficient performance by trial counsel. View "Montgomery v. Ballard" on Justia Law

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In this excessive force action brought under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court denying summary judgment in favor of Petitioners, correctional officers and the warden at Mount Olive Correction Center (MOCC), on grounds of qualified immunity, holding that genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment in this matter. Respondent, an inmate at MOCC, brought this action asserting violations of his federal constitutional rights. The circuit court concluded that Petitioners were not entitled to summary judgment because genuine issues of material fact existed concerning the excessive force, deliberate indifference, and supervisory liability claims brought against them. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) given the genuine issues of material fact in this matter, Petitioners were not entitled to summary judgment based on qualified immunity; and (2) the circuit court's order sufficiently addressed the parties' disparate factual allegations and the legal standards upon which the court's decision was based. View "McCourt v. Delgado" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant in this disability discrimination action brought by Plaintiff alleging that Defendant refused to hire him because of his physical disability, holding that Plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of intentional disability discrimination. Plaintiff brought this action alleging that Defendant’s refusal to hire him constituted disability discrimination in violation of the West Virginia Human Rights Act, W.Va. Code 5-11-1 to -20. Defendant moved for summary judgment, asserting that it declined to hire Plaintiff because a pre-employment physical examination revealed that Plaintiff’s disability prevented him from completing essential responsibilities of the job and that Plaintiff did not ask for any reasonable accommodation that would allow him to complete those essential tasks. Rather, Defendant asserted, Plaintiff merely sought the complete rejection of the physician’s physical examination report. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Defendant. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant was entitled to rely upon the physician’s report and that Plaintiff failed pos how that any reasonable accommodations were demanded or even existed. View "Woods v. Jefferds Corp." on Justia Law