Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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Two recently enacted statutes relating to damages - W. Va. Code 55-7-29 and 55-7E-3 - are remedial and apply in a trial conducted after the effective date of the statutes when the underlying facts in the case occurred prior to that effective date. After he was discharged from employment, Plaintiff filed a complaint against his former employer under the West Virginia Human Rights Act claiming that he was unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of race, national origin and/or ancestry. Defendant removed the case to federal district court on the basis of diversity. The district court then certified questions to the Supreme Court regarding the two statutes at issue. The Supreme Court answered the two certified questions in the affirmative and dismissed the matter from the docket of the court. View "Martinez v. Asplundh Tree Expert Co." on Justia Law

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Under W. Va. R. Crim. P. 12(f), if a defendant fails to seek to suppress a confession or other inculpatory statement prior to trial as required under W. Va. R. Crim. P. 12(b)(3), such failure constitutes waiver, absent a showing of good cause. Defendant entered a guilty verdict on a two-count indictment for driving under the influence of alcohol. Defendant appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred in admitting his two of his statements to police into evidence at trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under Rule 12(b)(3), Defendant waived his right to a voluntariness hearing regarding the admissibility of his first statement to the police; and (2) the circuit court did not err in admitting the second statement Defendant made to the police because the record revealed nothing to support Defendant’s argument that the circuit court erred in failing to suppress the second statement due to a violation of the prompt presentment rule. View "State v. Simmons" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff bid on the position “mechanic trainee” at a mine owned by Eastern Associated Coal (Defendant). In July 2012, Plaintiff learned of Defendant’s decision not to hire him. He did not learn until January 2014, however, that the basis for the employment decision may have been his age. Plaintiff instituted a civil action in the circuit court, asserting that Defendant had committed age discrimination in violation of the West Virginia Human Rights Act (HRA). Defendant moved to dismiss the civil action for failure to institute the suit within two years of the alleged discriminatory act underlying Plaintiff’s complaint. The circuit court certified two questions to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered (1) for discriminatory hiring causes of action filed pursuant to the HRA, the statute of limitations begins to run from the date that the plaintiff learns of the adverse employment decision; and (2) for discriminatory hiring causes of action filed pursuant to the HRA, the discovery rule does not toll the statute of limitations until the plaintiff discovers the alleged discriminatory motive underlying the employment decision. View "Metz v. Eastern Associated Coal, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Renee Richardson-Powers (Powers) was hired to work at an office of the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). At the time she was hired, Powers did not disclose the existence of a traumatic brain injury she suffered when she was eight years old. Powers’s employment with the DMV was terminated later that year. Powers filed a grievance with regard to her termination. An administrative law judge (ALJ) found in favor of Powers, concluding that Powers demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that the DMV breached its duty to provide her with a reasonable accommodation. The Human Rights Commission adopted the decision of the ALJ. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Powers failed to meet the initial burden of demonstrating that she was a “qualified person with a disability.” View "West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles v. Richardson-Powers" on Justia Law

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Respondent filed a petition for a writ of mandamus seeking to force the West Virginia Department of Highways, Division of Highways (DOH) to institute a condemnation proceeding for limestone it excavated from a certain parcel of land during its construction of a portion of the Corridor H highway. The mandamus proceeding was resolved through an agreed order whereby the DOH was required to institute a condemnation proceeding against Respondent’s mineral interest in the property. After a jury trial, the circuit court awarded Respondent $941,304.53 as just compensation for the removal of the limestone from the property. The circuit court subsequently determined that Respondent was entitled to attorney’s fees and expenses for both the mandamus proceeding and condemnation proceeding. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) an award of attorney’s fees and expenses was warranted in this case; but (2) the final order was devoid of factual findings regarding the reasonableness of the amount of the attorneys fees and expenses awarded. Remanded for an additional hearing on that issue. View "West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways v. Newton" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of first degree murder with a recommendation of mercy and conspiracy to commit burglary. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence seized from a residence with the property owners’ consent; (2) the trial court did not err by denying Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence seized from Defendant’s residence; (3) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion for a change of venue; and (4) Defendant knowingly and intelligently waived his right not to wear jail attire during jury voir dire. View "State v. Payne" on Justia Law

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During a 2007 fight, Smith attacked Thomas with a hammer, and, following a struggle over a loaded shotgun, Smith discharged the shotgun into Thomas’s leg. Thomas’s minor son (C.), was present. Smith was convicted of malicious assault involving a hammer, malicious assault involving a firearm, wanton endangerment of C., involving a firearm, and attempted murder, W. Va. Code sections 61-2-9(a), 61-7-12, 61-11-8, 61-2-1. After unsuccessful direct appeal, Smith sought habeas corpus relief, alleging violation of his due process rights and ineffective assistance of counsel. His memorandum of law argued that conviction and sentence for both the malicious assault of Thomas using a firearm and the wanton endangerment of C. involving a firearm placed Smith in double jeopardy. Before filing that memorandum, Smith did not mention the double jeopardy issue in any habeas filings, at trial, at sentencing, or on appeal. The court granted relief on the double jeopardy claim and permitted Smith to choose one of the two offending convictions and its corresponding sentence to be dismissed. He chose malicious assault with a firearm. The state filed an objection. The Supreme Court of Appeals reversed; the “same transaction” test may not be used to decide whether prosecution and punishment imposed under two distinct statutory provisions violates double jeopardy principles. View "Mirandy v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Petitioner worked for a Hospital for seven years until she was fired at age sixty-five. The Hospital’s stated reason for Petitioner’s termination was that she had committed multiple violations of the Hospital’s patient confidentiality policy. Petitioner filed suit against the Hospital, asserting as her sole claim wrongful termination on the basis of her age in violation of the West Virginia Human Rights Act (WVHRA). The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the Hospital, concluding that Petitioner failed to establish a prima facie case of age discrimination. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that in an age discrimination employment case brought under the WVHRA, the Court hereby adopts the “substantially younger” rule articulated by the United States Supreme Court in O’Connor v. Consolidated Coin Caterers Corp. Remanded to the circuit court to assess Petitioner’s prima facie argument in light of this holding. View "Knotts v. Grafton City Hospital" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Rights

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Petitioners alleged, in addition to claims of gender discrimination and invasion of privacy, that they were discharged from their employment with West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services (DHHR) for discovering and alerting others to alleged errors or irregularities with the procurement process utilized by DHHR. The trial court granted summary judgment to DHHR and two DHHR officials (collectively, Respondents) on the entirety of Petitioners’ claims, concluding that Petitioners failed to create a genuine issue of material fact surrounding their claims and that Respondents were entitled to qualified immunity on Petitioenrs' claims. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the circuit court (1) did not err in granting summary judgment as to Petitioners’ retaliatory discharge, gender discrimination, and false light invasion of privacy claims; but (2) erred in concluding that Petitioners failed to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact on their whistle-blower claim and concluding, as a matter of law, that Petitioners’ evidence could not satisfy the statutory requirements. View "Taylor v. W. Va. Dept. of Health & Human Res." on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of twenty counts of possession of material visually portraying a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Petitioner also received a related recidivist conviction. Through a second amended sentencing order Petitioner was sentenced to a total period of incarceration of seventeen years. The Supreme Court affirmed Petitioner’s convictions and sentences, holding (1) the trial court did not err when it allowed expert opinion testimony concerning the ages of the children depicted in the images; (2) the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions; (3) Petitioner was not denied his constitutional right to a fair trial when the trial court allowed the State to present hearsay testimony; and (4) Petitioner’s convictions did not violate the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy. View "State v. Shingleton" on Justia Law