Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The circuit court erred in granting a preliminary injunction that stopped the implementation of West Virginia’s new “right to work” law - Senate Bill 1, enacted in the 2016 Regular Session of the Legislature. Plaintiffs, several unions, argued that the right to work law was unconstitutional because it was unfair to unions and their members. Defendants, state officials, argued that the law is fair because it protects workers who do not want to join or pay dues to a union. The circuit court imposed a preliminary injunction, ruling that the provisions of Senate Bill 1 would not go into effect until the court ruled on the merits of Plaintiffs’ arguments. The Supreme Court reversed and dissolved the preliminary injunction, holding that the unions failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits of their constitutional claims. View "Morrisey v. West Virginia AFL-CIO" 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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After the West Virginia Department of Education (DOE) terminated Plaintiff’s employment, Plaintiff filed a complaint containing a constitutional tort claim and a claim for wrongful termination. Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that the DOE leaked a letter it received from her previous government employer revealing that she was under investigation for misallocating public funds for personal use and that the leak of this letter violated her constitutionally-protected liberty interest. The circuit court denied the DOE’s motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiff failed to outline a liberty interest violation sufficient to overcome the DOE’s qualified immunity because the truth of the allegedly leaked letter was not disputed; and (2) therefore, the DOE’s qualified immunity barred Plaintiff’s claims. View "West Virginia Department of Education v. McGraw" 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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This disciplinary proceeding stemmed from allegedly false statements contained in a campaign-issued flyer disseminated while Stephen O. Callaghan, Judge-Elect of the 28th Judicial Circuit was a candidate for Judge of the 28th Judicial Circuit. The West Virginia Judicial Hearing Board recommended that Judge-Elect Callaghan be disciplined for three violations of the West Virginia Code of Judicial Conduct and one violation of the West Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct. The Supreme Court adopted the Board’s recommended discipline, with modification, and found that it was appropriate to suspend Judge-Elect Callaghan from the judicial bench for a total of two years without pay, along with the recommended fine of $15,000, and reprimand as an attorney, holding (1) there was clear and convincing evidence of improper conduct presented in support of each of the violations found by the Board; and (2) Judge-Elect Callaghan’s constitutional arguments were unavailing. View "In re Hon. Stephen O. Judge-Elect Callaghan" on Justia Law

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W. Va. Code 11-15A-10a affords taxpayers a credit for sales taxes paid to other states, which offsets the West Virginia Motor Fuel Use Tax (“use tax”) a fuel importer must pay under W. Va. Code 11-15A-13a. After it was assessed a use tax on the fuel it uses in West Virginia, CSX Transportation sought a refund of the sales taxes it had paid on its motor fuel purchases to cities, counties, and localities of other sales pursuant to section 11-15A-10a. The Tax Commissioner rejected the refund request. The Office of Tax Appeals (OTA) granted CSX’s refund request and vacated the assessment, finding that CSX was entitled to a credit under section 11-15A-10a for the sales taxes it paid to other states’ subdivisions on its purchases of motor fuel therein. The circuit court affirmed. The Tax Commissioner appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred by not limiting the credit to sales taxes paid only to other states upon the purchase of a motor fuel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the sales tax credit afforded by section 11-15A-10a applies both to sales taxes paid to other states and to sales taxes paid to the municipalities of other states. View "Matkovich v. CSX Transportation, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant was indicted on eight charges relating to the alleged sexual abuse of his eight-year-old daughter S.F. S.F. received treatment from the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), which maintained files to which the prosecutor had access. Defendant requested S.F.’s DHHR files on the ground that the prosecutor was required to turn over potentially exculpatory evidence in its possession. After an in camera review, the circuit court granted Defendant’s lawyer access to the DHHR files, finding that Defendant had a constitutional right to review the DHHR’s files on S.F. on the grounds that the files contained exculpatory information that was material to the defense. The prosecutor then sought a writ of prohibition against the enforcement of the circuit court’s order. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding (1) the circuit court did not err by finding that Defendant had a constitutional right to review the DHHR’s files on S.F.; and (2) the circuit court followed the correct procedure in determining that these files could be reviewed by Defendant’s lawyer. View "State ex rel. Lorenzetti v. Honorable David H. Sanders" 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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In 2004, the Petitioner was charged with sexual abuse in the first degree, attempt to commit a felony of sexual assault in the first degree, sexual assault in the first degree and sexual abuse by a custodian, based on 2001 incidents involving his step-granddaughter. He was convicted in 2005. The court ordered that, following his discharge from the penitentiary after serving a 10-20 year sentence for his sexual abuse by a custodian conviction, he “shall be placed on probation for a period of ten (10) years” with specific conditions. In 2006, the Legislature amended the statute to require a mandatory period of extended supervised release, West Virginia Code 62-12-2631. In 2015, the circuit court modified petitioner’s probationary period to five years followed by 20 years of “intensive supervision as a sex offender.” The Supreme Court of Appeals reversed the extension of his sentence, citing the ex post facto clause found in both the West Virginia and United States Constitutions. View "West Virginia v. Deel" on Justia Law