Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Arkansas Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Petitioner's claim for habeas relief on the grounds that Petitioner's allegations should have been raised at trial or in a timely petition under Ark. R. Crim. P. 37.1, holding that Petitioner failed to raise a claim for issuance of the writ.Petitioner was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to a term of life imprisonment without parole. The Supreme Court affirmed. Petitioner later filed his habeas corpus petition, arguing that his conviction was void because he was tried by an eleven-member jury. The circuit court dismissed the action. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner's claim constituted a due process claim that was not cognizable in a habeas proceeding and should have been raised on direct appeal or in a petition for postconviction relief. View "Phillips v. Culpepper" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed on direct appeal the order of the circuit court denying in part Monsanto Company's motion for judgment on the pleadings and concluding that the Arkansas State Plant Board's Regulation 7 does not violate the Commerce Clause of the federal Constitution and is not invalid as being enacted by an unconstitutionally appointed board, holding that the circuit court did not err.The circuit court denied Monsanto's motion challenging the constitutionality of Regulation 7 and further granted judgment in favor of Monsanto on its claim that Ark. Code Ann. 2-16-206, the statute governing appointment of Board members, is an unconstitutional delegation of the appointment power. The Supreme Court dismissed on direct appeal and affirmed on cross-appeal, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in ruling that Regulation 7 does not violate the Commerce Clause or in rejecting Monsanto's argument that Regulation 7 was enacted by an unconstitutionally appointed board; and (2) the circuit court properly ruled that section 2-16-206(a)(5)-(13) is an invalid delegation of the appointment power. View "Monsanto Co. v. Arkansas State Plant Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court denying Petitioner's postconviction petition filed under Ark. R. Crim. P. 37, holding that the circuit court did not err.Defendant was convicted of four counts of rape and one count of terroristic threatening. The Supreme Court affirmed. Thereafter, Defendant filed amended petition under Rule 37 alleging six grounds for relief. The circuit court denied the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not clearly err in finding that trial counsel provided constitutionally effective assistance of counsel; and (2) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in striking the testimony of Defendant's expert witness. View "Joyner v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this interlocutory appeal brought by the State pursuant to Ark. R. App. P.-Crim. 3 arguing that the circuit court erred in granting Defendant's motion to suppress medical records obtained through a prosecutor's subpoena, holding that the appeal was not a proper State appeal under Rule 3.The State charged Defendant with one count of negligent homicide after he rear-ended a vehicle, causing an accident that killed a minor. Defendant filed a motion to suppress the results of a urine sample collected at the hospital and medical records that were obtained by the State, which included the results of a blood test taken as part of Defendant's medical treatment. The circuit court granted the motion to suppress, and the State appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that the State did not have a proper basis to appeal. View "State v. Kirchner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied the State's petition for a writ of certiorari to the circuit court's order granting a mistrial as to both the guilt and penalty phases of Defendant's capital murder trial when the event precipitating the mistrial occurred after the jury found Defendant guilty, holding that the circuit court correctly determined that the unique circumstances in this case required a mistrial as to both the guilt and penalty phases of the trial.After a retrial, a jury convicted Defendant of capital murder and first-degree battery. During the penalty phase of trial, the State's witness lunged toward Defendant in an apparent effort to assault him. After the jury left the courtroom, Defendant's counsel moved for a mistrial of the sentencing proceeding. The circuit court declared a mistrial as to both the guilt and the penalty phases of the trial. The State filed a petition for writ of certiorari seeking an order directing the circuit court to preserve the guilty verdict and conduct a new sentencing hearing only. The Supreme Court denied the petition, holding that the circuit court did not err or exceed its jurisdiction in declaring a mistrial with respect to the guilt phase of the trial. View "State v. Torres" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying Appellant's petition for postconviction relief filed pursuant to Ark. R. Crim. P. 37.5, holding that the circuit court failed to make specific written findings of fact and conclusions of law on Appellant's last claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.Appellant was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. The Supreme Court affirmed. Appellant later filed a petition for postconviction relief, alleging, among other things, that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing adequately to investigate and challenge aggravation factors. The circuit court denied the petition. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court failed to make findings of fact or conclusions of law addressing Appellant's last claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, as required under Rule 37.5(i). The Court remanded the case to the circuit court for entry of an order that complies with Rule 37.5(i). View "Gay v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the circuit court's denial of Appellant's petition for postconviction relief pursuant to Ark. R. Crim. P. 37.5, holding that Appellant's trial attorneys were ineffective.Appellant was convicted of capital murder, kidnapping, and abuse of a corpse. In his petition for postconviction relief, Appellant argued, among other things, that trial counsel was ineffective because they abandoned their objection to instructing the jury that the death of the victim's unborn child could be considered an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes. The circuit court rejected Appellant's claims. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the circuit court erred in presenting to the jury the death of the victim's unborn child as an aggravating factor, and Appellant's trial attorneys were ineffective when they abandoned their objection to this instruction; and (2) there was a reasonable probability that the fact-finder's decision would have been different absent counsels' errors. View "Smith v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court denying and dismissing Appellant's pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus, holding that the circuit court did not determining that Appellant failed to state grounds demonstrating probable cause that he was being illegally detained.In his petition, Appellant argued that the general principle in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012) that mandatory life-without-parole sentences should not apply to juveniles under the age of eighteen should apply to him because he was still young and immature. The circuit court denied relief, finding that Miller has not be applied to extend relief to offenders over the age of eighteen. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court properly denied Appellant's petition for writ of habeas corpus; and (2) Appellant did not establish that he was entitled to a hearing. View "Benton v. Kelley" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction for various drug and drug-related offenses and sentencing him to an aggregate term of forty years' imprisonment, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting evidence of the presence of filmmakers at the search of Defendant's residence.When DEA officers and other law enforcement officers executed a warrant for the search of Defendant's home, they found drugs and drug paraphernalia. An HBO documentary film crew was present at the search under an agreement with law enforcement. The filmmakers did not participate in the search, nor did they include footage of the search in a documentary that later aired on HBO. On appeal from his convictions, Defendant argued, among other things, that the trial court abused its discretion by refusing to order the State to obtain the HBO video footage of the search of Defendant's home and to identify the filmmakers who were present. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court (1) did not abuse its discretion in declining to order the State to obtain the video; (2) did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant's request for a continuance; (3) did not abuse its discretion in granting the State's motion to exclude testimony about the film; and (4) erred in giving a nonmodel instruction, but the error was harmless. View "Harmon v. State" on Justia Law

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In this action challenging the decision of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission disqualifying Carpenter Farms Medical Group, LLC's application for a marijuana-cultivation facility the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and dismissed in part the judgment of the circuit court denying the State's motion to dismiss based on sovereign immunity, holding that the complaint may go forward only under Ark. Code Ann. 25-15-207 and the declaratory judgment action alleging an equal protection violation.In its complaint, Carpenter Farms asserted (1) it was the only 100 percent minority-owned applicant and that the Commission singled out its application for disparate treatment in violation of equal protection guarantees; and (2) the Commission violated the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to adopt certain rules and improperly applying the rules it did adopt. The circuit court denied the State's motion to dismiss based on sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed in part, holding (1) the lawsuit cannot proceed regarding the Commission's application of its own rules or as an administrative appeal; and (2) Carpenter Farms can go forward with it claim that the Commission failed to adopt model rules and with its declaratory judgment action alleging an equal protection violation. View "Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration v. Carpenter Farms Medical Group, LLC" on Justia Law