Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
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The Supreme Court granted Petitioner's requested writ of prohibition prohibiting the circuit court from enforcing a ruling that found an audio/video recording of a voluntary statement made to law enforcement officers by H.D., the defendant in the underlying criminal proceeding, violated H.D.'s privilege against self-incrimination, holding that a defendant's Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination is not violated by the admission into evidence and/or publication to the jury during a criminal proceeding of an audio/video recording of the defendant's voluntary statement made to law enforcement officers. Because H.D. was in a non-custodial setting when he made his incriminating statement and affirmatively waived his rights, H.D. may not now assert the privilege against self-incrimination in his criminal proceeding to avoid the admission into evidence and/or publication to the jury of that recording. View "State ex rel. Wade v. Honorable David W. Hummel, Jr." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment for Defendant and dismissing Plaintiff's age discrimination claim, holding that genuine issues of material fact remained as to whether Defendant was entitled to the benefit of a severance agreement and general release. Plaintiff, who worked for nineteen years as an area supervisor of One Stop convenience stores, lost his job after Defendant leased approximately forty-one of those stores. Plaintiff applied for a job with Defendant but was not hired. Plaintiff filed suit alleging age discrimination in violation of the West Virginia Human Rights Act. Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff had released any employment-related claims against Defendant when he executed a severance agreement and general release with his former employer and its corporate affiliates. The circuit court granted the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that genuine issues of material fact existed as to the applicability of the release agreement to Plaintiff's claim against Defendant. View "Henzler v. Turnoutz, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction for incest, sexual assault in the third degree, and sexual abuse by a parent, guardian, custodian or person in a position of trust to a child, holding that there was no error. Defendant's first trial resulted in a hung jury, and his second trial resulted in a conviction on nine counts. The Supreme Court affirmed the convictions, holding (1) the first trial did not result in Defendant's acquittal based on the circuit court's manner of polling the jury; (2) the circuit court did not err when it continued Defendant's first trial past the first term of court over Defendant's objection; (3) there was no error in the circuit court's decision to allow the jury to hear the State's DNA evidence; (4) the circuit court did not err in refusing to dismiss a juror who admitted to knowing the victim and the prosecutor; and (5) the doctrine of cumulative error did not apply in Defendant's case. View "State v. Jeremy S." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court affirming Defendant's conviction for one count of domestic battery, holding that law enforcement officers' entry into Defendant's home was reasonable under the emergency doctrine exception to the warrant requirement. After a magistrate court jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of domestic battery of his wife and sentenced to ten days in jail. The circuit court affirmed, holding that the officers' entry into Defendant's home fell under the exigent circumstances exception to the Fourth Amendment and that, therefore, the officers acted reasonably. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the warrantless entry into Defendant's home fell within the emergency doctrine exception to the warrant requirement; and (2) Defendant was not entitled to reversal on his remaining allegations of error. View "State v. Rexrode" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the rulings of the circuit court finding that the Workplace Freedom Act (the Act) infringes upon the rights to associate, as well as the liberty and property rights, of labor unions that are member organizations of the AFL-CIO (Labor Unions), holding that the Act does not violate constitutional rights at issue. In 2016, the Legislature enacted the Act, which prohibits collective bargaining agreements that require an employee to pay any dues, fees, assessments, or other similar charges as a condition of employment, or as a condition for the continuation of employment, when the employee has chosen not to join a union. On remand, the circuit court ruled that the Act unconstitutionally fringes on the rights of the Labor Unions, who represent both private and government workers in West Virginia. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Act does not violate the West Virginia Constitution's protections of association, property, and liberty rights. View "Morrisey v. West Virginia AFL-CIO" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court giving Petitioner credit for twelve days of time served toward the sentence he received for his felony conviction although Petitioner spent additional time in confinement for other charges that were dismissed in the universal plea agreement, holding that to grant Petitioner additional credit for time served would do little more than reward Petitioner for habitual criminal behavior. Petitioner was charged with several crimes and agreed to resolve the pending charges against him in a universal plea agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, Petitioner agreed to plea guilty to the charge of felony carrying a concealed firearm by a prohibited person. In exchange, the State agreed to drop the remaining charges. After he was sentenced, Petitioner argued that, in addition to the twelve days of credit for time served he was granted, he was constitutionally entitled to credit for time served while he was incarcerated for charges that were resolved in the universal plea agreement. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner's circumstances implicated neither double jeopardy nor equal protection of the law such that additional credit for time served was constitutionally mandated. View "State v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Petitioners' Rule 50(b) motion for judgment as a matter of law, Rule 59(a) motion for a new trial, and Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend the judgment, as provided for by the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure, holding that the circuit court did not err. Respondent filed a complaint alleging that Petitioners, two correctional officers, used excessive force against him. The jury found that Petitioners used excessive force on Respondent and committed the civil tort of battery on Respondent. The jury award compensatory damages of $0 and punitive damages of $4,500. Petitioners filed a Rule 50(b) motion for judgment as a matter of law and motions pursuant to Rules 59(a) and (e) for a new trial and/or to alter or amend the judgment, arguing that there was no reasonable relationship between the compensatory damages and punitive damages award. The circuit court denied the motions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in (1) allowing punitive damages to be recovered by Respondent without an accompanying award of compensatory or nominal damages; and (2) failing to apply the provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. 1997e, to Petitioners. View "Lunsford v. Shy" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court sentencing Petitioner to two terms of one to five years of imprisonment in connection with his conviction of two counts of delivery of a controlled substance, holding that the circuit court did not err in not suppressing evidence of an audio/video recording of one of the two drug transactions. On appeal, Petitioner argued that the circuit court erred in refusing to suppress evidence related to one of the drug transactions on the grounds that the evidence was obtained as a result of a recorded transaction within his home without an electronic intercept order issued prior to the transaction. Petitioner argued that this conduct violated State v. Mullens, 650 S.E.2d 169 (W. Va. 2007), and was not in compliance with the Electronic Interception of Conduct or Oral Communications in the Home Act. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that exigent circumstances prevented law enforcement officers from obtaining an order authorizing the use of an audio/video recorder in Petitioner's home. View "State v. Howells" on Justia Law

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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