Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s complaint alleging negligence and violations of 42 U.S.C. 1983 after Linda Gelok was injured after being left unattended for twenty-five hours at the Wyoming State Hospital (WSH), holding that the complaint alleged sufficient facts to state a claim for relief under 42 U.S. C. 1983 against Paul Mullenax, WSH Administrator, in his individual capacity. On behalf of Linda Gelok, an involuntarily committed incompetent person, Plaintiff sued the WSH, the Wyoming Department of Health, and Mullenax, WSH Administrator, in his official and individual capacities, alleging negligence and violation of her constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court dismissed the negligence action as time-barred. As to the constitutional claims, the district court found that the WSH, the Department, and Mullenax in his official capacity were entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity and that Mullenax was entitled to qualified immunity in his individual capacity. The Supreme Court held (1) Wyo. Stat. Ann. 1-3-107 barred Plaintiff’s negligent health care claim; (2) the district court properly dismissed Plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims against most defendants; but (3) Plaintiff’s complaint alleged sufficient facts to state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against Mullenax in his individual capacity. View "Wyoming Guardianship Corp. v. Wyoming State Hospital" on Justia Law

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Appellant Steven Mitchell was held in contempt of court for violating a custody order. The district court ordered confinement until Mitchell purged himself of contempt by relinquishing custody of the minor child. While confined for contempt, Mitchell pled no contest to one count of felony interference with custody, for which he received a sentence of three and one-half years to five years of imprisonment, with no credit for presentence incarceration. The district court also ordered the criminal sentence to commence on termination of Mitchell’s confinement for contempt. Mitchell appeals his criminal sentence contending it was illegal. Finding no reversible error or illegality, the Wyoming Supreme Court affirmed. View "Mitchell v. Wyoming" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of delivery of a controlled substance, methamphetamine, holding that Defendant was not denied his right to a fair trial due to prosecutorial misconduct. On appeal, Defendant argued that his right to a fair trial was violated and he was materially prejudiced because the prosecutor committed impermissible misconduct during closing argument by misquoting certain testimony and by attributing a statement to a witness that had not been introduced at trial. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that there was no reasonable probability that the outcome of the trial would have been different absent the prosecutor’s statements challenged on appeal. View "Osterling v. State" on Justia Law

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In this appeal from the juvenile court’s order on permanency hearing, the Supreme Court held that Father was not prejudiced by the juvenile court’s delay in appointing an attorney until shortly before the permanency hearing, and the juvenile court did not err in denying Father’s request for transport to the hearing. At issue on appeal was whether the juvenile court (1) violated Father’s due process rights when it did not advise him of his right to counsel and did not appoint an attorney until shortly before the permanency hearing, and (2) erred in denying Father’s request for transport to attend the hearing in person. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the juvenile court violated a clear rule of law when it failed to advise Father of his right to counsel at his first appearance in the proceeding and failed to act on Father’s initial request for appointment of counsel, but these errors did not materially prejudice Father; and (2) Father’s due process rights were not violated when the juvenile court denied Father’s request for transport to the permanency hearing. View "FH v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for felony possession of anabolic steroids found in a search of his vehicle. On appeal, Defendant challenged the denial of his motion to suppress the drugs found in his vehicle, arguing (1) the peace officer lacked probable cause to stop Defendant; (2) the peach officer lacked subsequent reasonable suspicion to detain; (3) the canine drug sniff while inside Defendant’s vehicle constituted an illegal search and seizure; and (4) the peace officer did not have additional probable cause to search absent the illegal dog sniff. The Supreme Court held that (1) because Appellant failed to present the district court with his arguments about probable cause for the stop or reasonable suspicion to continue his attention, these claims will not be considered on appeal; and (2) the circumstances established probable cause to search Defendant’s vehicle, even before the dog indicated there were drugs in the trunk. View "Pier v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for aggravated assault and battery and breach of peace, thus rejecting Defendant’s claims of error on appeal. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court properly instructed the jury regarding the definition of “threatened to use” as defined in Wyoming law; (2) the district court abused its discretion when it admitted uncharged misconduct evidence at trial without first conducting a Gleason analysis, but the error was harmless; and (3) the State presented sufficient evidence to support Defendant’s aggravated assault and battery conviction by presenting evidence that Defendant “threatened to use a drawn deadly weapon” against Gordon Johnson. View "Birch v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s complaint against Defendant asserting claims for defamation per se and injunctive relief, although on grounds different from those expressed by the district court. Plaintiff filed her claims against Defendant after Defendant made statements critical of Plaintiff’s performance as Superintendent of Public Instruction. The district court concluded that Defendant’s statements implicated First Amendment concerns and dismissed the complaint for failure to allege facts sufficient to support the constitutionally-required showing of actual malice. The Supreme Court affirmed, albeit on different grounds, holding (1) the district court properly found that Plaintiff was a public official for First Amendment purposes; (2) the complaint stated facts sufficient to support a claim for actual malice; but (3) the complaint failed to allege facts sufficient to state a claim for defamation per se, and on that ground, the Supreme Court upheld the district court’s dismissal. View "Hill v. Stubson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Appellant’s second conviction for kidnapping and affirmed his remaining convictions, holding that Appellant’s convictions and sentences for two counts of kidnapping violate double jeopardy. Appellant was convicted of strangulation of a household member, domestic battery, and two counts of kidnapping. The convictions arose from a single violent episode involving Appellant’s girlfriend. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the State to introduce evidence of uncharged misconduct; (2) the two convictions for kidnapping violated Appellant’s protections against double jeopardy because Appellant’s actions supported only one continuing kidnapping offense; and (3) the separate convictions for domestic battery and strangulation of a household member did not violate Appellant’s protections against double jeopardy because Appellant did not satisfy his burden to prove that the two convictions were based on the same incident. View "Volpi v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence that led to Defendant’s conviction for marijuana possession. Corporal Bradley Halter stopped Defendant for a traffic violation. When Defendant attempted to walk away from the traffic stop, Corporal Halter handcuffed Defendant. Because Defendant smelled of marijuana and was impaired, Corporal conducted a search of Defendant’s person, which produced methamphetamine, and, after a subsequent search, marijuana and hashish. After the denial of his motion to suppress, Defendant entered a conditional plea to the possession of marijuana. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Corporal Halter’s seizure of the methpahetamine and subsequent search was supported by both the plain feel doctrine and by standard probable cause considerations. View "Maestas v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence that led to Defendant’s conviction for marijuana possession. Corporal Bradley Halter stopped Defendant for a traffic violation. When Defendant attempted to walk away from the traffic stop, Corporal Halter handcuffed Defendant. Because Defendant smelled of marijuana and was impaired, Corporal conducted a search of Defendant’s person, which produced methamphetamine, and, after a subsequent search, marijuana and hashish. After the denial of his motion to suppress, Defendant entered a conditional plea to the possession of marijuana. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Corporal Halter’s seizure of the methpahetamine and subsequent search was supported by both the plain feel doctrine and by standard probable cause considerations. View "Maestas v. State" on Justia Law