Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court finding that Plaintiffs, two Wyoming citizens, lacked standing to challenge legislation that authorized two construction projects while maintaining a degree of legislative control and that Plaintiffs’ proposed amendment to their complaint would be futile. In their complaint, Plaintiffs alleged that the legislation at issue violated the Wyoming Constitution and that government officials unconstitutionally engaged in a pattern of letting state contracts without competitive bidding or required safeguards. The district court found that Plaintiffs lacked standing and that their proposed amendment to add a third plaintiff who would have alleged economic harm resulting from the contracting practices would be futile. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff lacked standing to bring this lawsuit; and (2) because there was no justiciable controversy, this court declines to address the constitutionality of a statute enacted in 2017 that prohibits naming a legislator in a lawsuit if he or she is sued in an official capacity. View "Allred v. Bebout" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court finding that Plaintiffs, two Wyoming citizens, lacked standing to challenge legislation that authorized two construction projects while maintaining a degree of legislative control and that Plaintiffs’ proposed amendment to their complaint would be futile. In their complaint, Plaintiffs alleged that the legislation at issue violated the Wyoming Constitution and that government officials unconstitutionally engaged in a pattern of letting state contracts without competitive bidding or required safeguards. The district court found that Plaintiffs lacked standing and that their proposed amendment to add a third plaintiff who would have alleged economic harm resulting from the contracting practices would be futile. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff lacked standing to bring this lawsuit; and (2) because there was no justiciable controversy, this court declines to address the constitutionality of a statute enacted in 2017 that prohibits naming a legislator in a lawsuit if he or she is sued in an official capacity. View "Allred v. Bebout" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for one count of conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance, methamphetamine, thus rejecting Defendant’s claims of error on appeal. Specifically, the court held (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion or commit plain error in admitting certain testimony into evidence; (2) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss on Fifth Amendment double jeopardy grounds; and (3) plain error did not occur when a law enforcement witness offered his opinion that Defendant committed the crime of conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine. View "Garriott v. State" on Justia Law

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Steven McLaren challenged his convictions for five felonies stemming from a bizarre and violent encounter with his girlfriend in 2014. McLaren owned 57 cats. He and his girlfriend, Jennifer Evans, referred to the cats as their “kids” or “the kid.” In March 2014, one of Mr. McLaren’s exotic Savannah kittens, Cameo, was sick, so he and Evans took it to a veterinary clinic for treatment. McLaren testified that he had injected “somewhere between a quarter and a third of a gram” of methamphetamine right before he noticed Cameo was ill, had not slept for days, and had been experiencing hallucinations since the night before. He was under the impression that Evans was attempting to harm or kill the kitten. After taking the kitten to the vet, McLaren and Evans drove around for a time. Though nothing seemed out of the ordinary at that time, McLaren came to a complete stop in the southbound lane in front of an oncoming Pepsi truck. Evans attempted to get out of the truck, but he pulled her by her hair back into the truck and locked the doors, telling her that her “kids deserved a better mother” and that she “was going to die today.” The Pepsi truck swerved around them, and McLaren turned off Highway 191, onto Wild Horse Loop. As he drove down Wild Horse Loop, Evans fought with McLaren and continued to attempt to get out, kicking the truck into park several times. McLaren also continued to hit and punch Evans; he grabbed her throat and forced her to the floorboard of the truck. At some point, McLaren opened the passenger door and Evans fell. She testified that McLaren stood over her, pulled her head to the left and the right, “trying to rip my head off,” and then let go. As soon as McLaren released her, Evans got up and ran toward Highway 191, where a truck stopped to assist her. When Evans arrived at the emergency room, she had two lacerations on her head and numerous bruises. Appealing his felonies, McLaren argued the trial court violated his due process rights when it failed to order a third competency evaluation and when it allowed defense counsel to assert a plea of not guilty by reason of mental illness (NGMI) against his will. He also argued the jury instructions contained structural error because they did not require the State to prove he did not act in a sudden heat of passion to establish attempted second-degree murder and that the trial court abused its discretion when it denied defense counsel’s motion for mistrial after McLaren’s outburst during trial. The Wyoming Supreme Court concluded that, while the trial court did not improperly fail to order a competency hearing, it violated McLaren’s due process rights when, in spite of McLaren’s numerous declarations that he did not wish to proceed with the NGMI plea, it allowed defense counsel to assert the plea at trial. View "McLaren v. Wyoming" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted appellant Donald Dean Foltz, Jr. of first-degree murder and the district court sentenced him to life without the possibility of parole. Foltz was accused of child abuse towards his girlfriend’s two-year-old son. Foltz appealed his conviction, arguing the district court erred when it denied his motion for judgment of acquittal because he contended the evidence was insufficient to support the charged against him. After review of the trial court record, the Wyoming Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed Foltz’s conviction. View "Foltz, Jr. v. Wyoming" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Appellant’s declaratory judgment action for lack of a justiciable controversy. Appellant’s driver’s license was suspended after her agreed to take a breath test and provided a breath sample indicating his blood alcohol concentration to be over the legal limit. Appellant initiated a civil action seeking a declaratory judgment that the Wyoming Constitution prohibits a law enforcement officer from using the “deemed consent” provision of Wyo. Stat. Ann. 31-6-102(a)(i) to perform a warrantless chemical test incident to the lawful arrest of a motorist. The district court concluded that the request did not present a justiciable controversy and granted the Wyoming Department of Transportation’s motion to dismiss the action. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court properly dismissed the claim because Appellant failed to present a justiciable controversy. View "Leavitt v. State, ex rel. Wyoming Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Appellant’s conviction for aggravated assault entered after a jury trial. The district court sentence Appellant to life in prison. The Supreme Court held (1) the prosecutor’s failure to comply with the court’s discovery order constituted misconduct; (2) the district court abused its discretion in denying Appellant’s motion to restrict witness testimony; (3) the prosecutor committed misconduct during closing argument; (4) Appellant was denied due process of law because he was required to wear a leg brace in the presence of the jury; and (5) because of the cumulative effect of these errors, Appellant was denied a fair trial. View "Black v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of Defendant’s motion requesting that the criminal case against him be dismissed based upon the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition against double jeopardy. A jury convicted Defendant of felonious restraint, strangulation of a household member, and domestic battery. Defendant’s first trial resulted in a mistrial at Defendant’s request after the district court concluded that the prosecutor asked Defendant improper questions during cross-examination. Before the second trial commenced, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the charges against him based on the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition against double jeopardy. The district court denied the motion, explaining that there was no evidence that suggested the State had intentionally goaded Defendant into requesting a mistrial. Defendant was subsequently found guilty of felonious restraint, strangulation of a household member, and domestic battery. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court’s finding that the prosecutor did not goad Defendant into requesting a mistrial was not clearly erroneous. View "King v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions on one charge of domestic battery and one charge of strangulation of a household member. On appeal, Defendant argued that his convictions and sentences for both crimes violated his constitutional protections against double jeopardy because domestic battery is a lesser included offense of strangulation of a household member. The Supreme Court held that the district court did not commit plain error when it convicted and sentenced Defendant for the crimes of domestic battery and strangulation of a household member because Defendant’s two convictions arose from separate and distinct conduct, and therefore, Defendant failed to establish a double jeopardy violation. View "Drakeford v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions of three counts of sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree and one count of sexual abuse of a minor in the third degree for Defendant’s sexual abuse of the daughter of his girlfriend. Defendant appealed, arguing that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance in multiple ways and that the district court committed reversible error. In affirming, the Supreme Court held (1) Defendant’s trial counsel was not ineffective in her representation of Defendant; and (2) there was no reversible error on the part of the district court. View "Woods v. State" on Justia Law