Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals ruling in favor of Appellee in this prison discipline case and reinstated the trial court’s order denying Appellee’s pro se declaration of rights action in which she argued that the disciplinary proceeding violated her Fourteenth Amendment right to due process. Appellee was disciplined as a result of an injury to a Corrections officer after a fight between Plaintiff and another inmate. The circuit court found that Appellee had received due process. The court of appeals remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals, holding that Appellee’s procedural due process rights were not violated. View "Warden v. Lawless" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the opinion of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court’s order denying Appellants’ separate motions to suppress evidence. As grounds for their motions, Appellants claimed that law enforcement officers violated the curtilage of their apartment when they entered the back patio enclosure and that the officers lacked any exigencies to enter the apartment and conduct the search. The trial court ruled that the protective sweep exception, the emergency aid exception, and the plain view exception all justified the warrantless search. The court of appeals affirmed on different grounds, concluding that none of the exceptions relied upon by the trial court excused the warrantless search but that a second search was conducted pursuant to Appellants’ valid consents, thus purging the taint of the officers’ initial illegal search. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the officers’ initial warrantless search of Appellants’ apartment was illegal; (2) the officers were unlawfully located on Appellants’ patio when they viewed marijuana baggies; and (3) Appellants’ consent to a subsequent search was not an act of free will sufficient to dissipate the taint of the initial illegal search. View "Pace v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Board of Commissioners of the City of Danville impermissibly went into closed session to discuss its intention to bid on real property offered for sale pursuant to an absolute auction, but the Board’s action was not willful. The Attorney General issued a decision that the Board had violated the Open Meetings Act and that the Board had committed a violation in failing to respond to a written complaint delivered to the mayor by the Danville Advocate-Messenger regarding the Board's closed meeting. The circuit court upheld the Attorney General’s determination but denied the newspaper’s request for attorneys’ fees and costs on grounds that the violations were not willful. The Court of Appeals upheld the finding of an open meeting violation but reversed the trial court’s finding that the violation was not willful. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part, holding (1) no exception permitted the Board’s contested action; but (2) the Board’s action was not willful, and therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the newspaper’s motion for costs and fees. View "Board of Commissioners of City of Danville v. Advocate Communications, Inc." on Justia Law

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Ordinance 14-5, which was adopted by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government and prohibits all beginning and soliciting from public streets or intersections within the urban-county area, is a content-based regulation of expression that unconstitutionally abridges freedom of speech guaranteed under the First Amendment. Appellant entered a conditional guilty plea to violating the ordinance. The circuit court affirmed the judgment of conviction and sentence on appeal. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for dismissal of the charge against Appellant, holding that the ordinance is an unconstitutional regulation of speech. View "Champion v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s judgment convicting Appellant of first-degree sexual abuse and sentencing him to six years’ imprisonment. On appeal, Appellant argued that he was denied a fair and impartial jury due to the jury foreman being the brother-in-law of an assistant Commonwealth attorney. At issue before the Supreme Court was the trial court and Court of Appeals’ faulty conclusion that the jury foreman - and other panelists - disclosed a relationship with the assistant Commonwealth attorney. The Supreme Court concluded (1) the actions of the trial judge and defense counsel undermine the conclusion that defense counsel was made aware that the foreman had a relationship with the attorney; and (2) because Appellant never had the opportunity to challenge the assistant Commonwealth attorney’s presence on the jury, he was entitled to a new trial. View "Edmondson v. Kentucky" on Justia Law

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The failure of Terry Scott and Damon Fleming to appeal the denial of their respective grievances against the Kentucky State Police (KSP) by the Personnel Cabinet precluded their subsequent action filed in the circuit court. The trial court dismissed most of Scott’s and Fleming’s claims but nevertheless permitted the case to go forward. After a trial, the court held that Scott and Fleming had met their burden of showing a prima facie case of an equal protection violation, entitling them to equitable relief. The court of appeals affirmed, thus rejecting KSP’s argument that Scott and Fleming had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Scott’s and Fleming’s failure to exhaust administrative remedies barred their direct action in the circuit court. View "Kentucky State Police v. Scott" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court sentencing Defendant to death for the rape and murder of Pamela Armstrong. On appeal, Defendant raised thirty-three claims of error, the first and most compelling of which is that the trial court committed reversible error when it allowed the Commonwealth to admit other bad acts evidence of Defendant under Ky. R. Evid. 404(b). The Supreme Court held (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing evidence of Defendant’s prior murder convictions; and (2) the remainder of Defendant’s allegations of error did not warrant reversal. View "White v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Appellant entered an Alford plea to one count of murder. Before sentencing, Appellant submitted a motion to withdraw his plea, arguing that his counsel deceived him when she informed him that he could withdraw his plea at any time before sentencing and that his plea was involuntarily entered. After a hearing, the trial court denied the motion. On appeal, Appellant argued that the trial court erred by resolving the plea issue without taking evidence and without appointing conflict-free counsel. The Supreme court vacated the judgment and the order denying Appellant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea, holding (1) an actual conflict existed in this case, and an evidentiary hearing should have been held at which Appellant’s attorney’s testimony would have been necessary; and (2) the error created a manifest injustice. Remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Zapata v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Marshall Parker sought an award of benefits for a back injury he received during the course of his employment with Webster County Coal. An administrative law judge (ALJ) awarded benefits for the back injury. However, the ALJ found that, pursuant to Ky. Rev. Stat. 342.730(4), Webster County Coal did not have liability for payment of income benefits in addition to the two years of temporary total disability income benefits Parker had already received. The Workers’ Compensation Board and Court of Appeals affirmed. Parker appealed, arguing that section 342.730(4) is unconstitutional because, under the statute, injured older workers who qualify for normal old-age Social Security retirement benefits are treated differently from injured older workers who do not qualify. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that section 342.730(4) is constitutionally infirm on equal protection grounds because there is no rational basis or substantial and justifiable reason for the disparate treatment of two groups of workers. View "Parker v. Webster County Coal, LLC" on Justia Law

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Appellant was convicted of incest, first-degree rape, first-degree sodomy, and other crimes. Appellant was sentenced to a total of sixty-five years in prison, the maximum sentence allowable in this case. On appeal, Appellant argued, inter alia, that he was entitled to relief because during voir dire the juror who ultimately became foreperson lied on her juror qualification form and also during voir dire proceedings concerning whether a member of her family had ever been prosecuted in a criminal matter. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new trial, holding (1) the jury foreperson wrongfully failed to disclose the criminal prosecutions of her family, and the concealment of that information denied Appellant the opportunity to challenge the juror for cause or alternatively, use a peremptory strike to remove the juror; and (2) Appellant was deprived of a substantial right not subject to harmless error analysis. View "Gullett v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law