Articles Posted in Constitutional 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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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 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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In an effort to replace its aging middle school building, the Paducah Independent School District initiated condemnation proceedings against real property owned by Defendant. The property was officially taken after an award of $96,000 to Defendant, but both sides were dissatisfied. After a bench trial, Defendant was awarded $115,000 in compensation damages. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the trial court relied on outdated and otherwise incompetent evidence of the property’s fair market value. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals and reinstated the trial court’s judgment, holding that the trial court’s approach was both legally sound and properly grounded in the record. View "Paducah Independent School District v. Putnam & Sons, LLC" on Justia Law

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A provision in the Multichannel Video Programming and Communications Services Tax (the Telecom Tax) prohibiting “every political subdivision of the state” from collecting franchise fees or taxes on franchises subject to the Telecom Tax is unconstitutionally void as applied to protesting cities. Four Kentucky cities and the Kentucky League of Cities, Inc. (collectively, Cities) filed a petition for declaratory relief alleging that the Telecom Tax’s Prohibition Provision violated their right to grant franchises and to collect franchise fees as provided in sections 163 and 164 of the Kentucky Constitution. The circuit court dismissed the petition. The court of appeals vacated the judgment of the circuit court and remanded, concluding that the Telecom Tax’s Prohibition Provision violated sections 163 and 164. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Telecom Tax’s Prohibition Provision was unconstitutionally void as applied to the Cities. View "Kentucky CATV Ass’n v. City of Florence" 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

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Appellants were charged with one count each of cultivation of marijuana five or more plants and other drug-related offenses. Appellants filed separate motions to suppress, arguing (1) police officers violated the curtilage of their apartment when they entered the back patio enclosure, thereby having no legal authority to view marijuana baggies, and (2) the officers lacked any exigencies to enter the apartment and conduct the search. The trial court denied Appellants’ motions to suppress. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) officers breached the curtilage of Appellants’ apartment when viewing the marijuana baggies, in addition to conducting an illegal search of Appellants’ apartment; and (2) the evidence seized should be excluded as fruit of the poisonous tree. View "Pace v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Defendant entered a conditional guilty plea to one count of first-degree rape, one count of second-degree rape, and one count of second-degree sodomy. Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the evidence of his confession, arguing that the police obtained his confession in violation of Miranda v. Arizona because he did not knowingly and voluntarily waive his rights guaranteed under the Fifth Amendment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Miranda did not apply because Defendant was not in custody at the time he made incriminating statements to the police. View "Wells v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law