Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court reversed and remanded this criminal case for a new trial, holding that the district court clearly erred when it found that Defendant had not made out a prima facie case of discrimination in challenging the State’s use of peremptory challenges to remove two African-American women during jury selection. Defendant was charged with child abuse, neglect, or endangerment and other offenses. Defendant objected to the State’s exercise of two of its peremptory challenges to remove two African-Americans from the jury. The district court denied Defendant’s Batson challenge. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court clearly erred when it terminated the Batson analysis at step one of the three-step analysis and that the record did not clearly support the denial of Defendant’s objection. View "Cooper v. State" on Justia Law

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In this medical malpractice suit, the Supreme Court affirmed the final judgment of the district court entering judgment on the jury verdict and the district court’s orders awarding fees and costs and dismissed the cross-appeal challenging the constitutionality of Nev. Rev. Stat. 42.021, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion. The jury in this case found that Defendant-doctor’s negligence caused Plaintiff harm and awarded Plaintiff damages. On appeal, Defendant challenged several rulings by the district court, alleged that Plaintiff’s attorney committed misconduct in closing argument, and that the award of attorney fees and costs was an abuse of discretion. Plaintiff cross-appealed, challenging the constitutionality of section 42.021. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err or abuse its discretion in the proceedings below; and (2) Plaintiff lacked standing to appeal from the final judgment because he was not an aggrieved party. View "Capanna v. Orth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed the State’s interlocutory appeal from a district court order granting a motion to suppress evidence, holding that the State failed to demonstrate “good cause” as contemplated by Nev. Rev. Stat. 177.015(2). At issue was the district court’s suppression order suppressing Defendant’s incriminating statements made during a recorded interrogation on the ground that the statements were involuntary. The State appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that the State failed to establish that a miscarriage of justice would result if the Court did not entertain its appeal. View "State v. Brown" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Defendant’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus as procedurally barred, holding that the district court did not err by finding that Defendant failed to overcome the procedural bars. Plaintiff, who was convicted of first-degree murder, filed the instant postconviction petition for a writ of habeas corpus more than twenty years after the remittitur was issued from his direct appeal. Plaintiff argued that he was entitled to the retroactive benefit of the narrowed definition of “willful, deliberate and premeditated” murder announced in Byford v. State, 994 P.2d 700 (Nev. 2000) and thus was entitled to a new trial. The district court dismissed the petition as procedurally time-barred, concluding that Defendant failed to demonstrate good cause or a fundamental miscarriage of justice to overcome the procedural bars. See Nev. Rev. Stat. 34.726(1) and Nev. Rev. Stat. 34.810(1)(b),(2). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the United States Supreme Court decisions in Welch v. United States, 578 U.S. __ (2016), and Montgomery v. Louisiana, 577 U.S. __ (2016), do not constitute good cause to raise a procedurally barred claim arguing that a nonconstitutional rule should be applied retroactively. View "Branham v. Baca" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied the State’s petition for a writ of mandamus or prohibition challenging the district court’s decision finding Nev. Rev. Stat. 176A.290(2) unconstitutional and striking the unconstitutional language from the statute, holding that the statute, which grants the prosecutor veto power over a district court’s sentencing decision, violates Nevada’s separation of powers doctrine. Matthew Green Hearn pleaded guilty to battery by a prisoner. A specialty courts officer deemed Hearn eligible for the veterans court, but at sentencing, the State refused to stipulate to Hearn’s assignment to veterans court pursuant to section 176A.290(2). The district court concluded that the statute violates the separation of powers doctrine by conditioning the judicial department’s discretion to place certain offenders into a treatment program on the prosecutor’s stipulation. The Supreme Court agreed with the district court, holding (1) because section 176A.290(2) grants a prosecutor veto power over a district court’s sentencing decision, the district court correctly deemed the statute unconstitutional; and (2) the district court correctly determined that the unconstitutional language was severable. View "State v. Second Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a physician’s due process rights do not attach at the investigative stage of a complaint made to the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners (Board), thereby extending the holding in Hernandez v. Bennett-Haron, 287 P.3d 305 (Nev. 2012). Appellant, a physician, filed a writ petition and a motion for injunctive relief in the district court, arguing that the Board violated his due process rights by keeping a complaint filed against him and identity of the complainant confidential during its investigation. The district court denied relief. On appeal, Appellant argued that the Board’s investigative procedures violated his due process rights. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court appropriately applied Hernandez to find that the investigation did not require due process protection because it did not also adjudicate the complaint, and therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Appellant’s motion for a preliminary injunction; and (2) the Board reasonably interpreted Nev. Rev. Stat. 630.336 to mean that the complaint and complainant may be kept confidential from the licensee. View "Sarfo v. State Board of Medical Examiners" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court to deny Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence discovered during a search of his bedroom after Defendant’s mother opened his locked bedroom door while a law enforcement officer stood nearby, holding that the mother’s decision to open Defendant’s locked bedroom door was private conduct to which the Fourth Amendment’s protections were inapplicable. In the presence of a sheriff’s deputy but without the deputy’s request that she open the door or suggestion that he wanted to see inside the bedroom, Defendant’s mother opened Defendant’s locked bedroom door. The deputy saw firearms and bomb-making materials inside the room once the door was open. The district court denied Defendant’s motion to suppress. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant’s mother’s actions were insufficiently connected or related to governmental action to implicate the protections of the Fourth Amendment. View "Mooney v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that law enforcement officers cannot justify a warrantless search of a bedroom inside a home by relying on the consent of a third party when the third party did not have authority to consent and the officers have little to no information about that third party’s authority over the bedroom. At issue in this appeal was whether law enforcement officers cannot rely on the consent of a third party to search a room within a residence without making sufficient inquiries about the parties’ living arrangements within that residence before conducting a warrantless search. The Supreme Court answered in the negative, holding that the district court erred in denying part Defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of the illegal entry in this case and that the error was not harmless. The Court further directed law enforcement to gather sufficient information about the living arrangements inside the home to establish an objectively reasonable belief that the third party has authority to consent to a search before proceeding with that search without a warrant. View "Lastine v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the district court’s denial of Appellant’s second postconviction petition for a writ of habeas corpus in a death penalty case, holding that an evidentiary hearing was required as to Appellant’s judicial bias claim. Appellant’s petition challenging his conviction for two first-degree murders and death sentences was both untimely and successive. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of the petition as procedurally barred, concluding that Appellant did not show good cause and prejudice to excuse the procedural bars to his petition. The United States Supreme Court vacated the Supreme Court’s opinion and remanded for further proceedings, concluding that the Court applied the wrong legal standard as to Appellant’s judicial bias claim. On reconsideration of the judicial bias claim, the Supreme Court held that an evidentiary hearing was required with respect to several issues related to the claim. The Court remanded for an evidentiary hearing on the judicial bias claim and affirmed the remainder of the district court’s order. View "Rippo v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that double jeopardy did not prohibit Defendant’s retrial under the circumstances of this case because Defendant impliedly consented to the district court’s declaration of a mistrial, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding manifest necessity to declare a mistrial. Defendant stood trial on charges of murder and battery with substantial bodily harm. The district court declared a mistrial after a juror conducted extrinsic legal research and shared that information with other jurors after a weekend recess in jury deliberations. The district court dismissed Defendant’s motion to dismiss the charges based on double jeopardy and set the matter for a new trial. Defendant petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the district court to grant his motion to dismiss and bar his re-prosecution. The Supreme Court denied the petition on the merits, holding that a second prosecution was not barred by double jeopardy where Defendant did not object to the mistrial, Defendant agreed with the court’s analysis of juror misconduct, Defendant gave his implied consent to mistrial, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding manifest necessity to declare a mistrial. View "Granda-Ruiz v. Eighth Judicial District Court" on Justia Law