Justia Missouri Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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A juvenile officer filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Father, who was in prison, and Mother. After a trial, the circuit court entered a judgment terminating both parents’ parental rights. The court found that termination was in the best interest of Child and, with respect to Father, found three separate grounds for termination, including the ground that Father was unfit to be a party to the parent-child relationship pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. 211.447.5(6)(a). On appeal, Father challenged, among other things, the constitutional validity of section 211.447.5(6)(a). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 211.447.5(6)(a) is not unconstitutionally vague as applied to Father’s case; (2) the circuit court’s findings were supported by substantial evidence and were not against the weight of the evidence; and (3) Father’s challenges to the circuit court’s procedural rulings were unavailing. View "In re Interest of J.P.B." on Justia Law

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The director of the Missouri State Public Defender System filed a complaint against the Honorable Christina Kunza Mennemeyer (Respondent), alleging, inter alia, a judicial practice of deliberately postponing the appointment of counsel to indigent defendant in probation violation cases for the overt reason of preventing the public defender from disqualifying her. The Commission on Retirement, Removal and Discipline found serious violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct, as well as misconduct under article V, section 24 of the Missouri Constitution, and sought discipline against Respondent. The Supreme Court held that the evidence supported each of the charges brought against Respondent and accepted the recommendation of the Commission. The Court then suspended Respondent, without pay, for a period for six months. View "In re Honorable Christina Kunza Mennemeyer" on Justia Law
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Franklin Allen obtained a $16 million personal injury award against Wayne Bryers after Bryers’ handgun discharged, seriously injuring Allen. Thereafter, Allan filed a Mo. R. Civ. P. 90 garnishment action seeking proceeds from an insurance policy issued by Atain Specialty Insurance Company (Insurer), which insured the premises where the shooting occurred. Allen alleged that Insurer wrongfully refused to defend Bryers and acted in bad faith when it refused to defend Bryers. The garnishment court ordered Insurer to pay Allen $16 million. Insurer appealed, arguing, inter alia, that the circuit court erred in denying its motions to intervene and to set aside the underlying tort judgment on the basis of fraud. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal in part and affirmed as modified the remainder of the garnishment court’s judgment, holding (1) the garnishment court’s rulings on Insurer’s motions to intervene and to set aside the judgment were void; (2) Insurer wrongfully refused to defend Bryers and was bound by the result of the underlying tort action, including the findings related to coverage; but (3) the garnishment court exceeded its authority in awarding Allen the full amount of the underlying tort judgment because Allen was only entitled to receive the $1 million policy limit from Insurer. View "Allen v. Bryers" on Justia Law
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The State Board of Nursing entered a disciplinary order imposing discipline on the nursing license of Karen Carpenter, including a three-year probationary period with numerous conditions and restrictions. The circuit court reduced the probationary period to one year and eliminated almost all conditions and restrictions imposed by the Board, concluding that the Board’s disciplinary order was arbitrary, unreasonable, and excessive. The circuit court then rejected Carpenter’s motion for attorney’s fees, concluding that Carpenter was not a “prevailing party” because she was still subject to discipline. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Carpenter “prevailed” when she petitioned, successfully, to have the probationary period on her license reduced to one year and to eliminate almost all of the conditions and restrictions imposed by the Board; but (2) Carpenter was not entitled to attorney’s fees under Mo. Rev. Stat. 536.087.1 because the Board did not take a position as to the discipline to be imposed on Carpenter’s license. View "Carpenter v. State" on Justia Law

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In a court-tried case, Defendant was found guilty of second-degree assault and armed criminal action. Defendant appealed, arguing, inter alia, that the circuit court erred in overruling his motion for judgment of acquittal at the close of evidence. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s judgment, holding that the State presented sufficient evidence that Defendant attempted to cause physical injury by means of a dangerous instrument, and therefore, the circuit court did not err in overruling Defendant’s motion for judgment of acquittal. Further, because Defendant’s second point on appeal was predicated on the success of his first point, it was also denied. View "State v. Ransburg" on Justia Law
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Defendant was arrested and charged with possessing and attempting to use as genuine a forged social security card. Defendant was being held without bail, as provided in his arrest warrant. Counsel for Defendant subsequently filed a motion asking the trial court to release Defendant on his own recognizance or, alternatively, to set reasonable conditions for his release. The trial court overruled the motion pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. 544.470.2. Defendant sought review, arguing that section 544.470.2 violates article I, section 20 of the Missouri Constitution because the last sentence of the statute prohibits the trial court from considering conditions for a defendant’s release under Mo. Rev. Stat. 544.455 unless and until the defendant proves his “lawful presence in the United States.” The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the wholesale denial of pretrial release for an entire class of defendants under section 544.470.2 violates the right to reasonable and individualized bail set forth in article I, section 20. Remanded with directions that the trial court consider reasonable conditions for Defendant’s release using the individualized procedure set forth in Mo. Rev. Stat. chapter 544 and Mo. R. Crim. P. 33. View "Lopez-Matias v. State" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action. Prior to trial, Defendant filed a motion to suppress statements he made to police after being read his Miranda rights. The trial court sustained the motion, concluding that Defendant’s statement, “I ain’t signing shit without my attorney” was an invocation of his right to counsel. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant failed to clearly and unequivocally assert his Fifth Amendment right to counsel, and even assuming Defendant’a partially invoked his right to counsel, there was no Fifth Amendment violation when the police questioned Defendant after he refused to sign a consent to search form. View "State v. Holman" on Justia Law

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When Plaintiff’s utility terrain vehicle (UTV) overturned the roof of the UTV failed and caused Plaintiff injuries. Plaintiff sued Chesterfield Valley Sports, Inc. (Defendant). Prior to trial, Plaintiff designated Herbert Newbold as an expert witness. Plaintiff then rescinded Newbold’s expert witness designation without disclosing Newbold’s expert analysis or conclusions. Thereafter, Defendant filed a motion to amend the scheduling order to permit Newbold’s deposition. Plaintiff objected, asserting that Newbold’s opinions and conclusions were protected from discovery by the work product doctrine. The trial court sustained Defendant’s motion, concluding that Plaintiff had waived the protections afforded by the work product doctrine by designating Newbold as an expert witness. Plaintiff subsequently filed the instant petition for a writ of prohibition. The Supreme Court issued a preliminary writ of prohibition, which it made permanent, holding (1) designating an expert witness does not, standing alone, irrevocably waive the protections afforded by the work product doctrine; and (2) in this case, there was no disclosing event that waived the work product privilege. View "State ex rel. Malashock v. Honorable Michael T. Jamison" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of second-degree burglary and stealing. The convictions were affirmed on direct appeal. Thereafter, Defendant filed a petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that his counsel was ineffective for failing to request an instruction on the lesser-included offense of trespass as an alternative instruction to second-degree burglary. The circuit court overruled Defendant’s motion following an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that counsel’s performance did not fall below an objective standard of reasonableness under the performance prong of Strickland v. Washington and that there was no need to address the prejudice prong. View "McNeal v. State" on Justia Law

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Heartland Title Services, Inc. filed a petition in the circuit court of Jackson County alleging professional malpractice claims against Paul Hasty and Hasty and Associates, LLC (collectively, Hasty). Hasty filed a motion to dismiss Heartland’s professional malpractice claim for lack of venue, arguing that the tort injury alleged occurred outside Missouri. The circuit court dismissed the count for lack of venue. Heartland sought relief in the Supreme Court with this original proceeding in mandamus. The Supreme Court issued a preliminary writ and then made permanent the preliminary writ, holding that venue was proper in any county in Missouri, including Jackson County. View "State ex rel. Heartland Title Services, Inc. v. Honorable Kevin D. Harrell" on Justia Law