Justia Missouri Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Election Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Petitioners' petition for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief with respect to Missouri's absentee voting statute, Mo. Rev. Stat. 115.277, for failure to state a claim, holding that counts I, III, and IV of the petition stated claims upon which relief could be granted. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the upcoming August primary and November general elections, Petitioners filed a four-count petition seeking injunctive and declaratory relief to secure the ability to exercise their right to vote without leaving their homes to reduce the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19 during the process. The Supreme Court sustained the State's motion to dismiss as to all counts. Petitioners appealed the dismissal of Counts I, III, and IV but abandoned their claim in Count II. The Supreme Court thus affirmed the circuit court's judgment with respect to Count II but reversed the remaining portions of the judgment, holding that Petitioners' claims plainly meet the pleading requirements for a declaratory judgment cause of action and the largely similar requirements for actions seeking injunctive relief. View "Missouri State Conference of National Association for Advancement of Colored People v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court declaring the affidavit requirement of Mo. Rev. Stat. 115.427.2(1) and 115.427.3 unconstitutional and enjoining the State from requiring individuals who vote under the non-photo identification option provided in section 115.427.2(1) to execute the affidavit or in enjoining it from disseminating materials indicating photo identification is required to vote, holding that the circuit court did not err. Respondents filed a petition for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Missouri secretary of state, alleging that section 115.427 unconstitutionally burdens individuals' right to vote. The circuit court entered a judgment finding section 115.427 constitutional except for subsections 2(1) and 3, the affidavit requirement, and enjoined the State from requiring individuals who vote under this option to execute the affidavit required under subsections 2(1) and 3. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the affidavit requirement of sections 115.427.2(1) and 115.427.3 is misleading and contradictory, and therefore, the affidavit requirement is unconstitutional; and (2) the circuit court did not err in enjoining the affidavit requirement. View "Priorities USA v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's judgment holding that the St. Louis City Board of Election Commissioners violated the sunshine law, Mo. Rev. Stat. 610.010 et seq., in refusing to produce absentee ballot applications and envelopes to David Roland, holding that St. Louis absentee ballot applications have ceased being protected from disclosure by law. The circuit court declared that the election board had violated the sunshine law by withholding the absentee ballot applications and ballot envelopes and then taxed costs against Roland in regard to the election board's defense of Roland's assertion that the election board's violation was purposeful or knowing. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in declaring that the ballot applications were subject to disclosure, and ballot envelopes are open to the public after the voted ballot is removed; and (2) the election board was not entitled to costs under either the sunshine law or the general law governing the award of costs. View "Roland v. St. Louis City Board of Election Commissioners" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court quashing its preliminary order in mandamus against the Missouri Democratic Party and its chair and the secretary of state (collectively, Respondents), holding that, under the facts and circumstances of this case, Representative Courtney Curtis failed to show he was entitled to mandamus relief under Mo. Rev. Stat. 115.357. Curtis requested the circuit court issue a writ of mandamus ordering Respondents to accept his declaration of candidacy for the fourteenth senate district pursuant and filing fee as timely filed. The circuit court issued a preliminary order in mandamus then, following a hearing, quashed the preliminary order in mandamus. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Curtis failed to prove that either the Missouri Democratic Party or its chair were public officials against whom the remedy of mandamus is properly imposed; and (2) because the record did not reflect that Curtis submitted or attempted to submit his filing fee to the secretary of state’s office, the secretary of state did not fail to perform the ministerial duty of accepting Curtis’ filing fee in this case. View "Curtis v. Missouri Democratic Party" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Administration Hearing Commission (AHC) affirming the Missouri Ethics Commission’s (MEC) imposition of fees arising from the failure to Robin Wright-Jones and Wright-Jones for Senate (collectively, Appellants) to comply with the rules of Mo. Rev. Stat. chapter 130. The court also affirmed the judgment of the circuit court finding that Mo. Rev. Stat. 105.961.4(6) was not unconstitutional. On appeal, Appellants claimed that the monetary fees assessed by the MEC violated Mo. Const. art. I, section 31. Specifically, Appellants argued that, pursuant to section 105.961.4(6), the MEC may not assess fines for violations of state statutes, regulations, or rules. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) there was no improper delegation of authority to the MEC; (2) the AHC’s decision was supported by the record; and (3) the assessed fees were not excessive. View "Wright-Jones v. Missouri Ethics Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Administration Hearing Commission (AHC) affirming the Missouri Ethics Commission’s (MEC) imposition of fees arising from the failure to Robin Wright-Jones and Wright-Jones for Senate (collectively, Appellants) to comply with the rules of Mo. Rev. Stat. chapter 130. The court also affirmed the judgment of the circuit court finding that Mo. Rev. Stat. 105.961.4(6) was not unconstitutional. On appeal, Appellants claimed that the monetary fees assessed by the MEC violated Mo. Const. art. I, section 31. Specifically, Appellants argued that, pursuant to section 105.961.4(6), the MEC may not assess fines for violations of state statutes, regulations, or rules. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) there was no improper delegation of authority to the MEC; (2) the AHC’s decision was supported by the record; and (3) the assessed fees were not excessive. View "Wright-Jones v. Missouri Ethics Commission" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was a proposed ordinance establishing a minimum wage for Kansas City. The City of Kansas City filed an action seeking to have the trial court order the Kansas City Board of Election Commissioners and other election authorities serving the City to remove from the November 3, 2015 ballot the proposed ordinance, arguing that, if enacted, the ordinance would conflict with Mo. Rev. Stat. 285.055. Several individuals (collectively, the Committee), who proposed the ordinance using the initiative petition provisions of the Kansas City Charter, intervened in the City’s action, arguing that the proposal should remain on the ballot. The trial court entered judgment for the City and ordered that the measure be removed, concluding that the proposed ordinance was inconsistent with section 285.055. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the claims of the City and the Committee were premature. View "City of Kansas City v. Kansas City Board of Election Commissioners" on Justia Law

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This case centered around Amendment No. 3, a constitutional amendment proposed by initiative petition. After the Secretary of State certified Amendment No. 3 for the November 8, 2016 general election ballot, various individuals (collectively, “Opponents”) brought three separate cases pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. 116.200.1 seeking to reverse this decision. The trial court entered judgment against the Opponents. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the proponents submitted a sufficient number of valid signatures in support of the amendment to qualify for the ballot; (2) the amendment does not, on its face, amend or create more than one article of the Missouri Constitution; (3) the amendment does not violate the constitutional prohibition against appropriation by initiative; and (4) the remainder of the Opponents’ substantive challenges were premature. View "Boeving v. Kander" on Justia Law

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In April 2015, the Missouri General assembly passed House Bill 150 (HB 150), which made changes to Missouri’s unemployment benefits compensation statutes. The Governor subsequently vetoed HB 150. In September 2015, during a veto session, the Missouri Senate reconsidered HB 150 and voted to override the governor’s veto. Appellants filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration that HB 150 is unconstitutional and requested an injunction prohibiting HB 150 from being executed or enforced. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Senate lacked authority to vote to override the Governor’s veto during the veto session because only bills returned by the Governor on or after the fifth day before the end of the regular legislative session can be taken up during a September veto session. View "Pestka v. State" on Justia Law

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Rachel Johns sought the Democratic party’s nomination for Missouri State Representative in the District 76. She filed a declaration of candidacy with the Missouri Secretary of State, in which she stated under oath, that she “will qualify” to hold the office of state representative pursuant to the Missouri Constitution’s requirements for that office. Respondent Joshua Peters, another candidate for the Democratic party’s nomination for Missouri State Representative in the District 76, filed a petition pursuant to section 115.526, RSMo 2000, seeking to disqualify Johns as a candidate and have her name removed from any official election ballot. Peters argued that Johns could not meet the two-year durational voter registration requirement of article III, section 4 of the Missouri Constitution because she did not register to vote until February 4, 2015, which was less than two years before the general election date of November 8, 2016. Although Johns agreed that she did not meet the two-year voter registration requirement, she argued that such requirement is constitutionally invalid as applied to her. The circuit court determined that the voter registration requirement did not violate the First or Fourteenth Amendments. Johns appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed: "The State’s justification for the durational voter registration requirement’s burden on voting rights is the same as the justification it offers for the burden on Johns herself. The State’s interests in regulating the fairness of its elections and ensuring that candidates for state representative demonstrate sufficient seriousness about the electoral systems and social and civic engagement are legitimate. The two-year durational voter registration requirement is rationally related to those interests and a reasonable method of furthering them. Accordingly, article III, section 4 does not violate the First Amendment voting rights of the voters of District 76." View "Peters v. Johns" on Justia Law