Monday, July 27, 2015

Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, Inc. v. Joyce

Opinion handed down September 8, 2014
Link to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion


Two Missouri nonprofit organizations, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests and Call to Action, as well as two of their members, challenged the constitutionality of Missouri’s House of Worship Protection Act.[1]  Enacted in 2012, the Act prohibited “intentionally disturbing a ‘house of worship by using rude or indecent behavior . . . either within the house of worship or so near it as to disturb the order and solemnity of the worship services.’”[2]  The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the state and city interpreting the statute to be content neutral because it prohibited all picketing and protesting.[3]  However, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s judgment and remanded the case, holding the Act violated the First Amendment because a plain language reading of the statute distinguished acceptable expression based on content and was not narrowly tailored to serve the state’s interest in protecting the free exercise of religion.[4] 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Argonaut Great Central Insurance Company v. Audrain County Joint Communications

Opinion handed down February 11, 2015
Argonaut Great Central Insurance Company (“Argonaut”) sued Audrain County Joint Communications (“Audrain”), claiming Audrain was negligent by failing to effectively monitor a security alarm panel, and thus caused or contributed to damages sustained to a grocery store building insured by Argonaut during a burglary and subsequent fire.[1]  Audrain filed for summary judgment claiming it was entitled to sovereign immunity because it was a Missouri state entity.[2]  The district court denied summary judgment determining Audrain waived its sovereign immunity when it purchased the insurance from Argonaut.[3]  Audrain then filed an interlocutory appeal challenging this order. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the action in part for lack of jurisdiction, and affirmed otherwise.[4]

Friday, July 24, 2015

United States v. Gunnell

Opinion handed down January 12, 2015
In 2011, James Gunnell was arrested and eventually convicted of possessing fifty grams or more of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A), and 851.[1]  Gunnell moved to suppress evidence of approximately one pound of methamphetamine that was seized during a traffic stop, but the district court denied his motion.[2] 

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding: (1) the initial traffic stop was supported by sufficient proximate cause and was not unlawfully pretextual;[3]  (2) the officers did not unlawfully prolong the traffic stop while waiting for the drug sniff dog to arrive;[4]  and (3) the drug sniff dog’s alert was sufficient to support a finding of probable cause to search Gunnell’s motorcycle for contraband.[5]

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Campbell v. County Commission of Franklin County

Opinion handed down February 3, 2015
Labadie Environmental Organization and several citizens filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the trial court after the County Commission of Franklin County approved and adopted zoning ordinances allowing Union Electric Company, doing business as Ameren Missouri, to build a coal-ash landfill adjoining the Labadie power plant.[1]  Following a judgment in favor of the County Commission and Ameren, Campbell argued that the court erred by dismissing Count I of their petition as the Commission “failed to conduct a legally sufficient hearing as required by Missouri Revised Statutes Section 64.875 prior to adopting the zoning amendments allowing coal-ash landfills” and that the court erred by ruling in favor of respondents on Count II as the “zoning amendments are invalid for failing to promote public health, safety, and welfare.”[2]  Agreeing with appellants as to Count I, the Supreme Court of Missouri reversed the trial court’s opinion and remanded the case for further proceedings.[3]