Saturday, March 19, 2016

State ex rel. Richardson v. Green

Opinion handed down July 21, 2015
Welch, a man who pled guilty to two counts of involuntary manslaughter for killing two people while driving in an intoxicated condition applied for a sentence reduction pursuant to Missouri Revised Statutes Section 558.046.[1]  That statute permits judges to reduce the length of sentence for persons convicted of alcohol- or drug-related crimes, provided that those crimes do not involve violence.[2]  The trial court granted Welch a reduced sentence, and the prosecution filed a writ of prohibition in the Supreme Court of Missouri.[3]
The Supreme Court of Missouri made the writ of prohibition absolute, holding that the crime of involuntary manslaughter by driving while intoxicated and killing another person with criminal negligence is one that certainly “involves violence.”[4]  The court specifically found that there need not be a mens rea element in order for a crime to qualify as “involving violence” pursuant to Section 558.046.[5]

Friday, March 18, 2016

State v. Merritt

Opinion handed down August 18, 2015
        Marcus Merritt was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm pursuant to Missouri Revised Statutes Section 571.070.1.[1]  Merritt claimed the law violated the protection in the Missouri Constitution of the right to bear arms.[2]  The trial court sustained Merritt’s motion to dismiss, and the State appealed.[3]  The Supreme Court of Missouri reversed this decision.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Hood v. Gilster-Mary Lee Corp.

Opinion handed down May 1, 2015
Employees of Gilster-Mary Lee Corporation (“Gilster”) filed a class action lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Jasper County against their employer alleging that workplace exposure to butter flavoring products caused lung impairment.[1]  Gilster removed the case to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”).[2]  However, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri ordered a remand to the state trial court, noting CAFA’s local controversy exception applied.[3]  The exception requires the district court to decline jurisdiction when more than two-thirds of the members of the plaintiff class are citizens of the state where the action was originally filed.[4]  Gilster appealed the district court’s decision, contending that the plaintiff’s class did not sufficiently establish two-third Missouri citizenship because the district court’s calculation included potentially unreliable last known addresses of unresponsive members.[5]  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed the district court’s holding and remanded the case to reevaluate the number of Missouri citizens in the class, noting that the last-known address evidence was insufficient in establishing the local controversy exception.[6] 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

McNeal v. McNeal-Syndor

Opinion handed down September 8, 2015
While incarcerated at the Jefferson City correctional facility, John McNeal filed a notice of appeal directly to the Supreme Court of Missouri following the circuit court’s dismissal of his petition for dissolution of marriage.[1]  McNeal’s petition for dissolution of marriage was dismissed because he failed to appear in court because of his imprisonment.[2]   McNeal sought direct appeal to the Supreme Court of Missouri, asserting that two Missouri statutes prohibiting prisoners from attending civil proceedings were unconstitutional because they did not grant prisoners an unconditional right to litigate civil actions of which a prisoner was a party.[3]  McNeal argued that the statutes were simply implemented to deny prisoners access to the courts and violated the Missouri Constitution.[4]  The Supreme Court of Missouri denied direct transfer, noting the circuit court’s potential misinterpretation and misapplication of the statute did not raise a “real and substantial constitutional challenge” to the validity of the statute required for exclusive appellate jurisdiction.[5]  McNeal’s appeal was transferred to the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District for further proceedings.[6]