Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Thomas A. Schweich v. Jeremiah W. Nixon [1]

Opinion handed down October 1, 2013

Thomas A. Schweich, the Missouri State Auditor, filed a declaratory judgment action to challenge Missouri State Governor Jeremiah W. Nixon’s announcement to withhold funds from the 2012 fiscal year (“FY 2012”) state budget for the Missouri legislature, the Supreme Court of Missouri, and the office of the Auditor.[2] The trial court held that the Governor had complete discretion to withhold or reduce expenditures provided that actual revenues were less than the estimated revenues at any time until the final day of the fiscal year.[3] However, the Governor was not authorized to increase appropriations based on an “estimated” designation on the line item.[4] After review, the Supreme Court of Missouri held that the Auditor did not have standing to seek declaratory judgment and the issue was ripe for review.[5] Accordingly, the action was dismissed without prejudice pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 84.14.[6]

Darryl Burton v. St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners [i]

Opinion handed down September 24, 2013

In March, 1985, Darryl Burton was convicted for the murder of Donald Ball and sentenced to 75 years in prison.Twenty-four years later, a Missouri trial court found that Burton’s trial had been fundamentally unfair and ordered his release. Following his release, Burton brought this action against several police officers involved in his arrest and conviction and the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners. Burton claimed that the officers had violated his Sixth Amendment right to fair trial, Fourteenth Amendment right to substantive due process, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleged that the officers had recklessly or intentionally manipulated exculpatory evidence, used impermissibly suggestive identification procedures, conspired to deprive him of his constitutional rights, and brought his claim against the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners based on an allegation that these violations were due to improper customs and policies of the board. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants based on qualified immunity, finding that Burton had created no genuine issues of material fact regarding his claims. The Eighth Circuit, reviewing the decision de novo, affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment. This outcome is consistent with the case law requiring evidence of bad faith in order to impose liability on law enforcement officers.

Southern Wine and Spirits of America, Inc. v. Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control [1]

Opinion handed down September 25, 2013

A subsidiary of Southern Wine and Spirits of America (“SWSA”) applied for a license for wholesale distribution of liquor with the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control of the Missouri Department of Public Safety (“the Division”). The application was denied because Missouri law requires a liquor wholesaler to meet certain residency requirements and SWSA, a Florida corporation, could not satisfy these requirements. SWSA sued, arguing that the residency requirement violated the Commerce Clause because its purpose is simply to discriminate against out-of-state commerce while insulating in-state enterprises against competition. The Division responded by arguing that Section 2 of the Twenty-first Amendment grants states greater power to regulate alcohol distribution than normally allowed under the Commerce Clause. After considering the interaction between the Commerce Clause and the Twenty-First Amendment and reviewing the Supreme Court of the United States’ decisions on the subject, the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals held that the residency requirement was constitutional.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Adair v. ConAgra Foods, Inc.[1]

Opinion handed down August 30, 2013
Link to Eighth Circuit Opinion

Laborers brought a suit against their employer, ConAgra Foods, Inc., alleging that ConAgra violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to compensate them and others similarly situated for time spent walking between changing stations where they put on and remove their uniforms and the time clock where they punch in and out for the day. When the district court granted summary judgment in favor of ConAgra on the issue of whether the time spent changing clothes was lawfully excluded under 29 U.S.C.A. § 203(o) but denied ConAgra’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of whether time spent walking between changing stations and the time clock was lawfully excluded, the parties filed a joint motion to certify the second issue for interlocutory appeal. The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Eilian v. Director of Revenue[1]

Opinion handed down June 11, 2013.

In 2005, Jonathan D. Eilian incurred a substantial net operating loss recognized under federal tax law. On his Missouri tax returns, Mr. Eilian used the negative amount owing to this net operating loss as the starting point for his state taxes. Therefore, Mr. Eilian’s income that was taxable under Missouri, but not federal law, was entirely subsumed in his federal net operating loss.[2]  Applying Brown Group, Inc. v. Administrative Hearing Commission as the rule of decision, the Supreme Court of Missouri held that Mr. Eilian used his federal net operating loss improperly to offset his Missouri taxable income and remanded the case for a final calculation of the taxpayer’s Missouri tax liability.

Breitenfeld v. School District of Clayton [1]

Opinion handed down June 11, 2013

Parents of students enrolled in the unaccredited St. Louis Public School (SLPS) District brought action against the district, and the transitional school district, for declaratory judgment claiming the transitional school district was required to pay for students’ tuition and transportation to attend an accredited school in Clayton, Missouri (Clayton) under Mo. Rev. Stat. § 167.131 and 167.241, also known as the “Unaccredited District Tuition Statute.[2]  Both SLPS and Clayton objected by filing for summary judgment, which the St. Louis County Circuit Court granted.[3]   The parents appealed to the Supreme Court of Missouri, which reversed and remanded back to the circuit court for further proceedings.[4]  Before the consolidated trial on remand commenced, the trial court allowed taxpayers from Clayton and a taxpayer from SLPS to intervene as defendants to raise arguments that § 167.131 violated the Hancock Amendment of the Missouri Constitution.  Clayton also brought a counterclaim against a plaintiff parent, Gina Breitenfeld, for tuition owed.[5]  After the trial court entered judgment in favor of the school districts, Breitenfeld and the State of Missouri appealed, and the Supreme Court of Missouri transferred the case from the Court of Appeals on its own motion.[6]  The Supreme Court of Missouri again reversed the trial court’s decision that § 167.131 violated the Hancock Amendment; thus declaring the statute constitutional.[7]

Bair v. Faust[1]

Opinion handed down July 16, 2013
Link to Mo. Sup. Ct. Opinion

Shannon Bair brought suit against William Faust following an automobile accident in which Bair sustained moderate injuries.  During voir dire, Bair’s attorney informed the court and the defendant that Bair would not be attending trial.  When the defense counsel requested that Bair be banned for the entirety of the trial, the court allowed Bair ten minutes to arrive in the courtroom before she would be banned.  Bair was thirty-five minutes away.  The court decided to ban Bair from the trial and also allowed defense counsel to argue an adverse inference against Bair.  After the jury found Bair to be 85% at fault for the accident, Bair appealed, arguing the court’s banning of Bair and grant of adverse inference argument to defendant was an abuse of discretion.  The Supreme Court of Missouri agreed, holding that both the banning of Bair and the allowance of an adverse inference argument was an abuse of discretion, resulting in an unfair disadvantage to Bair.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Burlison v. Springfield Public Schools[1]

Opinion handed down March 4, 2013

Mellony and Douglas Burlison, on behalf of their son, C.M., filed an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Article I, Section 15 of the Missouri Constitution, alleging that Springfield Public Schools (the “District”) along with school and law enforcement officials violated C.M.'s constitutional rights by searching and seizing his backpack during a drug dog visit to C.M.’s school.[2]  The Burlisons sought a permanent injunction, actual and nominal damages, attorney fees, and other relief.[3]  The District Court granted summary judgment to the defendants, concluding that the policies used during the drug dog exercise were reasonable and not a deprivation of any federal rights.[4]  On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed.[5]

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

State v. Kevin E. Hicks[1]

Opinion handed down February 26, 2013

The Supreme Court of Missouri denied Kevin Hicks’ appeal to overturn his convictions of forcible rape, attempted forcible rape, and forcible sodomy. Hicks argued that the trial court erred in admitting into evidence his statements to the police because the statements were made on the belief that he had agreed to a certain plea bargain which the state later failed to uphold.[2]