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.