Justia Oklahoma Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Rights
Gentges v. Oklahoma State Election Board
Registered Voter Delilah Gentges sued the Oklahoma State Election Board in the district court of Tulsa County to prevent implementation of SB 692, commonly known as the Voter ID Act. Gentges alleged she had standing as a taxpayer and as a registered voter in Tulsa County. The State Election Board specially appeared in the district court of Tulsa County and asked the court to dismiss this suit. The State Election Board contended Gentges lacked standing and Tulsa County was not the proper venue for a suit against a State agency. The district court of Tulsa County rejected these challenges and the State Election Board asked the Supreme Court to assume original jurisdiction to prohibit the district court of Tulsa County from proceeding further. The Supreme Court granted partial relief by ordering the district court of Tulsa County to transfer the case to the district court of Oklahoma County. Gentges contended the Legislature violated the Oklahoma Constitution by submitting the Voter ID Act to a popular vote without first presenting it to the Governor for veto consideration. She also contended that requiring voters to present certain forms of identification in order to vote would "interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage." After review of the parties' summary judgment paperwork, the trial court ruled: (1) the Oklahoma Constitution does not require presentment of a legislative referendum to the Governor before the referendum is placed on the ballot for a vote; and (2) Gentges lacked standing. Gentges appealed. The Supreme Court concluded after its review that the trial court was correct in ruling the Voter ID Act was validly enacted, but reversed the trial court on the issue of Gentges' standing. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Gentges v. Oklahoma State Election Board" on Justia Law
Harmon v. Cradduck
Oklahoma Department of Corrections inmate Sonny Lauren Harmon brought an action against three employees of the John Lilley Correctional Center, Paul Cradduck, Warden Glynn Booher, and Alice Turner, following the seizure and alleged conversion of a gold wedding ring. The District Court of Oklahoma County entered summary judgment on behalf of each defendant. Harmon appealed the decision. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the trial court's ruling, and the Supreme Court granted certiorari to review whether summary judgment was supported by the record. After reviewing the record, the Court found that the settled-law-of-the-case-doctrine precluded reconsideration of Harmon's compliance with administrative exhaustion requirements, and it was error to hold otherwise. In addition, the existence of a factual dispute mandated the Court's reversal of summary judgment in favor of defendant Paul Cradduck on Harmon's conversion claim. However, the Court concluded the district court properly awarded summary judgment to each of the defendants for any claim brought under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Further, any claims based on the purported tortious conduct of Booher and Turner were properly disposed of by the trial judge and COCA.View "Harmon v. Cradduck" on Justia Law
Bosh v. Cherokee County Bldg. Authority.
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma certified questions of Oklahoma Law to the Supreme Court: (1) does the Okla. Const. art. 2, section 30 provide a private cause of action for excessive force, notwithstanding the limitations of the Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claims Act?; (2) if such a right exists, is the cause of action recognized retrospectively? and (3) are the standards of municipal liability coterminous with a Federal section 1983 action or does the common law theory of respondeat superior apply to such action? The questions in this case arose from an altercation at the Cherokee County Detention Center (a facility operated by the Cherokee County Governmental Building Authority) whereby plaintiff Daniel Bosh was attacked while he was standing at the booking desk of the Detention Center with his hands secured in restraints behind his back. Video surveillance of the events captured images of one of the jailers, defendant Gordon Chronister, Jr., approaching the plaintiff and grabbing him behind his back. Plaintiff was seriously injured as a result of the altercation. Plaintiff filed a lawsuit in state court against the Authority, the assistant jail administrator and the jailers who initiated the attack. He asserted federal Civil Rights claims against the individuals and state law claims against the Authority. The Authority removed the case to the United States District Court then filed a motion to dismiss the state tort claims based on exemptions from liability provided by Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claims Act (the OGTCA). Upon review, the Supreme Court answered the questions: (1) the Okla. Const. art 2, section 30 provides a private cause of action for excessive force, notwithstanding the limitations of the Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claims Act; (2) the action is recognized retrospectively; and (3) the common law theory of respondeat superior applies to municipal liability under such an action. View "Bosh v. Cherokee County Bldg. Authority." on Justia Law
Jones v. Oklahoma
Plaintiff-Appellant, Mary Roshawn Jones was a full-time classified employee of Defendant-Appellee Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA), working at the L.E. Rader Center (Center). Plaintiff was bitten by a spider while at work. She sought medical treatment for the spider bite at the Center. A Center nurse informed Plaintiff she would have to seek a drug test in connection with its "Review of Job-Related Accidental Injury or Illness." The OJA alleged that they repeatedly tried to get Plaintiff to complete paperwork relating to her injury. The OJA also alleged that Plaintiff's delay in completing the paperwork resulted in the delay in requesting the drug test. Plaintiff alleged that the reason for the required drug test was a series of harassing and threatening calls to the Center by a former boyfriend. Plaintiff was ultimately discharged. She filed no administrative appeal from the discharge but filed a civil case, seeking compensatory and punitive damages and lost wages, or in the alternative, restoration to employment. The issue of first impression before the Supreme Court was whether the provisions of the Oklahoma Standards for Drug and Alcohol Testing Act (SWDATA) permitted a classified state employee to file an action in district court prior to the exhaustion of administrative remedies. Upon review, the Court held that SWDATA provides an independent cause of action which authorizes a classified state employee to file an action in the district court for a willful violation of the act without first exhausting the employee's administrative remedies. View "Jones v. Oklahoma" on Justia Law
Durham v. McDonald’s Restaurants of Oklahoma, Inc.
Plaintiff Camran Durham appealed a grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant McDonaldâs Restaurants of Oklahoma, Inc. Plaintiff alleged that his supervising manager denied his three requests to take prescription anti-seizure medication, and called plaintiff a âf***ing retard.â Plaintiff stated he was sixteen years old at the time, and that the managerâs refusals caused him to fear he would suffer a seizure. Plaintiff sued for âintentional infliction of emotional distress.â Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that the managerâs conduct did not rise to the level of âextreme and outrageousâ conduct in order for Plaintiff to succeed on his claim. The trial court agreed, and ruled in favor of Defendant. The appellate court reversed the trial court, holding that there was a âsubstantial controversyâ on whether conduct like the managerâs and Plaintiffâs subsequent reaction was âextreme emotional distress.â Upon review, the Supreme Court agreed with the appellate court. The Court found that the trial court improperly granted summary judgment to Defendant, and remanded the case for further proceedings.