Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The constitutionality of section 57 of the Administrative Worker's Compensation Act (AWCA) came before the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Claimant Brandon Gibby injured his right wrist and left knee in 2014 when he fell three to four feet from a pallet jack while in the course and scope of his employment. Employer, Hobby Lobby Stores, provided temporary total disability and medical benefits. However, when Claimant sought permanent partial disability, Employer asserted that the forfeiture provision, section 57 of the (AWCA) prohibited Claimant from receiving any further workers' compensation benefits because he had missed two or more scheduled medical appointments without a valid excuse or notice to his employer. At trial, Claimant attempted to demonstrate extraordinary circumstances for missing three scheduled medical appointments. The administrative law judge found none and denied the request for permanent partial disability despite the fact there was no dispute that Claimant's injury had left him disabled. The Workers' Compensation Commission affirmed. Following a review of the record on appeal, the transcripts of the proceedings below, and the briefs of the parties and amici, the Supreme Court held the forfeiture provision found at section 57 of title 85A violated the adequate remedy provision of Article II, section 6, of the Oklahoma Constitution. The section 57 forfeiture provision was therefore stricken in its entirety. View "Gibby v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

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In October 2015, Petitioner Adam Fry brought a proceeding for an order to "deregister" as a sex offender. Petitioner contended he was entitled to this relief based on an earlier order entered by the sentencing judge in his Pottawatomie County criminal case. In that case, Petitioner received a five year deferred sentence based on his plea to a charge of rape by instrumentation. As a consequence of this sentence, Petitioner was originally required to register as a sex offender for life. In October 2009, however, the sentencing judge granted an "override" of Petitioner's lifetime registration requirement, pursuant to 57 O.S.Supp.2008, sec. 582.5(D). The sentencing judge's override order reduced the period for registration to fifteen years from the completion of his five year deferred sentence. Section 582.5(D) was repealed, effective November 1, 2009. While not participating in the Pottawatomie County proceeding, Department of Corrections (DOC) received the override order and did not seek relief therefrom either in the district court or on appeal. In October 2015, Petitioner sought deregistration because DOC would not honor the Pottawatomie County override order. Over the objection of DOC, the district court in Canadian County enforced the Pottawatomie County override order and ordered that Petitioner be removed from the Oklahoma Sex Offender Registry. DOC appealed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court that in cases like Petitioner's, where override relief was timely sought and granted pursuant to section 582.5(D), and neither the prosecuting District Attorney nor DOC appealed, or otherwise timely challenged the override order, DOC was required to honor and implement the "requirements of registration" adjudicated in such an order. The Court affirmed the deregistration order. View "Fry v. Oklahoma ex rel Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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A workers' compensation claimant suffered a hernia and recurrent hernia due to work. He requested a contested hearing on the constitutionality of the hernia provision of the Administrative Workers' Compensation Act, 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 section 61. An administrative law judge determined 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 sec. 61 to be constitutional. Claimant appealed. The Workers' Compensation Commission affirmed the determination of the administrative law judge. The question presented for the Oklahoma Supreme Court's review was whether the hernia provision was unconstitutional because: (1) it violated the due process rights of claimants guaranteed by U.S. Const. amend. XIV, sec. 1 and Okla. Const. art. 2, sec. 7; (2) it was a special law prohibited by Okla. Const. art. 5, sec. 46; and (3) it failed to provide an adequate remedy for a recognized wrong, in violation of Okla. Const. art. 2, sec. 6. The Supreme Court answered in the negative. However, in light of it's opinion in Corbeil v. Emricks Van & Storage, 2017 OK 71, ___ P.3d ___, this case was remanded for further proceedings concerning the application of 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 sec. 61. View "Graham v. D&K Oilfield Services" on Justia Law

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Petitioners are a not-for-profit trade association of automobile dealers, an automobile dealer, and a prospective consumer in Oklahoma. All challenged House Bill 2433, alleging that it was a revenue bill enacted outside of the procedure mandated in Article V, Section 33 of the Oklahoma Constitution. The parties agreed the passage of HB 2433 did not comply with Article V, Section 33; so the case turned on whether HB 2433 was a "revenue bill" to which Article V, Section 33 applies. Applying the test utilized since 1908, the Oklahoma Supreme Court concluded that, HB 2433 "does not levy a tax in the strict sense" because it removed a tax exemption from an already levied tax rather than levying any new tax. As such, HB 2433 was not a revenue bill subject to Article V, Section 33's requirements. View "Oklahoma Automobile Dealers Assoc. v. Oklahoma ex rel Oklahoma Tax Comm." on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional Law

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Petitioners are manufacturers, wholesalers, and consumers of cigarettes. Collectively they challenged Oklahoma Senate Bill 845, alleging that it was a revenue bill enacted outside of the procedure mandated in Article V, Section 33 of the Oklahoma Constitution. The parties agreed that the passage of SB 845 did not comply with Article V, Section 33; so the case turned on whether SB 845 was the kind of "revenue bill" that Article V, Section 33 governed. Applying a test used since 1908, the Oklahoma Supreme Court concluded that the primary purpose of Sections 2, 7, 8, and 9 of SB 845 was to raise new revenue for the support of state government through the assessment of a new $1.50 excise tax on cigarettes and that, in doing so, SB 845 levied a tax in the strict sense. As such, Sections 2, 7, 8, and 9 of SB 845 comprised a revenue bill enacted in violation of Article V, Section 33 and were unconstitutional View "Naifeh v. Oklahoma, ex rel. Oklahoma Tax Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Armor Correctional Health Services, Inc., sued the Board of County Commissioners of Oklahoma County (County) for payment of medical services provided to prisoners and detainees in the Oklahoma County Jail. County admitted that Armor provided the medical services in question pursuant to a contract. County did not dispute the accuracy of Armor's monthly invoices for such services, and admitted it had not paid some invoices. Despite these admissions, County argued that judgment could not be entered because Armor had not provided proof of the availability of funds as required by 62 O.S.2001, sections 3621 and 3632. In reply, Armor argued that the County's obligation to pay for the medical services to the prisoners and detainees was not a claim founded on contract alone that was subject to the provisions of sections 362 and 363. Armor also argued that the obligation was not "indebtedness" as addressed in Article 10, section 263 of the Oklahoma Constitution. Armor asserted the County's obligation to pay the medical services provided to prisoners and detainees was incurred in fulfillment of a governmental function mandated by the Oklahoma Constitution. The trial court granted summary judgment to medical provider and County appealed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court concluded nothing in the record suggested that the medical services provided by Armor for the prisoners and detainees in the Oklahoma County Jail were not "reasonable, proper, and necessary." As those services and the charges therefor were in fulfillment of the sheriff's constitutional duty for "the keeping of prisoners confided to his custody," Armor was entitled to judgment in its favor. View "Armor Correctional Health Services, Inc. v. Bd. of County Comm'rs of Okla. Cty." on Justia Law

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The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case to consider whether Appellant Kaye Beach sufficiently established that her "religiously motivated practice has been substantially burdened," because she was required to submit to a high-resolution facial photograph to renew her drivers license, despite her belief that doing so violated her religion. Appellant renewed her drivers license at least two to three times under the new system. Appellant stated she was first aware of changes to the system in 2004, when she was required to submit a fingerprint for a renewal. Appellant contended her sincerely held religious beliefs forbade her from participating in a global-numbering identification system, using the number of man, and eternally condemned her for participating in any such system. Appellant believed that the Department's system took measurements off facial points, from the biometric photo, to determine a number that is specific to her, for use with facial recognition technology. Appellant believed the resulting number was the "number of a man" referred to in Revelation 13:16-18 thus Appellant objects to the measurements of her body being used to identify her. Appellant states that the government intended to use the biometric photo to tie our bodies to our ability to buy and sell in order to permit or deny access to goods, services, places, and things needed to live. The Court of Civil Appeals held in her favor. The Oklahoma Supreme Court found that Appellant failed to produce any evidence from which one could reasonably conclude, or infer, that Department substantially burdened the free exercise of her articulated religious beliefs. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Court of Civil Appeals and reinstated the trial court’s judgment. View "Beach v. Oklahoma Dept. of Pub. Safety" on Justia Law

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Stephens Production Company sought to condemn underground natural gas storage easements and surface easements to complete an underground natural gas storage facility on and underneath approximately 900 acres of mostly rural property in Haskell County. Approximately 140 Defendants were named in the Petition. Stephens Production had previously offered such Defendants "just market value" for their respective interests, but the Defendants refused the offers. The trial court appointed three commissioners to value just compensation due for each Defendant listed in the Petition. All Defendants except one, appellant Royce Larsen, settled with Stephens Production. The Commissioners valued Larsen's property taken and the damage to the remainder at $12,400.00. Larsen objected to this amount, and his case proceeded to trial. Larsen's expert testified the just compensation value was approximately $419,000.00; Stephens Production's expert valued the just compensation at $9,000.00. The trial court determined that just compensation for the property was $9,000.00. Without any evidence from Larsen regarding the reasonable probability of combination or the market demand for underground gas storage in the area, the highest and best use of the property was the use to which it was subject at the time of the taking - natural resource, agricultural, and recreational use. The Supreme Court concluded the record supported the trial court's valuation of just compensation at $9,000.00. View "Stephens Production Co. v. Larsen" on Justia Law

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A delay of approximately sixteen months occurred between the arrest of the plaintiff-appellee Nathan Nichols, Jr. for driving under the influence and the administrative hearing resulting in revocation of his driver's license. Certiorari was granted to address a single issue: whether the delay constituted a violation of the constitutional right to a speedy trial guaranteed by the Oklahoma Constitution Article 2, Section 6.1. The trial court set aside the revocation order and reinstated Nichols' driving privileges. The Court of Civil Appeals reversed. Other than funding and personnel constraints, the Department presented no viable reason for the delay. Under the facts of this case, the Supreme Court held that the driver's right to a speedy hearing was violated, and ordered reinstatement of his driving privileges. View "Nichols v. Oklahoma ex. rel. Dept. of Public Safety" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Oklahoma Supreme Court's review centered on the constitutionality of SB 1848, passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor on May 28, 2014. The effective date of the legislation was November 1, 2014. This legislation contained one section with twelve separate and unrelated sub-sections, A to L. "Under the guise of the protection of women's health," SB 1848 required an abortion facility to have a physician on premises who also has hospital admission privileges within thirty miles of the facility, on any day an abortion is performed. The Supreme Court reversed the district court's findings and held the statute unconstitutional because it created an undue burden on a woman's access to abortion, violating protected rights under the federal Constitution, and also under the Oklahoma single subject rule. View "Burns v. Cline" on Justia Law