Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (Authority) wanted to issue revenue bonds for use in the construction of certain turnpike projects. Pursuant to 69 O.S.2011, section 1718, the Authority filed an application with the Oklahoma Supreme Court seeking approval of the proposed bonds. The Protestant, Jerry Fent, challenged the validity of the requested bonds. After review of the Protestant’s arguments to challenge the bonds, the Supreme Court determined the proposed bond issue was properly authorized. The Court found that valid notice of this application was given and that the Authority and the Protestant were fully heard. The Protestant advanced no legally or factually supportable reasons to disapprove the application. Accordingly, the Authority's application was granted. View "In the Matter of the Application of the Okla. Turnpike Authority" on Justia Law

by
In 2014, a Norman restaurant's surveillance video captured an incident depicting Joe Mixon striking a woman. The Norman Police Department (Department) was called to the location, investigated, and obtained and reviewed the surveillance video. On Friday, August 15, 2014, a Department detective filed an affidavit of probable cause seeking an arrest warrant for Mixon. The detective stated probable cause existed based on interviews completed by other officers, injuries sustained by the victim, and the surveillance video of the incident which he described in detail. The same day, the Cleveland County District Attorney filed a criminal information, referencing the same incident number as the probable cause affidavit and alleging that Mixon committed the misdemeanor crime of Acts Resulting in Gross Injury when he struck the female. Mixon voluntarily appeared in district court to answer the charge and was arraigned. At the same time, the district court ordered Mixon to be processed by the Cleveland County Sheriff's Department and to remain in custody pending his posting a bond. KWTV News 9, a member of the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters (Association), requested a copy of the surveillance video from Department and District Attorney, referencing the Open Records Act. The Norman City Attorney emailed KWTV News 9 that, barring changes, such as the judge ordering the video sealed, he did "not know of a reason why [Department] would not be willing to make copies of the Mixon video available for public inspection and copying after November 1." Without furnishing copies of the video, the Department allowed KWTV News 9 and other media to view the video. Association was not present at this viewing. Mixon entered an Alford Plea to the criminal charge. The same day, Association made a request under the Act for a copy of the surveillance video from the City and the Department and KWTV News 9 renewed its request. District Attorney responded, informing Association that it no longer had the video as it had given the video to the victim. City told KWTV News 9 that Department had delivered a copy of the video to the City Attorney, who placed it in a litigation file. The Association filed petition for declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and mandamus. Defendants filed motions to dismiss. The district court granted the motion. Plaintiff appealed. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the proceedings. The Supreme Court concluded that the Association was entitled to judgment as a matter of law and entitled to a writ of mandamus. The video was ordered to be a part of the court record and preserved by the attorneys. The Defendants had to allow the Association a copy of the surveillance video. View "Oklahoma Assoc. of Broadcasters, Inc. v. City of Norman" on Justia Law

by
The issue in this case was whether Father and Stepmother's adoption of the Child, at which proceedings the Child's biological maternal Grandmother did not appear, controlled the outcome of Grandmother's previously filed and pending visitation petition. The trial court ruled that Grandmother's nonappearance divested her right to seek visitation, and the opposition of both parents in this newly created intact nuclear family precluded the court from authorizing such a visitation. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed this judgment, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari. Grandmother argued that she did not lose her right to seek visitation by not appearing at the adoption (at which she lacked standing to do so); her due process rights were violated by the trial court's sua sponte ruling; and the adoption--granted subsequent to and while her visitation petition remained pending--equally did not divest her of this right. The Supreme Court found that Grandmother's properly filed, undecided petition arrived to the court four months before Stepmother petitioned to adopt and six months before the court granted the adoption. Grandmother followed all required procedure by filing, providing notice, and awaiting her day in court. "She should not be penalized for another court's decision to resolve the separate and subsequently-filed action of adoption without reference to the impact of that ruling on her pending petition." Furthermore, by deciding the adoption prior to resolution of the visitation petition--thereby framing Grandmother's rights in reference to the subsequently filed, subsequently granted adoption--the trial court disposed of Grandmother's opportunity to ever obtain any "previously granted" visitation right. The court's determination of the adoption before resolution of the previously filed visitation effectively deprived Grandmother of her statutory right to seek visitation of the Child. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded to the trial court to hear Appellant's petition for grandparental visitation. View "Birtciel v. Jones" on Justia Law

by
The focus of this appeal centered on the validity of HB 2630; 2014 Okla. Sess. Laws c. 375 (effective November 1, 2014). HB 2630 created the Retirement Freedom Act (74 O.S. Supp. 2014, sec. 935.1 et seq.), with the stated purpose as creating a new defined contribution system within the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) for persons who initially became a member of OPERS on or after November 1, 2015 (this included most state employees hired on or after this date). Plaintiffs-appellants filed a Petition for Declaratory and Supplemental Relief challenging the validity of HB 2630, claiming HB 2630 was void because it was passed by the Legislature in violation of the Oklahoma Pension Legislation Actuarial Analysis Act (OPLAA). Both parties filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted defendants-appellees' motion for summary judgment and the appellants appealed. Agreeing with the trial court that the OPLAA had not been violated, the Supreme Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment in defendants' favor. View "Stevens v. Fox" on Justia Law